We have another cabinet choice: Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt will lead the EPA. Pruitt is pretty much what you'd expect: he's a climate change skeptic and has led the charge against pretty much every Obama initiative to protect the environment. And he's from Oklahoma, so it's hardly surprising that he's cozy with the fossil fuel industry.

In a controversial decision, the judges here at blog headquarters have named Pruitt the first Trump nominee who's neither part of the swamp nor rich, crazy, or scary. Pruitt is a state official, so he's not part of the DC swamp. And his climate skepticism and hatred of all environmental rules is pretty mainstream for Republicans. That's scary, of course, but the title is reserved for those who are scary far beyond just being folks that liberals don't like.

This prompts a question: if you could wave a magic wand and dump either Steve Bannon or Michael Flynn from Trump's staff, which would you choose? I'd choose Flynn.

For years, climate deniers have been producing charts that use the El Niño year of 1998 as a starting point. Why? Because it was an unusually hot year, and if you start there it looks like global warming has "paused" for a good long time. Here's a colorful example of the genre from the Daily Mail a few years ago:

These charts are no longer useful to the deniers thanks to the very high temperatures of the past couple of years, so they've gone away. But what will take their place? I was amused to discover the answer a few days ago: 2016 doesn't mean anything because it was an El Niño year.

Hah! Nobody ever said they didn't have chutzpah. But it got me curious: what does a global temperature chart look like if you pull out just the El Niño and La Niña years? That seemed like a lot of work to get right, so I put it aside. Today, however, I found out that someone else had already done it for me. Here it is:

This comes from a Weather Channel piece titled "Note to Breitbart: Earth Is Not Cooling, Climate Change Is Real and Please Stop Using Our Video to Mislead Americans." The chart itself apparently comes from skepticalscience.com, but I can't figure out exactly where to link to it. [UPDATE: Here it is. It's an animated GIF!] However, it shows the historical data clearly: El Niño years (in red) are always hot, but have been getting steadily hotter. La Niña years (in blue) are always cool, but have also been getting steadily hotter. And the years in-between (in black) have been getting steadily hotter too. Long story short, every kind of year has been getting steadily hotter for a long time.

And this year is a real champ. Here's the latest from the National Snow and Ice Data Center:

Both poles are showing massive ice loss compared to trend. We've never seen anything like it. You can draw all the misleading charts you want, but it doesn't change the facts. Climate change is real, and it's getting worse.

Retired Gen. Charles Dunlap says we shouldn't be too worried about all the generals that Donald Trump is picking for his cabinet:

Many in the civilian world misunderstand the ways most generals see the world....Retired generals don’t clamor for war; they are typically the voices urging that all other avenues be exhausted before turning to force.

As chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then-Army Gen. Colin Powell authored a thoughtful but tempered use-of-force doctrine that said America should only go to war with defined objectives and a clear exit strategy. It was designed to persuade civilian policymakers to be extremely cautious about ordering troops into battle. It didn’t work, and true “hawks” of Powell’s tenure often proved to be high-ranking civilian officials with liberal political leanings.

My sense is that this is true. But that doesn't mean it is, of course. Maybe my sense is wrong. I'd like to hear more about this from both civilian and military folks who have held high-ranking positions in previous administrations. When it comes to the use of force, are ex-generals generally voices of moderation?

The New York Times reports that Donald Trump plans to name Gen. John Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general, as Secretary of Homeland Security. That makes three generals so far in his cabinet: Flynn, Mattis,1 and Kelly. That's a lot of generals, no? Especially for a guy who trashed America's generals during the campaign because "they haven't done the job." I guess he changed his mind.

1Who Trump continues to call "Mad Dog" at every possible opportunity.

Signs of the Times

The view from the bottom:

The Los Angeles Unified School District has set up a hotline and opened “extended support sites” to respond to a high level of student anxiety about the election of Donald Trump as president.

And the view from the top:

Over at Equitable Growth, Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman provide a look at the latest numbers on income inequality in the United States:

The authors comment:

For the 117 million U.S. adults in the bottom half of the income distribution, growth has been non-existent for a generation while at the top of the ladder it has been extraordinarily strong....In the bottom half of the distribution, only the income of the elderly is rising....To understand how unequal the United States is today, consider the following fact. In 1980, adults in the top 1 percent earned on average 27 times more than bottom 50 percent of adults. Today they earn 81 times more.

Well, that's the modern world for you, right? It's all about skills and education and greater returns to rock stars. There's really not much we can do about—oh wait. Here's another chart:

Huh. Apparently you can run a thriving modern economy that benefits the working class as well as the rich. And note that this is pre-tax income. If social welfare benefits were included, the working class in France would be doing even better compared to the US:

The diverging trends in the distribution of pre-tax income across France and the United States—two advanced economies subject to the same forces of technological progress and globalization—show that working-class incomes are not bound to stagnate in Western countries. In the United States, the stagnation of bottom 50 percent of incomes and the upsurge in the top 1 percent coincided with drastically reduced progressive taxation, widespread deregulation of industries and services, particularly the financial services industry, weakened unions, and an eroding minimum wage.

We could do better for the working class and still maintain our economic dynamism if we wanted to. The only thing stopping us is that, apparently, we1 don't want to.

1For a certain definition of "we," that is.

I would like to bring your attention once again to the two stock charts below:

Last week, Trump took a baby step into the world of crony capitalism by bribing/threatening United Technologies to keep a Carrier plant in Indiana so that Trump would look good. Today, he took a big ol' dive into the crony capitalism pool, tanking one company's stock because they had displeased him, and boosting two others because an investor had agreed to say nice things about him.

Now, in both cases the effects were temporary. Still, is this going to be a regular thing? Are American equity markets now in thrall to the whims of Donald Trump? Do companies need to be fearful of what the president of the United States might do to them if he happens to take a dislike to something they do?

And while I know how annoying this question can be, can you even imagine how Republicans would react if Barack Obama pulled this kind of stunt? Fox News would practically explode and Jason Chaffetz would start gearing up for a year or two of hearings. But since it's Trump doing it, there's nothing but radio silence. Apparently government interference in the free market isn't quite so terrible after all.

I figure it's still worth periodically posting a reminder that far more people wanted Hillary Clinton as their president than Donald Trump. The latest numbers show Clinton ahead by 2.6 million votes, or 2 percent of the total. Aside from the obviously corrupt election of 1876, no winning candidate in the two-party era has ever done even remotely as dismally in the popular vote as Trump.

Masayoshi Son, the president of Softbank and owner of Sprint, met with Donald Trump this afternoon and then announced that he planned to invest $50 billion in the United States over the next five years. Trump tweeted that "Masa said he would never do this had we (Trump) not won the election!"

Maybe so. But is this because Trump has promised to supercharge the economy and get rid of pesky, growth-killing regulations? Or is it, perhaps, because Trump promised to get rid of one particular pesky regulation? Here's the Wall Street Journal:

When he acquired Sprint, Mr. Son’s initial plan was to merge the carrier with German-owned T-Mobile US Inc. to take on market leaders AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., but he abandoned the effort after regulators signaled they would reject the plan. Some investors and analysts have said he could make another attempt after Mr. Trump’s election and when a new chairman is appointed to the Federal Communications Commission.

Mr. Son planned to tell Mr. Trump about what happened with T-Mobile, and how he had wanted to invest in the U.S. but the regulatory climate was too harsh so he invested outside the U.S. instead, the person familiar with the matter said.

It's true: Obama regulators killed Sprint's planned acquisition of T-Mobile on antitrust grounds. This is undoubtedly the "harsh" regulatory climate that bothered Son. So perhaps Trump agreed that if Son takes another run at T-Mobile, his administration would be happy to make sure the merger gets a big ol' green light. The stock market certainly seemed to think this was likely. Within a few minutes of Trump's tweet, Sprint stock shot up 6 percent and T-Mobile rose 2 percent.

In the same Journal article, we also get this:

AT&T Inc. Chief Executive Randall Stephenson also spoke positively of the economic benefits of a Trump presidency Tuesday....He expressed hope that “a more moderate approach to some of these regulations is in the making under a Trump administration.” Mr. Stephenson said the U.S. is the “highest tax country in the developed world” and that capital investment, as a percentage of gross domestic product, is at its lowest level since World War II.

The business community is certainly sucking up to Trump these days, aren't they? They're apparently also developing a taste for his casual relationship with the truth. Here are two parting charts, presented without comment.

Here's some cheery news:

President-elect Donald J. Trump on Tuesday fired one of his transition team’s staff members, Michael G. Flynn, the son of his designated national security adviser, for using Twitter to spread a fake news story about Hillary Clinton that this weekend led to an armed confrontation in a pizza restaurant in Washington.

As near as I can tell, Flynn Jr. is batshit crazy. It's good to see him gone. The only problem is that Flynn Sr. isn't much better, and he's going to be running our foreign policy before long. I guess the best we can hope for is that sometime soon he does something so mind-bogglingly barmy that even Donald Trump will feel obligated to fire him. Hopefully sometime before January 20.