Here's a Donald Trump timeline on climate change:

2012: The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.

2014: Give me clean, beautiful and healthy air - not the same old climate change (global warming) bullshit! I am tired of hearing this nonsense.

2015: Obama's talking about all of this with the global warming and ... a lot of it's a hoax. It's a hoax. I mean, it's a money-making industry, okay? It's a hoax, a lot of it.

January 18, 2016: I often joke that this is done for the benefit of China. Obviously, I joke. But this is done for the benefit of China, because China does not do anything to help climate change.

August 11: I would say it goes up, it goes down, and I think it’s very much like this over the years. We’ll see what happens. I mean, we’ll see what happens. ... Certainly, climate has changed.

September 13: There is still much that needs to be investigated in the field of “climate change.”

September 26: I do not say that [climate change is a hoax].

Today: "I think there is some connectivity" between humans and climate change, Trump says.

So there you go. A year ago climate change was a hoax. Three months ago climate change had gone up and down. Two months ago it was no longer a hoax. Today it's definitely for real and partly caused by humans.

Yet another disappointment for his fans. On the bright side, I'm sure he has no intention of actually doing anything about climate change, even if he now claims to believe in it.

Steve Bannon, in July:

Donald Trump today:

Well, I guess that settles that! I'm sure we'll be hearing an announcement from Trump shortly that he's decided to accept Bannon's resignation.

During the 2016 election, the chant of "Lock her up" followed Donald Trump everywhere he went. And he reveled in it. He promised on national TV to do exactly that, and during the final days of the campaign—after James Comey released his calamitous letter—he practically spoke about nothing else. Hillary Clinton was the most corrupt person ever in history, and when he became president he'd make sure she spent the rest of her natural days behind bars.

His fans loved it. But apparently they're going to be disappointed:

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump essentially said: "never mind," signaling that he does not intend to pursue investigations into his rival's use of a private email server or the financial operations at the Clinton family's global foundation.

In an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program, Kellyanne Conway, the former Trump campaign manager and a senior adviser to his transition, said the president-elect wanted to "move beyond the issues of the campaign" and confirmed that Mr. Trump did not want his promised Clinton investigations to take place.

"If Donald Trump can help her heal, then perhaps that's a good thing," Ms. Conway said.

Isn't that sweet? Trump is going to help Hillary Clinton "heal." What a guy.

Of course, he's also signaling that he won't undertake the most corrupt use of the Justice Department since Watergate. So that's a positive, I guess.

Anyway, the bottom line here is that shipping Hillary off to Sing Sing was never something Trump planned to do in the first place. It just sounded good and made his crowds happy. Once the election was over, he didn't care anymore. I wonder how many more of Trump's promises fall into that category? His supporters are about to find out just how far the Trump con goes.

Three years ago James Reston Jr. published The Accidental Victim, arguing that Lee Harvey Oswald was actually trying to kill Texas Gov. John Connally, and hit JFK only by accident. Some of the evidence comes from items collected after Oswald was arrested:

A Secret Service officer named Mike Howard was dispatched to Oswald’s apartment. Howard found a little green address book, and on its 17th page under the heading “I WILL KILL” Oswald listed four men: an FBI agent named James Hosty; a right-wing general, Edwin Walker; and Vice President Richard Nixon. At the top of the list was the governor of Texas, John Connally. Through Connally’s name, Oswald had drawn a dagger, with blood drops dripping downward.

Oddly, this page was subsequently ripped out of the little green book. No one knows how it happened. Reston also argues that Oswald had plenty of reason to hate Connally (as head of the Navy Department he had refused Oswald's request to restore his honorable discharge from the Marines) and no reason to hate JFK. What's more, Oswald's wife repeatedly testified that that Connally was Oswald's target.

I've never heard this theory before, and Reston's book doesn't seem to have gotten much attention. But his conclusion is clear:

For 53 years, a cottage industry has developed over the motive for the Kennedy assassination. It had to be connected to the Mafia or the Russians or the Cubans or Oswald’s Marxist beliefs or Jack Ruby’s petty crimes in the Dallas underworld....[But] Oswald was no coldhearted professional assassin under orders. The real answer to the reasons he took aim are to be found in his frustrations and obsessions. And the real tragedy of Dallas lies in the accidental death of a president who just happened to be in the line of fire.

So what's the deal here? Is this a real thing? Or just more JFK assassination crankery? If nobody believes Reston's theory, I'd at least be curious to hear the debunking.

David Roberts reports today on changes at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. In particular, they've proposed a new rule that would allow small, distributed energy resources to compete in the wholesale electricity market:

There’s a wide range of DERs: generation, like rooftop solar; storage, like home or EV batteries; and smart software/devices/appliances, like the Nest thermostat.

Until fairly recently, DERs were too widely dispersed, poorly tracked, and small in scale to play a role in wholesale energy markets. To participate, they needed to be more trackable, predictable, and controllable.

That’s starting to happen. In particular, it is now possible to aggregate large numbers of DERs into "virtual power plants." By using information technology to coordinate the behavior of a large number of distributed devices, an aggregator can effectively make them behave like a single, large, predictable source.

It sounds great that new technology allows DERs to supply electricity to the wholesale market. This will make electricity markets more competitive, and I can't think of any compelling reason that Republicans should hate the idea of FERC recognizing this. Well, I can think of one: it involves a regulation proposed under the Obama administration.1 Will that be enough to kill it? Stay tuned.

1Plus it's kind of vaguely carbon friendly and therefore kinda sorta associated with climate change. So I guess that's two reasons.

Today an Argentinian journalist reported on a phone call between the Big Apple and the Big Apple:

Would Trump do something like this? Sure. Would both sides deny it if he did? Of course. On the other hand, the only evidence behind it is the unsourced report of a leftist journalist who has no love for Argentine President Mauricio Macri. It's hardly likely that the New York Times would run with something like that. Especially considering this:

Jorge Lanata, an Argentine journalist, said on his show Sunday that Trump had advocated during the phone call for approval of the construction of a Trump-branded property in Buenos Aires. But Lanata prefaced his statement by saying, “mitad en joda, mitad en serio,” which roughly translates to “half joking, half serious.”

That preface was dropped from a story about the report in Talking Points Memo, which quoted an account from La Nacion, an Argentine newspaper. The TPM story promptly attracted controversy on social media and was followed by a formal denial from Macri’s office.

Beyond this, you really can't wait a few hours and then declare that the media has dropped the whole thing. Any serious news outlet would spend time reporting this out before running anything, and that could take days or weeks. So maybe they've dropped it, maybe they haven't. We'll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, Trump has met with some of his Indian business partners; he's trying to hire Jared Kushner, who is married to his daughter Ivanka, who will be running the Trump Organization in his absence; he's reportedly thinking about using his own hotel to put up foreign delegations; he has explicitly refused to divest himself of his business interests or even make a modest attempt to keep them at arms length; and both Mike Pence and Reince Priebus think any concern over this is just ridiculous.

In other words, I don't think we're going to lack for examples of obvious cronyism and conflicts of interest in the Trump White House. If the Argentinian thing doesn't pan out, plenty of other episodes of Trumpian venality will.

Atrios has a question:

I'm a bit confused about the obsession with all of the soon to be out of work truck drivers due to automated technology. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a fan of industries being crushed too quickly....Still "what about the truck drivers" seems to get a lot more attention than other industries greatly hit by changes in technology/trade rules/taste evolutions/supply chain modifications.

....I'm not arguing it'll be a good thing for people impacted by it, just curious why this particular bad thing which hasn't even happened yet gets so much attention.

Like a lot of journalists, I wrote a piece for publication after the election that became suddenly obsolete on the morning of November 9 and was promptly sent down the memory hole. However, it happens to include an answer to Atrios's question. So in the spirit of never wasting any of my precious words, here it is. It's framed as advice to, um, president-elect Hillary Clinton:

Start thinking about robots. Don’t laugh. Ordinary automation has been part of the labor scene for decades, but smart machines haven’t yet had a big effect on semi-skilled and unskilled labor. That’s about to change. If this wasn’t clear already, it became alarmingly concrete in October when a trucking company delivered 50,000 cans of Budweiser from Loveland to Colorado Springs—without a driver. Within a few years, this technology will go from prototype to full production, and that means millions of truck drivers will be out of a job.

But that’s not even the worst of it. Self-driving trucks—and cars and buses and ships—rely on software that mimics human intelligence. Once that software is good enough to drive a truck, it will be good enough to do a lot of other things too. It won’t be millions of people out of work, it will be tens of millions.

The jobocalypse is still a decade away, but progressives should be out in front on this—and Clinton should make a start on figuring out solid policy responses that can become a cornerstone of her future economic policy. This isn’t something that needs to involve Congress at this point. President Clinton can do it all on her own.

Aside from the fact that it's visible, easy to understand, and relatively near-term, the reason that automated trucking draws a lot of attention is that it's likely to be the first truly widespread, economically disruptive application of artificial intelligence. And it's gaining on us.

Today's Trump Roundup

Let's start by griping about Trump's media coverage. As near as I can tell, Trump's process of choosing a cabinet is pretty ordinary. The president-elect always has a parade of candidates calling on him, and there's always an endless supply of gossip about who's likely to get chosen for what—fueled, almost inevitably by "sources close to the candidate." So why pretend that Trump has turned this into a "spectacle"? If you read the whole story, it doesn't sound any more spectacular than any other presidential transition. So how about if we stop pretending that everything Trump does is larger than life?

And speaking of the press, Trump met off-the-record today with about 30 or 40 TV media folks. This is apparently fairly common, and is usually a chance to discuss how the incoming administration plans to handle communications and for the press to talk about their concerns. Apparently that's not how it went this time:

“It was like a f–ing firing squad,” one source said of the encounter. “Trump started with [CNN chief] Jeff Zucker and said ‘I hate your network, everyone at CNN is a liar and you should be ashamed,’ ” the source said.

....“Trump kept saying, ‘We’re in a room of liars, the deceitful dishonest media who got it all wrong.’ He addressed everyone in the room calling the media dishonest, deceitful liars. He called out Jeff Zucker by name and said everyone at CNN was a liar, and CNN was [a] network of liars,” the source said.

It sounds like press relations should go smoothly in the Trump administration. In other news, the Washington Post reports that Trump is planning to shrink the number of federal employees, erode their job protections, and give them crappier pensions. And to top it all off, Steve Bannon will be in charge of all this:

The project aligns with Bannon’s long-stated warnings about the corrupting influence of government and a capital city rampant with “crony capitalism.” Breitbart headlines also provide a possible insight into his views, with federal employees described as overpaid, too numerous and a “privileged class.”

“Number of Government Employees Now Surpasses Manufacturing Jobs by 9,977,000,” the website proclaimed in November. There are 2.1 million federal civilian employees.

This is a Republican evergreen, of course. Still, it's nice to see that one of Trump's highest priorities is ending the scourge of skyrocketing federal employment shown in the chart above. Trump plans to make a few exceptions, though:

The heads of the Pentagon and the nation’s intelligence community have recommended to President Obama that the director of the National Security Agency, Adm. Michael S. Rogers, be removed.

....The news comes as Rogers is being considered by President-elect Donald Trump to be his nominee for director of national intelligence to replace Clapper as the official who oversees all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies. In a move apparently unprecedented for a military officer, Rogers, without notifying superiors, traveled to New York to meet with Trump on Thursday at Trump Tower. That caused consternation at senior levels of the administration, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal personnel matters.

It's one thing for a new Republican president to pick national security staffers who are ideologically different from Democrats. That's to be expected. But Trump seems to be choosing folks who are just lousy at their jobs. Their main qualification is that they got fired or disparaged while Obama was in office. I guess this means Stanley McChrystal must be in line for something next.

That's enough for now. We can talk about Trump's unprecedented conflicts of interest some other time. So far, he appears to think that one of the perks of being president is that it's a great selling point for his branding business.

UPDATE: The original chart showing federal employment was incorrect. It has been updated.

Over the weekend I wrote about the latest water testing results from Flint. In case you missed it, here's the chart:

This is basically a pretty good result, but it wasn't clear to me if these were lead levels in the raw water or lead levels coming into homes with filters attached. Earlier this morning, I got an email from Gov. Rick Snyder's director of communications, Ari Adler:

The testing is done without filters — the filters are removed before the water is collected when the official EPA/DEQ water samples are collected. Filters have been tested and are removing the lead even when the water was coming in with lead levels much higher than the manufacturer guaranteed. Dr. Marc Edwards from Virginia Tech told reporters recently that filtered water in Flint is actually as good if not better than bottled water because of how well the filters are working.1

....Regarding homes with filters, here is the latest information I have from the Michigan State Police (who operate the State Emergency Operations Center): They have visited 100% of homes that receive Flint water. Of those, 96.1% had been confirmed to have a filter in place; 3.9% were unconfirmed.

And this:

Also, note that because the water has improved per EPA standards, the main focus on having people use filters in Flint at this point and well into the future is due to the replacement of lead service lines. There have been several cases across the country where lead service line replacement projects caused a spike in lead levels in drinking water because of the disruption of materials in the pipes....So, the filters are in place primarily for what is in the pipes and not what is in the water. Once the lead service line project is completed, and assuming the incoming water continues the improvements in quality we have seen to date, then we would stop the recommendation for filters in Flint.

I need to emphasize that I don't have any independent expertise here, and obviously Adler is telling the state's side of the story. That said, it seems to match all the basic testing data, which suggests that Flint water is in pretty good shape—and for virtually all homes it's 100 percent safe if a filter is installed.

As someone who's spent a lot of time reporting on lead, and who takes it as seriously as anyone can, the continued fights over this really irk me. The focus in Flint should clearly be on making sure filters are properly installed everywhere, not on bottled water. Bottled water should remain available for the small number of homes that still need it, but the hysteria needs to stop. It's hurting people who are living in fear unnecessarily. The folks in Flint deserve to know that their water is safe to use, and the money available to Flint needs to be used on more important things than delivering metric tons of bottled water all over the city.

1This is from the Detroit Free Press a few months ago:

Edwards' latest research shows the level of lead in Flint's drinking water supply has fallen by more than 50% and in some cases, as much as 80%, according to sampling taken at more than 160 Flint homes in summer 2015 and again last month. "Things are dramatically better than they were in 2015," Edwards said.

In fact, Edwards said, properly filtered water in the city was likely as good, if not better, than bottled water, especially prepackaged water that had been stored for a long time in hot conditions.

Edwards recommends that anyone in America with lead service pipes should install a filter.

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.