Lunchtime Photo

The Angel Motel in Orange, California.

Max Ehrenfreund points us today to a new paper by a quartet of researchers that looks at lifetime incomes of various age groups. They find that middle-class income has stagnated and income inequality has gone up over the past few decades. None of that should come as a surprise.

But there's an interesting twist. Here's their key chart for men. It's busy and intimidating looking, but don't worry. It will all make sense.

First off, look at the pink circles at the bottom. Those show the earnings of 25-year-old men who are just entering the labor market. Starting around 1973, their earnings began to plummet, from $35,000 to $25,000.

Now look at the gray diamonds at the top. Those show the earnings of 55-year-old men. They've gone up and down, but basically have stayed right around $55,000 the whole time.

In other words, the decline in lifetime earnings among men is almost entirely because the average earnings of young men have declined. They end up at the same place as earlier cohorts by the time they retire, but they never make up for the dismal earnings of the first ten or fifteen years of their working careers.

Don't get too hung up on the precise numbers here. The authors use Social Security data, which they show is roughly equivalent to overall income data. However, if you use different data, or different measures of inflation, or different measures of income that include health benefits, you'll get somewhat different results. However, the basic stagnation picture doesn't change, and the difference between the earnings of young and old don't change.

If this data is accurate, it means that we have one big cohort—roughly 25 to 40 years old—that's struggling worse and worse every year, and another big cohort—roughly 40 to 65 years old—that's stagnating but not declining. To the extent that economic stress among men helped power Donald Trump to the White House, it's that younger cohort that should have done it. And this is indeed the cohort that Hillary Clinton struggled with the most.

Sally Yates is a career civil servant in the Justice Department. She was hired under the first Bush administration, promoted during the Clinton administration, promoted again during the second Bush administration, and yet again under the Obama administration. Two years ago she was named deputy attorney general, the second ranking position in the department, and then became acting attorney general when Loretta Lynch left. President Trump asked her to stay on until Jeff Sessions was confirmed, and she agreed. A few days later, after declining to defend Trump's immigration order in court, she was fired.

Today she's scheduled to testify about what she told the White House regarding National Security Advisor Mike Flynn's connections to Russia. Trump isn't waiting, though. He's decided to pre-smear her:

Hmmm. I get the impression that Trump is pretty sure her testimony is going to be damaging. We already know that she warned the Trumpies that Flynn had lied about his contacts with Russia, and today we learned that President Obama had previously warned Trump away from hiring Flynn. (The White House response, apparently, is that they thought Obama was just kidding.) Despite all this, Trump hired Flynn and then kept him on. It was only when Flynn's lying became public that Trump fired him.

Anyway, this should all guarantee a huge audience for today's hearing. It's at 2:30 pm Eastern, which probably means 3 pm once all the preliminary throat clearing and speechifying is done.

On January 27, President Trump issued an executive order on immigration. Within 30 days, the Secretary of Homeland Security was ordered to compile a list of the information needed from foreign countries to properly adjudicate new visa applications. Immediately thereafter, the Secretary of State was ordered to ask "all foreign governments that do not supply such information to start providing such information regarding their nationals within 60 days of notification." At that point, any foreign government that refused to provide the necessary information would be "recommended for inclusion on a Presidential proclamation that would prohibit the entry of foreign nationals."

That's plain enough, and by April 27 this should have been completed. The executive order may have been stayed by the courts, but that affected only the immediate ban of visitors from seven specified countries. Homeland Security presumably carried out the president's order to create the list, and the State Department presumably notified foreign countries of its requirements.

So did they? If they didn't, what held them up? Why hasn't any such list been published? And why is the Trump administration continuing to waste time in court over its EO since it should be moot at this point?

Has any progress been made on this? Or has Trump put it on hold in a huff because he didn't get his way? Has anyone asked?

Tyler Cowen points us to a study from last year which concludes that police officers become "less productive" as they gain experience. Here's the abstract:

This study analyzes two decades of data from a municipal police agency and describes the average patrol officer career productivity trajectory. We find that declines in productivity begin immediately after the first year of service and worsen over the course of officers’ careers. After their 20th year, patrol officers generate 88% fewer directed patrols, 50% fewer traffic warnings, 58% fewer traffic citations, 41% fewer warrant arrests, and 57% fewer misdemeanor arrests compared to officers with 1 year of experience. Using a patrol officer productivity metric called Z-score per Productive Time (Z-PRO), we estimate that each additional year of service decreases an officer’s overall productivity by about 2%. Z-PRO also indicates that after 21 years of service, an average officer will be approximately 35% less productive overall than an officer with 1 year of service.

There's an issue of framing here: What is the "proper" level of productivity for a police officer? Perhaps the real issue is that newish police officers are overzealous. They're eager to ticket anyone going 6 miles over the speed limit. They arrest anyone hanging out on a corner who turns out to have a joint in their pocket. Etc.

It's not necessarily the case that more is always better. To really judge this stuff, you'd also need to measure the quality of arrests and traffic citations in some way. It's possible that older officers arrest less because their experience tells them it's better to let the small stuff go, but have a better eye for genuinely dangerous behavior.

Then again, maybe they just get lazy.

I have a little catching up to do. Mark Green, President Trump's second pick to be Secretary of the Army, has withdrawn. Green is a Tennessee state legislator who has made disparaging remarks about gays, trans people, and Muslims. Sadly, the radical left used these remarks to accuse him of hostility toward gays, trans people, and Muslims, and that became a "distraction." So many distractions these days! On Friday Green announced that he was withdrawing his nomination.

But you know what they say: third time's the charm. All Trump has to do is find someone who's neither obscenely rich nor filled with hatred, and he should have no trouble getting a confirmation. How hard can that be?

I've been pretty astonished at how much better my new camera is compared to my old one. Of course, the old Canon cost $400 and the new Lumix cost $1200, so you might think it damn well better take superior pictures. And you'd be right. The combination of a bigger sensor and better optics just produces higher quality results.

Oddly enough, though, that's only half the story. There are several other things it does better that have turned out to be nearly as important:

Burst mode. One of the dirty little secrets of the pros has always been that they just take a lot more pictures than the rest of us.1 If you take 500 shots, you're a lot more likely to get two or three good ones than if you take 20 shots. Back in the days of film, there was nothing much you could do about this unless you were willing to spend gigantic amounts of money on film and processing.

But in the digital era, taking lots of pictures is free, so why not do it? Even for something as static as a group photo, you should use burst mode. That way you'll have a much better chance of getting at least one where nobody is blinking or looking away or something. For anything that moves (cats, birds, babies, etc.), it's a no-brainer. One of the reasons my Lumix pictures have been better is because I've made about 12,000 exposures since I've gotten it. Of that, I've saved maybe 50 or so. That's half of one percent. If I had taken only a few hundred, I'd probably have only three or four good ones (and they wouldn't be quite as good).

Faster, more accurate autofocus. This hardly needs any explanation. The fact that the autofocus is faster means I'm less likely to miss a shot. The fact that it's more accurate means the focus is less likely to be soft.

Easy exposure compensation. This one is a little more subtle. As near as I can tell, the metering on the Canon and the Lumix are about equally good. But depending on circumstances, I often want to under or overexpose a bit. The Canon could do this, of course, but it was a little clunky, so I often didn't bother. However, the Lumix has a dedicated dial on the top of the camera that's easy to get to, so I'm never tempted to just settle for good enough. I always dial in some exposure compensation if I need it.

All that said, it was the most humdrum thing in the world that really surprised me. Sometimes I take pictures of my TV to illustrate a blog post, as I did on Thursday:

That is...remarkably sharp and well exposed. With the old Canon, I had to take a dozen shots to get two or three good ones. Something about the interaction of the refresh on the TV and the refresh on the camera's CCD (or something) produced lots of shots that were blurred, wildly color imbalanced, or exposed badly. With the Lumix I don't get any of that. Every shot is fine. It's like night and day.

I'm not sure what possessed me to spend $1200 on a fixed-lens camera. That's enough to buy a middling DSLR. But although the Lumix doesn't quite produce DSLR results, it comes a lot closer than I expected.

1They also have pricier equipment, more experience, and better eyes. But those aren't exactly secrets, are they?

These tweets from Paul Ryan's press secretary kind of crack me up:

This is a pretty crude evasion, and a seemingly pointless one. Anybody who's savvy enough to know what a CBO score is in the first place also knows that this is badly misleading. Earlier bills were scored. Earlier bills went through committee. Earlier bills were posted online a month ago. But none of that applies to the actual bill that was passed on Thursday.

So why bother? The answer is simple: Donald Trump has taught Republicans that Twitter is a useful tool for communicating with your base, and that's all this is. Most people who read these tweets will have no idea what they're about, just that they're more examples of how the lying left is always telling lies about Republicans. It will become a useful attack meme on the right for a while, and that's all it's for.

Here's some genuinely useful information: what people think you're saying when you tell them how likely something is. Here's the approximate ranking:

  • 90% — Almost certainly, highly likely
  • 80% — Very good chance
  • 70% — Probably, probable, likely, we believe
  • 60% — Better than even
  • 50% — About even
  • 40% — ??
  • 30% — ??
  • 25% — Probably not, we doubt
  • 20% — Unlikely, improbable, little chance
  • 10% — Chances are slight
  • 0% — Highly unlikely, almost no chance

There are no real surprises here except for one: apparently we don't have a common word to express moderate doubt. The entire space between 25 percent and 50 percent is empty. Why do you suppose that is?1

1The most obvious answer is that the researchers just didn't happen to include the right phrases in their study, but that's boring. I would like to see some more creative suggestions.

It's been a longtime complaint of mine that Democrats have been so lackluster in the support of Obamacare. But that's nothing. After watching Republicans dash for the exits after passing Trumpcare, here's how I now think of Democratic enthusiasm for Obamacare:

After voting to pass Trumpcare, Republicans are practically scurrying to find rocks to hide under. They don't want to talk to reporters and they don't want to hold townhalls for their constituents. You'd think they'd all be proud of their votes. But it sure doesn't seem like it. Funny, isn't it?