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 Doctors Aren't Really Very Smart About Buying Generics http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/doctors-arent-really-very-smart-about-buying-generics <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Sarah Kliff takes a look today at our use of generic drugs. Long story short, it's surprising how few of us save money by buying generic pain medicine instead of name brands (Advil, Tylenol, Bayer, etc.). Why? In most cases, I suppose it's just ignorance: people don't realize that the "store brand" is genuinely identical to the name brand. In other cases it might be something else. I buy generic ibuprofen, and it usually comes in the form of small brown pills. One day, however, I went to to a different drug store to stock up, and it turned out that their generic ibuprofen came in the form of small <em>orange</em> pills. Marian used these for a while, but really hated them. Eventually she cracked, and insisted on buying a new bottle from our usual drug store. Sometimes little things can make all the difference.</p> <p>Anyway. The main point of Kliff's post is that generics are good, and as evidence of this she puts up a chart showing what doctors themselves buy. <a href="http://www.vox.com/2014/7/25/5936739/shop-like-a-pharmacist-dont-buy-advil" target="_blank">Here's an excerpt from the chart:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_doctor_generics_1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 10px 5px;"></p> <p>It's true that doctors mostly favor generics when it comes to basic pain relievers. But frankly, what's amazing to me is how <em>little</em> they prefer them. For chrissake, they prefer generic <em>aspirin</em> by only ten percentage points. That means they buy the name brand about 45 percent of the time. Why would a doctor do this? Granted, the extra few dollars is probably no big deal to them, but why waste it anyway? Certainly not because of ignorance. Are their spouses doing the buying? Or what?</p> <p>And why the active preference for name-brand rubbing alcohol, of all things? It's hard to think of anything more generic than that. What's the deal here?</p> <p>As for Alka-Seltzer, the dislike of generics is so huge that there just has to be some real difference here. But what?</p> <p>In any case, I suspect this might have some real importance beyond the question of doctors spending a few dollars they don't have to. If physicians aren't really sold on generics in their own personal lives, does this mean they're not really sold on them in their professional lives too? Do they tend to prescribe name brands when they shouldn't? And how much does this cost all of us?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Fri, 25 Jul 2014 18:05:56 +0000 Kevin Drum 256996 at http://www.motherjones.com You'd Scream, Too, If You Were This Close to a Collapsing Iceberg http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2014/07/iceberg-collapse-antarctica-greenland-climate-change <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/XEk5mNVc2Hk?rel=0" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>Climate change is melting ice at both ends of the planet&mdash;just ask the researchers who <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/05/west-antarctic-ice-sheet-collapse" target="_blank">published two papers</a> in May saying that a major expanses of antarctic ice are now undergoing a "continuous and rapid retreat" and may have "passed the point of no return."</p> <p>As the poles melt, icebergs are breaking off and drifting with greater ease, creating a world of problems for humans and animals alike. In Antarctica, warmer winters mean icebergs aren't held in place as they once were, and are now <a href="http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/about_bas/news/news_story.php?id=2663" target="_blank">colliding with the ocean floor</a> more frequently, laying waste to a complex ecosystem. In Greenland, summer icebergs&mdash; like one <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2012/0719/Monstrous-iceberg-breaks-free-of-Greenland-glacier.-Is-climate-change-to-blame-video" target="_blank">twice the size of Manhattan</a> that broke off 2012&mdash;can clog up shipping lanes and damage offshore oil platforms.</p> <p>But whether climate change set it free or not, even a single 'berg can be dangerous if you get too close, as this couple discovered when they took a look at one floating off the coast of Newfoundland, in eastern Canada.</p> <p><a href="http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/2014/07/iceberg-tourism-carries-unexpected-risks-couple-says/" target="_blank">h/t to Minnesota Public Radio News</a> for finding this one.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Video Climate Desk Fri, 25 Jul 2014 17:54:11 +0000 Alex Park 256966 at http://www.motherjones.com Republicans Maybe Not as Inept as We Think http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/republicans-maybe-not-inept-we-think <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Paul Waldman thinks Republicans have become a <a href="http://prospect.org/article/how-did-gop-turn-such-bunch-clowns" target="_blank">bunch of bumblers and idiots:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Think about it this way: Has there been a single instance in the last few years when you said, "Wow, the Republicans really played that one brilliantly"?</p> <p>In fact, before you'll find evidence of the ruthless Republican skillfulness so many of us had come to accept as the norm in a previous era, you'll need to go back an entire decade to the 2004 election. George W. Bush's second term was a disaster, Republicans lost both houses of Congress in 2006, they lost the White House in 2008, they decided to oppose health-care reform with everything they had and lost, they lost the 2012 election&mdash;and around it all they worked as hard as they could to alienate the <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gallup_republican_self_id.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 25px 0px 15px 30px;">fastest growing minority group in the country and make themselves seem utterly unfit to govern.</p> <p>In fact, in the last ten years they've only had one major victory, the 2010 midterm election.</p> </blockquote> <p>Hmmm. It's true that the GOP has had a rough decade in a lot of ways. The number of self-IDed Republicans has <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/166763/record-high-americans-identify-independents.aspx" target="_blank">plummeted since 2004;</a> their standing among the fast-growing Hispanic population has cratered; and their intellectual core is now centered in a wing of the party that believes we should return to the gold standard. This isn't a promising starting point for a conservative renaissance.</p> <p>Still, let's not kid ourselves. If Republicans were really as woefully inept as Waldman says, then Democrats should be kicking some serious ass these days. I haven't especially noticed this. They won in the sixth year of Bush's presidency, when out parties always win, and then won in 2008, when an economic collapse pretty much guaranteed a victory for anyone with a D after their name. Then they had a single fairly good year&mdash;followed by an epic blunder that lost them a sure seat in Massachusetts, and with it control of the Senate. They got crushed in 2010. They won a squeaker in 2012 against an opponent who made a wedding cake figurine look good by comparison. For the last four years, they've basically gotten nothing done at all.</p> <p>And what about those Republicans? Well, they have a hammerlock on the House, and they might very well control the Senate after the 2014 election. They've won several notable Supreme Court victories (Heller, Citizens United, Hobby Lobby, etc.). They control a large majority of the states, and have passed a ton of conservative legislation in areas like voter ID and abortion restrictions. Their "Just Say No" strategy toward President Obama has tied Democrats in knots. They won an all but total victory on spending and deficits.</p> <p>Nor is it really true that today's GOP is notably more bumbling than it used to be. The myth of "ruthless Republican skillfulness" in the past is just that: a myth. George H.W. Bush screwed up on Supreme Court picks and tax hikes. Newt Gingrich&mdash;ahem&mdash;sure didn't turn out to be the world historical strategic genius everyone thought he was in 1994. George W. Bush&mdash;with the eager backing of every Republican in the country&mdash;figured that a war in Iraq would be just the ticket to party dominance for a decade. Ditto for Social Security reform. Republicans were just sure that would be a winner. By contrast, their simpleminded Obama-era strategy of obstructing Democrats at all times and on all things has actually worked out pretty well for them given the hand they were dealt.</p> <p>Make no mistake: It's not as if Republicans have been strategic geniuses. There's no question that they have some long-term issues that they're unable to address thanks to their capitulation to tea party madness. But if they're really so inept, how is it that Democrats haven't managed to cobble together anything more than about 18 months of modest success between 2009-10?</p> <p>I dunno. Republicans keep getting crazier and crazier and more and more conservative, and liberals keep thinking that <em>this time</em> they've finally gone too far. I've thought this from time to time myself. And yet, moving steadily to the right has paid off pretty well for them over the past three decades, hasn't it?</p> <p>Maybe it will all come to tears in the near future as the lunatic wing of the party becomes even more lunatic, but we liberals have been thinking this for a long time. We haven't been right yet.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum The Right Fri, 25 Jul 2014 16:49:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 256991 at http://www.motherjones.com Gruber: "It Was Just a Mistake" http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/gruber-it-was-just-mistake <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Why did Jonathan Gruber tell an audience in 2012 that states which failed to set up Obamacare exchanges would be depriving their residents of federal subsidies? Jonathan Cohn caught up with Gruber this morning and <a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/118851/jonathan-gruber-halbig-says-quote-exchanges-was-mistake" target="_blank">got an answer:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I honestly don&rsquo;t remember why I said that. I was speaking off-the-cuff. <strong>It was just a mistake.</strong></p> <p>....There are few people who worked as closely with Obama administration and Congress as I did, and at no point was it ever even implied that there&rsquo;d be differential tax credits based on whether the states set up their own exchange. <strong>And that was the basis of all the modeling I did,</strong> and that was the basis of any sensible analysis of this law that&rsquo;s been done by any expert, left and right.</p> <p>I didn&rsquo;t assume every state would set up its own exchanges but I assumed that subsidies would be available in every state. It was never contemplated by anybody who modeled or worked on this law that availability of subsides would be conditional of who ran the exchanges.</p> </blockquote> <p>So there you have it: Gruber screwed up. More importantly, as he points out, he's performed immense amounts of technical modeling of Obamacare, and all of his models assumed that everyone would get subsidies even though not every state would set up its own exchange. As Cohn says, this was pretty much the unanimous belief of everyone involved:</p> <blockquote> <p>As I&rsquo;ve written before, I had literally hundreds of conversations with the people writing health care legislation in 2009 and 2010, including quite a few with Gruber. Like other journalists who were following the process closely, <strong>I never heard any of them suggest subsidies would not be available in states where officials decided not to operate their own marketplaces</strong>&mdash;a big deal that, surely, would have come up in conversation.</p> </blockquote> <p>Kudos to Peter Suderman and his sleuths for uncovering this and getting everyone to talk about it for a day. It's a news cycle win for conservatives. But restricting subsidies to state exchanges just flatly wasn't part of Congress's intent. There's simply no way to rewrite history to make it seem like it was.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Fri, 25 Jul 2014 15:17:30 +0000 Kevin Drum 256981 at http://www.motherjones.com 57% of Republicans Want to Impeach Obama http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/57-republicans-want-impeach-obama <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>This is completely, barking <a href="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2014/images/07/24/rel7e.pdf" target="_blank">insane:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_poll_obama_impeach.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 2px;"></p> <p>I don't even know how to react to this stuff anymore. A solid majority of Republicans wants to impeach President Obama for....what? An EPA regulation they don't like? Postponing Obamacare's employer mandate for a year? Not prosecuting some immigrant kids who have been in the country since they were three?</p> <p>This goes beyond politics as usual. It's nuts. Fox News is now officially in charge of one of America's two major political parties.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Obama The Right Fri, 25 Jul 2014 14:38:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 256971 at http://www.motherjones.com We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 24, 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/07/were-still-war-photo-day-july-24-2014-0 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p class="rtecenter"><em>US Navy sailors participate in a replenishment-at-sea on a scheduled deployment aboard the USS Oscar Austin guided-missile destroyer.&nbsp;(US&nbsp;Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist&nbsp;3rd&nbsp;Class DJ&nbsp;Revell.)</em></p></body></html> MoJo Military Fri, 25 Jul 2014 13:00:47 +0000 256961 at http://www.motherjones.com GOP to America: Rich Kids Are Worth More Than Poor Kids http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/07/republican-house-child-tax-credit-bill <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em><strong>Update, Friday July 25:</strong> On Friday, the House <a href="http://clerk.house.gov/floorsummary/floor.aspx" target="_blank">passed</a> Rep. Lynn Jenkins' (R-Ks.) child tax credit legislation, which would expand the credit for upper-middle class American families. The bill received the support of 212 Republican and 25 Democrats. </em></p> <p>On Friday, the House will vote on a <a href="https://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/4935" target="_blank">Republican bill</a> that ignores an expiring tax credit for millions of low-income families, while handing one to better-off Americans.</p> <p>The bill, introduced by Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Ks.), changes the way the federal child tax credit works by raising the eligibility cap for married couples. At the same time, the legislation would allow a 2009 child tax credit increase for low-income families to expire at the end of 2017. Here's how that would play out in the coming years. A married couple with two children that bring in $160,000 a year would get a new annual tax cut of $2,200, <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&amp;id=4171#_ftn1" target="_blank">according to an analysis</a> by the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). A single mother with two kids who makes $14,500 a year would lose $1,725 annually.</p> <p>"The big winners would be the more-affluent families who would become newly eligible for the [child tax credit]," tax experts at the CBPP <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&amp;id=4171#_ftn1" target="_blank">noted Tuesday</a>. "The losers would be millions of low-income families who are doing exactly what policymakers often say they want these people to do&mdash;working, even at low-wage jobs."</p> <p>Here's a look at how poor, middle-class, and wealthier Americans would be affected by the bill, <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&amp;id=4171#_ftn1" target="_blank">via the CBPP</a>:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/cbpp.png"></div> <p>The 2009 law that increased the child tax credit for poor families did so by lowering the income level required for a partial credit to $3,000 and reducing the annual income required for a full credit to $16,333. If it expires, <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&amp;id=4171#_ftn1" target="_blank">6 million children and roughly 400,000 veterans and military families </a>would lose all or part of their child tax credit.</p> <p>A spokesman for Jenkins explains that the reason the bill ends up extending the child tax credit to wealthier Americans is that it gets rid of the marriage penalty, which treats a married couple's total income differently than the sum of two separate incomes. The way the child tax credit is currently structured, a single person making up to $75,000 is eligible for a full credit. But for a married couple filing jointly, full credit eligibility <a href="http://www.nwlc.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/qandactc.pdf" target="_blank">cuts off at $110,000</a> instead of at $150,000, the couple's combined total income. Jenkins' bill moves the full credit cut-off to $150,000. (As income increases above these thresholds, the child tax credit phases out slowly. Under Jenkins' bill, for instance, a couple with two kids could still get the credit if they make up to <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&amp;id=4171#_ftn1" target="_blank">$205,000</a>.)</p> <p>Jenkins' office adds that the reason that the legislation does not extend the low-income child tax credit increase is that this provision doesn't expire until the end of 2017, and future legislation can address it.</p> <p>But a Democratic aide familiar with the bill says this justification is disingenuous, adding that if GOPers wanted to extend the low-income provision, they would. All 22 Republicans on the House ways and means committee <a href="http://waysandmeans.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=385595" target="_blank">voted for Jenkins' bill</a>, while all 15 Dems on the committee voted against it. "[Republicans] can say whatever they want," the aide says. But "they are prioritizing making permanent&nbsp;[all the tax provisions] that they want to be permanent, and getting rid of everything else." For instance, Republicans are already <a href="http://democrats.waysandmeans.house.gov/press-release/levin-opening-statement-markup-select-expanded-tax-provisions" target="_blank">pushing to extend</a> another <a href="http://www.irs.gov/uac/American-Opportunity-Tax-Credit" target="_blank">tax measure that expires at the end of 2017</a> that is designed to help parents and students pay for college expenses.</p> <p>The Democratic staffer adds that if Jenkins' bill were to become law, and the low-income provision were left hanging on its own, it would be very difficult to "galvanize Congress into action" to pass a separate extension for the measure. "What carries it along is that it's bundled together," he says. Chuck Marr, one of the authors of the CBPP study, agrees that the most obvious way for the House to extend the low-income measure would be to include it in Jenkins' bill.</p> <p>Even if the legislation passes the House, the bill&mdash;which&nbsp;would cost the government $115 billion over ten years&mdash;has little chance in the Democratic-controlled Senate.</p></body></html> MoJo Charts Congress Economy Fri, 25 Jul 2014 11:47:54 +0000 Erika Eichelberger 256876 at http://www.motherjones.com Popular Anti-Science Site Likens Journalists to "Nazi Collaborators" Over GMO Coverage http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2014/07/popular-conspiracy-site-likens-pro-gmo-journalists-nazi-collaborators <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>For years, <em>Natural News</em>&mdash;a conspiracy-minded alternative medicine website that attracts <a href="http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/naturalnews.com" target="_blank">roughly 7 million unique visitors</a> each month&mdash;has been crusading against the practice of genetically modifying food. This week the site's proprietor, Mike Adams, took the campaign to new extremes with <a href="http://www.naturalnews.com/046097_biotech_genocide_monsanto_collaborators_media_sellouts.html" target="_blank">a post</a> comparing journalists who are critical of GMO activists to "Nazi collaborators." Adams also urged readers "to actively plan and carry out the killing of those engaged in heinous crimes against humanity." Below is a snippet from his anti-media diatribe:</p> <blockquote> <p>Monsanto is widely recognize as the most hated and most evil corporation on the planet. Even so, several internet-based media websites are now marching to Monsanto's orders, promoting GMOs and pursuing defamatory character assassination tactics against anyone who opposes GMOs, hoping to silence their important voices.</p> <p>These Monsanto collaborator sites tend to be "leftist" publications but also include at least one prominent business and finance publisher on the political right. All of them are Monsanto collaborators who have signed on to accelerate heinous crimes being committed against humanity under the false promise of "feeding the world" with toxic GMOs.</p> </blockquote> <p>The rambling post goes on to compare the agrochemical giant Monsanto to IG Farben, a "chemical conglomerate run by Nazi collaborators" that "used Jewish prisoners as human guinea pigs in horrific medical experiments." And it calls on readers to target journalist who Adams views as pro-GMO by publicly listing their names:</p> <blockquote> <p>Just as history needed to record the names and deeds of Nazi war criminals, so too must all those collaborators who are promoting the death and destruction caused by GMOs be named for the historical record. The true extent of their collaboration with an anti-human regime will all become readily apparent once the GMO delusion collapses and mass global starvation becomes an inescapable reality.</p> <p>I'm hoping someone will create a website listing all the publishers, scientists and journalists who are now Monsanto propaganda collaborators. I have no doubt such a website would be wildly popular and receive a huge influx of visitors, and it would help preserve the historical record of exactly which people contributed to the mass starvation and death which will inevitably be unleashed by GMO agriculture (which is already causing mass suicides in India and crop failures worldwide).</p> </blockquote> <p>Adams, a self-proclaimed nutritionist who <a href="http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/collideascape/2014/05/13/new-low-dr-oz-promoting-mike-adams/#.U9GIOFPUFg9" target="_blank">was featured on Dr. Oz earlier this year</a>, is <a href="http://www.alternet.org/personal-health/four-biggest-quacks-plaguing-america-their-bad-claims-about-science?page=0%2C1" target="_blank">famous for his far-fetched ideas</a>. He <a href="http://www.naturalnews.com/045563_aviation_fuel_toxic_lead_heavy_metals_pollution.html" target="_blank">believes</a>, for example, that Americans are being poisoned by lead-infused "chemtrails" and that Microsoft is developing infertility <a href="http://www.naturalnews.com/034848_Microsoft_Merck_eugenics.html#" target="_blank">drugs that "target specific races."</a>&nbsp; David Gorski of the website <a href="http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/">Science-Based Medicine</a> has dubbed <em>Natural News</em> "a one-stop shop" for "virtually every quackery known to humankind, all slathered with a heaping, helping of unrelenting hostility to science-based medicine and science in general."</p> <p>Still, Adams has a large pool of readers who take his ideas seriously. After he published his screed likening journalists to Nazi sympathizers, a "Monsanto Collaborators" website appeared with images of Nazi soldiers and emaciated corpses alongside a list of reporters whom Adams accuses of being in the GMO industry's pocket. The heading reads "Journalist Collaborators."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Food and Ag Health Top Stories Fri, 25 Jul 2014 10:00:11 +0000 Mariah Blake 256946 at http://www.motherjones.com Photos: The World's Largest Church Is in the Middle of an African Coconut Plantation http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/07/worlds-largest-church--yamoussoukro-basilica-our-lady-of-peace <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Central-West&nbsp;<span class="st">C&ocirc;te</span><span class="st"> d'Ivoire</span> is a lush agricultural landscape, stuffed with rich banana, rice, and cocoa fields. The region is this West African nation's equivalent of the corn belt of Iowa and Illinois. A long drive down stretches of road left pockmarked by the ongoing rainy season yields endless repetitions of the same scene: Tiny villages&mdash;each home to only a few dozen farmers living in thatched-roof huts&mdash;quietly tending to crops and livestock. Things are even more&nbsp;peaceful than usual now, as the Muslims that make up this area's dominant religious affiliation celebrate Ramadan.</p> <p>But as you arrive in&nbsp;Yamoussoukro, the nation's capital, a strange monument can be seen towering over the horizon: An enormous gilded cross that adorns the top of what is, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2004/jun/17/architecture" target="_blank">by</a> <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/23/AR2006012301724.html" target="_blank">many</a> <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/17/nyregion/landmark-just-wait-till-it-s-done-unfinished-st-john-divine-set-make-history.html" target="_blank">accounts</a>, the world's <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/01/30/the-largest-church-in-the-world-has-the-fewest-worshippers.html" target="_blank">largest&nbsp;church</a>.</p> <p>Topping St. Peter's Basilica in Rome by more than 80 feet, Basilica Our Lady of Peace in Yamoussoukro, sometimes called the "basilica in the bush," is a jaw-dropping and bizarre monument to the end of a period only a few decades ago when <span class="st">C&ocirc;te d'Ivoire was&nbsp;competing against other&nbsp;newly-independent African nations</span> to become the cultural and economic powerhouse of the continent.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="basilica columns" class="image" src="/files/basilica1.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>The basilica is supported by 84 pillars, each one 112 feet tall. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <p>The raw numbers are stunning: Between July 1986 and September 1989, 1,100 workers cleared 178 acres of coconut grove, coated the space with 13 football fields-worth of European marble, and erected a 520-foot-tall structure, supported by 128 towering Doric columns, that can accommodate 200,000 worshippers. Inside are 24 stained-glass windows. The organ can reach volumes that lead to <a href="http://www.gcaudio.com/resources/howtos/loudness.html" target="_blank">permanent hearing loss</a>. The&nbsp;building is estimated to weigh 98,000 metric tons.</p> <p>But probably the most interesting figure&mdash;how much it all cost&mdash;is shrouded in mystery: Although independent estimates pegged the price tag at about $300 million, then-President&nbsp;<span class="st">F&eacute;lix Houphou&euml;t-Boigny was notoriously tight-lipped, preferring to refer to the construction as a gift from God (with help from his massive personal cocoa fortune).</span></p> <p><span class="st" style="line-height: 2em;">"Most people think it also mostly came out of the treasury," says Tom Bassett, a geographer and </span>C&ocirc;te<span style="line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;</span>d'Ivoire&acirc;&#128;&#139; historian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne. For that reason, Bassett says, it got a second nickname: "Our Lady of the Treasury."<span class="st" style="line-height: 2em;">&nbsp;&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">&nbsp; &nbsp;</span></p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="basilica stained glass" class="image" src="/files/basilica3.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>The basilica contains 24 massive stained-glass windows, each featuring a biblical scene. In this one, which depicts Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem, former Ivorian president F&eacute;lix Houphou&euml;t-Boigny is shown kneeling in front of Jesus. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <p><span style="line-height: 24px;">The wealthy heir to one of the country's largest cocoa operations,&nbsp;Houphou&euml;t-Boigny didn't exactly choose the most opportune moment to publicly drain his nation's cash reserves on what quickly came to be seen as </span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">less a glorification of God and more a vanity project straight from the "dictator handbook," as the&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/01/30/the-largest-church-in-the-world-has-the-fewest-worshippers.html" style="line-height: 24px;" target="_blank"><em>Daily Beast</em></a><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;recently put it.</span><span style="line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 24px;">Houphou&euml;t-Boigny became&nbsp;</span>C&ocirc;te<span style="line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;</span>d'Ivoire&acirc;&#128;&#139;'s first president after the country gained independence from France in 1960 and ruled as a more or less benevolent dictator until his death 1993, overseeing what became known as a "miracle" period of economic prosperity in the 1960s and 70s. In 1983, he named his home village Yamoussoukro the new administrative capital and shortly thereafter set about planning the city's crown jewel, the basilica. In keeping with a request from Pope John Paul II, who said he wouldn't consecrate the building otherwise, the dome was made slightly shorter than St. Peter's. But the addition&nbsp;of a towering cross atop the dome pushed the church above its counterpart in Rome.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="basilica dome" class="image" src="/files/basilica4.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>The dove at the center of the basilica's dome is 23 feet wide. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <p>But meanwhile, by the late 80s the country had fallen to economic&nbsp;ruin, hit simultaneously by a nosedive in cocoa and coffee prices, climbing oil prices, and disastrous mismanagement of state-owned businesses. Midway&nbsp;through the basilica's construction, C&ocirc;te<span style="line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">d'Ivoire declared itself insolvent. At the same time, budget-resuscitation measures mandated by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank slashed basic services and key agricultural subsidies, drastically lowering the standard of living for most Ivorians&mdash;including those living on farms in the shadow of the basilica.</span></p> <p><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif;">All this left </span><span style="line-height: 24px;">Houphou&euml;t-Boigny</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif;">&nbsp;wide open to scathing criticism for the unseemly contrast between the church's opulence and the decay of the surrounding countryside; his public image wasn't helped by&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">a large stained-glass window just inside the dome that depicts&nbsp;</span>him<span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;kneeling before Jesus on his entrance to Jerusalem</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif;">. An unnamed Vatican official&nbsp;<a href="http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,152145,00.html" target="_blank">told <em>Time</em></a><em>&nbsp;</em>th</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">at "the size and expense of the building in such a poor country make it a delicate matter." Still, t</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">he Pope consecrated the basilica in September 1990,&nbsp;the only time&nbsp;the thousands of seats here have been full (and the only time a grandiose papal residence on the grounds has been occupied).</span></p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="basilica interior" class="image" src="/files/basilica5.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>The interior of the basilica can seat 7,000 worshippers; altogether, the compound can accommodate 200,000. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <p>Since then, the basilica has been little more than a tourist destination; services are held weekly but are sparsely&nbsp;attended. In late 2002, while then-President Laurent Gbagbo was out of the country, disgruntled military leaders staged a coup that threw the nation into a bloody, two-year civil war. The basilica briefly came back into the limelight during this period, as Yamoussoukro became the heart of a UN-enforced buffer zone between rebel forces in the north and Gbagbo supporters in the south, where the country's largest city, Abidjan, lies. Political leaders on both sides, aided by the national media, portrayed the conflict in part as one between a Christian south and Muslim north, with the basilica in the middle.&nbsp;</p> <p>But in reality, Bassett says, demographic data never supported the existence of such a division&mdash;there are likely to be just as many Muslims in the south as in the north. And in any case, he says, "I don't think the basilica really fits into that narrative." So sorry, there are no heart-wrenching, <em>The&nbsp;</em><em>Sound of </em><em>Music</em>-esque scenes of embattled families taking refuge inside from machine-gun toting soldiers. It's a ghost town, a highly-visible tombstone for a&nbsp;C&ocirc;te<span style="line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">d'Ivoire that died before it could be born.&nbsp;</span></p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="basilica yamoussoukro" class="image" src="/files/basilica6.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>The basilica is situated on the outskirts of Yamoussoukro, former president F&eacute;lix Houphou&euml;t-Boigny's hometown. It was a tiny village before he designated it the nation's administrative capitol in 1983; today it has about 240,000 residents. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="basilica walkup" class="image" src="/files/basilica7.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>The compound is spread across 17 acres (equivalent to 13 football fields) of marble imported from Portugal, Spain, and Italy. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="basilica interior" class="image" src="/files/basilica8.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>The world's largest church rarely sees more than a couple hundred worshippers. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> Mixed Media Photo Essays International Religion Top Stories Infrastructure Fri, 25 Jul 2014 10:00:09 +0000 Tim McDonnell 256021 at http://www.motherjones.com Did Congress Actually Intend to Withhold Subsidies From Federal Exchanges? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/did-congress-actually-intend-withhold-subsidies-federal-exchanges <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>In the <em>Halbig</em> case, the plaintiffs argued that the provision in Obamacare limiting subsidies to people enrolled through state exchanges was no typo. In fact, they claimed, Congress <em>intended</em> to limit subsidies to state exchanges as an incentive for states to set up their own exchanges instead of relying on the federal government. The problem with this theory is that <a href="https://twitter.com/ezraklein/status/492670708305391616" target="_blank">literally nobody</a> who was involved with the legislation or who covered it during its passage remembers anything of the sort, and the rest of the bill pretty clearly assumes that everyone gets subsidies regardless of whether they're enrolled via a state exchange or the federal exchange.</p> <p>Today, however, Peter Suderman presents some evidence that this was indeed Congress's intent. It's not evidence from 2009-10, when the bill was being debated. Nor is it from anyone involved in Congress. It's from Obamacare expert Jonathan Gruber <a href="http://reason.com/blog" target="_blank">speaking to an industry group in January 2012:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>What&rsquo;s important to remember politically about this is if you're a state and you don&rsquo;t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don't get their tax credits&mdash;but your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill. So you&rsquo;re essentially saying [to] your citizens you&rsquo;re going to pay all the taxes to help all the other states in the country.</p> </blockquote> <p>I don't really know what to make of this. It's a very odd mistake for Gruber to make, because in January 2012 the IRS had already issued a preliminary ruling on this exact question and had already held a public hearing asking for comments. Gruber surely knew this, and therefore knew that (a) the final ruling hadn't been issued yet, but (b) the IRS had already signaled that it intended to rule that subsidies were allowed on federal exchanges. Maybe he misremembered the IRS's preliminary ruling, or maybe he was just mixing this up with something else. Who knows? Perhaps Gruber will tell us on Friday.</p> <p>In any case, I doubt this changes anything too much. Although Gruber was a consultant on the law and intimately familiar with its details, he was neither a legislator nor a congressional staffer. The fact that he bollixed an audience question two years after the law's passage doesn't mean much. It's a nice gotcha moment, but probably not much else.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Fri, 25 Jul 2014 06:24:16 +0000 Kevin Drum 256956 at http://www.motherjones.com Power Outage Blogging http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/power-outage-blogging <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Hey, I'm back! It turned out that today was the day for our annual neighborhood power outage, and at first I thought I was sitting pretty. I've got a Windows tablet, which means it's compatible with MoJo's blogging software. I've got my Bluetooth keyboard. And my phone will act as a WiFi hotspot, so I can connect to the net. Who needs electricity?</p> <p>Well, apparently this year's blackout was so extensive that it took out the local T-Mobile cell tower. So that was that. No internet connection. I thought I had this thing wired, but apparently not.</p> <p>Anyway, at the time my computer died I think I was writing a brilliant post about Republicans and abortion, but I no longer remember just what brilliant point I was going to make. It probably amounted to an assertion that they've always been against it and nothing has really changed. Maybe I'll remember tomorrow.</p> <p>In the meantime, what happened this afternoon? Anything I need to get on top of?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 25 Jul 2014 05:02:13 +0000 Kevin Drum 256951 at http://www.motherjones.com The NFL Was Harder on These 6 Players for Smoking Pot Than It Was on Ray Rice for His Assault Arrest http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/07/ray-rice-suspension-marijuana <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The National Football League handed Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice an <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/ravens/2014/07/24/ray-rice-suspension-baltimore-janay-palmer/12783281/" target="_blank">unexpectedly lenient punishment</a> Thursday following his offseason arrest for assaulting his fianc&eacute;e back in February: a two-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy. Rice allegedly hit Janay Palmer (now his wife) so hard she lost consciousness&mdash;and then <a href="http://www.tmz.com/2014/02/19/ray-rice-unconscious-fiancee-atlantic-city-video-arrest/" target="_blank">security cameras caught him</a> dragging her out of an elevator in Atlantic City. Aggravated assault charges eventually were dropped against both of them (Palmer allegedly hit Rice, too), and the two later held a bizarre <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/ray-rice-apologizes-alleged-assault-then-fiancee-article-1.1803771" target="_blank">joint press conference</a> addressing the whole incident.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/mixed-media/2014/07/ray-rice-suspension-marijuana"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Mixed Media Crime and Justice Sports Fri, 25 Jul 2014 00:52:39 +0000 Sam Brodey 256941 at http://www.motherjones.com Boy, Hipsters Sure Are Defensive About Their Almond Milk http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2014/07/people-really-almond-milk <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>When I penned my <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2014/07/lay-off-almond-milk-ignorant-hipsters" target="_blank">little opus about almond milk</a> last week, I really didn't intend to insult anyone's intelligence, provocative headline aside. What I really wanted to do was encourage people to think about what they're buying when they buy this hot-selling product. My editors chose the title and I went along, because they know more than me about what makes people click. And people clicked! I'm pretty sure that "Lay Off the Almond Milk, You Ignorant Hipsters" is my most-read piece ever at <em>Mother Jones.</em></p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202014-07-24%20at%201.40.50%20PM_4.png"><div class="caption"><strong>It takes a gallon of water to grow a single almond. <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/02/wheres-californias-water-going" target="_blank">How does an almond's&nbsp;water footprint stack up to other foods'? </a></strong></div> </div> <p>Reactions mostly hovered in a range between mild annoyance and blind rage. One guy dropped by the Facebook page of the farm I helped found, Maverick Farms, to inform me that he planned to keep drinking almond milk&mdash;and spilling it, even. To drive his point home, he even looked up the farm's phone number and repeated his pledge on the answering machine. Thanks for the update!</p> <p>The <a href="http://domesticity.gawker.com/almond-milk-is-good-1606609381">oddest response</a> came from <em>Gawker's</em> Hamilton Nolan, who took the opportunity to school me in the art of the "food troll":</p> <blockquote> <p><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2014/07/lay-off-almond-milk-ignorant-hipsters">This fool</a> is talking about how almond milk is not as good as just eating almonds. False comparison. I eat tons of almonds. <a href="http://gawker.com/almonds-are-the-fourth-best-nut-510156878">Love em</a>. And I drink almond milk too. Love it. I can have both. You love regular almonds so much? Do you eat more almonds than me? Not a chance. I eat more almonds than you. And still drink almond milk. Case closed on that particular argument I guess.</p> </blockquote> <p>Still not convinced? Nolan adds the <em>coup de grace</em>: "If I puked up almond milk it probably wouldn't even taste that bad relative to other kinds of puke."</p> <p>Right. Meanwhile, several people thundered that since I dare question the value of almond milk, I must be a tool for Big Dairy. "Were you paid off by the Dairy Farmers of America to write that piece?" one wag <a href="https://twitter.com/Sgreene1021/status/491310328702328832">wondered</a> on Twitter, adding, helpfully " PS I'm no hipster and I love my Almond Milk!"</p> <p>Actually, my piece did not purport to judge almond milk against the standards of dairy milk and find it wanting. "I get why people are switching away from dairy milk, I wrote, since "industrial-scale dairy production is a <a href="http://e360.yale.edu/feature/as_dairy_farms_grow_bigger_new_concerns_about_pollution/2768/">pretty nasty business</a>." I did cop to drinking a bit of kefir, a fermented milk product. But my intention wasn't to promote Big Dairy, but just to point out that almond milk is nutritionally pretty vapid compared to other products. An eight-ounce serving of Helios brand organic kefir contains 16 grams of protein, vs. 1 gram per serving in most almond milk brands. That's a remarkable difference. But of course, people consume things for all sorts of good reasons, not just protein content.</p> <p>Now, I didn&rsquo;t get into much of an ecological analysis in my piece, but there is an interesting one to make here. Back in May, my colleagues <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/authors/julia-lurie">Julia Lurie</a> and <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/authors/alex-park">Alex Park</a> looked at the literature and found that it takes 23 gallons of water to produce a glass of almond milk and 35 gallons to produce a serving of yogurt. Let's assume that it takes a similar amount of water to make Helios kefir, which is essentially fermented skim milk. On the surface, the almond milk looks a lot easier on the water supply. But if you look at it on a protein basis, almond milk looks like a disaster: it takes 23 gallons of water to produce a gram of almond milk protein&mdash;and less than two gallons to produce a gram of kefir protein.</p> <p>Even though kefir costs more than $4 per quart vs. about $2 for almond milk, it starts to look like quite a bargain on a protein basis.</p> <p>Almond milk's dilute nature lies at the heart of the critique made by <em>Slate's</em> <a href="http://www.slate.com/authors.maria_dolan.html">Maria Dolan</a>, the most thoughtful one I've seen of the piece. My basic complaint against almond milk is that it's a watered-down product: you take something that's quite nutrient-dense and deluge it with water, essentially selling people a few almonds and a lot of water. &nbsp;</p> <p>I'm thinking about it in the wrong way, counters Dolan. "Is drowning them in water to create almond milk really a bad thing from an environmental perspective?" she asks. "Just as making meat a garnish, not the centerpiece of your meal, thins the environmental impact of eating beef, so consuming almonds sparingly&mdash;by diluting them into milk, for instance&mdash;reduces their ecological impact."</p> <p>But I'm not sure that almond milk works to moderate people's almond consumption. California's <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2014/07/your-almond-habit-sucking-califoirnia-dry" target="_blank">rapid, and ecologically troubling, expansion of almond production</a> is largely driven by booming exports, mainly to Asia. But US consumption is booming too. According to the <a href="https://www.motherjones.com/files/2012_almond_almanac_final.pdf" target="_blank">Almond Board of California</a>, the US market consumed 394 million pounds of almonds from the 2007-'08 harvest and 605 million pounds in 2012-'13. That's a 50 percent jump in five years. And as I noted in my post, almond milk sales are surging at an even faster clip. It seems to me that the almond milk craze, whatever else it is, reflects a clever food industry strategy to sell yet more almonds, not a way for consumers to reduce their environmental impact.</p> <p>The Almond Board also reports that California now provides 84 percent of the globe's almonds. Given the state's <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2014/04/california-drought-groundwater-drilling" target="_blank">severe water constraints</a>, and that current levels of production already require <a href="http://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=15572" target="_blank">60 percent of managed US honeybees</a> for pollination, often to <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2014/04/california-almond-farms-blamed-honeybee-die" target="_blank">disastrous effect</a>, we may all have to ease up&mdash;not just on the almond milk, but also on almonds themselves. Hell, even ignorant hipsters like me love almonds.</p></body></html> Tom Philpott Food and Ag Top Stories Thu, 24 Jul 2014 20:27:03 +0000 Tom Philpott 256906 at http://www.motherjones.com Help Us Solve the Rotisserie Chicken Mystery http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/help-us-solve-rotisserie-chicken-mystery <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Megan McArdle alerts me today to a story from a local TV station that answers a question I've vaguely wondered about for a while: Why is it cheaper to buy a cooked and seasoned rotisserie chicken than a raw chicken? <a href="http://www.kcet.org/living/food/the-nosh/grocery-store-rotisserie-chickens.html" target="_blank">Cat Vesko provides the straight dope:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Right now, an uncooked chicken at Ralphs runs you $9.87, but a rotisserie chicken is $6.99; at Gelson's, you'll pay $8.99 for a cooked chicken or $12.67 for the raw version; and at that beloved emporium of insanity Whole Foods, a rotisserie chicken is $8.99, while a whole chicken from the butcher counter is $12.79 ... per pound.</p> <p>....In most cases, preparing meals from scratch is significantly cheaper than buying them pre-made. What makes rotisserie chickens the exception? The answer lies in the curious economics of the full-service supermarket....Much like hunters who strive to use every part of the animal, grocery stores attempt to sell every modicum of fresh food they stock. Produce past its prime is chopped up for the salad bar; meat that's overdue for sale is cooked up and sold hot. Some mega-grocers like Costco have dedicated rotisserie <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_rotisserie_chicken.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">chicken programs, <strong>but employees report that standard supermarkets routinely pop unsold chickens from the butcher into the ol' rotisserie oven.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>This is a curiously roundabout explanation, but it boils down to this: whole chickens that are about to reach their sell-by date&mdash;and be thrown out&mdash;are instead taken to the deli to be cooked up. The grocery store doesn't make as much money as it would selling the chicken fresh, but it makes more money than it would by throwing it out.</p> <p>I guess this makes sense. Except for one thing: the number of rotisserie chickens in your average supermarket is huge. As near as I can tell, the number being roasted in any single hour is greater than the total number of raw whole chickens in the entire poultry section. In other words, there's just no way that supermarkets toss out (or come close to tossing out) enough whole raw chickens to account for the vast pile of rotisserie chickens on offer. An awful lot of these chickens must have been purchased explicitly for the rotisserie. At least, that's what my informal eyeball estimate tells me.</p> <p>What's more, the availability of all those cheap rotisserie chickens is a conspicuous incentive to stop buying whole raw chickens in the first place, and supermarkets obviously know this. This is one of the reasons most supermarkets stock so few whole chickens these days.<sup>1</sup> So selling rotisserie chickens cheaply is just cutting their own throats. Why would they do that <em>and</em> lose money on the chicken?</p> <p>So there must be something else going on. I'm not sure what, but I suspect there's more to the story than just using up chickens that are approaching their sell-by date. Do I have any readers who work in supermarkets and can enlighten us?</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Not the only reason, or even the main reason, of course. The main reason is that most of us just don't want to bother cooking a whole chicken these days.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> The most popular guess in comments is that rotisserie chickens are a loss leader. Sure, you lose a dollar or two on each one, but you make up for it with the cole slaw and 2-liter sodas and so forth that everyone buys to go with them.</p> <p>This is the most obvious explanation, and I'm totally willing to buy it. I just want to know if it's true. Not a guess, but a confirmation from someone who actually knows if this is what's going on. Anyone?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Food and Ag Thu, 24 Jul 2014 18:18:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 256921 at http://www.motherjones.com A Question About Botched Executions http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/question-about-botched-executions <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I'm reluctant to ask a question that may strike some people as too cavalier for a subject that deserves only serious treatment. But after yesterday's botched execution in Arizona&mdash;the latest of several&mdash;I continue to wonder: why is it so damn hard to execute people?</p> <p>For starters, there are plenty of time-tested approaches: guillotines, firing squads, hanging, electrocution, gas chambers, etc. Did those really fall out of favor because people found them too grisly? Personally, I find the sterile, Mengele-like method of lethal injection considerably more disturbing than any of the others. And anyway, if you're bound and determined to kill people, maybe you <em>ought</em> to face up to a little bit of grisly.</p> <p>Beyond that, is it really so hard to find a lethal injection that works? Obviously I'm not a doctor, but I do know that there are plenty of meds that will very reliably knock you unconscious. And once you've done that, surely there are plenty of poisons to choose from? Or even asphyxiation: place a helium mask over the unconscious prisoner and he'll be painlessly dead in about ten minutes or less.</p> <p>Can anyone point me to a readable but fairly comprehensive history of executions over the past few decades? When and why did lethal injection become the method of choice? Why does there seem to be only one particular cocktail that works effectively? Lots of people have asked the same questions I'm asking, but nothing I've ever read really seems to explain it adequately.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Crime and Justice Thu, 24 Jul 2014 16:45:42 +0000 Kevin Drum 256911 at http://www.motherjones.com Let's Watch Stephen Colbert Make Fun Of Tim Draper's Stupid Plan To Split California Into 6 States http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/07/stephen-colbert-six-californias-tim-draper <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>In 2016, Californians will vote on stupid Tim Draper's stupid initiative to turn America's greatest state into <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/07/tim-draper-six-californias-stripping-youtube-riskmaster" target="_blank">six stupid</a> (and <a href="http://www.vox.com/2014/7/15/5901437/six-californias-explained" target="_blank">deeply unequal</a>) little states. The initiative will fail, and even if it somehow passes, the state legislature will never approve it, and even if it somehow did, Congress will never agree to it. So, this whole thing is stupid. Fitting then that famed ridiculer of stupid things Stephen Colbert had Draper on his show last night.</p> <p>Colbert began by introducing Draper (a "Silicon Valley billionaire and evil stepdad in a <em>Lifetime</em> movie") and his stupid plan to the uninitiated:</p> <div style="background-color:#000000;width:640px;"> <div style="padding:4px;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="354" src="http://media.mtvnservices.com/embed/mgid:arc:video:colbertnation.com:15b62723-dfdf-4c4c-bb54-d901c4bdcc73" width="630"></iframe></div> </div> <p>Then "the <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/07/tim-draper-six-californias-stripping-youtube-riskmaster" target="_blank">riskmaster"</a> himself <a href="http://thecolbertreport.cc.com/videos/rmgh1u/six-californias---tim-draper" target="_blank">came on</a>. Watching Draper come off like a weirdo is entertaining enough, but the real money shot is when Colbert responds to <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/07/tim-draper-six-californias-stripping-youtube-riskmaster" target="_blank">Draper's</a> promise that he has no future in politics: "so, you're just going to set the charges, blow it apart, and then say 'not my fucking problem'?"</p> <p><a href="http://thecolbertreport.cc.com/videos/rmgh1u/six-californias---tim-draper" target="_blank">Watch</a>:</p> <div style="background-color:#000000;width:640px;"> <div style="padding:4px;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="354" src="http://media.mtvnservices.com/embed/mgid:arc:video:colbertnation.com:0c245c53-4e2a-4b1f-ad80-a3ca47cb3452" width="630"></iframe></div> </div> <p><em>(h/t <a href="http://valleywag.gawker.com/stephen-colbert-asks-tim-draper-why-he-wants-to-destroy-1610186000?utm_campaign=socialflow_gawker_twitter&amp;utm_source=gawker_twitter&amp;utm_medium=socialflow" target="_blank">Valleywag</a></em>)</p></body></html> Mixed Media Media Thu, 24 Jul 2014 16:24:40 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 256901 at http://www.motherjones.com Quote of the Day: John Boehner Invites Obama to Ignore Congress on Immigration http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/john-boehner-invites-obama-ignore-congress-immigration <!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.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/boehner-wants-obama-act-his-own-border-crisis" target="_blank">From House Speaker John Boehner,</a> who is currently beavering away on a plan to sue President Obama for dealing with too many problems on his own:</p> <blockquote> <p>We&rsquo;ve got a humanitarian crisis on the border, and that has to be dealt with. But the president clearly isn&rsquo;t going to deal with it on his own, even though he has the authority to deal with it on his own.</p> </blockquote> <p>Man, this begs for a follow-up, doesn't it? What exactly does Obama have the authority to do on his own, Mr. Speaker? What unilateral actions would you like him to take without congressional authorization? Which particular law would you like him to reinterpret? Inquiring minds want to know.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Immigration Obama Thu, 24 Jul 2014 15:49:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 256896 at http://www.motherjones.com Idaho Tribe Cancels Ted Nugent Concert Because of His Support for Washington Football Team Name http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/07/idaho-tribe-cancels-ted-nugent-concert-because-washington-football-team <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Ted Nugent doesn't have a racist bone in his body. But sometimes racist words just happen to come out of it. On Monday, tribal officials in Idaho canceled the aging rock-and-roller's scheduled concert at a Coeur d'Alene casino over his past rhetoric<em>. </em>Per<em> <a href="http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/07/22/coeur-dalene-cancel-ted-nugent-concert-over-rockers-racist-remarks-155995" target="_blank">Indian Country Today</a></em>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Later in the day, [tribe spokeswoman Heather] Keen said in a statement,&nbsp;"Reviewing scheduled acts is not something in which Tribal Council or the tribal government participates; however, if it had been up to Tribal Council this act would have never been booked."</p> <p>Then, Monday evening, Keen announced the concert was being canceled, explaining that "Nugent's history of racist and hate-filled remarks was brought to Tribal Council's attention earlier today." Tribal Chief Allan added that "We know what it's like to be the target of hateful messages and we would never want perpetuate hate in any way."</p> </blockquote> <p>Among the racist issues brought to the tribe's attention: Referring to President Obama as a "<a href="http://www.newyorker.com/news/amy-davidson/ted-nugents-subhuman-mongrel-slur-in-translation" target="_blank">subhuman mongrel</a>," and his wholehearted support for the Washington football team name, which he outlined in a 2013 op-ed for the conservative conspiracy site <a href="http://www.wnd.com/2013/04/a-tomahawk-chop-to-political-correctness/" target="_blank"><em>WorldNetDaily</em></a>, titled "A tomahawk chop to political correctness." The first line of the piece is, "Every so often some numbskull beats the politically correct war drum..." and it continues at pace from there, nodding to "Native Americans whose feathers are ruffled" and, "wafting smoke signals of real distress."</p> <p>Nugent responded to the canceled event at the Coeur d'Alene casino and calls for similar cancellations elsewhere by calling his critics "<a href="http://www.postcrescent.com/story/entertainment/music/2014/07/22/ted-nugent-fires-back-vermin-want-oshkosh-show-canceled/13010455/" target="_blank">unclean vermin</a>," thereby refuting any further claims of racism.</p></body></html> MoJo Music Race and Ethnicity Sports Thu, 24 Jul 2014 14:59:22 +0000 Tim Murphy 256886 at http://www.motherjones.com A Quick First Look at Paul Ryan's Anti-Poverty Plan http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/quick-first-look-paul-ryans-anti-poverty-plan <!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_ryan_anti_poverty.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Paul Ryan is out today with his anti-poverty proposal, and my first reaction after a quick skim is that I'm surprised at how limited it is. Maybe that's fine. There's no law that says every white paper has to offer a comprehensive solution to every federal program ever invented. In any case, Ryan is offering ideas <a href="http://budget.house.gov/uploadedfiles/embargoed_expanding_opportunity_in_america___7232014.pdf" target="_blank">primarily in three areas:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Experimentation.</strong> In a few select states, he wants to consolidate a number of federal poverty programs and then allow states to use the money to test different approaches to fighting poverty. It would be revenue neutral ("this is not a budget-cutting proposal&mdash;this is a reform proposal") and states would have to agree to a rigorous program of testing and research to evaluate how well their plans work.</p> <p><strong>EITC.</strong> Ryan wants to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit. This would be paid for by unspecified cuts in other anti-poverty programs.</p> <p><strong>Education.</strong> This is a bit of a hodgepodge and requires some reading between the lines. Mostly, he seems to want to block grant spending on early childhood programs; increase federal support for K-12 vouchers; "modernize and reform" tuition assistance for colleges; and block grant job training programs.</p> </blockquote> <p>Ryan also has some ideas about prison reform and loosening occupational licensing standards. I'll try to have more on this later after I've read his paper more thoroughly. Overall, my initial reaction is that I like the idea of more rigorously testing different anti-poverty approaches, but I'm pretty skeptical of Ryan's obvious preference for eventually eliminating most federal anti-poverty programs and simply sending the money to the states as block grants. This is a longtime conservative hobbyhorse, and not because states are models of efficiency. They like it because it restricts spending, especially during recessions when federal entitlement programs automatically increase but block grants don't. That may please the tea party set, but it's bad for poor people and it's bad for the economy, which benefits from countercyclical spending during economic downturns.</p> <p>This is just a quickie reaction. More later.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Thu, 24 Jul 2014 14:34:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 256891 at http://www.motherjones.com We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 24, 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/07/were-still-war-photo-day-july-24-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p class="rtecenter"><em>A US Marine discusses the best route through the jungle in a training area in Hawaii with an Indonesian squad leader. <span class="meta-field photo-desc " id="yui_3_16_0_rc_1_1_1406208392814_1443">(Department of Defense photo by Cpl. Matthew Callahan, US Marine Corps</span>.)</em></p></body></html> MoJo Military Thu, 24 Jul 2014 13:34:57 +0000 256881 at http://www.motherjones.com For Lower Back Pain, You Can Skip the Tylenol http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/lower-back-pain-you-can-skip-tylenol <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's the latest from the <a href="http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/07/23/acetaminophen-no-better-than-placebo-for-back-pain/?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;version=HpSum&amp;module=second-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">frontiers of medical research:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>About two-thirds of adults have lower back pain at some point in their lives, and most are told to take acetaminophen, sold under brand names like Tylenol, Anacin and Panadol. Medical guidelines around the world recommend acetaminophen as a first-line treatment.</p> <p>But there has never been much research to support the recommendation, and now a large, rigorous trial has found that acetaminophen works no better than a placebo.</p> </blockquote> <p>The good folks at Johnson &amp; Johnson will no doubt disagree with extreme prejudice, but I'm not surprised. I suppose different people respond differently, but I've basically never responded other than minimally to Tylenol. It might dull a bit of headache pain slightly, but that's about it. However, there's more:</p> <blockquote> <p>Dr. Williams said that acetaminophen had been shown to be effective for <strong>headache, toothache and pain after surgery</strong>, but the mechanism of back pain is different and poorly understood. Doctors should not initially recommend acetaminophen to patients with acute low back pain, he said.</p> </blockquote> <p>Hey! That's right. I had some mild toothache recently thanks to a filling that involved a fair amount of work beneath the gum line. It acted up whenever I chewed food on that side of my mouth, and I found that Tylenol made it go away within 20 minutes. I was pretty amazed, since Tylenol had never really worked for anything else. But it was great for toothache.</p> <p>Anyway, everyone is different, and Tylenol might work for you better than it does for me. It might even work for back pain. It doesn't <em>on average</em>, but that doesn't mean it's ineffective for everybody. In the meantime, maybe the medical research profession could hurry up a bit on that business of understanding what lower back pain is all about, OK? It so happens that I could use some answers on that score.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Thu, 24 Jul 2014 00:24:57 +0000 Kevin Drum 256866 at http://www.motherjones.com Twitter Releases Its Diversity Stats. And Boy, Are They Embarrassing. http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/07/twitter-diversity-stats-women-race-tech <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Twitter today followed in the footsteps of <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/media/2014/05/google-diversity-labor-gender-race-gap-workers-silicon-valley" target="_blank">Google</a>, <a href="http://yahoo.tumblr.com/post/89085398949/workforce-diversity-at-yahoo" target="_blank">Yahoo</a>, <a href="http://blog.linkedin.com/2014/06/12/linkedins-workforce-diversity/" target="_blank">LinkedIn</a>, and <a href="http://newsroom.fb.com/news/2014/06/building-a-more-diverse-facebook/" target="_blank">Facebook</a> by releasing statistics on the race and gender of its workforce. The company certainly deserves credit for voluntarily making its diversity stats public, unlike, say, Apple. "Like our peers, we have a lot of work to do," Janet Van Huysse, its VP of diversity and inclusion, <a href="https://blog.twitter.com/2014/building-a-twitter-we-can-be-proud-of" target="_blank">admits</a> on the company blog. But perhaps that's an understatement; Twitter actually lags far <em>behind</em> its peers on some key measures. For instance, only 1 out of every 10 Twitter tech employees is a woman:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Twitter%20gender_0.png"><div class="caption">Twitter</div> </div> <p>In case you're wondering, other large tech companies have significantly better gender diversity (though it's still abysmal compared to <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2012/12/more-women-are-doctors-and-lawyers-than-ever-but-progress-is-stalling/266115/" target="_blank">professions such as law or medicine</a>). At Facebook and Yahoo, 15 percent of tech workers are women. At Google and LinkedIn, it's 17 percent. In 2010, Mike Swift of the <em>San Jose Mercury News</em> <a href="http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_14383730?source=pkg" target="_blank">found</a> that women held 24 percent of computer and mathematics jobs in Silicon Valley and 27 percent of those jobs nationally (though those categories may be broader than how they're defined by leading tech companies, as Tasneem Raja explores in t<a href="http://www.motherjones.com/media/2014/06/computer-science-programming-code-diversity-sexism-education" target="_blank">his great piece</a> on America's growing gap in tech literacy).</p> <div><div id="mininav" class="inline-subnav"> <!-- header content --> <div id="mininav-header-content"> <div id="mininav-header-image"> <img src="/files/images/motherjones_mininav/rosie-mini-nav225.jpg" width="220" border="0"></div> <div id="mininav-header-text"> <p class="mininav-header-text" style="margin: 0; padding: 0.75em; font-size: 11px; font-weight: bold; line-height: 1.2em; background-color: rgb(221, 221, 221);"> More <em>MoJo</em> coverage of diversity in tech. </p> </div> </div> <!-- linked stories --> <div id="mininav-linked-stories"> <ul><span id="linked-story-252316"> <li><a href="/media/2014/05/google-diversity-labor-gender-race-gap-workers-silicon-valley"> Silicon Valley Firms Are Even Whiter and More Male Than You Thought</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-253891"> <li><a href="/media/2014/06/computer-science-programming-code-diversity-sexism-education"> Is Coding the New Literacy?</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-254151"> <li><a href="/politics/2014/06/code-charts-tech-pipeline-problem"> Charts: Tech's Pipeline Problem</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-226426"> <li><a href="/mojo/2013/06/silicon-valley-race-gender-problem-income-inequality"> Silicon Valley's Awful Race and Gender Problem in 3 Mind-Blowing Charts</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-256851"> <li><a href="/mojo/2014/07/twitter-diversity-stats-women-race-tech"> Twitter Releases Its Diversity Stats. And Boy, Are They Embarrassing.</a></li> </span> </ul></div> <!-- footer content --> </div> </div> <p>Unlike its peers, Twitter can't <em>entirely</em> blame its dearth of female coders on the talent pipeline: About 18 percent of computer science graduates are women. Instead, Van Huysse points to a slew of efforts to "move the needle" at Twitter, such as supporting the groups <a href="http://girlswhocode.com/" target="_blank">Girls Who Code</a> and <a href="http://www.sfciti.com/initiatives/sf-girls" target="_blank">sf.girls</a> and hosting "Girl Geek Dinners."&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="http://fortune.com/2014/05/29/why-google-voluntarily-released-dismal-diversity-numbers/" target="_blank">As other reporters have noted</a>, major tech firms started releasing their workforce data shortly after I obtained a batch of Silicon Valley diversity figures from the Labor Department and began asking them for comment. But pressure to release the stats has also come from a campaign by <a href="http://www.colorofchange.org/" target="_blank">Color of Change</a> and Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Push Coalition, which have demanded the stats during a string of private meetings with Valley execs, and last week <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2014/07/17/twitter-diversity-jesse-jackson-rainbow-push-color-of-change/12762445/" target="_blank">launched a Twitter-based campaign</a> to urge Twitter to make its diversity numbers public. Strikingly, only 1 percent of Twitter's tech workforce and 2 percent of its overall workforce is African-American:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="https://www.motherjones.com/files/twitter-diversity-charts630.png"></div> <p>Jackson argues that improving Twitter's diversity isn't just the right thing to do; it's also a good business decision. It turns out that "Black Twitter" isn't just a meme. According to <a href="http://www.pewinternet.org/files/old-media//Files/Reports/2014/PIP_African%20Americans%20and%20Technology%20Use_010614.pdf" target="_blank">a recent Pew survey</a>, 22 percent of African-American internet users are on Twitter, while only 16 percent of White internet users tweet. Meanwhile, usage of Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ is roughly the same between Blacks and Whites.</p> <p>In short, Twitter might make more money by hiring more people who reflect its audience. "There is no talent deficit, there's an opportunity deficit," Jackson said in a press release responding to Twitter's data. "When everyone is 'in,' everyone wins."</p></body></html> MoJo Charts Labor Sex and Gender Tech twitter Wed, 23 Jul 2014 23:37:21 +0000 Josh Harkinson 256851 at http://www.motherjones.com The Great Third-Pound Burger Ripoff http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/great-third-pound-burger-ripoff <!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_math_phobia.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">This is from a <em>New York Times Magazine</em> piece about <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/27/magazine/why-do-americans-stink-at-math.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;version=HpSumSmallMediaHigh&amp;module=second-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">America's innumeracy problem:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>One of the most vivid arithmetic failings displayed by Americans occurred in the early 1980s, when the A&amp;W restaurant chain released a new hamburger to rival the McDonald&rsquo;s Quarter Pounder. With a third-pound of beef, the A&amp;W burger had more meat than the Quarter Pounder; in taste tests, customers preferred A&amp;W&rsquo;s burger. And it was less expensive. A lavish A&amp;W television and radio marketing campaign cited these benefits. <strong>Yet instead of leaping at the great value, customers snubbed it.</strong></p> <p>Only when the company held customer focus groups did it become clear why. <strong>The Third Pounder presented the American public with a test in fractions. And we failed.</strong> Misunderstanding the value of one-third, customers believed they were being overcharged. Why, they asked the researchers, should they pay the same amount for a third of a pound of meat as they did for a quarter-pound of meat at McDonald&rsquo;s. The &ldquo;4&rdquo; in &ldquo;&frac14;,&rdquo; larger than the &ldquo;3&rdquo; in &ldquo;&acirc;&#133;&#147;,&rdquo; led them astray.</p> </blockquote> <p>Are Americans <em>really</em> innumerate compared to other countries? Perhaps: Author Elizabeth Green says that American adults did pretty poorly in a 2012 international test of numeracy. The rest of her piece is all about how we could teach math better if we really put our minds to it, but unfortunately, after inventing all the best methods for teaching math we gave up, leaving it to the Japanese to perfect them. I don't know whether or not this is a fair summary of the current state of play in math ed.</p> <p>Still, the A&amp;W anecdote was too good to check, and too good not to pass along. If it's not true, it should be.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> Elizabeth Green tweets that her source for this anecdote is <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Threshold-Resistance-Extraordinary-Career-Luxury-ebook/dp/B000RO9VM2/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1406161812&amp;sr=1-1" target="_blank"><em>Threshold Resistance</em></a> by Alfred Taubman, who owned A&amp;W in the 80s. Here's the relevant passage, after Taubman has called in Yankelovich, Skelly and White to figure out what was wrong with their burger:</p> <blockquote> <p>Well, it turned out that customers preferred the taste of our fresh beef over traditional fast-food hockey pucks. Hands down, we had a better product. But there was a serious problem. More than half of the participants in the Yankelovich focus groups questioned the price of our burger. "Why," they asked, "should we pay the same amount for a third of a pound of meat as we do for a quarter-pound of meat at McDonald's? You're overcharging us." Honestly. People thought a third of a pound was less than a quarter of a pound. After all, three is less than four!</p> </blockquote> <p>So there you go.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Education Wed, 23 Jul 2014 21:19:25 +0000 Kevin Drum 256846 at http://www.motherjones.com Chart of the Day: Oil Is Getting Harder and Harder to Find http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/chart-day-oil-getting-harder-and-harder-find <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Oil expert James Hamilton has an interesting summary of the current world oil market up today, and it's worth a read. His bottom line, however, is that <a href="http://econbrowser.com/archives/2014/07/the-changing-face-of-world-oil-markets" target="_blank">$100-per-barrel oil is here to stay:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The run-up of oil prices over the last decade resulted from strong growth of demand from emerging economies confronting limited physical potential to increase production from conventional sources. Certainly a change in those fundamentals could shift the equation dramatically. If China were to face a financial crisis, or if peace and stability were suddenly to break out in the Middle East and North Africa, a sharp drop in oil prices would be expected. But even if such events were to occur, the <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_oil_production_capex.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">emerging economies would surely subsequently resume their growth, in which case any gains in production from Libya or Iraq would only buy a few more years.</p> </blockquote> <p>The chart on the right shows the situation dramatically. In just the past ten years, capital spending by major oil companies on exploration and extraction has <em>tripled</em>. And the result? Those same companies are producing <em>less</em> oil than they were in 2004. There's still new oil out there, but it's increasingly both expensive to get and expensive to refine.</p> <p>(And all the hype to the contrary, the fracking revolution hasn't changed that. There's oil in those formations in Texas and North Dakota, but the wells only produce for a few years each and production costs are sky high compared to conventional oil.)</p> <p>In a hypertechnical sense, the peak oil optimists were right: New technology has been able to keep global oil production growing longer than the pessimists thought. But, it turns out, not by much. Global oil production is growing very slowly; the cost of new oil is skyrocketing; the quality of new oil is mostly lousy; and we continue to bump up right against the edge of global demand, which means that even a small disruption in supply can send the world into an economic tailspin. So details aside, the pessimists continue to be right in practice even if they didn't predict the exact date we'd hit peak oil. It's long past time to get dead serious about finding renewable replacements on a very large scale.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Energy Wed, 23 Jul 2014 16:46:57 +0000 Kevin Drum 256826 at http://www.motherjones.com Lots of Americans Think Obamacare Has Benefited Nobody http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/lots-americans-think-obamacare-has-benefited-nobody <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Greg Sargent points us to an interesting new <a href="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2014/images/07/22/rel7c.pdf" target="_blank">CNN poll</a> about Obamacare. It asks the usual question about favoring or opposing the law, with the usual results. The basic question shows that Obamacare is unpopular by 40-59 percent, but when you add in the folks who "oppose" it only because they wish it were more liberal, it flips to 57-38 percent. In other words, if you confine yourself to garden variety conservative opposition to Obamacare, there's not nearly as much as most polls suggest.</p> <p>But then there's another question: Has Obamacare helped you or your family personally? About 18 percent say yes. How about other families? <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2014/07/23/morning-plum-republicans-certain-obamcare-hasnt-helped-anyone-in-america/" target="_blank">Do you think Obamacare has helped <em>anyone at all</em>?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>And guess what: A huge majority of Republicans and conservatives don&rsquo;t think the law has helped anybody in this country.</p> <p>Among all Americans, the poll finds that 18 percent say the law has made them and their families better off....Meanwhile, 44 percent say the law hasn&rsquo;t helped anybody &mdash; a lot, but still a minority.</p> <p>Crucially, an astonishing 72 percent of Republicans, and 64 percent of conservatives, say the law hasn&rsquo;t helped anyone. (Only <em>one percent</em> of Republicans say the law has helped them!) By contrast, 57 percent of moderates say the law has helped them or others. Independents are evenly divided.</p> <p>Perhaps these numbers among Republicans and conservatives only capture generalized antipathy towards the law. Or perhaps they reflect the belief that Obamacare <em>can&rsquo;t</em> be helping anyone, even its beneficiaries, since dependency on Big Gummint can only be self-destructive. Either way, the findings again underscore the degree to which Republicans and conservatives inhabit a separate intellectual universe about it.</p> </blockquote> <p>Maybe I shouldn't be, but I'm a little more dismayed by the news that even a large number of moderates and independents don't think Obamacare has helped anyone. In a way, that's more disturbing than the dumb&mdash;but predictable&mdash;knee-jerk Republican view that automatically produces a "no" whenever the question relates to something positive about Obamacare.</p> <p>I guess the lesson is that liberals still haven't done a very good job of promoting the benefits of Obamacare. Maybe that's an impossible task since, after all, it's not as if you can expect the media to run endless identical stories about local folks who finally got health insurance. Still, it's a funny thing. If you passed a law that gave cars to 10 million poor Americans, pretty much everyone would agree that <em>some people</em> benefited from the program. But if you pass a law that gives health insurance to 10 million poor Americans, lots of people think it's just a gigantic illusion that's helped no one. What's more, the number of people who believe this has <em>increased</em> since last year's rollout.</p> <p>Why? Certainly not because they think health insurance is worthless. Just try taking away theirs and you'll find out exactly how non-worthless they consider it. Is it because they don't think Obamacare policies are "real" health insurance? Or that all these people had health insurance before and the whole thing is just a scam? Or what? It's a peculiar view that deserves a follow-up.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Wed, 23 Jul 2014 16:00:38 +0000 Kevin Drum 256816 at http://www.motherjones.com