After Donald Trump spent a week waffling and "softening" over his immigration policy, I said, "The only thing left is for him to casually tell us that 'build the wall' was meant kind of metaphorically all along, and most of it will end up being a 'virtual wall' of drones and security cameras." Ha ha. Just a little joke. Trump would never back down on—what's that, NBC News?

Sigh. I wonder if someone finally told Trump that it's not possible to build an actual concrete wall across every mile of the border? But if so, why would he have listened this time? It's not like he's ever shown any deference to reality in the past.

Anyway, maybe there's nothing to this. I guess we'll have to wait for Trump's big immigration speech on Wednesday. (Yes, another one.) At the moment, he's too busy tweeting about Hillary Clinton's low IQ to have time for anything else.

Huma Abedin Has Finally Had Enough

After the latest humiliating public news of her husband Anthony Weiner's sexting obsession, Huma Abedin is calling it quits:

Jesus. She has a laughingstock for a husband, and spent four years trying to fend off the odious Doug Band while she was working for Hillary Clinton at the State Department. What a life. She deserves better, and I hope she gets it.

Our Automotive Overlords Are Coming Soon

Vox has polled America about driverless cars, and the truth has emerged: if you are skeptical of self-driving technology, you are probably the same kind of oldster who scoffs at Snapchat and Instagram. Which....um, is probably pretty reasonable. But older folks also tend to watch Fox News and vote Republican. You don't want to be part of that demographic do, you? Besides, you might not have any choice:

If self-driving technology saves as many lives as its supporters hope, we could eventually have a different debate: whether to allow people to drive their own cars at all....A slight plurality of those under 30 said they would favor a ban, 43 percent to 42 percent. In contrast, those over 65 were opposed by a wide margin, 58 percent to 22 percent.

Millennials will be taking over the world soon, and they're wide open to banning human drivers. This makes sense. Our grandchildren will probably be appalled when we tell them that once upon a time humans were actually allowed to pilot these 2-ton death machines. Your future automotive overlords are knocking on the door and I, for one, welcome them.

UPDATE: The original version of the chart in this story showed that only 2 percent of the elderly were ready to give up their cars. The actual number is 9 percent.

When I picked up my copy of the LA Times this morning, I was greeted by the headline on the right. It's about someone you may have heard of: Gilbert Chagoury, a billionaire from Nigeria.

Chagoury is a prominent example of the nexus between Hillary Clinton’s State Department and the family’s Clinton Foundation, which has come under renewed scrutiny during her presidential run. The organization, founded as a way for the Clintons to tap their vast network for charitable works, has tackled some of the steepest challenges in the developing world, including rebuilding Haiti and fighting AIDS in Africa. It has also come under fire for its willingness to accept money from foreign governments with interest in swaying U.S. policy during Clinton’s time as secretary of State, and the controversial histories of some donors.

A nexus! So what's up with Chagoury? Here's a snapshot:

Chagoury was born in 1946 in Lagos to Lebanese parents....During the rule of Gen. Sani Abacha, who seized power in Nigeria in 1993, Chagoury prospered....tried to influence American policy to be more friendly to the regime....Abacha turned out to be “one of the most notorious kleptocrats in memory,” stealing billions in public funds....After Abacha’s death in 1998, the Nigerian government hired lawyers to track down the money. The trail led to bank accounts all over the world — some under Gilbert Chagoury's control. Chagoury, who denied knowing the funds were stolen, paid a fine of 1 million Swiss francs, then about $600,000, and gave back $65 million to Nigeria; a Swiss conviction was expunged, a spokesman for Chagoury said.

OK. Chagoury is rich, powerful, connected, and maybe a little shady. Next:

In 1996, he gave $460,000 to a voter registration group steered by Bill Clinton’s allies....attended Clinton's 60th birthday fundraiser....contributed $1 million to $5 million to the Clinton Foundation....the Chagoury Group’s Eko Atlantic development — nine square kilometers of Lagos coastal land reclaimed by a seawall — was singled out for praise.

....By last summer, U.S. diplomats had selected a 9.9-acre property at Eko Atlantic as the preferred site for a new Lagos consulate, State Department documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times show. Two months ago, James Entwistle, then the U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, wrote to Washington, asking permission to sign a 99-year lease.

The Eko Atlantic stuff is small beer, and happened after Hillary Clinton left the State Department anyway. So what's her connection to all this? That's a little hazy:

[Doug] Band, Bill Clinton’s aide, pushed for new access for Chagoury after Hillary Clinton took over at the State Department. In 2009, Band wrote his friends in the department. “We need Gilbert Chagoury to speak to the substance guy re Lebanon. As you know he's key guy there and to us and is loved in Lebanon. Very imp.” Huma Abedin, a longtime aide and confidante to Clinton and now vice chairwoman of her presidential campaign, suggested [former Ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey] Feltman....But no meeting ever happened, according to both Feltman and Chagoury’s spokesman. Chagoury wanted only to pass along insights on Lebanese politics, Corallo said, adding that “nothing ever came of it” and that Chagoury never talked to anyone at the State Department.

And...what? This is followed by a description of Chagoury's run-ins with US security officials, all of which happened after 2009. However, the story is written in such a way that this is unclear unless you read carefully.

So as near as I can tell, Chagoury (a) is tied up in some of the less savory aspects of Lebanese politics, (b) has contributed to the Clinton Foundation, and (c) wanted to discuss Lebanon once with someone at State, but never did. Later on, he had trouble getting a US visa thanks to suspicions of past connections with Hezbollah, which Chagoury denies.

Am I missing something? How did this end up as the lead story in today's LA Times?

Health Update

I've had some lab work and a couple of doctor visits this week. Everything is fine aside from my M-protein level, which you will recall is a marker that's a good measure of the level of cancerous cells in my bone marrow. The evil dex got it down to 0.3, and it hovered around there for a couple of months after we stopped the dex.1 This month, however, it's up to 0.48. My oncologist thinks that I may have been dehydrated when I did the lab work, because several other results were also higher than before. Because of this, he thinks the M-protein level will probably drop the next time I get labs done.

Is this plausible? Beats me. As near as I can tell, oncologists are so devoted to happy talk that it's hard to know whether to believe anything they say. So this might be an aberration or it might not. We'll find out in a couple of months.

If my M-protein level does go back down, then we keep doing what we're doing. If it continues to go up, we'll switch to a different maintenance regimen. We should find out sometime around my 58th birthday.

Life is weird. In the past two years, four members of my immediate family have been diagnosed with cancer. The total size of my immediate family is seven. Seems a little excessive, doesn't it?

POSTSCRIPT: I get occasional emails from readers who haven't seen a health update in a while and want to know how I am. For the record, if there's no health update, it means nothing has changed. I'll always post about anything significant.

1That's dexamethasone, a corticosteroid that helps fight multiple myeloma. However, it has bad long-term side effects, so it can only be used for a few months at a time.

Well, OK, I guess I'd better do a quick Trump update. No, he still hasn't made up his mind about his immigration policy, but he did respond to the shooting of Dwyane Wade's cousin:

Keep it classy, Donald. Next up, remember that letter from Donald Trump's doctor claiming that Trump would be "the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency"? Yesterday NBC News finally got an interview with Dr. Harold Bornstein, who justified this opinion by explaining that "all the rest of them are either sick or dead." Roger that. This picture of Bornstein nearly brought down Twitter's servers yesterday:

Yep, that's billionaire Donald Trump's doctor. You can—and should!—watch the entire interview with Dr. Bornstein over at NBC News. Fun fact: he wrote the letter in five minutes while Trump's limo was waiting downstairs.

What else? Well, it turns out to no one's surprise that Breitbart chief and now Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon may be even more bigoted than we thought. The Daily News picked up this little nugget from his divorce proceedings:

Mary Louise Piccard said in a 2007 court declaration that Bannon didn't want their twin daughters attending the Archer School for Girls in Los Angeles because many Jewish students were enrolled at the elite institution.

"The biggest problem he had with Archer is the number of Jews that attend," Piccard said in her statement signed on June 27, 2007. "He said that he doesn't like the way they raise their kids to be 'whiny brats' and that he didn't want the girls going to school with Jews," Piccard wrote.

Bannon's spox told the Daily News that "at the time" he never said anything like that. They did not specify at which time he did say it.

Am I done yet? Oh my no. Next up is Trump supporter Paul LePage, the unhinged governor of Maine. LePage apparently thought that a Democratic legislator had called him a racist (he hadn't) and left him a noxious phone message. Then he met with reporters to explain himself:

There were a few other items. There always are. But that's enough. For those of you who didn't pay any attention to the news yesterday, this has been your day in Trump.

Friday Cat Blogging - 26 August 2016

What kind of cat is Hilbert? Here is this week's peek into his personality.

On Tuesday Marian made a tuna sandwich for lunch. That means tuna juice too, so she squeezed out the tuna juice into two saucers and put them out. Hopper came bounding over immediately and started lapping up the juice. Hilbert was slower off the mark, but eventually he figured out what was going on and shambled over.

But when he got to the saucers, he didn't head to the unoccupied one. He went around the long way and stuck his snout into Hopper's saucer and pushed her away. She shrugged, and headed over to the other saucer, which she lapped up. She had been almost done with the first one anyway.

So there you have it. Hilbert is more interested in taking away Hopper's tuna juice than in actually having any tuna juice of his own. However, he also has a brain the size of a peanut and is unable to effectively carry out his nefarious intentions. In the end, Hopper got all the tuna juice.

In other words, he is not a cat we'd want to elect as president. But as a king? Sure. So here is his majesty up on the balcony, surveying his vast domains. I'm not sure what he's looking at. Probably a crow walking across the skylight.

A Question for the AP

Just curious: are you ever planning to release the names of Hillary Clinton's non-governmental visitors? You're a news organization, after all, and this is news. I'd sure like to see them. I bet lots of other people would too.

Did corporations and foreign governments make donations to the Clinton Foundation as a way of cozying up to Hillary Clinton? Cherry picking the few occasions when they did so within a few months of some action by Hillary won't tell us anything. There's too little signal and too much noise. But there's a way to attack this question. Since 2000, Hillary Clinton has had five phases in her career:

2001-06: Senator from New York
2007-08: Candidate for president with good chance of winning.
2009-12: Secretary of State in the Obama administration.
2013-14: Retired, giving speeches, no one knew what she would do next.
2015-16: Candidate for president with excellent chance of winning.

So here's what someone needs to do: Take a look at donations to the Clinton Foundation and see if they seem to align with these career phases. For example, you'd expect foreign governments to be uninterested in gaining favors from Hillary while she was a New York senator, but very interested while she was Secretary of State. Conversely, you might expect, say, the financial industry to be generous while she was a New York senator but not so much while she was Secretary of State. During the periods when she was running for president, you'd expect activity to pick up from everybody, and during 2013-14 you'd expect interest to decline across the board.

You can probably think of other trends you'd expect to see if donations to the Clinton Foundation were widely viewed as a way of getting better access to Hillary. So what you need to do is write down these expectations first, and then crunch the data to see if the evidence supports your hypothesis.

This would be a lot of work. But if you really, truly think the Foundation was basically just a way of buying access to Hillary Clinton, this is a way of getting past anecdotes and looking for real trends. Is anyone willing to do this?

Is the presidential race tightening up? Let's take a look. Here's Pollster:

No tightening evident here. Here's Sam Wang:

No tightening here either. If anything, Clinton has improved her position. Here's Real Clear Politics:

Some slight tightening here since early August, when the convention bumps settled down. Maybe a point or so. Here's Nate Cohn:

No tightening here. Here's 538:

This is a percentage chance of victory, not a projection of vote share. Clinton has dropped a few points since early August.

Bottom line: Since early August, there's either been no tightening in the polls, or, at most, maybe a point or so. Hillary Clinton is ahead by 6-8 points in the national polls, and so far that's staying pretty steady.