Donald Trump's Feuds Now Span the Atlantic

Let's be fair at the outset. British PM David Cameron has called Donald Trump's Muslim ban proposal "divisive, stupid and wrong." On Monday, a spokesman confirmed that Cameron stood by his comments. At the same time, newly elected London mayor Sadiq Khan said Trump's views were "ignorant, divisive and dangerous."

So: stupid, ignorant, dangerous, wrong, and divisive x 2. You have to figure that Trump won't let that stand. You'd be right:

Asked about Cameron's remarks, Trump said he didn't care, but then added, "It looks like we're not going to have a very good relationship. Who knows, I hope to have a good relationship with him but it sounds like he's not willing to address the problem either."

He continued: "Number one, I'm not stupid, okay? I can tell you that right now. Just the opposite. Number two, in terms of divisive, I don't think I'm a divisive person, I'm a unifier, unlike our president now, I'm a unifier."

....Trump also had words for Sadiq Khan, who became the first Muslim to hold the office of mayor of London when he was elected earlier this month...."Let's take an I.Q. test," Trump said Monday, adding that Khan had never met him and "doesn't know what I'm all about."

"I think they're very rude statements and frankly, tell him, I will remember those statements. They're very nasty statements."

I recommend the Wonderlic test. It's nice and short, and will also provide some idea of which man would make a better NFL quarterback.

Postal Contraceptives Are the Future

When we last met, both the federal government and the Little Sisters of the Poor had submitted their homework assignments to the Supreme Court on the issue of health coverage for contraceptives. Should the Sisters be required to fill out a form saying they declined contraceptive coverage? That would be cooperating with evil. Should they be required to do nothing, with only their insurance company required to provide notification? That has problems too. Still, the briefs had been submitted and the court now had its second chance to do its job and decide the issue for good. Instead we got this:

The court punted the issue back to lower courts, and said its unanimous ruling “expresses no view on the merits of the cases.” In the unsigned opinion, the court emphasized: “In particular, the Court does not decide whether petitioners’ religious exercise has been substantially burdened, whether the Government has a compelling interest, or whether the current regulations are the least restrictive means of serving that interest.”

They have decided nothing. Nothing! Without Anton Scalia around, they're flailing helplessly. Either they're hopelessly deadlocked 4-4 and are buying time, or else they really need a foil to inspire them.

I do sort of wonder what's going on here. I suppose it all has to do with self-insured entities, just like the feds warned. If, say, a Catholic hospital self insures and chooses not to provide contraceptive coverage, then it really doesn't matter if they fill out a form or not. Who's going to provide the contraceptives? There's no separate entity to do it.

I'm curious: how does this work in other countries? They have Catholic hospitals, don't they? And Catholic charities. And so forth. And health coverage is universal, and I imagine some (most?) countries cover contraceptives in their universal coverage. What's the Catholic Church's take on all this? Is the United States the only country they're mad at?

So what's my solution? The Post Office. Hear me out. There are lots of fans of postal banking out there. I keep asking why anyone thinks the Post Office is especially well suited to the task of banking, and the usual answer is that they have lots of buildings all over the country. I guess buildings are the main qualification for providing banking services. So why not postal contraceptives too? We could train some postal workers in each Post Office to become specialized contraceptive nurses, and then provide everything free of charge right there. Pills, IUDs, implants, whatever. Are you with me on this?

Here in California it's not hard to run for a Senate seat. It costs $3,480, which you can pay for in money or in signatures at the going rate of 34.8 cents per signature. This year, 34 people are competing for the seat opened up by Barbara Boxer's retirement.

The favorite to win the Democratic nomination—and therefore become our future junior senator since the California Republican Party is a hopeless wreck—is Kamala Harris. But Harris is a serious politician, which means that her statement in the voting pamphlet is serious too. And boring. Others are far more interesting. Here are my favorite half dozen:

Massie Munroe
Finally, someone will put a stop to mind control slavery and saturate our job markets for five more centuries. Also: she's a big Bernie Sanders fan.

Rescue America!

I don't know what she's president of, but she's mainstream Facebook.

The robots are here, and one of them is running for the Senate. However, his campaign slogan is cryptic. Is Hanania a fan of 101 Dalmations? Is he promoting use of the lower case e? Is his brain constructed of mendelevium? Does he like driving from Los Angeles to Seattle?

Peters is apparently one of the few remaining admirers of Franklin Pierce, thanks to Pierce's 1854 veto of a bill for the support of mentally ill indigents. Pierce issued his veto on the basis of states rights, which fit well with his support of slavery on the same grounds. Bygones.

We must fight the 10 giant chaos.

Well, here's an interesting headline from the Trump worshippers at Breitbart. "Renegade Jew" is probably not an attack that Bill Kristol gets often. But maybe Breitbart can back up the charge?

The article, it turns out, is by prolific nutcase David Horowitz, who finally has this to say in the final paragraph about the Iran deal:

Hillary Clinton and all but a handful of Democrats have supported this treachery from start to finish. Kristol is now one of their allies....To weaken the only party that stands between the Jews and their annihilation, and between America and the forces intent on destroying her, is a political miscalculation so great and a betrayal so profound as to not be easily forgiven.

Normally I'd say that writers don't write their own headlines, but in this case I suspect that Horowitz's only complaint is that it's a little too milquetoast.

Donald Trump Is a Dick, Part 874

Crain's has a story up today saying that Donald Trump received a $302 benefit on the property-tax bill for his Trump Tower penthouse, which is interesting because you can only get this deduction if you have an income under $500,000. Now, I'm skeptical of Trump's wealth, but I don't believe that he has an income under $500,000. That makes this the most humorous part of the story:

Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, said the tax benefit was "an error on the part of the city of New York" and that Trump received the benefit over the past three years even though he hadn't asked for it since 2009, when tax authorities began checking on applicants' income.

So Trump applied for this piddling $302 tax credit for years even though he didn't qualify for it, and stopped only when they began checking income. What a dick.

Sam Wang, my go-to presidential forecaster, says Hillary Clinton would have a 99 percent chance of winning if the election were held today. But the election isn't being held today:

Historically from 1952 to 2012, the likely range of movement in two-candidate margin from this time until Election Day has been 10 percentage points, which is the standard deviation from the 16 past elections. Therefore, even though Clinton currently leads by a median margin of 7 percent (12 national surveys) and would certainly win an election held today, she could still lose the lead, and from a purely poll-based standpoint, is only narrowly favored to be elected President in November (probability: 70%).

It is also the case that Clinton is the only candidate who is poised for a blowout. Her “plus-one-sigma” outcome (current polls plus one standard deviation) is a popular vote win of 58.5%-41.5%. Trump’s plus-one-sigma outcome is a narrower win, 51.5%-48.5%.

In chart form it looks something like this: two bell curves centered 7 points away from each other, each with a standard deviation of 10 points.

The blue span from 48.5 to 51.5 is Trump's 30 percent chance of winning—though it's worth noting that Wang says the standard deviation in recent elections has been more like 4 points, which would give Trump virtually no chance of winning. Nonetheless, he also says this: "But considering the upheaval in the Republican Party, a little voice tells me to open my mind to a wider range of possibilities... including a Trump win."

James Wimberley isn't convinced. He takes a look at various upsides and downsides of the two candidates (gaffes, oppo dumps, unusual outside events, etc.) and concludes that virtually all of them favor Hillary:

Adding these pseudo-numbers up, I get the total risks to Clinton 39, to Trump 352. Really the only more than marginally possible future events in my categories that he has going for him are ISIS pulling off a big atrocity and economic collapse in China, both at long odds. I don’t claim credibility for my particular numbers, just that overall we have to put a very fat thumb on the probability scales in Clinton’s favour. So her chances to a sensible bettor are more than Wang’s 70%, a lot more.

Comments? I'm pretty astounded that after locking up the nomination Trump has actually gotten more out of control, not more restrained. Everybody sort of assumed that when it came time to widen his appeal beyond the Republican base, he'd be smart enough to dial things back a notch, but he seems to have taken this as some kind of schoolyard challenge. The last couple of weeks he's been crazier than ever. If this keeps up, I'd be hard put to give him more than a 1 percent chance of winning.

You Can't Please Everyone

This cracks me up. The first two emails I got about our new site design, about five minutes apart, were these:

  • Reader #1: God that is really ugly.
  • Reader #2: I love your new artwork! Kudos to the graphic designer!

I like the new design myself, though I'll confess that the logo is...very large and orange. That said, does anyone want to help me guess what the graphic elements are supposed to mean? There are eight:

  1. Microphone
  2. Two arrows
  3. Map pin?
  4. Pencil
  5. Cat
  6. Speech bubble
  7. Outstretched hand
  8. Check mark

Half of these are pretty obvious. But what about 2, 3, 7, and 8?

Uber Needs to Start Acting Like a Grownup

Adam Ozimek is dismayed by progressive excitement over the regulation of Uber in the city of Austin:

There’s a lot of celebrating in some corners about Austin’s recent passage of a law mandating that ridesharing companies like Uber fingerprint their drivers....Amazingly, many aren’t trying very hard to hide the fact that they aren’t mostly concerned about whether this policy is a good idea!...I find this celebration a little puzzling given that we are just now beginning to exit the era where local taxi regulations were almost everywhere an embarrassing milieu of cronyism designed to protect politically powerful incumbents who offered shoddy service. The history of local taxi regulation should be an embarrassment, not a model we celebrate our inability to escape from.

....It’s very interesting how many erstwhile progressives have shown little concern for the rights of those who have been accused of a crime, and the disproportionate impact of a policy on minorities, in just this circumstance. Too excited by the prospect of local government regulating a rich tech company, there has been little time to consider these traditional progressive worries.

This might be true. And I certainly can't speak for all progressives. But I'd offer a couple of counterpoints:

  • Municipal regulation of the taxi industry has indeed been an embarrassment, and to the extent that Uber fights it, they're doing God's work. At the same time, Uber has been almost thuggishly aggressive about defending its apparent belief that they should be immune from any regulation whatsoever. To hear them talk, they're really nothing more than a database that provides a lookup service for car owners. What happens after that has nothing to do with them.

    As a progressive, this attitude does bother me. Uber is a company that basically employs hundreds of thousands of drivers. The public has a right to expect them to act like the multi-billion company they are, and to treat both their employees and their customers within the confines of expected corporate norms. The Austin case may or may not be misguided, but as a fight to show Uber that they aren't above the law, I can understand the enthusiasm.
  • In any case, I'm not sure the Austin case is misguided. The taxi regulations that Uber is justified in fighting are the ones that have turned the whole industry into little fiefdoms of cozy little cartels. However, the regulations demanding that taxis be safe and drivers be reliable are pretty good ones. Requiring Uber to keep ex-felons out of taxis may have some downsides, but it's also got plenty of upsides. It's certainly not a slam dunk that this is a bad idea.

Overall, I'm a fan of Uber. They provide a great service, and breaking up the taxi cartels is almost certainly a boon to Americans everywhere. At the same time, they're not a startup anymore. They're a multinational, multi-billion dollar corporation that needs to accept public oversight in the areas of employment law, safety regulation, and reasonable licensing. They don't seem very willing to do this, and sometimes the public needs to fight back and win.

Today the Wall Street Journal asks a vital question:

Donald Trump’s Plans Don’t Add Up. Do Voters Care?

Oh please. Bernie Sanders' plans don't add up and his followers couldn't care less. Paul Ryan's plans don't add up. Republicans don't care. Mitt Romney's plans didn't add up. No one cared. John McCain's plans didn't add up. No one cared. George Bush's plans didn't add up. No one cared. Ronald Reagan's plans didn't add up. No one cared.

Now, I admit that Trump is performing a destruction test on this theory. His tax plan blows a $9.5 trillion hole in the deficit and he plans to increase spending on infrastructure and national defense and he promises not to touch Medicare or Social Security. He claims he'll make up for this by cutting "waste, fraud, and abuse," and I suppose one could view this as the ultimate test of just how much waste, fraud, and abuse the public thinks the American government is responsible for. Unfortunately, the historical evidence probably doesn't favor a rational answer.

So what does Trump's budget look like? Someone must care, after all. At no small effort, I have created the colorful chart below. I used the CBO's projections as my baseline. Trump says he wants to balance the budget, so that puts a firm cap on overall spending. He says he wants to spend more on defense, so I added a modest $20 billion per year to the baseline projection. He says he won't touch Social Security or Medicare, so I left those at their baseline projections. The revenue number comes from TPC's analysis of Trump's tax plan. Ditto for the interest number. Trump says he wants to spend a trillion dollars on infrastructure, so I bumped up the current infrastructure budget by $100 billion and carried it through each year.

As you can see, by the end of eight years, not only are we spending zero dollars on nearly every government program, but infrastructure spending is also wiped out and we can make only a fraction of our interest payments:

So yeah, you could say this doesn't add up. Or you could say it's more of Trump's usual buffoonery. Or that Donald Trump couldn't care less about the federal budget. So why doesn't this get more attention? Let's take a series of guesses:

  • Most people find numbers confusing and boring. One trillion, ten trillion, whatever.
  • The press shies away from focusing on stuff like this because their readers find it confusing and boring and don't read it.
  • Also because they routinely give Republicans a pass on this stuff. They figure it's mostly just routine pandering, and all politicians do it.
  • In any case, the public takes tax and budget plans mostly as statements of values, not as things that will ever actually happen.

So there you have it. Trump is testing whether he can get away with literally proposing a tax and budget plan that would bankrupt the country and destroy nearly the entire federal government within just a few years. What do you think?

A Very Brief Timeline of the Bathroom Wars

A very brief Twitter conversation yesterday got me curious about the timeline of transgender bathroom hysteria. Where and when did it start? I'm not interested in going back to the beginning of time and regaling you with the history of Jim Crow bathroom laws and the origin of sex-segregated bathrooms in 18th-century Paris and Victorian Britain (you can see a good one of those here). I just want to know the recent history. As best I can piece it together, it goes something like this:

March 2016: The North Carolina legislature meets to discuss the now-infamous HB2, which requires people to use the bathroom of their birth gender. It was passed and signed into law the same day it was introduced. It was a response to:

February 2016: A new law in the city of Charlotte that effectively allowed transgender people to use bathrooms that match their gender identity. Charlotte was following the lead of San Francisco, which in turn was part of a wave of trans-friendly bathroom bills:

2015: In December, Washington State had clarified that existing law allowed transgender people to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. In September Philadelphia adopted rules that would require gender-neutral signage on single-occupancy bathrooms. "It's a sign change," said the mayor's director of LGBT affairs. "We're labeling restrooms as what they are: restrooms, not gender-monitored spaces." In July the Justice Department took the side of Gavin Grimm, a Virginia high-school student who argued that he should be allowed to use school bathrooms that match his gender identity. In April President Obama opened the first gender-neutral bathroom in the White House. These actions were largely a response to transphobic laws that had been proposed in red states all over the country:

Late 2014 and early 2015: Texas and several other states introduce "bathroom surveillance" bills that would require transgender people to use bathrooms that match their birth gender. The communications director at the National Center for Transgender Equality says the wave of new legislation seemed to be a backlash to "the gains we have seen in state and local non-discrimination policies that protect transgender people." For example:

August 2014: Austin approves a law that requires gender-neutral signage on single-occupancy bathrooms. Among others, they join Portland (one of the first a year earlier) and Washington DC, and are soon joined by West Hollywood, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. These cities were largely inspired by:

2012-13: A growing movement to install gender-neutral bathrooms at university campuses. During this period, 150 university campuses installed gender-neutral bathrooms, along with a growing number of high schools. The movement for gender-inclusive bathrooms in public facilities started at least as early as 2009 in the state of Vermont.

Ancient history: For our purposes this is anything more than five or six years old. A few random examples include Toilet: Public Restrooms and the Politics of Sharing, a 2010 collection of papers about (among other things) nongendered bathrooms. In 2005, U of Chicago law professor Mary Anne Case gave a presentation called "On Not Having the Opportunity to Introduce Myself to John Kerry in the Men's Room." She has been performing surveys of men's and women's bathroom facilities for years. And of course, there's the ur-hysteria of recent decades, when Phyllis Schlafly led a campaign against the Equal Right Amendment throughout the 70s out of fear that it would lead to gay marriage, women in combat, taxpayer-funded abortions, and, of course, unisex bathrooms. We never got the ERA, but as it turned out, Schlafly was pretty much right, wasn't she?

This timeline was surprisingly hard to put together, and it may not be 100 percent accurate. But it gives you the general shape of the river. There are two points I want make about all this. First, there's a lot of griping about the hypersensitivity of university students these days. You know: safe spaces, microaggressions, trigger warnings, and so forth. And, sure, maybe some of this stuff is dumb. History will judge that eventually. But I've always found it hard to get too exercised about this stuff. These kids are 19 years old. They want to change the world. They're idealistic and maybe too impatient with anyone who doesn't want to move as fast as they do. So were you and I at that age. Frankly, if they didn't go a little overboard about social justice, I'd be worried about them.

But guess what? The first concrete movement toward gender-neutral bathrooms started at universities. Now it's becoming mainstream. Good work, idealistic college kids! This is why we should think of universities as petri dishes, not a sign of some future hellscape to come. They're well-contained areas for trying things out. Some of this stuff dies a deserved death. Some of it takes over the world if the rest of us think it makes sense. Stop worrying so much about it.

Second: "Who started this fight?" Yes, that's a crude way of putting it. But if we contain ourselves to the last decade or so, the answer is: liberals. Before then, the status quo was simple: men used one bathroom and women used another. It was liberals who started pressing for change, and the conservative protest was a response to that.

As I've said before, we should be proud of this. Most of the right-wing culture war is a backlash against changes to the status quo pushed by liberals. And good for us for doing this. The culture war is one of our grandest achievements of the past half century. It's helped blacks, gays, women, immigrants, trans people, the disabled, and millions more. Sure, conservatives have fought it all, but that's only natural: they're conservatives. What do you expect?

So own the culture war, liberals! Why are we always blaming such a terrific thing on conservatives?