Miscellaneous thing #1: NFL viewership is down sharply this year. Is it because of Colin Kaepernick? That's the favorite explanation from conservatives, but today the New York Times tells us this:

The two most successful sports leagues in the world, which bring in billions of dollars in revenue, the biggest corporate sponsors and mammoth audiences every game day, are now sharing an altogether different experience: The National Football League and the English Premier League are enduring startling, double-digital declines in television viewership this season.

The Premier League is obviously not suffering from a Kaepernick backlash. So why are those two sports behemoths falling on hard times, but not others? It's a chin scratcher. I don't know much about English soccer, but my personal guess about the NFL is that it's just boring this year. I'm not quite sure why, but it seems like even the good teams are kind of mediocre and play like they were carved out by a cookie cutter. I'm a very casual but fairly reliable NFL viewer, but I haven't been bothering to watch very much this year. I just can't work up much interest.

Miscellaneous thing #2: Are you curious about the Mexican border? Here's a nice graphic. We've already doubled the size of the border patrol and fenced off nearly the entire land border—but although that's reduced illegal immigration, it hasn't stopped it. All that's left is the Rio Grande, which is a very tricky fencing project indeed. Maybe a bigger, tougher fence would work better, but that's hardly a slam dunk.

And speaking of borders: have you read Shane Bauer's story about going undercover with a border militia? You should!

Miscellaneous thing #3: Is the 2016 election just a taste of things to come? Will a more self-disciplined version of Donald Trump take over the Republican Party in 2020 and win where Trump couldn't? Kevin Mahnken says no:

Trump is sui generis. Ted Cruz entered 2016 with a bulletproof anti-establishment resumé, and look how far he got running as a slightly “cooler, more polished” alternative....Anyone with the requisite political instincts to win a general election would have to temporize eventually, which would mark him as a career politician. Anyone exotic enough to fully copy the Trump playbook would be vaporized by the institutional weaponry of the Republican Party, which won’t be caught sleeping twice in a row.

....Very few politicians exert lasting influence on American political parties. The last ones to do so were Lyndon Johnson (who shattered the remnants of the New Deal coalition and inadvertently established the Democrats as a multiethnic alliance in favor of big government and various liberation movements) and Ronald Reagan (who solidified a pact between the Moral Majority and business elites that is only now breaking down). But these were two-term presidents who won massive legislative victories. Trump, who was never selling a governing ethos to begin with, will be a profoundly rejected figure.

I agree. Trump is unique, and his victory in the primaries this year was a perfect storm sort of fluke. Like Glenn Beck before him, however, he's had his year in the sun and his brand of performance art has already gotten old. He may go on to a TV career, or he may sink into a deep depression and never be heard from again, but it doesn't matter. He's a loser and a laughingstock. At most he'll motivate future candidates to break a bit from party orthodoxy (on support for free trade, for example, or entitlement cuts) but that's it.

Six years ago I read a pair of articles about Yemen which predicted that its population would double by 2035; oil revenue would decline to zero by 2017; and the capital city of Sanaa would run out of water by 2015. Today I got curious: How are those forecasts panning out?

Population: On target. Yemen's population has increased from 23.6 million to 27.5 million since 2010—an annual growth rate of 2.58 percent. If this continues, Yemen's population will double by 2037.

Oil revenue: On target. Yemen is currently producing a meager 22,000 barrels of oil daily. In fairness, much of this is due not to pumping their fields literally dry, but to infrastructure destruction during the current civil war. They still have proven reserves of about 3 billion barrels, so production could rise again if the war ever ends.

Water: On target? Adela Jones of USC writes: "Already, Yemenis allocate up to 30% of their annual income towards water....As early as 2017, Sana’a may officially run out of water. Given consumption trends, the rest of the nation may follow."

I remain fairly ignorant about Yemen, aside from the fact that it's the site of a brutal proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran—in Saudi Arabia's view, anyway—and we've been assisting the Saudis since it started. But Yemen's future looks pretty bleak no matter who wins. What happens when they finally pump the last of the groundwater and there's nothing left?

Harvard’s Institute of Politics has just released its latest poll of 18-29 year olds, and reports that Hillary Clinton has a "massive" lead over Donald Trump. Over at the New York Times, however, Yamiche Alcindor says the new poll shows that Clinton has "struggled" with millennials and "will have to convince many young people that they should trust her to grapple with some of the nation’s biggest issues." Nancy LeTourneau is annoyed:

That is the power of narrative. Once you buy into the idea that Clinton is having trouble with millennials, it is almost impossible to break out of it. In the back of Alcindor’s mind, she has to do better than a 28 point lead to be successful with young people. Who knows how high that bar is?

I get the exasperation with this, but the problem is that both the IOP and Alcindor are right. Clinton leads Trump 49-21 percent in the IOP poll, which is indeed a massive lead. At the same time, 49 percent support is less than Democrats usually get from 20-somethings. Like it or not, Clinton is less popular with young voters than any Democrat in the past two decades except for Al Gore. Is this because of the Bernie effect? Because of Clinton herself? Because third-party candidates are getting more attention than usual? That's hard to say. But whatever the reason, Clinton is underperforming with millennials.

Now, at this point her underperformance is fairly modest compared to anyone other than Barack Obama. And she still has a couple of weeks to make up ground. It's fair to say that she's a little behind the usual pace for Democrats, but it's not fair to regurgitate the narrative from two or three months ago when she was struggling pretty hard with millennial disaffection. It may not make for a great story, but sometimes the truth is a little bit boring.

With 13 days left until the end of the campaign, Donald Trump seems to have all but given up. He's mostly promoting his hotels these days and has stopped all big-dollar fundraising. In fact, he seems as if he'd be pretty happy if Republicans lost in an epic wave election, which might make his own loss seem less of a personal humiliation and more a party failure. Given all this, I suppose this means that Republicans are resigned to losing and are probably putting their heads together to figure out how they can work with Hillary Clinton over the next four years in order to accomplish at least—

Eh? What's that, Ilya Shapiro?

The Senate Should Refuse To Confirm All Of Hillary Clinton’s Judicial Nominees

Um, OK. That's clear enough. Gonna be tough on the federal judiciary, though. Don't big businesses need the courts to stay fully staffed so they can continue suing each other over dumb patent infractions? Maybe not. But anyway, Shapiro is just one guy. This is probably not a common opinion, right?

OK, fine: two guys. But surely wiser heads in Congress will prevail?

Jason Chaffetz, the Utah congressman wrapping up his first term atop the powerful House Oversight Committee, unendorsed Donald Trump weeks ago. That freed him up to prepare for something else: spending years, come January, probing the record of a President Hillary Clinton.

“It’s a target-rich environment,” the Republican said in an interview in Salt Lake City’s suburbs. “Even before we get to Day One, we’ve got two years’ worth of material already lined up. She has four years of history at the State Department, and it ain’t good.”

Welp, it's sure sounding like the Republican Party has learned nothing and forgotten nothing over the past eight years. If this is how things go, they're planning to double down on total obstruction starting on Day One—or even before that for Chaffetz. Then in 2020 they'll wonder yet again why they have such a hard time winning the presidency. I wonder if it will ever occur to them that getting nothing done just isn't a winning argument for a majority of Americans?

I've mentioned before that Obamacare premiums started out too low in their first year, which explains (a) why so many insurers have had trouble making money in the exchanges, and (b) why premiums increased so much this year. But maybe a chart will make this clearer.

This is based on data from Health Affairs last year, updated with the big increase in premiums this year. What it shows fairly clearly is that the cost of individual premiums dropped in 2014 when the Obamacare exchanges started up—even though Obamacare policies generally provided better coverage. When you factor in the big increase for next year, average premiums will have risen from $4,500 to $5,600 since 2013.

That's an annual increase of 6.1 percent, about the same as the average annual increase in employer plans over the past decade.

The usual caveats apply. These are averages: some people do better, some do worse. And for people who qualify for Obamacare subsidies, the actual increase in the amount they have to pay is very small. Overall, though, the point here is clear: if premiums had just risen at a steady 6 percent per year, nobody would be bent out of shape. The reason this is hitting so hard is because insurance companies screwed up their projections when Obamacare started up and now they have to make up for it.

Justin Timberlake snapped a selfie in the voting booth yesterday, and lots of people were outraged that apparently there are laws against this. What happened to free speech!?!

Just for the record, then, there is a reason for selfie bans in voting booths: it prevents vote buying. After all, the only way it makes sense to pay people for their votes is if you have proof that they voted the way you told them to. Back in the day that was no problem, but ever since secret ballots became the norm vote buying has died out. Selfies change all that. If I give you ten bucks to vote for my favorite candidate for mayor, I can withhold payment until you show me a selfie proving that you voted for my guy.

How big a deal is this? I don't know. Maybe we should go ahead and allow voting booth selfies. But the ban isn't just a dumb bureaucratic rule. It's a sensible attempt to prevent voter fraud that has very little cost.

In the same category of cluelessness as "Keep the government out of my Medicare," one of my favorite dumb whinges comes from people who complain that the mainstream media isn't covering something—and then illustrate that "something" by linking to a piece in the New York Times. Stephen Moore, in a brave attempt to keep his title of Stupidest Man Alive in the era of Trump, provides us with this classic of the genre today:

Every news outlet in America had a big headline about the Obamacare premium increases. It was plastered everywhere and blathered about endlessly on cable news. You could stay unaware of this only by hiding in a nearby fallout shelter like Kimmy Schmidt and not coming out for a week. As for the Washington Post, well:

In fairness, this is yesterday's edition. The Post actually covered it before anyone else. I guess Moore somehow missed it.

Data! You want data! Sure, Obamacare premiums are going up and so are the subsidies. But how much are the subsidies going up? The chart below—which I want everyone to look at because it was a pain in the ass to create—shows this for the 15 states with the highest premium increases:

As you can see, subsidies are increasing more than premiums in every state—and by quite a bit. This comparison data is for a 27-year-old with an income of $25,000, and comes from Tables 6 and 12 here. (Arizona is literally off the chart: premiums increased 116 percent and subsidies increased 428 percent.) Here's the same chart for the 15 states with the smallest premium increases:

There are plenty of caveats here. Premiums and subsidies will be different for different kinds of households. Upper middle-class families don't get any subsidies at all. And this doesn't tell us what the average net increase is, once subsidies are accounted for.

However, it gives us a pretty good idea that for a substantial majority of Obamacare users, the net amount they pay for health insurance in 2017 isn't going to be much more than it was this year. For many, in fact, it will be the same. For those who shop around, it's quite likely to be less.

Bottom line: if your income is low enough to qualify for a subsidy, there's no need to panic over the Obamacare premium news. The higher premiums will help stabilize the market, and the cost will be covered almost entirely by Uncle Sam. Your pocketbook is safe.

This is from a guy who works for a healthcare advocacy group in New Mexico:

I don't want to minimize the pain that this year's premium hikes are going to cause for a subset of insurance buyers. But the vast majority of low-to-mid-income Obamacare users are eligible for federal subsidies—and as premiums go up, so do their subsidies. They may end up paying a bit more in 2017 for their health coverage, but probably no more than a few percent.

So yes: headlines matter. Or, at the very least, the first few paragraphs of news stories matter. Coverage of this issue should make it clear that the average price people pay will go up much less than 25 percent, and for low-income folks it probably won't go up at all.

Last week, a self-driving truck delivered 50,000 cans of Budweiser from Loveland to Colorado Springs. This was obviously meant as a big FU to Coors, since the route "coincidentally" took all this frosty Bud right past Coors headquarters in Golden, Colorado. Most people, however, are interpreting this event as merely technological: it represents the dawn of the era of self-driving trucks. Tim Lee comments:

According to Otto’s blog post on the trip, “our professional driver was out of the driver’s seat for the entire 120-mile journey down I-25, monitoring the self-driving system from the sleeper berth in the back.”

But this doesn’t mean the nation’s truck drivers need to start working on their résumés. Technology like this may eventually displace human truck drivers, but the tech is several years away from causing mass unemployment. The key reason is that Otto’s self-driving technology is initially limited to highways. When the truck reaches ordinary city streets, it hands control over to a human driver to handle tricky traffic situations. This means that even after a truck is outfitted with Otto’s self-driving technology, it will still need a human driver in the truck.

Hmmm. "Several years" sounds ominously near-term, so truck drivers might want to start worrying about their jobs right now. Beyond that, there's a way this could put truckers out of business well before that. Here's how.

Pick a route that has a lot of truck traffic. Let's say, Chicago to Cleveland. Outside of each city, you build a big truck depot and dispatch center. In Chicago, teamsters drive the trucks from the city out to the depot. Autopilots drive the trucks to the Cleveland depot, where a driver gets in and takes the truck to its destination. Rinse and repeat. The job of a truck driver is to drive back and forth from destinations in the city out to the depot, which they can do five or six times a day. Trucking firms save a ton of money even though the autopilot is designed for highway driving only.

Building the depots would be cheap and easy, since you don't really need much there. It's basically just a dispatch center. You could pretty easily have hundreds of them dotted across the country near all of our biggest cities. The only thing that would stop this from happening is the knowledge that they'll only last a few years before they're put out of business by fully automated trucks that can go from dock to dock with no human intervention. Either way, truck drivers are in big trouble.