A House investigation has confirmed that the military's top brass were a little too addicted to happy talk in the war against ISIS:

A House Republican task force has found that officials from the U.S. military’s Central Command altered intelligence reports to portray the U.S. fight against ISIS and al Qaeda in a more positive light than lower-level analysts believed was warranted by the facts on the ground, three officials familiar with the task force’s findings told The Daily Beast. A roughly 10-page report on the controversy is expected to be released by the end of next week, two officials said.

Only ten pages? That's the length of the executive summary in most congressional investigations. Why so short? And why has this been conducted with so little publicity? It's very odd, isn't—

While it contains no definitive evidence that senior Obama administration officials ordered the reports to be doctored....

Oh. I see. There was nothing that implicated either Obama or Hillary Clinton, so nobody really cared. That makes sense.

I will happily concede that poking holes in Donald Trump's tax "policy" is just an idle way to pass the time, like doing a crossword puzzle or watching a Division III football game. Still, it occasionally pays off in entertainment value.

You all know that Trump's economic plan, unveiled yesterday, is basically a huge giveaway to the rich. However, from the very beginning of his campaign, Trump has been consistent about abolishing the carried-interest loophole, which allows hedge fund managers to pay low tax rates on their management fees, which can sometimes run into the billions of dollars. This is the entire basis of his claim that the rich will pay more under his plan.

But it turns out that he's found a clever way to stick with his promise but nonetheless give the hedge fundies a huge tax cut. CBPP explains:

Mr. Trump said today that he would set the top individual income-tax rate at 33 percent...However, his plan would create a much lower rate than 33 percent for a substantial number of very-high-income households by allowing people to pay a new low rate of 15 percent on “pass-through” income (business income claimed on individual tax returns).

....This large tax cut for pass-through income would also undercut another tax change Mr. Trump mentioned today: eliminating the tax break for “carried interest.” Under current law, investment fund managers can pay taxes on a large part of their income — their “carried interest,” or the right to a share of their fund’s profits — at the 23.8 percent top capital gains tax rate rather than at normal income tax rates of up to 39.6 percent. The Trump plan ostensibly would tax carried interest at ordinary income tax rates. In fact, however, these investment fund managers generally would be able to arrange to receive their income as pass-through income.

Nickel summary: Under the old plan, the tax rate for carried interest would go up from 23.8 percent to 33 percent (or whatever top rate Trump happens to be hawking at any given moment). Under the shiny new plan, it would go down from 23.8 percent to 15 percent. The carried interest loophole would be gone, but the new pass-through income rate would be even better. Hooray for Wall Street!

This is basically a trivial thing, but it just goes to show how fanatic Republicans are about cutting taxes on the rich. Even a small symbolic tax increase that would affect only a tiny number of rich people simply can't be tolerated. Some way has to be found to get rid of it, even if that means inventing a whole new tax giveaway for a huge number of people.

Actually, I suppose that's a feature, not a bug. Silly me.

It's funny how often I react differently from the rest of the world to Donald Trump's various idiocies. Last week, for example, I must have collected a couple dozen of them on the blog. But there were a few I left out. Trump called Hillary Clinton "the devil," for example, and after looking at the context it seemed like a nothingburger. When I started clicking around, however, it was in headlines everywhere. Likewise, it was pretty obvious that he didn't really kick a baby out of his rally last Tuesday, but that dustup lasted days and days. Then today he said this about Hillary Clinton:

If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.

Trump is making a wisecrack about how gun folks could rub out Hillary—ha ha ha—which is pretty obviously not appropriate for a presidential candidate. Still, it's just a dumb aside, and no, I don't think Donald Trump really wants his supporters to assassinate Hillary Clinton. Next.

But no! The world is going nuts over this, and I've now read at least a dozen explanations of why "just a joke" is absolutely not an excuse. These have persuaded me to come around on this, but luckily the Trump folks themselves are not defending it as "just a joke." Their official explanation is that gun owners have "amazing spirit and are tremendously organized," and Trump was just noting that they can cast a lot of votes against Hillary. A few minutes later Trump communications advisor Jason Miller stepped in to second this explanation.

As many people have pointed out, though, this makes no sense. Trump was clearly talking about what people might do after Hillary is elected. The gun vote won't matter at that point. Jake Tapper pointed this out to Trump's deer-in-headlights spokesperson Katrina Pierson, who explained that Trump was only talking about what could happen. Obviously, she said, Trump "doesn't want that to happen." Looked at the right way, he was warning people against violence!

This is yet another example of Trump stepping all over his own message. Yesterday's big economic speech was supposed to be the latest of his endlessly promised turning points toward greater seriousness, which would allow the news cycle to move off of Trump's latest gaffe-of-the-day and instead focus on his policies. But within 24 hours of being unchained from his teleprompter, all that was toast. Nobody cares about his economic policies anymore. They just want to know why Trump thinks it's OK to rally his supporters in favor of murdering Hillary Clinton.

Matt Yglesias points out the broader implications of Trump's childlike inability to control what comes out of his mouth:

Maybe so. On the other hand, in a Trump presidency, the entire world might learn very quickly to ignore everything he says. With any luck, maybe that could start happening tomorrow.

POSTSCRIPT: Paul Ryan's primary election is today. Once it's over and he's won, maybe now would be a good time to finally unendorse Trump?

Many people are saying Donald Trump suggested shooting Hillary Clinton at a rally today.

Elizabeth Warren just summed up the reaction many people are having:

The election is 90 days from today. We're going to need more bourbon.

As you surely know by now, Donald Trump likes to brag about his many "beautiful," "great," "magnificent" golf courses, as if owning a golf course somehow qualified you to be president.

Today, balding Trump BFF Rudy Giuliani (R—9/11) took the line a little further:

So that quote is obviously hilarious on its face and if you want to take a few minutes to LOL about it, please feel free. And, it's, you know, true enough! Obama has technically never built any golf courses! But if we're in the land of technically true meaningless nonsense, this too is technically true: Obama, as president, is in charge of almost 200 golf courses, far more than Trump could ever imagine getting his smaller than average hands on:

Mother Jones has found that the Pentagon currently operates at least 194 golf courses and 2,874 holes of golf worldwide.
[...]
The military's Morale, Warfare, and Recreation and Marine Corps Community Services programs, which run the courses (as well as library programs, youth programs, fitness centers, and bowling alleys), say they are designed to maintain troop morale and combat readiness during stressful situations or down time.

Sad!

Hmmm:

This has now become the hottest meme in my Twitter feed. Some have taken it a wee bit too seriously:

Others just want to mock it:

This lasted about five minutes. Nonetheless, it highlights what Twitter is really for.

Here is the Tax Foundation's estimate of how far a dollar goes in each state:

The law of supply and demand works! Highly desirable places to live cost more.

(I could only squeeze in the top and bottom 15. Sorry. Click the link if your state is missing and you want to know how you measure up.)

So which state provides the best bang for the buck? California is a great place to live, but your dollar doesn't go very far. Mississippi is a great place to stretch your dollar, but not such a great place to put down roots. Maybe Ohio? It's reasonably nice, decent weather, etc., but your dollar goes pretty far. It's also chock full of Drum ancestors. Who gets your vote?

Labor productivity is in the dumps:

The longest stretch of productivity declines since the end of the 1970s is threatening to restrain U.S. worker pay and broader economic growth in the years ahead. Nonfarm business productivity, measured as the output of goods and services produced by American workers per hour worked, decreased at a 0.5% seasonally adjusted annual rate in the second quarter as hours increased faster than output, the Labor Department said Tuesday.

How big a deal is this? Just as a point of reference, here is labor productivity since the Great Recession:

Productivity increased considerably in 2009-10 as businesses shed workers but kept producing the same amount of stuff. In 2011 that stopped, and ever since productivity has increased at a modest rate.

Now, this is a bumpy series, as most series are, and you can see that there have already been two periods just since 2011 in which productivity stalled for a full year or more: 4Q10 through 4Q11 and 2Q12 through 3Q13. We're now in our third: 3Q14 through 2Q16. The recent nature of this series is that it goes up, then plateaus for a while, and then goes up again. So in that sense, it's too early to get too panicked about the current plateau.

On the other hand, it has lasted seven quarters now, so we ought to be a little nervous about it. Productivity growth is probably the single most important component of national economic activity, and it doesn't inspire a lot of confidence to see it dog paddling along like this. So don't panic yet, but definitely stay tuned.

Noam Levey reports on some new research about Medicaid expansion:

“The effects of expanding coverage will be an unfolding story over time,” said Dr. Benjamin Sommers, lead author of the study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine....Sommers and other researchers at Harvard University have been tracking the effect of Medicaid expansion by surveying some 9,000 poor residents in Arkansas and Kentucky, both of which expanded Medicaid eligibility, and in Texas, which has rejected the expansion.

In Arkansas and Kentucky, the share of poor adults without health insurance plummeted between 2013 and 2015, from more than 40% in both states to 14% in Arkansas and less than 9% in Kentucky.

In Texas, by contrast, the uninsured rate dropped only from 39% to 32%. Although Texas has not expanded Medicaid, state residents have been able to buy health insurance on the new insurance marketplaces that were also created by the law.

The new coverage in Arkansas and Kentucky dramatically improved poor patients’ access to care and relieved financial strains, the surveys show.

This, of course, is no surprise. If you expand Medicaid, more poor people will get medical care. If you don't, they won't.

Skeptics will suggest that more coverage is not necessarily better. However, I have yet to meet a single one of these skeptics who actually believes this enough to give up their own medical coverage. I'll take them more seriously when that happens.

From my inbox this morning, here is the entire message:

Please I want to sell one of my kidney o+

I don't think I need a kidney at the moment, but maybe later. And anyway, I need one in A-negative. If you're going to spam me with this stuff, the least you can do is have the decency to hack into my medical records and offer me one of the right blood type. Lazy, lazy, lazy.

So is this the latest internet scam? Or has it been going on for a while and I only found out about it today? How does it work? Maybe if I reply, I'll then get a long sob story about why this poor guy needs to sell his kidney and I'll be so heartbroken I'll PayPal him $10,000 to put his life back together. That's the best I can figure out. Anyone have a better idea?