We didn't really learn anything new in today's congressional hearing, but the questioning did highlight one of the ugliest aspects of the Flynn affair. Sally Yates testified that she informed White House counsel on January 26 that Mike Flynn had lied about his contacts with the Russians and that he was vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians. "To state the obvious," Yates said, "you don't want your national security adviser compromised with the Russians."

For 18 days, President Trump didn't do anything. Nor did he give any sign that he ever planned to do anything. It was only after Flynn's actions became public, via a leak to the Washington Post, that Trump finally fired him.

He's never explained why he didn't fire Flynn immediately. Richard Nixon had his 18-minute gap, and now Trump has an 18-day gap. Instead of grousing endlessly about the leak, Trump should tell us if he would have kept a security risk like Flynn in his inner circle forever if the leak had never happened.

Oh man, this cracks me up. This whole Russia thing is really getting inside President Trump's OODA loop. After today's congressional hearing, he was hellbent on making sure everyone knew that James Clapper had said there was "no evidence" of collusion between Trump and Russia. Clapper didn't quite say that, actually, but Trump didn't care. He ordered his staff to change his Twitter picture pronto. So they did. Now it looks like this:

You might be able to see the whole message on a different monitor, or if you fiddle around with the width of your browser window. But probably not. What a bunch of doofuses.

As you may know, the New York Times hired Bret Stephens a couple of weeks ago as a new columnist on their op-ed page. Stephens is a conservative who previously worked at the Wall Street Journal, and he's a climate...something. Climate denier? Climate skeptic? In the past he was probably closer to being a denier, but these days he's softened and is now a skeptic.

In any case, his hiring set off a wave of outrage among progressives. But I sort of shrugged. The guy's a Pulitzer Prize winner, after all, and being a climate skeptic is practically a guild requirement among conservatives. If you don't allow climate skeptics on your op-ed page, you're going to have a hard time finding any conservative voices.

Then he wrote his first column, and he jumped straight into the maw. It was a pretty bad column, basically saying that, hey, scientists have been wrong before, so maybe they're wrong this time. That was it—except for a single factual statement, which he botched and had to have corrected. I sighed. Can't we just change the subject to how tax cuts always pay for themselves?

No we can't. Stephens' second column was about climate change again. It was essentially a variant of the first column: sometimes scientists have been wrong about how to reduce greenhouse gases, so maybe they're still wrong and we don't even know how to do it. This is tedious, lazy, and sloppy, but it turns out it was more than that. One of his exhibits was Germany's nationwide effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It's been a failure:

Yikes. As Stephens says, "emissions are almost exactly what they were in 2009."

But wait. Remember those global warming charts that carefully started in the year 1998, an unusually warm El Niño year, to show that warming had stopped dead in its tracks? That was literally the only starting year that gave this illusion, and climate deniers gleefully used it for over a decade until they finally had to stop thanks to the warming of the past few years, which smashed past all the old records.

Well, James Wimberley points out that Stephens did the same thing: he started with the Great Recession year of 2009, when GHG emissions were unusually low. Here's the full run of data since 1990:

As you can see, 2009 is literally the only year that gives the illusion of Germany making no progress. So that's the year he used. This is yahoo hucksterism at its worst.

It's also something that columnists imbibe with the drinking water at the Journal editorial page. Hardly a piece goes by that doesn't include some kind of egregious statistical flim-flam. This points toward the real mistake the New York Times made. It's not that they hired a climate skeptic. You can hardly avoid that among conservatives these days. The real mistake is that they imported the ethics of the Wall Street Journal editorial page. I don't know if you can train that out of a person once they've spent more than a decade there.

Lunchtime Photo

The Angel Motel in Orange, California.

Max Ehrenfreund points us today to a new paper by a quartet of researchers that looks at lifetime incomes of various age groups. They find that middle-class income has stagnated and income inequality has gone up over the past few decades. None of that should come as a surprise.

But there's an interesting twist. Here's their key chart for men. It's busy and intimidating looking, but don't worry. It will all make sense.

First off, look at the pink circles at the bottom. Those show the earnings of 25-year-old men who are just entering the labor market. Starting around 1973, their earnings began to plummet, from $35,000 to $25,000.

Now look at the gray diamonds at the top. Those show the earnings of 55-year-old men. They've gone up and down, but basically have stayed right around $55,000 the whole time.

In other words, the decline in lifetime earnings among men is almost entirely because the average earnings of young men have declined. They end up at the same place as earlier cohorts by the time they retire, but they never make up for the dismal earnings of the first ten or fifteen years of their working careers.

Don't get too hung up on the precise numbers here. The authors use Social Security data, which they show is roughly equivalent to overall income data. However, if you use different data, or different measures of inflation, or different measures of income that include health benefits, you'll get somewhat different results. However, the basic stagnation picture doesn't change, and the difference between the earnings of young and old don't change.

If this data is accurate, it means that we have one big cohort—roughly 25 to 40 years old—that's struggling worse and worse every year, and another big cohort—roughly 40 to 65 years old—that's stagnating but not declining. To the extent that economic stress among men helped power Donald Trump to the White House, it's that younger cohort that should have done it. And this is indeed the cohort that Hillary Clinton struggled with the most.

Sally Yates is a career civil servant in the Justice Department. She was hired under the first Bush administration, promoted during the Clinton administration, promoted again during the second Bush administration, and yet again under the Obama administration. Two years ago she was named deputy attorney general, the second ranking position in the department, and then became acting attorney general when Loretta Lynch left. President Trump asked her to stay on until Jeff Sessions was confirmed, and she agreed. A few days later, after declining to defend Trump's immigration order in court, she was fired.

Today she's scheduled to testify about what she told the White House regarding National Security Advisor Mike Flynn's connections to Russia. Trump isn't waiting, though. He's decided to pre-smear her:

Hmmm. I get the impression that Trump is pretty sure her testimony is going to be damaging. We already know that she warned the Trumpies that Flynn had lied about his contacts with Russia, and today we learned that President Obama had previously warned Trump away from hiring Flynn. (The White House response, apparently, is that they thought Obama was just kidding.) Despite all this, Trump hired Flynn and then kept him on. It was only when Flynn's lying became public that Trump fired him.

Anyway, this should all guarantee a huge audience for today's hearing. It's at 2:30 pm Eastern, which probably means 3 pm once all the preliminary throat clearing and speechifying is done.

On January 27, President Trump issued an executive order on immigration. Within 30 days, the Secretary of Homeland Security was ordered to compile a list of the information needed from foreign countries to properly adjudicate new visa applications. Immediately thereafter, the Secretary of State was ordered to ask "all foreign governments that do not supply such information to start providing such information regarding their nationals within 60 days of notification." At that point, any foreign government that refused to provide the necessary information would be "recommended for inclusion on a Presidential proclamation that would prohibit the entry of foreign nationals."

That's plain enough, and by April 27 this should have been completed. The executive order may have been stayed by the courts, but that affected only the immediate ban of visitors from seven specified countries. Homeland Security presumably carried out the president's order to create the list, and the State Department presumably notified foreign countries of its requirements.

So did they? If they didn't, what held them up? Why hasn't any such list been published? And why is the Trump administration continuing to waste time in court over its EO since it should be moot at this point?

Has any progress been made on this? Or has Trump put it on hold in a huff because he didn't get his way? Has anyone asked?

Tyler Cowen points us to a study from last year which concludes that police officers become "less productive" as they gain experience. Here's the abstract:

This study analyzes two decades of data from a municipal police agency and describes the average patrol officer career productivity trajectory. We find that declines in productivity begin immediately after the first year of service and worsen over the course of officers’ careers. After their 20th year, patrol officers generate 88% fewer directed patrols, 50% fewer traffic warnings, 58% fewer traffic citations, 41% fewer warrant arrests, and 57% fewer misdemeanor arrests compared to officers with 1 year of experience. Using a patrol officer productivity metric called Z-score per Productive Time (Z-PRO), we estimate that each additional year of service decreases an officer’s overall productivity by about 2%. Z-PRO also indicates that after 21 years of service, an average officer will be approximately 35% less productive overall than an officer with 1 year of service.

There's an issue of framing here: What is the "proper" level of productivity for a police officer? Perhaps the real issue is that newish police officers are overzealous. They're eager to ticket anyone going 6 miles over the speed limit. They arrest anyone hanging out on a corner who turns out to have a joint in their pocket. Etc.

It's not necessarily the case that more is always better. To really judge this stuff, you'd also need to measure the quality of arrests and traffic citations in some way. It's possible that older officers arrest less because their experience tells them it's better to let the small stuff go, but have a better eye for genuinely dangerous behavior.

Then again, maybe they just get lazy.

I have a little catching up to do. Mark Green, President Trump's second pick to be Secretary of the Army, has withdrawn. Green is a Tennessee state legislator who has made disparaging remarks about gays, trans people, and Muslims. Sadly, the radical left used these remarks to accuse him of hostility toward gays, trans people, and Muslims, and that became a "distraction." So many distractions these days! On Friday Green announced that he was withdrawing his nomination.

But you know what they say: third time's the charm. All Trump has to do is find someone who's neither obscenely rich nor filled with hatred, and he should have no trouble getting a confirmation. How hard can that be?

I've been pretty astonished at how much better my new camera is compared to my old one. Of course, the old Canon cost $400 and the new Lumix cost $1200, so you might think it damn well better take superior pictures. And you'd be right. The combination of a bigger sensor and better optics just produces higher quality results.

Oddly enough, though, that's only half the story. There are several other things it does better that have turned out to be nearly as important:

Burst mode. One of the dirty little secrets of the pros has always been that they just take a lot more pictures than the rest of us.1 If you take 500 shots, you're a lot more likely to get two or three good ones than if you take 20 shots. Back in the days of film, there was nothing much you could do about this unless you were willing to spend gigantic amounts of money on film and processing.

But in the digital era, taking lots of pictures is free, so why not do it? Even for something as static as a group photo, you should use burst mode. That way you'll have a much better chance of getting at least one where nobody is blinking or looking away or something. For anything that moves (cats, birds, babies, etc.), it's a no-brainer. One of the reasons my Lumix pictures have been better is because I've made about 12,000 exposures since I've gotten it. Of that, I've saved maybe 50 or so. That's half of one percent. If I had taken only a few hundred, I'd probably have only three or four good ones (and they wouldn't be quite as good).

Faster, more accurate autofocus. This hardly needs any explanation. The fact that the autofocus is faster means I'm less likely to miss a shot. The fact that it's more accurate means the focus is less likely to be soft.

Easy exposure compensation. This one is a little more subtle. As near as I can tell, the metering on the Canon and the Lumix are about equally good. But depending on circumstances, I often want to under or overexpose a bit. The Canon could do this, of course, but it was a little clunky, so I often didn't bother. However, the Lumix has a dedicated dial on the top of the camera that's easy to get to, so I'm never tempted to just settle for good enough. I always dial in some exposure compensation if I need it.

All that said, it was the most humdrum thing in the world that really surprised me. Sometimes I take pictures of my TV to illustrate a blog post, as I did on Thursday:

That is...remarkably sharp and well exposed. With the old Canon, I had to take a dozen shots to get two or three good ones. Something about the interaction of the refresh on the TV and the refresh on the camera's CCD (or something) produced lots of shots that were blurred, wildly color imbalanced, or exposed badly. With the Lumix I don't get any of that. Every shot is fine. It's like night and day.

I'm not sure what possessed me to spend $1200 on a fixed-lens camera. That's enough to buy a middling DSLR. But although the Lumix doesn't quite produce DSLR results, it comes a lot closer than I expected.

1They also have pricier equipment, more experience, and better eyes. But those aren't exactly secrets, are they?