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.

Corey Lewandowski was once Donald Trump's campaign manager, then went to work for CNN as a Trump booster, and is now back in the Trump camp. So how did Trump make his big comeback?

"With eleven days to go, something amazing happened," Mr Lewandowski said in a speech at the Oxford Union debating society on Wednesday evening. "The FBI's director James [Comey] came out on a Friday and he said they may be reopening the investigation into Crooked Hillary's emails."

Yep, that was pretty amazing. I'm glad we all agree that this was a pivotal moment. So what happened next?

"In those last last eleven days Mr Trump was exceptionally disciplined. He used a teleprompter, and he did less media. The team used social media like no campaign in history....And then, Donald Trump won the election campaign by the largest majority since Ronald Reagan in 1984."

Huh. The largest majority since 1984? Really? Let's take a look:

There have been eight presidential elections since 1984. In popular vote margin, Trump is 8th out of 8. In the Electoral College vote, he's 6th out of 8. This obviously wasn't just a careless mistake on Lewandowski's part.

The Trump team seems to be hellbent on propagating the myth that Trump won a world historical victory last week. Is this just to soothe Trump's bottomless ego? Or is this part of a deliberate campaign to get his followers amped up into believing that Trump is a world historical figure? Is "Trump won big" the new "Iraq was behind 9/11"? You might recall that that one didn't turn out so well.

Twitter is finally taking steps to clean up its platform:

Long criticized for allowing bullies, terrorists and bigots to run rampant to the detriment of its own bottom line, Twitter made a surprising move Tuesday by banning a slew of accounts belonging to white nationalists and leaders of the alt-right movement — which holds that traditional conservatives don't sufficiently protect the interests of white people....Among recently banned Twitter users are Richard Spencer, head of the alt-right think tank National Policy Institute, and other alt-right leaders, including Paul Town, Pax Dickinson, Ricky Vaughn and John Rivers, according to news reports.

Maybe I'm just getting cranky in my old age,1 but there's something fishy about this. Twitter critics have been asking for years for better tools to manage the tsunami of abuse that frequently engulfs users, especially women and people of color.2 Here are a few suggestions for abuse management tools that have made the rounds:

  • Ability to block IP addresses
  • Allow people to up/down rate new accounts
  • Provide some kind of human tech support for complaints
  • Ability to block new accounts
  • Ability to block accounts with certain words in bio
  • Ability to block all followers of an account (this helps prevent abuse storms from followers of popular accounts)
  • Ability to suspend retweets
  • Ability to block tweets that contain certain keywords3

This list is by no means comprehensive, but do you notice something? Nobody especially wants Twitter to eject specific individuals: it smacks of censorship; it's not something Twitter management is good at doing; and it will never come close to solving the abuse problem anyway. There's no way Twitter will ever be able to ban all the flaming assholes in the world, and very few of us feel comfortable with Twitter deciding on who they are in any case. We just want tools that allow us to manage our abuse problems, which are different for everyone.

So why would Twitter do the one thing that even Twitter critics might be uncomfortable with, instead of all the things Twitter critics have actually asked for? It's almost as if they're trying to make Twitter reform controversial. We tried, but nothing satisfies you guys!

But then again, maybe I'm just getting cranky in my old age.

1OK, fine, there's no maybe about it.

2If you want to learn more about this, BuzzFeed's "A Honeypot For Assholes" is probably the definitive piece about Twitter's problems.

3Twitter announced a tool for this a couple of days ago. Time will tell how well it works.

Inflation! It's always sneaking up on us:

U.S. consumer-price gains accelerated in October for the third-straight month largely due to rising energy costs, the latest sign inflation pressures in the economy are firming....The “report provided further confirmation of strong energy base effects boosting headline CPI,” said Barclays economist Blerina Uruçi. “Although core inflation rose less than expected, we still believe that domestic price pressures remain strong.

Hold on to your britches. Here's what the various measures of inflation look like through October:

Yes, you read that chart right. Headline CPI (the blue line) soared all the way to...1.6 percent. But of course, the Fed supposedly doesn't care about that anyway. They care about core inflation (the red line). Core CPI is slightly above 2 percent, but has been flat all year. No acceleration there. But wait. The Fed doesn't care about core CPI either. They rely on the PCE inflation index, which is...hovering around 1 percent (the green line). Data for October isn't even available yet. And data for core PCE isn't available either.

But what about future inflation? Well, the 10-year breakeven skyrocketed from 1.51 percent in September to 1.67 percent in October. In other words, expected inflation bumped upward slightly, but is still well below 2 percent and has been trending downward for the past two years:

And yet, inflation is always right around the corner. Here's the very last paragraph of the Journal article:

Separately Thursday, data showed workers’ earnings were flat in October from September, when adjusting for inflation. Stronger inflation offset the increase hourly wages, and the average workweek was unchanged.

Yeah, inflationary pressure is really a big threat. The labor market is so tight that wages were completely flat. Sigh.

Four years ago, Rick Perry said in a debate that he wanted to eliminate three agencies of government. Sadly for the Texas governor, he could only remember two. Oops:

The missing third agency that Perry wanted to eliminate was the Department of Energy. Now he's being considered to lead that agency. Who says irony is dead?