Rex Tillerson's choice of Elliott Abrams to be his deputy at the State Department was vetoed by the White House. Abrams had once said some bad things about Donald Trump, so he was out. The New York Times reports on what this means:

Mr. Trump remains fixated on the campaign as he applies a loyalty test to some prospective officials....Six of the 15 statutory cabinet secretaries are still awaiting Senate confirmation as Democrats nearly uniformly oppose almost all of the president’s choices.

....It is not just Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson who has no deputy secretary, much less Trump-appointed under secretaries or assistant secretaries. Neither do the heads of the Treasury Department, the Education Department or any of the other cabinet departments. Only three of 15 nominees have been named for deputy secretary positions. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has a deputy only because he kept the one left over from President Barack Obama’s administration.

Yes, Democrats are slow-walking Trump's cabinet choices. You can decide for yourself if this is justified. But it's the deputies who often really run things, and Trump has only managed to name three out of 15 candidates. After he interviewed all those cabinet nominees, I guess he got bored.

In other words, it's not Democrats who are holding up the rest of government. The problem is that Trump has no idea what he's doing, and his staff is too busy with Trump's thin skin and chaotic management style to find qualified deputies that are acceptable to him. After the debacle with his National Security Advisor, I imagine this has gotten even harder. You could almost feel qualified conservatives backing away from Trumpland as that shitshow played out.

Trump has always had a pretty small set of people acceptable to him, and now a shrinking number of experienced players are finding Trump acceptable to them. This doesn't bode well for basic management of government business, let alone the "change for the ages" that he promised last night.

Do photo ID laws reduce minority turnout? Previous studies have suggested that the answer is yes, but the effect is fairly small. However, in the Washington Post last week, three scholars wrote about a new study they conducted, which offers "a more definitive assessment" than previous studies. Their conclusion: states with strict photo ID laws produce a far lower turnout among minorities than other states.

It's taken me a while to comment on this because I had to read the report a few times to make sure I understood everything. In the end, I found several reasons to be skeptical of their conclusion.

First off, they found much stronger effects in primaries than in general elections. Now, maybe this really is the case, and I can certainly invent plausible stories about why it might be so. But it still seems odd.

Second, in a draft version of their study, they say this:

Importantly, we see no effects for Asian Americans, the one minority group that is, by at least some standards, not socioeconomically disadvantaged. The effects of these laws seem to be concentrated toward the bottom end of the racial hierarchy.

In later drafts, their numbers have been updated and it turns out that Asian Americans are affected by voter ID laws—which makes their important finding disappear. But if this was an important verification in one draft, it ought to be an important discrepancy in the final draft. However, it's not mentioned.

Third, hardly any of their findings are statistically significant. I'm not a big stickler for 95 percent significance always and everywhere, especially for something like this, where there's one messy set of real-life data and you have to draw conclusions from it one way or another. If the results are significant at 85 or 90 percent, that's still strongly suggestive. Nonetheless, that's all it is.

Fourth, the effect size on African Americans is considerably less than it is for Hispanics and Asian Americans. Maybe this is just because blacks are more politically organized, and therefore more likely to overcome the deterrent effects of photo ID laws. Maybe.

So far, none of these are deal breakers. They made me a little tentative about accepting the authors' results, but that's all. But then we get this:

Here's what's going on. On the left, you see their main results, based on a model they constructed. It shows very large effects: in states with strict photo ID laws, turnout decreases 8 percentage points among Hispanics, 2 percent among African Americans, and 5 percent among Asians.

On the right, you see the results from a second test. It compares turnout in states before and after they enacted strict photo ID laws, and it shows much smaller effects: about 2 percentage points for all minorities. This strikes me as a better test, since it eliminates lots of confounding variables that crop up when you compare one set of states to a different set. But the authors go to considerable lengths to downplay these results, for reasons that I don't find very persuasive. Yes, their sample size is smaller, and yes, things can change from year to year. But their sample sizes aren't that small, and the differences in a single state over the course of two years is probably smaller than the differences between states in the same year.

Maybe I'm totally off base here. I don't have the raw data or the chops to analyze it. Still, if I had to bet money, I'd bet that the second test is more reliable, and the real effect of photo ID laws is a decreased turnout of about 2 percentage points among minorities. That's plenty to affect a close election, and the motivation for these laws is plainly partisan and racial. They should be done away with everywhere.

That said, I continue to suspect that the effect is fairly modest.

Donald Trump at his pep rally yesterday on immigration:

You look at what's happening in Germany, you look at what's happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this. Sweden. They took in large numbers. They're having problems like they never thought possible.

Nothing happened in Sweden last night, which has prompted lots of IKEA and ABBA joke memes. However, Zack Beauchamp thinks Trump was probably referring not to something that happened recently, but to the alleged "rape epidemic" in Sweden ever since they started taking in lots of Middle Eastern immigrants. This is apparently a staple of the Breitbart-o-sphere. Unfortunately, Beauchamp then says this:

The problem, though, is that this “rape epidemic” is as fake as the Bowling Green Massacre.

Canadian reporter Doug Saunders rigorously investigated the narrative, and concluded that it “falls apart as soon as you speak to anyone knowledgeable in Sweden.” Official Swedish statistics do indeed show a high rate of rape, but that’s because Swedish law has an extremely expansive definition of what qualifies as rape under the law.

....These panics about immigration, instead, reflect a long history of sexual panics in the West about non-white immigrants. Etc.

Whenever I see writing that carefully avoids providing comparative statistics, my BS detector goes off. Sure enough, Saunders didn't "rigorously" do anything. He linked to an old report that tallies crime rates for the years 1997-2001—which is all but useless in 20171—and then glided quickly past his eventual acknowledgment that the foreign-born have "a higher rate of criminal charges than the native-born." If you're interested, here's the actual data from the report (tables 3 and 6 in the appendix):

These are very big differences. Now, Saunders also links to a study which suggests that "half to three-quarters" of the difference can be accounted for by socioeconomic status. Maybe so. But crime is crime. If you're the victim of assault from a Syrian refugee, you don't really care if it happened because he's Syrian or because he's poorer than average.

There's plenty more to legitimately say about this. If poverty really is a causal factor, maybe it means Sweden needs to be more generous. Other statistics suggest that the children of the foreign-born have much lower crime rates than their parents. And as Beauchamp says, "rape" in Sweden is defined pretty broadly.

Still, if we bring up this subject at all, we have to present the statistics fairly. In the US, immigrants seem to commit crimes at lower rates than native-born Americans. But Sweden is a different country, and the statistics suggest that foreign-born immigrants do indeed commit crimes there in much larger numbers than native Swedes.

UPDATE: I don't know just how interested everyone is in the minutiae of Swedish crime, but here's the crime rate over the past decade:

Some are up, some are down, but the overall trend appears fairly flat despite the large rise in immigrants over this period. On the other hand, preliminary figures show that crime against persons was up 7 percent in 2016, including a 13 percent increase in reported rapes and a 14 percent increase in child abuse.

1Apparently this is the most recent report that examines crime rates by area of origin. I don't know why Sweden hasn't done anything more recent.

Ben Cawthra/Rex Shutterstock via ZUMA

OK, hive mind, I have a question for you. My sister is heading to London later this year, and this time she has a shiny new iPhone to take with her. She's on T-Mobile, so allegedly she'll have access to calling, texting, and low-speed data without doing anything. So here's one plan:

  • Download the maps she needs before she leaves.
  • Rely on T-Mobile for calling and texting.
  • Use WiFi whenever she's at the hotel, in a coffee shop, etc.
  • Register for The Cloud, and use that when she's out and about.
  • When all else fails, use T-Mobile's low-speed data.

Alternatively:

  • Buy a SIM when she gets there and use local calling, texting, and high-speed internet.

Do I have any T-Mobile readers who have been to London lately? What's the dope? What do you think her best alternative is?

UPDATE: Thanks everyone! It sounds like T-Mobile's native service works pretty well.

Today's episode of the Trump Show was disappointing. It started late, it was only 30 minutes long, and much of it was read off a teleprompter. A few miscellaneous comments:

  • No tie! Truly, Trump is a man of the people.
  • The first five minutes is dedicated solely to trashing the media. He says he wants to speak directly to The People without the filter of fake news. "When the media lies, I won't let them get away with it."
  • This is all done in service of a speech carried live and commercial-free by all three cable news channels.
  • The White House is running "smoothly, very smoothly."
  • He wants to bring back mining jobs for "clean, very clean coal." I'm sensing a rhetorical trend here.
  • He reprises several of his greatest hits: His Obamacare replacement will provide much better health care at a much lower cost. No more jobs are going to be sent overseas. He's going to slap a 35 percent tax on goods sent back here. And he still wants a "trillion dollar" infrastructure plan.
  • Jobs are already "pouring back in" to the country.
  • "Not one network will show the crowd," he says at the exact moment the pool camera pulls back to show the crowd.
  • He says he got the price of Air Force One down by a billion dollars. When did that happen? Let's google a bit...ah. It's just your basic Trump bullshit. The CEO of Boeing has agreed to keep the price tag below $4 billion for a project that's currently estimated to cost between $3.2 billion and $3.7 billion. Nice work, Donald.
  • He also got the price of the F-35 down by "hundreds of billions" dollars. It's actually hundreds of millions, but who's counting? And it was a price reduction that was already in the works before Trump ever got involved.
  • He says Obama was letting immigrants into the country with "no vetting, no nothing." This is just a ridiculous lie.

Meh. I doubt this rally did much for him. Even his most fervent supporters are starting to figure out that Trump isn't accomplishing a whole lot. Besides, how often can he go back to this well? Is he going to hold a pep rally every month? If he does, he better start coming up with some new material.

Behold the politics of Donald Trump in a nutshell:

Weigel is in Florida, so the workers in question are mostly Appalachian miners. Here's a quick look at Appalachian coal mining employment:1

This chart shows two things. First, coal mining in Appalachia has been plummeting for a long time. Decades, actually. So it's pretty easy to see why Appalachian coal miners are in dire straits and eager to listen to someone, anyone, who sounds sympathetic to their plight.

Second, Trump is getting a lot of of attention for rolling back the Stream Protection Rule, but it's not going to put anyone back to work. I had to cheat to even get it to show up on the chart. It's responsible for maybe a hundred mining jobs out of a total decline of 30,000 between 2009 and 2020.

So who does benefit from rolling back this rule? Well, OSM figures that Appalachian mine owners will save about $24 million per year in compliance costs.3 So they're pretty happy. This is a dynamic that we're going to see over and over from Trump:

  • He puts on a big show about something or other. Workers cheer.
  • Offstage, it turns out the benefit to workers is minuscule.
  • Instead, the bulk of the benefits end up going to corporations and the rich.
  • Liberals will find out about this because the New York Times will probably write about it. Working-class Trump fans won't, because none of it will be reported by Fox News or Drudge or Limbaugh or Breitbart.

Executive summary: workers get a pittance, the rich get rewarded, and streams and rivers will continue to be fouled by mine tailings. But Trump's supporters will be happy because they'll be kept in the dark by all the people supposedly looking out for them.

UPDATE: I've gotten several requests for a longer look at coal mining employment. Here it is.4 Please note two things: (1) this is for the entire US, not just Appalachia, and (2) it's for coal miners, not total coal mine employment. You can't compare it to the chart above.


1This is approximate. I counted coal mine employment from Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Alabama. The projection is based on a 50 percent loss of coal production and coal jobs between 2012 and 2020. The Office of Surface Mining figures that the Stream Protection Rule will cost about 260 mining jobs, and that Appalachia will bear 46 percent of compliance cost. (See this CRS report, p. 17.) So we can roughly figure that it will cost Appalachia a little over a hundred mining jobs.2

2The net job loss will be about zero, thanks to additional hires of engineers and biologists. However, that does nothing for miners.

3See here, p. 15. Total estimated compliance costs are $52 million per year, with Appalachia bearing 46 percent of the total.

4 Data for 1950-1985 from here. Data from 1985-2016 from FRED.

Now is the winter of our discontent:

The White House abruptly dismissed a senior National Security Council aide on Friday....The aide, Craig Deare, was serving as the NSC's senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Earlier in the week, at a private, off-the-record roundtable hosted by the Woodrow Wilson Center for a group of about two dozen scholars, Deare harshly criticized the president and his chief strategist Steve Bannon and railed against the dysfunction paralyzing the Trump White House, according to a source familiar with the situation.

He complained in particular that senior national security aides do not have access to the president — and gave a detailed and embarrassing readout of Trump's call with Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto.

I can't fault Trump for firing Deare. Then again, I also can't fault Deare for going berserk. Sometimes a marriage just doesn't work.

However, now that Deare is out of a job, perhaps he'd like to share his detailed and embarrassing readout of that Mexico conversation? My email address is below.

It's a weekend. How about some gossip?

Apparently David Petraeus has withdrawn his name for consideration over the same issue as Robert Harward. He wants control over NSC personnel, but Trump refuses to give up McFarland as deputy. Given the fact that McFarland hasn't held a government post in over 30 years and is wildly unqualified to be the #2 person on the National Security Council, there must be some strangely tight bond to account for Trump keeping her even though it's preventing him from appointing his preferred candidates to the #1 spot.

OTOH, we also know that Trump doesn't like John Bolton's walrus mustache. Would he demand that Bolton shave it off as a requirement of the job?

It's getting tougher and tougher to obtain the lethal cocktail used to execute prisoners convicted of capital crimes:

Now Arizona has responded with a new — and some say bizarre — solution to this quandary: Death row inmates can bring their own execution drugs. The state’s manual for execution procedures, which was revised last month, says attorneys of death row inmates, or others acting on their behalf, can obtain pentobarbital or sodium Pentothal and give them to the state to ensure a smooth execution.

Note to conservatives: sometimes you just have to give up. Do you really care that much about killing lots of bad guys as opposed to letting them rot in prison for the rest of their lives? It might be time to let go and save your energy for other battles. This one is getting absurd.