This post is longish and doesn't really have much payoff at the end. It's just something that turned into a bit of snark hunt, so I figured I'd document it. You have been warned.

It starts with a column by Mona Chalabi, the Guardian's "data editor," which claims to outline her research on the question of whether illegal immigrants commit more crimes than native-born Americans. It's faintly ridiculous and I'm a little annoyed by it, but then I come to this:

I find a study by Bianca E Bersani. I look her up — she’s a associate professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Using numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, her study finds that about 17% of all first-generation immigrants who are age 16 have committed a crime in the past 12 months....But wait. Is that number high or low? I decide to find out how often native-born people in the US commit crimes. Luckily, her study has that too. It’s higher: about 25% of all native-born people in the US who are 16 have committed a crime in the past 12 months.

That seems kind of high, doesn't it? Then again, "committed a crime" could encompass things like smoking a joint or stealing a box of paper clips from school, so who knows? The data comes from a paper called "A Game of Catch-Up? The Offending Experience of Second-Generation Immigrants," so I check it out. But there's nothing there. The paper has nothing whatsoever to say about either 16-year-olds or first-generation immigrants. What's going on? Here's the chart Chalabi presents:

This is a little odd. It suggests that 25 percent of 16-year-olds have committed a crime in the past year, but only 20% of 17-year-olds. That doesn't jibe with what I know about crime rates. And the source is Pew Research. So let's go look at the Pew article. It's a lengthy description of Bersani's article, and it includes this chart:

This is odd again. It's the same chart, all right, and the author spends a lot of time describing "A Game of Catch-Up?" But as I mentioned above, that article contains nothing like this at all. What's more, it appeared in Crime and Delinquency, but the chart is sourced to Justice Quarterly.

So now it's off to Justice Quarterly. It turns out that everyone is describing the wrong article. I wonder if any of them actually read it? The correct article is "An Examination of First and Second Generation Immigrant Offending Trajectories," also by Bianca Bersani. Fine. What does that article say? Here is Bersani's chart, colorized for your viewing enjoyment:

It appears that everyone has been copying the chart properly. For what it's worth, though, I'd make a few comments:

  • This data is for all immigrants. Donald Trump's focus is solely on illegal immigrant crime.
     
  • Bersani's data is from 1997-2005. That's pretty old. Crime and arrest rates of juveniles have gone down more than 50 percent since then, and the population of illegal immigrants has gone up more than 50 percent since then. I don't know if that changes the relative values in this chart, but it would certainly change the absolute values.
     
  • The data comes from the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which uses a very large oversample of Hispanic and black youth. Bersani appears to be using the full sample, and since Hispanic and black adolescents commit crimes at higher rates than whites, it means the numbers for native-born Americans are exaggerated. At a guess, the real figures are 2-3 percentage points lower.
     
  • The NLSY97 data includes six types of crime that were included in Bersani's study: (1) damaging property, (2 and 3) stealing less or more than $50, (4) other property crimes, (5) assault/serious fighting, and (6) selling drugs. By far the biggest contributors were property damage and petty theft, with fighting in third place and the others far behind. Auto theft and using a gun to steal (not included in Bersani's study) were minuscule:
  • Since the vast majority of the crimes in this study are minor—and we can assume that serious violent crime is even less prevalent—it's not clear how much this tells us. I don't think anyone cares much whether immigrant teenagers steal six packs of beer at a greater rate than native-born Americans. We mainly care about more serious violent crimes: robbery, rape, murder, and aggravated assault. Those aren't addressed at all.

I'd add that Bersani didn't just add up all the crimes committed by various groups. Her methodology is pretty impenetrable to anyone who's not an expert:

I use group-based trajectory modeling...identifies clusters of individuals who display similar behavioral trajectories over a period of time...Nagin and Land’s (1993) semiparametric group-based modeling approach...estimated using a zero-inflated Poisson form of a group-based trajectory model:

where ln(kjit) is the natural logarithm of the number of total crimes for persons i in group j at each age t. The equation specified above follows a quadratic function of age (age and age2)....

I have no idea what this means or whether it's appropriate, but I'm a little skeptical about a model that suggests that 17- and 18-year-olds commit crimes at lower rates than 16-year-olds. Most crime data I've seen shows the opposite. Then again, most crime data doesn't include extremely minor crimes like shoplifting and property destruction. It's possible that adolescents age out of that stuff pretty early.

Long story short, I wouldn't draw too many conclusions from this study. The data is old; it's not limited to illegal immigrants; it looks only at adolescents; the crimes under consideration are pretty minor; and the methodology is probably OK, but who knows? Put it all together, and I'd say it doesn't tell us too much one way or the other about the serious crime rate of illegal immigrants as a whole.

I have yet to see a study that persuasively suggests a higher crime rate for immigrants than for anyone else. Let's face it: if there's anything we native-born Americans excel at, it's crime. That said, the Guardian's data editor should have known better. There are tons of studies out there that try to estimate the relative crime rates of native-born Americans compared to undocumented immigrants, and cherry picking this particular one makes no sense. It does provide a rough data point suggesting that crime rates of immigrants aren't any different from the rest of the population, but it's nowhere near the best study out there. Citing this one and calling it a day is a real disservice.

According to the 2012 and 2016 exit polls, Hillary Clinton did six points worse than Barack Obama among Latinos, receiving only 66 percent of the Latino vote. Donald Trump did one point better than Romney, receiving 28 percent of the Latino vote. Ever since, a group called Latino Decisions has been insisting that the exit polls are all wrong, and Clinton actually received a much larger percentage of the Latino vote. Today they highlighted a new study in the Nevada Independent that examines voting by precinct and then compares the results to 2012. Here's what it looks like for Nevada:

The authors say that Trump seems to have gotten about the same vote share as Romney: "It is therefore extremely unlikely that more than one in four (28 percent) Latinos in Nevada turned out for Trump, as purported by the exit poll. Instead, it is likely that Clinton won just under 9 out of 10 Latino voters, leaving 1 in 10 to Trump."

There are all sorts of criticisms to make of this approach, the biggest of which is that the authors' own chart suggests that Clinton got fewer Latino votes in Nevada than Obama. If Obama got 71 percent in Nevada, that sure doesn't gibe with Clinton getting 88 percent. But let's put that aside. I have a different question. First, though, let's leave Nevada and take a look at the national vote. Here's a reminder of what the exit polls look like for 2012 and 2016:

Trump received 46 percent of the popular vote in 2016 compared to 47 percent for Romney in 2012. That's a loss of one percentage point. However, the exit poll for the white vote is based on a large, widely distributed sample, so it's pretty reliable—and it shows that Trump lost two points of the white vote compared to Romney. This means that Trump must have gained roughly one point among all the other groups in order to come out only one point behind in the overall vote.

So if Trump gained one point among the non-white vote, the only way he could have done substantially worse than 28 percent among Latinos is if he did substantially better among blacks and Asians. It's the only way the arithmetic works. How likely is that?

This is why I think the exit polls are probably right about the Latino vote. If they're off by a lot, you have to come up with a plausible recount of all the other racial groups that adds up to the right total number. I don't see how you can do that.

Just for the record: what do I think about all the ties between Russia and the Trump team, anyway?

Answer: I don't know. It seems pretty clear that Russia hacked email accounts and otherwise interfered with the election in order to help Trump. It's also true that Trump is unaccountably friendly toward Vladimir Putin. And it's further true that a surprising number of people in Trump's orbit have business in Russia or periodic contacts with highly-placed officials in Russia.

That's all reason for suspicion. But it probably wouldn't convince me that anything truly nefarious was going on except for one thing: the Trumpies have gone to such considerable lengths to hide their contacts with Russian officials.

This could just be reflex: being a Russian stooge is a bad thing, so one's default position should always be to deny any dealings with Russia. Or it could be that many of the contacts are embarrassing for reasons unrelated to the campaign. There are other plausible explanations too.

But this is why every new revelation gets such attention. I'm pretty open to the idea that Jeff Sessions didn't mean to mislead anyone when he told the Senate he hadn't met with any Russian officials. He might well have been thinking of Russians in Russia, not with the ambassador in Washington DC. But if that's the case, then why the obviously fishy excuse that he "can't recall" what they talked about? Why did Mike Flynn "not recall" what his conversations were about? In general, why the extended cover-up of everything related to Trump aides talking with Russians?

In this case, it's not that the cover-up is worse than the crime. It's the fact that the cover-up suggests there might be a crime being covered up. Without that, this whole story might have gone nowhere.

One of the most infamous sections of Steve Bannon's Breitbart News was "Black Crime." It was exactly what it sounds like. Then Bannon went to Washington DC to work for the president, who promptly announced a program to highlight victims of immigrant crime. Today, we get this:

The racial demagoguery from the Trump administration just keeps coming and coming. Granted, racial demagoguery is as American as apple pie, but have we had a president in recent memory who was happy to be so blatant about it? It's hard to put into words how disgusting this is.

The Columbia Journalism Review put up a bunch of cool charts a few days ago. First up, here's the Twitter ecosystem during the presidential campaign:

On the right, there's one site that dwarfs everyone else: Breitbart News. Even Fox News is only a fraction the size. On the left and center, there's no single dominant player. The Huffington Post had a good election season, but it competed on even terms with traditional news sources like CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. Here are the top five retweeted sites among partisans:

Three of top five on the right are highly partisan sites, including Breitbart at the top and the crackpot Gateway Pundit site in fourth place. There's nothing similar on the left. Here's the same data in scatterplot form:

On the right, Breitbart stands alone, with twice the Twitter shares of Fox and four times the share of the also-rans. On the left, there are five major sites before you get a big drop to the rest of the pack, and four of the five are nonpartisan. The same charts for Facebook shares show much the same thing, and this had a big effect on mainstream coverage of the race:

The constant drumbeat on the right from partisan sources amplified Donald Trump's message both on issues and on scandals. Trump issues got more attention than Clinton issues, while Clinton scandals got more attention than Trump scandals. Here's the conclusion from the CJR authors:

This pro-Trump media sphere appears to have not only successfully set the agenda for the conservative media sphere, but also strongly influenced the broader media agenda, in particular coverage of Hillary Clinton....While mainstream media coverage was often critical, it nonetheless revolved around the agenda that the right-wing media sphere set: immigration. Right-wing media, in turn, framed immigration in terms of terror, crime, and Islam, as a review of Breitbart and other right-wing media stories about immigration most widely shared on social media exhibits.

....What we find in our data is a network of mutually-reinforcing hyper-partisan sites that revive what Richard Hofstadter called “the paranoid style in American politics,” combining decontextualized truths, repeated falsehoods, and leaps of logic to create a fundamentally misleading view of the world. “Fake news,” which implies made of whole cloth by politically disinterested parties out to make a buck of Facebook advertising dollars, rather than propaganda and disinformation, is not an adequate term. By repetition, variation, and circulation through many associated sites, the network of sites make their claims familiar to readers, and this fluency with the core narrative gives credence to the incredible.

....Rebuilding a basis on which Americans can form a shared belief about what is going on is a precondition of democracy....To accomplish this, traditional media needs to reorient, not by developing better viral content and clickbait to compete in the social media environment, but by recognizing that it is operating in a propaganda and disinformation-rich environment. This, not Macedonian teenagers or Facebook, is the real challenge of the coming years.

Amen to that.

This should cheer up the president:

President Trump is preparing to sign a new executive order Monday that White House officials hope can withstand legal scrutiny in imposing a 90-day ban on U.S. entry for new visa seekers from six majority-Muslim nations, according to a fact sheet the administration sent to Congress.

In addition, the nation’s refu­gee program will be suspended for 120 days, and it will not accept more than 50,000 refugees in a year, down from the 110,000 cap set by the Obama administration.

....The new order provides other exceptions not contained in previous versions: for travelers from those countries who are legal permanent residents of the United States, dual nationals who use a passport from another country, those attending diplomatic missions, and those who have been granted asylum or refu­gee status. It will attempt to outline a more robust national security justification; the fact sheet said 300 people who entered the country as refugees were currently the subject of FBI counterterrorism investigations.

The big difference here is that the Muslim ban applies only to new visa applicants, not to folks who already have a visa. In addition, Iraq has been removed from the list and green card holders are exempt. The temporary refugee suspension, which applies to every country, appears unchanged.

The problem, of course, is that despite the attempt to "outline a more robust national security justification," past comments about wanting to ban Muslims are still on the record. However, considering that Trump has dawdled on this for five weeks, his lawyers ought to be pretty well prepped to defend it. And since it applies only to new visa seekers, it won't produce anywhere near the chaos of the previous order. Unlike the January order, this one should probably produce a fairly quiet court fight, and not much more.

This is apropos of nothing in particular, but a couple of days ago I happened to run across this chart on the Justice Department website:

Since 1996, arrests of juveniles have fallen by two-thirds. Arrests for violent crimes have fallen by more than two-thirds. Bottom line: Kids today are way better behaved and way less scary than they were in the 90s. One of these days we ought to start acting like we know this.

Over at the Washington Post, Philip Rucker, Robert Costa and Ashley Parker report on the Trump White House:

Trump was mad — steaming, raging mad....“He was pissed,” said Ruddy, the chief executive of Newsmax, a conservative media company. “I haven’t seen him this angry.”...At the center of the turmoil is an impatient president increasingly frustrated....Trump [] has been feeling besieged, believing that his presidency is being tormented in ways known and unknown by a group of Obama-aligned critics, federal bureaucrats and intelligence figures....The next morning, Trump exploded....Trump summoned his senior aides into the Oval Office, where he simmered with rage....In a huff, Trump departed for Mar-a-Lago....Trump was brighter Sunday morning as he read several newspapers, pleased that his allegations against Obama were the dominant story, the official said....But he found reason to be mad again.

That's the president. Here's his chief of staff, Reince Priebus:

As reporters began to hear about the Oval Office meeting, Priebus interrupted his Friday afternoon schedule to dedicate more than an hour to calling reporters off the record to deny that the outburst had actually happened, according to a senior White House official....Ultimately, Priebus was unable to kill the story. He simply delayed the bad news, as reports of Trump dressing down his staff were published by numerous outlets Saturday.

In other words, the president's chief of staff spent a full hour of his time on Friday lying to reporters off the record. Why? To cover up for the fact that Trump routinely melts down when he gets bad press. The only thing that cheered him up was all the attention he got when he told an outrageous lie about Barack Obama.

Finally, this: "Some Trump advisers and allies were especially disappointed in Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), who two days earlier had hitched a ride down to Florida with Trump on Air Force One." This is truly their world view. Trump let Rubio fly on Air Force One, so Trumpworld expected Rubio to back up Trump's lie. Transactional to the end.

And this: the Post's story was based on 17 interviews with "top White House officials, members of Congress and friends of the president." In other words, people who are basically sympathetic to Trump. What's up with that? Do these people really think that painting Trump as a petulant two-year-old will make him look better?

Our story so far: President Trump got good reviews for his speech to Congress on Tuesday, and that made him happy. Then it all blew up thanks to revelations the next day that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had met twice with the Russian ambassador during the campaign. On Friday, Sessions recused himself from the investigation of ties between Trump and Russia, and Trump had a temper tantrum. He had finally been presidential, and now it was all down the drain. Everyone was talking about Russia again.

The next morning, still in a lather, he went to his usual playbook: hit back. But he needed something big, so he decided to accuse President Obama of wiretapping him. This took everyone by surprise, including his own staff. But it sort of worked: nobody cares all that much about Sessions anymore.

So then: did Obama order a wiretap on Trump Tower? Needless to say, Obama's spokesman says no. How about the CIA? Here is Obama's Director of National Intelligence on Meet the Press this morning:

CHUCK TODD: Let me start with the President's tweets yesterday, this idea that maybe President Obama ordered an illegal wiretap of his offices. If something like that happened, would this be something you would be aware of?

JAMES CLAPPER: ....I can't speak officially anymore. But I will say that, for the part of the national security apparatus that I oversaw as DNI, there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against his campaign. I can't speak for other Title Three authorized entities in the government or a state or local entity.

CHUCK TODD: Yeah, I was just going to say, if the F.B.I., for instance, had a FISA court order of some sort for a surveillance, would that be information you would know or not know?

JAMES CLAPPER: ....I would know that.

CHUCK TODD: If there was a FISA court order on something like this...

JAMES CLAPPER: Something like this, absolutely.

CHUCK TODD: And at this point, you can't confirm or deny whether that exists?

JAMES CLAPPER: I can deny it.

CHUCK TODD: There is no FISA court order?

JAMES CLAPPER: Not to know my knowledge.

CHUCK TODD: Of anything at Trump Tower?

JAMES CLAPPER: No.

OK, but does the FBI agree? Here's the New York Times:

The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, asked the Justice Department this weekend to publicly reject President Trump’s assertion that President Barack Obama ordered the tapping of Mr. Trump’s phones, senior American officials said on Sunday....Mr. Comey’s request is a remarkable rebuke of a sitting president, putting the nation’s top law enforcement official in the position of questioning Mr. Trump’s truthfulness.

....It is not clear why Mr. Comey did not issue the statement himself. He is the most senior law enforcement official who was kept on the job as the Obama administration gave way to the Trump administration. And while the Justice Department applies for intelligence-gathering warrants, the F.B.I. keeps its own set of records and is in position to know whether Mr. Trump’s claims are true. While intelligence officials do not normally discuss the existence or nonexistence of surveillance warrants, no law prevents Mr. Comey from issuing the statement.

Assuming Clapper and Comey are telling the truth, we can say that (a) there was no FISA warrant and (b) President Obama didn't order Trump's phone to be tapped. That still leaves open the possibility that the FBI got an ordinary wiretap warrant as part of a criminal investigation, which neither Obama nor Clapper would know about.

This whole thing is completely, batshit crazy. Everyone knows that Trump is just making stuff up: He saw an article in Breitbart and decided to throw some chum in the water. The White House has even confirmed this. But the press has to report it anyway because the president said it, and Republicans in Congress will allow the craziness to continue because they don't care. They just want to repeal Obamacare and get their tax cut passed. So Trump can do anything he wants and get endless publicity for it, with no pushback except from Democrats. And nobody cares what Democrats say.

The Trump presidency gets loonier by the day. It's like one of those TV shows where they have to keep upping the ante to keep viewers interested. Trump started his presidency with his childish temper tantrum about crowds at his inauguration, but that seems like small beer now. To get any attention these days, he needs way more. So how about a childish temper tantrum that accuses the former president of ordering his phone tapped?

How far can this go? I'm stumped. Every time Trump is in a bad mood, something like this happens. And since Trump is in a bad mood whenever he isn't being universally praised, this stuff is going to keep happening forever. Are tax cuts and Obamacare really worth so much to Republicans that they're OK with having this ignorant, short-tempered child in the White House for the next four years? I mean, maybe nothing serious will happen during that time, and we'll be more-or-less OK. But what about the chance that something serious does happen and Trump does some real damage to the United States or to the world?

Is it really worth it taking that chance? Just for some tax cuts?

I was looking forward to the next White House press briefing, knowing that whoever ran it would be inundated with questions about President Trump's dimwitted suggestion that President Obama had him wiretapped. That would be fun! But I underestimated the cleverness of Sean Spicer:

In a statement from his spokesman, Mr. Trump called “reports” about the wiretapping “very troubling” and said that Congress should examine them as part of its investigations into Russia’s meddling in the election.

“President Donald J. Trump is requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committees exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said in the statement.

No comment until the "investigation" is finished! That's brilliant. I don't know if it will work, but it's brilliant. I wonder how aggressive the press corps will be about calling out this obvious artifice?