Guess who's getting a Presidential Medal of Freedom? Hopper! Well, Hopper's namesake anyway, Adm. Grace Hopper:

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, known as “Amazing Grace” and “the first lady of software,” was at the forefront of computers and programming development from the 1940s through the 1980s. Hopper’s work helped make coding languages more practical and accessible, and she created the first compiler, which translates source code from one language into another.1

It's a posthumous award, but Adm. Hopper is now right up there with Vin Scully and Newton "Television Is A Vast Wasteland" Minow. Naturally, this means that the furry version of Hopper is the star of this week's catblogging. She is trying her best to look visionary.

1Meh. I guess that's close enough. No need to get pedantic here.

Tyler Cowen says there have been a lot of papers about the declining labor force participation of men, so it's about time we investigate the declining labor force participation of women. He recommends a paper by So Kubota, a job market candidate at Princeton.

Unfortunately, I ran into a huge roadblock. Kubota thinks the answer involves the rising cost of childcare, and that certainly sounds reasonable. But take a look at the chart on the right. It comes at the very beginning of a presentation based on his paper. I've excerpted just the part starting around the year 2000, since that's when overall female labor force participation started to decline. What it shows is clear: participation rates for women with children declined less than rates for women without children.

What am I missing here? It seems perfectly sensible that rising childcare costs reduce the net income from market labor and therefore reduce the number of mothers who find it worthwhile to work outside the home. And I'm fully willing to accept that the costs of childcare have gone up over the past couple of decades. That should make a difference, and Kubota estimates that it's reduced female labor force participation by 5 percent. But Kubota's own chart suggests that it hasn't had this effect. All the subsequent discussion of subsidies and market vs. home-based childcare doesn't change that basic fact.

So the interesting question seems to be this: given that childcare costs have increased, why are labor force participation rates for mothers declining less than those for women without children? That's a genuine mystery.

Last night Donald Trump tweeted this:

There is a kernel of truth to this. Ford had planned to move production of its Lincoln MKC to Mexico, but then decided not to. However, there was never any plan to move a factory to Mexico. The Louisville Assembly Plant would have kept all its workers thanks to expanded production of the Ford Escape.

So where did Trump get the notion that a plant was slated to be closed down and moved to Mexico? Here is Jim Tankersley:

Trump appeared to be relying on information gleaned from an article posted on a website of a shop that sells business cards and door hangers.

Ladies and gentlemen, the president-elect of the United States.

Sen. Jeff Sessions will be our next attorney general. Trump is continuing his streak of picking loyalists with, um, racial issues.

Who else jumped on the Trump train early? That seems to be the main qualification for serving in his administration. Sarah Palin? Joe Arpaio? David Clarke?

This story from Jennifer Steinhauer has gotten a lot of attention from liberals over the past couple of days:

Congressional Democrats, divided and struggling for a path from the electoral wilderness, are constructing an agenda to align with many proposals of President-elect Donald J. Trump that put him at odds with his own party.

On infrastructure spending, child tax credits, paid maternity leave and dismantling trade agreements, Democrats are looking for ways they can work with Mr. Trump and force Republican leaders to choose between their new president and their small-government, free-market principles. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, elected Wednesday as the new Democratic minority leader, has spoken with Mr. Trump several times, and Democrats in coming weeks plan to announce populist economic and ethics initiatives they think Mr. Trump might like.

The general consensus in the progressive community is that this is a horrible idea. Democrats should take a page from the Republican playbook and oppose everything Trump proposes sight unseen. Maybe so. I'm still mulling this over.

But—here's a question for you. Even if congressional Democrats did plan a campaign of scorched-earth obstruction, would they be wise to say so? Or should their public statements all be conciliatory and restrained? My guess is the latter. The public wants to hear that you're planning to work in a bipartisan way for the greater good of the country. Then, when you end up opposing everything, you insist that it's because Trump's plans are all bad for the country.

That's how Republicans did it anyway. Seems to have worked pretty well.

OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMG:

So the prime minister of Japan flies to New York to meet with Trump, and Trump shows up to shoot the breeze with him all by himself. No advisors. No State Department briefing. No prep. Just Trump and the Japanese team.

Oh, and Ivanka. Why? Here's my incredibly depressing guess: Trump believes that Japanese men consider it a sign of respect to have a pretty assistant in the room who listens attentively and silently. So he nabbed Ivanka and told her to act as decoration. This is a common belief among a certain kind of American businessman, and Trump is that certain kind.

UPDATE: Sorry, I guess Gen. Mike Flynn is in there with Trump, so he's not all alone. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if that's better or worse. Here's Flynn a few months ago:

Speaking of broken things, apparently we've broken the North Pole:

Something is totally off. The Arctic is super-hot, even as a vast area of cold polar air has been displaced over Siberia...“It’s about 20C [36 degrees Fahrenheit] warmer than normal over most of the Arctic Ocean, along with cold anomalies of about the same magnitude over north-central Asia,” Jennifer Francis, an Arctic specialist at Rutgers University, said by email Wednesday.

Here it is in graphical form:

Up until October, things were relatively normal—at least, as normal as they can be in the era of record-shattering climate change. In mid-October Arctic temperatures suddenly flattened and then rose, instead of continuing downward as winter progressed. What happened?

“The Arctic warmth is the result of a combination of record-low sea-ice extent for this time of year, probably very thin ice, and plenty of warm/moist air from lower latitudes being driven northward by a very wavy jet stream.” Francis has published research suggesting that the jet stream, which travels from west to east across the Northern Hemisphere in the mid-latitudes, is becoming more wavy and elongated as the Arctic warms faster than the equator does.

....Mark Serreze, who heads the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., agrees that something odd is going on....What’s happening, he explains, is sort of a “double whammy.” On the one hand, there is a “very warm underlying ocean” due to the lack of sea ice forming above it. But, at the same time, kinks in the jet stream have allowed warm air to flow northward and frigid Arctic air to descend over Siberia.

So let's see if I have this right:

  1. As the Arctic warms, the jet stream becomes more elongated.
  2. This transports warm tropical air to the polar regions....
  3. Which melts the ice, increases the temperature at the pole, and elongates the jet stream even further.
  4. Rinse and repeat.

We are so screwed.

Paul Horner is not a serious purveyor of fake-news. He's a prankster, writing April Fools-style news spoofs that he gets a kick out of fooling people with. For example, he's the guy who invented the story that Democrats had paid someone $3,500 to protest at Donald Trump's rallies. Here is Caitlin Dewey's interview:

Why? I mean — why would you even write that?

Just ’cause his supporters were under the belief that people were getting paid to protest at their rallies, and that’s just insane....I thought they’d fact-check it, and it’d make them look worse. I mean that’s how this always works: Someone posts something I write, then they find out it’s false, then they look like idiots. But Trump supporters — they just keep running with it! They never fact-check anything! Now he’s in the White House. Looking back, instead of hurting the campaign, I think I helped it. And that feels [bad].

....You posted on Facebook a couple weeks ago that you had a lot of ideas for satirizing Clinton and other figures, but that “no joke . . . in doing this for six years, the people who clicked ads the most, like it’s the cure for cancer, is right-wing Republicans.” That makes it sound like you’ve found targeting conservatives is more profitable.

Yeah, it is. They don’t fact-check.

Donald Trump has broken a lot of things this year. Apparently he's even broken the fake news business.

Donald Trump's favorite general, Michael Flynn, was fired as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency a couple of years ago. The circumstances have long been a bit mysterious. On one side, the story is that he was pushed out due to a revolt of his senior staff over his abusive and chaotic management style. Flynn himself says it was because he was tough on Islamic terrorism, and the weenies in the White House didn't like it.

In any case, Flynn has been "right wing nutty" ever since, in Colin Powell's words, so naturally he's now in line for a top position in the Trump administration. Possibly National Security Advisor. But whatever you think of Flynn, he was the head of an intelligence agency and therefore ought to have a pretty good BS detector. Apparently he doesn't:

About That Wall....

Reuters reports on the progress of Donald Trump's Mexican wall:

Just a day after Trump's stunning election victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton, congressional aides told Reuters the lawmakers wanted to meet with Trump's advisers to discuss a less costly option to his "big, beautiful, powerful wall."

The plan would involve more border fencing and additional border staffing with federal agents....A House Republican aide and a Department of Homeland Security official said a wall was not realistic because it would block visibility for border agents and cut through rugged terrain, as well as bodies of water and private land.

So Congress doesn't want it because it would cost too much, and DHS doesn't want it because agents prefer being able to see the other side. And Mexico, of course, continues to laugh at the idea that they will pay for it. Then there's this comparison to the concrete wall Israel has built along the border with the West Bank:

Its main goal is to stop terrorists from detonating themselves in restaurants and cafes and buses in the cities and towns of central Israel....The rules of engagement were written accordingly. If someone trying to cross the fence in the middle of the night is presumed to be a terrorist, there's no need to hesitate before shooting. To kill.

In other words, a wall can be effective. But it's expensive to build, and it needs lots of expensive guard towers staffed by lots of expensive and ruthless guards or else it probably won't work very well. I'm not sure the American public is up for that.

UPDATE: Via email, reader SB adds this:

It's worth noting in this context that the Israeli army doesn't like the wall at all, and wherever they can they build a fence instead—not because it's cheaper, but because the fence is more effective (it offers defense-in-depth as well as the ability to see through it). They only build concrete walls through urban areas where they can't get the space for a fence (which requires 50 meters), or when a court forces them to (because local residents have sued to retain access to their land). So even in the West Bank walls don't work as well as fences.