Donald Trump Supported the Iraq War

Free of charge, I have a question for the next big-time journalist who interviews Donald Trump. Here it is:

Mr. Trump, you clearly supported the Iraq War. We have audio tape of it! In 2002 Howard Stern asked you if you were in favor of invading Iraq, and you said, "Yeah, I guess so." And yet for the past year you've repeatedly lied about this. Why?

You're welcome.

The latest CDC figures on the uninsured are out, and they've continued their downward trend since Obamacare was passed. The uninsured rate for those under age 65 clocked in at 10.0 percent,1 compared to a projection of 11 percent from the CBO back in 2012 (this was the projection published after the Supreme Court made Medicaid expansion optional but before the exchanges were up and running). This means that Obamacare has been consistently running ahead of projections for the past two years.

The numbers were down for all races and ethnicities and for all ages except for children in poverty. The number of people with private insurance was up from 61 percent in 2013 to 66 percent in the first quarter of 2016. Coverage through the Obamacare exchanges was up from 3.3 percent last quarter to 4.0 percent in the first quarter of 2016.

So we're still making progress, due partly to Obamacare and partly to the economic recovery. But we still have a ways to go.

1The uninsured rate for all ages was 8.6 percent.

Comey: Clinton Email Case Was Open and Shut

James Comey is pissed:

FBI Director James B. Comey said in a memo to the bureau’s employees that the decision not to charge Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server while secretary of state was “not a cliff-hanger” and, “despite all the chest beating by people no longer in government, there really wasn’t a prosecutable case.

....Comey said in the memo that he was “okay if folks have a different view of the investigation (although I struggle to see how they actually could, especially when they didn’t do the investigation), or about the wisdom of announcing it as we did (although even with hindsight I think that was the best course).” But he said he had “no patience for suggestions that we conducted ourselves as anything but what we are — honest, competent, and independent.

“Those suggesting that we are ‘political’ or part of some ‘fix’ either don’t know us, or they are full of baloney (and maybe some of both),” he wrote.

The full memo is here.

The phrase "not even wrong" is a cliche by now. It was Wolfgang's Pauli's reaction to a physics paper he had been given to read, and it basically means that something is so far off point that it's entirely meaningless. It's like asking about 2+2 and answering "blue."

This is what Donald Trump sounded like tonight at the Commander-in-Chief Forum on NBC. It's hardly even possible to fact-check him. What have you done in your life to prepare for sending men and women to war? I have great judgment. Can we afford a president who pops off all the time with stuff he later regrets? After my visit to Mexico, some guy was forced to resign. Do you really believe you know more about ISIS than the generals? Obama has reduced the generals to rubble. After you crush ISIS, how will you make sure another terrorist group doesn't come back? I'd take the oil. How would you take the oil? I would just leave some guys behind where the oil is. How would you de-escalate tensions with Russia? Did you see that China didn't put out stairs for Air Force One last week? Do you really want to be complimented by a guy like Vladimir Putin? We're losing jobs like we're a bunch of babies. What are you doing to prepare for being president? I've been endorsed by 88 admirals and generals. How much time are you spending on this? A lot.

Meanwhile, host Matt Lauer spent a full third of his time with Hillary Clinton badgering her about emails. Welcome to Campaign 2016.

Today in Trumpisms

I know how pointless this can get, but I can't help myself. Here are the greatest hits from Donald Trump's recent interview with David Muir of ABC News. First off, when he met with the president of Mexico, did they discuss paying for the wall or not?

TRUMP: It was discussed that it wouldn't be discussed.

This is followed by Trump's usual bragging about how great he is ("I've been given A pluses for the job I did in Mexico") and how fabulously presidential he looked ("Mike called me and said, 'I've never seen anybody look so presidential'").

Next up, Muir tries desperately to get Trump to explain his immigration plan. We've already established that (a) he'll build a wall and Mexico will pay for it, (b) criminals will be tossed out on Day 1, and (c) anyone who wants citizenship will have to return home and apply through normal channels. But what about all the people who remain?

MUIR: In the last 24 hours, Rudy Giuliani said that Donald Trump would "find it very difficult to throw a family that's been here in the United States for 15 years with kids who are now American citizens out of this country. That that’s not the America that Donald Trump wants." So will some of these families be allowed to stay?

TRUMP: First of all he's 100 percent right. It’s very difficult. It’s a very difficult thing to do....Once we have a secure border...we're going to take a very good, strong, hard look at the people that remained.

....MUIR: When you take a good, strong hard look, does that mean some of those 11 million undocumented immigrants will be allowed to stay?

TRUMP: It could be.

....MUIR: If they want to be a citizen, they will have to go home?

TRUMP: If they want to be a citizen, they have to go home, get on line.

....MUIR: So when those families do ultimately go home, the ones who have no record, who are here, once you get the wall and the criminals out of here, as you say. Is it self-deportation?

TRUMP: No.

MUIR: Or will you deport them?

TRUMP: No.

MURI: How does it work?

TRUMP: They will— If they want to become a citizen, they'll go out and they’ll come back in through a process, but they have to get on line.

MUIR: But what is that called? I mean, most people call it—

TRUMP: They don't call it anything

MUIR: Will they have to go—

TRUMP: They don't call it anything, OK? They don't call it anything.

We don't call it anything! Capiche? There is no word or phrase or term or anything else in the English language that describes what Trump is going to do. (Although I suspect "nothing" is a pretty fair guess.)

Next up, will Trump name anyone he's sorry about offending? As he's said repeatedly before, he won't. But:

TRUMP: And now you see what's happening with Hillary. You see what’s going on with her emails. It's a disgrace. It's a disgusting situation where she pretends like she doesn't know. I mean, she had her emails — 33,000 emails — acid washed. The most sophisticated person never heard about acid washing. Acid washing is a very expensive process and that's to really get rid of them. Really, and these emails pertain to her wedding or her yoga classes?

Acid washing? Where did he dredge that up? Anyway, what he's talking about is deleting files and then overwriting the deleted sectors so that no data is left on the hard drive. In fact, this is so common that everyone within shouting distance of an IT shop knows about it, and so expensive that there are dozens of free utilities that do it.

That's it. Muir had a full hour with Trump and Mike Pence and basically got almost nothing of interest. He spent a full half of the interview on immigration, and while I appreciate his effort to pin down what happens to the illegal immigrants who just stay put, there wasn't much point to it since Trump has made his position clear before. Ditto for everything else. Unless I missed it, I don't think Muir asked Trump a single tough question, and not a single question that we don't already know the answer to. I managed to get a few pieces of snark out of it, but that's all.

Late Morning News Roundup

I'm experimenting with letting our cats outside, but only under tight supervision. That means I've been away from the computer for the past hour, so let's check up on what's happening. The biggest news, of course, is the introduction of the fabulous new iPhone 7:

Hell yes. What could be more courageous than making everyone buy a brand new set of Apple-branded headphones? But here's what I don't get: what if you want to listen to music at the same time you're charging your phone? I guess that doesn't happen too often, but it happens sometimes. Are you just screwed?

As a former marketing person, I'm truly in awe of the Apple marketing machine. The amount of press they're getting for this event is staggering, despite the fact that the iPhone 7 hardly has any new features, and the ones it does have were mostly leaked months ago. Interestingly, though, they're making some potentially significant changes to their camera, including a feature that (we're told) produces lovely bokeh effects. Bokeh is the fuzzy, out-of-focus background you get in professional pictures, and it's the bête noire of small digital cameras, which simply can't replicate it with tiny lenses and tiny sensors. Presumably Apple is creating simulated bokeh with software, the same way I can do it in Photoshop. However, for folks who just want to take pictures and don't want to dick around with Photoshop, this is a nice feature.

Next up is Benghazi!™

What does thin mean? It means that out of 30 "new" emails, all of them have already been released except one: "a flattering note sent by a veteran U.S. diplomat following her testimony on Benghazi before a Senate panel in January 2013." Quelle horreur! I await the true story of what this means from Andy McCarthy.

Trump is in the news too:

It is traditional in politics to promise more than you can deliver. But I have to give Trump credit for realizing the he could take this much farther than any politician ever has. He understands that you flatly don't need to bother with reality at all. Just promise everything and claim that it will all be easy, a total piece of cake once the government isn't staffed by morons. The voters will eat it up and the press will shrug. Who knew?

Finally, here is Hopper in the great outdoors:

Note the fake bokeh in the background. It's a pain in the ass to even get this much in Photoshop, and real bokeh is better. If Apple can automatically produce high-quality bokeh in the camera by using the raw image data, I think we can count on every other smartphone manufacturer following suit very quickly.

You probably think the headline on this post is clickbait. Nope. Here is Donald Trump on Bill O'Reilly's show last night:

"I am under a routine audit, and when it's completed I will release my returns," Trump said in an interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly on Tuesday, repeating a claim he has made routinely during his presidential campaign. "In the meantime, she has 33,000 emails that she deleted. When is she going to release her emails? She probably knows how to find [them]. Let her release her emails and I'll release my tax returns immediately."

Trump is referring to Hillary Clinton's personal emails, which are well and truly gone, and which she shouldn't release anyway. Nobody should release their personal emails to the public. So Trump knows he'll never have to make good on this promise.

Nevertheless, he's willing to release his taxes if he can get some advantage out of it. The audit isn't what's stopping him at all.

Keith Humphreys emails to say that his latest piece in the Washington Post is "Drum bait." That's my favorite kind of bait! Let's take a look:

In absolute terms, arrests (like crime) are as expected consistently concentrated among the young at each historical time point. But surprisingly, the drop in the arrest rate over time is entirely accounted for by the current generation of young adults, who are busted 23 percent less frequently than prior generations were at their age. Remarkably, despite the national drop in overall crime and arrest rates, the arrest rate among older Americans is higher than it was 20 years ago.

The reason this is Drum bait is that it's consistent with the lead-crime hypothesis. If you were age 18 in 2013, you grew up in the 90s, a low-lead era. That means you were likely to commit far fewer crimes than someone who was age 18 in 1993 and grew up in the 70s, the peak era for gasoline lead contamination.

But it's different for older folks. People who were age 40 in 2013 grew up in the highly lead-contaminated environment of the 70s. However, the cohorts who were age 40 in 1993 and 2003 grew up in the 50s and 60s, which were also high-lead eras. It's no surprise that there's not much difference between them. (Their absolute crime rate is lower than it is for younger people because people tend to become less violent as they get older. The key here is that there's very little difference between these three age cohorts because they all had similar exposure to lead in childhood, while there is a difference between the three age cohorts of 18-year-olds.)

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Rick Nevin has made similar observations before:

From 1980 to 2011, the USA juvenile (under 18) index crime arrest rate fell by 57%, and the age-18-24 index crime arrest rate fell by 21%, but the index crime arrest rate increased by 32% for ages 35-49. The fall in the juvenile arrest rate from 1980-2011 compares youths born in the 1960s — near the peak in leaded gasoline exposure — with those born after leaded gas was eliminated in the mid-1980s. The 1980-2011 increase in the age-35-49 arrest rate compares adults born before the 1950s surge in leaded gas use with those born near the peak in leaded gas exposure.

(Note: "index crime" is a term that refers to an aggregate of four different violent crimes—murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.)

If you're interested in reading more about this, and more about the full case for the lead-crime hypothesis, Nevin has put it all together in a short e-book, The Lucifer Curves. You can find it here for a mere $2.99!

Via David Wharton of the LA Times, I learn today that preseason college football polls are better predictors of eventual bowl game winners than the final polls of the season. Here is Ed Feng of Power Rank:

In other words, after three months, thousands of games, and seemingly millions of words of commentary and analysis, we're worse at predicting bowl game winners than we were before a single game had been played. There's some kind of Isaiah Berlin joke to be made here, or perhaps an observation about forests and trees, or maybe just an acknowledgement that this basically describes the human condition.

Of course, this isn't a sports blog, it's a politics blog. So you may be wondering whether this result is also true of presidential elections. Well, via Pollster, here's the Clinton-Trump head-to-head polling for one year before Election Day:

Hillary Clinton wins by about three points! In a couple of months we'll know whether this ends up being more accurate than the polls done a week before Election Day.

More Pallets of Cash Sent to Iran!

Let the outrage begin anew:

The Obama administration followed up a planeload of $400 million in cash sent to Iran in January with two more such shipments in the next 19 days, totaling another $1.3 billion, according to congressional officials briefed by the U.S. State, Treasury and Justice departments.

....The Obama administration previously had refused to disclose the mechanics of the $1.7 billion settlement, despite repeated calls from U.S. lawmakers. The State Department announced the settlement on Jan. 17 but didn’t brief Congress that the entire amount had been paid in cash.

I'm still stumped by this whole thing. Everyone knew about the $1.7 billion payment, but we're supposed to be shocked by the fact that it was made in pallets of cash instead of a wire transfer or something? Who cares?

Is there a real issue here? Or is it just a handy excuse to complain about something that Republicans wanted to complain about anyway? Somebody clue me in, please.