Did saturation media coverage of Donald Trump drive his success in the primaries? Reporters swear it didn't: they were just covering a popular candidate, the same as they always do. Given the immense amount of coverage Trump got, especially from cable news outlets anxious to broadcast his every speech in full, this is a little hard to take seriously. Trump played the press like a Stradivarius, and they loved every minute of it. Matthew Dickinson brings the evidence to make this case:

What about the argument that the media coverage followed Trump’s popularity rather than inspiring it? Importantly, the heavy media focus on Trump began before his rise in the polls and in the absence of other traditional indicators of candidate strength, such as campaign fundraising prowess. That’s suggestive of media influence, but research also backs up the idea that causality runs in that direction.

For both the 2012 and 2016 Republican presidential races, political scientists Kevin Reuning and Nick Dietrich analyzed daily data from the start of election polling up to the Iowa caucus. They looked at public interest in candidates (gauged by online searches), polling support for candidates, and media coverage on major cable news stations. They found that increased media coverage influenced the polls — not vice versa.

Trump borrowed the insight that used to power Ann Coulter's book promotions before everyone got tired of her: anything suitably outrageous will get media attention. Today, this works far better than it ever did for Coulter. Outrageous stuff routinely drives social media into a frenzy, and old media's current infatuation with new media meant that anything going viral online almost automatically became news all by itself. Trump rode this editorial gullibility to the Republican nomination, and maybe to the White House.

Will it ever work again? I doubt it. Eventually, digital outrage will wear out its welcome and social media will move on. Alternatively, old media will finally figure out that social media isn't its salvation—and that several thousand bored folks spending a few seconds each to express an opinion isn't news anyway. Either way, this is a moment, not a sign of the future.

When the Supreme Court was considering an affirmative action case in 2003, both Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell broke with George Bush and announced their support for taking race into account in college admissions. "I wish it was possible for everything to be race-neutral in this country," Powell said, "but I'm afraid we're not yet at that point where things are race-neutral."

In 2009, when Congress voted on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Republicans voted almost unanimously against it—with the exception of all four Republican women in the Senate, who broke with their party to support its initial passage.

Yesterday, the Senate's only black Republican told his white GOP colleagues that police officers aren't quite the racial paragons they like to think they are:

He described several encounters with police, including one where he was stopped because the officer suspected his car was stolen. He described a similar incident that happened to his brother, a command sergeant major in the U.S. Army. And he told the story of a staffer who was "pulled over so many times here in D.C. for absolutely no reason other than driving a nice car." The staffer eventually traded in his Chrysler for a "more obscure form of transportation" because "he was tired of being targeted."

"I do not know many African-American men who do not have a very similar story to tell no matter their profession. No matter their income, no matter their disposition in life," he said.

He asked his Senate colleagues to "imagine the frustration, the irritation, the sense of a loss of dignity that accompanies each of those stops."
Scott also described walking into an office building on Capitol Hill and having an officer ask him to show his ID even though he wore a Senate pin.

A white friend writes to say much the same thing:

For about a year and a half, I lived in a northwest Atlanta neighborhood that, aside from me, was pretty much all black. Just across the river was Smyrna in Cobb County, where everyone is pretty much all white.

I'm 56 and I've been stopped for license checks 12 times in my life. Once was in high school. The other 11 were when I lived there, and every single one was the Smyrna cops sitting at the end of that bridge. Being white, I got a smile and a wave. The drug sniffing dog was for everyone else.

It is pretty hard to mistake that message: "Weer keepin ar eyes on yew boys!" That constant low level surveillance only of people who don't look like you makes it difficult to believe that most cops are all that conscientious.

Conservatives take note. Just because you don't notice this stuff yourself doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Even your own colleagues say so.

Here's a fascinating study. A pair of researchers at the University of Georgia took a look at what happened to prescriptions for opioid painkillers in states that passed medical marijuana laws. Over at the Washington Post, Christopher Ingraham summarizes their results:

They found that, in the 17 states with a medical-marijuana law in place by 2013, prescriptions for painkillers and other classes of drugs fell sharply compared with states that did not have a medical-marijuana law. The drops were quite significant: In medical-marijuana states, the average doctor prescribed 265 fewer doses of antidepressants each year, 486 fewer doses of seizure medication, 541 fewer anti-nausea doses and 562 fewer doses of anti-anxiety medication.

Needless to say, the painkiller industry would much rather have you gulp down their addictive and lucrative product. They are not taking the threat from medical marijuana lying down:

The tanking numbers for painkiller prescriptions in medical marijuana states are likely to cause some concern among pharmaceutical companies. These companies have long been at the forefront of opposition to marijuana reform, funding research by anti-pot academics and funneling dollars to groups, such as the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, that oppose marijuana legalization.

Pharmaceutical companies have also lobbied federal agencies directly to prevent the liberalization of marijuana laws. In one case, recently uncovered by the office of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), the Department of Health and Human Services recommended that naturally derived THC, the main psychoactive component of marijuana, be moved from Schedule 1 to Schedule 3 of the Controlled Substances Act — a less restrictive category that would acknowledge the drug's medical use and make it easier to research and prescribe. Several months after HHS submitted its recommendation, at least one drug company that manufactures a synthetic version of THC — which would presumably have to compete with any natural derivatives — wrote to the Drug Enforcement Administration to express opposition to rescheduling natural THC, citing "the abuse potential in terms of the need to grow and cultivate substantial crops of marijuana in the United States."

The study estimates that if all 50 states legalized medical marijuana, Medicare would save $500 million per year in painkiller spending. It's hard to extrapolate that to overall spending on painkiller medication, but the total savings would be on the order of $2 billion per year—maybe more.

Hillary Clinton has had a couple of poor showings in the polls recently, but I mostly shrugged them off. It was inevitable that she'd take a hit from the conclusion of the FBI email probe, but those kinds of things are almost always temporary. And it's only July, anyway. Polls won't start to mean too much until the middle of August.

That's just my two cents, but Greg Sargent reports that it's pretty much the opinion of the pros too:

I spent some time talking to senior Democrats today, and the basic feeling among them is this: Yes, it’s very possible Clinton did take a real hit from the FBI news. But if so, they see this as more of a temporary dip than anything else. They see the polling right now as mostly useless, since we will know a lot more about the race once both candidates choose their vice presidential running mates and the conventions take place later this month.

....One senior Democrat with access to a lot of private polling tells me that some surveys in states and districts where Clinton should be leading are showing her tied or slightly behind. But this senior Dem thinks the data probably reflects a momentary dip due to bad coverage of the FBI mess....Top Dem pollster Mark Mellman, for instance, conceded that Clinton may have taken a real hit. But he noted that the current polls, if anything, still show her up after a very tough stretch, leading into a period that could prove more favorable to her.

The fact that a man like Donald Trump is even within shouting distance of becoming president is reason enough to be nervous. But small blips in the polls don't really add anything to that. If you're the jittery type, stay away from the poll madness until next month.

I can't believe I missed this, but I did:

During two separate discussions of Black Lives Matters protests on Tuesday, Donald Trump claimed that people have called for moments of silence for Micah Johnson, the gunman who killed five police officers in Dallas and injured nine others, without specifying who or where.

On an O’Reilly Factor segment....“I saw what they’ve said about police at various marches and rallies,” said Trump. “I’ve seen moments of silence called for for this horrible human being who shot the policemen.”

Trump repeated the claim Tuesday night, saying at a rally in Indiana, “The other night you had 11 cities potentially in a blow-up stage. Marches all over the United States—and tough marches. Anger. Hatred. Hatred! Started by a maniac! And some people ask for a moment of silence for him. For the killer!”

Josh Marshall:

This isn't getting a lot of attention. But it should....There is no evidence this ever happened. Searches of the web and social media showed no evidence. Even Trump's campaign co-chair said today that he can't come up with any evidence that it happened.

....A would-be strong man, an authoritarian personality, isn't just against disorder and violence. They need disorder and violence. That is their raison d'etre, it is the problem that they are purportedly there to solve. The point bears repeating: authoritarian figures require violence and disorder. Look at the language. "11 cities potentially in a blow up stage" ... "Anger. Hatred. Hatred! Started by a maniac!" ... "And some people ask for a moment of silence for him. For the killer."

Trump's explicit race baiting has been so normalized by now that we hardly notice this stuff. This kind of talk from a major-party candidate for president should be front-page news everywhere. Instead, it warrants a few words in various campaign roundups.

Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, foreigners of all stripes: they're all grist for Trump's crusade to convince white voters that they're surrounded by rapists, murderers, terrorists, and assorted other predators who want to take their jobs away and impoverish them. It's his whole campaign.

This is loathsome. For years it's been clear that the Republican Party could only win by turning out an ever greater share of the white vote. But by 2012 they seemed to have done everything they possibly could: Fox News stoked the xenophobia, Republican legislatures passed voter ID laws, and outreach to white evangelicals had reached saturation levels. What more did they have on their plate? Now we know the answer: nominate a guy who doesn't play around with dog whistles anymore. Instead he comes out and flatly runs as the candidate of white America, overtly attacking every minority group he can think of. That shouldn't work. In the year 2016, it should alienate at least as many white voters as it captures. But so far it seems to be doing at least moderately well.

President Obama was right yesterday: America is not nearly as divided as the media makes it seem. But the only way for Donald Trump to win is to make it seem otherwise. That's what he's been doing for the past year, and the media has been playing along the whole time, exaggerating existing grievances where they can and inventing them where they can't.

I'm not scared that America is such a hotbed of racial resentment that it's about to implode. But I'm increasingly scared that Donald Trump can make it seem that way, and that the press—always in search of a dramatic narrative—will go off in search of ways to leverage this into more eyeballs, more clicks, and more paid subscriptions. There's still time for us all to decide we should handle this differently. But that time is running out.

James Pethokoukis is unhappy with the Democratic Party platform:

Other than more government R&D spending, it hasn’t much to say about entrepreneur-focused growth and innovation policy....Indeed, the very first section of the platform is titled: “Raise Incomes and Restore Economic Security for the Middle Class.” And the first item in that first section: a call for a $15 minimum wage (despite plenty of skepticism from center-left economists). The next section: “Create Good-Paying Jobs.” And the first item there: infrastructure spending.

Popular policies, I’m sure. But again, boosting productivity and innovation seem secondary even though they are key to rising living standards. At its core, this is a platform about broad-based wealth redistribution, not broad-based wealth creation.

Fair enough, I suppose—though supporting research, science, and technology seems like a pretty important part of the entrepreneurial agenda. The Democratic platform also supports stronger antitrust enforcement, which is good for entrepreneurs, as well as a promise to make it easier to start up small businesses. And infrastructure is important for entrepreneurs too, so let's not disparage that. Also: guaranteed access to health care.

The Republican platform is still something of a mystery, but in 2012 its economic growth plan mostly focused on lowering taxes; passing a Balanced Budget Amendment; getting back on the gold standard; and letting the unfettered free market handle home mortgages (!). If we actually did all this stuff, it would probably crush economic growth for decades. Even with all its faults, anyone who cares about entrepreneurs really ought to prefer the Democratic Party platform to the Republican mess.

That said, let's get down to brass tacks: The reason that neither platform has a lot to say about productivity growth is that no one really knows how to boost productivity growth. Democrats can pretend that a $15 minimum wage will do it, and Republicans can pretend that tax cuts for the rich will do it, but this is just random burbling. Technological innovation is the key to productivity growth—though even that requires some caveats—and nobody really has a good model of how to spark lots of technological innovation. Hell, we barely even agree about what technological innovation is. Does Facebook count? A new headphone jack on the iPhone 7? Tesla cars with autopilot? Pokémon Go?

As soon as we agree on the best way to spur technological innovation, then I'll expect our politicians to support it. Until then, I think we're expecting too much of our party platforms if we want them to solve problems that nobody yet knows how to solve.

I got some flak yesterday for posting a chart showing the number of police shootings of unarmed blacks and whites without taking into account crime rates. It's harder to do that than you'd think, since the Department of Justice no longer produces crime statistics by race, but we can get a rough idea.

First, we'll use the National Crime Victimization Survey. This is a telephone survey and isn't based on arrest rates, so it doesn't have problems of possible police bias in who they decide to arrest. Second, we'll use the 2008 numbers for violent crimes (Tables 40 and 46 here), since that's the last year we have data by race. Obviously this isn't ideal, but I don't imagine that violent crime rates by race have changed dramatically since then. We'll compare this to the number of police shootings collected by the Washington Post for 2015.

The result is on the right. Don't take it too seriously, but it probably provides a decent rough idea of the disparity in police shootings of unarmed civilians when you account for crime rates. Unarmed whites are shot about 15 times per million violent offenses. Unarmed blacks are shot about 28 times per million violent offenses.

POSTSCRIPT: Needless to say, I'm under no illusion that this will stop the flak. I'm sure plenty of people on both sides of the debate have plenty of adjustments they want to make to the raw data in order to make their own side look better.

Exciting news today, folks:

That's right: Donald Trump actually told the truth about something. It's front-page news this morning, along with six other Trump-related front-page articles at the Washington Post. The New York Times has three. Politico has twelve. Sigh.

In light of today's sweeping decision at the Hague denying China's claim to various islands and reefs in the South China Sea, this is an interesting tidbit from the Financial Times:

US President Barack Obama in March delivered a stark admonition to Xi Jinping over the South China Sea, warning the Chinese leader of serious consequences if China reclaimed land at Scarborough Shoal, one of the most dangerous flashpoints in Asia.

....Following the meeting in Washington, China withdrew its ships from the area....“The signalling from the US side was that this was serious,” said a former official. “There was an accumulation of pieces ... the conclusion was that the People’s Liberation Army was advocating [action]. It wasn’t necessarily indicators that Xi himself had made any decisions, but there was the feeling that it was on his desk and coming to him for a decision.”

....China has come under criticism for building man-made islands in recent years, but the US saw Scarborough as more strategically significant given its proximity to the coast of the Philippines, which has a mutual defence treaty with the US. Some officials worried that China could install radar and missiles on Scarborough. Along with facilities in the Paracel and Spratly Islands, that would help China create a strategic triangle, which would enable the policing of any air defence identification zone in the South China Sea.

At the moment, China reclaims land at various spots in the South China Sea, and everyone complains but nobody does anything about it. Likewise, we operate reconnaissance flights and perform Freedom of Navigation exercises, and China complains but doesn't do anything about it. Basically, both sides can do whatever they want because neither side wants to start a war over it. This pretty obviously favors China at the moment, since they have the resources for large-scale reclamation projects and just enough of a navy to protect them. We have a considerably bigger navy, but it's unlikely the American public would show much support for a shooting war with China to protect a rock out in the middle of nowhere. All China really has to do is wait a while for us to get bored, and then keep on building.

A Conservative Case for Black Lives Matter

Jonah Goldberg has some sensible things to say about both Black Lives Matter and the killing of five police officers in Dallas:

At least for a moment, antagonists on either side of polarizing issues could see beyond the epistemic horizon of their most comfortable talking points. Black Lives Matter activists thanked the police for their protection and sacrifice. Conservative Republicans, most notably Speaker Paul Ryan and former Speaker Newt Gingrich, spoke movingly about race in America. Gun rights activists were dismayed that Philando Castille, the man shot by a police officer in Minneapolis, had followed all of the rules — he had a gun permit, cooperated with the officer, etc. — and was still killed. Liberals who insist that rhetoric from their political opponents inspires violence were forced to consider whether rhetoric from their allies might have helped inspire the shooter in Dallas.

....Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (who did not lose his lazy certainty) spent the weekend attacking the Black Lives Matter movement as “racist.” He wants people to focus on the fact that most black murder victims die at the hands of other blacks. That’s true, and tragic, and fairly irrelevant.

Conservatives, of all people, should understand that misdeeds committed by agents of the state are categorically different from the same acts committed by normal citizens. A father who slaps his son for no good reason, however wrong that may be, is very different from a cop who slaps a citizen for no good reason.

I'm continually nonplussed by the apparent inability of so many people to believe two things at the same time. Thing 1: Most police officers are conscientious public servants who perform dangerous jobs admirably and honorably. They're my first call if I'm ever in trouble. Thing 2: They're also human beings just like the rest of us, and fall prey to the same racial stereotyping that most of us do—but with guns in their hands. It's hardly surprising that black activists are finally demanding better treatment from police in their communities. The only surprising thing is that it took so long.

Two things. Both true. And not so hard to believe at the same time.