A new poll from NBC and the Wall Street Journal is getting some attention today for showing a big jump in support for Obamacare now that Republicans are talking about getting rid of it. But this poll shows less than it seems. The last time it was taken was March 2015, so all it tells us is that one poll shows an increase in approval sometime over the past two years. For comparison, here's the NBC/WSJ poll overlaid on the monthly Kaiser tracking poll:

The Kaiser poll shows roughly a two-point increase over the past two years, all of it coming in the fall of 2016. Will it show another increase in January? Maybe, but we'll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, the NBC/WSJ poll tells us very little. It doesn't show any kind of increase in the past month, just an increase over the past two years. And even that might be an artifact of sampling error in its March 2015 poll. I'm just as eager to see an increase in public approval of Obamacare as anybody, but the NBC/WSJ poll literally tells us nothing about the past month or two. In another few weeks both Gallup and Kaiser should give us some real data to chew on.

Yesterday Donald Trump said he thought the dollar was "too strong." Today the Wall Street Journal goes into overdrive to describe the effect of the great man's words:

Trump Comments Send Dollar Reeling

Reeling! Is that true? Well, the Journal's own dollar index fell about 1 percent, and sure, that's a fair amount for a single day. But let's take a look at the Journal's index for the entire period since Trump's election:

Hmmm. The dollar steadily gained strength following Trump's election based on expectations of his economic and trade policy. Then it started sliding around the start of the new year. Its latest 1 percent drop is hardly significant: it's dropped that much in a single day before, and it's still up significantly since Trump's election. And in case you're curious, here's a longer-term view:

So did Trump's words have a galvanizing effect on the world's currency traders? It's possible, but we might want to wait a few days before we say so. There are other things going on in the world too, after all.

Boomers remember where they were when the Beatles went on The Ed Sullivan Show. Millennials remember where they were when Deadspin sent this tweet to Donald Trump.

This tweet was so good and so famous that Deadspin actually published an oral history of how it came to be.

As Barack Obama's presidency winds down, I find myself wondering more and more how the history books will explain that we replaced him with Donald Trump. The indictments against the soon-to-be 45th president are well known and we're about to spend the next four years prosecuting them so this week let's take a moment to also focus on the often unheralded accomplishments of the 44th.

Each day this week I'm going to post highlights from a notable perspective on Obama's legacy. Today we start with GQ editor-in-chief Jim Nelson, who earlier this year made a convincing case in a piece titled "Why Obama Will Go Down as One of the Greatest Presidents of All Time":

In so many ways, Obama was better than we imagined, better than the body politic deserved, and far, far better than his enemies will ever concede, but the great thing about being great is that the verdict of enemies doesn’t matter.

[...]

It may be hard to imagine now, but in the face of rising chaos, we’ll crave unity all the more, and in future years whoever can speak most convincingly of unity will rise to the top. (It’s also hard to imagine many beating Obama at the game.) This year’s carnival election, with Trump as a kind of debauched circus barker, only makes the distinction clearer. The absurdity and car-crash spectacle of it all have already lent Obama an out-of-time quality, as if he were a creature from another, loftier century. Whatever happens next, I feel this in my bones: We’ll look back at history, hopefully when we’re zooming down the Barack Obama Hyperloop Transport System, and think: That man was rare. And we were damn lucky to have him.

Go read the whole thing.

The Chinese government is the acknowledged expert at authoritarian use of social media to promote party goals. So how do they do it? Alex Tabarrok points today to a new paper that engaged in a ton of ground-level research to come to a conclusion that shouldn't surprise anyone. They don't waste their time trying to change minds:

We estimate that the government fabricates and posts about 448 million social media comments a year. In contrast to prior claims, we show that the Chinese regime’s strategy is to avoid arguing with skeptics of the party and the government, and to not even discuss controversial issues. We infer that the goal of this massive secretive operation is instead to distract the public and change the subject, as most of the these posts involve cheerleading for China, the revolutionary history of the Communist Party, or other symbols of the regime.

As the chart at the top of this post shows, the government's social media army leaps into action at all the appropriate times, but instead of defending the party or the government, they just spend their time distracting attention onto other subjects.

I hardly need to mention that this strategy should remind you of someone.

A few days ago Newt Gingrich wrote a jeremiad against the Congressional Budget Office, which acts as the official scorekeeper for the effect of proposed legislation. The CBO, he said, was obsolete, corrupt, left-wing, etc. etc. and simply didn't know how to account for a dynamic, entrepreneurial, red-tape-cutter like Donald Trump.

Gingrich's real problem, of course, is that the CBO is required to stick close to reality, which means that it often produces projections and estimates that are inconvenient for Republicans. Take today, for example. Senate Democrats asked for an estimate of what would happen if Obamacare were repealed. Here's the CBO's answer:

  • 18 million people would lose insurance. By 2026, that would increase to 32 million.
  • Premiums in the individual market would skyrocket, increasing 20-25 percent in the first year and about 50 percent by 2026.
  • Insurers would exit the individual market en masse. About half the nation's population would live in areas with no individual insurers at all, rising to three-quarters by 2026.

That is inconvenient, isn't it? This is what happens if you eliminate Obamacare but keep in place the ban on pre-existing conditions—which Republicans all say they support and which they can't repeal anyway. Premiums would skyrocket, 32 million people would lose coverage, and insurers would abandon about three-quarters of the country.

This is what Republicans need to address with their "replace" plan. But they can't do it and they know it.

Via Pew Research, here's another reason that Republicans might have more trouble than they think repealing Obamacare:

Republicans have been chanting "repeal and replace" for so long that people have started to believe the "replace" part. Even among Republicans, half of those with working-class incomes and a third of those with middle-class incomes believe the federal government ought to guarantee health coverage for everyone. It's only rich Republicans who are dead set against it.

So what is Donald Trump going to do about that? Unfortunately, the answer is pretty obvious: he's going to propose a replacement plan that does hardly anything for anyone and then he's going to lie about it—loudly and relentlessly. Congressional Republicans will all join in, and the press will then report that the effect of the replacement plan is "controversial." Because, really, who can say what it does? All those numbers are pretty confusing, after all.

Just out of curiosity, I did a quick check to see how many people/organizations Donald Trump has demanded an apology from since he began his presidential campaign. The answer is 21:

  • Intelligence chiefs
  • Cast and producers of Hamilton
  • Mika Brzezinski
  • The media
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg
  • CNN
  • Wall Street Journal
  • Vicente Fox
  • Mark Halperin
  • Hillary Clinton
  • Rachel Maddow
  • Chuck Todd
  • Chris Christie
  • The liberal media
  • The Washington Post
  • Carly Fiorina
  • Fox News
  • Tom Llamas
  • Charles Krauthammer
  • John McCain
  • Univision

For a guy who never apologizes himself, he sure does demand a lot of apologies from others, doesn't he?

Here's some good news for MLK Day. The incarceration rate for young black men is now down more than half since 2001:

The not-so-good news is that this has nothing to do with better criminal justice policies or efforts to create opportunities for people of color. It's because of lead. The younger you are, the more likely you are to have grown up in a (mostly) lead-free environment, and that means you're less likely to have committed a felony or gotten sent to prison. Because prison sentences in America tend to be long, de-incarceration lags falling crime rates by a fair amount, but eventually it does catch up.

You'll note that, generally speaking, black incarceration has fallen more than white incarceration. The reason for this is simple: the biggest victims of lead poisoning in the 1960-90 era were residents of urban cores, which had more lead paint and higher concentrations of gasoline lead than other areas. These residents were disproportionately black, so when lead levels went up it affected blacks more strongly than whites. But when leaded gasoline was banned and lead poisoning declined, that also affected blacks more strongly than whites. Black crime rates fell more steeply than white crime rates, and now black incarceration is falling more steeply than white incarceration.

We're still at nothing close to parity, of course. Lead explains some things, but it doesn't explain the stain of racism and greed in men's hearts. This is America's original sin, and it will take more than an EPA regulation to overcome it.

Monica Crowley won't be joining the Trump administration after all:

“After much reflection I have decided to remain in New York to pursue other opportunities and will not be taking a position in the incoming administration,” she said in a statement. “I greatly appreciate being asked to be part of President-elect Trump’s team and I will continue to enthusiastically support him and his agenda for American renewal.”

I haven't bothered blogging about this, but just in case you missed the news, it turns out that Crowley is a serial plagiarist. As it happens, I have a pretty high tolerance for the kind of plagiarism that's usually involved in cases like this (a dozen lines or paragraphs that are semi-copied from other sources in a 500-page book), but it turns out that Crowley also plagiarized great big chunks of her PhD dissertation. That's a different thing altogether. Not only did she plagiarize a lot, but she did it in a setting where the whole point is to demonstrate original research and original thought. I don't know if universities can rescind a PhD, but I'll bet Columbia is looking pretty hard at doing just that.

I doubt that either Trump or Michael Flynn cares about this, but on the other hand, they probably don't care much about Crowley either. So she's gone.