Here is Mike Males in the LA Times this morning:

President Trump has cast California as “out of control” because of proposed legislation that would make the entire state a sanctuary for illegal immigrants, who, he says, “breed crime.” But in reality, as California’s immigrant population has grown, its crime and violence rates have plummeted.

Let’s start with the demographics....Over the last two decades, California has seen an influx of 3.5 million immigrants, mostly Latino, and an outmigration of some 2 million residents, most of them white. An estimated 2.4 million undocumented immigrants also currently live in the state.

....And yet, according to data from the FBI, the California Department of Justice, and the Centers for Disease Control, the state has seen precipitous drops in every major category of crime and violence that can be reliably measured. In Trump terms, you might say that modern California is the opposite of “American carnage.”

It's true. And since a picture is worth a thousand words, here's a picture:

Apologies for the ugliness of the chart. Edward Tufte would be appalled. But here's what it shows. The foreign-born share of the population has increased from 9 percent to 27 percent since 1970. However, from 1995 to 2015, violent crime in California has declined at a faster rate than in the US as a whole.1

So do immigrants cause an increase in violent crime? It doesn't really look like it, does it? And yet, Bakersfield Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the current House majority leader, continues to warn his fellow Californians that they should be nicer to President Trump. At the same time, Trump continues to justify hiring 10,000 new immigration agents and changing the deportation rules based on the idea that it's important to get rid of anyone who's committed even a minor infraction. That might make the base happy, but it's not going to make anybody safer.

1I was lazy and only looked up the crime rates for every five years. I imagine I could also dig up crime rates by state earlier than 1995 if I really tried, but I didn't try very hard. If anybody has them, I'll be happy to pop them into the chart.

I have discovered GeoFRED. Am I the last person to do so? I'm not sure, but it promises to be a lot of fun. Here's a sample:

I think you can safely expect more maps from me in the future. You may decide for yourself if this is a positive development.

The White House is like a rotten onion these days: every time we peel back a layer, it smells worse and worse. First we all heard about Steve Bannon, the Breitbart News CEO who plays the Rasputin role in the West Wing, whispering in Donald Trump's ear about Muslim terrorists and Mexican rapists. Then we all learned about Stephen Miller, the 31-year-old wunderkind who is, if anything, even more glib and hardcore than Bannon. Now we're all learning about Sebastian Gorka:

For years, Gorka had labored on the fringes of Washington and the far edge of acceptable debate as defined by the city’s Republican and Democratic foreign policy elite. Today, the former national security editor for the conservative Breitbart News outlet occupies a senior job in the White House and his controversial ideas — especially about Islam — drive Trump’s populist approach to counterterrorism and national security.

....For him, the terrorism problem has nothing to do with repression, alienation, torture, tribalism, poverty, or America’s foreign policy blunders and a messy and complex Middle East. “This is the famous approach that says it is all so nuanced and complicated,” Gorka said in an interview. “This is what I completely jettison.”

For him, the terror threat is rooted in Islam and “martial” parts of the Koran that he says predispose some Muslims to acts of terror. “Anybody who downplays the role of religious ideology . . . they are deleting reality to fit their own world,” he said.

Last month, as he celebrated at the inaugural ball...Gorka said he had one last message for America’s troops — “the guys inside the machine” — and its enemies. He turned toward the host, his medal glinting in the TV lights. “The alpha males are back,” he said.

It's a sewer in there. But here's the funny thing: Gorka might well be right but for entirely the wrong reasons. Young men who live in a wide swath of the world stretching from North Africa to Central Asia probably are more prone to violence than they are in the developed North. But it has nothing to do with Islam. That's just the handiest thing to latch onto. It's all about lead:

The Trumpies got struck down for temporarily banning immigration from a set of seven seemingly arbitrary countries, so instead they should create a rule that temporarily bans immigration from any country that phased out leaded gasoline later than, say, 2001. They might have to fiddle a bit with the numbers, which they have plenty of experience doing, and maybe add some weird second condition in order to get only the countries they want, but with a little creativity they could make it work. And it's not based on ethnicity, religion, or even nationality. You're welcome!

Behold our White House press office at work:

Sunday: White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders tells reporters that President Trump “played a couple of holes” today.

Monday: Pro golfer Rory McIlroy says he played 18 holes with Trump. “He probably shot around 80. He’s a decent player for a guy in his 70’s!”

Monday evening: The White House releases a new statement: "He intended to play a few holes and decided to play longer."

Obviously this doesn't matter in any cosmic sense. Who cares how much golf Trump plays? But it's yet another indication that the White House press operation will blithely lie about anything. Is there really any point to having a press office these days?

I can still remember a decade ago, when Col. H.R. McMaster, the hero of Tal Afar and genius of counterinsurgency, had been passed over for the second time for promotion to brigadier general. Did we ever find out who had it in for him? Probably not. In any case, he eventually got his star, and then another, and then another, and now he's got an office in the White House:

President Trump appointed Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster as his new national security adviser on Monday, picking a widely respected military strategist known for challenging conventional thinking and helping to turn around the Iraq war in its darkest days.

....General McMaster had the aura of disruption that Mr. Trump has valued in several cabinet secretaries, said a senior administration official who insisted on anonymity to describe internal deliberations. Another candidate, Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen, the superintendent of West Point, impressed Mr. Trump as being “from central casting,” the official said. But the president wanted him to stay at West Point, which he reveres.

I see that Trump is using his usual keen management insights to choose the folks responsible for running our country. Luckily, he somehow decided that the guy from central casting ought to stay at West Point, and accidentally chose McMaster instead. This is probably a pretty good selection, so I guess we should all be grateful regardless of how we got there.

I wonder what McMaster thinks of K.T. McFarland? That seems to be a key prerequisite for NSA these days. I sure hope they get along, since I assume McFarland will have no problem using her personal connection with Trump to complain about McMaster behind his back if she doesn't like what he's doing.

President Trump just can't give up on Sweden:

I suppose that "beautifully" is subjective, so I won't comment on that. But Trump is specifically talking about crime here, and a bit of googling tells me that the real target of the fear-o-sphere isn't so much Sweden in general, but the city of Malmö, just across the sound from Copenhagen. About a third of Malmö's population was born abroad, the highest rate in Sweden, and to listen to the right-wing media it's basically become the Beirut of the North ever since immigrants started pouring in. "How Muslim Migration Made Malmo, Sweden A Crime Capital," blares the Daily Wire. "Malmo, Sweden is the Most Dangerous City in Western Europe," says Infowars, adding that it's suffering from "soaring crime, murder." Over in Britain, the Express puts things plainly: "SWEDEN CRUMBLING: Demands for military intervention as thugs turn Malmo into 'no-go zone.'"

(Sorry, no links. Google 'em yourself if you really want to read this stuff.)

Luckily for the rest of us, Sweden has quite an excellent crime reporting website, helpfully offered in both Swedish and English. Here are the crime rates in recent years for Sweden's three biggest cities:

Sadly, the laggard Swedes don't have 2016 numbers for Malmö even though we're a full 50 days into 2017, so this will have to do. As you can see, Malmö's crime rate is higher than Sweden's, which is the usual case for big cities, but generally lower than Stockholm's. It's been trending slightly downward over the past decade. Here's property crime:

Malmö doesn't look much like a hellhole, does it? Violent crime looks fairly normal for a city of its size, and it's trending down. Property crime looks better than you might expect, and it's trending distinctly down. For a longer-term look at things, here are the total number of murders in Sweden over the past 50 years:

I suppose you all recognize this shape from my hundreds of posts about lead and crime, right? In any case, it's been trending steadily downward since 1990 while the number of immigrants has been steadily rising. Drilling down, the murder rate between 1991-2014 in Skåne county, which includes Malmö, has stayed flat. However, the murder rate in Malmö itself has nearly doubled in the past two years, increasing from about seven murders in 2014 to twelve in 2016.

Why? Gang wars. This is also the reason Malmö has been the victim of a surprising number of hand grenade attacks lately. Apparently they're leftovers from the Balkan wars that are smuggled into Sweden and used by rival drug gangs in their turf wars. There's no question that gang wars fought with hand grenades and handguns are the kind of thing that could put people on edge, but these gangs have been around for a long time and it's unclear what's caused the recent surge in turf wars. It might be related to the influx of immigrants, but since immigrants have been moving to Malmö for years, while the gang wars have increased in just the last two, that seems a bit of a stretch.

All this said, Malmö's overall crime rate, both violent and property, has been pretty flat for the past decade, and the murder rate has been flat for the past three decades. All this has happened while the immigrant population in Malmö has increased more than tenfold.

So that leaves us with the recent gang wars, which have caused an uptick in murders over just the past couple of years. That's it. If you cherry pick a single city with a sudden upsurge in gang warfare, and then assume it's all the fault of immigrants, then Sweden becomes the poster child for immigrants and crime. But that's a pretty thin case.

Bill Neely of NBC News reports on Vladimir Putin's efforts to understand the psyche of America's reality-show president:

A dossier on Donald Trump's psychological makeup is being prepared for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Among its preliminary conclusions is that the new American leader is a risk-taker who can be naïve, according to a senior Kremlin adviser.

....Former Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Fedorov told NBC News..."Very serious preparatory work is going on in the Kremlin, including a paper — seven pages — describing a psychological portrait of Trump, especially based on this last two to three months, and the last weeks."

....Putin's government is growing increasingly concerned about Trump's battles in Washington, according to Fedorov and former lawmaker Sergei Markov, who remains well-connected at the Kremlin. Fedorov added that Trump's "constant battle with the mass media" was "worrying us." The U.S. president "is dancing on thin ice," he said. "It's a risky game."

A former prime minister under Putin said the Kremlin is taking no pleasure at Trump's struggles. "Absolutely not — not laughing," Mikhail Kasyanov said. "The situation is very serious and the whole of [Putin's] team, they are nervous." Many in the Kremlin believe hardliners in America — in Congress and the military — want to sabotage the president and his plans for better ties with Russia.

From Putin's point of view, there's good news and bad news. The good news is that Trump can't control himself. Putin could literally publish his dossier on his Facebook page and it wouldn't matter. Just as he did in the debates, when Hillary Clinton baited him in the most obvious ways, Trump will respond to provocations the way he always responds.

That's also the bad news, of course: Trump can't control himself. He lives in a delusionary world where everything is going great and the White House is a finely tuned machine. This divorce from reality is likely to become ever more cavernous as time goes on, and there's no telling how long it will be until this produces a disaster of some kind. Eventually it's going to become clear that trying to run the US government the same way he ran his business—Trump acting as the showman/marketing genius, while professional managers keep the gears turning—isn't producing any results here in consensus reality. And then the whole delusionary edifice will come tumbling down.

But when? Next week? Next year? Whenever the economy turns down? There's no telling. Putin better keep that dossier constantly updated.

Reality is setting in:

For seven years, few issues have animated conservative voters as much as the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. But with President Barack Obama out of office, the debate over “Obamacare” is becoming less about “Obama” and more about “care” — greatly complicating the issue for Republican lawmakers.

....As liberals overwhelm congressional town hall-style meetings and deluge the Capitol phone system with pleas to protect the health law, there is no similar clamor for dismantling it, Mr. Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment. From deeply conservative districts in the South and the West to the more moderate parts of the Northeast, Republicans in Congress say there is significantly less intensity among opponents of the law than when Mr. Obama was in office.

Intensity is the key word here, since actual opinions about Obamacare don't seem to have changed more than a eyelash over the past seven years:

But the intensity of opinion has changed. With Obama out of office, the Republican base doesn't care as much. Hating Obamacare was mostly just a way of hating Obama. Likewise, the Democratic base cares more. They spent the past seven years griping about how weak Obamacare was—no public option, too friendly to insurance companies, subsidies too low, blah blah blah—under the apparent assumption that it didn't matter that practically no one was passionately defending the law. With Trump in office, Democrats have finally figured out that it matters, and congressional phones are now ringing off the hook.

So reality has set in for everyone. The Republican rank-and-file has finally figured out they never really cared all that much about taxing the rich an extra three points to provide health care for everyone. The Democratic rank-and-file has finally figured out that Obamacare is a pretty good program and it's worth fighting for.

But did we really have to elect Donald Trump to figure this out?

Cleaning Up After Trump

From the Wall Street Journal:

Jim Mattis, on his first trip to Iraq as defense secretary, said he plans to assess the fight against Islamic State in the country and that the U.S. isn’t there to take its oil. “I think all of us here in this room, all of us in America, have paid for our gas and oil all along and I’m sure that we will continue to do so in the future,” he told reporters in Abu Dhabi the day before leaving for Iraq. “We are not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil.”

So far, Mattis and VP Mike Pence have been fanning out across the world to assure our allies that President Trump thinks NATO is great; that America's support for Europe is "unwavering"; that Trump will be tough on Russia; and that we're not going to take Iraq's oil. In other words, basically the opposite of everything Trump himself has said over the past year.

This is becoming the signature of the Trump administration. At home, Trump says something stupid, and Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway gamely go out to clean up the mess and claim that Trump didn't really mean what he said. Abroad, Mattis and Pence and Rex Tillerson play the same role. They're like the guys who follow the elephants at a parade.

I'll bet they didn't think this was how they'd be spending their time as some of the most powerful people in the world.

Via the Washington Post:

“If he hadn’t gotten into office, 70,000 miners would have been put out of work,” Patricia Nana, a 42-year-old naturalized citizen from Cameroon. “I saw the ceremony where he signed that bill, giving them their jobs back, and he had miners with their hard hats and everything — you could see how happy they were.”

And those immigration raids last weeks ended up deporting 1.3 million undocumented workers. And Intel's new factory will give good, high-paying jobs to 250,000 hardworking Americans. And Trump's Muslim ban prevented 400 acts of terror on American soil.

Sigh. Among his supporters, Trump's style of governance by TV spectacle is working out well.