I had no idea this happened, but apparently there was a last-minute scandal that made the rounds of right-wing circles at the end of the election:

The only U.S. newspaper that reported the story was the New York Post, which ran this print-edition headline: “Bridal $weet for Chelsea; Foundation cash for nups.”...The story also was picked up by British tabloids, Fox News, Russian news agencies and various right-leaning websites....But otherwise the story did not get mentioned on other networks or newspapers, except for reference to it by conservative columnist Hugh Hewitt on MSNBC.

For the record, the scandal was that the Clinton Foundation paid for Chelsea Clinton's wedding. There's no evidence for this, of course, though there is an email chain that confirms the fact that Doug Band is a moron. I wonder how much more of this crap was making the rounds completely invisible to the rest of us?

Housekeeping Note

Blogging will be a little slow today.

Let's end the day with some good news. As you all know, violent crime began falling after leaded gasoline began its phaseout in the mid-70s. And because lead affects the brain development of infants and toddlers, the fall in crime began with the youngest kids. In the mid-80s, only young children were showing signs of reduced violence. By the mid-90s, everyone under 20 started to show effects. By the mid-aughts everyone under 30 was starting to get less violent.

In other words, the first cohort to benefit from reduced lead was juveniles. Kids born in the late-70s showed only small improvements because lead had been only slightly reduced during their childhood. Kids born in the late-80s showed more improvement because ambient lead had decreased quite a bit during their childhood. Kids born in the late-90s showed yet more improvement, etc.

Rick Nevin has sent me a new chart that shows this vividly:

In the early 90s, young people between the age of 18-24 killed an average of 33 police officers per year. By 2015 that was down to 4. For juveniles under the age of 18, the number was zero.

Kids just aren't as dangerous as they used to be, and that's likely to be a permanent change. As time passes, this will affect older and older generations as the cohort born in the late-80s (when most lead was gone) grows up. How much better does news get?

As long as we're on the subject of James Comey and Hillary's emails, here's a chart showing Google searches on the subject:

I know what you're thinking. Are you ever going to give this a rest, Kevin? No, I'm not. There may be periods when I don't happen to blog about it, but I'll never give it a rest. This is the second time in five elections that an arm of the US government, rather than the voters, has appointed a US president. It will never, ever be far from my thoughts, and the least I can do is make this blog a one-stop shop for anyone collecting evidence about the effect of the letter Comey released 12 days before the election.

Here are the most-read stories of 2016 in the New York Times, noted without comment.

(Except for the big red oval, that is.)

It's been a while since I've done one of these. After a flurry of activity Trump slowed down when he got to the tail end of his cabinet, but today he finally decided on a nominee for US Trade Representative. It might seem as if this position is more important than usual, since Trump campaigned heavily on trade, but it's probably not. Trump has already said that his commerce secretary will be more involved than usual in trade deals; Peter Navarro will head up a new National Trade Council; and Jason Greenblatt, Trump's longtime business lawyer, will be his "special representative for international negotiations."

That's a lot of cooks stirring the broth, and it's unclear just how much influence Lighthizer will have on this team. That said, Lighthizer knows the ins and outs of trade law, so he'll be pretty useful in a technical capacity. Aside from that, he's been a DC lawyer and lobbyist for the past two decades, but hasn't served in a government position since the Reagan administration. Does that make him part of the swamp? I'm not sure.

David French:

Remember when the Democrats passed ObamaCare through reconciliation, using procedural gimmickry to pass major social legislation over the unanimous objection of the majority party? So do congressional Republicans, and it looks like payback might be imminent.

I know this is an easy mistake to make, but I'm pretty sure Obamacare was passed over the unanimous objection of the minority party, the Democrats having won a massive, landslide victory in 2008. They figured this gave them a mandate to carry out the promises made during the campaign—silly, I know, since only Republicans have mandates—and they proceeded to do just that.

Less excusable is French's contention that Obamacare was passed via reconciliation. It wasn't. It was passed in the Senate under regular order, by a vote of 60-39 on December 24, 2009. Later, after Democrats lost their supermajority in the Senate, the House passed the Senate bill and then passed a second bill that implemented a few modest increases to subsidy levels and taxes. None of them were critical to the overall bill, but the Senate agreed to support these changes. These small, nonessential adjustments are the only part of Obamacare that was passed via reconciliation.

Everything else—the individual mandate, the pre-existing conditions ban, the subsidies, the Medicaid expansion, the medical loss ratios, the donut hole, the cost improvements, the taxes to pay for it all—in other words, everything that mattered, was passed via regular order.

As for the unanimous opposition of Republicans, that's perfectly true. Democrats in the Senate tried mightily to put together a plan that might attract some GOP votes, but Republicans were adamantine. They pretended to negotiate, but by October it was clear they were just playing delaying games and had no intention of ever supporting anything that would expand access to health care. This strategy of blind obstruction, which applied to every part of Obama's agenda, not just Obamacare, is a huge blot not on Democrats, but on the congressional Republicans who decided on it before Obama ever set foot in the Oval Office. It was only in the face of this unconditional obstruction that Democrats went ahead and passed something on their own.

From House Speaker Paul Ryan, on Republican plans to repeal and replace Obamacare:

There will be a transition and a bridge so that no one is left out in the cold, so that no one is worse off.

This quote is a month old, but I only noticed it today when Nancy LeTourneau brought it to my attention. Democrats need to hold Ryan to this.

That means no change in Medicaid expansion. It means no change in access to health coverage. It means no reduction in federal subsidies. It means making sure that insurers stay in the exchanges. It means no lifetime limits on covered medical care. It means kids can stay on their parents' plan through age 26.

This is also a good yardstick for Ryan's eventual replacement for Obamacare. Technically, he didn't say that the eventual Republican replacement would leave no one worse off, only the transition. But someone should pin him down on that too.

According to the Washington Post, House Republicans have backed off their plan to gut their ethics committee:

House Republicans scrapped plans to weaken an independent ethics watchdog on Tuesday after a backlash from President-elect Donald Trump, as a new period of Republican-led governance started taking shape on a tumultuous note.

The House GOP moved to withdraw changes made the day before to official rules that would rein in the Office of congressional Ethics. Instead, the House will study changes to the office with an August deadline.

Trump took to Twitter to slam House Republicans for voting behind closed doors Monday night to weaken the independent ethics office. The vote defied House GOP leaders and complicated Trump’s “drain the swamp” campaign mantra.

Oh please. The backlash was in full swing last night, long before Trump's tweet. And anyway, Trump didn't object to Republicans gutting the ethics office. He just thought they should do it later, when fewer people might notice. And that's what they're doing. They'll "study changes" and then gut the office in August, when everyone is on vacation.

Can we please stop pretending that everything in the country is happening as a direct result of Trump's tweets? For God's sake.

Here's the news from Ford:

The automaker also said it is canceling plans for a new $1.6 billion plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, but confirmed that the next-generation of its Focus compact will be produced at its Hermosillo, Mexico factory.

Ford CEO Mark Fields said the decision to cancel the plant in Mexico was based in part on changing market conditions with sales of small cars declining as well as the pro-business climate the automaker expects under incoming President Donald Trump. "This is a vote of confidence for president elect Trump and some of the policies he may be pursuing," Fields at the plant today.

The real reason this is happening is that Ford has suffered sales declines in its Fusion sedan, which is made at its Mexico plant, as well as sales declines in the Mustang, which is made in Flat Rock, Michigan. There's not much point in building a new small-car plant anywhere if Fusion sales are down, and not much point in underutilizing its Flat Rock plant.

And it's not as if Ford is moving any production from Mexico to the United States. All it's doing in Flat Rock is some expansion to build self-driving and electric vehicles. This involves a grand total of 700 jobs, which were never going to be in Mexico in the first place.

In other words, this was a pure business decision. So why is Mark Fields giving Trump a big shout out? Because he figures there's no harm in spinning this into flattery of the incoming president. It might help and it can't hurt.

But it ain't so. Ford sales of sedans and small cars are tanking. If they were doing better, they'd still be building that new plant in Mexico.