Blogs | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en It's Not Just Middle-Aged Whites Who Are Killing Themselves These Days <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I'm not sure why Josh Marshall decided to write about the Case/Deaton mortality study today, but he did. <a href="" target="_blank">Here's what he says:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>They made a startling discovery. As you would expect, every age and ethnic/racial grouping has continued to see a steady reduction of morbidity (disease) and increase in lifespans for decades. <strong>But there's one major exception: middle aged (45-54) white people.</strong> Since roughly 1998, disease and death rates for middle aged white men and women has begun to rise.</p> <p>....We might assume that a middle aged population group, under some mix of economic and societal stress, would be hit by the classic diseases of life stress: heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc. But that's not it. These people are quite simply killing themselves&nbsp;&mdash; either directly or indirectly. <strong>According to Case and Deaton's study, the reversal in the overall mortality trend is driven by three causes: drug and alcohol poisonings, suicide and chronic liver disease.</strong> In other words, either literal suicide <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_mortality_bar_chart_0.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">or the slow motion suicide of chronic substance abuse.</p> </blockquote> <p>I don't really blame Marshall for saying this, since Case and Deaton go to considerable lengths to focus on this age group. But it's just not true. Their own data shows that <em>every</em> white age group has seen a big increase in mortality from&nbsp;suicide/alcohol/drugs. <a href="" target="_blank">I've tried to make this clear before,</a> but I'll try again today with a brand new chart. This is based on Figure 4 from the Case/Deaton paper and it shows the increase in mortality for all age groups.</p> <p>The biggest increase isn't from 45-54. It's from 30-34 and 50-54. In fact, 45-49 saw one of the lower increases.</p> <p>So why did Case and Deaton focus on the 45-54 age group? <a href="" target="_blank">They explain it themselves:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The focus of this paper is on changes in mortality and morbidity<br> for those aged 45&ndash;54. However, as Fig. 4 makes clear, all 5-y age<br> groups between 30&ndash;34 and 60&ndash;64 have witnessed marked and similar increases in mortality from the sum of drug and alcohol poisoning, suicide, and chronic liver disease and cirrhosis over the period 1999&ndash;2013; <strong>the midlife group is different only in that the sum of these deaths is large enough that the common growth rate changes the direction of all-cause mortality.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>That's it. The 45-54 group doesn't have the largest increase in death from suicide/alcohol/drugs. The only thing that makes them different is that the increase in these deaths "changes the direction of all-case mortality." In other words, their line on the chart went from sloping up to sloping down. That's the only reason to focus on them: because they crossed the zero line.</p> <p>But that's purely esthetic. If, say, the mortality rate of one group goes from -3 percent to -1 percent, and the other goes from -1 percent to +1 percent, they've both changed by two percentage points. The latter one, however, goes from negative to positive, and that makes for a dramatic chart. But that's all it does.</p> <p>I wouldn't care so much about this except that people are drawing a lot of conclusions about "what's wrong with middle-aged whites?" without noticing that the answer might very well be "nothing." A better question is, "what's wrong with America?" As Case and Deaton show, the mortality of middle-aged US whites did indeed start increasing around 1999, while the mortality rate in other advanced countries continued to decline steadily. I'd like to see that chart for all age groups before I tried to draw any conclusions, but it sure seems like we should be focusing on this, not on middle age. It's not clear that middle age really has much to do with any of this.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 01 Dec 2015 20:02:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 290956 at Syrian Refugee Camps: "Really Quite Nice" or Brutal Hellhole? Ben Carson Explains. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_carson_jordan.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">I don't think I'd bother with this if I had something better to write about, but when life hands you lemons, you write a blog post with them anyway. <a href="" target="_blank">Here is Ben Carson this morning:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Carson last week visited Jordan to tour Syrian refugee camps in an effort to bolster his foreign affairs credentials, something he has been criticized for lacking. <strong>Carson called the camps "really quite nice</strong>" and suggested they should serve as a long-term solution. On TODAY, he called the Jordanians "very generous people" who have set up camps and hospitals "that work very well" but just lack to the resources to support the efforts.</p> </blockquote> <p>And here is Carson writing about Syrian refugees <a href="" target="_blank"><em>on the same day</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Many are now housed in refugee camps, such as the one I visited, the Azraq refugee camp. The Azraq camp is located in a bleak and deserted stretch of desert that was built to house Iraqis and Kuwaiti Gulf war refugees.</p> <p>....Here is a picture of life in Azraq: <strong>The camp is a bleak expanse of row after row of white sheet metal shelters. There is no electricity or air conditioning or heat against the scalding desert summer temperatures or cold winds of winter. Lack of electricity adds further hardship,</strong> as people are forced to choose between having light to see their way to the bathroom at night (six shelters share one bathroom) and charging their cellphones, which connects them to family and the outside world.</p> </blockquote> <p>Seriously, WTF? There was never any question that Carson's photo-op trip to Jordan might provide him with any actual insight that would change his perspective. He's obviously a guy who doesn't do that once he's made up his mind. But can he really not get his story any straighter than this? Which is it, Ben? Are these camps really quite nice or are they a bleak hellhole of freezing desert? Inquiring minds want to know.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 01 Dec 2015 17:03:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 290911 at Donald Trump Just Gave the Dumbest Rebuttal to Obama's Big Paris Speech <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-version="6" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"> <div style="padding:8px;"> <div style=" background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:50.0% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;"> <div style=" background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAAGFBMVEUiIiI9PT0eHh4gIB4hIBkcHBwcHBwcHBydr+JQAAAACHRSTlMABA4YHyQsM5jtaMwAAADfSURBVDjL7ZVBEgMhCAQBAf//42xcNbpAqakcM0ftUmFAAIBE81IqBJdS3lS6zs3bIpB9WED3YYXFPmHRfT8sgyrCP1x8uEUxLMzNWElFOYCV6mHWWwMzdPEKHlhLw7NWJqkHc4uIZphavDzA2JPzUDsBZziNae2S6owH8xPmX8G7zzgKEOPUoYHvGz1TBCxMkd3kwNVbU0gKHkx+iZILf77IofhrY1nYFnB/lQPb79drWOyJVa/DAvg9B/rLB4cC+Nqgdz/TvBbBnr6GBReqn/nRmDgaQEej7WhonozjF+Y2I/fZou/qAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;">&nbsp;</div> </div> <p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"><a href="" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_blank">What is Obama thinking?</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A video posted by Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on <time datetime="2015-12-01T16:12:10+00:00" style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;">Dec 1, 2015 at 8:12am PST</time></p> </div> </blockquote> <script async defer src="//"></script><p>On Monday, in Paris, President Barack Obama <a href="" target="_blank">pressed world leaders</a> to adopt an aggressive international agreement to curb climate change. To do so, he said, would be an "act of defiance" against the terrorists who killed 130 people in French capital on Nov. 13.</p> <p>Donald Trump, a leading presidential contender who <a href="" target="_blank">seems to relish</a> getting scientific information as wrong as possible, is not happy about this. It's a "ridiculous situation," he said in the new Instagram post above, that Obama is "worried about global warming" while "the world is in turmoil and falling apart in so many ways, especially with ISIS."</p> <p>It remains unclear how those things are contradictory. Also, Obama hasn't exactly been ignoring ISIS while in Paris, as Trump seems to suggest: He has <a href="" target="_blank">repeatedly framed his presence</a> at the climate talks as integral to the international campaign against terrorism.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Video 2016 Elections Climate Change Climate Desk Tue, 01 Dec 2015 16:58:57 +0000 Tim McDonnell 290906 at No, Marco Rubio Has Not "Killed" Obamacare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From "Team Marco" on Twitter:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Q: Did Marco Kill Obamacare?</p> <p>A: You bet he did.</p> </blockquote> <p>Congratulations, senator! I hadn't heard this, and of course I'm devastated. But this should certainly lock up the Republican nomination for&mdash;</p> <p>Hmmm? What's that? This is a wee bit exaggerated? Here's the story: Obamacare includes a program called "risk corridors" that's designed to smooth out insurance company profits during the first few years of the program, when <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_marco_rubio.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">everyone is still trying to figure how to price their plans. The key element is that companies that make less than a certain amount will be compensated. <a href="" target="_blank">Nicholas Bagley picks up the story from there:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Obama administration soon came to recognize that the risk corridor program contained a serious flaw: the ACA didn&rsquo;t appropriate any money to fund it....At Rubio&rsquo;s insistence, Congress in 2014 passed a budget bill prohibiting the administration from using other funding streams&mdash;the budgetary equivalent of looking under the couch cushions for change&mdash;to make up for any shortfall.</p> <p>Rubio&rsquo;s bill has now come back to bite the administration. On October 1, HHS announced that, for 2014, health plans were owed substantially more under the risk corridor program than they paid in. Unprofitable plans will thus receive just 12.6% of what they were supposed to.</p> <p>The administration hopes to make it up to these health plans...But there&rsquo;s another option, one that hasn&rsquo;t received much attention. When Congress creates an entitlement directly in legislation, the person who&rsquo;s supposed to get the entitlement can file a lawsuit in the Court of Federal Claims to recover what she&rsquo;s owed....The same principle holds (1) where Congress vests a federal agency with the power to obligate the United States to make certain payments and (2) the agency welches on those obligations. Here, the ACA instructs HHS to create a risk corridor program requiring the government to pay health plans a given amount of money. If the past is any guide, plans should be able to sue if HHS doesn&rsquo;t pay them in accordance with the program. That&rsquo;s so whether or not Congress has appropriated money to fund the program.</p> <p>....That&rsquo;s small consolation to the co-ops that needed risk corridor payments now to stay afloat. But the question for health plans isn&rsquo;t whether they&rsquo;ll get paid. It&rsquo;s when. Marco Rubio hasn&rsquo;t killed Obamacare and he hasn&rsquo;t saved taxpayers any money. All he&rsquo;s done is throw a wrench in the works.</p> </blockquote> <p>A wrench is a wrench, I suppose. Republicans are fanatically opposed to poor and working-class folks getting decent health care, so anything that helps the cause should be welcome on the campaign trail&mdash;especially among the GOP's elderly supporters, who already get government health care.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Elsewhere,</a> Mitch McConnell is going after the <em>really</em> poor by promising to use reconciliation to repeal Obamacare's Medicaid expansion. Apparently this is making some Republicans nervous, since it means taking away a benefit from their own constituents, but Ol' Mitch says they shouldn't worry: Obama will just veto the bill anyway. You'd almost think Congress didn't have anything useful to do judging by the GOP's attachment to an endless stream of symbolic legislation. Do these guys really believe that extracting a presidential veto is some kind of historic victory or something?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 01 Dec 2015 15:55:53 +0000 Kevin Drum 290896 at Here Are the Latest Developments From the Planned Parenthood Shooting in Colorado <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Three people died and nine others were wounded on Friday after a gunman opened fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Gov. John Hickenlooper on Sunday <a href="" target="_blank">called</a> the shooting "a form of terrorism" and said the United States needs to do more to "keep guns out of the hands of people that are unstable." Police have said a full investigation will take at least a week, but additional information about the hours-long attack continues to come to light.</p> <p>Here are some of the key facts:</p> <p><strong>The Attack: </strong>On Friday morning, police received a call about an active shooter near the Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs. Officers exchanged gunfire with the man, who then made his way into the clinic with what's been <a href="" target="_blank">described</a> as an assault-style rifle. The man eluded law enforcement for five hours but was apprehended after authorities smashed through the doors of the clinic in an armored vehicle.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>The Suspect: </strong>The alleged gunman has been identified as Robert Lewis Dear, 57. <a href="" target="_blank">Described</a> by his neighbors as a loner and someone "you had to watch out for," Dear had several previous <a href="" target="_blank">run-ins</a> with the law. They include two "personal intrusion" (Peeping Tom or eavesdropping) charges that were dropped, and two charges of animal cruelty for which he was acquitted. Dear is being <a href="" target="_blank">held</a> without bond on charges of first-degree murder at the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center. He made his first court appearance on Monday through a video feed as relatives of some of his alleged victims <a href="" target="_blank">watched</a> from the courtroom seats.</p> <p><strong>The Possible Motive: </strong>Multiple news outlets have <a href="" target="_blank">reported</a> that Dear mentioned "no more baby parts" in a statement taken by law enforcement after he was in custody. Though Dear's motives for the attack have not been confirmed by investigators, "baby parts" is a clear reference to the widely debunked series of videos released earlier this year that show Planned Parenthood staff talking about fetal tissue research.</p> <p><strong>The Victims: </strong>One police officer and two civilians were allegedly killed by Dear during the attack. The officer has been <a href="" target="_blank">identified</a> as Garrett Swasey, 44, who was a six-year veteran of the force and worked for the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. Swasey left the campus to respond to the shots-fired call. The two civilians have been identified as Jennifer Markovsky and Ke'Arre Marcell Stewart. Stewart, a 29-year-old father of two, was an Army veteran who served a tour in Iraq. Markovsky, a 35-year-old Hawaii native and mother of two, had <a href="" target="_blank">reportedly</a> gone to Planned Parenthood to offer support to a friend.</p> <p>The attack is the most recent example of a dramatic <a href="" target="_blank">increase</a> in violence against abortion providers that has taken place since<strong> </strong>July. Harassment, violence, and threats of attack have shot up ninefold since the video series was released.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> MoJo Guns Health Care Reproductive Rights Sex and Gender Top Stories Tue, 01 Dec 2015 11:00:17 +0000 Nina Liss-Schultz 290846 at Violent Mae's Second Album Is a Sizzling Triumph <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><strong>Violent Mae<br><em>Kid</em><br> Telegraph Recording Company</strong><br> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/vm_kid_300.jpg"></div> <p>Becky Kessler, singer and guitarist for the Connecticut duo Violent Mae&mdash;Floyd Kellogg plays the other instruments&mdash;has a voice deserving of your undivided attention. Like a more excitable version of The Mynabirds' Laura Burhenn, with hints of Dusty Springfield's soul and Bjork's lunacy, she projects a brooding unease that implies looming storms of emotion, edging ever closer to a full-fledged outburst, yet never losing control. From the bluesy slow-burn of "IOU," where she proclaims herself a "bad actress," to the thrilling jitters of "In the Sun," to the footstomping "Murdered Bird," the twosome's second album is a sizzling triumph.</p></body></html> Mixed Media Music Tue, 01 Dec 2015 05:00:43 +0000 Jon Young 290636 at Quote of the Day: Ted Cruz Angling For Some of That Trump Magic <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From Ted Cruz,</a> apparently feeling gloomy today over Donald Trump's ability to get attention with outrageous statements:</p> <blockquote> <p>The overwhelming majority of violent criminals are Democrats. The media doesn't report that.</p> </blockquote> <p>Huh. Could be, I suppose. Most convicted felons are pretty poor, and poor people tend not to vote for Republicans. Why would they? Of course, they tend <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_felon_voting.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">not to vote for Democrats, either. They just don't vote.</p> <p>Presumably, Cruz got his data from <a href="" target="_blank">this study,</a> which estimates that 73 percent of "hypothetical felon voters" would vote for Democrats. However, <a href="" target="_blank">a more recent study</a> that looks at how many <em>actual</em> felons register as Democrats puts the number at 62 percent for New York, 52 percent for New Mexico, and 55 percent for North Carolina. That's still not bad, Democrats! You have the felon vote cornered. Except for one thing: only about a third of them registered at all, only about a fifth have active registration records, and only about 10 percent or so actually voted for president recently. Liberals may generally be in favor of allowing released felons to vote, but it sure isn't because they think it will help them at the polls. Working for felon voting rights is about the most inefficient and futile way imaginable of getting out the vote.</p> <p>In any case, anyone can play this game. Just find some demographic group that tends to vote for Party X, and then find some bad thing also associated with that group. In this case, poor people tend to vote for Democrats, and felons tend to be poor. Bingo. Most felons are Democrats.</p> <p>Or this: rich people tend to vote for Republicans, and income-tax cheats tend to be rich. So most income-tax cheats are Republicans.</p> <p>Or this: Middle-aged men tend to vote for Republicans, and embezzlers tend to be middle-aged men. So most embezzlers are Republicans.</p> <p>We could do this all day long, but what's the point? The whole exercise is kind of silly. If Ted Cruz wants some attention, he's going to have to do better than this.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 01 Dec 2015 00:44:28 +0000 Kevin Drum 290891 at The Government Buried Some Really Important Herbicide News Right Before Thanksgiving <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Just before the Thanksgiving holiday, the Environmental Protection Agency revoked its controversial approval of a novel herbicide mix, sending shares of its maker, chemical giant Dow, <a href="" target="_blank">down nearly 3 percent </a>in Wednesday trading.</p> <p>The product, Enlist Duo, is the signature weed-killing cocktail of Dow AgroScience, Dow's ag subsidiary. It's composed of two <a href="" target="_blank">endocrine-disrupting chemicals</a>, 2-4-D and glypohosate, that have landed on the World Health Organization's lists of <a href="" target="_blank">"possible"</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">"probable"</a> carcinogens, respectively. Dow markets it for use alongside corn and soybean varieties that have been genetically engineered to withstand the combined herbicides, to counter the rapid rise of weeds that have evolved to resist glyphosate alone. Approved by the EPA last year, Enlist Duo is the company's "crown jewel," a Wall Street analyst recently <a href="" target="_blank">told</a> <em>The Wall Street Journal</em>. The US Department of Agriculture thinks farmers will embrace it rapidly&mdash;it will boost 2,4-D use by as much as 600 percent by 2020, the agency <a href="" target="_blank">projects</a>.</p> <p>How inconvenient for Dow's shareholders, then, that the EPA has changed its mind. Last Tuesday, the agency <a href="" target="_blank">petitioned</a> the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals to <a href="" target="_blank">revoke its approval of Enlist Duo</a>, temporarily barring farmers from using it.</p> <p>The reason for the reversal is fascinating. The decision hinges on the so-called "synergistic" effects of combined pesticides. When you combine two or more herbicides, do you merely get the weed-slaying properties of each&mdash;or do you also get something new and greater than the sum of the parts? There's not a lot of data on that. Generally, pesticides are tested for safety in isolation, even though farmers tend to use several at once in the field. Yet studies have repeatedly shown&mdash;see <a href="" target="_blank">here</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>&mdash;that chemical combinations can be much more toxic than you'd expect from analyzing each of their components.</p> <p>When the EPA reviewed safety data supplied by Dow, it found "no indication of synergism between [the two Enlist Duo ingredients] for mammals, freshwater fish, and freshwater invertebrates," its <a href="" target="_blank">court petition</a> states, and thus it concluded that the "mixture [of the two ingredients] does not show a greater toxicity compared to either parent compound alone.&rdquo;</p> <p>But later, agency officials looked at Dow's application to the US Patent Office for Enlist Duo, originally filed in 2013, and found something quite different: "claims of 'synergistic herbicidal weed control.'" The EPA was not amused. "Specifically, Dow did not submit to EPA during the registration process the extensive information relating to potential synergism it cited to the Patent Office," the agency complained to the court. "EPA only learned of the existence of that information after the registrations were issued and only recently obtained the information."</p> <p>In others words, Dow was assuring the EPA that its proposed cocktail was really nothing new&mdash;just the combination of two already-approved agrichemicals&mdash;while simultaneously telling the patent office that Enlist did indeed bring new and different weed-leveling properties to the farm field. In short, two different messages for two different audiences&mdash;the EPA sees potentially heightened toxicity from synergistic effects, while the investors who pore over patents might see a potential blockbuster in an herbicide mix that's more than just the sum of its two components.</p> <p>Dow has now handed that "extensive information" on Enlist Duo's synergistic effects to the EPA. In a <a href="" target="_blank">press release,&nbsp;</a>Dow AgroSciences President and CEO Tim Hassinger vowed to resolve the EPA's issues "in the next few months, in time for the 2016 crop use season.&rdquo;&nbsp;Given that the EPA relies on company-supplied data to make these decisions, he's probably right&mdash;the EPA's action last week will amount to a speed bump on the road to Enlist Duo's conquering of the nation's vast corn/soybean belt. But considering the confusion so far, now might be the time for the EPA to demand independent testing of this powerful and potentially soon-to-be ubiquitous mix.</p> <p>Meanwhile, last Wednesday's action marks the second time in November the EPA has seen fit to revoke registration of a would-be blockbuster Dow pesticide. Just a week before, the agency <a href="" target="_blank">nixed</a> its approval of the insecticide sulfoxaflor, months after a federal appeals court <a href="">found</a> that Dow had delivered the agency "flawed and limited data" about the chemical's impact on honeybees.</p></body></html> Tom Philpott Food and Ag Mon, 30 Nov 2015 21:54:08 +0000 Tom Philpott 290796 at Like a Zombie, You Just Can't Kill Countrywide Financial <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Back at the height of the housing bubble, Countrywide Financial was responsible for about 15 percent of all the mortgage loans in America. This turned out to be disastrous because the people who ran Countrywide showed no interest at all in the quality of the loans they originated. Thanks to this, their business eventually imploded and in 2008 they were acquired by Bank of America.</p> <p>But fear not. The executives behind Countrywide are still around, <a href="" target="_blank">and they're still shoveling out the loans:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>PennyMac, AmeriHome Mortgage and Stearns Lending have several things in common.</strong></p> <p>All are among the nation's largest mortgage lenders &mdash; and none of them is a bank. They're part of a growing class of alternative lenders that now extend more than 4 in 10 home loans.</p> <p><strong>All are headquartered in Southern California, the epicenter of the last decade's subprime lending industry. And all are run by former executives of Countrywide Financial,</strong> the once-giant mortgage lender that made tens of billions of dollars in risky loans that contributed to the 2008 financial crisis.</p> <p>This time, the executives say, will be different.</p> </blockquote> <p>You betcha! I'm sure these folks have all learned their lessons and will never push the mortgage envelope again. We can all breathe easy.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 30 Nov 2015 20:44:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 290851 at These Tweets About Attacks on Abortion Providers Should Make Your Blood Boil <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Last Friday, three people were killed and at least nine were injured when Robert Lewis Dear allegedly shot them at <a href="" target="_blank">a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood</a> facility. This assault was the latest in <a href="" target="_blank">a recent surge</a> of violence against women's health clinics following the release of doctored videos this summer by anti-abortion activists who claim the videos show Planned Parenthood staffers selling fetal tissue.</p> <p>But even before this summer, US abortion providers have weathered a long and deadly string of violent attacks. On Sunday, Michelle Kinsey Bruns, a feminist organizer and the woman behind Twitter account @ClinicEscort, tweeted a roundup of 100 attacks on women's health providers, beginning with the 1976 arson attempt at an abortion clinic in Eugene, Oregon, and ending with the response from some anti-abortion activists to Friday's shooting in Colorado.</p> <p>Here's her list:</p> <div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//"></script><noscript>[<a href="//" target="_blank">View the story "#is100enough: how many antichoice attacks, threats &amp; incitements until you admit clinic violence is real?" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></body></html> MoJo Reproductive Rights Mon, 30 Nov 2015 20:21:09 +0000 Hannah Levintova 290801 at Today in State Secrets: The FBI Wants Both Your Day and Evening Phone Numbers <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Back in 2004, the FBI served Nicholas Merrill with a National Security Letter. Merrill owned Calyx Internet Access, and the FBI wanted him to turn over transactional records about his clients. As usual with NSLs, this was done without a subpoena or a court order. Merrill was forbidden from revealing the contents of the NSL or even publicly acknowledging that he had received an NSL.</p> <p>Merrill went to court, and US District Judge Victor Marrero initially ruled against him. Merrill subsequently reached an agreement with the government that allowed him to discuss the NSL but not to reveal which records the FBI had requested. Merrill continued to fight, and today, in <em>Merrill v. Lynch</em>,<sup>1</sup> Marrero finally ruled definitively in his favor. In cases like this, the government has to demonstrate that disclosure would cause specific harm, and Marrero found that they hadn't done so. Among other things, he points out that the Department of Justice itself already publishes a manual that includes sample language for NSLs. It includes most of the <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_merrill_v_lynch.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">transactional data the the FBI requested from Merrill, and the remaining items would hardly be difficult for a potential target to figure out.</p> <p>Still, the FBI argued that there were <em>some</em> differences, and those should be kept secret. Marrero provides an example that <a href="" target="_blank">he finds singularly unimpressive:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Many of the remaining redactions in the Attachment are even harder to justify than the categories discussed thus far. <strong>For example,&nbsp; the Government seeks to prevent Merrill from disclosing that the Attachment requested "Subscriber day/evening telephone numbers" even though the Government now concedes that the phrase "telephone number" can be disclosed.</strong> The Court is not persuaded that there is a "good reason" to believe that disclosure of the fact that the Government can use NSLs to seek both day and evening telephone numbers could result in an enumerated harm, especially if it is already publicly known that the Government can use NSLs to obtain a telephone number, more generally.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Thanks to Marcy Wheeler for pointing this out.</a> You may consider it your entertainment for the day. That is, you <em>could</em> consider it in that light if it weren't a pretty important subject. And unfortunately, the court's ruling is quite narrow: the only reason Marrero changed his mind is because the investigation has been closed, the target has been revealed, and virtually everything else about the NSL is already public. In other words, this will have very little impact on the government's future power to issue tens of thousands of NSLs with virtually no oversight. We now know what information the FBI wanted in 2004, but we're no closer to knowing what they routinely ask for today.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Full details here.</a></p> <p><sup>1</sup>Yes, seriously. Nicholas Merrill vs. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 30 Nov 2015 19:20:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 290826 at Want to Know What’s Happening in Paris This Week? Watch This <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Just a few weeks after a <a href="" target="_blank">national poll</a> found that most Americans want the United States to reduce its greenhouse gas footprint, the White House <a href="" target="_blank">announced billions of dollars</a> in new funding for clean energy innovations. Is solar paint the wave of the future? Will Republicans in Congress succeed in derailing the president's agenda for the climate summit in Paris? Zoe Schlanger of Climate Desk partner <em>Newsweek</em> and I visited the set of MSNBC's <em>Greenhouse</em> program this morning to discuss.</p> <p>Check it out below:</p> <p><iframe border="no" height="500" scrolling="no" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><iframe border="no" height="500" scrolling="no" src="" width="630"></iframe></p></body></html> Blue Marble Video Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Obama Mon, 30 Nov 2015 19:17:49 +0000 Tim McDonnell 290816 at The Paris Attacks Had Zero Impact on the Republican Race <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's the most recent <a href="" target="_blank">Pollster aggregate of the GOP primary contest.</a> Donald Trump's scheme to prove that Republican voters are the most gullible people on the planet continues apace. (Seriously folks: you all have blowhards in your life, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gop_nomination_2015_11_30.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">don't you? You know what they're like, and you wouldn't trust one of them to be dogcatcher, let alone president. Surely you recognize Trump as one of the same breed?)</p> <p>But enough of that. The reason I'm putting up the latest standings is this: despite the maunderings of various pundits, it looks like the Paris attacks had exactly zero impact on the race. All five of the leading candidates were on a trajectory before the attacks, and they continued that trajectory very precisely afterward. There's not so much as a blip in the polling data.</p> <p>Debates seem to have an effect on Trump and Carson. Nothing much seems to have had an effect on the others. They've been on cruise control for the past month. But the Paris attacks? Whatever you felt about the candidates before, apparently they made you feel exactly the same way afterward, except more.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 30 Nov 2015 17:33:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 290791 at Here's What It's Like to Work at Planned Parenthood <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Last night, Bryn Greenwood, who worked for Planned Parenthood in the late 90s, <a href="" target="_blank">tweeted about her experience:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I worked at a #PlannedParenthood clinic in Kansas for 3 years. My coworkers &amp; I were subjected to the following acts of terrorism:</p> <blockquote> <ul><li>Gasoline was poured under our back door &amp; ignited 4 times. Twice while the clinic was occupied, causing patients to be evacuated.</li> <li>Butyric acid (used as a stink bomb) was poured under our doors &amp; into ventilation system so many times I lost count. Clinic evacuated.</li> <li>2 cherry bombs were left on our doorstep after hours, causing damage &amp; clinic closure. Imagine what it's like going to work after that.</li> <li><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_planned_parenthood_logo.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">We received hundreds of phone calls, threatening to torch our clinic &amp; to kill the "murdering whores" who worked there.</li> <li>3 times someone drove by at night &amp; shot out our windows. Picketers stood on the sidewalk &amp; harassed employees as we swept up broken glass.</li> </ul></blockquote> <p>Our clinic didn't perform abortions. We did well woman exams, pregnancy tests, dispensed birth control, &amp; treated STIs. Our clinic offered free &amp; low cost services in a low income neighborhood, but every day the "pro-life" movement tried to frighten us. The goal was to make us afraid to come to work, to make us quit, to make us close the clinic. That's terrorism. That's how terrorism works.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is what life is like for women's health providers, even ones who don't perform abortions. I guess I'd urge caution about calling this terrorism, since I'm not sure it does us any good to <em>expand</em> the scope of crimes that are part of the "war on terror." Historically speaking, that hasn't been great for liberal values. Still, it's hard to argue that the goals and methods aren't pretty terrifying&mdash;and that's even without Greenwood mentioning the personal threats implicit in photographing license plates and publishing names and addresses of clinic workers, which are common tactics.</p> <p>After two days of near silence, Republican presidential candidates are finally "praying" for the victims of the Colorado attack. They could hardly avoid it when they were booked on national TV&mdash;and anyway, praying is always okay, even for sinners. Especially for sinners, in fact. It's a turn of phrase that doesn't risk showing even the slightest desire to protect Planned Parenthood from future attacks. Republicans might not want Planned Parenthood workers killed, but they sure don't seem to mind if their angry hordes do everything just short of that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 30 Nov 2015 16:32:30 +0000 Kevin Drum 290781 at Would You Like Fewer Fries With That? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Aaron Carroll writes today that calorie labeling in restaurants doesn't seem to have any effect. I skimmed through his review of the evidence in order to get to the part of the story where he tells us what <em>does</em> have an effect, but I <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_fries.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">was disappointed. Not surprised, though. Hardly anything works. Here's his single paragraph <a href="" target="_blank">about alternatives:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Previous work in <em>Health Affairs</em> showed that training servers to ask if customers might like to <strong>downsize three starchy sides</strong> induced up to a third of customers to order and eat 200 fewer calories per meal. More recent work in the journal showed that changing the &ldquo;prevalence, prominence and default nature of healthy options&rdquo; on <strong>children&rsquo;s menus</strong> led to sustained changes in what people ordered.</p> </blockquote> <p>I don't know about children's menus, but that first suggestion rings a bell. One of my favorite restaurants offers two sides with dinner entrees. I always order the same thing, and all I want is a single side order of fries. This is all but impossible to get. If I tell my server I want just one order of fries and nothing else, I'm told brightly that it's no trouble to just double up the fries. If I say I don't <em>want</em> two orders of fries, the cook gives them to me anyway. I think they want to fill up the plate and make sure I don't feel ripped off.</p> <p>Suggesting that we downsize calorie-laden sides might be a good idea. But in my experience, the first step is for restaurants to <em>allow</em> sides to be downsized if the customer asks. Baby steps.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 30 Nov 2015 15:48:35 +0000 Kevin Drum 290771 at Obama Just Called Saving the Planet an "Act of Defiance" Against Terror <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>A <a href="" target="_blank">major two-week summit on climate change</a> opened on Monday in Paris, and President Barack Obama was there to urge world leaders to push for a strong international agreement to slow global warming.</p> <p>In his speech (video above), the president also offered a rebuke to the terrorists behind the November 13 attacks in the French capital that left 130 people dead.</p> <p>The summit, he said, is "an act of defiance that proves nothing will deter us from building the future we want for our children."</p> <p>Obama acknowledged America's unique responsibility for ensuring success at the talks, which are designed to produce an unprecedented agreement between nearly 200 nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for the impacts of climate change. It's the first time nations have tried to reach that goal since the last major climate summit, in 2009 in Copenhagen, crumbled over disagreements between the United States, China, and developing nations.</p> <p>In his second term, Obama has sought to make action on climate change a central part of his legacy; a strong agreement in Paris would be a vital component to that. "I've come here personally, as the leader of the world's largest economy and the second-largest emitter," Obama said, "to say that the United States of America not only recognizes our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it."</p> <p>Prior to the speech, Obama met privately with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The two leaders have worked closely over the last year to <a href="" target="_blank">advance a joint climate agenda</a>. Xi also gave a speech, in which he said it was "very important for China and the United States to be firmly committed to the right direction of building a new model of major country relations."</p> <p>Obama's remarks come a day after the White House announced a <a href="" target="_blank">sweeping initiative</a> to double public-sector investment in clean energy research and development from $5 billion to $10 billion by 2020. That new program, known as <a href="" target="_blank">Mission Innovation</a>, also includes more than a dozen major private-sector investors, including Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and Mark Zuckerberg.&nbsp;</p> <p>Finance for clean energy and for climate change adaptation is likely to be a major issue at the talks, as vulnerable nations in Africa, Southeast Asia, and elsewhere urge the United States and other major emitters to pony up more cash. At the last major climate summit in Copenhagen, countries agreed to raise $100 billion per year for a UN-administered climate adaptation fund. That goal is only about two-thirds met.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Video Climate Change Climate Desk International Obama Top Stories Mon, 30 Nov 2015 15:12:57 +0000 Tim McDonnell 290766 at Kevin's Three Laws of Political Speech <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Following the attack on the Planned Parenthood clinic on Colorado, we are having the usual spats over what kind of political speech is and isn't appropriate. Apropos of that, here are three things I believe. These are not universally fashionable at the moment, but I suppose that's all the more reason to lay them out yet again.</p> <p><strong>Nazi analogies are OK.</strong> Most Americans are not great students of history, and Nazi analogies are often just the most accessible way to make a historical point that you know everyone will get. Generally speaking, comparing a bit of behavior to the Third Reich doesn't mean you're literally accusing someone of being Hitler, and everyone knows it. We should all stop pretending otherwise. What's more, sometimes the comparison is actually apt. For example, pro-lifers claim to believe that abortion is murder, which makes comparisons to the Holocaust perfectly reasonable.</p> <p>Obvious caveats: Don't be an asshole. It's easy to go overboard and trivialize Nazi horrors. This is both insulting and tedious. It also makes you <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_triangle_shirtwaist_cartoon.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">look like an idiot, so have a care. Not everything deserves to be compared to Hitler.</p> <p><strong>There's nothing wrong with politicizing tragedies.</strong> The Triangle Shirtwaist fire prompted a sea change in views of workplace safety, and I think that was just fine. The 9/11 attacks increased public support for the invasion of Iraq, and I assume conservatives think that was just fine. More generally, what's wrong with politicizing tragedies? That's when people are paying attention, which means it's often the best time to mobilize public support to address the issues underlying the tragedy. That's what politics is for, isn't it? If liberals want to use the Planned Parenthood attack to raise public awareness of gun violence and access to abortion, they should go right ahead. If conservatives want to use it to raise public awareness of the number of abortions performed every year, they should feel free to try.</p> <p>Obvious caveats: Don't be an asshole. Wait until we actually know what happened. Show some respect for the victims and their families. Don't lie. Never even hint that the tragedy was in some way deserved.</p> <p><strong>Talk is not responsible for extreme acts, especially by the mentally ill.</strong> Political speech is often fiery. It's often <em>supposed</em> to be fiery, and there's always a risk that a few unhinged listeners will react in extreme ways. That's a chance we have to take. If we rein in political speech to a level where there's literally no risk of anyone reacting badly, we'll have nothing but pabulum. Robert L. Dear might very well have been motivated to attack Planned Parenthood because he heard about them selling fetal tissue, but that doesn't mean it was wrong for activists to bring this to the public's attention.<sup>1</sup></p> <p>Obvious caveats: Don't be an asshole. If you're doing the verbal equivalent of hoisting a pitchfork and telling people to storm the Bastille, don't pretend to be surprised when they storm the Bastille. Directly inciting violence is both legally and morally wrong.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>It was wrong to <em>lie</em> about it, but that's a whole different subject.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 30 Nov 2015 00:21:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 290761 at Ben Carson and the Conservative Grift Machine <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In the <em>LA Times</em> today Joseph Tanfani and Maloy Moore have a great piece about the American Legacy PAC and its 2014 Save Our Healthcare campaign. It was fronted by Ben Carson, who starred in a video denouncing Obamacare and told viewers, "If you want to hold Washington accountable and truly save American health care, join me and sign our petition<iframe align="right" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="228" src="" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;" width="405"></iframe> today." Needless to say, when you called the toll-free number, it turned out that Carson wanted more than just your John Hancock. <a href="" target="_blank">He also wanted your Benjamins:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>When Juanita McMillon saw his name, she was eager to get out her checkbook. &ldquo;I think he is sincere, and I think he is honest, and I think he is exactly what we need,&rdquo; said McMillon, 80, from the small town of De Kalb in northeast Texas. She gave $350....American Legacy raised close to $6 million in 2014 &mdash; and spent nearly all of it paying the consultants and firms that raised the money. <strong>Just 2% was donated to Republican candidates and committees, financial reports show.</strong></p> <p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m really careful who I give money to, but I guess I did not read it close enough,&rdquo; McMillon said, adding that she had never heard of American Legacy. &ldquo;I prefer to give money to individuals, and I assumed, I guess, that Dr. Carson was getting my money.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Though American Legacy didn&rsquo;t raise much money for Obamacare-hating Republicans, it was a success at something else &mdash; finding people willing to give to Carson</strong>....When Carson entered the race, the campaign tapped those donors again. Donnell gave another $250 to the campaign, and McMillon another $450. Of the more than 4,000 donors to American Legacy, more than 25% also ended up giving to the Carson campaign, a <em>Los Angeles Time</em>s analysis showed.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is good reporting, but so far there's nothing all that new here. Conservatives have turned grifting into a high art, and Carson is just the flavor of the month. What makes this piece great is the response from Doug Watts, Carson's campaign spokesman:</p> <blockquote> <p>Watts defended the American Legacy effort and offered assurance to donors. &ldquo;I would say to those people, you did give to Dr. Carson,&rdquo; Watts said. <strong>&ldquo;They participated in the building of a list&rdquo; of donors for the campaign.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Booyah! By giving money to Carson's anti-Obamacare campaign, you identified yourself as a soft touch who would give Carson even more money later on. And that's a big help. Of course, these elderly donors <em>thought</em> they were helping Carson fight Obamacare, because, you know, that's what Carson actually said. But what's the difference? Tomayto, tomahto.</p> <p>Anyway, read the whole thing if you've got the stomach for it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 28 Nov 2015 20:15:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 290756 at Republican Candidates Are Too Busy This Morning to Denounce Attack on Planned Parenthood Clinic <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>When I went to bed last night, none of the Republican presidential candidates had said anything about the horrific shootings at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado. But that was ten <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_stand_planned_parenthood.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">hours ago, and it's now nearly noon on the East Coast. Anything new?</p> <p>As near as I can tell, no. No tweets, no statements, nothing on Facebook. On Twitter, Donald Trump is still blathering about how much he loves the disabled. Jeb Bush is tweeting about football. Ted Cruz hasn't put up anything new in over a week.<sup>1</sup> Marco Rubio was "sickened" by the killing of Lu&iacute;s Diaz in Venezuela a couple of days ago, but is busy promoting his cold-weather bundle of Rubio gear today. Ben Carson is burnishing his foreign policy credentials by talking to refugees in Jordan. Carly Fiorina has been quiet since Thanksgiving.</p> <p>But it's a holiday weekend, so maybe they've turned off the news to spend more time with their families. All 14 of them. Still, I know they're all resolutely opposed to terrorism and adamantly in favor of law and order, so I'm sure they'll issue uncompromising condemnations sometime soon. After all, we can't allow depraved attacks against health clinics on American soil to be met with silence that could easily be interpreted as backing down in the face of hate. Right?</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Oops. I was fooled by the fact that Cruz has his demand for President Obama to insult him to his face permanently at the top of his feed. But Cruz did indeed tweet something this morning. Here's the full version of his statement <a href="" target="_blank">on Facebook:</a> "My and Heidi's prayers are with the loved ones of those killed in Colorado Springs, with those injured, and with the first responders who bravely got the situation under control." Not exactly a stirring condemnation of violence, but I guess it's a start.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 28 Nov 2015 16:55:25 +0000 Kevin Drum 290751 at Donald Trump and the Politics of Resentment <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>As you surely know by now, the latest round of Republican campaign cretinism came a few days ago when Donald Trump <a href="" target="_blank">mocked a reporter</a> with chronic arthrogryposis, which restricts the movement of his arms <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_kovaleski.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">and hands. Today Josh Marshall posted a brief but spot-on explanation of why Trump is not only not apologizing for this, <a href="" target="_blank">but going on the offensive over it:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>If you're surprised that Donald Trump isn't apologizing for mocking a reporter's physical handicap and doesn't seem to be paying any price for it, let me help. Half of rightwing politics is about resentment over perceived demands for apologies. <strong>Apologies about race, about fear of Muslims, about not being politically correct, about not liking the losers and the moochers, about Christmas, about being being white.</strong> This will hurt Trump about as much as going after Megyn Kelly did. Remember: his biggest applause line at the first GOP debate came for calling Rosie O'Donnell a fat slob.</p> <p>About half the juice of far-right politics in this country is rooted in refusing to apologize when 'elites' or right thinking people reprove you for not being 'politically correct.'</p> </blockquote> <p>The thing about Trump is that he talks as if he's sitting at home with a couple of his buddies. In settings like that, lots of us make casually derisive remarks that we wouldn't make in public.<sup>1</sup> But Trump <em>does</em> say it in public, and to his supporters that's great. He's finally saying the stuff that they're quite sure <em>everybody</em> says in private.</p> <p>The giveaway was this bit from Trump about Kovaleski: "He should stop using his disability to grandstand and get back to reporting for a paper that is rapidly going down the tubes." That's what Trump's fans think is going on all over the place. The blacks, the Hispanics, the disabled, the immigrants, the poor: sure, they've got problems, but who doesn't? They're just making a big deal out of it in order to gain sympathy and government bennies that the rest of us have to pay for. And the worst part is that you <em>know</em> what everyone else is already thinking about this claptrap, but you get in trouble if you <em>say</em> it. Republican candidates have tapped this vein of resentment for years, but usually in coded ways that won't get them in too much hot water. Trump just dives in. Other politicians may have paved the way, but it's Trump who's finally figured out how to turn it into electoral gold.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Yes, I do it too, and no, for obvious reasons I'm not going to tell you what my sore spots are.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 27 Nov 2015 23:50:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 290746 at Friday Cat Blogging - 27 November 2015 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I am an idiot. Yesterday, in a fit of bad timing, my camera chose to tell me its memory card was getting full. I had already transferred all the photos to my PC, so I went ahead and deleted everything on the card. Today, I went looking for a terrific Thanksgiving-themed picture of Hilbert that I took a couple of weeks ago, and....I really don't have to finish this story, do I? It turned out I had transferred everything except for about 50 pictures taken two weeks ago. For some reason, I missed those. File recovery restored a bunch of deleted photos, but not the Hilbert pics.</p> <p>It was a really great picture, too. But I guess you'll never see it. Luckily, my sister-in-law came up for dinner yesterday and brought her dogs. So today you get a very special edition of Friday catblogging starring Rupert the dog. Isn't he cute? There are no Thanksgiving pictures of the cats available because they were both upstairs hiding under the bed. They're such brave little furballs.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_rupert_2015_11_27_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 115px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 27 Nov 2015 19:13:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 290736 at The Fabulous Memory of Donald Trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Donald Trump</a> on the reporter he mocked a few days ago:</p> <blockquote> <p>Serge Kovaleski must think a lot of himself if he thinks I remember him from decades ago&nbsp;&mdash; <strong>if I ever met him at all, which I doubt I did.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Serge Kovaleski</a> on Donald Trump:</p> <blockquote> <p>In an interview on Thursday, <strong>Mr. Kovaleski said that he met with Mr. Trump repeatedly</strong> when he was a reporter for <em>The Daily News</em> covering the developer&rsquo;s business career in the late 1980s, before joining <em>The Post</em>. &ldquo;Donald and I were on a first-name basis for years,&rdquo; Mr. Kovaleski said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve interviewed him in his office,&rdquo; he added. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve talked to him at press conferences. All in all, I would say around a dozen times, I&rsquo;ve interacted with him as a reporter while I was at <em>The Daily News</em>.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Donald Trump again:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>I have the world's greatest memory.</strong> It's one thing everyone agrees on.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Donald Trump yet again,</a> during the third Republican debate on October 28:</p> <blockquote> <p>BECKY QUICK: You had talked a little bit about Marco Rubio. I think you called him "Mark Zuckerberg&rsquo;s personal senator" because he was in favor of the H-1B visas.</p> <p>&nbsp;DONALD TRUMP: <strong>I never said that. I never said that.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>In fact, Trump had said exactly that in his own immigration plan <em>six weeks earlier</em>. There are legions of examples like this. Perhaps Trump's memory isn't quite as infallible as he thinks? Or maybe his memory is great but he's a serial liar? Decisions, decisions.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 27 Nov 2015 18:20:42 +0000 Kevin Drum 290731 at My Annual Black Friday Post — This Year With Global Updates! <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 10px 0px 5px 1px;"></p> <p>According to the retail industry, "Black Friday" is the day when retail profits for the year go from red to black. Are you skeptical that this is really the origin of the term? You should be. After all, the term <em>Black ___day</em>, in other contexts, has always signified something terrible, like a stock market crash or the start of the Blitz. Is it reasonable to think that retailers deliberately chose this phrase to memorialize their biggest day of the year?</p> <p>Not really. But to get the real story, we'll have to trace its origins back in time. Here's a 1985 article from the <em>Philadelphia Inquirer</em>:</p> <blockquote> <p>[Irwin] Greenberg, a 30-year veteran of the retail trade, says it is a Philadelphia expression. "It surely can't be a merchant's expression," he said. A spot check of retailers from across the country suggests that Greenberg might be on to something.</p> <p>"I've never heard it before," laughed Carol Sanger, a spokeswoman for Federated Department Stores in <strong>Cincinnati</strong>&hellip;"I have no idea what it means," said Bill Dombrowski, director of media relations for Carter Hawley Hale Stores Inc. in <strong>Los Angeles</strong>&hellip;From the National Retail Merchants Association, the industry's trade association in <strong>New York</strong>, came this terse statement: "Black Friday is not an accepted term in the retail industry&hellip;"</p> </blockquote> <p>Hmm. So as recently as 1985 it wasn't in common use nationwide. It was only in common use in Philadelphia. But why? If we go back to 1975, the <em>New York Times</em> informs us that it has something to do with the Army-Navy game. The <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 20px 15px 30px;">gist of the story is that crowds used to pour into Philadelphia on the Friday after Thanksgiving to shop, they'd stay over to watch the game on Saturday, and then go home. It was the huge crowds that gave the day its bleak name.</p> <p>But how old is the expression? When did it start? If we go back yet another decade we can find a Philly reference as early as 1966. An advertisement that year in the<em> American Philatelist</em> from a stamp shop in Philadelphia starts out: "'Black Friday' is the name which the Philadelphia Police Department has given to the Friday following Thanksgiving Day. It is not a term of endearment to them. 'Black Friday' officially opens the Christmas shopping season in center city, and it usually brings massive traffic jams and over-crowded sidewalks as the downtown stores are mobbed from opening to closing."</p> <p>But it goes back further than that. A couple of years ago I got an email from a Philadelphia reader who recalled the warnings she got from the older women at Wanamaker's department store <a href="" target="_blank">when she worked there in 1971:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>They warned me to be prepared for the hoards of obnoxious brats and their demanding parents that would alight from the banks of elevators onto the eighth floor toy department, all racing to see the latest toys on their way to visit Santa. The feeling of impending doom sticks with me to this day. <strong>The experienced old ladies that had worked there for years called it "Black Friday."</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>"For years." But how many years? Ben Zimmer collects some evidence that the term was already in common use by 1961 (common enough that Philly merchants were trying to change the term to "Big Friday"), and passes along an interview with Joseph Barrett, who recounted his role in popularizing the expression <a href="" target="_blank">when he worked as a reporter in Philadelphia:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In 1959, the old <em>Evening Bulletin</em> assigned me to police administration, working out of City Hall. Nathan Kleger was the police reporter who covered Center City for the Bulletin. In the early 1960s, Kleger and I put together a front-page story for Thanksgiving and we appropriated the police term "Black Friday" to describe the terrible traffic conditions. Center City merchants complained loudly to Police Commissioner Albert N. Brown that drawing attention to traffic deterred customers from coming downtown. I was worried that maybe Kleger and I had made a mistake in using such a term, so I went to Chief Inspector Albert Trimmer to get him to verify it.</p> </blockquote> <p>So all the evidence points in one direction. The term originated in Philadelphia, probably sometime in the 50s, and wasn't in common use in the rest of the country until decades later. And it did indeed refer to something unpleasant: the gigantic Army-Navy-post-Thanksgiving day crowds and traffic jams, which both retail workers and police officers dreaded. The retail industry originally loathed the term, and the whole "red to black" fairy tale was tacked on sometime in the 80s by an overcaffeinated flack trying to put lipstick on a pig that had gotten a little too embarrassing for America's shopkeepers. The first reference that I've found to this usage <a href="" target="_blank">was in 1982,</a> and by the early 90s it had become the official story.</p> <p>And today everyone believes it, which is a pretty good demonstration of the power of corporate PR. But now you know the real story behind Black Friday.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> Last year, the future of Black Friday was global domination. This year, the future of Black Friday is....<a href="" target="_blank">better decorum?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Last year, British retail chains embraced Black Friday as a way to get a jump-start on the holiday shopping season. What followed was, as the Brits would say, a shambles....Now, retailers are following a different tack. Some are simply abandoning the shopfest. Others will still do Black Friday, despite the frenzy, because shoppers will be buying....But the day will be a bit more subdued. More refined. More, well, British.</p> <p>Walmart&rsquo;s Asda chain was among the first British merchants to adopt Black Friday in 2013, and it&rsquo;s leading the retreat. Its decision to drum up publicity at one London store last year backfired spectacularly when camera crews filmed hordes of shoppers barging through the doors and fighting over an inadequate number of cheap smartphones and video games. To prevent a repeat of the unseemly drama, Asda canceled Black Friday this year and will spread its discounting from November into January. &ldquo;Black Friday in its current guise has gone,&rdquo; says Asda Chief Executive Officer Andy Clarke. &ldquo;It will be interesting to see how many retailers continue it next year.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>I feel certain this is just a temporary setback. America may lead the world in displays of unfettered greed, but it's a universal human aspiration. It's just that it takes a little while to get used to an annual spectacle based on huge mobs of people trampling widows and orphans in order to get good deals on smartphones. But the Romans got used to it,<sup>1</sup> and it helped them forge an empire.</p> <p>Elsewhere, the American tradition of post-Thanksgiving shopping mobs is being imported as&nbsp;<em>Vendredi Noir</em>, <em>Viernes Negro</em>, and plain old English Black Friday. It has now made its way into Colombia, Bolivia, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, South Africa, Nigeria, Lebanon, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Brazil, Costa Rica, Panama, Australia, India, and Mexico. Its foothold is still tentative, possibly because in these countries today is just another Friday. It's not even a day off work, as God intended. But fear not. Like Halloween, Black Friday is yet another vulgar American holiday that will soon wrap its clammy tentacles around households throughout the world.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Though in their case, it was mobs of people rushing the&nbsp;<em>Mercatus Traiani</em> for Saturnalia deals on dormouse pie with oyster sauce.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 27 Nov 2015 13:00:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 290726 at Happy Thanksgiving! <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Aren't they cute when they're asleep? In reality, of course, they're just storing up energy for later. They will strike when all the humans are sated with turkey and don't have the energy to fight back.</p> <p>Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! And remember: no shopping today. Tomorrow is soon enough. Fight the power.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_hopper_2015_11_26.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 60px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 26 Nov 2015 16:53:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 290721 at A Stunning Series of Screw-Ups Led to October's US Strike on an Afghan Hospital <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The Pentagon has completed its investigation of the US attack on a hospital in Afghanistan operated by Doctors Without Borders, and it paints a grim picture. Gen. John Campbell, the top commander <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_msf_hospital_kunduz.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">in Afghanistan, delivered <a href="" target="_blank">a summary of the investigation today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>According to the military's investigation, the special operations gunship had sought to attack a building suspected of being used as a base by Taliban insurgents, but the plane's onboard targeting system identified the coordinates as an open field. <strong>The crew decided to open fire on a nearby large building, not knowing that it was the Doctors Without Borders hospital.</strong></p> <p>....When the gunship flew closer, its targeting system "correctly aligned" with the intelligence building, not the hospital, <strong>but the crew ignored the system,</strong> he said. The AC-130 aircraft had launched more than an hour early <strong>"without conducting a normal mission brief"</strong> or receiving a list of locations that it was barred from attacking, including the hospital, he said.</p> <p>....A minute before the gunship started firing, the crew transmitted the coordinates of their target to their headquarters at Bagram Airfield, north of Kabul, giving the accurate location of the hospital, Campbell said. <strong>The headquarters "did not realize that the grid coordinates for the target matched a location on the no-strike list," he said.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>In summary: the gunship crew left without getting briefed. Their targeting system malfunctioned, so they decided to open fire on the nearest large building instead. When the targeting system later found the right building, the crew ignored it. And when they sent coordinates to headquarters, nobody there matched it up with their no-strike list.</p> <p>If this is the whole truth, it's a pretty stunning series of screw-ups. If it's not the whole truth, then something even worse happened. We may never know which.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 25 Nov 2015 20:29:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 290716 at