James Pethokoukis rounds up some evidence today that, contrary to their reputations, modern tech companies create just as many jobs as the big industrial giants of yore. The problem is that he's comparing today's companies with companies from a century ago, when the labor force was far smaller. You can't do that. You have to look at jobs as a percent of the entire labor force. When you do that, here's what his sample set of companies looks like 20 years after their founding:

Modern tech companies are all at the bottom. The only exception is Amazon, and it's arguable just how much Amazon is really a tech company anyway. Putting a web interface on retail doesn't really count, but then again, providing cloud services does. So they're about half and half, which probably explains why they're in the middle of the chart.

For better or worse, modern tech companies just aren't huge jobs producers—and as machine intelligence progresses, they're likely to become even smaller players in the employment market.

The NFL Sucks So Hard

I don't suppose anyone cares, but I just want to say for the record that I agree entirely with Bill Plaschke today:

Every relationship is built on honesty, so the San Diego Chargers should hear this as their moving vans are chugging up the 5 Freeway on their noble mission of greed.

We. Don’t. Want. You.

The NFL sucks so hard. They stayed out of Los Angeles for two decades desperately trying to prove that, by God, no city would get an NFL team unless they ponied up taxpayer dollars for a stadium. Now we're about to have two teams, and for the exact same reason: to show San Diego that, by God, an NFL team won't stay in a city unless they pony up taxpayer dollars for a better stadium. And not just any dollars. Enough dollars to satisfy the lords of football.

Did I mention just how hard the NFL sucks?

Well, this is interesting:

I doubt that this will find anything illegal about Comey's actions. However, at the very least it should provide us with a detailed rundown of just how Comey decided to release his letter and what advice he ignored when he did it.

New York Times reporter Trip Gabriel spent all of 2015 in Iowa. He recently returned to the small town of Monticello to see how folks felt now that Donald Trump had been elected:

The Iowans I interviewed largely went about their lives outside the political hothouse social media....Many were hazy on specific policy details....These voters feared an outbreak of European-style terrorist attacks by Muslims in the United States, maybe in their own communities. And overwhelmingly, Trump supporters did not want their hard-earned money redistributed to people they regarded as undeserving.

There you go. Muslim terrorists and lazy black welfare recipients from the big city. Jobs matter too, but it's not clear if that was really a big motivator compared to terrorists and welfare bums.

It's worth adding that there's nothing new about this, and Trump doesn't seem to have appealed to this sentiment any more than previous Republicans. There's plainly a racial component to voting for Republicans vs. Democrats, but it was no bigger in 2016 than in other years.

Tom Philpott passes along a bit of news about Donald Trump that flew under the radar yesterday:

Amid the furor surrounding allegations of covert ties with Russian intelligence figures as well as his first press conference since winning the election, President-elect Donald Trump found time in his hectic Wednesday schedule to meet with two towering figures in the agriculture world, reports Fox Business Daily....The meeting involved German chemical giant Bayer's $66 billion buyout of US seed/agrichemical giant Monsanto—a deal that will have to pass antitrust muster with Trump's Department of Justice.

....Fox reports that Bayer CEO Werner Baumann and his Monsanto counterpart Hugh Grant met with the incoming president at Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan to promote the merger. In an email to the news organization, a Monsanto spokesperson confirmed that the two execs "had a productive meeting with President-Elect Trump and his team to share their views on the future of the agriculture industry and its need for innovation."

Is this...appropriate? I know that's sort of a silly question when it comes to Donald Trump, but is the president supposed to meet with people who have business pending with the Department of Justice? This is an antitrust review, not a criminal case, but it still seems wrong.

Am I off base? Does this kind of thing happen all the time?

UPDATE: And there's this, which I missed earlier:

Gee, I wonder what they talked about? Is Trump planning to become the single point of approval for all merger and antitrust matters?

The BBC's Paul Wood provides yet more detail on allegations that the Russians have possession of blackmail tapes on Donald Trump:

Claims about a Russian blackmail tape were made in one of a series of reports written by a former British intelligence agent. As a member of MI6, he had been posted to the UK's embassy in Moscow and now runs a consultancy giving advice on doing business in Russia. He spoke to a number of his old contacts in the FSB, the successor to the KGB, paying some of them for information.

....The former MI6 agent is not the only source for the claim about Russian kompromat on the president-elect. Back in August, a retired spy told me he had been informed of its existence by "the head of an East European intelligence agency".

Later, I used an intermediary to pass some questions to active duty CIA officers dealing with the case file — they would not speak to me directly. I got a message back that there was "more than one tape", "audio and video", on "more than one date", in "more than one place" — in the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow and also in St Petersburg — and that the material was "of a sexual nature". The claims of Russian kompromat on Mr Trump were "credible", the CIA believed.

....Last April, the CIA director was shown intelligence that worried him. It was — allegedly — a tape recording of a conversation about money from the Kremlin going into the US presidential campaign.

It was passed to the US by an intelligence agency of one of the Baltic States. The CIA cannot act domestically against American citizens so a joint counter-intelligence taskforce was created....A lawyer — outside the Department of Justice but familiar with the case — told me that three of Mr Trump's associates were the subject of the inquiry. "But it's clear this is about Trump," he said.

That's four sources, though obviously we don't know if they're all getting their information from the same place. Nor do we know if any of this is true. It might still all be baseless innuendo.

Still, four sources. This Paul Wood fellow is either a world-class crank or a helluva reporter. And we never would have known any of this if BuzzFeed hadn't gone ahead and published that dossier.

Has anyone written a definitive profile of Kellyanne Conway? I seem to vaguely recall seeing her on cable news over the years, and she always seemed pretty normal. Conservative, of course, but not crazy or especially mendacious.

Not anymore, though. She goes on TV and routinely lies, tosses out endless chum, makes groundless allegations, and just generally does everything she can to mislead the audience and attack all of her enemies, real and imagined. In other words, she's just like Donald Trump.

Ditto for Sean Spicer, Corey Lewandowski, Hope Hicks, Scottie Nell Hughes, Katrina Pierson, and a cast of Trumpian thousands. But I'd never seen any of those folks before they became Trumpistas, so maybe they were that way all along. Conway is the only one I've ever seen before.

Does Trump train people to "act like Trump"? Does it just happen naturally if you hang around the guy for a while? Will we soon have an entire administration full of mini-Trumps? It's a scary prospect. In the meantime, though, I'll settle for the straight dope on Kellyanne Conway. What's her deal?

Yahoo News provides some further information about the man behind the Trump-Russia dossier, reporting that he is a former MI-6 officer who:

had worked as a consultant for the FBI’s Eurasian organized crime section, helping to develop information about ties between suspected Russian gangsters and FIFA, said one of the sources, who is directly familiar with Steele’s work.

....U.S. officials said his allegations were not easily dismissed, in part because Steele was a known quantity who had produced reliable information about Russia in the past. "He’s a meticulous professional, and there are no questions about his integrity,” said one U.S. official... "The information he provided me [about Russia] was valuable and useful.”

And the BBC's Paul Wood claims that former MI-6 officer isn't the only source for these allegations anyway:

Most of the stuff in the dossier is nonetheless probably wrong. The question is, is any of it right?

Last night, BuzzFeed decided to publish a dossier of raw intelligence put together by a British former MI6 officer. Like most reports of this kind, it contains lots of tittle-tattle, and there's a good chance that much of it is untrue. So should BuzzFeed have published? Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan makes the case against:

It’s never been acceptable to publish rumor and innuendo. And none of the circumstances surrounding this episode — not CNN’s story, not Trump’s dubious history with Russia, not the fact that the intelligence community made a report on it — should change that ethical rule.

Quite so, and virtually every mainstream media reporter seems to agree. And yet, I'm not so sure. Several things happened in the past couple of days that make this a trickier question:

  • The intelligence community briefed Obama, Trump, and several members of Congress about the contents of the dossier.
  • CNN reported that "US intelligence agencies have now checked out the former British intelligence operative and his vast network throughout Europe and find him and his sources to be credible enough to include some of the information in the presentations to the President and President-elect a few days ago."
  • The Guardian reported that the FBI took these allegations seriously enough to apply for a wiretap warrant on several of Trump's aides.

This is still a judgment call. But it's not a judgment call about some random celebrity. It's a judgment call about the soon-to-be president of the United States. And it's about allegations that the intelligence community is taking very seriously.

What's more, this dossier has apparently been seen or discussed by practically everyone in Washington DC. It has long annoyed me that things like this can circulate endlessly among the plugged-in, where it clearly informs their reporting unbeknownst to all the rest of us. At some point, the rest of us deserve to know what's going on.

Put all that together—president, credibility among the intelligence community, and widespread dissemination—and I'm not at all sure that BuzzFeed did the wrong thing. Maybe this will all turn out to be the worst kind of made-up gossip, but at some point there's enough reporting around it that it's time to stop the tap dancing and let us know just what it is that has everyone so hot and bothered.

Health Update

Nothing much to report this month. After four straight months of my M-protein level holding stable at exactly 0.58, I was hoping to extend the streak to five. But no: this month it's at 0.51. That's down a bit, so it's good news. Everything else is stable and normal too (for me, that is). Take that, cancer.

On the other hand, this damn cold really needs to go away. Apparently everyone has it. Even my oncologist has it. And I'm pretty tired of coughing my lungs out every night. But maybe there was a bit less of that last night than usual. Maybe.