Marking Beliefs To Market: My Post Last Night Was Wrong Because the Reporting It Was Based on Was Factually Incorrect

Balloon Juice - Wed, 12/11/2019 - 13:57

Last night I did a post decrying a forthcoming Executive Order (EO) that would, based on The New York Times‘ reporting about the forthcoming EO, redefine Judaism as a race and nationality. Specifically:

Religion was not included among the protected categories, so Mr. Trump’s order will have the effect of embracing an argument that Jews are a people or a race with a collective national origin in the Middle East, like Italian Americans or Polish Americans.

Mark Joseph Stern at Slate has now reported that The New York Times‘ reporting was factually inaccurate and misleading! (emphasis mine)

The New York Times published a bombshell report on Tuesday claiming that President Donald Trump planned to sign an executive order that interpreted Judaism “as a race or nationality” under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI governs federally funded educational programs, so the Times warned that the order might be deployed to squelch anti-Israel speech on campus. “Mr. Trump’s order,” the Times further claimed, “will have the effect of embracing an argument that Jews are a people or a race with a collective national origin in the Middle East, like Italian Americans or Polish Americans.”

That turned out to be untrue. The text of the order, which leaked on Wednesday, does not redefine Judaism as a race or nationality. It does not claim that Jews are a nation or a different race. The order’s interpretation of Title VI—insofar as the law applies to Jews—is entirely in line with the Obama administration’s approach. It only deviates from past practice by suggesting that harsh criticism of Israel—specifically, the notion that it is “a racist endeavor”—may be used as evidence to prove anti-Semitic intent. There is good reason, however, to doubt that the order can actually be used to suppress non-bigoted disapproval of Israel on college campuses.

Title VI bars discrimination on the basis of “race, color or national origin” in programs that receive federal assistance—most notably here, educational institutions. It does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion, an omission that raises difficult questions about religions that may have an ethnic component. For example, people of all races, ethnicities, and nationalities can be Muslim. But Islamophobia often takes the form of intolerance against individuals of Arab or Middle Eastern origin. If a college permits rampant Islamophobic harassment on campus, has it run afoul of Title VI?

In a 2004 policy statement, Kenneth L. Marcus—then–deputy assistant secretary for enforcement at the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights—answered that question. “Groups that face discrimination on the basis of shared ethnic characteristics,” Marcus wrote, “may not be denied the protection” under Title VI “on the ground that they also share a common faith.” Put differently, people who face discrimination because of their perceived ethnicity do not lose protection because of their religion.

The Obama administration reaffirmed this position in a 2010 letter written by Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez, who is now the chair of the Democratic National Committee. “We agree,” Perez wrote, with Marcus’ analysis. “Although Title VI does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion, discrimination against Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and members of other religious groups violates Title VI when that discrimination is based on the group’s actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, rather than its members’ religious practice.” Perez added that Title VI “prohibits discrimination against an individual where it is based on actual or perceived citizenship or residency in a country whose residents share a dominant religion or a distinct religious identity.”

On Wednesday, I asked Perez’s former principal deputy, Sam Bagenstos—now a professor at University of Michigan Law School—whether he felt this reasoning equated any religious group of a nationality or race. “The key point we were making,” he told me, “is that sometimes discrimination against Jews, Muslims, and others is based on a perception of shared race, ethnicity, or national origin, and in those cases it’s appropriate to think of that discrimination as race or national origin discrimination as well as religious discrimination. It doesn’t mean that the government is saying that the group is a racial or national group. The government is saying that the discrimination is based on the discriminator’s perception of race or national origin. That’s a very different matter from saying that anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian speech constitutes discrimination.”

Trump’s EO does not deviate from this understanding of the overlap between discrimination on the basis of race or nationality and discrimination against religion. It only changes the law insofar as it expands the definition of anti-Semitism that may run afoul of Title VI. In assessing potential violations, the order directs executive agencies to look to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition—chiefly “hatred toward Jews” directed at individuals, their property, their “community institutions and religious facilities.”

There is much more at the link, including an analysis of why this is likely to have little actual effect in combatting anti-Semitism on college and university campuses. If you have the five minutes, I highly recommend clicking across and reading Stern’s entire article.

Since I believe in marking my beliefs, assessments, analyses, and statements to market, especially if I’m wrong, I just want to state clearly that last night’s post was inaccurate. It was inaccurate because I wrongly described what the forthcoming Executive Order was going to contain and what it would do. And this inaccuracy was based on incorrect reporting from The New York Times. While the larger context within the post about why Judaism is a religion, not a race or nationality is correct, the premise for the post is not. I am not going to pull the post, but I am adding an update with a link at the bottom to this post for anyone who comes upon it from this point on.

I sincerely apologize for riling everyone up and making everyone less informed. That is not the objective I’m trying to achieve here.

Open thread!

The post Marking Beliefs To Market: My Post Last Night Was Wrong Because the Reporting It Was Based on Was Factually Incorrect appeared first on Balloon Juice.

Categories: Politics

After Mongolian president meets with Trump, Junior goes and shoots an endangered animal in Mongolia

Daily Kos - Wed, 12/11/2019 - 13:47

In August, Donald Trump Jr. went to Mongolia to hunt. While there, Junior reportedly killed an argalis mountain sheep. The wild sheep are found throughout central Asia and are considered endangered, as their numbers have been significantly decreasing over the past couple of decades. Because they are protected by the Mongolian Laws on Fauna and Hunting, few permits for hunting them are given out, and they cost a lot of money. ProPublica reports that Trump Jr. has the extra dubious distinction of receiving his permit retroactively. “It’s unusual for permits to be issued after a hunter’s stay. It was one of only three permits to be issued in that hunting region, local records show.” 

The trip, which the Mongolian government and the U.S. government had to provide security for, will have cost tax payers quite a bit of money. ProPublica explains that the process of getting a permit like the one Trump Jr. belatedly received is already dubious and “political,” But the fact that Trump Jr. is … Donald Trump the president’s son makes it a special kind of terrible. They also report that after Junior’s trip into the mountains to kill endangered wild sheep, he met “privately” with Mongolian President Khaltmaagiin Battulga.

None of this is surprising, as the unseemly workings of the wealthy in our world are never particularly surprising these days. But these processes are doubly dubious when one considers the implications of silver-spooned, entitled kids using the planet as their trophy-hunting playground. Especially when those useless children are default ambassadors of our country, because their corrupt parent is president of the United States.

Categories: Politics

The New York Times can apparently read Democrats' minds, but not Trump's mind to know if he's lying

Daily Kos - Wed, 12/11/2019 - 13:44

A gigantic double standard was on display in The New York Times on Wednesday as the newspaper reported on articles of impeachment brought against Donald Trump. It's a disturbing double standard that revolves around the paper's stubborn refusal to call Trump, who is a congenital liar, a liar.

The Times' front-page headline, as it appeared in print, was "Democrats Put Focus on Ukraine In an Effort to Protect Moderates." The article, which as of this writing is titled, “Trump ‘Ignored and Injured’ the National Interest, Democrats Charge in Impeachment Articles” on the paper’s website, emphasized that "Democrats made a careful political calculation intended to project unity and protect moderate lawmakers who face steep re-election challenges in conservative-leaning districts."

That's kind of strange, right? For only the fourth time in U.S. history, articles of impeachment have been introduced in Congress, and the Times' front-page story was that the party that holds the House of Representatives was playing politics with impeachment by limiting the articles in order to help "moderates" get reelected next year. The article made a no mention of any political calculations being made by Republicans with respect to impeachment—only Democrats.

But here's the thing: There wasn't a single Democratic member of the House quoted on the record to confirm the claim that concern for "moderates" dictated the impeachment strategy. There wasn't one Democratic member of the House quoted off the record. There wasn't a single Democratic staffer quoted on or off the record. There were no sources quoted. The Times somehow just knew that Democrats were essentially pulling their punches for strictly political reasons.

Quick question: Electorally, why would it matter if Democrats announced four articles of impeachment or two? Does the Times really think voters are so keyed in to this impeachment process that 11 months from now, when they go to the voting booth, they're going to say to themselves, “Gee, I like this Democrat, but oh my gosh they voted on four articles of impeachment”? It's illogical.

Also, who are all these Democratic moderates facing steep re-election challenges in conservative-leaning districts that the Times referred to? According to The Cook Political Report newsletter, as of today there's not a single Democratic member of the House who is expected to lose their seat next year.

The larger problem with the mind-reading approach employed for the Times’ impeachment coverage? When it comes to covering Trump, the Times has been adamant that, because journalists cannot read Trump’s mind, they're limited in how they can describe him. Recently asked whether Trump is a racist, Times executive editor Dean Baquet demurred: “I don’t know. I think Donald Trump says racially divisive things. I think that’s a little bit different. I’m not in his head enough to know whether he says them because he wants to stoke his base.”

Fact: Trump is a racist.

Categories: Politics

Inspector General Flattens Trump's Argument: FBI Was Justified, Apolitical

Crooks and Liars - Wed, 12/11/2019 - 13:38

Despite the fact that the Department of Justice Inspector General's report concluded that opening the investigation into Russian interference into our 2016 elections was completely justified, Republicans are pulling out every stop they possibly can to pretend the report says the opposite. Fox News, of course, is talking to only people on Earth 2. Trump and Bill Barr, are talking only to, well, Trump's ego. And now, the Senate Republicans have dragged the Inspector General himself, Michael Horowitz, in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee to talk about the procedural mistakes that were made, and, of course, hope to castigate him for concluding that there was no political bias in opening this investigation.

Well, here is all you need to know in under a minute-and-a-half.

read more

Categories: Politics

Trump-promoted propaganda outlet tried to get U.S. visa for corrupt Ukrainian before he was arrested

Daily Kos - Wed, 12/11/2019 - 13:26

For those still blissfully unaware, One America News is a conspiracy-laced, heavily Dear Leader-premised pro-Trump "news" channel that came out of nowhere in recent years to land a spot as one of Donald J. Trump's most-favored allies. It is also now directly involved in Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump's Ukrainian plot.

As House impeachment hearings unfolded, it was OAN that accompanied Rudy Giuliani on a trip to Kyiv, Ukraine, for the purposes of taping "interviews" with the same disgraced Ukrainian officials who had assisted Giuliani in ousting the anti-corruption U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and in peddling increasingly weird and categorically false smears against potential Trump political rival Joe Biden. Now The Daily Beast reports that the OAN efforts have been going even farther than even that.

Last week, German law enforcement officials arrested former Ukrainian parliamentarian Oleksandr Onyshchenko on a warrant from Ukrainian prosecutors. Onyshchenko, a multimillionaire, was wanted in Ukraine for embezzlement, stealing multimillions from Ukraine's state-owned natural gas company. It is part of the current Ukrainian government's efforts to clean up the rampant national corruption of past years, the same (frequently pro-Russian and/or Russian-tied) corruption that Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort involved himself in, and is currently in prison for, and which Giuliani is continuing to stump for in his collaborations with those same corrupt ex-officials.

But German officials might have at least temporarily missed Onyshchenko had they waited any longer, because at the time of his arrest, OAN was attempting to secure him a visa to travel to the United States. And the OAN network president confirmed to Daily Beast that the company is currently attempting to get American visas for other former Ukrainian officials—all apparently part of the Giuliani-helmed "investigation" that claims that disgraced Ukrainian embezzlers and crooked officials are the good guys battling the "corruption" of their declared enemies and that the current anti-corruption Ukrainian government and its American allies are actually the crooked ones.

Categories: Politics

Border officials' latest ploy to keep asylum-seekers out: Fake court dates

Daily Kos - Wed, 12/11/2019 - 13:17

BuzzFeed News has found at least four instances where the Trump administration has forced asylum-seekers who have won their cases back into Mexico—and in at least one instance, issued an asylum-seeker a fake court date as part of an effort to prolong his wait outside of the United States.

All four had already been forced to wait there as part of the inhumane Migrant Protection Protocols policy, or Remain in Mexico. One of these asylum-seekers, Francisco, won his case after he recounted how he was interrogated, beaten, and threatened by Cuban officials with forced disappearance for his critical views of the government. “He was beaten and later handcuffed to the top of his jail cell—his hands above his head—for 24 hours,” BuzzFeed reported. “He was not allowed bathroom breaks and urinated on himself.”

But when Francisco presented his court documents at a U.S. port of entry several days after the November ruling, his attorney said he was instead given a fake court date for January and blocked from entering. “Advocates and experts said the move by the Department of Homeland Security appeared to signal a shift at the border that magnifies the true aim of the controversial MPP program,” BuzzFeed continued.

This policy might be called Migrant Protection Protocols but it’s never been about protecting anyone: It’s about keeping asylum-seekers out, more than 50,000 to date. Hundreds have been victims of violent crime, including kidnapping and sexual assault, during their waits in Mexico. Now when some are actually able to win their cases—something that’s becoming more and more rare—officials are apparently making things up out of thin air as part of an effort to continue to keep them out.

Francisco’s attorney Lisa Koop told BuzzFeed News that “The government’s behavior in this case and in other cases lays bare the true intent of MPP, which is quite simply to end asylum for all peoples in all circumstances. This is a Cuban dissident who was granted asylum and is being kept out—it removes the ambiguity of what motives are behind this program.”

Officials may also be deciding whether or not to cruelly fight Francisco’s victory. In September, the administration decided to appeal the first asylum win under Remain in Mexico, a Honduran pastor named Alex. Officials also tried to send him back to Mexico following the court ruling. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that “however, after public outcry, he was allowed to be paroled into the United States.”

Categories: Politics

Greta Thunberg Named TIME Magazine Person Of The Year

Crooks and Liars - Wed, 12/11/2019 - 13:10

Swedish teen environmental activist Greta Thunberg on Wednesday was named TIME magazine's 2019 Person of the Year for her role in sparking a global youth-led movement that has brought millions into the streets to pressure governments to act on the climate crisis.

TIME editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal told NBC's "Today" that Thunberg, at just 16 years old, came "from essentially nowhere to lead a worldwide movement."

"I think what she has done, her rise in influence, has been really extraordinary," said Felsenthal.

Varshini Prakash, co-founder of the youth-led Sunrise Movement, said Thunberg "symbolizes the agony, the frustration, the desperation, the anger—at some level, the hope—of many young people who won't even be of age to vote by the time their futures are doomed."

As TIME's Charlotte Alter, Suyin Haynes, and Justin Worland wrote in a feature piece on Thunberg on Wednesday:

Thunberg began a global movement by skipping school: starting in August 2018, she spent her days camped out in front of the Swedish Parliament, holding a sign painted in black letters on a white background that read Skolstrejk för klimatet: "School Strike for Climate."

read more

Categories: Politics

Why Are So Many Black Men in Prison?

Kevin Drum - Wed, 12/11/2019 - 13:05

One of our new writing fellows, Camille Squires, published a piece on Monday telling us that the “Kamala was a cop” meme didn’t originate with Bernie-bro-ish white guys. Rather, it originated on Black Twitter among African Americans who were keenly familiar with Kamala Harris’s mixed record as California’s attorney general. Harris billed herself as California’s “top cop,” and in this era of mass incarceration that just didn’t sit well. It’s a good piece, and I only wish it had been longer since I would have been interested in a deeper dive into exactly what Black Twitter thought of Harris.

Squires’s piece also reminded me that, after years of not getting around to it, I finally read Michelle Alexander’s groundbreaking book, The New Jim Crow, a few weeks ago. For those of you who haven’t read it, here’s a nickel summary:

Alexander argues that America has a long history of controlling the black population by whatever means it can get away with. First it was slavery. Later, when that was outlawed, we turned to Jim Crow because it was the best we could do. Then, following the civil rights era, we turned to mass incarceration. It wasn’t as effective as either slavery or Jim Crow, but again, it was the best we could do.

The core of Alexander’s case is the obvious one: we imprison a lot of people, and among those people we imprison a far bigger share of African Americans than we do of white people. The excuse for this is the war on drugs, which led to the arrest and incarceration of vast numbers of black men. Crucially, Alexander says, we arrest black men for drug offenses that we barely touch white men for. We make up lots of reasons for this, but they mostly turn out to be spurious. Basically, even though black and white men are involved in the drug trade about equally, we mostly imprison only black men for violating our drug laws.

One of the things that struck me as I was reading The New Jim Crow was that it sounded familiar. Not just in its themes, but almost literally. And then it hit me: it sounded very much like some of the things that Angela Davis and her colleagues wrote about incarceration in the early 70s. After rummaging around a bit, I finally found what I was thinking of: an essay by Bettina Aptheker called “The Social Functions of the Prisons in the United States,” part of Davis’s 1971 essay collection If They Come In the Morning. I reread it, and it was eerily similar to Alexander’s book.

But it was written 50 years ago. How could it be so similar if Alexander was focused on two recent phenomena: the era of massive prison construction and the war on drugs? And that in turn prompted me to think about timing: Alexander’s argument could only be persuasive if the data on black imprisonment fits the timing of the war on drugs. So I started to root around. This chart is the result:

This data is surprisingly hard to come by, and I had to cobble it together from a wide variety of sources. Luckily, in 1991 the Bureau of Justice Statistics published a short study called “Race of Prisoners Admitted to State and Federal Institutions, 1926-86.” I say “luckily” because this is not a statistic that can simply be pulled from a database somewhere. A researcher has to dig into the data, clean it up, and finally come up with a reliable and consistent table of data that covers a long time period. I also say “luckily” because this appears to be the only study ever done on this exact subject and it forms the backbone of my chart.

That’s the dark blue line. The orange line is simple prison population by race, and this is a little easier. Early data comes from census reports and later data from annual Justice Department bulletins. As you can see, it follows the blue line pretty closely and provides a good check that the 1991 study is fairly reliable.

So what does this show us? Surprisingly (to me, anyway), what it shows is that there wasn’t a huge surge in the rate of black imprisonment during the drug wars of the 70s and 80s. Rather, the share of black men being arrested and imprisoned has gone up slowly but steadily since at least 1926. Between 1970 and 1990, the total number of people in prison skyrockets, but the share of prison admissions that’s black continues the same slow ascent it’s displayed all along.

I’m not sure what to make of this. Alexander’s argument about the war on drugs might still be correct. Contrary to what most people think, our nation’s prisons aren’t mostly filled up with drug offenders. It’s mostly filled up with robbers and murderers and carjackers and other folks who have committed violent crimes. So even if the drug offenders who are arrested and imprisoned are very heavily black, it might not affect the overall black imprisonment rate a lot.

I’m not sure, and I’m not going to draw any conclusions here. Maybe I’m missing something in the data. Or maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe the black share of prisoners didn’t change much during the prison-building boom of the 70s and 80s, but the simple act of imprisoning more people was all we needed to make sure we got lots of black men off the streets and under the control of the criminal justice system. If a few white men were collateral damage, so be it.

Either way, though, it seems like the story changes. The war on drugs, in particular, doesn’t seem like it had a noticeable effect on black imprisonment rates, and Alexander tosses around numbers so blithely in her book that it’s impossible to construct a consistent statistical argument from them.

The New Jim Crow was published in 2012, and it’s entirely likely that it’s been discussed to death since then. Maybe my objections here are nothing new and have been addressed before. But if they have, I haven’t noticed it. I’m curious if anyone has anything to say about this.

POSTSCRIPT: It’s worth noting that the imprisonment rate of black men began to fall a couple of decades ago and has continued to fall ever since. It’s still far higher than the white imprisonment rate, but there’s at least some progress being made.

I’d also like to point out, as usual, that even if you think the prison-building spree of the 70s and 80s was misguided, it wasn’t completely irrational. Violent crime really did start to skyrocket in the mid-60s, and it really did scare people—including black people in urban cores who were the most numerous victims. As we now know, the crime increase was largely caused by lead poisoning, but nobody knew it at the time. They just knew that their streets were unsafe and they wanted something done about it.

Categories: Politics

Are They This Stupid? Trump War Room Portrays Him As Thanos

Crooks and Liars - Wed, 12/11/2019 - 12:42

File under "stupid ideas that never should have seen the light of day."

Someone at the blue checkmark "official" Trump War Room Twitter account decided to appropriate this fan video of Donald J. Trump as Thanos.

Thanos. The villain of late-model "Avengers" movies. The guy who killed everybody. The one who ultimately (SPOILER) failed in his efforts to destroy our heroes.

Twitter had a field day, of course.

Categories: Politics

Trashy Tucker Carlson and racist guest attack Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her constituents

Daily Kos - Wed, 12/11/2019 - 12:28

Tucker Carlson and his garbage guest, wingnut editor of City Journal Seth Barron, tossed out the dog whistles Tuesday night in favor of a bullhorn, attacking both Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her constituents, saying that her district is "dirty" because it is "one of the least American districts in the country."

"We're connoisseurs of irony on this show," Carlson said, "but if you claim to care about the environment, you'd think that the little piece of America you're responsible for, that you represent in the Congress, would be clean, but hers isn't. Why?" While the two talked, video of trash on streets—presumably in Queens, but it could have been anywhere in New York—played.

"Well, part of the reason is because her district is actually one of the least American districts in the country," Barron piped up. "And by that, I don't mean that it's not part of America, but it's occupied by relatively few American citizens. A very high percentage of her district is, in fact, illegal aliens." Fact check: The Census Bureau shows that in 2018, just over 45% of residents of New York's 14th Congressional District were foreign-born, most coming from Latin America and Asia, according to the website Census Reporter. There's absolutely no evidence to suggest that the residents of the district are undocumented, but if they're brown, they must be "illegal," right?

Barron went on and on, spewing nonsense like, "The way they inhabit housing there is such that they live in a lot of illegal spaces like basements, and many people live there, so they wind up producing a lot of garbage that the landlords don't want thrown out normally." So "you wind up with a lot of garbage on the streets, you have illegal food vendors pouring their pig grease into the gutters." It would be an insult to pigs to say it takes one to know one.

Categories: Politics

Trump Pays Fine: $2 Million In Damages For Foundation Grift

Crooks and Liars - Wed, 12/11/2019 - 11:45

Video above from November 2019, when the order came down that Trump would have to pay $2,000,000 in damages for misusing his charitable foundation for campaign and other personal expenses. On Tuesday he paid up. Washington Post:

In the 2000s, Trump began to use the charity in ways that benefited himself or his businesses, according to the attorney general’s lawsuit. He used the charity’s cash to buy paintings of himself and sports memorabilia and to pay $258,000 in legal settlements for his for-profit clubs.

Charity leaders are barred from using their nonprofits’ money for personal benefit.

Trump also used the charity to boost political campaigns — first, Pamela Bondi’s Florida attorney general campaign, and then his own 2016 campaign. Trump gave away Trump Foundation checks onstage at rallies, despite strict rules barring nonprofit charities from participating in political campaigns.

Trump's lawyers released a statement that "The legacy of the Trump Foundation...is secure." You can say that again. But they're not commenting on whether Trump will take the two million off his taxes as charity? Wow.

Categories: Politics

No Surprise: Health Insurance Saves Lives

Kevin Drum - Wed, 12/11/2019 - 11:41

It’s really hard to evaluate the effect of health coverage on health. Sure, you can compare groups with and without coverage, but they’re almost certain to be so different (in income, race, employment, age, etc) that it’s impossible to tease out the effect of health coverage itself. Ideally, you’d like to perform a randomly controlled trial where you take a single group and then randomly split it in half. One half gets coverage and the other doesn’t. Since the two groups are the same, it’s fairly straightforward to measure health differences and then calculate how they’re related to coverage.

Unfortunately, an RCT is all but impossible in this arena. How do you randomly deny health coverage to half a group, after all? It’s basically only been done once, when Oregon conducted a lottery to decide who would qualify for Medicaid coverage from a group of people on a waiting list. The Oregon study was interesting, but the sample size was smallish and the results have been hard to quantify.

But now a team of researchers has conducted a different kind of RCT. In 2015 the IRS sent out a letter to people who paid a penalty for not having health insurance and provided them with information about the cost and availability of getting coverage via either Medicaid or one of the Obamacare exchanges. Millions of letters were sent out, but 14 percent of the group was randomly selected to not receive the letter. Here’s how that affected coverage in the following year:

The difference in takeup rates is about one percentage point. This may seem small, but when the test group is very large that’s plenty to deliver reliable results. Here’s what happened:

The control group, which had lower rates of coverage, also had higher mortality rates. The difference is small, about 0.05 percentage points, which is not surprising since the death rate for middle-aged people is pretty small to begin with (in fact, the mortality part of the study was limited to individuals aged 45-64, since younger age groups have virtually zero mortality). But again, given the large size of the test group, it’s quite possible to draw conclusions from this difference:

We found positive effects of the intervention on subsequent coverage enrollment decisions, particularly for taxpayers who were uninsured in the year prior to the intervention. We also found that the intervention reduced mortality among middle-aged adults in the subsequent two years, which we attribute to the additional coverage the intervention induced. Our findings thus provide strong empirical support, and the first experimental evidence, for the hypothesis that health insurance coverage reduces mortality.

I’ve argued for a long time that focusing research on mortality is misguided. Not only are mortality differences small among the non-elderly to begin with, which makes it hard to study even under the best circumstances, but mortality is a tiny part of what health care is about. By far, the greatest effect of health care for most of us is simply to make us feel better. We get antidepressants. We get flu shots. We get CPAP machines. We get artificial knees and hips. We get asthma inhalers. Most of these things have either no effect on mortality or only a tiny effect. Nonetheless, we’re collectively willing to pay a lot of money for this care, and we lead far better lives because of it.

That said, it’s common sense that health coverage should also have some effect on mortality, and arguments to the contrary have always seemed a little silly to me. How could it not? That makes it nice to see experimental evidence confirming this.

As always, this is just a single study and it might turn out that there are flaws in its design. Still, it’s the first to make use of a truly large test group, one that’s big enough to pick up tiny differences. And those differences, it turns out, are real.

Categories: Politics

Lindsey Graham opens Judiciary Committee hearing with what could be the worst defense of Trump ever

Daily Kos - Wed, 12/11/2019 - 11:24

Sen. Lindsey Graham opened the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz about his report on the FBI investigation into ties between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia by first tossing out a few general paragraphs—mostly about how he never makes long opening statements. That was the precursor for Graham to break into an opening statement that rambled on, and on, and on, rehashing every aspect of the Russia investigation, including things that had absolutely nothing to do with anything Horowitz was investigating.

In the course of his 45 minute plus statement, punctuated by shuffling through papers, frequent references to “smelly people,” Graham went through not just the Russia investigation but tangential events, false claims, and … of course, dozens of text messages. Naturally, that includes reading through a whole series of texts between (say it with me) Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. Because nothing satisfies a Republican audience more than hearing tests between two people having an affair. For the ten thousandth time.

Notably. Graham read through a whole series of comments made months before the election accompanied by complaints that Strzok and Page didn’t respect their “commander in chief.” It’s worth pausing for a moment to consider that, in the exact same period in which the texts were sent, Graham described Trump as “a kook” who was “unfit for office.” In fact, Graham directly said that Trump is “not qualified to be commander in chief.” Graham also offered the advice “You know how to make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell.”

Those past comments somehow did not make it into Graham’s opening. What did make it, delightfully enough, was Lindsey Graham discussing how the opening document from the research provided by Christopher Steele including Trump being involved in “a golden shower,” and making it clear this was an incident involving prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room. Graham also explained that he was shown this material, not by Democrats but by John McCain, and that on seeing the document his first thought was that “they have something on Donald Trump.” During the opening Graham also complained that “my goddamned name is all over the legal documents investigating Trump’s staff.” Which might be because he constantly referred to Trump as a “threat,” as “completely unhinged,” a “racist,” a “liar,” and an “opportunist” who would do anything to win. 

For 45 minutes, Graham seemed to be half interested in pointing out that everyone hated Donald Trump, when he wasn’t attempting to demean Christopher Steele. And then Diane Feinstein talked for three minutes, and slaughtered everything he said.

Categories: Politics

'We must be a better nation': Hispanic Caucus demands border officials protect migrants against flu

Daily Kos - Wed, 12/11/2019 - 11:17

During a press conference on Tuesday, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus called on Customs and Border Protection officials to prevent another catastrophic loss of life and vaccinate people in their custody against the flu. "This is a matter of life and death whether the administration is willing to administer this flu shot," chair Joaquin Castro said.

Border officials have faced widespread criticism from legislators, medical professionals, and advocates for continuing to refuse to give flu shots to detained children and families, even after a new ProPublica report revealed horrific details regarding the flu death of 16-year-old Carlos Gregorio Hernández Vásquez last May. Rep. Raul Ruiz, himself an emergency department doctor, called the kinds of inhumane cells where Carlos died "a breeding ground" for disease.

"In fact, the CDC did a report studying from December 2018 [to] January 2019, they found the cases of flu in those holding cells within CBP was more prevailing than in the nation,” he said. “So we know that those areas are high risk to get the flu, especially when your immune system is weakened by a lack of caloric intake, lack of rest.” The CDC in fact recommended that families receive these vaccinations, but border officials ignored that recommendation.

”CDC officials visited Border Patrol detention facilities in El Paso and Yuma, Ariz., in December and January, at CBP’s request,” The Washington Post reported last month. “The CDC’s January report warned that because of inadequate medical infrastructure in the facilities, ‘illness in the Border Patrol facilities stresses both the Border Patrol staff and community medical infrastructure.’” So they invited officials just to not listen to what they had to say.

Rep. Nydia Velázquez further called out the administration’s ongoing lie that kids aren’t vaccinated because they’re held for short periods of time, when “we have seen, time and time again, that migrants are being held much longer than intended, thanks to this administration’s inhumane policies.” A report from the Homeland Security inspector general last month found that border officials have frequently violated the law to jail kids for as long as 10 days.

"Our government has a responsibility and moral obligation to keep immigrants in US custody healthy and safe,” Velázquez said. “We should not have another child or another detained migrant die on our watch. We need CBP to provide vaccinations and adequate medical care immediately. We must be a better nation.”

Categories: Politics

On the Eve of Election, BoJo Hides In a Fridge

Kevin Drum - Wed, 12/11/2019 - 11:16

One of Piers Morgan’s producers tried to set up an impromptu interview with Boris Johnson this morning:

When Swain presses the prime minister, stating he was live on the show, Johnson replied “I’ll be with you in a second” and walked off, before Piers exclaims “he’s gone into the fridge”. Johnson walks inside a fridge stacked with milk bottles with his aides. One person can be heard saying: “It’s a bunker.”

Conservative sources subsequently insisted that Johnson was “categorically not hiding” in the fridge, from which Johnson emerged carrying a crate of milk bottles

You know you’re having a bad day when your minders have to deny that you were hiding in a fridge. The election is tomorrow.

Categories: Politics

Maddow Scorches Trump: 'Heckuva Day To Have Russia On Your Lap'

Crooks and Liars - Wed, 12/11/2019 - 11:12

On the very day articles of impeachment are released regarding his serving Russian interests over Ukraine, Trump's very weak White House is led on a chain by the Russian Foreign Minister. It's so pathetic. Maddow doesn't sugarcoat it.

RACHEL MADDOW: ...I mean given the fact he's being impeached for undermining Ukraine in its war against Russia, this is heck of a day to choose to have the Russian foreign minister sitting on your lap in the Oval Office. I mean -- okay, not on his lap. At his right hand?

In the first impeachment article against President Trump, the abuse of power that he's accused of trying, it's to, you know, undermine Joe Biden's chances of beating him in the 2020 election, but he's also accused of effectively exonerating Russia for having tried to help him win the 2016 election, right? As the impeachment articles note, "it is a discredited theory promoted by Russia that the real interference in the 2016 election wasn't Russia at all, it was Ukraine instead. U.S. Intelligence agencies have reportedly concluded and briefed the U.S. Senate on their conclusions that the Russian government, Russian security services have been promoting that lie about Ukraine as a disinformation effort that is designed to benefit the Kremlin."

read more

Categories: Politics

Greta Thunberg is #TIMEPersonoftheYear2019 and Twitter is freaking out

Daily Kos - Wed, 12/11/2019 - 11:02

Sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg has been named TIME magazine’s 2019 Person of the Year, making her the youngest person ever to have been recognized by the magazine in its 92-year history. “Meaningful change rarely happens without the galvanizing force of influential individuals, and in 2019, the earth’s existential crisis found one in Greta Thunberg,” the magazine said.

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Thunberg is known for her leadership in beginning a movement, which began small when she first camped outside of a Swedish Parliament building in the summer of 2018. The teenager held a sign painted in black letters on a white background that read Skolstrejk för klimatet, “School Strike for Climate.” "We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis. And if solutions within the system are so impossible to find, then maybe we should change the system itself," Thunberg said.

Sixteen months later the young woman took the world by storm and not only spoke with global representatives at the United Nations, but also met with the pope and President Barack Obama to address climate change. Thunberg has become a household icon for climate change, celebrated by the many who admire her bravery.

“The politics of climate action are as entrenched and complex as the phenomenon itself, and Thunberg has no magic solution. But she has succeeded in creating a global attitudinal shift, transforming millions of vague, middle-of-the-night anxieties into a worldwide movement calling for urgent change. She has offered a moral clarion call to those who are willing to act, and hurled shame on those who are not,” TIME wrote in its announcement.

With this news now public, most of Twitter is reacting with joy, using the hashtag #TIMEPersonoftheYear2019, and we are here for it. Here’s a roundup of the tweets trending now.

Categories: Politics

Shooters targeted New Jersey kosher market, leaving cop and 5 others dead, mayor reveals

Daily Kos - Wed, 12/11/2019 - 10:38

A shooting at a kosher market Tuesday in Jersey City, New Jersey, ended with a police officer, three civilians, and two suspects dead in what the city’s mayor called a targeted attack. “Based on our initial investigation (which is ongoing) we now believe the active shooters targeted the location they attacked,” Mayor Steven Fulop said on Twitter. “Due to an excess of caution the community may see additional police resources in the days/weeks ahead. We have no indication there are any further threats.”

Camera footage, as well as anti-Semitic and anti-police posts reportedly published online by one of the suspects, led authorities to conclude that the shooting was a targeted attack, The New York Times reported. Police also found a stolen U-Haul truck that Jersey City Police Chief Michael Kelly said “may contain an incendiary device” and that bomb squads were investigating, The Washington Post reported.

The officer killed has been identified as Jersey City Police Det. Joseph Seals, a 15-year veteran of the department, Kelly said during a news conference Tuesday. He also said two other officers were shot but have since been released from the hospital.

Officers responded to the shooting soon after they were alerted at about 12:30 p.m., and they were faced with “high-powered rifle fire” at the market at Martin Luther King Drive and Bidwell Avenue, Kelly told reporters. Fulop said in a series of tweets that the situation could have been worse. ”Had the 2 JCPD officers on the foot post one block south not responded immediately and had they not run TOWARDS the gun fire I’m 100% certain that this situation would have been far more tragic than what it already is,” he said. “There is enough info to know this could have been far worse.”

Categories: Politics

Trump loses one more court fight over stealing military funds for border wall

Daily Kos - Wed, 12/11/2019 - 10:33

While articles of impeachment were being introduced against Donald Trump in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, a federal judge in Texas was blocking funding for his pet project, ruling that he couldn't use money appropriated by Congress for military construction for his wall on the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

Trump has attempted to divert $3.6 billion from military construction and another $2.5 billion from drug interdiction to build the wall, since Congress won't give him the billions he wants. Judge David Briones of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas ruled that Trump's diversion of funds is illegal, arguing that Trump overstepped his authority by "declaring a national emergency and violating laws of Congress limiting funds for barriers at the United States-Mexico border." The Constitution gives the Congress the power of the purse, and Trump violated that. Kristy Parker, a lawyer for the organization Protect Democracy, which represented the plaintiffs in the case, said in a statement following the ruling, "The President's emergency proclamation was a blatant attempt to grab power from Congress. […] Today's order affirms that the President is not a king and that our courts are willing to check him when he oversteps his bounds."

El Paso County and the Border Network for Human Rights brought the suit, making the constitutional argument and claiming that the county would suffer "reputational and economic harm" because of the wall and Trump's emergency declaration. Trump has tried to paint the city and county as dangerous, and the wall reiterates that impression, plaintiffs said. In reality, El Paso has ranked as one of the 10 safest cities in the country. In an earlier ruling in October, Judge Briones ruled that the claim had merit.

The president is not a king, though he's been emboldened by a Supreme Court ruling last summer in a separate case in California. That ruling allowed the administration to continue construction of the wall pending its appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition.

Categories: Politics

LIVE: Senate Judiciary Committee Grills IG Over His Report

Crooks and Liars - Wed, 12/11/2019 - 10:00

Via CBS News:

Washington -- Although there were several procedural errors, the FBI was justified and lacked political bias when it launched its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, the Department of Justice inspector general (IG) found in a report published Monday.

Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department's IG, will testify about his conclusions on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. The Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to question him about the FBI's procedural errors discovered and analyzed by his team.

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Categories: Politics