Lunchtime Photo

This is a split-level birdhouse in Silverado Canyon. It's a bit of a fixer-upper, but pretty nice for a young couple starting out.

Donald Trump is bragging today that industrial production "surged" in April. And sure enough, it was up 1.7 percent compared to last year. That's not bad. But you know what else increased since last year? The population of the United States. Here's the industrial production index from the Federal Reserve adjusted for population growth:

That tiny blip at the end represents the surge. So don't get too excited. Per capita industrial production in the US has been roughly flat for the past four years and nothing that Trump has done so far—or is likely to do—has much chance of changing that dramatically.

Seriously?

That's from the San Jose Mercury News. There are only a few possibilities here:

  1. Sean Spicer has already resigned and is only staying on until a replacement is hired. So he knows all about this.
  2. Spicer doesn't know Trump is planning to fire him and Guilfoyle was supposed to keep it confidential.
  3. Spicer doesn't know but nobody in Trumpland gives a shit how he finds out he's been fired.

It must be a real joy working in the White House these days.

National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster at a press briefing this morning: President Trump didn't reveal anything wrong to the Russians. "It was wholly appropriate to that conversation."

So there you have it. McMaster refuses to say if the information Trump shared with the Russian foreign minister was classified; whether it came from a foreign partner; whether it had been shared with anyone else; whether it referred to a specific city; whether his own office was in touch this morning with the NSA and CIA about this; or whether anyone has spoken with the foreign partner about what happened. He'll say only that it was "appropriate" over and over and over.

But at the very end of his Q&A, McMaster (accidentally?) says Trump hadn't even been briefed on the source of the information he shared. He had no idea where it came from.

McMaster is going to regret saying this. He basically said that Trump blabbed about this stuff even though he had no idea how sensitive it was. And why didn't he know? McMaster scurried off the stage before anyone could ask, but the best guess is that Trump refuses to read even the bullet points in the one-page intelligence briefings he insists on. So he had no idea just how sensitive this stuff was.

From Maggie Haberman, Trump whisperer extraordinaire at the New York Times:

It's good to know that everyone who works for Trump is well aware of the possibility that their boss might blurt out top secret information at any time to anybody. And since Trump is 70 and declining mentally, this will only get worse.

In other news, Trump defended himself this morning against charges that he blabbed top secret information to the Russian foreign minister—though "defend" might not be quite the right word. Like Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, he took to Twitter to tell us that he damn well did blab top secret information and it's totally OK because he's the president. In doing so, he also seems to have blabbed a bit more about just what the secret is: something to do with explosives in laptop computers. And other evidence suggests the information may have come from Jordan or Israel. So now just about everything is out there. I'm sure Jordanian/Israeli intelligence is pleased.

Do you have a friend or relative who's having a lot more "senior moments" than they used to? Your doctor has ways to diagnose what's really going on. She can perform neurological exams, mental status tests, mood assessments, and, in cases where the patient has unusually heavy responsibilities that make it especially important to get a firm diagnosis, brain imaging scans that distinguish between healthy neurons and diseased neurons:

In patients who are showing signs of dementia, brains scans will show a buildup of amyloid plaque that destroys the tau proteins that keep the brain's messaging system running smoothly. The result is disintegrating microtubules and tangled nerve cells.

Don't worry: insurance will cover the cost of these tests if you work for a large employer like the federal government. So keep an eye out for the warning signs: isolation from friends,1 irritability and unpredictable fits of temper,2 poor judgment,3 difficulty speaking plainly,4 trouble understanding visual images like maps,5 difficulty planning things,6 and memory lapses.7

1cnn.com/2017/05/12/politics/trump-comey-white-house-morale-fallout/
2redux.slate.com/cover-stories/2017/05/trumps-rage-powers-his-ruthlessness-and-his-ineptitude.html
3nytimes.com/2017/05/15/us/politics/trump-russia-classified-information-isis.html
4portlandmercury.com/blogtown/2017/04/25/18971137/the-best-parts-of-trumps-trainwreck-ap-interview
5cnn.com/videos/politics/2017/04/28/trump-electoral-maps-reuters-interview-newday.cnn
6politico.com/story/2017/05/15/donald-trump-fake-news-238379
7nbcnews.com/video/trump-forgets-to-sign-executive-order-911564355790

Over at the Washington Post, Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe report that President Trump is an idiot:

President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said that Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State....The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said that Trump’s decision to do so risks cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State.

....“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, using terminology that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”

Meanwhile, over at Foreign Policy, Robbie Gramer reports that our allies think Trump is an idiot too:

NATO is scrambling to tailor its upcoming meeting to avoid taxing President Donald Trump’s notoriously short attention span. The alliance is telling heads of state to limit talks to two to four minutes at a time during the discussion, several sources inside NATO and former senior U.S. officials tell Foreign Policy. And the alliance scrapped plans to publish the traditional full post-meeting statement meant to crystallize NATO’s latest strategic stance.

....“It’s kind of ridiculous how they are preparing to deal with Trump,” said one source briefed extensively on the meeting’s preparations. “It’s like they’re preparing to deal with a child — someone with a short attention span and mood who has no knowledge of NATO, no interest in in-depth policy issues, nothing,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They’re freaking out.”

The Republican Party has a lot to answer for. When that day comes, it's going to come hard.

Lunchtime Photo

A few days ago the bird folks were showing off in comments by identifying tiny black specks over Huntington Beach pier as brown pelicans. So perhaps you'd like to see a non-speck version of a brown pelican? This one was part of a flock of a couple dozen that were flying big lazy circles off the coast this weekend. I had to use a pretty extreme amount of exposure compensation to adjust for the bad lighting, which is why this pelican doesn't look especially brown, but be assured it really is a brown pelican.

The coast around here is full of brown pelicans, which is why so many housing developments nearby are named Pelican Point, Pelican Bay, etc. This is an example of the Law of Place Naming, which states that you name places after whatever species and/or activity you displace. Pelican Farms, for example, would be ideal for a place that had destroyed all the local pelican habitat and would never see a furrow plowed again.

Here's a bit more good news for you today. In Gallup's latest poll, 64 percent of Americans say same-sex marriage should be legal. Even Republicans are getting on board: in the past four years, support for gay marriage among Republicans has shot up from 28 percent to 47 percent. At least a few things are going right these days.

Over at Politico, "How Trump Gets His Fake News" is getting a lot of play this morning. And why not? In one sense, it's an old story: Trump's staff has to treat him like a volcanic nine-year-old lest he decide on a whim to move the Oval Office onto a barge in the Chesapeake Bay or something. We've read dozens of pieces like this in the past few months because Trump, by all accounts, really is a lot like a high-strung nine-year-old. At the same time, this kind of stuff is liberal crack: you can never get enough.

So what's the best part of this latest installment in the Trump saga? The fake Time cover that got Trump lathered up about climate change? How Katie Walsh almost got fired because of a blog post from a conspiracy theorist? The fact that aides desperately try to ply Trump with good news to keep his temper in check? The endless search for whoever fed him the latest unapproved tidbit of Trumpbait? They're all good. But maybe this is the best:

More recently, when four economists who advised Trump during the campaign — Steve Forbes, Larry Kudlow, Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore — wrote in a New York Times op-ed that “now is the time to move [tax reform] forward with urgency,” someone in the White House flagged the piece for the president.

Trump summoned staff to talk about it. His message: Make this the tax plan, according to one White House official present.

Once again, we see that Trump couldn't care less about policy. Any old health care plan is OK. Any old tax plan is OK. Just announce something and get it passed. Who care about all the stupid details, anyway? Just smug PhD types and annoying tea party crackpots.

Nothing matters. It's all just a big show.