Over at the Washington Examiner, Jamie McIntyre makes a fair point about Trump's military-heavy cabinet:

"I am concerned that so many of the President-Elect's nominees thus far come from the ranks of recently retired military officers," Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in a statement Wednesday evening....Yet when President Obama assembled his Cabinet in 2009, he also ended up with three retired four-stars in his inner circle: [Jim] Jones as his national security adviser, retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki as veterans affairs secretary, and retired Navy Adm. Dennis Blair as director of national intelligence. That's 12 stars to Trump's 11.

Technically, DNI isn't a cabinet-level position, but it's hard to argue that it's less important than, say, Secretary of the Interior. Of course, Trump still has some positions to fill, including DNI, so we might not be done with the generals yet. Still, if Trump sticks with the three he's got, it's not out of the ordinary.

The real issue with Trump seems to be that he's chosen a retired general to run the Department of Defense. It's reasonable to object to this, but let's just object to it, instead of claiming that Trump's cabinet is unusually heavy with ex-generals.

In case you're keeping score at home, there are five cabinet posts left to be filled: State, Interior, Agriculture, Energy, and Veterans Affairs.

Plus there are three cabinet-level positions still open: Office of Management and Budget, US Trade Representative, and Council of Economic Advisors.

Of these, State and OMB are the most important. Veterans Affairs might be a spot for yet another general. Trade representative isn't usually a high-profile position, but might become one under Trump. The rest are offices he doesn't care about, which means they're wide open for women, minorities, and assorted billionaires.

Well, Donald Trump is just playing with us now. The great protector of the working class plans to nominate for Secretary of Labor—that's Secretary of Labor—Andrew Puzder, the wealthy CEO of a fast-food empire who doggedly opposes a wide variety of worker protections imposed by big government. He also seems to take a fairly dim view of human labor in general, regardless of how much it costs:

Puzder doesn't think that it's likely that any machine could take over the more nuanced kitchen work of Carl's Jr. and Hardee's. But for more rote tasks like grilling a burger or taking an order, technology may be even more precise than human employees. "They're always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there's never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case," says Puzder of swapping employees for machines.

Puzder might not be quite as bad as that quote suggests, but he's hardly a fulsome friend of the working man and woman. On the bright side, Carl's Jr. makes a good burger. If they could just improve their fries, they'd be great.

Today the Centers for Disease Control announced that life expectancy at birth declined slightly between 2014 and 2015. I wonder how they calculate that? They're basically predicting death rates around the year 2100, and it hardly seems likely they can do this. My understanding is that it's based on age-specific death rates prevailing for the current year, but what makes anyone think those death rates will remain the same for the next 80 years?

That's a question for another blog post, I suppose. One thing is for sure, however: we can certainly take a look at death rates right now. And this, in particular, is disturbing:

Infant mortality in the US is already far higher than it is in the rest of the developed world. It's under 450 in France, Germany, and Britain, for example, and under 350 in Italy, Japan, and Norway. The only OECD countries with higher infant mortality rates have per-capita incomes less than half ours.

To make things worse, the rate of infant mortality among blacks is double what it is among whites and Hispanics. It's a horror story—and apparently it's getting worse. How is this possible?

Today's Mystery Map

Can you guess what this map represents? In my opinion it's pretty important, and I don't think I've ever seen it anywhere else. Leave your guesses in comments. I'll provide the answer tomorrow.

Another cabinet appointment today? Does Donald Trump even pretend to vet any of these folks? Beats me. But yes, there's a third appointee today: Linda McMahon, of professional wrestling fame, will head up the Small Business Administration. (This is a cabinet-level post, so it goes on the list.) McMahon and her husband founded the WWE empire and are worth over $1 billion, so that's officially the third billionaire in his cabinet. Plus there's Trump himself, of course, so that's four. That's 0.7 percent of all the billionaires in the country—so far.

Among other things, the McMahons have nearly single-handedly funded the Trump Foundation since 2007. Earlier this year they gave $6 million to Trump's campaign. Normally this gets you an ambassadorship to, say, Sweden, but the McMahons are longtime pals, so Linda gets a spot in the cabinet instead. The official excuse is that she helped build the WWE from a small business into an empire, so she knows just what small businesses need. Works for me.

The Shorenstein Center has published its analysis of 2016 election coverage, and the main takeaway is that it was very, very negative—but not uniformly negative. For most of the campaign, Donald Trump's coverage was more negative than Hillary Clinton's, but that suddenly turned around after James Comey's letter about Clinton's email was released. In the final two weeks of the campaign, more than a third of Clinton's coverage was devoted to scandals. At the same time, coverage of Trump turned suddenly less negative.

The result is that during the crucial closing stretch of the campaign, Clinton's coverage was more negative than Trump's. It's hard to look at this and not conclude that Comey's letter was the key turning point that made Donald Trump president.

There are lots of other interesting tidbits in the Shorenstein report, but this one in particular struck me:

That's an astonishingly straight line. For the past half century, news coverage of presidential campaigns has gotten steadily more negative—regardless of who's running. This is disturbing. It's easy to believe that the clubby and decorous political coverage of the 50s and 60s deserved to become tougher and more candid. But this doesn't mean that ever more cynical is the right answer. Does it really stand to reason that a full two-thirds of the coverage of the past three elections—featuring five different candidates—has been negative? I'm hard pressed to see how.

Also, note that 2016 did not generate the most negative coverage of all time. That honor still belongs to 2000. I'm pointing this out as bait for Bob Somerby.

We have another cabinet choice: Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt will lead the EPA. Pruitt is pretty much what you'd expect: he's a climate change skeptic and has led the charge against pretty much every Obama initiative to protect the environment. And he's from Oklahoma, so it's hardly surprising that he's cozy with the fossil fuel industry.

In a controversial decision, the judges here at blog headquarters have named Pruitt the first Trump nominee who's neither part of the swamp nor rich, crazy, or scary. Pruitt is a state official, so he's not part of the DC swamp. And his climate skepticism and hatred of all environmental rules is pretty mainstream for Republicans. That's scary, of course, but the title is reserved for those who are scary far beyond just being folks that liberals don't like.

This prompts a question: if you could wave a magic wand and dump either Steve Bannon or Michael Flynn from Trump's staff, which would you choose? I'd choose Flynn.

For years, climate deniers have been producing charts that use the El Niño year of 1998 as a starting point. Why? Because it was an unusually hot year, and if you start there it looks like global warming has "paused" for a good long time. Here's a colorful example of the genre from the Daily Mail a few years ago:

These charts are no longer useful to the deniers thanks to the very high temperatures of the past couple of years, so they've gone away. But what will take their place? I was amused to discover the answer a few days ago: 2016 doesn't mean anything because it was an El Niño year.

Hah! Nobody ever said they didn't have chutzpah. But it got me curious: what does a global temperature chart look like if you pull out just the El Niño and La Niña years? That seemed like a lot of work to get right, so I put it aside. Today, however, I found out that someone else had already done it for me. Here it is:

This comes from a Weather Channel piece titled "Note to Breitbart: Earth Is Not Cooling, Climate Change Is Real and Please Stop Using Our Video to Mislead Americans." The chart itself apparently comes from skepticalscience.com, but I can't figure out exactly where to link to it. [UPDATE: Here it is. It's an animated GIF!] However, it shows the historical data clearly: El Niño years (in red) are always hot, but have been getting steadily hotter. La Niña years (in blue) are always cool, but have also been getting steadily hotter. And the years in-between (in black) have been getting steadily hotter too. Long story short, every kind of year has been getting steadily hotter for a long time.

And this year is a real champ. Here's the latest from the National Snow and Ice Data Center:

Both poles are showing massive ice loss compared to trend. We've never seen anything like it. You can draw all the misleading charts you want, but it doesn't change the facts. Climate change is real, and it's getting worse.

Retired Gen. Charles Dunlap says we shouldn't be too worried about all the generals that Donald Trump is picking for his cabinet:

Many in the civilian world misunderstand the ways most generals see the world....Retired generals don’t clamor for war; they are typically the voices urging that all other avenues be exhausted before turning to force.

As chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then-Army Gen. Colin Powell authored a thoughtful but tempered use-of-force doctrine that said America should only go to war with defined objectives and a clear exit strategy. It was designed to persuade civilian policymakers to be extremely cautious about ordering troops into battle. It didn’t work, and true “hawks” of Powell’s tenure often proved to be high-ranking civilian officials with liberal political leanings.

My sense is that this is true. But that doesn't mean it is, of course. Maybe my sense is wrong. I'd like to hear more about this from both civilian and military folks who have held high-ranking positions in previous administrations. When it comes to the use of force, are ex-generals generally voices of moderation?