I haven't checked in on Donald Trump's job approval rating for quite a while. Let's do that:

Trump's job approval rating dropped throughout March, thanks to his "wiretapping" claim and the failure of Trumpcare 1.0. He recovered in April, but has been dropping again since the beginning of May.

I'm not sure what's at the root of this, but an unsmoothed look at the data confirms that there was a sharp change right around the beginning of May in both favorability rating and job approval rating. Was it the second go-around of Trumpcare? Bad publicity surrounding the end of Trump's first 100 days? The budget agreement in which Trump got pretty much nothing he wanted?

None of those really seem likely, but I can't think of anything else that happened at the end of April to cause a sudden drop. That is, I can't think of anything other than, you know, everything.

Medicaid doesn't get a lot of attention in the debate over Trumpcare, but it's likely that more people would be affected by Medicaid cuts than by any other single part of the bill. However, the Wall Street Journal reports that Senate conservatives still aren't satisfied:

Some conservative Senate Republicans, such as [Mike] Lee, want to immediately start phasing back federal money for expansion enrollees, a process that would take 10 years....Conservatives also hope to use a different formula to calculate federal Medicaid funding that would mean less money for states. The House bill would slash an estimated $839 billion from Medicaid over the next 10 years, according to the CBO. Senate conservatives want to change federal funding of Medicaid in part by pegging it to a different inflation measure, which long term would mean less generous payments to the states than under the House GOP bill.

....Centrist GOP senators are on board with some Medicaid cuts but disagree over how best to implement them. Some say the House plan to halt federal funding for new expansion enrollees in 2020 is too harsh and want a longer sunset of the program.

Nearly a quarter of all Americans depend on Medicaid as their primary (or only) source of health coverage. That's the American health care system for you. Nonetheless, of course Republican centrists are on board with "some" Medicaid cuts. They only want to quibble over whether 10 million poor people should be tossed out of the program by 2026 or if it would be more humane to toss out 9 million poor people by 2028. Decisions, decisions.

Here's a snippet from the Economist's interview with President Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The subject is whether China is manipulating its currency in a way that hurts the United States:

Trump: They’re actually not a currency [manipulator]. You know, since I’ve been talking about currency manipulation with respect to them and other countries, they stopped.

Mnuchin: Right, as soon as the president got elected they went the other way.

It's tiresome to hear Trump say this, and doubly tiresome to hear Mnuchin chime in like a toady about it. Yes sir, Mr. President, they stopped as soon as they realized a real man was about to occupy the White House!

Here's all you need to know about Chinese currency manipulation:

All the way through 2013, China's foreign reserves increased nearly every quarter. This was because they were buying lots and lots of dollars as a way of keeping the value of the yuan low, which made Chinese exports cheaper and American imports more expensive. In mid-2014 they stopped. Since then, they've mostly sold their dollar holdings, to the tune of a trillion dollars over the past couple of years. During this entire time the yuan has been falling on its own, and the Chinese intervention has had the effect of propping it up to prevent it from falling even faster. This makes Chinese exports more expensive and American imports cheaper, which is exactly what we want.

As for November 2016, nothing happened. I don't know if Trump knows this, since he seems to live in some kind of alternate reality, but Mnuchin does. So does everyone else.

You can do quick and easy fun stuff with color in Photoshop with the White Balance tool and Replace Color tool. For the former, just click the eyedropper randomly on the image and see what happens. For the latter, choose a color randomly and then change the hue to see what you get. If you feel like screwing around with weird tints and colors, this is a very simple way of doing it. We can all be Andy Warhol for 15 minutes.

Remember my photo of the chopsticks a couple of weeks ago? Here's what it looks like with various combinations of color manipulation. The original image is at the top, followed by half a dozen false-color images.

 

After the Cold War ended, US presidents largely stopped hosting visits from authoritarian leaders. But as in so many other things, Donald Trump yearns for the world of his youth, when the world's bastards all got the royal treatment from the White House as long as they were our bastards. Here, as compiled by Jack Hasler and Yonatan Lupu, are the autocrat-hosting records of the past five presidents:

In only his first three months, Trump has already made good progress in returning to the realpolitik of the Cold War. Can he keep this up? Check back in three months and we'll see how he's doing.

From the "With Friends Like These" file:

President Trump at 5:57 am today: "The Roger Stone report on @CNN is false - Fake News. Have not spoken to Roger in a long time."

Roger Stone, an hour or so later: "Well, I am not going to contradict the president and I am not going to say when I've spoken to him but I will say this, I have spoken to him very recently."

This is nothing to get hung up on. Trump and Stone probably just have very different ideas of what "long time" and "recently" mean. To a fruit fly researcher, for example, a "long time" might mean three or four days. To an archeologist, "recently" might mean three or four centuries. So this is probably just a humorous misunderstanding.

What is Hilbert looking at? Squirrel? Butterfly? Hummingbird? Dust mote? I don't remember.

In any case, he's certainly keeping a sharp eye on something, so I think this picture will be our mascot for a new project that needs your help: a muckraking fund to investigate the Trump-Russia connection. The Glaser Progress Foundation has donated $200,000 to kick-start this project, but it will cost more than $500,000 when you account for reporters, fact-checkers, editors, researchers, multimedia work, and legal review. So for every new donor at the $15-a-month level (or higher!), the foundation will donate $50 until we hit $50,000 in matching funds. That gets us more than halfway to what we need.

Read more about it here. Or for you tl;dr folks, go straight to the donation page here. Let's put the snark aside for a few moments and see how much money this blog can raise over the weekend.

From Glenn Thrush:

I assume this comes from Sean Spicer, since I don't think Trump knows the meaning of the word "parses." In any case, this would make perfect sense. Trump should run his White House solely via outbound media (tweets, press releases, readouts, YouTube videos, etc.) and the occasional interview with big-name TV interviewers who are careful not to embarrass him too much.

Anyway, this whole thing should— Wait. There's more?

Oh FFS. I guess it's time to storm Grassley's office and ask him what he meant by this. The Senate investigation is a charade? The FBI investigation is a charade? The whole Russia thing is a nothingburger, but "hoax" is the only word Grassley could come up with?

Beats me. Isn't it time for Trump to flee to New Jersey and play some secret golf?

President Trump says James Comey "better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations." Well, are there any "tapes"? Does President Trump record conversations in the White House? Let's ask the press secretary about all this:

Huh. You'd think the answer would be a simple no, but I guess not. Perhaps we'll find out for sure when Congress subpoenas the recordings and Trump has to tell a federal judge whether they exist.

But if they do exist, I have some advice: just destroy them now. I never understood why Nixon kept those tapes around for so long. He should have just burned them and then claimed that they were destroyed in accord with standard record retention policy. Or something.

Good news, college grads!

Salaries Soar for the Class of 2017

They soared? This is from the Wall Street Journal, which passes along a Korn Ferry estimate that starting salaries for college grads this year will be a whopping 1 percent higher than last year, adjusted for inflation. They also report that "today’s salaries are 14% higher than those of students who graduated in 2007." That may be, but data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers sure doesn't agree:

Neither does the Department of Education. Here's their data for young college grads:

Starting salaries appear to be up this year, and that's good news. But don't get too excited, OK?