Well, OK, I guess I'd better do a quick Trump update. No, he still hasn't made up his mind about his immigration policy, but he did respond to the shooting of Dwyane Wade's cousin:

Keep it classy, Donald. Next up, remember that letter from Donald Trump's doctor claiming that Trump would be "the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency"? Yesterday NBC News finally got an interview with Dr. Harold Bornstein, who justified this opinion by explaining that "all the rest of them are either sick or dead." Roger that. This picture of Bornstein nearly brought down Twitter's servers yesterday:

Yep, that's billionaire Donald Trump's doctor. You can—and should!—watch the entire interview with Dr. Bornstein over at NBC News. Fun fact: he wrote the letter in five minutes while Trump's limo was waiting downstairs.

What else? Well, it turns out to no one's surprise that Breitbart chief and now Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon may be even more bigoted than we thought. The Daily News picked up this little nugget from his divorce proceedings:

Mary Louise Piccard said in a 2007 court declaration that Bannon didn't want their twin daughters attending the Archer School for Girls in Los Angeles because many Jewish students were enrolled at the elite institution.

"The biggest problem he had with Archer is the number of Jews that attend," Piccard said in her statement signed on June 27, 2007. "He said that he doesn't like the way they raise their kids to be 'whiny brats' and that he didn't want the girls going to school with Jews," Piccard wrote.

Bannon's spox told the Daily News that "at the time" he never said anything like that. They did not specify at which time he did say it.

Am I done yet? Oh my no. Next up is Trump supporter Paul LePage, the unhinged governor of Maine. LePage apparently thought that a Democratic legislator had called him a racist (he hadn't) and left him a noxious phone message. Then he met with reporters to explain himself:

There were a few other items. There always are. But that's enough. For those of you who didn't pay any attention to the news yesterday, this has been your day in Trump.

Friday Cat Blogging - 26 August 2016

What kind of cat is Hilbert? Here is this week's peek into his personality.

On Tuesday Marian made a tuna sandwich for lunch. That means tuna juice too, so she squeezed out the tuna juice into two saucers and put them out. Hopper came bounding over immediately and started lapping up the juice. Hilbert was slower off the mark, but eventually he figured out what was going on and shambled over.

But when he got to the saucers, he didn't head to the unoccupied one. He went around the long way and stuck his snout into Hopper's saucer and pushed her away. She shrugged, and headed over to the other saucer, which she lapped up. She had been almost done with the first one anyway.

So there you have it. Hilbert is more interested in taking away Hopper's tuna juice than in actually having any tuna juice of his own. However, he also has a brain the size of a peanut and is unable to effectively carry out his nefarious intentions. In the end, Hopper got all the tuna juice.

In other words, he is not a cat we'd want to elect as president. But as a king? Sure. So here is his majesty up on the balcony, surveying his vast domains. I'm not sure what he's looking at. Probably a crow walking across the skylight.

A Question for the AP

Just curious: are you ever planning to release the names of Hillary Clinton's non-governmental visitors? You're a news organization, after all, and this is news. I'd sure like to see them. I bet lots of other people would too.

Did corporations and foreign governments make donations to the Clinton Foundation as a way of cozying up to Hillary Clinton? Cherry picking the few occasions when they did so within a few months of some action by Hillary won't tell us anything. There's too little signal and too much noise. But there's a way to attack this question. Since 2000, Hillary Clinton has had five phases in her career:

2001-06: Senator from New York
2007-08: Candidate for president with good chance of winning.
2009-12: Secretary of State in the Obama administration.
2013-14: Retired, giving speeches, no one knew what she would do next.
2015-16: Candidate for president with excellent chance of winning.

So here's what someone needs to do: Take a look at donations to the Clinton Foundation and see if they seem to align with these career phases. For example, you'd expect foreign governments to be uninterested in gaining favors from Hillary while she was a New York senator, but very interested while she was Secretary of State. Conversely, you might expect, say, the financial industry to be generous while she was a New York senator but not so much while she was Secretary of State. During the periods when she was running for president, you'd expect activity to pick up from everybody, and during 2013-14 you'd expect interest to decline across the board.

You can probably think of other trends you'd expect to see if donations to the Clinton Foundation were widely viewed as a way of getting better access to Hillary. So what you need to do is write down these expectations first, and then crunch the data to see if the evidence supports your hypothesis.

This would be a lot of work. But if you really, truly think the Foundation was basically just a way of buying access to Hillary Clinton, this is a way of getting past anecdotes and looking for real trends. Is anyone willing to do this?

Is the presidential race tightening up? Let's take a look. Here's Pollster:

No tightening evident here. Here's Sam Wang:

No tightening here either. If anything, Clinton has improved her position. Here's Real Clear Politics:

Some slight tightening here since early August, when the convention bumps settled down. Maybe a point or so. Here's Nate Cohn:

No tightening here. Here's 538:

This is a percentage chance of victory, not a projection of vote share. Clinton has dropped a few points since early August.

Bottom line: Since early August, there's either been no tightening in the polls, or, at most, maybe a point or so. Hillary Clinton is ahead by 6-8 points in the national polls, and so far that's staying pretty steady.

Republicans Agree: Trump Is a Racist Boor

Hillary Clinton says Donald Trump relies on racism and bigotry in his presidential campaign. Republicans must be filling the airwaves with denunciations of Clinton by now, so Philip Bump rounds up the outrage:

The day after Hillary Clinton delivered a vicious indictment of Donald Trump, the Republican party's ostensible leader, on the same subject, Republican leaders haven't risen to his defense.

The Republican Party has tweeted repeatedly since Clinton's speech, praising the National Park Service, hitting Clinton on her Foundation and pledging to return to the Constitution. It offered no press release in defense of its nominee, issuing one only about Clinton having not held a press conference since last year.

Speaker Paul Ryan....Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chair of the House Republican Conference....Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell....MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin (who noticed the GOP's silence early) asked party spokesman Sean Spicer about the lack of a coordinated rebuttal to Clinton. "I don't know," Spicer said. "I think Congress is in recess."

Well, I'm sure Sean Hannity has offered a stirring defense, and that's what really matters.

One other quick note about Trump: he's been waffling back and forth on immigration all week. It's his signature issue, and he's been running on it for over a year now, but he still can't quite seem to make up his mind about some of the most fundamental issues related to immigration policy. This has produced many thumbsuckers about whether Trump is pivoting, or staying the course, or some combination thereof. My advice: don't bother. Trump doesn't have a policy. He couldn't care less about immigration. To him, it's just a handy applause line in his speeches. Trying to follow his peregrinations is like trying to figure out what a five year old really wants to be when she grows up.

I have no idea why immigration foes took Trump seriously in the first place. If he ever became president, his first instinct would be to cut a deal, exactly what the hardliners don't want. And since he doesn't really care about it, he'd accept whatever Chuck Schumer and Paul Ryan could hammer out, and then count on being able to sell it as "the toughest immigration plan ever," or somesuch. In the end, he's probably the worst candidate for immigration hardliners, not the best.

Hillary Clinton gave a speech today. Patrick Caldwell summarizes:

Democrats haven't been shy about pointing out the racial undertones in Donald Trump's campaign, but Hillary Clinton took that message to a new level Thursday, calling out the GOP nominee for purposefully whipping up racist bigotry and resentment...."From the start," Clinton said, "Donald Trump has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia. He's taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party. His disregard for the values that make our country great is profoundly dangerous."

Why did she do this? The most popular explanation is that she was giving "permission" for moderate Republicans to stay home in November. Donald Trump, she said, isn't a traditional Republican. He's a hate-monger who's hijacked the party as a vehicle for his loathsome brand of racism and xenophobia. Even if you're a loyal Republican, you don't have to support that.

But I'll propose a different explanation: she was giving the press permission to talk about Donald Trump's racism. So far, they've tiptoed around it. But once the candidate herself calls it out, it invites a thousand think pieces about Breitbart, the alt-right, the GOP's history of tolerating bigotry, Trump's troubling background, and dozens of other related topics. Surrogates can blather all they want about this, but it doesn't truly become a mainstream subject until the actual candidate for president makes it one.

This is part of the agenda-setting power that presidential candidates have. Donald Trump has used it endlessly, and now Hillary Clinton is using it too. Trump has made his bed, and Hillary is making sure he has to lie in it.

Mad at the Fed? Get Mad at Congress Instead.

Jon Hilsenrath writes today that the Fed's reputation is in the gutter these days:

For anyone seeking to explain one of the most unpredictable political seasons in modern history, with the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, a prime suspect is public dismay in institutions guiding the economy and government. The Fed in particular is a case study in how the conventional wisdom of the late 1990s on a wide range of economic issues, including trade, technology and central banking, has since slowly unraveled.

Once admired globally for their command of the economic system, central bankers now are blamed by the left and right for bailouts during the financial crisis and for failing to foresee and manage forces suffocating the global economy in its aftermath.

To the extent that this is about the ways the global economy has changed, and the challenges of figuring out how to respond to these changes, this is all fair. But to the extent that it's a criticism of the way the Fed has managed policy since 2008, I sure wish there had been more than one sentence about other policymakers who fell down on the job:

“I certainly myself couldn’t have imagined six, seven years ago that we would be employing the policies we are now,” Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen said to a packed ballroom in New York earlier this year. She lamented the government has leaned so heavily on the Fed to stimulate the economy while tax and spending policies were stymied by disagreements between Congress and the White House.

Ben Bernanke felt the same way as Yellen, so this isn't a partisan lament. But "disagreements" sells this short. President Obama may deserve some grief over some of his policies, as well as his premature pivot to austerity politics, but the biggest problem has been clear all along: congressional Republicans who were hellbent on opposing any and all fiscal responses to the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression. I don't think the Fed did too badly, all things considered, but a jet flying on only one engine can only do so much.

As for public disapproval of the Fed, sure, some of that is from lefties who opposed the bailouts. But the vast bulk of it is from tea party conservatives who are endlessly in a panic about hyperinflation and "easy money"—precisely the hysterical fears the Fed had to fight to do even as well as it did. If the Ron Paul contingent had had their way, we'd probably be staring at 20 percent unemployment right now. But they're still convinced otherwise, and they remain mad at the Fed for not bringing on the golden age they're so sure was just around the corner.

Who knows? Maybe Hilsenrath has an entire article teed up about the role of Congress in all this. Done well, it would be a very good read.

The University of Chicago sent the following statement to incoming students this week:

Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called "trigger warnings," we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual "safe spaces" where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.

Conservative cheered and liberals frowned. Over at Vox, Emily Crockett writes about safe spaces and what they mean:

"For me as a black woman, it's really nice to just go out with other black women sometimes," said Sabrina Stevens, an activist and progressive strategist. "I have to do so much less translation. When you're black around white people, you have to explain every little thing, even with people who are perfectly nice and well-meaning."

....Stevens describes many different safe spaces that are important to her own life: breastfeeding support groups that are explicitly women-only to help new moms feel more comfortable talking openly about their bodies, or hair salons that function as an informally black-women-only social space as well as a service.

....Other safe spaces emerge organically, like hair salons, gay clubs, or black churches. The shooting at Mother Emanuel in Charlestown was also a violation of a safe space, which added another layer of devastation to an already terrible crime.

It's a nice piece about the origin and modern usage of safe spaces, and it's worth reading. In the end, it boils down to the fact that all of us sometimes need to hang out in places where we can relax completely and not worry that our words will taken the wrong way or that we have to endlessly explain ourselves. "Safe spaces" is just modern jargon for this ancient concept.

But there's one thing worth getting straight. My assumption is that the University of Chicago is only saying that students shouldn't assume that any formal part of the campus is a safe space. Not classrooms, not offices, not dorms, not rec centers, not the quad. I think that's wise. But I also assume they have no problem with students creating private groups that are meant to be safe spaces. They don't support them but neither do they forbid them or discourage them. They're indifferent to them.

Is that right? Or does the university go further and try to hinder even the private and voluntary creation of safe spaces?

I'm a big proponent of high-quality, universal pre-K. At the same time, I understand that the evidence in favor of it isn't rock solid. Overall, I think the case for pre-K is fairly strong, but it's a victim of the fact that it's really hard to conduct solid research on long-term outcomes. In particular, there's always the problem of scale: even if you get great results from a pilot program, there's no guarantee that you can scale it nationwide and still maintain the same quality. This is a particular problem with Head Start, the longest-running and best known pre-K program in the country. It has been scaled, but multiple studies have suggested that it's had disappointing results.

But time marches on, and this allows us to conduct new research as Head Start kids grow up. The longer the baseline, the better chance we have to truly measure differences in children who attended Head Start. On that score, we have some good news and bad news from the Hamilton Project.

First the good news. The study compared children from the same families where one attended Head Start and the other didn't. Their birth cohort started in 1974, and they used the 2010 edition of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, so their oldest subjects were in their thirties. What they found was more positive than previous surveys. For example, here's the result on higher education (which includes licenses and certificates):

The Head Start kids started and completed higher education at substantially higher rates than kids who didn't attend. The study shows similar results for high school graduation.

So that's great. But one of the things we've learned about pre-K is that its biggest impact is often on non-cognitive traits. And sure enough, the Hamilton study showed strong effects on self-control and self-esteem:

So what's the bad news? I should more accurately call this cautionary news, but take a look at those green bars. They show Head Start having a bigger effect compared to other preschools than it does compared to no preschool at all. That can only happen if the other preschools were collectively worse than doing nothing. In some cases the effect is pretty large, which in turn means these other preschools were a lot worse than doing nothing at all.

This is possible, of course. But it doesn't seem all that likely, which raises questions about whether the data analysis here has some flaws. For the time being, then, I consider this tentatively positive news about Head Start. But I'll wait for other experts to review the study before I celebrate too much.