• Pentagon Obeys Court Order, Will Allow Transgender Enlistments

    Wut?

    I wonder what I’m missing here? I’m all for this, of course, but doesn’t the commander-in-chief get to set rules like this? Did Trump tweet about it but forget to ever send the military an official order? I’ll be interested in hearing some more details about this.

    UPDATE: It turns out the missing piece is something I’ve forgotten and the AP failed to mention: a court enjoined Trump’s ban. So the Pentagon is merely obeying a court order that requires transgender enlistment starting on January 1. I’ve rewritten the headline to reflect this.

  • The Grad Student Tuition Fee Waiver, Explained

    The tuition waiver provision of the tax bill was aimed at folks like this. Sorry about that, STEM.Paul Rodriguez/The Orange County Register via ZUMA

    One of the provisions of the Republican tax bill would force graduate students to pay taxes on waived tuition fees. So if annual tuition is, say, $50,000, and that cost is waived, the student would have to pay taxes on $50,000 of income. Jeremy Berg, the editor-in-chief of Science, is perplexed:

    It is not clear what the objective is, as the new policy would disproportionately affect students without additional resources to support their educations and would likely decrease economic viability and competitiveness as talent is lost from the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) enterprise.

    Well, here’s the thing: I’m afraid STEM is just collateral damage in a war against economics, sociology, women’s studies, education, history, and so forth. These are all areas that produce lots of lefties who write mean things about conservatives, and the objective of the tuition waiver is to make life hard for them. Unfortunately, the tax writers couldn’t think of a way of making this provision apply only to “fields that harbor lots of liberals,” so STEM got hit too. Sorry about that.

    On another note, I attended a math summer camp with Jeremy in 1975. We were not great friends or anything, but we all knew each other and this means he is now in the running for most famous person that I used to know when I was young. None of my friends from the 70s has won a Nobel Prize or become a show runner for HBO, so editor-in-chief of Science might well be the current top dog in my personal universe.

  • The Missing Treasury Analysis of the Republican Tax Plan Has Finally Been Released

    Good news! Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has promised repeatedly that the Republican tax plan would pay for itself and that he has hundreds of analysts “working around the clock on running scenarios for us.” Naysayers scoffed, wondering where this analysis was. Well scoff no more. He released it today. Here’s the first page:

    Wait. Did I say “first page”? What I meant was “whole thing.” That’s right: it’s seven paragraphs long and contains no original analysis at all. It basically says two things:

    • The analysis from the Joint Committee on Taxation is correct.
    • Tax revenue will rise if we assume 2.9 percent economic growth.

    Seriously. That’s it. I included the entire plan above so you could check to make sure I’m not exaggerating. There’s literally no analysis at all. The Treasury Inspector General has already promised an investigation into the missing report that hundreds of people were supposedly working on, and after seeing this I really, really want to see what the IG comes up with. The only plausible scenarios are either (a) nobody was ever doing any serious analysis, or (b) they did a serious analysis and the results were too catastrophic to be released.  So instead we got a one-page report cribbing from JCT and explaining that tax revenues will rise if economic growth skyrockets. A tenth grader could have written this.

    Welcome to the Trump era, folks.

  • Republicans Really, Really Hate the Press

    Here are a couple of interesting tidbits from the 2017 Poynter Media Trust Survey. We all know that trust in the press has been on a long downward slide, especially among Republicans, but the results from 2017 are a bit surprising:

    Among Republicans, trust took a nosedive in 2016 while Donald Trump was campaigning, but, surprisingly, hasn’t dropped any further in 2017. In fact, it might be up a little. If I had to guess, I’d attribute this to the fact that trust is now so low among Republicans that it really can’t fall much further.

    But among Democrats, nothing much happened in 2016, and then trust skyrocketed in 2017. It’s now at its highest point in two decades. What this seems to suggest is two things. First, the horrible overcoverage of Hillary Clinton’s emails in 2016 never became an issue among ordinary voters. It’s a big deal to us political junkies, but not to anyone else. Second, the fact that the press is aggressively covering Donald Trump’s gaffes and the Trump-Russia connection—and that Trump is attacking them back—has made Democrats far more trusting of the press.

    The past week has been a bad one for the press, which has published several badly-sourced stories about Trump that they’ve had to retract. This has sent Trump into a tizzy of FAKE NEWS tweeting, culminating in his insistence that a Washington Post reporter should be fired for mistakenly reporting poor crowds at his Florida rally on Friday. But that was just the latest in a year of virulent anti-media tweeting by Trump, and this is the result:

    I don’t want to make too much of this. Americans are routinely ignorant of basic constitutional rights, and surveys frequently show lots of them favoring restrictions on press freedom, religious freedom, gun ownership, fair trials, and so forth. Still, nearly half of Trump voters think the government should “be able to stop a news media outlet from publishing a story that government officials say is biased or inaccurate.” This is not a national security thing, it’s a flat-out belief that Trump should be able to block the press from saying anything he doesn’t approve of. We don’t have trend data on this, but I have to believe that it’s quite a bit higher than in the past.

    This goes pretty far beyond the usual American constitutional ignorance. An awful lot of Trump voters have apparently been convinced that the press is so rotten that Trump should have complete control over what they’re allowed to say. Yikes.

  • Raw Data: The Prime-Age Labor Force Participation Rate

    Here is the labor force participation rate for prime-age men and women over the past two decades:

    In 20 years, the trend participation rate has dropped 4 percentage points for men and 3 percentage points for women. This is only for people aged 25-54, so it’s not about boomers retiring. It’s been dropping steadily, so it’s not about recessions. It’s not about tax cuts or tax increases. The unemployment rate is currently 4.1 percent, so it’s not about a lack of jobs. Nor is this happening in the rest of the world:

    Whatever the reason, this decline represents about 4 million people who would be working if participation rates had stayed steady. Why aren’t they? Does it represent the 5 million manufacturing workers who have lost jobs since 1997, some of whom have quit working rather than take other jobs? Is it about China? But if so, why is everyone else immune? Is it the rise of disability—or is that effect rather than cause? Or something else? It is a mystery.

  • John Kelly Keeps Donald Trump on a Very Short Leash

    Kevin Dietsch/CNP via ZUMA

    The usual gang at the New York Times has a story today about Donald Trump and his: tweeting, TV viewing habits, lack of knowledge about everything, etc. As usual, it is sourced to “interviews with 60 advisers, associates, friends and members of Congress.” Aren’t they all?

    But this is sort of old news. Instead, I was interested in an anecdote about the way that John Kelly has brought order to the Oval Office as chief of staff. It’s about longtime Trump confidant/bodyguard Keith Schiller:

    In August, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Schiller for a newspaper article he had heard about. After Mr. Trump mentioned the article to Mr. Kelly, the chief of staff dispatched two aides to investigate how it had gotten to the president without being cleared. Mr. Schiller acknowledged providing the contraband newsprint. Mr. Kelly thanked him tersely for coming forward, according to two people Mr. Schiller later told.

    Seriously? Kelly tries to keep people from bringing news to Trump that Trump has specifically asked for? I get the whole idea of “controlling the information flow,” but Trump is the president of the United States. Can’t he have any news he wants? And what’s the point of this, since Trump watches hour after hour of uncontrolled TV anyway? In fact, he seems to watch not just in the morning and the evening, but literally all day:

    During meetings, the 60-inch screen mounted in the dining room may be muted, but Mr. Trump keeps an eye on scrolling headlines….Watching cable, he shares thoughts with anyone in the room, even the household staff he summons via a button for lunch or for one of the dozen Diet Cokes he consumes each day.

    Say what? Even during meetings the TV is on and Trump’s eyes keep flitting to the Fox News crawl? Somehow I’m imagining something like this:

    MATTIS: Well, I have to agree with McMaster.
    KELLY: So we’re split on whether to nuke North Korea. It will be the president’s call.
    [Heads nod.]
    KELLY: Mr. President, should we give the order?
    [Trump turns away from Fox News crawl about Hillary’s emails.]
    TRUMP: The order—oh right, the order. Yes, give the order. Give it very strongly.
    KELLY: Very well, gentlemen. You know what to do.

    The world ends not with a bang, but a Fox News headline.

  • The 2017 Trump Christmas Ornament Explained

    Will Fischer is not excited by the design of the official Trump Christmas ornament:

    No, I don’t think so. What it really reminds me of is something old fashioned. This kind of imagery was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and it seems like that was the probable inspiration for whoever designed this.

    But what I’m really curious about is the initials at the bottom center. It looks like a D, an A, and an…I? Or maybe an F? What’s this all about? The answer will probably suprise you:

    The Official 2017 White House Christmas ornament honors the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who served as the thirty-second president of the United States from 1933 to 1945 and his remarkable journey to restore the faith of the American people….The eagle cartouche emblazoned on the speaker’s stand at President Roosevelt’s first inauguration is the inspiration for the main element of the 2017 ornament. The two flags below have forty-eight stars each….The shape of the ornament is reminiscent of the silhouette of a tabletop radio – similar to those many Americans had in their homes and used to listen to the president’s reassuring Fireside Chats. Roosevelt’s beloved Fala is pictured on the back of the ornament.

    Right. The initials are F, D, and R. But why is Donald Trump honoring the Democratic Party’s greatest president? Well, it turns out that the White House Historical Association designs the ornaments. In 2016 it was inspired by Herbert Hoover. In 2015 it was Calvin Coolidge. In 2014 it was Warren G. Harding. I detect a pattern!

    The first White House ornament, in 1981, was Angel in Flight. In 1982 it honored George Washington. Then the Historical Society worked its way though the rest of the presidents, with occasional interruptions, until 2002. In 2003 they did Ulysses S. Grant, and it’s been presidents every year since then. So this year it was just FDR’s turn.

    Trump will get his own ornament in 2030—unless he decides to disband the Historical Society and direct that all future ornaments should honor himself. But no. He wouldn’t do that, would he?

  • Friday Cat Blogging – 8 December 2017

    Hopper gazes at the camera distrustfully, wondering yet again just what this piece of black magic is all about. Soon, however, she will put it entirely out of mind and resume licking every square inch of her body. We could probably all benefit from such short attention spans.

  • Conservatives Are Scared to Death of Robert Mueller

    Conservative calls to fire special prosecutor Robert Mueller are really getting crazy. The Fox News gang has gone gaga over the idea that Mueller is actually a liberal mole who’s hellbent on getting rid of Donald Trump. Republicans in Congress are going down the same path. The news that Mueller fired an investigator who supported Hillary Clinton prompted Rep. Steve Chabot to claim that the “depths of this anti-Trump bias” on Mueller’s team was “absolutely shocking.” Trump’s lawyers, says Roger Stone, “are entirely unrealistic about the enmity toward the president from the political establishment.” The Wall Street Journal insists that Mueller is “too conflicted” to lead the investigation. Rush Limbaugh believes the whole thing “is all manufactured from leaks in the deep state.”

    I don’t have any big point to make here except this: It’s pretty obvious that conservatives are petrified of what’s coming out. They have no idea what’s coming next, but it’s starting to look like practically everyone in the Trump campaign had relationships of some kind with Russians of some kind. Their only recourse is to invent wild stories about the deep state and conflict of interest and the long arm of Hillary supporters in the FBI. As Mueller continues to tighten the noose, we can expect these attacks to get ever louder and crazier.

  • EXCLUSIVE: Breitbart Admits Trump Is a Serial Sexual Abuser!

    I was just over at Breitbart looking for something I didn’t find, but I did find this:

    I wonder if they really thought through this headline before they put it up?