Like everyone, I'm often snarky about Donald Trump's social media addiction, but I have to admit it works wonders. Today's two tiny tidbits about Israel and our nuclear arsenal produced these top-of-the-site headlines from the New York Times (left) and the Washington Post (right):

Trump's press strategy since the election has had two parts. Part one: refuse to talk to the press, so they're starved for news. Part two: dribble out tiny, often ambiguous tweets once or twice a day on subjects of his choosing. This guarantees that he gets precisely the headlines he wants.

If he announced these things at a press conference, he'd have to take questions, and there's no telling where that would lead. If he gave a speech, the press would highlight whichever parts it felt like. But by tweeting, he leaves reporters no choice. It's the only presidential news they've got, and it's on one specific subject, so that's what they have to write about.

Pretty smart, isn't it?

I've been so fixated on Donald Trump's mesmerizing Twitter performances that it's escaped my attention that he also has a well-maintained Facebook page.1 As near as I can tell, it's used for three things. First, when 140 characters won't do and he needs someone to write an in-depth 65-word essay for him:

Second, when he wants to add some grade-school artwork to a grade-school tweet:

And third, when he wants to make a poster, suitable for scrapbooking, out of one of his quotes:

The quotes are great. I expect a Trump 2017 calendar made up of these pearls. Putin has one, after all. Plus a calendar offers tons of opportunities for keeping his message front and center. January 25: "68th anniversary of first Emmy Awards. Celebrity Apprentice should have gotten one!" February 2: "Groundhog Day! Yes, I'm still president." March 23: "Obamacare is 7 years old. I'll repeal it!" April 1: "Sexual Assault Awareness Month starts today!" April 15: "We're the most highly taxed nation in the world. Sad!" May 5: "Time for a taco bowl!" June 14: "It's my birthday!"

July 28: "It's been a year since Khizr Khan insulted me. He still hasn't apologized." August 13: "Berlin wall created. Walls work!" September 17: "Electoral College is 230 years old today. Hooray!" October 19: "Everybody says I demolished Hillary in the third debate a year ago!" November 8: "First anniversary of biggest landslide victory in presidential history!" December 3: "International Day of Persons With Disabilities!" December 31: "Last day for all the rest of you to make charitable donations!"

This has so many possibilities. Trump should be all over it.

1Also Instagram and, at least once, a famous Snapchat filter. But he's not on Pinterest, Tumblr, or Flickr. Time to branch out, Donald.

Uber decided to put a few of its self-driving cars on the road in San Francisco without bothering to tell anyone, so yesterday the California DMV revoked the registration of its cars. During the week they were tootling around the city, however, people reported that Uber's cars were running red lights and making right turns incorrectly. Atrios comments:

People always say "oh, well, if it works 98% of the time and then every now and then the cars needs the driver to step in then that's good enough." No, that isn't good enough. There isn't time for me to switch from taking a nap or texting my pals to taking over when a bike lane appears suddenly, unless I'm paying 100% attention. And no one is going to pay 100% attention in a "self-driving car" because what's the point.

Who says that? I've never heard anything remotely like this from anyone with more than a Twitter egg understanding of autonomous vehicles. The goal is, and always has been, a car that's 100 percent self-driving. Personally, I envision something the size of a tiny room with a couple of La-Z-Boy recliners suitable for reading, twittering, watching Buffy reruns, or taking a nap.

We're not there yet, of course, and no one claims otherwise. But the fact that we're not there yet doesn't mean we'll never get there. Griping about the fact that current iterations of autonomous vehicles aren't perfect doesn't seem very productive.

Personally, I'm hoping to live long enough to ride in a fully autonomous car and prove Atrios wrong. I think it's gonna be a close call.

From Phillip Blando, a spokesman for the Trump transition team, on news that Obamacare enrollments are running well ahead of last year:

The enrollment numbers announced today show just how important health care coverage is to millions of Americans. The Trump administration will work closely with Congress, governors, patients, doctors and other stakeholders to fix the Affordable Care Act’s well-documented flaws and provide consumers with stable and predictable health plan choices.

Um, what? Is Blando unschooled in how Republicans are supposed to talk about Obamacare? Is he just lying to us (always a possibility with a Trump spokesman)? Will this be followed by a hasty "clarification"? Or is Trump really thinking that maybe he wants to keep Obamacare as the base of a reformed Trumpcare?

Meh. I suppose it's just random words stuck together into a sentence-like structure. Trying to guess what it really means is probably about as fruitful as trying to decipher Soviet-era May Day photographs.

At the Washington Post today, Sari Horwitz has a long tick-tock about James Comey's conduct during the presidential election. Much of it is about the strained relationship between Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, but it starts out like this:

Twelve days before the presidential election, FBI Director James B. Comey dispatched a senior aide to deliver a startling message to the Justice Department. Comey wanted to send a letter to Congress alerting them that his agents had discovered more emails potentially relevant to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

....Federal attorneys scrambled into offices on the fourth and fifth floors of Justice Department headquarters, where they huddled to figure out how to stop what they viewed as a ticking time bomb. “It was DEFCON 1,” said an official familiar with the deliberations. “We were in­cred­ibly concerned this could have an impact on the election.”

....Weeks before the letter, Comey had advised against the Obama administration public statement admonishing Russia for the Democratic Party hacks, arguing it would make the administration appear partisan too close to the election. But to him, the Clinton email investigation was different. Battered by Republican lawmakers during a hearing that summer, Comey feared he would come under further attack if word leaked about the Clinton case picking up again.

If Horwitz has the right read on this, Comey released his bombshell letter largely because Republicans had blistered him so viciously earlier in the year over his decision not to recommend charges against Hillary Clinton. Comey "feared he would come under further attack" if anyone found out about the new email archive, and that was what made up his mind. Quite the profile in courage, no?

Also, he knew he had a rogue group in New York who were so rabidly anti-Clinton that they'd leak the news if he didn't. Rather than rein them in, as he should have, he caved in instead. Quite the management hero, no?

Horwitz also tells us that Comey was "surprised by the intensity of the reaction to his letter." Seriously? This is a guy who's been part of the criminal justice arm of the government for decades. He's a master at navigating the shoals of DC politics. What's more, everyone in the world was telling the FBI that releasing the letter would be astounding, unprecedented, and dangerous. It was "DEFCON 1." And Comey was surprised that a letter about Clinton's email twelve days before the election would cause a stir? This beggars the imagination, no?

In 2000 the Supreme Court appointed the president of the United States. In 2016 the Director of the FBI did it. At this point, I'd actually be happy to leave things up to the Electoral College. At least Democrats have a fighting chance there.

Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters/ZUMA

Donald Trump started out on Twitter in 2009 with 216 followers. When he announced he was running for president in June 2015, he had 2.94 million followers. Just before Election Day he had 12.8 million followers. Today he has 17.7 million followers:

Not bad. But that only puts him in 75th place. NASA has 20 million followers. CNN has 30 million followers. Britney Spears has 50 million followers. Barack Obama has 80 million followers. And Katy Perry tops the list with 95 million followers. Only 77 million more to go, Donald.

CNN reports that the business community is shocked at the idea that Donald Trump might impose import tariffs when he takes office:

Two sources who represent business interests in Washington tell CNN that the man in line to be White House chief of staff, Reince Preibus, has told key Washington players that one idea being debated internally is a 5% tariff on imports…Priebus, the sources said, was warned such a move could start trade wars, anger allies, and also hurt the new administration's effort to boost the rate of economic growth right out of the gate.

One of the sources said he viewed the idea as a trial balloon when first raised, and considered it dead on arrival given the strong reaction in the business community—and the known opposition to such protectionist ideas among the GOP congressional leadership. But this source voiced new alarm Tuesday after being told by allies within the Trump transition that defending new tariffs was part of the confirmation "murder board" practice of Wilbur Ross, the President-elect's choice for commerce secretary.

You know, I mostly feel kind of sorry for all the working-class folks who voted for Trump because they fell for his con. But you know who I don't feel sorry for? The business community, which largely supported Trump because they thought they were too smart to be conned. He won't really impose tariffs. He won't really take revenge on companies that move jobs overseas. He won't really crack down on all those illegal immigrants we give our dirtiest jobs to.

They just wanted their tax cuts and their pet regulatory changes. They didn't care about all that racist, nativist, protectionist blather. It was just for show, anyway, wasn't it? Ha ha ha. Right?

Well, Paul Ryan may save them in the end. We won't know for a while. But these are rich, educated folks. They knew who Trump was. They knew he was spectacularly unqualified. They knew he was thin-skinned. They knew he was unstable. They knew he was egotistical. They knew he was vengeful. They knew he was dangerous. But they supported him anyway because they wanted their tax cuts. If they eventually find themselves on the business end of Trumponomics, I'm just going to lie back and snicker at them.

The November edition of the panel survey done by the Institute for the Study of Citizens and Politics is out. Dan Hopkins tells us that it shows something interesting. A lot of people really did switch to Donald Trump at the last minute:

While no one moved from Trump to Clinton, 0.9 percent of our respondents moved from Clinton to Trump....Trump also outpaced Clinton among people who were previously undecided or third-party backers, with 3.1 percent of respondents moving from those categories to Trump while just 2.3 percent did the same for Clinton. Clinton also saw 3.1 percent of her October supporters defecting to third-party candidates or becoming undecided. Trump lost just 1.7 percent.

Let's add this up:

  • Trump gained 0.9 + 3.1 - 1.7 = +2.3 percent
  • Clinton gained -0.9 + 2.3 - 3.1 = -1.7 percent

The October poll ended on the 24th. FBI Director James Comey released his infamous letter on the 28th. The November poll then showed Hillary Clinton with a net loss of 4 percent compared to Trump. This compares to net movement of only a few tenths of a point in the final days of the 2012 election.

I wonder if there's any relationship there?

Tyler Cowen says that UCI professor Peter Navarro is "one of the most versatile and productive American economists of the last few decades." Matt Yglesias says Navarro is an idiot. Who's right?

I think there's a category error here. Back in September, Navarro co-authored a paper about Donald Trump's trade policy. Roughly speaking, Navarro relied on the following accounting identity:

GDP = Consumption + Investment + Government Spending + Trade Balance

So if our trade balance goes up from -$500 billion to $0, Navarro said, GDP will go up $500 billion and the government will collect a lot of extra taxes. Hooray! But as Yglesias points out, this is comic-book-level nonsense.1 Let me offer an analogy:

Corporate profits = Revenue + Investment Income - Labor Costs - Other Costs

So if I cut labor costs in half, corporate profits will go up. Right? I think you can see that this is unlikely. If you fired half your workers, you probably could no longer produce anything and your company would go bust. If you cut everyone's wages in half, you'd suffer a steady exodus of your best people and probably end up far less profitable. If you replaced half your workers with machines, profits might indeed go up, but not by the amount of payroll you save. You'd have to account for the capital cost of the machines—which would probably reduce investment income—and the cost of maintenance—which would increase other costs. Bottom line: depending on how you do this, lots of different things could happen.

In the case of GDP, it's true that everything in the formula has to add up, since this formula defines what GDP is. But if the trade balance goes up, there are several obvious possibilities. Consumption might go down. Investment might go down. Government spending might go down. In fact, once all the dust has settled, overall GDP might ultimately go down, stay the same, or go up. The real answer is that you'd need to model out an actual plan and figure out where it reaches equilibrium. Navarro knows this perfectly well.

So what is Navarro? Brilliant economist or idiot? Neither one. He's someone who used to be a versatile and productive economist and is now a China-obsessed fanatic2 willing to say anything for the chance of a job in the Trump administration. He hasn't lost 50 IQ points, he's merely become so fixated on the dangers of Chinese trade that he no longer cares about economics. He cares only about saying things that might build support for his preferred policies, regardless of whether they're true.

In other words, he's now just another dime-a-dozen political hack. Trump will keep him around as long as his PhD is useful and then toss him aside.

1No offense meant to comic books.

2Three of his five most recent books are: The Coming China Wars, Death by China: Confronting the Dragon, and Crouching Tiger: What China's Militarism Means for the World.

Bill O'Reilly is suddenly a big defender of the Electoral College:

Abolishing the Electoral College, that is the subject of tonight’s Talking Points Memo. After Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, the left in America is demanding that the Electoral College system put into place in 1787 be scrapped. But there’s a hidden reason for this.

....Talking Points believes this is all about race. The left sees white privilege in America as an oppressive force that must be done away with. Therefore white working class voters must be marginalized and what better way to do that than center the voting power in the cities....White men have largely abandoned the Democrats, and the left believes it’s because of racism that they want to punish minorities, keep them down. So that’s what’s really going on when you hear about the Electoral College and how unfair it allegedly is.

It's a funny thing. Conservatives tell us endlessly that the best way to build a colorblind society is to be colorblind. No more special favors, no more affirmative action, no more quotas. But whenever someone suggests a change that happens to disadvantage white people even slightly, suddenly they see color everywhere.

Of course, O'Reilly is right that race is relevant to the Electoral College. The American presidential voting system was designed by the framers both to give more influence to smaller states and to give more influence to states with lots of slaves. It was pretty explicitly racist. Defending it on the grounds of its benevolence toward the "white establishment" seems like it ought to be a bridge too far even for the likes of O'Reilly.

In any case, Democrats have now lost two presidential contests in the 21st century in which they won the popular vote. You really don't have to look much further to understand why liberals are a little gun-shy of the Electoral College these days.