Lunchtime Video

Somebody asked for more ducks, so here they are. But I have two questions.

First, what are these ducks fighting over? It can't be a crumb of bread somebody threw to them. Maybe a fish? Do ducks eat fish? Or are they just ganging up on some poor duck who violated duck protocol? There's definitely a duck at the beginning who's getting pretty abused, but there seems to be more going on than just that.

Second, is this as good as resolution gets on YouTube? It seems like I've seen better. But this is HD video shot in MPEG 4, and I think I have all the settings correct. Is there anything more I can do?

UPDATE: We have answers!

  1. It's spring, when a young duck's fancy turns to thoughts of love. Among mallards, this is apparently a bit of mild foreplay. Be glad you're not a female duck.
  2. I'm an idiot. The video was in high res, but I had it set to display on my computer at normal res. Once I chose the high-res setting, everything was fine.

Paul Ryan says he's heard the pleas of older voters, who say that his health care bill will hurt them badly:

“We believe we should have even more assistance — and that’s one of the things we’re looking at — for that person in their 50s and 60s because they experience higher health care costs," the Wisconsin Republican told Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday."

Ryan's comments came in the wake of a Congressional Budget Office analysis showing that older people could pay higher premiums under the GOP bill. Ryan expressed skepticism about the CBO analysis but said his leadership team is looking at more ways to help older people under the new plan.

It's funny, isn't it? His health care bill would also decimate the poor, but apparently Ryan hasn't heard their pleas. I wonder why?

Who would get hurt by the Republican health care plan? The short answer is: pretty much everybody. But Andrew Sprung suggests a more precise way of looking at it, which he calls Total Subsidized Share of Costs, or TSS.

It's a pretty simple concept. If, say, the government pays half your health care premium, and your policy covers half your medical expenses, then your TSS is the product of those two things: one quarter. The other three-quarters you have to pay yourself. If (more realistically), Obamacare pays 85 percent of your premium, and the policy covers 80 percent of your costs (i.e., it has an "actuarial value" of 80 percent), then your TSS is 68 percent and you pay the other 32 percent. Since CBO calculated actuarial values for the Republican bill, we can calculate TSS for both Obamacare and AHCA.

My purpose on earth is to put other people's numbers into colorful charts, so let's do that. But first, I happen to think that a better measure to look at is not how much is subsidized, but how much the covered person has to pay. So instead of TSS, let's look at the inverse: Total Personal Share of Costs, or TPS.1 Here's my TPS report for various income levels:

If your income is $34,000 or less, Obamacare is a better deal for everyone. At higher income levels, Obamacare is still better for older people but AHCA is better for young people.

Of course, someone earning $40,000 or more is likely to have a job that provides health insurance, and therefore doesn't need either Obamacare or AHCA anyway. For nearly all the people who actually need individual health insurance in the first place, the Republican plan is a disaster. Poor people will all pay at least 60 percent of their health care costs, and older people will pay more than 80 percent.

1Astute readers will recognize another reason that I like the acronym TPS.

Today's big event is the testimony before Congress of FBI director James Comey and NSA chief Mike Rogers. Everyone seems very excited about this except me. Let's listen in:

“The F.B.I., as part of our counterintelligence effort, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 president election,” [Comey] continued, adding that the investigation included looking at whether associates of Mr. Trump were in contact with Russian officials, and colluded with them.

....Mr. Comey told the House intelligence committee, “We have no information to support” President Trump’s assertion on Twitter that President Barack Obama tapped Trump Tower.

....The N.S.A. chief, Admiral Rogers, weighed in as well, saying that he had no knowledge of anyone asking the British or any other ally to wiretap Mr. Trump. That refuted another claim made by the White House....He then explicitly denied having any indication that Mr. Trump was wiretapped by British intelligence at the request of Mr. Obama.

So the FBI is investigating possible ties between Russia and some of Trump's campaign aides, but Obama didn't order any kind of wiretap or surveillance of Trump Tower. We already knew this, right?

Now, none of this means there was any Trump-Russia collusion, nor that there was no surveillance of Trump. The first is still under review, and the second could have been ordered as part of a criminal investigation that Obama had nothing to do with. But it does mean, essentially, that Trump's March 4 tweets were just made-up rubbish based on a Breitbart story that someone stuffed into his pile of reading material. Of course, we already knew that too, didn't we?

Last night I posted a Gallup chart showing the job approval ratings of the four most recent Republican presidents among Republicans. Unfortunately, I bolluxed it up, so I deleted the whole thing. But now it's morning and I have time to create the correct chart and make a more constrained point with it, so here it is:

The recent cratering of President Trump's job approval rating was getting some attention last night, but I think this is a more important chart. What really matters is whether Trump stays popular among Republican voters—and whether this rubs off on the Republican Congress. So far he has. Trump's popularity among Republican voters during his first two months is as good as any of his predecessors.

This is not everything, of course. Although the House (deliberately) and the Senate (by historical accident) are currently gerrymandered to favor Republicans, centrists still matter. And according to Gallup, Trump is bleeding support among those without a party: his job approval rating has already dropped six percentage points among independents. If that continues it could mean bad news for the 2018 midterms, followed by a one-term presidency. These indies are who Democrats should care about right now. Unless things change, the Republican base remains not just out of reach, but positively thrilled with President Trump.

The New York Times reports on the infighting at the White House:

Mr. Trump is not bothered by turf battles in his administration. He believes they foster competition and keep any one aide from accumulating too much power. He is even more enthusiastic about waging war publicly, believing that it fires up his white working-class base.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports on on the political appointees ensconced in each cabinet department to make sure everyone stays loyal to President Trump:

At the Pentagon, they’re privately calling the former Marine officer and fighter pilot who’s supposed to keep his eye on Defense Secretary Jim Mattis “the commissar,” according to a high-ranking defense official with knowledge of the situation. It’s a reference to Soviet-era Communist Party officials who were assigned to military units to ensure their commanders remained loyal.

I have read frequently about both of these practices, which often go together. They are popular among vicious, paranoid autocrats. I don't believe I've ever read about this combination in a leader who is both admired and respected. Just sayin'.

This Gallup poll has been making the rounds today:

I've deleted the rest of this post. It was a comparison of job approval ratings of Republican presidents among Republicans. But I screwed it up. There's actually nothing interesting to report on that score. Trump's job approval ratings are about the same as Reagan, Bush Sr., and Bush Jr.

It tuns out that one of features of my new camera is the ability to control it remotely with my cell phone. If you have even a gram of nerd blood in you, this should make you insanely jealous.1 It's the coolest thing ever.

And yet, as cool as it is, it still left me twiddling my neurons trying to figure out what I could do with it. One possibility was situations where I need to minimize camera shake. Put the camera on a tripod and then snap the shutter remotely without actually touching anything. But that would be just another example of using a thousand dollars worth of technology to do what a ten-dollar cable release can do. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Then Marian suggested I could set up the camera by our hummingbird feeder and wait for hummingbirds to fly in. So I did. Here's what the setup looks like:

Then I went into the living room and watched Roger Federer play Stan Wawrinka at Indian Wells. Every time a bird showed up on my camera, I held down the remote shutter button and shot off a few dozen pictures.

Which did me precious little good. Damn, those little buggers are fast. Even with the shutter speed allegedly set at 1/2000th of a second, the pictures were blurry. Also out of focus most of the time, which was a combination of my fault and the camera's fault. Still, live and learn. Here are the two best shots I got:

The top one is a male Anna's hummingbird. The bottom one is, I suppose, a female Anna's hummingbird. The bird folks can enlighten us in comments.

Anyway, I'll have to try this again. It's certainly a way of getting some good nature shots without sitting on my hump for hours on end in a muddy patch of dirt. Then again, since the WiFi range for the camera is about ten feet or so, maybe it just means I get a little better selection of where to sit on my hump for hours on end. I'll have to think of some way to try this with the cats.

1Unless you already have a camera that can do this.

Apropos of nothing in particular, I got curious this morning about illegal immigration and field workers. About half of all field workers are undocumented, so if there's been a surge of illegal immigration lately, as some have speculated, you'd expect to see the wages of field workers decline. But how would you measure that?

I'm not sure what the best approach is, but I decided to compare the wages of field workers to the wages of all nonsupervisory workers. Here's what I got:

Relative wages for field workers were flat all through the aughts, as illegal immigration was climbing, and declined a bit during the Great Recession. However, since 2012 they've risen three percentage points. In 2016, field workers earned nearly 57 percent of the average nonsupervisory wage.

Based on this, I'm willing to bet that that illegal immigration hasn't surged over the past couple of years. Just the opposite, maybe, which would be consistent with the rise in field worker wages since 2012.

Another week, another pivot gone awry:

For Mr. Trump, this was supposed to be a week of pivoting and message discipline. The president read from a script during public appearances and posted on Twitter less often. He invited lawmakers from both parties to the White House for strategy sessions on the health measure. He scheduled policy speeches, like one near Detroit, where he announced that he was halting fuel economy standards imposed by Mr. Obama.

....But by Friday, as Mr. Trump worked to call attention to his powers of persuasion in securing commitments from a dozen wavering Republicans to back the health measure, the White House was left frantically trying to explain why Mr. Spicer had repeated allegations that the Government Communications Headquarters, the British spy agency, had helped to eavesdrop on the president during the campaign.

There's a piece of me that hardly blames reporters for replaying the "pivot" narrative over and over. Let's face it: It defies human understanding that an easily bored 8-year-old has been elected president of the United States. But he has—and every week he promises to be good. Maybe he even tries. Who knows?

For something like 50 or 60 consecutive weeks, the Trump entourage has been insisting that the boss is going to pivot and start being presidential real soon now. How long before everyone understands it's not going to happen?

We have 3.8 years of this acting out left. It's time for everyone to give up on the fantasy that Trump is going to turn into an adult someday.