A few days ago I was channel surfing and ended up watching the final tedious few minutes of a basketball game. It was at the point where the losing team was doing the intentional foul thing in a last-ditch effort to make a comeback. "Does that ever work?" I muttered. Now I have an answer:

Nick Elam, a 34-year-old middle school principal from Dayton, Ohio...has tracked thousands of NBA, college, and international games over the last four years and found basketball's classic comeback tactic — intentional fouling — almost never results in successful comebacks. Elam found at least one deliberate crunch-time foul from trailing teams in 397 of 877 nationally televised NBA games from 2014 through the middle of this season, according to a PowerPoint presentation he has sent across the basketball world. The trailing team won zero of those games, according to Elam's data.

What a waste. Elam has a provocative proposal about how to fix this, but it's far too radical for the NBA to consider. After all, the league's boffins won't even consider changing the intentional foul rule or limiting timeouts. If they can't bring themselves to make modest changes like that, what are the odds of ever doing something serious about the final two minutes of basketball games, which are widely considered the most tedious 20 minutes in all of sports?

On the bright side, at least basketball's final two minutes are still better than soccer's tie-breaking shootout—which is basically just a fancy way of flipping a coin. Personally, I'd make them keep playing until the players start collapsing on the pitch—and then leave them there until somebody finally scores a goal. Maybe that would motivate them.

This post isn't about immigration and the economy. It's about immigration. And it's about the economy. First up, here's a survey from Pew Research about positive attitudes toward the economy:

Here's the interesting part. It's normal to assume that people think better of the economy when one of their own is president. But is it true? During the recovery from the Great Recession, Republicans consistently rated the economy worse than Democrats. When Trump took over, their views suddenly skyrocketed, with a full 61 percent now having a positive view of the economy. Apparently Republicans do indeed view the economy through a partisan lens.

If Democrats followed that pattern, their view of the economy would have plummeted in 2017. But it didn't. It went up again, at about the same rate as previous years. Democrats, it turns out, don't view the economy solely through a partisan lens. If you're looking for an explanation, my guess is Fox News and the rest of the conservative disinformation machine. You can take your own guess in comments.

And now for immigration. Last month, DHS Secretary John Kelly bragged that illegal border crossings were down. This month he crowed about it again. But a sharp-eyed reader pointed out that there's really nothing unusual about the latest numbers:

Border apprehensions in March have been on a steady downward trend for nearly two decades. This year's numbers are just following that trend. Last month I thought that President Trump's fear campaign might be having a real impact, but now I doubt it. There's no special reason at all to think that anything he's doing is having much effect at all.

UPDATE: The CBP apprehensions chart originally had the wrong number for 2017. The correct number is 16,600. The chart has been updated.

Lunchtime Photo

This is Radio Shack #3169 at the corner of Harbor and Adams in Costa Mesa, California. I was the manager of this store in 1983-84, and now it's closing down for good, along with the rest of the Radio Shack chain.

I hated it when people knocked after hours—it was always for some $1.39 kind of item—but I knocked anyway last night. The current manager is a guy named Carlos, and after I told him who I was he let me in and we swapped war stories for a while. I took his picture with his cell phone, then took one with my camera. We finished up, shook hands, and then he got back to replacing the "60% Off" banners with "80% Off" banners. It's the end of an era.

According to Christopher Caldwell, in "American Carnage," here are the death rates of three drug epidemics over the past 50 years. I've added a fourth, using a best estimate for the meth epidemic:

Thanks, Oxycontin. Nice work.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the new universal Trump headline:

Just fill in the blank and you're good to go. The latest version is Trump's wild accusation that Susan Rice committed a crime, which will now receive 24/7 coverage on Fox and Breitbart and all the Republican oversight committees. Unless something else comes up, of course. Basically, Trump is just following the Benghazi playbook. There just has to be a crime somewhere, and if he keeps throwing out enough crap, eventually he'll find something. As with Benghazi, however, there is no crime and he'll never find one. But his fan base will sure be convinced that one exists.

All this because of one stupid tweet.

As Jared Kushner takes on ever more jobs, Steve Bannon has just lost one:

President Donald Trump has removed Steve Bannon, his chief strategist, from the National Security Council, according to a filing in the federal registry. A top White House official told NBC News that Bannon was put on the NSC's Principals' Committee only as a check against then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Now that Flynn is gone, Bannon is no longer needed in that role, the official said.

O...kay. So Trump appointed a guy as National Security Advisor who was so volatile and incompetent that he needed a minder? That's not a very reassuring clarification.

It's also not true, but nobody cares. It's impossible to prove that it's not true, so there's nothing we can do except shrug and accept it. Anything that gets Bannon off the NSC is fine with the rest of the world, I imagine, so we'll all just give it a pass.

The big topic of this particular micro-instant is the new Pepsi ad. What new Pepsi ad? you ask, if you're completely detached from all the important social memes of modern life. Fine. For you laggards, here's the ad. It seems to come in different versions, but I think this is the full one:

Over at the Washington Post, Elahe Izadi captures the general reaction to this ad in a piece titled "A second-by-second breakdown of Kendall Jenner’s unspeakably tone-deaf Pepsi ad." That about sums it up. People are pissed, and I probably don't need to explain why.

So why did Pepsi do it? Because they don't really care if people are pissed. They just want attention, and they got it. The very fact that everyone is writing and blogging and tweeting earnestly about how terrible this ad is means it's done its job. As long as Pepsi can stay just to one side of the Bill O'Reilly line—truly widespread protests that lead to boycotts etc.—this is a win.

Besides, progressives are the only ones who care about this, and in modern America you can count on us forgetting about it pretty quickly because Donald Trump is almost certain to do something soon to distract all. Maybe tomorrow he'll threaten Xi Jinping that he's going to bomb Beijing unless China reduces its trade deficit with the US. Or hell, maybe he'll offer to bomb Taipei if China will take out North Korea for us. Who knows?

UPDATE: I guess Pepsi decided they were getting perilously close to the wrong side of the O'Reilly line. Alternatively, they figured they'd gotten all the attention they were going to, so they might as well kill the ad:

I think Pepsi's marketing mavens should have paid less attention to this year's Super Bowl ads and more attention to SNL's sketch skewering them:

I guess I forgot to post my weekly look at Trump's job approval rating, but it's never too late (until next week, anyway). So here it is. He's still falling.

Use Your Seat Belt!

And now, from the Department of Random Stuff, we have seat belt use in the 50 states. Christopher Ingraham writes about this today over at Wonkblog, and his map showed shockingly low seat belt use. There were quite a few areas with seat belt use around 50 percent, and more than half the country was under 70 percent. Can that be true?

To find out, I headed over to the Orwellian-named Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System at the CDC and created my own map. Here it is:

This doesn't look so bad. The Dakotas are laggards at 70 percent, but most of the country is between 75-90 percent, with 11 states over 90 percent. The national average is 86.4 percent. I sort of assumed that after all these years, seat belt use was pretty much automatic for nearly everyone, but I guess not. Especially in the Dakotas.1

1And New Hampshire. Live free or die!

Jonathan Mahler has a piece in the New York Times Magazine today about the love-hate relationship between Jeff Zucker, the president of CNN, and Donald Trump, the president of the United States. It's mainly about how both men thrive on politics as gossip, entertainment, and conflict, but it includes one interesting tidbit at the very end. It's about a breakfast meeting Zucker had last December with Ivanka Trump's husband, Jared Kushner, who has become an increasingly important Trump advisor in the White House:

Kushner wanted to know why CNN still hadn’t fired anti-Trump commentators like [Van] Jones and Ana Navarro, who said on CNN in October that every Republican would have to answer the question of what they did the day they saw a tape of “this man boasting about grabbing a woman’s pussy.”...Zucker tried to explain that even though Trump won, the network still needed what he described as “a diversity of opinion.”

I'm not sure if I'm supposed to take this literally or seriously. Did Kushner really think that this was how a news organization was supposed to work? That once Trump won, all the folks who didn't like Trump would be fired in some kind of Stalinesque purge?

Apparently so. Welcome to the Trump Show.