Tuesday, April 24, 2018
  • Morning Joe Presents History Re-Written While You Wait
    by driftglass on April 24, 2018 at 3:16 pm

    Before you watch the Morning Joe crew drag modern American political history into a soccer stadium and shoot it in the head yet again, it might be helpful for newer readers to get a good, clear idea of the sheer scale of the lies that Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski and their cast of scoundrels and sycophants spin for their audience every single day. To do that, I need you to take a good look at this editorial from The New York Times and note the date. September of 1990. 28 years ago. The Politics of Slash and Burn Published: September 20, 1990 'Sick.'' ''Traitors.'' ''Bizarre.'' ''Self-serving.'' ''Shallow.'' ''Corrupt.'' ''Pathetic.'' ''Shame.'' The group that urged political candidates to use these epithets has since regretted suggesting the word ''traitors,'' in response to inquiries from the press. But the others were allowed to stand; they appear in a glossary that a conservative Republican group recently mailed to Republican state legislative candidates.read mor […]

  • Mike's Blog Round Up
    by Susan on April 24, 2018 at 2:51 pm

    LGBTQ Nation: The Trump administration is using Christian television to reach out to its voters. Think Progress: The Trump tax cuts are a million dollar windfall for the top 1%. Matt Taibbi: Growing income inequality means a growing political divide. Eschaton: Jeff Bezos builds a palatial complex fit for an emperor. Truthout: Black students were at the forefront of protests at Columbia University in 1968. Bonus Track: These scuba divers fly through the air with the greatest of ease. This Round-Up is by Susan of Texas. You can follow me on Twitter. Send tips, requests and suggestions to mbru@crooksandliars.com (with "for MBRU" in the subject line). […]

  • BREAKING: Manafort Raid Was Looking For Documents On Trump Tower Meeting
    by Susie Madrak on April 24, 2018 at 1:49 pm

    Some breaking news this morning from Newsweek: A new court filing by Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel confirms that Paul Manafort was raided by the FBI to look for documents relating to the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 with Russian lobbyists, which was brokered by Donald Trump Jr. [...] According to the latest court filing by the Mueller inquiry, which is defending a warrant attached to a raid on Manafort’s home in July 2017, part of what the FBI were hunting for were “communications, records, documents, and other files involving any of the attendees of the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, as well as Aras and [Emin] Agalarov.” As you'll recall, Donald Trump Jr. thought he was being offered dirt on Hillary Clinton, but has since claimed the only thing they discussed at the meeting was adoption. Sounds like Mueller doesn't believe him --or Paul Manafort. […]

  • Oh Dear! Hearings Delayed For Dr. Ronny Jackson's VA Nomination
    by Susie Madrak on April 24, 2018 at 12:53 pm

    If you didn't watch the news last night (and I'm envious of those who don't!), you probably missed the latest on the nomination of Dr. Ronny Jackson to lead the VA. Seems the conscientious physician who gave Trump's weight as 239 pounds, called his health "excellent" and said his genes were so good, "he might live to be 200," might have some problems. The allegations include possible day drinking, creating a hostile work environment, and being a little loose with drugs. (Hmm.) JoMika also discussed concerns from lawmakers from both sides of the aisle about his inexperience in running a large organization. "But Joe, that display about the president's health, I thought was quite incredible. back when it happened," Mika said. "Incredible is a very nice word for it, Mika. I thought it was embarrassing. I thought -- it was shameful. You have a guy that first of all, obviously, for anybody that's ever -- you don't have to be one of those people in the circuses that can guess your weight to know that Donald Trump -- weighs a hell of a lot more than 239 pounds," Scarborough said.read mor […]

  • Howard Kurtz Defends Kellyanne Conway's Right To Never Be Embarrassed By Her Husband
    by John Amato on April 24, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz wrongly defended Kellyanne Conway's outburst against CNN's Dana Bash after she asked about her husband's negative Trump tweets. Donald Trump and his surrogates, including Conway, have never shown a propensity for having any type of boundary they would not cross against their opponents and frequently attacked their rivals, especially in the FBI by using their spouses to discredit their character. But when Conway was faced with the same type of question, instead of dealing with it in an honest fashion, she turned it into the usual Christian conservative whine of persecution and vowed to take revenge. Much has been made of Dana Bash's final question on CNN posed to Kellyanne. Instead of handling it like a political veteran which would have required a 30 second answer, it degenerated into a five-minute outburst from Trump's presidential advisor. On Fox News' American's Newsroom, Kurtz, now a full-fledged Foxer rebuked Bash, calling the interview "cringe-worthy.” “The question from Dana Bash — who’s a respected reporter — was designed to embarrass Kellyanne Conway, and it was out of bounds,” Kurtz said.read mor […]

  • What Travis Reinking's Father Was Allowed To Do Is Everything That's Wrong With Gun Culture
    by Steve M. on April 24, 2018 at 4:53 am

    You probably know this about the man suspected of shooting up a Tennessee Waffle House and killing four people: Months before the man suspected of killing four people at a Tennessee Waffle House on Sunday became the target of a manhunt, authorities arrested him for trying to breach a barrier near the White House and later seized his guns. Among the four weapons they took from Travis Reinking was the AR-15 semi­automatic rifle that police say he used in the Waffle House on Sunday. Two of the other weapons — a long gun and a handgun — are missing from Reinking’s apartment, and as of Sunday evening, Reinking was still at large. And you probably know this: ... Reinking's father was present when ... deputies came to confiscate the guns, [Tazewell County sheriff Robert M.] Huston said. The father had a valid state authorization card and asked the police if he could keep the weapons. Deputies gave Reinking's father the weapons, Huston said. "He was allowed to do that after he assured deputies he would keep them secure and away from Travis," Huston said, referring to Reinking's father. Huston and Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson said they believe Reinking's father returned the weapons to Reinking. read mor […]

  • Open Thread - Dance Off!
    by Frances Langum on April 24, 2018 at 3:30 am

    from a different angle: Open thread below.... […]

  • More Waffle House Violence...This Time Perpetrated By Police
    by Aliza Worthington on April 24, 2018 at 3:09 am

    The frequency of such incidents is maddening and untenable. Starbucks is still reeling from the consequences (I mean, it's good there were consequences...but moolah was involved...) of harassing customers for existing while Black. Thank the Good Lord in Heaven above that here in Saraland, Alabama, we have police officers to save us from women like Chikesia Clemons, who don't want to have to pay for their plastic utensils at Waffle House! THIS is why people sign up to be cops, folks. To protect us from such horrors. Who ARE these people who think they are entitled to their plastic utensils for free??? Just because they got them for free at the same Waffle House the night before??? And, I'm sorry, they had the nerve to be melanin-endowed, too? That's just a bridge too far, people. The police are going to have to be called, and naturally, they will be white, and they will violently arrest her! If, in the course of throwing her to the ground, threatening to break her arm, and putting their hands on her neck, her top happens to get pulled in such a way as to expose her breast, why, that's just part of the job, right, Officers? You just keep twisting her arm, because she is such a huge menacing threat, what with her thinking she had the right to ask for the information of the district manager so she could complain, and all. read mor […]

  • C&L's Late Nite Music Club With The Cavern Of Anti-Matter
    by Dale Merrill on April 24, 2018 at 3:00 am

    As the guitarist and drummer of Stereolab, I believe it goes without saying that Tim Gane and Joe Dilworth know a thing or two about making effervescent musical incantations. Making a connection with synth experimenter Holger Zapf is a match made in diode & transistor Shangri-La. What are you listening to tonight? […]

  • Hannity: It’s None Of Your Business My Real Estate Empire Made Big Bucks Off People And Policies I Covered!
    by News Hound Ellen on April 24, 2018 at 2:29 am

    Just as he did with Michael Cohen, Sean Hannity is suggesting that his involvement with his own real estate empire is so minimal that there was no reason to disclose his stake in policies and people he covered. Sunday, The Guardian did a deep dive into Hannity’s real estate holdings (with a publishing date of today). My three takeaways: Hannity appears to be slumlord; he made money on foreclosures even as he attacked President Barack Obama over the foreclosure rate; Hannity did not disclose that he substantially benefitted from support from the Department of Housing and Urban Development during a chummy interview with HUD Secretary Ben Carson last year. read mor […]


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  • Macron’s Strategy of Flattery
    by Isaac Chotiner on April 23, 2018 at 8:46 pm

    French President Emmanuel Macron is in Washington this week, meeting with Donald Trump—the man he has been trying to woo since the French election last year—and speaking to Congress. Macron, a former Socialist minister, struck out on his own when he ran for president, creating a centrist platform (En Marche!) and triumphing over Trump’s favorite, Marine Le Pen, and more establishment figures. In office, he has pursued an ideologically eclectic agenda, including reforms of the French state (e.g., its railways) that have enraged much of the left, as well as a determined effort to convince Trump to moderate on Iran and global warming. So far, he doesn’t have much to show for his efforts on the latter front. […]

  • Trump’s 2019 Nightmare
    by Drew Littman on April 23, 2018 at 9:50 am

    If President Trump hates Bob Mueller so much, why doesn’t he have him fired? […]

  • Memogogues
    by William Saletan on April 20, 2018 at 9:03 pm

    Rep. Trey Gowdy, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, says he’s leaving politics to escape the corruption of partisanship. “I enjoy being fair. I enjoy the pursuit of fairness as a virtue,” Gowdy told CBS News in February. In Washington, he lamented, there’s no place for a truth-teller like himself. Perhaps, then, Gowdy can explain why he has teamed up with two other chairmen, Devin Nunes of the House Intelligence Committee and Bob Goodlatte of the House Judiciary Committee, to issue a statement full of lies about James Comey. […]

  • Mind the Gap
    by Jamelle Bouie on April 20, 2018 at 4:39 pm

    The massive gap between black and white wealth is structural. All serious research on the subject finds the gap is an enduring feature of the American economy produced and reproduced by politics, policy, and law. But to the extent it even registers in mainstream thinking, the popular belief is that black Americans are themselves responsible for this broad inequality. The specific diagnosis varies. One view faults family structure—out-of-wedlock births and single parenthood set black communities up for failure. Another blames attitudes toward education. Yet another looks at consumerism, blaming black Americans for frivolous expenditures at the expense of saving and entrepreneurship. Each presents a different face for the same claim: that black culture is broken, and fixing the culture will resolve the economic disparities. […]

  • The Beto Bubble
    by Jim Newell on April 19, 2018 at 8:55 pm

    It’s mid-April, and a reputable pollster is already declaring that the Senate race between Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas is “too close to call,” at 47 percent to 44 percent. It’s Quinnipiac’s first poll in Texas, and the first major poll of one of the most closely watched races in the country. […]

  • Being Black in Public
    by Aisha Harris on April 19, 2018 at 9:52 am

    Last Thursday, an employee at a Philadelphia Starbucks called the police on two black men who were waiting for the arrival of a business partner without having ordered anything at the counter. When police arrived, the men were arrested for trespassing. A bystander caught the encounter on video, which showed the men resigned to their fate as other white patrons protested the arrest, and the incident went viral. […]

  • Holder 2020?
    by Jamelle Bouie on April 18, 2018 at 10:54 pm

    Eric Holder was the first black attorney general of the United States, serving under its first black president, Barack Obama. Holder left office in 2013, but he hasn’t left public life. And for a second act, he’s considering politics and a bid to serve as the second black occupant of the White House. […]

  • What Republicans’ Doomed Effort to Undo the Budget Deal Is Really About
    by Jim Newell on April 18, 2018 at 8:51 pm

    In a brief Fox News interview on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell killed two bills. The first was a measure that the Senate Judiciary Committee plans to consider soon that would make it more difficult for the White House to fire special counsel Robert Mueller. McConnell said that he would never bring that bill to the floor. That effort has received much attention. The second bill McConnell appeared to head off, though, is a more slapstick parable of the party’s election-year messaging, sucking up to the presidency, and talking-point manufacturing that will define the final months of the 115th Congress. […]

  • Barbara Bush Once Told the GOP to Ease Up Its Anti-Abortion Policies
    by Christina Cauterucci on April 18, 2018 at 7:18 pm

    Barbara Bush, who died Tuesday at the age of 92, has been remembered as a dutiful spouse and a proud mother, respectively, to two conservative presidents. Bush’s actual influence on their policy views has mostly been opaque, with the conspicuous exception of a story shared in 2010 by George W. Bush upon the release of his memoir. W. said his mother once showed him her miscarried fetus “in a jar,” which turned him against abortion for life. It’s an unfortunate anecdote, not least because Barbara Bush’s legacy on reproductive freedom is hardly that of a pro-life proponent. In fact, her outspoken opposition to politicizing abortion was a significant departure from both her son’s ardent anti-abortion politics and those of her husband, George H.W. Bush. […]

  • Cynthia Nixon Is Gaining on Andrew Cuomo
    by Osita Nwanevu on April 18, 2018 at 6:16 pm

    For weeks now, New York politicos have been jazzed about former Sex and the City co-star Cynthia Nixon’s insurgent campaign for New York governor. The incumbent, Andrew Cuomo, has become a villain on the party’s left even as he reportedly draws up plans to join the throng of Democrats likely to run for the presidency in 2020. Nixon, speaking stridently on topics like wealth inequality and mass incarceration, has directed her pitch squarely at those disgruntled progressives. As the New York Times reported Tuesday, she’s gained 16 points worth of ground against Cuomo in the past month, although he still holds a healthy lead, 58 percent to 27. Cuomo’s approval rating has also slipped beneath 50 percent for the first time since 2015. […]

  • White supremacists unsure if they should praise or condemn the Toronto attack
    by Casey Michel on April 24, 2018 at 3:56 pm

    As details about the man behind yesterday’s deadly attack in Toronto begin to emerge, white supremacists and members of the extreme right are having a difficult time figuring out if they should praise or condemn the incident. Much of that difficulty stems from the fact that the suspect, 25-year-old Alek Minassian, has what USA Today […]

  • Conservatives claim banning ex-gay therapy will also ban the Bible
    by Zack Ford on April 24, 2018 at 3:35 pm

    California lawmakers are considering the country’s first ban on anti-LGBTQ conversion therapy for adults (Assembly Bill 2943). While several states and cities have passed bans on conversion therapy, which has been found to be both ineffective and harmful, those bans have only protected minors from the stigmatizing “treatment.” Sensing the urgent need to defend their […]

  • Afghans fearful of voting after latest attack on voter registration center
    by Elham Khatami on April 24, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — Eleven-year-old Siyar was staring out the glass windows of his family’s bodega Sunday when he saw his cousin, Rashid, passing by on his way home. The two cousins briefly waved to each other as they each went back to their respective tasks. Siyar had only turned his back for a few seconds […]

  • Trump officials went on a taxpayer-funded shopping spree. Here’s the bill.
    by Adam Peck on April 24, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    Last week, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer joined the cabal of cabinet-level officials from the Trump White House who have to defend themselves against charges of misusing taxpayer dollars for his own benefit. The New York Post discovered that Lighthizer had authorized nearly $1,000,000 in spending to renovate two of his Washington, DC offices on […]

  • 140,000 Arizona residents weren’t sent voter ID cards, official calls it a ‘little hiccup’
    by Kira Lerner on April 24, 2018 at 12:15 pm

    PHOENIX, ARIZONA — As residents of Arizona’s eighth congressional district cast ballots in a special election to replace former Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) in Congress, roughly 140,000 of them may be unaware they are eligible to vote because they did not receive the ID card the county is required to send them after they register. According to […]

  • Would a Catholic ban survive the Supreme Court?
    by Ian Millhiser on April 24, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    Imagine, for a moment, a world very much like our own. In this world, Donald Trump still campaigned for office on a promise to ban foreign nationals of a particular faith from entering the country. Trump still called for “a total and complete shutdown” of people from this faith “entering the United States until our […]

  • New research reveals the extra obstacles Black students with disabilities face
    by Casey Quinlan on April 24, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    Students of color and students with disabilities face serious inequities in their school systems. Black students with disabilities in particular face many obstacles to getting access to a quality education, due to racial stereotypes, zero tolerance policies, and disproportionate discipline. Now, a new study is introducing meaningful research about how school staff treat Black students […]

  • Arizona’s special election is a test for politics in the ‘Me Too’ moment
    by Addy Baird on April 24, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA — Last winter, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) announced suddenly that he would be resigning from the House of Representatives. Within hours, the reason why became clear: Franks had asked a staffer to be his surrogate and carry his child. His female staffers were reportedly concerned that Franks wanted to have sex with […]

  • Colorado Supreme Court rules longtime GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn ineligible for primary ballot
    by Rebekah Entralg on April 24, 2018 at 12:16 am

    The Colorado Supreme Court ruled on Monday that Republican incumbent Rep. Doug Lamborn cannot appear on the fifth congressional district’s primary ballot. According to Politico, the court found that a Lamborn campaign worker tasked with gathering signatures required in order to qualify for the ballot did not live in Colorado at the time, and as […]

  • Van plows into pedestrians on a busy Toronto street, leaving at least 9 dead
    by Rebekah Entralg on April 23, 2018 at 10:38 pm

    Late Monday afternoon, a white van plowed into a crowd of pedestrians on a sidewalk in north Toronto. According to authorities, there are 9 dead and 16 injured. “I saw one old man go flying in the air,” a witness told the Toronto Star. “People were screaming, ‘Oh my god.’ ” “The driver was swerving back and […]

  • Job guarantees, explained
    by Dylan Matthews on April 24, 2018 at 4:03 pm

    Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, and Kirsten Gillibrand have all embraced a bold new idea they think will revitalize the American economy: a job guarantee. Under the proposal, the federal government would guarantee a well-paying job, with benefits and a high enough salary to pay for rent, transportation, and food, to every citizen who wants one. Anyone who didn’t have a job and wanted one could go into a local office for a government agency — call it the Works Progress Administration, maybe — and walk out with a regular government position paying a livable wage ($15 an hour, perhaps) and offering health, dental, and vision insurance, and retirement benefits, and child care for their kids. Different people would do different things: teaching or working for after-school programs or providing child care or building roads and mass transit or driving buses and so on. But everyone would be guaranteed a job, including during recessions. Involuntary unemployment would be a thing of the past. No one who works would be in poverty. That’s a truly radical policy idea. But it has deep roots in the Democratic Party’s past, from the New Deal’s emergency employment programs to the Humphrey-Hawkins Act, a 1970s proposal that, as originally written, would have given unemployed Americans the right to sue the government. Now, the idea is making a comeback. Booker has proposed legislation that would establish a pilot job guarantee in 15 local areas, and Sanders is preparing a bill that would implement a nation-wide guarantee. Their legislation follows job guarantee or public jobs proposals from two prominent left-of-center think tanks: the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which published a proposal from economists and veteran job guarantee advocates Mark Paul, William Darity, Jr. (both at Duke), and Darrick Hamilton (of the New School), and the Center for American Progress, which issued a report in May 2017 calling for a "large-scale, permanent program of public employment and infrastructure investment." But some labor economists, even left-leaning ones, are skeptical. None of the programs, they argue, have done enough work on the details. And those details are crucial to the eventual fate of such a policy. An effective job guarantee that eliminated unemployment and boosted wages without negative side effects could be a very good thing. But an ineffective job guarantee that amounts to a welfare check plus onerous work requirements wouldn’t just be bad policy — it would also be politically toxic. Why liberals are flocking to job guarantee plans in 2018 It might seem strange to be debating how best to solve mass joblessness at a time when the US unemployment rate is 4.1 percent, the lowest in over a decade. And indeed, analysts critical of the plan raise exactly that objection: “Advocates who imagine we need a major restructuring of the entire economy are utopian and dystopian all at once," says Adam Ozimek, an economist at Moody's Analytics told me last year. "They are utopian in that they imagine we can nationalize a quarter of the labor force without significant negative effects on productivity and economic growth. They are dystopian in that they imagine things are so terrible that this kind of radical transformation is necessary." But there are both political and policy reasons for why the job guarantee is suddenly a hot topic. In the wake of the 2016 election, liberal commentators have latched onto the job guarantee — an idea pushed by some left-wing economists for years — as a way to forge a cross-racial working-class coalition. They need a plan that appeals to both to the white Wisconsin and Michigan voters who switched from Obama to Trump and to black and Latino workers left behind by deindustrialization. The ideal plan would improve conditions for lower-income Americans while supporting Americans’ strong intuition that people should work to earn their crust. “A federal job guarantee is both universal — it benefits all Americans — and specifically ameliorative to entrenched racial inequality,” Slate’s Jamelle Bouie notes. “The job guarantee asserts that, if individuals bear a moral duty to work, then society and employers bear a reciprocal moral duty to provide good, dignified work for all,” Jeff Spross adds in the influential center-left journal Democracy. “If Democrats want to win elections, they should imbue Trump’s empty rhetoric with a real promise: a good job for every American who wants one,” writes Bryce Covert in the New Republic. “It’s time to make a federal jobs guarantee the central tenet of the party’s platform.” But there’s also a policy rationale for the idea’s resurgence. Many experts think the unemployment rate makes the economy, or at least the labor market, look better than it really is. The unemployment rate only counts people looking for work, and the most recent recession and slow subsequent recovery forced some people out of the labor force. In January 2007, 80.3 percent of people ages 25 to 54 were employed; in March 2018, 79.2 percent were. If the rate had stayed at its prerecession peak, there’d be nearly 1.4 million more people employed today. If the rate were at its all-time peak (81.9 percent, in April 2000), there’d be 3.4 million more people employed. It’s possible those people will get jobs as the economy continues improving, but it’s not a sure thing. For one thing, the Federal Reserve keeps raising interest rates, a move that effectively kills jobs. There are also other factors at play. For decades, in both good economic times and bad, the share of men who are either working or looking for work has been declining. The labor force participation rate for 25- to 54-year old men fell from 98 percent in the 1950s to 88 percent today, per a 2016 report by White House Council of Economic Advisors members. And it’s not just a matter of jobs. Wage growth has been somewhat anemic. During the last great boom in the late 1990s and early 2000s, wage and salary growth in the private sector, before adjusting for inflation, was about 3.5 to 4 percent per year, sometimes even topping 4, according to the Employment Cost Index. In recent quarters, however, wage growth has hovered around 2.5 percent. That's slightly worse than things were in the mid-2000s, before the housing bubble burst. Nor has the recovery been evenly shared. As of March 2018, 60.7 percent of white people in America were employed, but only 58.4 percent of black people were. Once black men’s disproportionate representation in prisons and jails is accounted for, the gap grows still larger. In 2016, the most recent year for which we have data, a mere 27.7 percent of people with disabilities age 16 to 64 were employed, compared to 72.8 percent of nondisabled people. Nor do booms affect all geographic areas equally. There are still 337 counties or county-equivalents with a combined labor force of over 6.7 million people that have unemployment rates of 7 percent or higher as of February 2018. Seventy-eight counties, like Yuma, Arizona, still have unemployment rates in excess of 10 percent. The bottom line is there are millions of people in the US economy who could be working, but aren’t. A jobs guarantee diagnoses that as a problem of demand: Private employers aren’t doing enough to make use of the US labor force. And it seeks to create such demand directly, by creating a new employer to provide it. Have a disability, and unable to find an employer who will provide the support necessary for you to work? Well, under a jobs guarantee, the government would function as just such an employer. Lack a high school or college degree? A jobs guarantee could offer you a stipend to gain more training; if you don’t want to retrain, it could provide a skill-appropriate position that pays a living wage. India’s successful job guarantee National Rural Employment Guarantee participants working on digging out a silted-up water tank.McKay Savage Job guarantee advocates argue it wouldn’t just affect people who take jobs through the job guarantee program. It would affect everyone else too. Walmart pays its employees a minimum of $10 per hour; part-time employees aren’t guaranteed benefits like health insurance or a 401(k) match. If you’re a part-time employee at Walmart, and all of a sudden you can get $15 an hour, work full time, and earn full benefits by working for the federal government — wouldn’t you? And, knowing that, wouldn’t Walmart try to increase wages to keep you? Advocates say Walmart would. And they have some empirical evidence on their side from India, where a type of job guarantee known as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme functions largely as an insurance system, offering a source of income for rural farmers during the dry season. A group of economists — UC San Diego's Karthik Muralidharan and Paul Niehaus and the University of Virginia's Sandip Sukhtankar — collaborated with the former Indian state of Andhra Pradesh to randomize the roll-out of a new biometric card for participants in the rural employment program. The technology greatly improved access, but some subdistricts of Andhra Pradesh were randomly selected to benefit from it earlier than others. This randomization let the economists estimate the program’s effects by comparing subdistricts that got much-expanded access to the job guarantee to ones that didn’t. Their findings are astounding: the job guarantee, they estimate, increases earnings for low-income households by 13.3 percent. Ninety percent of that increase is due to higher wages and increased work in the private sector, not the job guarantee program itself. Just as job guarantee advocates would predict, the program bid up wages everywhere. Perhaps the most surprising result was that the program not only increased wages, but increased employment in the private sector. Two things could be going on here, according to Paul Niehaus, the UCSD economist who co-authored the study. One is that employers in India are so few in number that they have more power to set wages than is typically the case, a phenomenon known as monopsony power. Under monopsony, firms typically have a number of vacancies, since to fill them they'd need to raise wages not just for new workers but for existing workers too. Setting a minimum wage, either by statute or through a job guarantee plan, effectively forces the firms to pay more to everyone, which in turn drives more people to apply to work there, and fills the vacancies. Alternately, Niehaus notes that private sector could increase because the program "created productivity enhancing assets," like roads. The work done in the program could actually be useful in a way that boosts productivity and employment across society. Other research has also found that the program increase entrepreneurship by injecting cash into rural communities that workers can then use to start their own ventures. How an American job guarantee could work Child care work could be part of a job guarantee — but should it be?Mat Hayward/Getty Images for Knowledge Universe Obviously, though, the Indian and American economies are quite different. The US has no need to provide jobs as a secondary source of income for agricultural laborers and subsistence farmers; a lack of capital for small enterprises isn’t a major factor holding back growth here. Instead, a US jobs guarantee would have to come up with a constant supply of useful jobs that enrollees with a wide array of skills could do — and jobs that can grow and shrink in number, as the economy booms and busts. There are two big questions any program would have to answer. The first is whether the goal is truly for the government to give everyone a job, or just to give more people jobs. The Center for American Progress is wrestling with that question right now: “Does the job guarantee translate to the government acting as an employer of last resort, or does it mean guaranteeing sustained public funding for a target number of jobs over and above what we already have?” asks Carmel Martin, the group’s executive vice president for policy. CAP isn’t sure yet. As an illustrative example, CAP’s May position paper supposes that a public employment program should return the employment rate of prime-age workers without bachelor's degrees to its 2000 level of 79 percent. That would require creating 4.4 million jobs and would cost, CAP estimates, about $158 billion a year. It would also still fall short of guaranteeing every American a paying job. The detailed CBPP plan from economists William Darity Jr., Darrick Hamilton, Mark Paul, and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, is far more ambitious — it calls for employing about 10.7 million people at the cost of $543 billion per year. Wages would start at $11.83 an hour or $24,600 a year, plus another $10,000 a year in health care and retirement benefits. Participants would also get paid family, sick, and vacation leave. And the jobs would be guaranteed, not limited to a set number. Still another outline from economist Pavlina Tcherneva, a professor at Bard College and its Levy Economics Institute, would also provide a guarantee, and allocate enrollees across nonprofit organizations rather than having the federal government provide jobs directly. While Tcherneva doesn’t go into this, such a plan would almost certainly amount to a massive subsidy to religious organizations, given how dominated the US nonprofit sector is by local religious groups and charities. The second big question is what kind of work these workers would do. The Darity/Hamilton/Paul plan to employ 10.7 million people, for example, seems to envision pairing the guarantee with expansions to public services enabled by a larger government workforce. Jobs, the authors write, could include: the repair, maintenance, and expansion of the nation’s infrastructure, housing stock, and public buildings; energy efficiency upgrades to public and private buildings; assistance with ecological restoration and services to reduce the country’s carbon footprint; engagement in community development projects; provision of high-quality preschool and afterschool services; provision of teachers’ aids; provision of high-quality elder care and companionship; rejuvenation of the nation’s defunded postal service; support for the arts; and other activities that shall support the public good Many of these are permanent jobs. If a job guarantee were enacted in a recession, and many of the enrollees became child care providers, what happens when the economy improves and workers find jobs in the private sector? It wouldn’t be tenable to eliminate a universal child care program because the economy improved. Nor, if the program employed bus drivers, would it make much sense to cut bus routes. Either the government provides child care and runs buses, or it doesn’t; making how much child care it provides or how many buses are available dependent on the state of the economy would be odd at best and counterproductive at worst. Infrastructure work, also included in the plan, could be a more appropriate area for job guarantee labor. While ideally we’d repair roads and bridges and rail lines as soon as they need it, in practice that rarely happens, and tying projects like those to economic trends might not be so bad. But implementing a real job guarantee plan would require thinking through how useful a large number of untrained workers would be for such projects and estimating how many could be productively put to use. Then, if that number is less than the stock of unemployed people during recessions, the government would still have to find other roles for people to fill. A plan would also have to distinguish between different groups of people benefiting. For the long-term unemployed and young workers new to the labor force, more permanent positions might make sense, as their difficulty getting work isn't necessarily tied to a bad economy. But for people struggling in a recession, the program might be more useful if it encourages work-sharing and deters layoffs, rather than pushing previously employed people into new jobs that they might not be a good fit for. America’s last experience with public employment Colorado Gov.-elect Dick Lamm, left, and Gov. John Vanderhoof, right, discuss how to spend Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) funds on veterans in 1975.Duane Howell/The Denver Post via Getty Images Working through the details on a job guarantee is crucially important, especially for political survival. American history shows that even a mostly effective program can become politically toxic. In the 1970s, amid economic malaise driven by the oil crisis, the federal government began funding job positions through the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA). The program got some $47 billion in funding from its passage in 1973 to its dissolution in 1982; in 1977, President Jimmy Carter started directing more and more of that money toward public sector jobs, until by 1978 some 725,000 people had public sector jobs through CETA. “CETA’s size,” Temple University political scientist Gary Mucciaroni writes, “dwarfed not only the employment programs of the 1960s but the entire War on Poverty effort.” If you believe job guarantee advocates, the program should have been politically durable and popular, as it tied benefits to recipients’ willingness to work in the public sector and contribute to society. It wasn’t. Instead, among its many opponents, the program became synonymous with corrupt liberal governance — a “visible symbol,” Mucciaroni writes, “of what its opponents argued was the futility and failure of government attempts to solve social and economic problems.” “Like any government program, there were problems … but by and large it was a pretty successful program that got people employed quickly,” Carl Van Horn, a distinguished professor public policy at Rutgers and an expert on employment policy, told me. “But when Ronald Reagan was elected to succeed Carter, he announced that we had to get rid of this program … It was more about the symbol, of some people getting jobs to do things that weren’t perceived as worthwhile.” And to be clear, some people with CETA jobs were doing things that weren’t worthwhile. Van Horn estimates that 5 to 10 percent of CETA projects were boondoggles or otherwise wasteful. But those projects are easy to publicize, and can be used to doom the program as a whole. When the next recession hit, in 1981 to 1982, the worst downturn until the 2007 to 2009 financial crisis, the CETA program was so “radioactive,” as Van Horn puts it, that no one really proposed trying mass public job creation again. “It also became intertwined with race,” Brown political scientist and sociologist Margaret Weir notes. Joblessness was seen as a black problem, and blacks were seen as primary beneficiaries of the public sector positions created by CETA in cities. If CETA was effective but politically toxic, plenty of other public employment programs haven’t even been effective. While job guarantee programs envision a broad, inclusive program that can integrate all participants into the broader economy, the result is often a program that serves people who can’t get work anywhere else, and still can’t get work anywhere else after the program is finished. Berkeley economist David Card recently conducted a meta-analysis of more than 200 evaluations of programs meant to boost labor markets, along with fellow economists Jochen Kluve and Andrea Weber. While they found a variety of impacts of different programs, one constant was that public employment programs that simply hired people directly performed worst. “Public sector employment subsidies tend to have negligible or even negative impacts at all horizons," the study concludes. "This pattern suggests that private employers place little value on the experiences gained in a public sector program.” One reason, they suggested, was that the programs did nothing to help build skills that would make participants more employable. Job guarantee advocates counter that a well-designed program would get around these concerns. CAP’s Martin argues that sound design would both permanently increase public employment, meaning unemployability in the private sector isn’t a concern, and that it will involve training programs that can boost skills. Margaret Weir also expresses hope that a universal job guarantee could be more politically viable than the 1970s public employment program. “The jobs problem is perceived as a white problem now,” she notes. “I think that local government and nonprofits are more capable/professional now than they were in the 1970s, and could more easily implement a jobs program.” Van Horn, on the other hand, expressed skepticism, fearing the same factors could doom public sector employment this time around, especially America’s fundamental uneasiness with direct government intervention into the job market. “I’d say it’s more likely we’d have a single-payer health care system than a guaranteed job program, and that’s also a reach,” he says. “There’s a very long tradition in public policy and the history of this country that this is a lightly managed economy … The idea that the government would suddenly change after 200 years of not doing that, and certainly not in the modern era, I just don’t think it’s likely.” All which means job guarantee advocates should be thinking seriously about the details. The experience with CETA is a reminder that the line between a brilliant idea and a political failure is narrow, and that funding even a handful of bad or bad-looking projects can easily doom a program. After the initial energy for public jobs and even a jobs guarantee in the 1960s and 1970s, “the flurry of new programs,” Weir wrote in her 1992 book Politics and Jobs, “was followed only a few years later by disillusionment and a sharp scaling down of resources devoted to them.&rdquo […]

  • The Handmaid’s Tale is as searing as ever in season 2. But its blind spots haven’t gone away.
    by Caroline Framke on April 24, 2018 at 4:00 pm

    Sitting down to watch The Handmaid’s Tale means giving in to a slow, bruising nightmare. No matter how beautifully rendered it can be, The Handmaid’s Tale makes for my least favorite TV viewing experience maybe ever. It’s not just bleak — plenty of shows are bleak — but also determined to impress upon its viewers that its imagined dystopian future of fertile women being kept as breeding sows and ritualized rape reimagined as patriotic duty isn’t too far off from our reality. Rating vox-mark vox-mark vox-mark vox-mark vox-mark Every episode takes such pains to point out exactly how much the pre-Gilead world was like our current world that it’s hard not to look around after finishing an episode to wonder if you, too, might be taking your fancy coffee breaks for granted. (Spoiler: You almost definitely are.) Flashback June (Elisabeth Moss) unwinds at yoga; flashback Emily (Alexis Bledel) scoffs at the idea that her generation might get forced back into the closet; flashback Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) gets shouted off a college campus and sets Twitter aflame. Margaret Atwood’s novel may have been published in 1985, but the show’s flashbacks to how Gilead came to be are entirely 2018, and far more terrifying for it. So when I had to review the second season, premiering April 25 with two episodes on Hulu, I was horrified to realize that I had six advance episodes to watch in a relatively short period of time. Especially given the fact that season two progresses beyond the confines of the novel that inspired it, I knew I was in for six episodes of grueling devastation — and I’d have no idea what was coming. Those two fears, as it turns out, quickly prove themselves to be the driving forces of this second season — for better and for worse. (Some mild spoilers follow.) Expanding The Handmaid’s Tale universe beyond Atwood’s source material lets the show get more imaginative At the end of season one, central Handmaid June is shoved into the back of a van shortly after she finds out she’s pregnant. This is the point at which Atwood’s novel ends; she deliberately leaves the question of whether June is getting rescued or arrested ambiguous, before flashing forward decades to an epilogue, framed as a collegiate talk on the terrible blip in history that was Gilead. In the show, however, it’s quickly revealed that this is a punishment, which tells you all you need to know about just how dark it’s willing to go. As my colleague Constance Grady details, the fact that the first season ended with the end of the book doesn’t mean The Handmaid’s Tale already covered everything that Atwood did. In particular, she notes, the first season barely touched on the backstory of June’s activist mother, nor did it wade into the horrors of the Colonies, the radioactive wasteland where undesirable or uncooperative people get shipped off to “work and die.” So it’s unsurprising — and even exciting, in its own perverse way — that season two fleshes out both these areas. June’s mother (played with dry determination by Cherry Jones) was a passionate activist who implored her daughter not to close her eyes to the regressive evils of the world, a warning June rolled her eyes at until she got to reflect on it from her bare bedroom as a Handmaid. When the show actually takes us to the Colonies in the second episode, it’s not an exaggeration to say it’s exactly the dusty hellscape that formidable Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) advertised. As we see through the weary eyes of Emily, the Colonies are a painful layover on the way to death. Women there spend every day striking shovels into the ground, the earth hissing with almost as much resentment as them, waiting to cough themselves into oblivion. Meanwhile, in the Colonies, Emily (Bledel) thinks she’s staring down the end of her life — and she probably is.Hulu At first, it seems like there’s only so much story the show could wring out of a literal death trap. But the show makes a smart choice to contextualize just how awful this place is by letting us get better acquainted with Emily, her pre-Gilead life as a biology professor, and her furious misery in the Colonies. (It helps that Bledel continues to do the best work she’s probably ever done here, lacing Emily’s anger with such palpable pain that it practically burns the screen.) In fact, season two’s best successes come when it finds a way to broaden the scope of the world beyond June’s limited perspective, finding more personal ways in. While June is still the main character, being in Gilead as long as she has means she’s now gotten over the initial shock of it all to become more attuned to other people’s experiences. Even the camerawork reflects this, relying less and less frequently on the kinds of close-ups that director Reed Morano perfected in the series’ first three episodes as a way to make the horror that much more intimate. Even when June gets tantalizingly close to escaping, she looks closer at the world around her, sees exactly how much this new world order has plundered, and mourns the loss of her entire world rather than simply her own life. More often than not, these moments are devastating in exactly the way The Handmaid’s Tale needs them to be. Other times, they reveal the show’s weakest points instead. The show’s continued insistence that it’s Timely proves to be both its best and worst asset The Handmaid’s Tale was produced before the 2016 presidential election. It nonetheless tapped into a vein of progressive fear that everything could come crashing down at any moment, so explicitly that it could be hard to look at for too long without wincing. Season two, which was written and produced after the election, understandably leans into that impulse even harder by weaving in details from our new reality. Flashbacks are now littered with “#RESIST” graffiti and protest signs; warring factions sneer at each other’s “bubbles”; Twitter mobs become actual mobs. (This is a good show, but a subtle show? Not so much.) In one gorgeous, harrowing sequence, we see a warehouse scattered with personal belongings — a Red Sox hat here, a child’s craft project there — only to discover it’s the Boston Globe offices turned, as the show puts it, into “a slaughterhouse.” Hulu Just as in the first season, the most confident of these moments are the ones that outline exactly how grinding, humiliating, condescending, and horrifying the experience of being a Handmaid truly is. The way a Wife like Serena Joy sees Handmaids versus how Handmaids understand and resent their role illustrates the frightening gap between perception and reality, how one group sees progress at the expense of another. But also, just as in the first season, The Handmaid’s Tale’s biggest blind spots come whenever it tries — or doesn’t try — to leave the perspective of a furious white feminist like June or Emily. An episode that dives into Serena’s pre-Gilead life as a conservative advocate for women carrying out their “biological duty” tries to draw parallels to the current debates over free speech on college campuses. To do that, however, it paints a broad picture of college liberals as shrieking, violent monsters that feels more like a right-wing nightmare scenario than true life. Then there’s the fact that the show’s insistence that it’s timely and relevant continues to clash with its hands-off approach to race. If The Handmaid’s Tale is supposed to be a cautionary tale about the way our world could disintegrate if powerful people decide their rights are more important, it’s frankly bizarre that race isn’t addressed as a possible factor. If the show wanted to imagine some kind of post-racial future, it shouldn’t have rooted itself so firmly in our decidedly racist present. In season two, The Handmaid’s Tale continues to be an angry, searing piece of work. When it forces you to hold its infuriated gaze, it makes it clear that your inability to do so for long is exactly the point. But as it continues to broaden its world, the show needs to find a way to get more comfortable with the perspectives that make it most uncomfortable, or risk losing itself in its own myopic tragedy. The first two episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale season two premiere April 25 at midnight EST on Hulu. […]

  • Scott Pruitt’s ethics problems, explained in 400 words
    by Umair Irfan on April 24, 2018 at 3:59 pm

    Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is facing a tangle of accusations of unethical behavior ahead of his two hearings before Congress this week. Questions about his conduct arose almost immediately after he was sworn in, when Pruitt displayed extreme paranoia by refusing to release his schedule to the public like past administrators, surrounding himself with a 24-hour security detail, and building a soundproof phone booth in his office. Since then, journalists and investigators have revealed the phone booth cost $43,000 and that Pruitt’s security detail costs $3 million a year. We’ve also learned that he regularly flew first class, his security detail accompanied him on personal trips, and he paid next to nothing to rent a cushy condo on Capitol Hill owned by an energy lobbyist’s wife. Despite denials, the lobbyist did meet with Pruitt during his stay to discuss clients. There are also concerns about Pruitt’s personnel decisions, like hiring his banker to run the Superfund program, allowing employees to keep side jobs as political consultants, and bypassing the White House to secure massive raises for two close aides. These allegations were fleshed out by a whistleblower in a long report to congressional Democrats. It added details like the fact that Pruitt asked aides to find housing for him, that he used to lights and sirens to make it to dinner reservations, that he chose more luxurious hotels on international trips than those recommended by the State Department, and that he sidelined staffers who questioned his habits. The whistleblower also said he was threatened by the head of Pruitt’s security detail. Government watchdogs now have more than a half-dozen investigations underway over these allegations. One, the Government Accountability Office, has already found that Pruitt violated two laws with his phone booth. But Pruitt has managed to keep his job in part because he is one of President Trump’s most productive subordinates. He’s begun the process of undoing 22 regulations and has slowed the pace of work at the EPA to benefit coal, oil, gas, chemicals, and agriculture interests. The big question is whether any of these concerns will sway the president, who has continued to support Pruitt, but whose chief of staff has reportedly called for him to be fired. Some Republicans have also said Pruitt should resign, but in a White House engulfed in chaos and spiraling legal problems, Pruitt doesn’t get much of the president’s attention. […]

  • Most Republicans and Democrats agree that American teachers need a raise
    by Alexia Fernández Campbell on April 24, 2018 at 3:40 pm

    Teachers across the United States who are protesting years of school funding cuts have the American public on their side. Most Americans agree that teachers are underpaid, and slightly more than half of adults support striking as a strategy to change that, according to a new AP-NORC poll. Half of Americans also said they are willing to pay more taxes to fund schools and pay teachers more. Support for raising teachers’ salaries cuts across party lines. Nearly 90 percent of Democrats, 78 percent of independents, and 66 percent of Republicans think teachers don’t get paid enough. The survey of 1,140 adults, conducted April 11 through 16, gauged public opinion on the wave of teachers strikes sweeping through the nation. Teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Kentucky all walked out of class in recent months to pressure state lawmakers to spend more money on schools or teachers (or both). Their success has inspired teachers in Arizona and Colorado to prepare their own work stoppage. The AP-NORC poll shows that these teachers have a lot of support, though not everyone agrees with their strategy. About 78 percent of adults surveyed said schools don’t pay teachers enough, and 52 percent said they support educators who are going on strike to demand higher salaries. (25 percent disapprove of strikes.) Adults who knew about the recent teacher walkouts were more likely to support the idea of teachers striking — 80 percent of them did. On Thursday, a majority of teachers Arizona plan to go on strike, despite Gov. Doug Ducey’s promise to give them a 20 percent pay raise to avert a shutdown. The teachers group, Arizona Educators United, said they want to see a bill passed, and that it should include more school funding and raises for all school staff. Teachers in Arizona are among the lowest-paid in the country, and lawmakers have cut education spending per student more than any other state since 2008 — by 36.5 percent. Meanwhile, state lawmakers have been on a tax-cutting spree, slashing taxes on a host of businesses in 2016, from insurance companies to charter plane operators. Last year, Ducey signed a bill with more tax breaks for businesses as well as a 1 percent raise for teachers. In the AP-NORC poll, half of respondents said they would be willing to pay higher taxes to improve education funding. The view was equally shared by parents and adults without children. However, Republicans and independents were far less willing than Democrats to pay higher taxes. Only 38 percent of Republicans and 30 percent of independents said they would, compared to 69 percent of Democrats. Thousands of teachers in Colorado have joined the grassroots movement, holding rallies at the state capitol in recent weeks to demand a pay raise and more funding. Many are planning to walk out of class on April 27 to protest, and several school districts, including Denver schools, have announced they will close that day. The country is watching. About half of Americans surveyed said they were paying attention to news about the teacher strikes. […]

  • It’s time to rethink how much booze may be too much
    by Julia Belluz on April 24, 2018 at 3:30 pm

    A couple of drinks a day aren’t bad for you and may even be good for you. Right? That’s been the message — from researchers, governments, and beverage companies — for decades. And as a result, many of us don’t think twice about tossing back a couple of glasses or wine or a few beers after work. But maybe we should. Because it turns out the story about the health effects of moderate drinking is shifting pretty dramatically. New research on alcohol and mortality, and a growing awareness about the rise in alcohol-related deaths in the US, is causing a reckoning among researchers about even moderate levels of alcohol consumption. In particular, an impressive new meta-study involving 600,000 participants, published recently in The Lancet, suggests that levels of alcohol previously thought to be relatively harmless are linked with an earlier death. What’s more, drinking small amounts of alcohol may not carry all the long-touted protective effects on the cardiovascular system. “For years, there was a sense that there was an optimal level which was not drinking no alcohol but drinking moderately that led to the best health outcomes,” said Duke University’s Dan Blazer, an author of the paper. “I think we’re going to have to rethink that a bit.” Alongside this study have come disturbing reports of the alcohol industry’s involvement in funding science that may have helped drinking look more favorable, as well as a growing worry that many people are naive about alcohol’s health effects. How many people know, for example, that as far back as 1988, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer designated alcohol a level-one carcinogen? Some say too few. And maybe it’s time that changes — with some caveats, as usual. The “French paradox,” and why researchers thought a bit of alcohol was good for you The story of light drinking as a healthy behavior started to take off in the 1990s, when many researchers believed red wine might be a magical elixir. This idea was known as the “French paradox” — the observation that the French drank lots of wine and had lower rates of cardiovascular disease. We now know this was wrong. But that idea was replaced by a narrative suggesting drinking small amounts of any type of alcohol — no more than one drink a day for women, two for men — appeared to be linked with modest health and heart benefits. In long-term observational studies comparing drinkers and non-drinkers, light to moderate drinkers (who imbibed about one to two units of alcohol a day) often had better health outcomes compared to non-drinkers and heavy drinkers. They had lower rates of heart disease and heart attacks and lived longer. Moderate drinkers also had lower rates of diabetes, another important risk factor for heart disease (although this result is less definitive). But there was a problem with these studies: They generally compared drinkers to non-drinkers, instead of comparing lighter drinkers to heavier drinkers. And people who don’t drink are pretty fundamentally different from drinkers in ways that are hard to control for in a study. Their lives probably look pretty dissimilar. But most importantly, they may be sicker at baseline (perhaps they quit drinking because of alcoholism, or because of a health issue like cancer). And something in these differences — not their avoidance of alcohol — may have caused them to look like they were in poorer health than the moderate drinkers. (This became known as the “sick quitter” problem in the world of alcohol research.) More recently, researchers have been trying to overcome that problem by comparing lighter drinkers with heavier drinkers. And the benefits of modest amounts of alcohol wash away. The upper safe limit for drinking may be lower than you think The most important new study on this was just published in The Lancet. Researchers brought together data on nearly 600,000 current drinkers (again, to overcome the “sick quitter” problem) from 83 studies in 19 countries. They wanted to tease out what level of drinking was associated with an increased risk of death and cardiovascular disease. Javier Zarracina/Vox Their findings were stark: Drinking more than 100 grams of alcohol — about seven standard glasses of wine or beer — per week was associated with an increased in risk of death for all causes. In the US, the government suggests men can drink double that amount — up to two drinks per day — but advise women who are not pregnant to drink up to one drink per day. A person’s risk of death shot up as they drank more. People who consumed between seven and 14 drinks per week had a lower life expectancy at age 40 of about six months; people who drank between 14 and 24 drinks per week had one to two years shaved off their lives; and people who imbibed more than 24 drinks a week had a lower life expectancy of four to five years. You can see the risk increase in this chart here: Lancet “We wanted to find how much alcohol people can drink before they started being at a higher risk of dying,” said the lead author on the study, Cambridge University biostatistics professor Angela Wood. “Our results suggest an upper safe limit of drinking of around 100g of alcohol per week for men and for women. Drinking above this limit was related to lower life expectancy.” Again, that’s different from the US guidelines, which suggest men can drink double that. The recommended upper limits of alcohol consumption in Italy, Portugal, and Spain are about 50 percent higher than the seven-drinks-per-week threshold the paper revealed. The researchers also estimated that men who halved their alcohol consumption — from about 14 drinks per week to about seven — might gain one to two years in life expectancy. What’s more, because they looked at so many studies on so many people, they were able to tease out alcohol’s effects on a number of measures of cardiovascular health — heart attack, heart failure, stroke. They found moderate alcohol consumption — around seven to 14 drinks per week — was associated with a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease according to some of the measures they looked at, including stroke, aortic aneurysm, and heart failure​. These risks were generally higher for the people who drank more. The exception was non-fatal heart attacks. The more people drank, the more their risk of heart attack went down. The researchers thought this may be driven by the fact that people who drink more tend to have high levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol — or the “good cholesterol” — which could put them at a lower risk of dying from a heart attack. But that benefit should be balanced against alcohol’s other cardiovascular risks, including stroke, aortic aneurysm, and heart failure, said Eastern Virginia Medical School researcher Andrew Plunk. “Even though there might be some benefit for heart attacks, the other risks associated with it wash that out,” he added. Newer research is finding similar associations with moderate levels of drinking. In a forthcoming paper, posted to BioRXiv, researchers took a similar approach to tease out the risks of drinking — using moderate drinkers instead of non-drinkers as the reference point to circumvent the “sick quitter” problem once again. The paper is only in pre-print and still needs to be peer-reviewed, but for now, its authors came to similar conclusions as the Lancet study, even though they used a different set of data. More specifically, people who had one to two drinks four times or more weekly had a greater risk of dying from all causes than those who drank one to two drinks at a time weekly or less. And again, there was no difference between male and female study participants, which contradicts US government guidelines. “When the reference point is never-drinkers, it looks like you can drink a lot before you have an increased risk,” said Washington University School of Medicine substance dependence researcher Sarah Hartz, the lead author on the BioRXiv pre-print. “But if the reference is light drinkers, it looks like any amount of drinking will increase your risk.” “What we need to keep in mind is that alcohol is dangerous” Before you empty out your liquor cabinet, however, there are a few important things to keep in mind. Nutrition science — including research on the effects of alcohol — is still in its infancy. There’s a lot even the best studies can’t tell us. What were the lives of the study participants like? How do they eat? Where did they live? Did they exercise? The supplementary material in the Lancet paper suggests these and other potential confounding factors may have been pretty important in determining people’s alcohol-associated health risks. For example, in a subgroup analysis on the effects of alcohol by alcohol type, the Lancet authors found that spirit and beer drinkers seemed to have a higher risk of death and cardiovascular disease compared to wine drinkers. But they also found that beer and spirit drinkers looked pretty different from the wine drinkers: They were more likely to be lower income, male, and smokers and to have jobs that involved manual labor, compared with the wine drinkers. “These findings suggest that the heavy beer consumption is part of an unhealthy lifestyle that is more frequently seen among people with lower socioeconomic status,” said Cecile Janssens, a research professor of epidemiology at Emory University. “Unhealthy diet, smoking, less exercise, less access to health care, etc., might all contribute to the higher risks.” So you’d need to take these other factors into account to truly understand the risks of alcohol consumption. And it’s possible that just cutting back alcohol, in this context, wouldn’t make much of a difference in their life expectancy. Plus, Blazer said, “if you try to abide by every public health warning out there for every adverse effect, you’d have a miserable life. You wouldn’t do anything.” Nonetheless, the new research is a reminder of something we often forget: Alcohol’s health effects are real, and they are serious. Drinking increases the risk of everything from liver disease to high blood pressure, dependency issues, and memory and mental health problems. As Vox’s German Lopez has reported, alcohol-related deaths have been going up in America — an underappreciated fact that’s been lost in the coverage of opioids. “Not a lot of people know alcohol is a level-one carcinogen,” Harvard Medical School addiction researcher John F. Kelly told me. Any amount of drinking is associated with an increased breast cancer risk — something journalist Stephanie Mencimer admitted in Mother Jones she didn’t know until she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. “While doctors have frequently admonished me for putting cream in my coffee lest it clog my arteries ... not once has any doctor suggested I might face a higher cancer risk if I didn’t cut back on drinking,” she wrote. For men and women, drinking is also known to increase the risk of mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon cancer. But when the weekend rolls around, and you want to cut loose, it’s not easy to face up to these facts. Alcohol is a huge part of our culture, and the problems it can carry aren’t always easy to swallow. But these new studies should sound a cautionary note, Blazer said. “The idea that I can drink three drinks per day and it’ll help me live longer — I think you have to eliminate that from your thinking. What we need to keep in mind is that alcohol is dangerous — and the danger of alcohol doesn’t receive the attention it deserves.&rdquo […]

  • Laura and Emma is a ferociously restrained novel that turns its quietness into a weapon
    by Constance Grady on April 24, 2018 at 3:20 pm

    Laura and Emma, a debut novel from Kate Greathead, is a book that insists on its own quietness, its own hushed ideas. There’s a kind of fierceness to the rigor with which this book keeps itself whispering, to the way each restrained and understated sentence has been polished to glittering brightness. Rating vox-mark vox-mark vox-mark vox-mark vox-mark The titular Laura is a young woman when Laura and Emma begins in 1980. She’s a daughter of wealth — her family is a rough analog to the Morgan family — but she feels vaguely that she ought to make her own way through life. So she has her own apartment (her parents pay the mortgage), and she has a job at the museum endowed by her family. Laura is progressive; she is worried about the environment and about global warming. She congratulates herself on moving to Harlem and taking the subway in the ’80s, and she is proud of seeing a gay doctor during the height of the AIDS crisis. To prevent waste, and because she takes a quiet pleasure in routine and uniformity, she always wears “a white turtleneck, one of five rotating Laura Ashley skirts, and a pair of Frye cowboy boots.” Bill Cunningham put the outfit in the New York Times’s Sunday Styles in 1979, and Laura continues to wear it across the entire span of the novel, through the ’80s and into the ’90s, secure in the knowledge that her clothes were once considered fashionable. Into this placid and ordered routine comes a disruption. After an uncharacteristic one-night-stand, Laura finds herself pregnant. She decides to keep the baby, and she names it Emma. And Emma, unlike Laura, is a hellion with little interest in order or routine. Other books would mine the friction between Laura and Emma into wacky Odd Couple comedy, or heartwarming Gilmore Girls screwball hijinks. But Laura and Emma is made of sterner stuff than that. As Laura and Emma progress through the years in a series of elegant, understated vignettes, the distance between them quietly expands and then contracts and then expands again, a torrent of raw emotion under the glacial surfaces of these sentences. The comedy comes from Laura herself and her Emma Woodhouse-like self-delusions. Laura is implacably convinced of her own righteousness and correctness at all times, and Greathead leaves just enough distance between Laura and the narrative for us to see how foolish Laura can be. We watch her studying tabloid headlines as though she’s cramming for a test when she plans to make small talk with her sister-in-law; when the sister-in-law explains to Laura that having just given birth, she has no time for Laura’s visits, we see Laura magnanimously forgive the other woman for her “emotional immaturity.” But the comedy hurts a little, too, because it covers up the essential emptiness of Laura’s life. Laura is a woman of enormous privilege who nevertheless has no emotional connection to anyone besides the daughter she barely understands, and the insistent quietness of the book, its glass-like sentences, point to the hush in Laura’s psyche, the hollowness of her interior life. That’s why, despite this novel’s enormous restraint and despite the surface pleasures of its comedy, Laura and Emma is a profoundly sad book. It’s loneliness in the form of a novel, and beneath its fierce quietness, there’s an ache that never stops. […]

  • Mitt Romney loves sport
    by Dylan Scott on April 24, 2018 at 3:05 pm

    It’s easy to make fun of Mitt Romney. He’s goofy and stilted. You might not like his politics. He’s the perfect target. So it was no surprise that when a television camera caught Romney at the Utah Jazz-Oklahoma City Thunder NBA playoff game on Monday night somewhat awkwardly taunting Thunder star Russell Westbrook, people had jokes. Look, I get it. It’s funny. The extent of Romney’s trash talk seems to be emphatically repeating “that’s four” — Westbrook had just picked up his fourth foul in the first half, and it takes six to foul out of an NBA game. Not good for the Thunder in a must-win playoff game. I would argue it’s a credit to Mitt that he knew how important that fourth foul was! You cannot, of course, ignore Romney appearing so publicly at an important game for Utah’s only major professional sports franchise while he gears up for a US Senate race there. (We don’t need to dwell on the basketball-jersey-over-button-down-dress-shirt look either.) Romney almost got credit for wearing a No. 5 jersey — that is former Jazz guard Rodney Hood’s number, and Hood was traded away from the team a few months ago. It would suggest Romney had taken a real interest in the Jazz! But there appears to be a ... more personal explanation, as the folks at SB Nation have noted. But I came here not to bury Mitt Romney but to praise him. He was president and CEO of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. He was aware in 2012 that the New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox had won Super Bowls and a World Series while he was the governor of Massachusetts. He knows that 7-foot-tall human beings should probably be playing basketball. His wife, Ann, is a noted equestrian. Sure, he might, as Mother Jones’s Tim Murphy delightfully chronicled, have the odd habit of talking about “sport” instead of “sports” like the rest of us. But that’s just part of his charm. There is plenty of proof that Mitt Romney genuinely enjoys sports — he even reportedly had an interest in buying a stake in the New York Yankees. Romney deeply reveres capitalism and competition. It makes perfect sense that he would also enjoy athletic contests. The only crime here, if you ask me, is that Mitt Romney doesn’t seem to have much sports loyalty. […]

  • Watch: the new Venom trailer reveals Tom Hardy’s toothy antihero at last
    by Aja Romano on April 24, 2018 at 3:00 pm

    The first trailer for Venom, featuring Tom Hardy’s growly voiced comic book antihero — no, not that one, the other one — was almost laughably devoid of plot details. Tom Hardy had some sort of angst for some sort of reason that vaguely had to do with the supervillain-ish Venom. Luckily for Marvel fans who’ve hungered for more details about Hardy’s passion project, the latest Venom trailer, officially released today by Sony after it leaked on Monday, tries to make up for the first trailer’s lack of content by overdelivering on plot and a big Venom reveal. That means we get our first real look at Venom’s human alter ego — the dogged street-smart reporter Eddie Brock, played by Hardy with his typical mix of mild manners and toughness. Eddie is investigating Riz Ahmed’s equally mild-mannered but definitely evil scientist, Dr. Carlton Drake, while flirting hard with Drake’s lawyer Anne Weying (Michelle Williams). Drake has developed the Venom symbiote, which fuses with a human host to generate superpowers, through a series of horrifying hybrid experiments — one of which attacks Eddie and sends him down his, uh, venomous path. Venom starts to erode Eddie’s sanity immediately, to disturbing, tragicomic effect. That’s still rare for a superhero film, but it’s clear that in a post-Deadpool world, Sony is okay with letting its heroes go a little mad sometimes. Kudos to Tom Hardy for always keeping it lively despite his inability to pass up the chance to have his characters do crazy cartoon voices; watching him struggle with reality is the most unexpectedly interesting part of the trailer. Oh, wait, except for this bit: Sony also released a new poster for the film. Sony Entertainment via Twitter […]