The front page of my morning LA Times happened to feature the headlines on the right. The headline on women reminds me of this Slate piece about how a lot of women who voted for Trump are now worried that he might defund Planned Parenthood. And of course, there's yesterday's news about all the business titans who are suddenly concerned that Trump might raise tariffs. Even on the right, it seems like everybody's worried or alarmed or concerned these days.

We've seen dozens and dozens of headlines like this over the past few weeks. An awful lot of Trump backers seem sort of shocked by what's going on. I mean, he wasn't serious about all that stuff on the campaign trail, was he?

Who knows? But it looks to me like America has finally adopted a constitutional monarchy. The nice thing about this arrangement is that you have one person, the king or queen, who handles all the ribbon cuttings and so forth, and another person, the prime minister, who can then focus almost entirely on actual governing. In our case, Donald Trump is the new king of America, tweeting out nonsense, going on victory tours, and hobnobbing with famous people at Mar-a-Lago.

And then we have our new prime minister, Mike Pence. Freed from the demands of public appearances, he spends all his time behind closed doors running the country. He wants to kill Planned Parenthood. He wants to privatize the VA. He wants to immiserate millions of people on Obamacare.

Maybe Trump wants some of this stuff too. There's no telling, really. He mostly seems to be the guy tasked with distracting everyone while Pence fills the cabinet and chats with Paul Ryan about how to run the country. Among other things, this probably means that the business community doesn't need to worry. Pence and Ryan will talk Trump out of the wall and the tariffs and the replacement for Obamacare. If he starts to balk, they'll get Jared Kushner to whisper soothingly in his ear and then turn on the TV.

Welcome to the Mike Pence administration.

In his annual press conference, Vladimir Putin took a victory lap:

“Democrats are losing on every front and looking for people to blame everywhere,” Putin said in answer to a Russian TV host, one of 1,400 journalists accredited to the marathon session. “They need to learn to lose with dignity.”

....“Trump understood the mood of the people and kept going until the end, when nobody believed in him,” Putin said, adding with a grin. “Except for you and me.”

Putin has repeatedly denied involvement despite the accusations coming from the White House, and the Kremlin has repeatedly questioned the evidence for the U.S. claims. On Friday he borrowed from Trump’s dismissal of the accusations, remarking “maybe it was someone lying on the couch who did it.”

“And it's not important who did the hacking, it's important that the information that was revealed was true, that is important,” Putin said, referring to the emails that showed that party leaders had favored Hillary Clinton.

That last line is almost word-for-word what Republican apologists say. Putin is basically admitting that Russia was behind the hacks and then smirking about it. He must be having a good old time these days. I wonder how Republicans are going to feel about this when Putin decides it's time to get rid of Trump and help the other side?

The Washington Post reports that 2016 "had the lowest rate of population growth of any year since the Great Depression." The US population, it turns out, grew by slightly less than 0.7 percent compared to 2015. There's some good news and bad news about this. First the bad news: the working-age population is growing even more slowly than that. Here it is for the 21st century:

Our working-age population continues to grow, but only at a rate of about 0.5 percent per year. But here's the good news: at least we're not Russia. Their working-age population started declining half a decade ago and is now "growing" at the rate of -0.8 percent per year:

And then there's Japan. Their working-age population is also declining, but it didn't even start the 21st century in positive territory. Currently their working-age population is growing at the rate of -1.2 percent per year:

The working-age population in the US isn't growing very fast, but it's growing faster than almost any other developed country.

More brilliance from Donald Trump:

There is nothing that military buffs love more than nerding out about the F-18 vs. the F-35. The F-18 is cheaper! The F-35 is stealthier! The F-18 makes tighter turns! The F-35 is a one-seater! The F-18 is better in a dogfight! The F-35 has better avionics! The F-18 can be fitted with external fuel tanks for longer range! Denmark says the F-35 was a clear winner in its flight tests! Canada says it wants the F-18! This is the kind of argument that Trump fans adore.

But on a substantive level, Trump's tweet is junior high school stuff. Boeing has been building new variants of the F-18 ever since it was introduced. They've already demonstrated upgraded Block III Super Hornets designed (they claim) to perform most of the missions envisioned for the F-35. In other words, they don't need to "price-out" a "comparable" F-18. They've already done it, and everyone in the military is well aware of what Boeing has to offer. Besides, the F-18 will never be as stealthy as the F-35 and it will never have the same avionics, so there's no way to ever make it truly comparable anyway.

As near as I can tell, once the F-35 is fully tested, the software constraints are tuned, and its pilots get enough flight hours behind them, the F-35 will be indisputably superior to the F-18 at nearly the same per-unit cost as the latest and greatest Super Hornet. Considering that the F-18 is forty years old, it sure ought to be. The program as a whole may have been an epic disaster, but now that it's done the F-35 is going to be America's primary multirole fighter for the next few decades. There's no going back.

So what's up? Is Trump just trying to make nice with Boeing after dissing the cost of the new Air Force Ones? Does he think this is a clever tactic to scare Lockheed Martin into offering the F-35 at a lower price? Did some admiral get his attention and gripe about the F-35 being a single-engine airframe? Is he just blowing hot air? As usual, no one knows.

Like everyone, I'm often snarky about Donald Trump's social media addiction, but I have to admit it works wonders. Today's two tiny tidbits about Israel and our nuclear arsenal produced these top-of-the-site headlines from the New York Times (left) and the Washington Post (right):

Trump's press strategy since the election has had two parts. Part one: refuse to talk to the press, so they're starved for news. Part two: dribble out tiny, often ambiguous tweets once or twice a day on subjects of his choosing. This guarantees that he gets precisely the headlines he wants.

If he announced these things at a press conference, he'd have to take questions, and there's no telling where that would lead. If he gave a speech, the press would highlight whichever parts it felt like. But by tweeting, he leaves reporters no choice. It's the only presidential news they've got, and it's on one specific subject, so that's what they have to write about.

Pretty smart, isn't it?

I've been so fixated on Donald Trump's mesmerizing Twitter performances that it's escaped my attention that he also has a well-maintained Facebook page.1 As near as I can tell, it's used for three things. First, when 140 characters won't do and he needs someone to write an in-depth 65-word essay for him:

Second, when he wants to add some grade-school artwork to a grade-school tweet:

And third, when he wants to make a poster, suitable for scrapbooking, out of one of his quotes:

The quotes are great. I expect a Trump 2017 calendar made up of these pearls. Putin has one, after all. Plus a calendar offers tons of opportunities for keeping his message front and center. January 25: "68th anniversary of first Emmy Awards. Celebrity Apprentice should have gotten one!" February 2: "Groundhog Day! Yes, I'm still president." March 23: "Obamacare is 7 years old. I'll repeal it!" April 1: "Sexual Assault Awareness Month starts today!" April 15: "We're the most highly taxed nation in the world. Sad!" May 5: "Time for a taco bowl!" June 14: "It's my birthday!"

July 28: "It's been a year since Khizr Khan insulted me. He still hasn't apologized." August 13: "Berlin wall created. Walls work!" September 17: "Electoral College is 230 years old today. Hooray!" October 19: "Everybody says I demolished Hillary in the third debate a year ago!" November 8: "First anniversary of biggest landslide victory in presidential history!" December 3: "International Day of Persons With Disabilities!" December 31: "Last day for all the rest of you to make charitable donations!"

This has so many possibilities. Trump should be all over it.

1Also Instagram and, at least once, a famous Snapchat filter. But he's not on Pinterest, Tumblr, or Flickr. Time to branch out, Donald.

Uber decided to put a few of its self-driving cars on the road in San Francisco without bothering to tell anyone, so yesterday the California DMV revoked the registration of its cars. During the week they were tootling around the city, however, people reported that Uber's cars were running red lights and making right turns incorrectly. Atrios comments:

People always say "oh, well, if it works 98% of the time and then every now and then the cars needs the driver to step in then that's good enough." No, that isn't good enough. There isn't time for me to switch from taking a nap or texting my pals to taking over when a bike lane appears suddenly, unless I'm paying 100% attention. And no one is going to pay 100% attention in a "self-driving car" because what's the point.

Who says that? I've never heard anything remotely like this from anyone with more than a Twitter egg understanding of autonomous vehicles. The goal is, and always has been, a car that's 100 percent self-driving. Personally, I envision something the size of a tiny room with a couple of La-Z-Boy recliners suitable for reading, twittering, watching Buffy reruns, or taking a nap.

We're not there yet, of course, and no one claims otherwise. But the fact that we're not there yet doesn't mean we'll never get there. Griping about the fact that current iterations of autonomous vehicles aren't perfect doesn't seem very productive.

Personally, I'm hoping to live long enough to ride in a fully autonomous car and prove Atrios wrong. I think it's gonna be a close call.

From Phillip Blando, a spokesman for the Trump transition team, on news that Obamacare enrollments are running well ahead of last year:

The enrollment numbers announced today show just how important health care coverage is to millions of Americans. The Trump administration will work closely with Congress, governors, patients, doctors and other stakeholders to fix the Affordable Care Act’s well-documented flaws and provide consumers with stable and predictable health plan choices.

Um, what? Is Blando unschooled in how Republicans are supposed to talk about Obamacare? Is he just lying to us (always a possibility with a Trump spokesman)? Will this be followed by a hasty "clarification"? Or is Trump really thinking that maybe he wants to keep Obamacare as the base of a reformed Trumpcare?

Meh. I suppose it's just random words stuck together into a sentence-like structure. Trying to guess what it really means is probably about as fruitful as trying to decipher Soviet-era May Day photographs.

At the Washington Post today, Sari Horwitz has a long tick-tock about James Comey's conduct during the presidential election. Much of it is about the strained relationship between Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, but it starts out like this:

Twelve days before the presidential election, FBI Director James B. Comey dispatched a senior aide to deliver a startling message to the Justice Department. Comey wanted to send a letter to Congress alerting them that his agents had discovered more emails potentially relevant to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

....Federal attorneys scrambled into offices on the fourth and fifth floors of Justice Department headquarters, where they huddled to figure out how to stop what they viewed as a ticking time bomb. “It was DEFCON 1,” said an official familiar with the deliberations. “We were in­cred­ibly concerned this could have an impact on the election.”

....Weeks before the letter, Comey had advised against the Obama administration public statement admonishing Russia for the Democratic Party hacks, arguing it would make the administration appear partisan too close to the election. But to him, the Clinton email investigation was different. Battered by Republican lawmakers during a hearing that summer, Comey feared he would come under further attack if word leaked about the Clinton case picking up again.

If Horwitz has the right read on this, Comey released his bombshell letter largely because Republicans had blistered him so viciously earlier in the year over his decision not to recommend charges against Hillary Clinton. Comey "feared he would come under further attack" if anyone found out about the new email archive, and that was what made up his mind. Quite the profile in courage, no?

Also, he knew he had a rogue group in New York who were so rabidly anti-Clinton that they'd leak the news if he didn't. Rather than rein them in, as he should have, he caved in instead. Quite the management hero, no?

Horwitz also tells us that Comey was "surprised by the intensity of the reaction to his letter." Seriously? This is a guy who's been part of the criminal justice arm of the government for decades. He's a master at navigating the shoals of DC politics. What's more, everyone in the world was telling the FBI that releasing the letter would be astounding, unprecedented, and dangerous. It was "DEFCON 1." And Comey was surprised that a letter about Clinton's email twelve days before the election would cause a stir? This beggars the imagination, no?

In 2000 the Supreme Court appointed the president of the United States. In 2016 the Director of the FBI did it. At this point, I'd actually be happy to leave things up to the Electoral College. At least Democrats have a fighting chance there.

Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters/ZUMA

Donald Trump started out on Twitter in 2009 with 216 followers. When he announced he was running for president in June 2015, he had 2.94 million followers. Just before Election Day he had 12.8 million followers. Today he has 17.7 million followers:

Not bad. But that only puts him in 75th place. NASA has 20 million followers. CNN has 30 million followers. Britney Spears has 50 million followers. Barack Obama has 80 million followers. And Katy Perry tops the list with 95 million followers. Only 77 million more to go, Donald.