• Donald Trump Is “Curious” About His Pardoning Power

    Pete Marovich via ZUMA

    From a Washington Post story today about the Trump-Russia investigation:

    Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people….But one adviser said the president has simply expressed a curiosity in understanding the reach of his pardoning authority, as well as the limits of Mueller’s investigation.

    He’s just curious! I mean, who wouldn’t be? Then there’s this:

    Trump has been fuming about the probe in recent weeks as he has been informed about the legal questions that he and his family could face. His primary frustration centers on why allegations that his campaign coordinated with Russia should spread into scrutinizing many years of Trump dealmaking. He has told aides he was especially disturbed after learning Mueller would be able to access several years of his tax returns.

    Those tax returns must really be toxic. I wonder what’s in them that Trump is so hellbent on keeping secret? It must be something pretty spectacular. Here’s the New York Times:

    President Trump’s lawyers and aides are scouring the professional and political backgrounds of investigators hired by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, looking for conflicts of interest they could use to discredit the investigation — or even build a case to fire Mr. Mueller or get some members of his team recused, according to three people with knowledge of the research effort.

    The search for potential conflicts is wide-ranging. It includes scrutinizing donations to Democratic candidates, investigators’ past clients and Mr. Mueller’s relationship with James B. Comey, whose firing as F.B.I. director is part of the special counsel’s investigation.

    Trump seems to be treating this whole thing like a mob war. And maybe he’s right to do so. It just makes you wonder what he knows that we don’t.

  • Clickbait For the Day: How China Might Rule the World By 2050

    China has an ambitious plan to lead the world in artificial intelligence by the end of the next decade:

    The country laid out a development plan on Thursday to become the world leader in A.I. by 2030, aiming to surpass its rivals technologically and build a domestic industry worth almost $150 billion. Released by the State Council, the policy is a statement of intent from the top rungs of China’s government.

    ….The United States, meanwhile, has cut back on science funding. In budget proposals, the Trump administration has suggested slashing resources for a number of agencies that have traditionally backed research in A.I. Other cuts, to areas like high-performance computing, would affect the development of the tools that make A.I. work.

    I’m hardly a Henny Penny nationalist. If China wants to catch up to us in aircraft carriers, it doesn’t bother me that much. But I won’t deny that I feel a lot more comfortable with an America that retains its lead in important technology, and AI is the most important technology in the world right now. It’s no exaggeration to say that the country with the best AI in 2030 might be the country that rules the world in 2050.

    Then again, maybe not. But I’d just as soon not take that chance. America may have its faults, but we have a damn sight fewer of them than China.

  • Lunchtime Photo

    It’s Thursday Dog Blogging!

    I was telling my sister last night that I find dogs to be difficult subjects. Pictures of cats I find almost inherently adorable. But pictures of dogs always seem kind of meh. I love dogs in person, but photos never seem to capture much of their personality. Maybe that’s why cats took over the internet and dogs didn’t.

    Anyway, this pooch was hanging out at the lake while his owner sat on the bench and did homework. He wandered around, stared at the ducks, stared at me, looked at the birds, looked at the lake, went over to get his head scratched, and then finally gave up and plonked sadly to the ground. When will she finish that homework and play with me? When?

    UPDATE: After reading comments, I feel terrible. This was not a sad dog! He was just pretending to be bored in this particular shot. I’ve added another picture below showing him a few seconds later.

  • CBO: Deductibles Under Republican Health Plan Would Hit $13,000

    CBO has produced an analysis of the latest Senate health care bill, and it’s basically the same as the original version. Compared to Obamacare, it would leave 22 million more people uninsured, and the people who were insured would mostly be getting useless crap:

    Under this legislation, for a single policyholder purchasing an illustrative benchmark plan (with an actuarial value of 58 percent) in 2026, the deductible for medical and drug expenses combined would be roughly $13,000, the agencies estimate….Because a deductible of $13,000 would be a large share of their income, many people with low income would not purchase any plan even if it had very low premiums….For people whose income was at 175 percent of the FPL ($26,500) and 375 percent of the FPL ($56,800), the deductible would constitute about a half and a quarter of their income, respectively.

    Under current law in 2026, the deductible for a single policyholder purchasing an illustrative benchmark plan with an actuarial value of 70 percent would be much lower—roughly $5,000.

    People have—rightly—complained about the big deductibles in many Obamacare plans. But this is ridiculous. A health care policy with a deductible of $13,000 is all but useless.

    On another note, CBO has been criticized for overemphasizing the importance of the individual mandate. If you eliminated it, would 15 million people really decide not to buy insurance? I suspect that if you left everything else alone, that 15 million estimate might well be high. But if you combine the lack of a legal mandate with useless insurance, 15 million starts to seem a lot more reasonable, doesn’t it?

    By the way, this report doesn’t include the Cruz Amendment. I assume that’s still in the works. Until the Republican health care plan is officially dead and buried, CBO is the real zombie here.

  • Does Akie Abe Speak English?

    Yoshio Tsunoda/AFLO via ZUMA

    President Trump’s description of being seated next to Akie Abe at the G20 dinner is getting a lot of attention:

    TRUMP: So, I was seated next to the wife of Prime Minister Abe [Shinzo Abe of Japan], who I think is a terrific guy, and she’s a terrific woman, but doesn’t speak English.

    HABERMAN: Like, nothing, right? Like zero?

    TRUMP: Like, not “hello.”

    This immediately led to a video going viral that showed Akie giving a speech in English. So maybe she was just pretending she couldn’t speak English because she didn’t want to talk to Donald?

    Two things about this. First, come on. There must be lots of people out there who know whether or not she speaks English. So does she or doesn’t she?

    Second, after about two minutes perusing the internet, my conclusion is that Akie most likely speaks high school English. She can recite a speech in English if it’s necessary, though she plainly prefers not to, and can probably understand spoken English decently. But she doesn’t have enough confidence in her English to use it conversationally. So she relies on an interpreter in situations like the G20 dinner.

    If anyone has any actual evidence about this, please let us all know.

  • Robert Mueller Is All Over Trump’s Dubious Business Practices

    Unsurprisingly, Bloomberg reports today that Robert Mueller’s investigation into Donald Trump has widened considerably from Russian campaign collusion:

    FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings … SoHo development with Russian associates … 2013 Miss Universe pageant … sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch … dealings with the Bank of Cyprus … efforts of Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law and White House aide, to secure financing for some of his family’s real estate properties.

    ….The roots of Mueller’s follow-the-money investigation lie in a wide-ranging money laundering probe launched by then-Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara last year, according to the person.

    I’ll confess to some mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, this stuff is all semi-related to Russia, and might therefore be relevant to the campaign issue. On the other hand, we’ve all seen what happens when special prosecutors get out of control and start investigating everything under the sun. So far this looks like it’s still legitimately tied to Mueller’s original brief, but it’s a close call.

    Donald Trump sure knows how to screw up, doesn’t he? He fired James Comey because the FBI was investigating Russia and he fired Preet Bharara because he was leading an investigation of money laundering. The end result was to bring more attention to both of these issues and put them in the hands of a guy with a big budget and nothing else to distract him. Nice work, Donald. Anybody else you want to fire?

  • Raw Data: Women’s Usual Weekly Earnings vs. Men’s

    I don’t have any special reason for posting this. I just happened to be looking at it. For full-time workers, women’s earnings have been steadily getting closer to men’s for the past four decades, but that seems to have leveled out since the end of the recession. It’s been stuck at around 81-82 percent ever since 2010:

  • Donald Trump Still Confused About Life Insurance vs. Health Insurance

    This is hardly the most important part of Donald Trump’s interview with the New York Times today, but still:

    So pre-existing conditions are a tough deal. Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan. Here’s something where you walk up and say, “I want my insurance.” It’s a very tough deal, but it is something that we’re doing a good job of.

    Trump still doesn’t know the difference between health insurance and life insurance. And yet, he says the senators he met with at lunch “couldn’t believe it, how much I know about it. I know a lot about health care.” Uh huh.

    On a different note, this interview is just a long series of anodyne questions with no real attempt to pin down Trump on anything of substance. Aside from conversational stuff, here’s a fairly complete list of the questions they asked:

    • How was your lunch [with Republican senators]?
    • You are generally of the view that people should have health care, right?
    • Did the senators want to try again [to pass health care]?
    • Where does it go from here, do you think?
    • How’s [Mitch] McConnell to work with?
    • Will you go to Britain? Are you going to make a state visit to Britain?
    • A lot of people are curious about your conversation with President [Vladimir V.] Putin at dinner. Not surprising. But what did you all talk about…?
    • You asked them [Republican senators] about it [Don Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer] at lunch?
    • Sorry to interrupt. The email, though, said something I thought was really interesting, and I wonder what you thought of it. It said this “is part of Russia and its government’s support of Mr. Trump.” So whatever actually happened at the meeting—
    • So, what do you interpret that to mean, now that you have seen it?
    • I do want to come out, on the email, now that you have seen that email that said Russia’s government — I mean, how did you — did you interpret it that way?
    • Given what’s happened since then, though, was it a political mistake to have fired him [James Comey], given what’s happened?
    • But look at the headache it’s caused, you know?
    • Do you wish you had done it on Day 1?
    • What would be the line beyond which if Mueller went, you would say, “That’s too far, we would need to dismiss him”?
    • Did you shoo other people out of the room when you talked to Comey?
    • This is why I want to come back to that email, because, like — does it concern you? Let’s say that the election didn’t change because of anything Russia did, which has been your point, right? You point —
    • But did that email concern you, that the Russian government was trying something to compromise—
    • Last thing, if Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia — is that a red line?

    There aren’t more than two or three probing questions in the whole bunch. And the only attempt at a follow-up of any kind was from Peter Baker on the Don Jr. email. I get that it’s entertaining to let Trump ramble and free associate—and I admit that it does produce news sometimes—but a high school reporter could have conducted this interview. What’s the point of bothering with it if you’re just going to lob a bunch of Fox & Friends nerf ball questions and then let Trump blather?

  • Trump: Jeff Sessions Should Have Muzzled the FBI

    Michael Reynolds/CNP via ZUMA

    I can only assume that Donald Trump barely even knows what he’s saying anymore. Here he is during an interview with the New York Times, griping about Attorney General Jeff Sessions:

    In a remarkable public break with one of his earliest political supporters, Mr. Trump complained that Mr. Sessions’s decision ultimately led to the appointment of a special counsel that should not have happened. “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Mr. Trump said.

    ….Mr. Trump also faulted Mr. Sessions for his testimony during Senate confirmation hearings when Mr. Sessions said he had not met with any Russians even though he had met at least twice with Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak. “Jeff Sessions gave some bad answers,” the president said. “He gave some answers that were simple questions and should have been simple answers, but they weren’t.”

    And former FBI director James Comey too:

    ….The president added a new allegation against Mr. Comey….Mr. Trump recalled that a little more than two weeks before his inauguration, Mr. Comey and other intelligence officials briefed him at Trump Tower on Russian meddling. Mr. Comey afterward pulled Mr. Trump aside and told him about a dossier that had been assembled by a former British spy filled with salacious allegations against the incoming president, including supposed sexual escapades in Moscow. The F.B.I. has not corroborated the most sensational assertions in the dossier.

    In the interview, Mr. Trump said he believes Mr. Comey told him about the dossier to implicitly make clear he had something to hold over the president. “In my opinion, he shared it so that I would think he had it out there,” Mr. Trump said. As leverage? “Yeah, I think so,’’ Mr. Trump said. “In retrospect.”

    Trump apparently thinks that blocking embarrassing investigations is part of the attorney general’s job. If Sessions wasn’t willing to do that, “I would have picked somebody else.” Does Trump have any idea what he’s admitting here?

    And, in restrospect, he now thinks Comey was trying to blackmail him. This despite the fact that Mother Jones had written about the dossier weeks before and it was common knowledge that it was out there.

    I’m not even sure what to say about this stuff anymore. Nothing matters, does it? Trump really could gun someone down in the Oval Office and Fox News would report that Trump had stopped a terrorist attack.

  • Too. Many. Ideas.

    From a Vox roundup of Republican reactions to the failure of their health care bill, here is senator John Thune:

    Some Democrats have claimed Obamacare repeal collapsed because Republicans spent years falsely promising on the campaign trail that they had a better alternative waiting in the wings.

    But Thune said he’d drawn just the opposite conclusion from the whole project. “I think Democrats will say Republicans had all this time and they didn’t have any ideas [to fix Obamacare]. But the problem is we have too many ideas,” Thune said. “It’s a challenge on how to take all these different policies and knit them together in a way that gets you an actual health bill.”

    Poor Republicans. They’re bursting with so many great ideas that they just can’t seem to whittle them down to manageable size. A meeting of the Republican caucus must be practically electric with intellectual fervor.

    Alternatively, what Thune meant by “too many ideas” is that some Republicans want to hurt the poor a lot in order to fund a big tax cut for the rich, while some want to hurt the poor a little less in order to fund a slightly smaller tax cut for the rich. The devil is in the details, amirite?

  • Quote of the Day: How to Use Facts and Figures Properly

    From the president of the United States, asked about the unemployment rate:

    When we got those great reports, I kept saying—you know, those numbers were 4.2, 4.3—I said, for a long time, they don’t matter. But now I accept those numbers very proudly. I say they do matter.

    This is laughable, but here’s the thing: I suspect that his supporters love this kind of attitude. After all, that’s how most of us treat information.¹ If it supports our opinion, we trumpet it. If it doesn’t, we dismiss it. That’s how normal people who want to win arguments deploy facts and figures, and Trump’s fans view him as a normal guy who wants to win, not some academic egghead.

    Bottom line: Donald Trump may be an asshole, but he’s our asshole.

    ¹Not you, of course. I mean other people.

  • Lunchtime Photo

    I like this picture a lot, and it was a stroke of luck. The swells at Huntington Beach were tiny the day I was there, but one of them hit just right to produce a splash about eight feet high. I was in the right place at the right time, and happened to have my camera set to a high shutter speed (1/800th of a second). That was enough to freeze the water and produce a great shot. A very minor bit of photoshopping lightened the shadow covering the boy and brightened up the color of his trunks a bit. Welcome to Southern California.

  • Even Trump Fans Want Him to Quit Tweeting

    According to a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, voters in Trump-friendly places are getting a little more frustrated with the president they elected. Here are the top things they dislike:

    A couple of days ago, I asked a conservative friend what he thought of Trump after six months. The first thing he said was, “I wish he’d quit tweeting.” Even Trump fans seem to realize that his tweets make him look like an idiot, and this reflects badly on them too.

  • HHS: Under Cruz Amendment, Premiums For the Sick Will Go Up a Lot

    Remember the Cruz Amendment? It’s probably as dead as the rest of Trumpcare, but HHS has released an analysis anyway. Long story short, they project that enrollment will go up and average premiums will go down compared to Obamacare.

    And that’s actually possible. The Cruz Amendment would allow insurers to offer both full-coverage plans (i.e., ACA compliant) and stripped-down plans. The full-coverage plans would be expensive and would appeal to the old and sick. The stripped-down plans would be cheap and would appeal to the young and healthy. It’s entirely possible that the gain of healthy people would be greater than the loss of sick people, and that a pool with more healthy people would indeed have lower average premiums.

    Of course, this is all sleight of hand. Averages are meaningless here. What we want to know is how much premiums will skyrocket for sick people, who have no choice but to buy the full-coverage plans. Here is the HHS estimate:¹

    These numbers are derived from a “proprietary elasticity estimate,” so I have no idea how they’re calculated. In any case, HHS estimates that both the young and the healthy will flee the full-coverage plans, meaning that nearly half the pool for those plans will be the old and the sick. Given this, it’s hard to believe that average premiums in this pool will rise from $360 to only $625. That seems…optimistic. The trick, it turns out, is that HHS is assuming a $12,000 deductible per person (!). That would certainly help to keep premiums down. As a public service, then, I’ve added the green bars, which is my estimate of what these premiums would be if we ratcheted that back down to Obamacare’s more defensible $7,000 deductible. Comparing apples to apples, premiums actually triple. At least.

    Additionally, HHS projects that by 2024 about half of all customers will still choose to enroll in a full-coverage plan, which also strikes me as a wee bit optimistic. But who knows? Since most people would still be protected by Obamacare’s subsidies, which go up as premiums go up, maybe lots of people really would stay in full-coverage plans, even with the sky-high deductibles. Of course, that would cost the government a lot of money, and sure enough, HHS projects that by 2024 the Cruz Amendment would cost the feds an extra $10 billion per year.

    If Republicans allow CBO to finish its score of the Cruz Amendment, I guess we’ll find out if they agree. In the meantime, take this with a big grain of salt. HHS is not exactly a neutral party in this.

    BY THE WAY: If you decide to look at the HHS analysis, you’ll notice that the first half is all estimates of the Cruz Amendment assuming a single risk pool. You should ignore this and move straight to the second half, which assumes two risk pools. This is practically the whole point of the Cruz Amendment, so I have no idea why they even bothered with estimates for a single risk pool.

    ¹HHS actually provides both low and high estimates. I averaged them to produce a single number.

  • Latest Campus Outrage: Instructor Tells Baldly Racist Joke, Loses Job

    Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun/TNS via ZUMA

    Just how stifling is it on university campuses these days? What with all the trigger warnings, safe spaces, heckler’s vetoes, diversity worship, and humorless lefties, it’s a wonder there’s any time left to teach classes.

    But how bad is it really? The Martin Center posts stories about ill-treated conservatives periodically, and these are picked up by National Review, where I see them. But are these stories the tip of a massive iceberg of intolerance on American campuses? Or is a weekly outrage pretty much all there is, representing a minuscule fraction of the 1.5 million professors currently teaching on university campuses?

    I don’t really have any way of knowing, and I usually just scan the outrages and move on. Today, though, I was intrigued. Here is George Leef:

    Leftists are notorious for their lack of a sense of humor….One faculty member who recently discovered that is Professor Trent Bertrand of Johns Hopkins. Make that formerly of Johns Hopkins. A joke he told in his international-economics course earlier this year led to complaints by three students that he had created a “hostile learning environment” for them. That’s bad enough, but the university’s overreaction was mind-boggling.

    That sounds kind of grim. A single offhand witticism that went a little awry and the guy is toast. What on earth did he say? Here’s the joke:

    An American loses his job due to his work being off-shored. He is very depressed and calls a mental health hot line. He gets a call center in Pakistan where the call center employee asks, “What seems to be the problem?” The American responds that he has lost his job due to the work being sent overseas and states, “I am really depressed and actually suicidal.” The call center employee says, “Great. Can you drive a truck?”

    What a knee slapper! This is from Bertrand himself, so we can be sure that his enemies aren’t exaggerating what he said. I conclude two things:

    • Bertrand was a contract instructor with three classes left before the end of the semester. Maybe they should have just let him finish up instead of escorting him off campus.
    • Bertrand is an asshole.

    This was not some offhand witticism. This was a carefully conceived joke whose sole purpose was to cast Muslims as suicide bombers. Bertrand told it with malice aforethought even though it really has nothing to do with offshoring.¹ Nor is this a matter of contention. Bertrand happily admits that he regaled his class with this jest.

    Without knowing more, I won’t weigh in on whether Bertrand should have been escorted off campus by security. But if this is the kind of thing National Review is defending, it makes me think they’re a little short on genuine campus outrages.

    ¹If you’re unclear about this, replace “offshored” with “laid off thanks to Obamacare.” It works just as well.

  • Zombie Trumpcare Will Get Better at Lunchtime

    Zombie Trumpcare continues to shamble along:

    It will get even better at lunchtime! Perhaps Trump plans to feed it a yummy vat full of the brains of poor people.

    Interestingly, Trump refers to the Republican plan as “their” health care bill. But if “Republicans” aren’t doing the job, maybe Trump himself should explain how good it is. He should feel free to call me anytime if he wants to have a chat. I promise to conduct a fair and in-depth interview about the details of BCRA.

  • Voter Privacy Issues Totally Taken Care Of Now

    President Trump’s “Election Integrity Commission” wants to collect voter information from the states, but privacy advocates say that the commission has to first complete a privacy impact assessment as required by the E-Government Act. So now they have a new plan:

    The plan, more or less, is to have a few people on the White House staff conduct all of the work of the commission in order to help maintain a legal argument that the “sole function” of the commission is to advise the president.

    ….Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly initially heard arguments in the case more than a week ago….The major dispute before Kollar-Kotelly at this point is over whether and when the E-Government Act’s privacy assessment is required of actions within the White House.

    This should make us all rest easy. It’ll just be “a few people” in the Trump White House—whose staff is famous for its Swiss watch precision—collecting everything. What could go wrong?

  • Hamburgers Aren’t the Problem

    pointnshoot/flickr

    Josh Barro thinks liberals could do a lot better if they were less annoying. He illustrates this with “the hamburger problem”:

    Suppose it’s a Sunday in the early fall, and your plan for today is to relax, have a burger, and watch a football game. Conservatives will say, “Go ahead, that sounds like a nice Sunday.”

    ….But you may find that liberals have a few points of concern they want to raise about what you mistakenly thought was your fundamentally nonpolitical plan for the day. Liberals want you to know that you should eat less meat so as to contribute less to global warming. They’re concerned that your diet is too high in sodium and saturated fat. They’re upset that the beef in your hamburger was factory-farmed.

    They think the name of your favorite football team is racist. Or even if you hate the Washington Redskins, they have a long list of other reasons that football is problematic.

    I think Barro is off base here. It’s true that liberals are annoying, but they’re mostly annoying (a) to other liberals, not (b) to conservatives. Opinion A is based on personal experience, namely that hanging around other liberals, even virtually speaking, can be exhausting sometimes. There’s always something new you have to be woke about.

    Opinion B is based only on what I’ve read about heartland working-class folks, but that’s quite a bit. And their gripes about liberals really don’t seem to revolve around saturated fat, concussions, CAFE standards, or poor working standards in overseas Nike factories. For the most part, they probably haven’t even heard about any of this stuff. You mostly only hear about it in lefty publications, after all.

    So that raises a question: what do these heartland working-class folks have against us lefties? Some of it, as Barro suggests, is substantive. If you own guns, you’re not going to like a movement that spends a lot of time trying to regulate gun ownership. If you like football, you don’t want to hear endlessly about brain damage from a lifetime of brutal hits. But what else?

    Virtually everything I’ve read about this comes to roughly the same conclusion: they don’t like being treated with contempt. BUT WAIT! WE LEFTIES DON’T TREAT ANYONE WITH CONTEMPT! THAT’S JUST A RIDICULOUS FOX NEWS MEME.

    Well…let’s talk about that. Here’s just a teensy little sampling of the kind of thing they hate:

    • Awards shows often seem like an endless procession of ribbons and jokes showing off lefty virtues. These mostly revolve around things like gay marriage, the “Muslim ban,” Black Lives Matter, and so forth. To non-lefties, this seems like a heavyhanded and monolithic rejection of their values.
    • Lefties mostly believe in evolution. That’s probably OK. But too often, they also treat those who believe in Biblical creation as yahoos. This grates for obvious reasons.
    • Trump supporters are often tarred almost wholesale as racists and white supremacists. As it happens, this is no more true of Trump supporters than it is of Romney, McCain, Bush, Dole, or Reagan supporters. But even if it’s true that the Republican base is generally way too tolerant of racist tropes—and it is—nobody who voted for Trump is going to appreciate being called racist.
    • How many evangelical Christians do you see on TV? Not a lot. And how many who aren’t portrayed as zealots or hypocrites? Even fewer. That’s an insulting erasure of about a quarter of the population.
    • Conservatives and moderates who oppose abortion say that it’s because they believe abortion is murder. A lot of lefties refuse to even take this at face value. They think the “forced birthers” don’t have a principled objection to abortion, they “just hate women” and want to control their sex lives. One again, even if there’s some truth to this, it’s insulting to be written off this way.

    You probably have lots of rejoinders to this. Liberals aren’t responsible for what Hollywood does. Trump voters are racists. Conservatives do the same thing to liberals. The real problem is Fox News feeding the outrage machine over every minor slight. Kevin, you’re a hypocrite: you’ve been guilty of this kind of snark yourself. Anyway, why are they so hypersensitive? Don’t they know they control the entire government?

    None of that matters. The truth is that when we’re talking about college-educated urban lefties vs. working-class rural conservatives, lefties are the ones with the power. We’re the ones with the skills the modern world wants. We’re the ones with good jobs. We’re the ones who are married and computer savvy and live in nice houses. We’re a powerful group treating a marginalized group with contempt. And as any good lefty knows, that’s nothing at all the same as the other way around.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying liberals started this food fight. I’m not saying that “liberals” are responsible for every last thing that comes out of some lefty’s mouth. I’m not saying I’m free of contempt myself. I’m not even necessarily saying that contempt is a bad idea.

    I’m just saying that if you put yourself in their shoes, it’s not that hard to see the contempt from our side that feeds the resentment on their side. And if we keep it up, we have to accept that we’re going to lose their votes—votes that we might win if we disagreed without marginalizing them.

    Maybe all of this is worth it in order to keep our base pumped up. But it’s a tradeoff we should make with our eyes open, not by pretending it doesn’t exist.

  • Donald Trump Had a Very, Very Private Meeting With Vladimir Putin

    Bloomberg TV

    Um, what?

    President Trump held a second, informal meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg earlier this month, according to Ian Bremmer, the president of the international consulting firm Eurasia Group….Trump spoke with the Russian leader for roughly an hour, joined only by Putin’s translator. The meeting had previously gone without mention by the White House.

    Two things. First, if Trump were really a decent negotiator, he would have insisted on not even having Putin’s interpreter present. Putin speaks perfectly good English.

    Second, what the fuckety fuck fuck? A meeting with only Rex Tillerson present wasn’t enough? Trump had to have another meeting with literally no other American in the room? What does he have to say to Putin that he’s afraid of anyone hearing him say?

    Bremmer’s full interview with Charlie Rose about the Trump-Putin meeting is here.

  • Lunchtime Photo

    This lovely little flower is a Zauschneria, named after Johann Baptista Josef Zauschner. It’s also known as a California fuchsia or a “hummingbird flower.”

    This is a strangely difficult flower to photograph. There are loads of them along my normal morning walk, and I keep taking picture after picture of them. For some reason, though, the pictures always look—what? Kind of cartoony. There’s not much sense of depth, and the petals look like they’ve just been colored in. It’s odd.

    But this one turned out pretty well, and I like the framing of the two flowers in the background. However, the real reason I’m putting this up today is that I’m tired of Zauschnerias. I keep taking pictures of them, and I’ll probably keep doing it forever until I post one. Now that I have, I can stop.