Holy crap. Drug testers have been hauling out old urine samples from the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, and the results are devastating:

More than 75 athletes from those two Olympics have been found, upon further scrutiny, to be guilty of doping violations. The majority are from Russia and other Eastern European countries. At least 40 of them won medals. Disciplinary proceedings are continuing against other athletes, and the numbers are expected to climb.

....The Olympic committee announced penalties for 16 athletes last week and another 12 on Monday. Suddenly — and unceremoniously — some undecorated Olympians are inheriting medals for their performances eight years ago. Even sixth-place finishers who were far from the podium are now bronze medalists.

....Nearly all of the violations, across nationalities, were for the anabolic steroids Stanozolol or Turinabol, the very substances that notoriously fueled East Germany to global dominance in the 1970s and 80s. A rash of Turinabol violations have also recently cropped up in major and minor league baseball in the United States.

This sounds a lot like the covert help that Russia provided to Donald Trump during the election. Too bad there's nobody around to take his medal away.

I've seen dozens of articles like this over the past week:

Democrats ask themselves: Now what? Who'll lead the party from the wilderness, and how?

Instead of expanding the political map against Trump into the Republican-leaning reaches of Arizona and Georgia, Democrats are reckoning with the loss of Michigan and Pennsylvania, states they won in the last six elections, and Wisconsin, which had not voted for a Republican for president since 1984.

…The last time the party faced such deep existential angst, after three straight losing presidential campaigns, Democrats shifted their philosophical course and moved closer to the middle, nudged by a fresh-faced Arkansas governor named Bill Clinton. Paul Begala…suggested the party's message should be a throwback to the one that helped elect Bill Clinton in a time of similar voter anxiety and frustration: "It's still the economy, stupid," Begala said.

There's no question that Democrats are in a heap of trouble outside of Washington, DC. They control fewer governorships and state legislatures than at any time in recent memory. But that's been true for a while and has nothing in particular to do with this year's presidential defeat.

So what did cause Hillary Clinton's loss? This is all still tentative, but as I've read more preliminary analysis of county-level returns, I'd say it was three things. Two of them are probably going to piss you off:1

Millennials. This one is pretty clear-cut. Relative to 2012, Hillary Clinton did worse among millennials by a considerable amount. They turned out to vote in their usual numbers, but a lot of them abandoned Clinton for third-party candidates. All told, I'd say this cost Clinton about 5 percent of the millennial vote, which amounts to 1-2 percent of the total vote. Trump, meanwhile, did as well with millennials as Romney did in 2012.

Why? I realize we're all supposed to move on from this, but I blame Bernie Sanders. He started out fine, but after his campaign took off and he realized he could actually win this thing, he turned harshly negative. Over and over, his audience of passionate millennials heard him trash Clinton as a corrupt, warmongering, corporate shill. After he lost, he endorsed Clinton only slowly and grudgingly, and by the time he started campaigning for her with any enthusiasm, it was too late. I understand that Bernie fans want to deny this obvious reality, but honestly, is it any wonder that Clinton lost a big chunk of the millennial vote?

James Comey. An awful lot of people claim that Democrats are kidding themselves if they blame their loss on Comey instead of their systemic problems. I couldn't agree less. The Trump campaign thinks Comey made a difference. The Clinton campaign thinks Comey made a difference. The pre-election polls suggest Comey made a difference. The bulk of the evidence suggests it cost Hillary Clinton about 2 percent of the total vote.

Why dwell on this? Because it matters whether Clinton's loss was truly due to problems with either the Democratic agenda or problems with Clinton herself. If, instead, Comey was the difference between winning and losing, then all the circular firing squads are squabbling over flaws that don't really exist. If Comey had kept his mouth shut and Clinton had won the popular vote by 3.5 percent, she'd be president-elect and we wouldn't even be talking about all the rest of this stuff.

The working class divide. Note that I said working class, not white working class. Here's some data for you. Among the white working class,2 Hillary Clinton lost 14 points of support compared with 2012. Among the black and Latino working class, she lost 8 points of support.3 Altogether, this cost her about 6 percent of the total vote.

Among white college grads, Clinton gained about 10 points of support. Among black and Latino college grads, she lost about 2 points. Altogether, this gained her about 4 points of the total vote.

The net loss here is about 2 points of the total vote. It's true that among the working class Clinton lost more among whites than nonwhites, but she lost big among all races. This strongly suggests that the working class was primarily motivated by economic concerns and only secondarily by racial issues. This is the opposite of what I thought during the campaign, but I was wrong.

There are other things that probably made a difference. The press obsession with Clinton's emails was one. The mediocre economic environment was another. Clinton's surprisingly poor showing among unmarried men is yet another. And we can add to this some questionable campaign decisions by the Clinton team. But remember: Despite all this, Clinton won the popular vote by about 1.5 percentage points. Neither she nor her agenda were roundly rejected by America.

In the end, then, I basically put the onus for Clinton's defeat on bitter Bernie, crooked Comey, and the wounded working class. They turned a landslide into a close win, which the Electoral College then turned into a defeat. For what it's worth, I also blame our country's apparent indifference toward racism and sexism. I'm not sure that either one of them drove a large number of votes, but there's no question that a big chunk of America looked at a voraciously racist and misogynistic campaign from Donald Trump and decided to shrug it off. It just wasn't important to them. That's as disheartening as anything else that happened this year.

1Some of you anyway. Honestly, it's not deliberate on my part. As best I can tell, this is just what the data tells us.

2There's no universally accepted definition of working class. For our purposes, it's anyone without a college degree.

3The white working class is much larger than the nonwhite working class, so this translates into far more raw votes lost due to white working-class defections. However, the actual strength of the defections was surprisingly close among all races and ethnic groups.

Is news "aggregation" getting out of hand? On Twitter this morning, I happened to see a complaint that TPM had badly mischaracterized a Bernie Sanders speech in Boston this weekend, possibly in an aggregation form of the old telephone game. I was curious, so I went to the original source. It definitely wasn't telephone. In fact, it was practically a word-for-word rewrite of the original. It was all properly attributed, but still. It's one thing to quote pieces here and there of your source material, it's another to lightly rewrite the sentences and publish it under a different name. That ain't right.

WBUR

 

TPM

Bernie Sanders, In Boston: Democratic Party Needs To Return Its Focus To Working Class

The Vermont senator told a crowd of more than 1,000 mostly young people at the Berklee Performance Center that this month's election shows the party has to return its focus to the working class.



"The working class of this country is being decimated — that's why Donald Trump won," Sanders said. "And what we need now are candidates who stand with those working people, who understand that real median family income has gone down."

Sanders also said supporters needed to help move the party away from what he calls "identity politics."

"It is not good enough for somebody to say, 'I'm a woman, vote for me.' That is not good enough," Sanders said. "What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industries."

 

Sanders Urges Supporters: Ditch Identity Politics And Embrace The Working Class

In a speech Sunday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) urged attendees to move away from “identity politics” and towards policies aimed at helping the working class. Sanders spoke to a crowd of more than 1,000 mostly young people at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston, according to a report from WBUR.

"The working class of this country is being decimated — that's why Donald Trump won," Sanders said, according to the same report. "And what we need now are candidates who stand with those working people, who understand that real median family income has gone down."

Sanders also urged the crowd to move the party away from what he called “identity politics.”

"It is not good enough for somebody to say, 'I'm a woman, vote for me.' That is not good enough," he said, according to the same report. "What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industries."

The topic of the day is "fake news." This takes two forms. The first is something that's mocked up to look like a real news site and contains flat-out fabrications. The creators make money by trying to make their stuff go viral on Facebook and then collecting ad revenue. The second type of fake news is more familiar: hysterical conspiracy theories that make the rounds among the grass roots. There's nothing new about this except for the vehicles it uses. In the past, stuff like this circulated via newsletter, and then email chains. Today it circulates via Facebook and other social media platforms.

In any case, these are both allegedly huge problems. I'm not totally convinced of this yet, since I haven't seen any data about how widely spread this stuff is and whether it actually changes any minds. I'd put even money that it mainly gets circulated among people who are already highly receptive to fever swamp nonsense and who already hate whichever person it's aimed at.

Still, let's assume it's a problem. Riddle me this: Why is it that fact-checking sites spend countless hours researching the accuracy of statements by politicians, but spend no time researching the latest crank news on Facebook? I recommend they start. To do this, they need to either (a) get deeply involved in the left and right-wing fever swamps so they know when something new is making the rounds, or (b) set up an automated system that alerts them when something political starts to get widely shared. The latter sounds like it might be tricky, but if Silicon Valley is supposedly populated by the smartest people on the planet, surely one of them can create a site updated daily that contains, say, the top 50 wacko viral political stories along with how they're trending.

It's time to join the 21st century. In the past, checking out the statements of politicians was important. It still is, I suppose, though few people seem to care much about it. In any case, viral stories on the net are probably a lot more important. It's time to expose them to the light of day on a consistent basis and explain where they come from and whether there's any truth to them.

Nick Kristof tells me something I didn't know:

The announcement that Trump has recruited Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as national security adviser is particularly alarming....Flynn had a brilliant military career....Then President Obama nominated Flynn to become director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and he began to unravel....Flynn’s former fans have been bewildered at his raging denunciation of Islam, including calling it a “cancer.” In February, Flynn also tweeted and asked others to forward a viciously bigoted video that argued that there could be no such thing as Islamophobia.

....For his chief of staff, Flynn chose his son, who is a looney on social media, calling President Obama a communist and fascist, tweeting racially insensitive comments and sharing absurd conspiracy theories.

The chief of staff for the National Security Council will be Flynn's son? Well, why not? Donald Trump has set the tone on nepotism from the top, and it's obvious that he not only tolerates it, but positively revels in it.

The New York Times tells us about Ivanka Trump's husband, Jared Kushner:

Whatever role Mr. Kushner may play in the administration, he has already had a hand in helping assemble it. Both of Mr. Trump’s most senior advisers, Mr. Priebus, his new chief of staff, and Stephen K. Bannon, his chief strategist, seek Mr. Kushner’s advice routinely, considering his buy-in almost a prerequisite for their proposals to Mr. Trump....“Jared has the trust, confidence and ear of the entire inner circle of the Trump administration, including the most important member of that group, the president-elect,” said Matthew Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

....Though he is not particularly bookish, Mr. Kushner is an admirer of “The Count of Monte Cristo,” the story of an innocent man seeking vengeance against people who have wronged him. It is a story that feels particularly resonant now: In recent weeks, Mr. Kushner has been able to exact a measure of revenge against his own family’s nemesis, Governor Christie.

The Count of Monte Cristo! Could there be a more perfect book for Trump's extended family? But Kushner better watch out:

[Trump] gets angry when members of his inner circle get too much of the spotlight, as Rudolph W. Giuliani did when headlines about his millions of dollars in speaking fees appeared as the former New York mayor was publicly promoting himself to be Mr. Trump’s secretary of state.

Apparently Giuliani is now on the outs. Kushner might be too if more profiles like this start appearing.

Last week a federal judge in Michigan ordered the state to deliver four cases of bottled water each week to families in Flint that need it. On Thursday, the state asked the judge to stay his order, arguing that the court order would "require a 'Herculean effort' equivalent to a large-scale military operation and cost the state at least $10.45 million a month, or $125 million annually." This prompted a reader to ask me what was up. Is Flint's water still unsafe to drink?

I haven't checked in on Flint since June, so I figured maybe it was time for an update. I brought up the latest testing results and created a new data point for the past two months, and then added the data point to my old chart using the same metric as always. Here it is:

That's...not bad.1 Using a different measure, it turns out that about 6 percent of Flint homes were over the EPA's "action limit" of 15 ppb and 1 percent were way over. That's not great, obviously, but not catastrophic either. The catch is that presumably these measurements were all taken with water filters in place, and the judge's ruling applied only to homes without filters:

The city is not required to deliver water to residents whose homes have properly installed and working filters, are unoccupied or decline the service. Judge Lawson also ordered that officials provide information in multiple languages, including English, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic and Hmong, to residents about lead levels of city water and how to install filters that properly reduce the contamination.

....Flint had fought the request for deliveries of water, arguing that residents had sufficient access to clean water from distribution centers throughout Flint and at home using filters that the city provided. Judge Lawson disagreed. Residents struggled to properly install the filters because of language barriers, old age, cognitive barriers or a lack of necessary tools, the judge said. Others struggled to retrieve water even from the distribution centers.

I guess I'm a little puzzled. If Flint is getting good results even though lots of homes don't have working filters, then its water is in pretty good shape and the judge might be overreacting. However, if it's getting these results because most homes do have working filters, then the judge's order wouldn't be all that burdensome and it's not clear why the state is fighting it. Perhaps someone with deeper knowledge of what's going on will weigh in on this.

1There's a broader measure of blood lead levels that looks oddly high, but the entire state of Michigan looks oddly high. I'm not sure what to make of it.

Here is the version of reality that Donald Trump and the Trump team have been spreading around since the election:

  • Trump's victory was one of the biggest in recent history.
  • Trump kept a Ford plant from moving to Mexico.
  • Snobby New York theater elites were rude to VP-elect Mike Pence on Friday.
  • The demonstrations and marches following the election were the work of "professional protesters."
  • The New York Times apologized for its anti-Trump coverage during the campaign.
  • Trump won the debates handily.
  • He totally could have won the Trump University lawsuit, but chose to settle for the good of the country.

It's only been ten days so far. Can he keep this up for four years?

Guess who's getting a Presidential Medal of Freedom? Hopper! Well, Hopper's namesake anyway, Adm. Grace Hopper:

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, known as “Amazing Grace” and “the first lady of software,” was at the forefront of computers and programming development from the 1940s through the 1980s. Hopper’s work helped make coding languages more practical and accessible, and she created the first compiler, which translates source code from one language into another.1

It's a posthumous award, but Adm. Hopper is now right up there with Vin Scully and Newton "Television Is A Vast Wasteland" Minow. Naturally, this means that the furry version of Hopper is the star of this week's catblogging. She is trying her best to look visionary.

1Meh. I guess that's close enough. No need to get pedantic here.

Tyler Cowen says there have been a lot of papers about the declining labor force participation of men, so it's about time we investigate the declining labor force participation of women. He recommends a paper by So Kubota, a job market candidate at Princeton.

Unfortunately, I ran into a huge roadblock. Kubota thinks the answer involves the rising cost of childcare, and that certainly sounds reasonable. But take a look at the chart on the right. It comes at the very beginning of a presentation based on his paper. I've excerpted just the part starting around the year 2000, since that's when overall female labor force participation started to decline. What it shows is clear: participation rates for women with children declined less than rates for women without children.

What am I missing here? It seems perfectly sensible that rising childcare costs reduce the net income from market labor and therefore reduce the number of mothers who find it worthwhile to work outside the home. And I'm fully willing to accept that the costs of childcare have gone up over the past couple of decades. That should make a difference, and Kubota estimates that it's reduced female labor force participation by 5 percent. But Kubota's own chart suggests that it hasn't had this effect. All the subsequent discussion of subsidies and market vs. home-based childcare doesn't change that basic fact.

So the interesting question seems to be this: given that childcare costs have increased, why are labor force participation rates for mothers declining less than those for women without children? That's a genuine mystery.