Donald Trump is bragging today that "Manufacturing openings, hires rise to highest levels of the recovery." Well of course they have. As long the economy keeps expanding, openings will set a new record every month, more or less. Like so:

If you want to know how manufacturing is really doing, you want to look at it as a percentage of all job openings. Here you go:

Meh. Manufacturing job openings have been declining since 2012, but have shown a small uptick since the start of 2016. Nothing to get excited about, though.

I know, I know: who cares? Well, what can I tell you? I'm just trying to take my mind off the whole, incredible Comey thing. It's mind boggling. Maybe today is a good day to start sniffing glue.

How the world works, 2017 edition:

July 2016: Republicans are united in outrage when James Comey declines to recommend charges against crooked Hillary Clinton despite mountains of evidence that she is totally guilty.

Today: Republicans are united in disappointment at Comey's decision to harm poor Hillary Clinton by breaching agency guidelines against commenting on investigations and interfering with an upcoming election. Thank God he's finally been fired.

The official story about Comey's firing goes something like this. On April 25, Rod Rosenstein was confirmed as deputy attorney general. It takes him less than two weeks to put together a memo arguing that: Comey was wrong to usurp the attorney general's prosecutorial authority. He was wrong to hold a "derogatory" press conference about Clinton. He was wrong three months later to claim that keeping quiet about the Huma Abedin emails amounted to "concealing" them. He shouldn't have said anything on October 28. Rosenstein concludes by saying that everyone from the janitor to the pope agrees that this was obviously egregious behavior on Comey's part. Within hours, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recommends Comey be fired and Trump immediately announces Comey's termination. Comey hears about it on TV.

Needless to say, there is precisely nothing new in any of this. As Rosenstein says, these criticisms of Comey have been obvious from the start, and Trump could have used them as justification for firing Comey at any time. But he didn't. Until now.

The difference between then and now, of course, is that then Comey was helping bury Hillary Clinton, and now Comey is investigating ties between Russia and Trump. So only now is it time for Comey to go.

So far, there are a tiny handful of Republicans who are "troubled" by Comey's firing. Will they go any farther? Will any more Republicans join them? Or is everyone going to take one for the team and pretend that Comey really was fired because of how badly he treated Hillary Clinton?

Another month, another drop in illegal immigration. The conservative Washington Times is crowing about it:

Illegal immigration across southwest border down 70 percent under Trump

Illegal immigration across the southwest border dropped yet again in April, with the number of illegal immigrant children fallen below 1,000 for the first time in recent records, Homeland Security announced Tuesday. The numbers are part of a stunning drop since the beginning of the Trump administration. Border Patrol apprehensions alone are down a shocking 70 percent compared to last year under President Obama.

....Authorities attributed the continued drop to the administration’s changes in border enforcement policies. “A lot of the discussion about changes in our enforcement policy and the way we are going about doing business, we believe that has deterred people,” said Department of Homeland Security spokesman David Lapan in a briefing at Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters Tuesday.

Is this really a Trump effect? I don't have much of a dog in this fight, since I think it might well be. Trump's brand of bluster and fear isn't very effective in most circumstances, but it's certainly possible that it is here. A loud president combined with some loud raids could easily scare off folks from trying to cross the border.

But you can judge for yourself. Here are total Southwest border apprehensions since 2008. Since this stuff is extremely seasonal, I've drawn three lines for apprehensions in January, February, and March:

On the one hand, border apprehensions are down sharply compared to 2016 in all three months. On the other hand, this has happened before: in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2015. The number just announced for April is below the April trendline (dotted line), but only a little.

If I had to guess, I'd say the Trump effect is small but real. There would have been some reversion to the mean regardless, but the drop under Trump seems to be a little steeper than we might otherwise expect. The real question is how long it lasts. I imagine that border crossers are accustomed to periodic crackdowns, and willing to wait them out. The question is whether Trump's bluster gets backed up with anything more.

FBI Director James Comey has been fired. Why? The White House hasn't said, but it seems to be linked to Comey's bungled testimony to Congress regarding the number of emails Huma Abedin forwarded to her husband, and more generally to Comey's handling of the Clinton email investigation during the 2016 campaign. This is what got President Trump elected, so there's zero chance he actually cares about it. But I suppose it's as good an excuse as any.

So what's the real reason? Well...the FBI is investigating the ties between Russia and Trump's campaign. If I were president while that was going on, I probably wouldn't want someone running the agency who was eager to prove that he could get tough on my party too. Much better to have a friendly face running things. I imagine that Trump feels the same way.

Lunchtime Photo

This is one of our monarch butterflies. We only have three or four, but it's always nice when one of them makes an appearance in the garden and flits around for a while.

BTW, this is an example of a picture I couldn't have taken with my old camera. It only allowed me to focus this close with the zoom set to its shortest focal length, which meant I'd have to be about six inches away. There's no way the butterfly would have stuck around for that. But the Lumix allows me to focus pretty close even when the zoom is out to 100-200mm. I took this from a foot or two away, which was just far enough not to spook the butterfly into flight or flight mode.

Apparently we are going to stay in Afghanistan forever. If we leave, the Taliban will likely take over large swaths of the country—if not the entire place—and no president wants to be in office when that happens. But neither can we "win." So we just keep announcing the same old plan: send in more troops. Here's the latest:

Senior Trump administration and military officials are recommending sending several thousand additional American troops to Afghanistan to try to break a military deadlock in the 15-year war there, in part by pressuring the Taliban to negotiate with the Afghan government.

....American officials said that 3,000 to 5,000 additional troops, including hundreds of Special Operations forces, could be sent....NATO nations would also be asked to send thousands of troops, and the precise number of American forces deployed would probably depend on what those allies were prepared to do.

Is this a joke? We've been fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan for more than 15 years and we're once again pretending that adding a few more troops will break that 15-year stalemate? Here's what troop levels have looked like in Afghanistan since the war started:

The official story is that Trump's little uptick will be the final straw that panics the Taliban into serious negotiations. I would sure like to hear someone defend this fanciful notion with a straight face.

Last week, FBI Director James Comey testified that Huma Abedin, one of Hillary Clinton's closest aides, had forwarded "hundreds and thousands" of emails to her idiot husband so that he could print them out. Conservatives crowed. It was just another example of the slack attitude toward national security among Clinton and her inner circle.

Except ProPublica reports that it wasn't:

FBI officials have privately acknowledged that Comey misstated what Abedin did and what the FBI investigators found. On Monday, the FBI was said to be preparing to correct the record by sending a letter to Congress later this week. But that plan now appears on hold, with the bureau undecided about what to do.

....According to two sources familiar with the matter — including one in law enforcement — Abedin forwarded only a handful of Clinton emails to her husband for printing — not the “hundreds and thousands” cited by Comey. It does not appear Abedin made “a regular practice” of doing so. Other officials said it was likely that most of the emails got onto the computer as a result of backups of her Blackberry.

Oops. Accidents happen. It is remarkable, though, that in Comey's case these decisions about what to say and what to withhold invariably hurt Democrats and help Republicans. How often can this happen before everyone stops believing it's just a coincidence from this honorably-intentioned man?

Yesterday I wondered what kind of progress the Trump administration had made on its new immigration rules. They ought to be nearly finished by now, making the court case over Trump's executive order moot. Well, it turns out the judges in that case had the same question:

During Monday's hearing, judges also questioned the government about the status of its review of immigration vetting procedures. Why does the Trump administration continue insisting on 90- and 120-day travel suspensions, they asked, if it's already had so much time to improve vetting procedures? Judge Stephanie Thacker said the portion of Trump's order calling for a vetting review was in place for nearly two months.

"Was any vetting (review) done in those 50 days?" she said.

Wall said government attorneys have interpreted court rulings as barring them from doing so.

"We've put our pens down," he said. "We haven't done any work on it."

The earlier stays of the EO obviously don't bar the government from working on new immigration rules. I'm not even sure a court could do that. This is a childish excuse, but that's the one they're going with.

Trump's contempt for the American public here is breathtaking. Keep in mind that this is supposedly a matter of grave national security, which is why the first EO had to be issued without any warning. But now Trump is treating it like a schoolyard game: if the courts won't let him have his way, he's taking his ball and going home. And if some visitor from Yemen ends up killing a bunch of people, well, maybe next time we'll listen to him.

There aren't a lot of alternatives here. The first is that Trump believes his immigration order is a serious matter of national security, but he doesn't care about national security as much as does about winning a court case. The second is that Trump never believed it mattered much, but implemented it in the most chaotic way possible as a PR stunt. Either way it's revolting.

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.