Blogs | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2011/08/liberals-have-been-played-chumps%22 http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Tales From City of Hope #1: The Buzzcut Has Landed http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/tales-city-hope-1-buzzcut-has-landed <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_kevin_parsons_village_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Well, I'm here at City of Hope. On Tuesday at 7 am the final round of chemotherapy begins.</p> <p>I'm staying in a little studio apartment in Parsons Village, which is on the grounds of the City of Hope campus. The picture on the right provides a glimpse of it. Also, as you can see, it provides a glimpse of the new me. As of yesterday I still had quite a bit of hair left, but it was falling out and I was shedding around the house like a Persian cat from hell. So I figured it was time to just shave it off. It's all coming out eventually anyway.</p> <p>So what do I remind you of? Kiefer Sutherland in <em>Stand By Me</em>? One of the drones from Apple's 1984 commercial? Y'all can decide in comments.</p> <p>I visited my sister and my mother yesterday, and I'm happy to report that Hilbert and Hopper are in fine fettle. I set up my sister with Skype on her iPad, so now she can call at night and show me the little furballs in real time. Technology FTW.</p> <p>And don't forget our Spring fundraiser! I'm still hoping you guys contribute generously to the cause. Remember what they say: Every dollar you give helps one of my hairs grow back.</p> <p><a href="https://secure.motherjones.com/fnp/?action=SUBSCRIPTION&amp;list_source=7Z54KD&amp;extra_don=1&amp;abver=A" target="_blank">Donate by credit card here.</a></p> <p><a href="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&amp;hosted_button_id=JVT34NP6NHQM2" target="_blank">Donate by PayPal here.</a></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 20 Apr 2015 23:24:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 273946 at http://www.motherjones.com We Didn't Learn Anything From Deepwater Horizon—And We're Going to Pay For It http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/five-years-after-bp-spill-were-still-taking-insane-risks-offshore-drilling <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Today is the <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/04/five-year-anniversary-deepwater-horizon-bp-spill" target="_blank">fifth anniversary</a> of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, an event that triggered the nation's worst-ever oil spill. The well leaked for three months and dumped over 200 million gallons of oil into the sea. The explosion itself killed eleven men; the resulting pollution killed a stupefying amount of wildlife, including 800,000 some birds. And despite billions paid out by BP in fines and restoration costs, the economic impact of the disaster remains wide-reaching and <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/09/four-years-after-bp-spill-gulf-oystermen-are-still-struggling-recover" target="_blank">ongoing</a>.</p> <p>But possibly even more outrageous than the spill itself is how little has been done by government to prevent a similar disaster. The oil and gas industry has stayed active in Washington, and managed to fend off serious efforts to curb drilling: Congress has passed zero new laws&mdash;not one&mdash;to restrict offshore drilling or force it to be safer. The Obama administration has approved over 1,500 offshore drilling permits since the spill. And back in January the administration <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/28/us/obama-plan-calls-for-oil-and-gas-drilling-in-the-atlantic.html" target="_blank">announced a plan</a> to open <em>new</em> areas in the Atlantic and Arctic for offshore drilling. As my colleague Tim Murphy <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/04/cartoonish-conflicts-interest-louisianas-legislature" target="_blank">noted today</a>, Louisiana's oversight of the oil industry is rife with ludicrous conflicts of interest that raise serious doubts about the state's ability to make drilling safer.</p> <p>In other words, the wounds from BP are scarcely healed, but we're pushing deeper and deeper into offshore drilling.</p> <p>In fact, well construction in the Gulf is <em>literally</em> pushing into deeper water, where the risks of a spill are even greater. <a href="http://bigstory.ap.org/article/260b1dbc50c548ba8af576bc75014a03/5-years-after-bp-spill-drillers-push-riskier-depths" target="_blank">From an AP investigation</a> pegged to the anniversary:</p> <blockquote> <p>A review of offshore well data by the AP shows the average ocean depth of all wells started since 2010 has increased to 1,757 feet, 40 percent deeper than the average well drilled in the five years before that...</p> <p>Drillers are exploring a "golden zone" of oil and natural gas that lies roughly 20,000 feet beneath the sea floor, through a 10,000-foot thick layer of prehistoric salt...</p> <p>Technology now allows engineers to see the huge reservoirs beneath the previously opaque salt, but the layer is still harder to see through than rock. And it's prone to hiding pockets of oil and gas that raise the potential for a blowout.</p> </blockquote> <p>Drilling in the Gulf makes up less than <a href="http://www.eia.gov/special/gulf_of_mexico/data.cfm" target="_blank">one-fifth</a> of US crude oil production, and an even smaller share of total oil production if you count unconventional oil from fracking. So it wouldn't be a crippling blow to our energy supply to consider putting the brakes on offshore drilling&mdash;if not forever, at least until we feel secure that we've done enough to prevent another Deepwater Horizon.</p> <p>Meanwhile, our expansion into deeper and riskier drilling is happening even though there are still <a href="http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/elist/eListRead/five_years_after_the_bp_deepwater_horizon_disaster_oil_spills_are_on_the_ri" target="_blank">an average of two offshore drilling accidents <em>every day</em></a>.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Climate Change Climate Desk Energy Infrastructure Mon, 20 Apr 2015 19:13:43 +0000 Tim McDonnell 273921 at http://www.motherjones.com Politician Tasked With Oil Industry Oversight Gets a Paycheck From Big Oil http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/04/cartoonish-conflicts-interest-louisianas-legislature <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The BP oil spill turned five years old on Monday, and as my colleague Tim McDonnell <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/04/five-year-anniversary-deepwater-horizon-bp-spill" target="_blank">reported</a>, we're still paying the price: There's as much as 26 million gallons of crude oil still on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico. But the story of the Deepwater Horizon wasn't just about environmental devastation&mdash;it was also a story about regulation.</p> <p>In Louisiana, where many politicians rely on oil and gas companies to fill their campaign coffers (and keep their constituents employed), environmental consequences often take a back seat to business concerns. But sometimes, things go even further. Take the case of Republican state Sen. Robert Adley&mdash;the vice-chair of the committee on environmental quality and the chair of the transportation committee (which oversees levees)&mdash;who played a leading role in trying to stop a local levee board from suing oil companies for damages related to coastal erosion. As Tyler Bridges <a href="http://thelensnola.org/2014/04/03/oil-and-gas-interests-have-no-better-friend-in-baton-rouge-than-the-wiley-sen-adley/" target="_blank">reported</a> for the Louisiana investigative news site <em>The Lens</em>, Adley doesn't just go to bat for oil companies&mdash;he works for them as a paid consultant. He even launched his own oil company while serving as a state representative, and he didn't cut ties to the company until nine years into his stint in the senate:</p> <blockquote> <p>"He has carried a lot of legislation for the oil and gas industry over the years," said Don Briggs, the industry association's president. "I've never seen him carry one that he didn't truly believe was the right thing to do."</p> <p>Adley's numerous ties to the oil and gas industry have led critics to say he is the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse.</p> <p>...</p> <p>Adley said calls that he should recuse himself from the issue because of his industry ties are "un-American" and "outrageous."</p> <p>"It's what I know," Adley said. "Is it wrong to have someone dealing with legislation they know?"</p> </blockquote> <p>For the time being, at least, voters in northwest Louisiana have decided that the answer is no.</p></body></html> MoJo Climate Change Energy Infrastructure Mon, 20 Apr 2015 18:57:59 +0000 Tim Murphy 273916 at http://www.motherjones.com "Jurassic World" Is Apparently Not About Humans and Dinosaurs Teaming Up To Solve Crimes http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2015/04/you-know-who-else-debuted-on-april-twentieth <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I was pretty sure the dinosaurs and the people were going to get along really well and maybe go around the country solving crimes together.</p> <p>I was apparently incorrect.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/aJJrkyHas78" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>If the scientists are making these dinosaurs from scratch why don't they just like take out their teeth or make them allergic to human flesh or something? I'm no big city scientist, but I feel like the whole "they keep eating us!" thing could be bred out of them.</p></body></html> Mixed Media Mon, 20 Apr 2015 18:26:15 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 273926 at http://www.motherjones.com Who Subsidizes Restaurant Workers' Pitiful Wages? You Do http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/how-many-billions-do-americans-spend-subsidize-food-industrys-low-wages <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>For Americans who like to eat out occasionally, the full-service restaurant industry is full of relatively affordable options&mdash;think Olive Garden, Applebees, or Chili's. But these spots aren't exactly a bargain once a hefty hidden cost is factored in: The amount of taxpayer assistance that goes to workers earning little pay.</p> <p>Food service workers have more than twice the poverty rate of the overall workforce, and thus more often seek out public benefits. A <a href="http://rocunited.org/wp2015b/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/REPORT_Public-Cost-of-Low-Wages-in-Full-Service-Restaurant-Industry.pdf" target="_blank">new report</a> published last week by the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC), a restaurant workers' advocacy and assistance group, calculated the tab and found that from 2009 to 2013, regular Americans subsidized the industry's low wages with nearly $9.5 billion in tax money each year. That number includes spending from roughly 10 different assistance programs, including Medicaid, food stamps, and low-income housing programs like Section 8.</p> <p>Here's the breakdown per program:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202015-04-17%20at%201.23.14%20PM.png" style="height: 429px; width: 550px;"><div class="caption">Restaurant Opportunities Centers United</div> </div> <p>The amounts were calculated by combining Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics figures on the programs' cost and enrollments with the number of Americans working in full-service restaurants.</p> <p>ROC also found that employees at the five largest full-service restaurant companies alone cost taxpayers about $1.4 billion per year. According to the report, these five companies employ more than half a million of the sector's more than 4 million workers.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="//mjdwcharts.s3.amazonaws.com/lcuKd/3/index.html" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="100%"></iframe></p> <p>Here's another striking statistic: If you add up these five companies' profits, CEO pay, distributed dividends, and stock buy-backs, the total comes to a bit more than $1.48 billion&mdash;almost exactly what taxpayers spend on these five companies' workers, $1.42 billion.</p> <p>ROC's report notes another key point: <a href="http://www.americansfortaxfairness.org/files/3.19.15-ATF-Polling-Questions-on-Tax-Fairness-Issues-Final.pdf" target="_blank">Polling</a> shows that most Americans want a tax system that requires Corporate America to pull its weight. If customers start realizing that their meal costs a lot more than the check says, they just might lose their appetite.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Charts Food and Ag Labor Mon, 20 Apr 2015 12:45:07 +0000 Hannah Levintova 273866 at http://www.motherjones.com There's a Place That's Nearly Perfect for Growing Food. It's Not California. http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2015/04/decalifornify-cotton-vegetables-fruit-south <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>California is by far the dominant US produce-growing state&mdash;<a href="https://www.motherjones.com/files/resourcedirectory_2013-2014_1.pdf" target="_blank">source of</a> (large PDF) 81 percent of US-grown carrots, 95 percent of broccoli, 86 percent of cauliflower, 74 percent of raspberries, 91 percent of strawberries, etc.</p> <p>But all three of its main veggie growing regions&mdash;the <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/01/140123-colorado-river-water-alfalfa-hay-farming-export-asia/" target="_blank">Imperial Valley</a>, the <a href="http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2014/16dec_drought/" target="_blank">Central Valley</a>, and the <a href="http://www.mcwra.co.monterey.ca.us/board_of_directors/agenda/2014/12%20JT%20BOD_BOS%20Meeting%20Agenda%20and%20Packet%20121614.pdf" target="_blank">Salinas Valley</a>&mdash;face serious short- and long-term water challenges. As I recently <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/04/07/can-farms-survive-without-drying-up-california-13/de-californify-the-nations-produce-supply">argued</a> in a <em>New York Times</em> debate, it's time to "de-Californify" the nation's supply of fruits and vegetable supply, to make it more diversified, resilient, and ready for a changing climate.</p> <p>Here are maps of US fruit and vegetable production:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/indicator_onthemap_fig01%20copy.jpg"><div class="caption">USDA</div> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/veg_0.jpg"><div class="caption">USDA</div> </div> <p>Now check out this map depicting average annual precipitation. The data are old&mdash;1961 to 1990&mdash;and weather patterns have changed since then as the climate has warmed over the decades. But the overall trends depicted still hold sway: The West tends to be arid, the East tends to get plenty of rain and snow, and the Midwest lands, well, somewhere in the middle. So the map remains a good proxy for understanding where water tends to fall and where it doesn't, though the precipitation levels depicted for California look downright Londonesque compared to the state's <a href="http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/data/jpg/20150414/20150414_CA_trd.jpg">current parched condition</a>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><a href="http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/sites/default/files/pubs-and-papers/2010-03-selected-measures-economic-values-increased-fruit-and-vegetable-production-and-consumption-upper-mid.pdf" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/us_precip%20copy%202.jpg"></a></div> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Not only is <a href="http://www.weather.com/climate-weather/drought/news/california-drought-worst-in-1200-years" target="_blank">California gripped in its worst drought in at least 1,200 years</a>, but <a href="http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2014/01/21/states-water-woes/" target="_blank">climate models and the fossil record</a> suggest that its 21st-century precipitation levels could be significantly lower than the 20th-century norm, when California emerged as a fruit-and-vegetable behemoth.</p> <p>So here's an idea that could take pressure off California. In my <em>Times</em> piece, I looked to the Corn Belt states of the Midwest as a prime candidate for a veggie revival: Just about a quarter million acres (a veritable rounding error in that region's base of farmland) from corn and soy to veggies could have a huge impact on regional supply, a 2010 <a href="http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/sites/default/files/pubs-and-papers/2010-03-selected-measures-economic-values-increased-fruit-and-vegetable-production-and-consumption-upper-mid.pdf" target="_blank">Iowa State University study</a> found.</p> <p>Now my gaze is heading south and east, to acres now occupied by cotton&mdash;a crop burdened by a brutal past in the South (slavery, sharecropping) and a troubled present (a <a href="http://southeastfarmpress.com/management/conservation-tillage-systems-threatened-herbicide-resistant-weeds" target="_blank">plague of herbicide-tolerant weeds)</a>:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/upland-cotton-usda-2010-production-by-county-chart-1024x807.jpg"></div> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Let's leave aside all of the cotton growing on the arid side of the map. (The drought is already <a href="http://www.proag.com/News/Cotton-Acreage-Decline-More-Permanent-in-California-than-Arizona-2015-04-01/3230">squeezing out production</a> of the fluffy fiber in California; as for the Texas panhandle, cotton production there <a href="http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2014/07/24/drought-hastens-groundwater-depletion-in-the-texas-panhandle/" target="_blank">relies heavily on water from the fast-depleting Ogallala Aquifer</a>&mdash;not a great long-term strategy.)</p> <p>What I'm eyeing are those cotton acres on the water-rich right side of the map&mdash;the Mississippi Delta states Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, and Louisiana, along with the Carolinas, Alabama, and Georgia to the east. According to the <a href="http://www.cotton.org/econ/cropinfo/production/prospective.cfm">USDA</a>, mid-Southern and Southeastern states planted more than 4 million acres of cotton in 2014. This is what's left of the old&mdash;and let's face it, infamous&mdash;Cotton Belt that stocked the globe's textile factories during the 19th-century boom that delivered the Industrial Revolution (a story told in Sven Beckert's fantastic 2014 book <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Empire-Cotton-A-Global-History/dp/0375414142" target="_blank"><em>Empire of Cotton</em></a>).</p> <p>Decades of low prices have already put a squeeze on Southern cotton acres, and the fiber has recently <a href="http://qz.com/370792/cotton-the-other-globally-glutted-commodity/" target="_blank">slumped anew</a> in global trading. Why not transition at least some acres into crops with a robust domestic market? I bounced my idea of a Cotton Belt fruit-and-vegetable renaissance off a few experts to see if it was nuts. Ferd Hoefner, policy director of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, called it "noncrazy." He pointed out that, as in most other parts of the United States, small-scale farms that sell directly to consumers are "already gearing up down there," and added that the region "seems ripe for entrepreneurial companies to come in, buy land, grow farmers, introduce a whole new vegetable supply chain on a bigger scale, especially with California's woes."</p> <p>I'm not talking about a fantasy in which everyone eats from within 20 miles (although such locavore networks, which have thrived nationwide over the last two decades, certainly add diversification and resilience to the overall food system). I'm simply pushing a more regionalized, widely distributed scheme for filling our salad and fruit bowls, one less dependent on California and its overtaxed water resources.</p> <p>Scott Marlow, executive director of North Carolina-based RAFI USA, a farmer advocacy organization, also said the idea make sense&mdash;with caveats. One is credit. Marlow says that most farmers who still plant cotton are large enough that they rely on loans to start the growing season&mdash;and bankers understand and are used to cotton, but may find vegetables too exotic and risky. For such farmers, "if the banker won't lend for it, [they] are not doing it," he said. Reforms in the latest farm bill made it easier for "specialty crop" (i.e., fruit and vegetable) farmers to get good crop insurance, and that, in turn, made it easier to get loans, he said. But those changes take time to sink in.</p> <p>He added that the South's high levels of precipitation can actually be a liability compared to California's aridity, because "rain spreads diseases through splash erosion, ruins product, screws up harvest, reduces product quality." California farmers, who meet their watering needs through controlled irrigation, don't have those problems.</p> <p>But rain troubles can be addressed through low-tech means like <a href="http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/programs/financial/eqip/?cid=stelprdb1046250" target="_blank">high tunnels</a>, which are already being adapted by Southern produce farmers to extend the growing season, but also to protect sensitive crops from rain, Marlow said. Black plastic mulch, another widely adapted practice, also helps keep crops healthy in rainy periods, he added. The South's farmers have demonstrated the ability to innovate, he said, but "there have to be markets, there has to be risk management, and there has to be access to credit."</p> <p>Converting swaths of Dixie country to vegetables won't be a fast or easy process. But if California's water troubles drag on, as it appears they will, broccoli may yet emerge as the heir apparent to doddering King Cotton.</p></body></html> Tom Philpott Food and Ag Top Stories Mon, 20 Apr 2015 10:00:15 +0000 Tom Philpott 273851 at http://www.motherjones.com Speedy Ortiz's "Foil Deer" Makes Second Albums Look Easy http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2015/04/speedy-ortiz-foil-deer <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KyCF9r9NdMo?rel=0" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><strong>Speedy Ortiz<br><em>Foil Deer</em><br> Carpark</strong></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/SpeedyO_FoilDeerCVR9001-460x460.jpg" style="height: 250px; width: 250px;"></div> <p>Second albums are supposed to be difficult, but Speedy Ortiz makes it look easy on the terrific <em>Foil Deer</em>. After a striking debut (<em>Major Arcana</em>) and memorable follow-up EP (<em>Real Hair</em>), charismatic Sadie Dupuis and company have polished their distinctive sound without abandoning the anything-goes sensibility that's made them so intriguing. The quartet long ago absorbed the basics of brainy early '90s guitar bands (Pavement, Pixies et al.) and has fashioned its own language. Like Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner, Dupuis unleashes a torrent of words, seemingly inspired by rap artists to put her idiosyncrasies front and center; like Bettie Serveert's Carol van Dijk, she's a deceptively authoritative singer who has mastered the art of appearing poised and anxious at once, hinting at deep reserves of barely controlled emotion. With songs ranging from sludge ("Zig") to brisk pop ("Swell Content") to mutant funk ("Puffer"), Dupuis' often-oblique lyrics touch on longing, loss, and the difficulty of genuine interaction, creating the sensation of eavesdropping on free-form musings. Whether exclaiming, "I was the best at being second place but now I'm just the runner-up" in "The Graduates," or reflecting on "a heartache that numbs you even when it coats you" in the hushed "Dvrk Wvrld," Dupuis is an endlessly intriguing presence.</p></body></html> Mixed Media Music Mon, 20 Apr 2015 10:00:14 +0000 Jon Young 273716 at http://www.motherjones.com It's Spring Fundraising Time! http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/its-spring-fundraising-time <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Our annual Spring Fundraising Drive is wrapping up at the end of the month, but as you all know, I'll be recuperating from my final round of chemotherapy in lovely Duarte, California, right about then. But I didn't want to be left out, so I asked if I could post my note a little earlier than I usually do.</p> <p>I figure if there's ever been a time when I'm allowed to get slightly more maudlin than usual, this is it. (But just slightly. I have a reputation, after all.) I've been writing for <em>Mother Jones</em> since 2008, and it's been such a great job that it's almost getting hard to remember ever working for anyone else. They've provided me with more freedom <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_keep_calm_donate.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">to write whatever I want than anyone could hope for. That's been great for me, and I hope for all of you too.</p> <p>Writing for the print magazine has been a huge gift as well, and it's something I dearly hope to return to when all the chemotherapy is over and my strength is back to normal. It's been a privilege to share pages with such an amazingly talented bunch of journalists.</p> <p>Truthfully, I've been blessed to have such a great editorial team over the past few months, as well as such a great readership. You guys are truly the best to go through something like this with.</p> <p>So here's the ask: <em>Mother Jones</em> has done a lot for me and a lot for you over the past few years, and when I get back they're going to keep right on doing it. That makes this fundraising request a little more personal than usual, but if there's ever been a time for you to show your appreciation, this is it. If you can afford five dollars, that's plenty. If you can afford a thousand, then pony up, because you're pretty lucky, aren't you? Either way, when I get back I sure hope to see that my readers have really stepped up to the plate.</p> <p>Readers like you are a big part of what makes <em>Mother Jones</em> such a unique place. Your support allows me to write about what&rsquo;s truly important, rather than obsessing over whatever generates the most clicks and advertising revenue. And it's not just me. It gives all of us the independence to write about issues that other places won't touch. It means that we ultimately answer to you, our readers, and not a corporate parent company or shareholders (and you've never been shy about letting us know what you think!).</p> <p>Thanks for helping make <em>Mother Jones</em> what it is, and for making the last seven years some of the best of my life. And thanks in advance for whatever you can give to keep both me and <em>Mother Jones</em> going strong. Here are the links for donations:</p> <p><a href="https://secure.motherjones.com/fnp/?action=SUBSCRIPTION&amp;list_source=7Z54KD&amp;extra_don=1&amp;abver=A" target="_blank">Donate by credit card here.</a></p> <p><a href="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&amp;hosted_button_id=JVT34NP6NHQM2" target="_blank">Donate by PayPal here.</a></p> <p><strong>P.S.</strong> Share this post on Facebook! That will help it get more attention.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 18 Apr 2015 17:22:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 273756 at http://www.motherjones.com Welfare Reform and the Decline of Work http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/welfare-reform-and-decline-work <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>A recent paper suggests that over the past two decades there's been a decline in the desire of people outside the labor force to ever get jobs. <a href="http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2015/04/declining-desire-to-work-and-downward-trends-in-unemployment-and-participation.html" target="_blank">Why?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>We conjecture that two mechanisms could explain these results. First, the EITC expansion raised family income and reduced secondary earners's (typically women) incentives to work. Second, the strong work requirements introduced by the AFDC/TANF reform would have, through a kind of &ldquo;sink or swim&rdquo; experience, left the &ldquo;weaker&rdquo; welfare recipients without welfare and pushed them away from the labor force and possibly into disability insurance.</p> </blockquote> <p>This comes via Tyler Cowen, who attended an NBER session this morning conducted by the authors of this study. He came away thinking they probably hadn't made a strong case. Still, an interesting hypothesis that probably deserves followup.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Sat, 18 Apr 2015 15:55:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 273901 at http://www.motherjones.com Are Republicans Finally Giving Up on Killing Obamacare? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/are-republicans-finally-giving-killing-obamacare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_gallup_republicans.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Let me say right up front that I'm skeptical of the following report. But then, maybe I'm blinded by partisanship. Who knows? In any case, <a href="http://www.latimes.com/business/healthcare/la-na-obamacare-republicans-20150418-story.html#navtype=outfit" target="_blank">here is Noam Levey writing in the <em>LA Times</em> today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>After five years and more than 50 votes in Congress, the Republican campaign to repeal the Affordable Care Act is essentially over. </strong>GOP congressional leaders, unable to roll back the law while President Obama remains in office and unwilling to again threaten a government shutdown to pressure him, are focused on other issues, including trade and tax reform.</p> <p>Less noted, senior Republican lawmakers have quietly incorporated many of the law's key protections into their own proposals, including guaranteeing coverage and providing government assistance to help consumers purchase insurance.</p> <p>....At the same time, the presumed Republican presidential front-runner, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, has shown little enthusiasm for a new healthcare fight. Last year, he even criticized the repeal effort....<strong>"Only 18% of Americans want to go back to the system we had before because they do not want to go back to some of the problems we had," Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster [said]...."Smart Republicans in this area get that," he added.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Well, maybe. Levey concedes that there will still be plenty of calls to repeal Obamacare during the 2016 presidential campaign, but he believes that in practice, Republicans will be unwilling to seriously gut a program that's now providing health coverage for 20 million Americans, a number that will only increase over the next two years.</p> <p>This is an argument I've made myself on multiple occasions, so I ought to be sympathetic to it. And I guess I am. On the other hand, I've been repeatedly astonished at the relentlessness of the GOP base's hatred of Obamacare. Over and over, I thought it would fade out. Maybe when the Supreme Court ruled it was constitutional. Maybe when Obama won in 2012. Maybe when the law finally took full effect in 2014. But like the Energizer bunny, their unholy enmity toward the law just kept going and going and going.</p> <p>So is Obamacare Derangement Syndrome finally burning itself out? I guess I'll believe it when I see it. But maybe.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections Health Care Sat, 18 Apr 2015 15:44:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 273896 at http://www.motherjones.com No Wonder Teens Are Huffing Nicotine http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/teenagers-vaping-nicotine <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>You thought Big Tobacco was on the wane in the United States?</p> <p>(Insert cartoon villain voice:) "Mwa-ha-ha-ha-haaaaa!"</p> <p>Not. Friggin'. Likely. In fact, the domestic tobacco industry is on the rebound thanks to its heavy investment in smoking "alternatives"&mdash;a.k.a. e-cigarettes, a.k.a. nicotine-delivery devices marketed in a <a href="http://www.v2cigs.com/ecigs/electronic-cigarette-flavors" target="_blank">variety of kid-friendly flavors</a>. (Marketing flavored tobacco cigarettes has been banned since 2009.)</p> <p>Kevin <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/vaping-among-teens-skyrockets-2014" target="_blank">had a post</a> on Thursday about the soaring numbers of kids who've tried e-cigs. On Friday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2014/p0825-e-cigarettes.html" target="_blank">announced the results</a> of a new CDC study in the journal <em>Nicotine and Tobacco Control</em>.</p> <p>From 2011 to 2013, the researchers reported, the number of middle- and high-school students using e-cigs tripled. In 2013, more than 250,000 kids who had never smoked tobacco reported using e-cigarettes, and 44 percent of those kids said they had "intentions" of trying regular cigarettes in the next year. (About 1 in 5 American adults currently smoke.) Not surprisingly, kids who had more exposure to tobacco advertising were more likely to say they intended to try smoking.</p> <p>You'll often hear vaping proponents argue that e-cigs help smokers kick the tobacco habit, thereby saving lives. And that may be true: Inhaling tobacco smoke, which still kills <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/resources/data/cigarette-smoking-in-united-states.html#nine" target="_blank">more than 480,000</a> Americans every year, is almost certainly more deadly than huffing nicotine vapors.</p> <p>The one group you won't hear the smoking cessation argument from is e-cig manufacturers. That, ironically, is because products intended to help people quit tobacco products are regulated far more strictly than the tobacco products themselves. The same goes for drug-delivery devices, which is why manufacturers fought very hard to make certain the FDA didn't put e-cigarettes in that category.</p> <p>Not that the agency didn't try. The FDA initially<a href="http://legacyforhealth.org/newsroom/press-releases/e-cigarette-or-drug-delivery-device" target="_blank"> sought</a> to regulate e-cigs as drug-delivery devices, for what else could they be? But the manufacturers promptly sued, and were handed a huge win. <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/09/e-cigarettes-regulation-tobacco-warning-labels-menthol" target="_blank">Judges</a> bought the industry's argument that, under the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, any product that contains nicotine derived from tobacco and makes no therapeutic claims can be be regulated as a tobacco product&mdash;which makes it, presto, not a drug delivery device.</p> <p>Just think about how crazy this is: Nicotine is highly addictive. At low doses it's a stimulant, at higher doses a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/24/business/selling-a-poison-by-the-barrel-liquid-nicotine-for-e-cigarettes.html?_r=0" target="_blank">serious poison</a>. (The tobacco plant and other nightshades actually produce it as an insecticide, and it's sold for that use, too, with a <a href="http://beeblebeeble.com/blogs/2014/10/201410_Nicotine600x300.png" target="_blank">stringent warning label</a>.) If nicotine were marketed as medicine, you couldn't just buy it at the corner store in a dozen alluring flavors. Yet because the manufacturers make no medical claims, they can do what they want. Never mind that the 2009 law was written before e-cigarettes were widely marketed* in the United States.</p> <p>Ah, screw it. Just give me <a href="http://store.blucigs.com/pina-colada-cartridges" target="_blank">the Pi&ntilde;a Colada</a>.</p> <p>*<em>Corrections: E-cigs had been invented, but were not then sold by tobacco companies or marketed widely in the United States. Some readers took exception with my use of "tobacco-friendly" to describe <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/09/e-cigarettes-regulation-tobacco-warning-labels-menthol" target="_blank">the judges</a> who decided the case. Indeed, that wasn't fair&mdash;the tobacco act's wording gave the vape companies a loophole. Finally, nicotine does have legit medical uses.</em> <em>The article has been revised accordingly.</em></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Regulatory Affairs Tobacco Sat, 18 Apr 2015 10:00:08 +0000 Michael Mechanic 273891 at http://www.motherjones.com Friday Catblogging - April 17 2015 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/friday-catblogging-17-april-2015-picklejuice-frankie <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Friday catblogging is, of course, a <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/03/friday-cat-blogging-special-10th-anniversary-edition" target="_blank">core tradition</a> around these parts. And as the blog welcomes new names and faces while Kevin&nbsp;concentrates on getting better, who said they all have be human? The door's always open for Hilbert and Hopper to <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/bonus-friday-cat-blogging-17-april-2015" target="_blank">drop in</a>, but we're going to round out the feline mix with a smattering of cats who are blessed to have a <em>Mother Jones</em> staff member as their human companion.</p> <p>First up? The Oakland-based menagerie of creative director Ivylise Simones, who oversees all of <em>MoJo</em>'s lovely art and photography.</p> <p>On the right is seven-year-old Inspector Picklejuice, a shelter acquisition picked up by Ivylise when she was living in Brooklyn. On the left you'll find Frankie the Cat. This affectionate two-year-old also came from a shelter, joining the Simones household in 2014.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <center><iframe frameborder="0" height="600" src="https://vine.co/v/OtQXUgK62Pg/embed/simple" width="600"></iframe><script src="https://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js"></script></center> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I'm told these two get along splendidly. Sure looks like it!</p> <p>If you recognize Picklejuice's handsome features, it may be from his widely acclaimed <a href="https://instagram.com/picklejuicethecat/" target="_blank">Instagram feed</a>, or perhaps from his star turn in our September/October 2014 issue: <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/media/2014/09/deep-learning-artificial-intelligence-facebook-nsa" target="_blank">click through</a> to see him&mdash;he's the looker playing in the box on the far right. (How'd he end up in a magazine illustration? I'll just say that it helps to have friends in the right places.)</p> <p>Here's another of the good Inspector, keeping a close eye on happenings from a favored perch high in the loft. It's an ideal spot to partake in two of his favorite hobbies: sleeping, and sitting around while awake.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <center><iframe frameborder="0" height="600" src="https://vine.co/v/OtxeBjvI0MT/embed/simple" width="600"></iframe><script src="https://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js"></script></center> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It takes a good five foot vertical hop over open space to get up there. Impressive!</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 17 Apr 2015 19:30:08 +0000 Clint Hendler 273426 at http://www.motherjones.com Why the Euro Is a Selfish Jerk http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/euro-ingroup-bias <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em>While Kevin Drum is focused on getting better, we've invited some of the remarkable writers and thinkers who have traded links and ideas with him from Blogosphere 1.0 through today to pitch in posts and keep the conversation going. Here's a contribution from </em><a href="https://twitter.com/keithnhumphreys">Keith Humphreys</a><em>, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University whose sharp insights on addiction, drug policy, and many other topics have helped make the </em><a href="http://www.samefacts.com/">Reality-Based Community</a><em> group blog a must read.</em></p> <p>The Euro is the Windows 8 of the economic policy design world: In both cases, it's very hard to understand how putatively smart people worked so hard to create a product so ill-suited to the needs of those who were supposed to rely on it. At this point, this isn't much of a secret: as <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2011/12/whos-responsible-euromess">Kevin Drum</a> pointed out back in 2011, a common currency deprives markets and nations of tools that normally ameliorate the effects of capital flow imbalances, inflation spikes, and crushing debt payments. Kevin and other people who understand fiscal policy better than I ever will (e.g., <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/03/why-the-euro-is-doomed-in-4-steps/274470/">Matt O'Brien</a> and <a href="http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/11/original-original-sin/?_r=0">Paul Krugman</a>) convinced me long ago that the Euro was designed with a lack of understanding of (or an unwillingness to grapple with) basic lessons of economics.&nbsp;</p> <p>But speaking as a psychologist, the common currency's fundamental design flaws don't end there: the Euro creators should have thought harder about what social scientists have learned about how compassion and cultural identity interact.</p> <p>In asking nations to entrust their economic fate to the Euro, its designers were assuming that Europeans have a reservoir of goodwill among them. That goodwill was supposed to ensure, for example, that no prospective member had to worry that a powerful member would use its Euro-derived leverage to turn the screws on a weaker member which was&mdash;to pick an example out of thin air&mdash;<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/04/10/greeces-poor-are-back-to-where-they-were-in-1980/">wracked by colossal levels of debt, unemployment and economic misery</a>.</p> <p>But that's exactly what the Germans have done to the Greeks. Why aren't the Germans overcome with sympathy for the Greeks? It's not that Germans are selfish or hard-hearted: after all, they have spent ten times the current GDP of Greece <a href="http://fortune.com/2014/11/09/germany-east-west-economy/">helping the economically struggling people of the former East Germany</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2014-09886-001/">Social psychology researchers</a> have identified a powerful in group bias in willingness to help others, whether it's hiring someone for a job or supporting social welfare programs for the poor. Human beings are, in short, more inclined to help other people whom we perceive as being a member of our tribe.</p> <p>Human psychology wouldn't cause as many problems for the Euro if there was a strong European identity, if a West German was as likely to consider an East German a tribe member as they would a Greek or a Spaniard or an Italian. But when most Germans and Greeks look at each other, they fundamentally see someone who speaks a different language and hails from a different culture with a different history&mdash;and for that matter was a military enemy within living memory.</p> <p>With no shared sense of tribe comes a sharp reduction in compassion and attendant willingness to help.&nbsp; The elites who designed the Euro may genuinely have believed and even felt a sense that Europe is all about "us", but the currency's recent struggles show that for too many Europeans, it's more about us and them.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy International Fri, 17 Apr 2015 18:30:08 +0000 Keith Humphreys 273821 at http://www.motherjones.com Bonus Friday Cat Blogging - 17 April 2015 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/bonus-friday-cat-blogging-17-april-2015 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>My sister has given me loads of catblogging photos to choose from, and this week I'm choosing this one. I understand that Hilbert contested Hopper's right to this spot for a bit, but Hopper defended herself and is now queen of the chair. She has quite the regal presence.</p> <p>In the meantime, padded coat hangers have been dragged downstairs, temporary window coverings have turned into cat toys, and someone is apparently pulling blue masking tape down from somewhere. On the brighter side, both cats have decided that jumping up on the couch and snoozing next to Karen while she reads or watches TV is really not a bad alternative to whoever those folks were who used to provide laps and cat food.</p> <p>I understand more cat blogging will be coming later. Keep your eyes peeled.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_2015_04_17.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 60px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 17 Apr 2015 15:00:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 273791 at http://www.motherjones.com Just How Racist Are Schoolteachers? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/teachers-racism-bias-stanford <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>It's no secret that black kids are more likely to be suspended from school than white kids&mdash;three times more likely, according to a 2012 <a href="http://ocrdata.ed.gov/Downloads/CMOCRTheTransformedCRDCFINAL3-15-12Accessible-1.pdf">report</a> from the Office of Civil Rights. And now a <a href="http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/04/08/0956797615570365.abstract" target="_blank">study</a> published this week in <em>Psychological Science</em> may shed some light on just how much of a role racial bias on the part of educators may play.</p> <p>Stanford psychology grad student Jason Okonofua and professor Jennifer Eberhardt designed a study where active K-12 teachers from across the country were presented with mocked-up disciplinary records showing a student who had misbehaved twice. Both infractions were relatively minor: one was for insubordination, the other for class disturbance. The records' substance never changed, but some bore stereotypically black names (Darnell or Deshawn) while others had stereotypically white names (Jake or Greg). Teachers answered a series of questions about how troubled they were by the infractions reflected in the documents, how severe the appropriate discipline should be, and the likelihood that the student was "a troublemaker."</p> <p>The teachers' responses after learning about the first infraction were about equal, regardless of the student's perceived race. But after hearing about the second infraction, a gap in discipline emerged: On a scale of one to seven, teachers rated the appropriate severity of discipline at just over five for students perceived to be black, compared to just over four for students perceived to be white. That may not seem like a big difference, but on one-to-seven scale, a single point is a 14 percent increase&mdash;well beyond what is typically accepted as statistically significant.</p> <p>A follow-up experiment of over 200 teachers took the questioning further, and found that teachers were more likely (though by smaller margins) to judge students perceived as black as engaging in a pattern of misbehavior, and were more likely to say they could "imagine themselves suspending the student at some point in the future."</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202015-04-16%20at%203.57.25%20PM.png"><div class="caption">Okonofua and Eberhart, Association for Psychological Science</div> </div> <p>"Most school teachers likely work hard at treating their students equally and justly," says Okonofua. "And yet even amongst these well-intentioned and hard-working people, we find cultural stereotypes about black people are bending their perceptions towards less favorable interpretations of behavior."</p> <p>Many studies have looked at the subconscious racial prejudice of snap judgments&mdash;my former colleague, Chris Mooney, wrote an excellent <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/11/science-of-racism-prejudice" target="_blank">feature</a> on the subject last December. But according to the authors, this is the first study to look at the psychology behind the racial gap in school discipline. And, as Okonofua said, "The research shows that even if there's no race effect for an initial interaction, the stereotyping can play out over time. That's really important because in the real world, there are sustained relationships."</p> <p>And the research may have implications for other kinds of sustained relationships between two levels of authority: say a boss and an employee, a prison guard and a prisoner, or a judge and a repeat offender.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Education Race and Ethnicity Fri, 17 Apr 2015 13:20:05 +0000 Julia Lurie 273831 at http://www.motherjones.com The "Batman v Superman" Trailer Just Leaked—And It's Dark As Hell http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2015/04/superman-is-a-fundamentally-flawed-character-batman-is-the-best-superhero-spiderman-is-dumb <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Hello, darkness my old friend.</p> <p>I've come to watch this trailer again:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" mozallowfullscreen="" scrolling="no" src="https://vid.me/e/NlzG" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><a href="http://io9.com/everybody-hates-superman-in-the-first-batman-v-superman-1698392005#" target="_blank">via <em>io9</em></a></p></body></html> Mixed Media Fri, 17 Apr 2015 04:10:18 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 273836 at http://www.motherjones.com Vaping Among Teens Skyrockets in 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/vaping-among-teens-skyrockets-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_e_cigarette_use.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Is this chart on the right, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2015/04/16/high-school-middle-school-kids-now-use-more-e-cigs-than-tobacco-cdc/?hpid=z3" target="_blank">from the <em>Washington Post</em>,</a> good news or bad? On the one hand, teen cigarette use has plummeted from 16 percent to 9 percent over the past four years. On the other hand, the <em>total</em> rate of teen smoking&mdash;cigarettes plus e-cigarettes&mdash;has risen from 17 percent to 22 percent. The rise in e-cigarette use spiked especially sharply in 2014, more than tripling in a single year.</p> <p>I've heard pros and cons about e-cigarettes for the past couple of years, and I can't say I have a settled opinion about them. Taken in isolation, it's safe to say that no kind of nicotine delivery system is good for you. But traditional cigarettes are certainly more harmful than e-cigarettes, so to the extent that vaping replaces tobacco smoking, it's a net positive.</p> <p>But that huge spike in 2014 is cause for concern. At some point, teen vaping starts to look like a serious net negative even if it's accompanied by a small drop in traditional cigarette consumption. I'm still not sure what to think about this, but I'd say these latest figures from the CDC move my priors a bit in the direction of stronger regulation of e-cigarattes.</p> <p>And if you don't live in California and are wondering what the fuss is over my state's anti-vaping campaign, here's the ad that's been assaulting my TV for the past couple of months. It's paid for by revenue from good ol' Proposition 99, I assume.</p> <p><iframe align="middle" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="258" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/jaMgWUBPeHY" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 110px;" width="400"></iframe></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 16 Apr 2015 21:50:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 273826 at http://www.motherjones.com Watch Siskel and Ebert Defend the Original Star Wars Films http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2015/04/siskel-and-ebert-star-wars <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The latest trailer for <em>Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakening</em> was r<a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2015/04/star-wars-force-awakens-trailer" target="_blank">eleased Thursday</a>. It is good. It is reallllllllllyyyyyy good. There may have been audible yelps of excitement in the <em>Mother Jones</em> office upon first, second, and third viewings.</p> <p>There are people living and breathing in this world who are Star Wars haters. They dismiss Star Wars as drivel intended for children, meaningless entertainment that should be discarded in favor of Intellectual Foreign Language Films. These people are wrong, cold-hearted individuals who should be shunned from civil society. "But but but," one might argue, "Episodes I, II, and III were utter garbage, truly horrible, horrible films." This is true. Just erase them from your memory, as I have done. The original three films (Ewoks and all) are masterpieces that should be enjoyed by those of all ages.</p> <p>Need further proof? Watch Ted Koppel interview Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert in 1983. The pair eviscerate a snooty film critic who thinks the movies&nbsp;make children stupid.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="473" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ky9-eIlHzAE?rel=0" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>You are missed,&nbsp;Siskel and Ebert.&nbsp;You are missed.</p></body></html> Mixed Media Thu, 16 Apr 2015 19:06:02 +0000 Patrick Caldwell 273806 at http://www.motherjones.com The New "Star Wars" Trailer Is Here And It's Pretty Great http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2015/04/star-wars-force-awakens-trailer <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Watch:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ngElkyQ6Rhs" width="630"></iframe></p></body></html> Mixed Media Thu, 16 Apr 2015 18:12:09 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 273801 at http://www.motherjones.com Corporate Lobbyists Outspend the Rest of us 34 to 1 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/corporate-lobbyists-outspend-rest-us-34-1 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Lee Drutman looks at the real problem with <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2015/04/16/what-we-get-wrong-about-lobbying-and-corruption/" target="_blank">lobbying in the American political system:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Looking at lobbying in the aggregate, what jumps out is the stark imbalance in resources. Corporations blow everyone else out of the water. <strong>Business accounts for roughly 80 percent of all reported lobbying expenditures, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_corporate_skyscraper_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 20px;">about $2.6 billion dollars a year now.</strong></p> <p>....<strong>Meanwhile, the types of organized interests who we might expect to provide a countervailing force to business &mdash; labor unions, groups representing diffuse public like consumers or taxpayers &mdash; spend $1 for every $34 businesses spend on lobbying, by my count.</strong> Of the 100 organizations that spend the most on lobbying annually, consistently 95 represent business. In interviewing 60 corporate lobbyists for my book <em>The Business of America is Lobbying</em>, I asked them to identify the leading opposition on an issue on which they were currently working. Not a single lobbyist volunteered a union or a &ldquo;public interest&rdquo; group.</p> <p>....This growing imbalance has had two major effects on the political system. First, it is increasingly difficult to challenge any existing policy that benefits politically active corporations....Second, the sheer amount of lobbying has created a policymaking environment that now requires significant resources to get anything done. <strong>Which means that, with increasingly rare exceptions, the only possible policy changes on economic policy issues are those changes that at least some large corporations support.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Lobbying is inevitable. You might even say that it's nothing more than politics in its purest form. But if that's true, American politics has become almost purely a game played by big corporations and their allies. The rest of us&mdash;which is to say, practically all of us&mdash;are left with nearly no say in what happens.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Corporations Dark Money Elections Thu, 16 Apr 2015 17:55:46 +0000 Kevin Drum 273781 at http://www.motherjones.com Republican Judges Set to Rule on Republican Objection to New EPA Regs http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/republican-judges-set-rule-republican-objection-new-epa-regs <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-obama-climate-court-challenge-20150416-story.html" target="_blank">Things that make you go "hmmm":</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Environmental attorneys say they are <strong>confident the court will reject the emergency appeal.</strong></p> <p>Nevertheless Thursday's hearing, <strong>before three Republican-appointed judges,</strong> marks the first of what promises to be a series of legal hurdles for climate-change rules.</p> </blockquote> <p>The subject is Obama's new rules mandating greenhouse gas reductions from power plants, which energy industry attorneys say is "double regulation" since the EPA already regulates other stuff at power plants. No, that doesn't make much sense to me either. Still, the two bolded phrases above might have been believeable together a few decades ago, but not so much now. If it's a Republican panel, I think there's at least a decent chance that we'll get a Republican ruling, regardless of whether it makes any legal sense.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Climate Change Energy Thu, 16 Apr 2015 16:13:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 273776 at http://www.motherjones.com Nebraska Conservatives Take On GOP Governor Over Death Penalty http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/04/nebraska-republicans-take-gop-governor-over-death-penalty <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>A group of conservative legislators in Nebraska are gearing up for what could be a multi-day battle to end the state's death penalty. The fight pits the right-wing anti-death penalty crusaders against their fellow conservatives and the state's Republican governor. Here's the <em>Omaha World-Herald</em>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Nine conservative lawmakers have signed on as co-sponsors of a repeal measure the Nebraska Legislature will begin debating Thursday. One of their key platforms: Repealing the death penalty makes good fiscal sense.</p> <p>"If capital punishment were any other program that was so inefficient and so costly to the taxpayer, we would have gotten rid of it a long time ago," said Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln.</p> </blockquote> <p>The bill is unlikely to become law. There are currently enough votes for passage, but advocates warn that anything could happen when the bill comes up for a final vote. Death penalty advocates could mount a filibuster to block the legislature from even voting on the measure. If they don't,&nbsp;Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, has vowed to block the legislation, and it's unclear that there are enough votes to override his veto.</p> <p>Still, the upcoming debate and vote on the bill marks a victory for a small conservative group working on a state-by-state basis to end the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole. This group, Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, argues that capital punishment violates <a href="http://www.newsweek.com/2014/05/23/unlikely-conservative-cause-abolish-death-penalty-251005.html" target="_blank">core conservative beliefs</a> about the <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/11/ron-paul-death-penalty-scott-panetti-texas" target="_blank">sanctity of life</a>, small government, and fiscal responsibility.</p> <p>The Nebraska chapter of the group held a press conference Wednesday in advance of today's floor debate on the bill. "I may be old-fashioned, but I believe God should be the only one who decides when it is time to call a person home," said state Sen. Tommy Garrett, a conservative who supports repeal. "The state has no business playing God."</p> <p>Nebraska has not carried out an execution since 1997, when the state was still using the electric chair, but that might change, according to the <a href="http://www.omaha.com/news/legislature/on-eve-of-repeal-debate-republican-lawmakers-push-for-ending/article_072f43e0-e390-11e4-afbc-c79c33ec8b49.html" target="_blank"><em>World-Herald</em></a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said this week that his staff is working to restore the viability of a lethal injection protocol. He did not, however, predict when executions could resume.</p> </blockquote></body></html> MoJo Crime and Justice Top Stories death penalty Thu, 16 Apr 2015 16:06:41 +0000 Pema Levy 273766 at http://www.motherjones.com Chris Christie's Social Security Proposal is Cruel and Callous http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/chris-christies-social-security-proposal-cruel-and-callous <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>So Chris Christie is going to campaign on the bold idea of <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/christie-proposing-overhaul-social-security-benefits-30303865" target="_blank">reducing Social Security benefits.</a> My guess is that Christie is going to learn that Social Security remains the third rail of American politics, and will get therefore get charred to a crisp before much longer. For this and many other reasons, we probably don't have to worry much about Christie.</p> <p>Still, it's worth looking at his proposal. It has two parts:</p> <ol><li>"I propose a modest means test that only affects those with non&ndash;Social Security income of over $80,000 per year, and phases out Social Security payments entirely for those that have $200,000 a year of other income."</li> </ol><p>Even a lot of us liberal types don't have a big objection to this. But there's a problem here: I don't have exact numbers in front of me, but I'd guess that perhaps 5 percent of retirees have outside incomes of $80,000 and maybe 1 percent have incomes over $200,000. A phaseout that affects such a small number of retirees would hardly save anything. At a guess, maybe it would reduce total payouts by 1-2 percent or so.</p> <p>But here's the second part of Christie's proposal:</p> <ol start="2"><li>"I&rsquo;m proposing we raise the age to 69, gradually implementing this change starting in 2022 and increasing the retirement age by two months each year until it reaches 69."</li> </ol><p>Ouch! <a href="http://www.vox.com/2015/4/16/8422945/chris-christie-social-security" target="_blank">As Matt Yglesias points out,</a> life expectancy for the poor at age 65 has <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2011/05/raise-retirement-age-screw-poor" target="_blank">barely budged over the past three decades,</a> sitting stubbornly at about 15 years. A 2-year cut forces the poor to work longer <em>and</em> effectively slashes their lifetime Social <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/blog_life_expectancy_top_bottom.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Security payout by nearly 15 percent. This is a huge reduction for anyone with a low income, and it's especially cruel since it would mostly target people who perform manual labor and have the hardest time working into their late 60s.</p> <p>I am part of a dwindling band of liberals who is willing to cut a deal on Social Security that would reduce future payouts in return for higher funding rates. Unfortunately, this was never going anywhere because conservatives weren't willing to deal on the funding side, and it's even deader today because liberals are increasingly demanding <em>increases</em> in Social Security, not cuts.</p> <p>But regardless of how you feel about all this, you should hate Christie's proposal. As I and others have pointed out repeatedly, raising the retirement age is the worst possible way of fixing Social Security's finances, doing its work primarily on the backs of low-income workers while making only token demands on the rich. It's a cruel and callous proposal and everyone should recognize it for what it is.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Income Inequality Thu, 16 Apr 2015 15:14:39 +0000 Kevin Drum 273771 at http://www.motherjones.com As Cities Raise Their Minimum Wage, Where's the Economic Collapse the Right Predicted? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/economic-collapse-prediction-minimum-wage-raise <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/fight-for-15-masterWEB.gif"><div class="caption"><strong>The Fight for 15 protest in New York City </strong><a href="https://twitter.com/FastFoodForward/status/588329767851573248" target="_blank">Fast Food Forward</a></div> </div> <p>Fast-food cooks and cashiers demanding a $15 minimum wage walked off the job in 236 cities yesterday in what organizers called the largest mobilization of low-wage workers ever. The tax-day protest, known as Fight 4/15 (or #Fightfor15 on Twitter), caused some backlash on the Right:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>So, in demanding ridiculous wages for jobs that require no skill, <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FightFor15?src=hash">#FightFor15</a> has ensured more people remain unemployed. Retards.</p> &mdash; Stevie J. West (@StevieJWest) <a href="https://twitter.com/StevieJWest/status/588392028444069889">April 15, 2015</a></blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FightFor15?src=hash">#FightFor15</a> in which <a href="https://twitter.com/TheDemocrats">@TheDemocrats</a> talk poor people into going from unemployed to unemployable.</p> &mdash; Ben Crystal (@Bennettruth) <a href="https://twitter.com/Bennettruth/status/588388803917717505">April 15, </a></blockquote> <p>Conservatives have long portrayed minimum-wage increases as a harbingers of economic doom, but their fears simply haven't played out. San Francisco, Santa Fe, and Washington, DC, were among the first major cities to raise their minimum wages to substantially above state and national averages. The Center for Economic and Policy Research <a href="http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/min-wage-2011-03.pdf" target="_blank">found</a> that the increases had little effect on employment rates in traditionally low-wage sectors of their economies:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="//mjdwcharts.s3.amazonaws.com/XBcIJ/2/index.html" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="100%"></iframe></p> <p>Economists with the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California-Berkeley have <a href="http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/studies-look-at-what-happened-when-cities-raised-minimum-wage/" target="_blank">found similar results</a> in studies of the six other cities that have raised their minimum wages in the past decade, and in the 21 states with higher base pay than the federal minimum. Businesses, they found, absorbed the costs through lower job turnover, small price increases, and higher productivity.</p> <p>Obviously, there's a limit to how high you can raise the minimum wage without harming the economy, but evidence suggests we're nowhere close to that tipping point. The ratio between the United States' minimum wage and its median wage&nbsp;has been slipping for years&mdash;it's now <a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119377/us-ratio-minimum-wage-median-low-international-standards" target="_blank">far lower</a> than in the rest of the developed world. Even after San Francisco increases its minimum wage to $15 next year, it will still amount to just 46 percent of the median wage, putting the city well within the normal historical range.</p> <p>The bigger threat to the economy may come from <em>not</em> raising the minimum wage. Even Wall Street analysts <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/08/income-inequality-damaging-economy-says-new-report" target="_blank">agree</a> that our ever-widening income inequality threatens to dampen economic growth. And according to a <a href="http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/the-high-public-cost-of-low-wages/" target="_blank">new study</a> by the UC-Berkeley Labor Center, it's the taxpayers who ultimately pick up the tab for low wages, because the federal government subsidizes the working poor through social-service programs to the tune of $153 billion a year.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Charts Labor Top Stories #fightfor15 Thu, 16 Apr 2015 13:45:48 +0000 Josh Harkinson 273746 at http://www.motherjones.com Even the World Bank Has to Worry About the Competition http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/world-bank-competition-icij <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has just <a href="http://projects.huffingtonpost.com/worldbank-evicted-abandoned/worldbank-projects-leave-trail-misery-around-globe-kenya" target="_blank">published a deep look</a> into the World Bank's track record of ensuring that the projects it sponsors don't end up harming local communities.</p> <p>Since 2004, more than 3.4 million people have been economically or physically displaced by Bank projects, according to the report's analysis of the lender's data. And while the Bank has policies requiring it to reestablish and resettle such communities, the ICIJ's investigation found that they were falling short, operating under a troubling lack of safeguards, through bank officials too willing to ignore abuses committed by local partners, and with an institutional culture that values closing big deals over following up on human rights.</p> <p>After being presented with the ICIJ's findings, the bank quickly promised reforms. But <a href="http://projects.huffingtonpost.com/worldbank-evicted-abandoned" target="_blank">one part of the investigation</a> contains this interesting passage, which suggests an unexpected reason the Bank may not be able to clean up its act: competition has gotten too stiff.</p> <blockquote> <p class="mc">As it enters its eighth decade, the World Bank faces an identity crisis.</p> <p class="mc">It is no longer the only lender willing to venture into struggling nations and finance huge projects. It is being challenged by new competition from other development banks that don&rsquo;t have the same social standards&mdash;and are rapidly drawing support from the World Bank&rsquo;s traditional backers.</p> <p class="mc">China has launched a new development bank and persuaded Britain, Germany and other American allies to join, despite open U.S. opposition.</p> <p class="mc">These geopolitical shifts have fueled doubts about whether the World Bank still has the clout&mdash;or the desire&mdash;to impose strong protections for people living in the way of development.</p> <p class="mc">United Nations human rights officials have written World Bank President Kim to say they're concerned that the growing ability of borrowers to access other financing has spurred the bank to join a "race to the bottom" and push its standards for protecting people even lower.</p> </blockquote> <p>Today's package of stories, published with the <em>Huffington Post</em>, is the first installment of a series reported in 14 countries by over 50 journalists. More than 20 news organizations were involved in the effort.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Foreign Policy Human Rights Thu, 16 Apr 2015 12:20:04 +0000 Clint Hendler 273761 at http://www.motherjones.com