• Friday Cat Blogging – 20 April 2018

    Who’s photobombing whom? It all depends on your perspective, doesn’t it?

  • Donald Trump Is Pondering How to Help the Coal Industry

    President Trump is desperate to help out coal miners, but the problem is that nobody wants coal these days. Old coal-fired generating plants are being shut down, and earlier this year the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission turned down a request to subsidize them. So now the Trumpies are looking further afield:

    Under the approach, the administration would invoke sweeping authority in the 68-year-old Defense Production Act, which allows the president to effectively nationalize private industry to ensure the U.S. has resources that could be needed amid a war or after a disaster….The statute classifies energy as a “strategic and critical material” and gives the president wide latitude to protect providers, including by ordering businesses to accept contracts for materials and services. It was previously invoked in 2001 to keep natural gas flowing to California utilities to avoid electrical blackouts.

    I can hardly wait for this. Maybe Trump will nationalize the country’s coal plants. Maybe he’ll nationalize the mines. Maybe he’ll force companies to buy electricity at inflated prices from coal-fired plants. Who knows? Maybe he’ll just order the federal government to buy lots of coal and then dump it in the ocean. It looks like exciting days are ahead for free-market capitalism.

  • Philippe Reines Is Writing a Book

    Atrios doesn’t like Philippe Reines:

    One of the great mysteries of Clintonland is they both surrounded themselves with people who are truly horrible at their jobs.

    Perhaps no one could have gotten good coverage for Clinton given the weird psychosis she inspires in the political press, but also Reines is uniquely bad at that job. He’s a horrible and incompetent person!

    I’ve never met Reines and I don’t know anything about him. Maybe he’s a huge sexist pig. Maybe he lies constantly. Maybe he’s a gigantic pain in the ass.¹ Maybe he’s grossly incompetent at being a campaign spokesperson.

    I doubt it, but you never know. But I will say two things about him. First, his Twitter account is great. Second, if he’s really writing a book, I will buy it the very first instant it appears. If I can steal a copy earlier than that, I’ll do it. It just might turn out to be the greatest campaign narrative ever told. Don’t let me down on this, Philippe.

    ¹Actually, even his friends seem to agree that he’s a pain in the ass, so I guess there’s no “maybe” about that one.

  • A Campaign Reporter Looks In the Mirror—And Isn’t Happy With What She Sees

    Remember this?New York Times Magazine

    Amy Chozick, who has covered Hillary Clinton on a daily basis for the New York Times since 2013, recounts what happened on Election Day when Clinton realized she wasn’t going to win:

    “I knew it. I knew this would happen to me,” she said, now within a couple of inches of Mr. Mook’s ashen face. “They were never going to let me be president.”

    ….I figured that if anyone knew whom Mrs. Clinton was referring to with that insidious “they” that, like some invisible army of adversaries (real and imagined), wielded its collective power and caused her to lose the most winnable presidential election in modern history, it was me.

    They were the vast-right wing conspiracy. They were the patriarchy that could never let an ambitious former first lady finally shatter “that highest, hardest glass ceiling.” They were the people of Wisconsin and James Comey. They were white suburban women who would rather vote for a man who bragged about sexual assault than a woman who seemed an affront to who they were. And yes, they were political reporters (“big egos and no brains,” she called us) hounding her about her emails and transfixed by the spectacle of the first reality TV show candidate.

    But wait. This story evolves into something more interesting. It starts on October 7, the day the Access Hollywood tape was leaked. That was also the day that Wikileaks released hacked emails that included excerpts from Clinton’s infamous Wall Street speeches:

    Mrs. Clinton’s refusal to release the speeches had been such a cause célèbre in the Democratic primary that I regularly saw protesters holding signs that said, “I’d rather be at home reading your Goldman Sachs speeches.” Now the juicy parts of this most sought-after trove of documents had landed in our laps.

    But it wasn’t a scoop. It was more like a bank heist. Editors and reporters huddled to discuss how to handle the hack. Everyone agreed that since the emails were already out there — and of importance to voters — it was The Times’s job to “confirm” and “contextualize” them. I didn’t argue that it appeared the emails were stolen by a hostile foreign government that had staged an attack on our electoral system. I didn’t push to hold off on publishing them until we could have a less harried discussion. I didn’t raise the possibility that we’d become puppets in Vladimir Putin’s master plan. I chose the byline.

    And finally this:

    In December, after the election, my colleagues in Washington wrote a Pulitzer-winning article about how the Russians had pulled off the perfect hack. I was on the F train on my way to the newsroom when I read it. I had no new assignment yet and still existed in a kind of postelection fog that took months to lift. I must’ve read this line 15 times: “Every major publication, including The Times, published multiple stories citing the D.N.C. and Podesta emails posted by WikiLeaks, becoming a de facto instrument of Russian intelligence.

    The Bernie Bros and Mr. Trump’s Twitter trolls had called me a donkey-faced whore and a Hillary shill, but nothing hurt worse than my own colleagues calling me a de facto instrument of Russian intelligence. The worst part was, they were right.

    ….[Now] I’ve started to see the “they” she spoke about on election night differently. They were Facebook algorithms and data breaches. They were Fake News drummed up by Vladimir Putin’s army. They were shadowy hackers who stole her campaign chairman’s emails hoping to weaken our democracy with Mr. Podesta’s risotto recipe. They were The Times and me and all the other journalists who covered those stolen emails.

    Chozick doesn’t mention the biggest “they” of all, though: the carefully orchestrated Republican campaign to keep Clinton’s State Department emails in the news, and the reporters who covered every one of those orchestrated twists and turns as major events. I would very much like to see an accounting of this that doesn’t just wave it off with “Are you saying we shouldn’t have covered the emails?” The question has never been whether news outlets should have covered the emails. Of course they should have. The question is whether they should have been patsies who covered them relentlessly no matter how trivial each new daily leak was.

    But that’s just bitterness speaking. I’m genuinely grateful that Chozick wrote what she did. I don’t think it will change anything—I expect the same tsunami of crap in 2020 and I expect it will be covered the same way—but it’s nice to see someone acknowledge it. It’s a start.

  • Raw Data: Total Housing Units as Percent of Households

  • Who Leaked the Comey Memos?

    Bill Clark/Congressional Quarterly/Newscom via ZUMA

    A week ago, Devin Nunes and a few other Republican attack dogs demanded that the Justice Department hand over copies of the notes that James Comey had made of his conversations with President Trump. Yesterday the notes were handed over, but they were simultaneously leaked to the Associated Press. Nancy LeTourneau wonders how that happened:

    In the past, Nunes has used documents like these to cherry-pick the information he wants to release publicly. That is what we saw with the memo he wrote that was used to accuse the FBI of relying on the Steele dossier for their FISA warrant to surveil Carter Page.

    It is unclear at this point whether their demand to have the Comey memos released to Congress was an attempt to do the same thing or whether it was simply a request that they thought Rosenstein would deny, providing an excuse for him to be fired. But based on what we now know about the memos, I doubt their intent was for these documents to become public, because they basically corroborate everything Comey has said at the exact same time that the former FBI director is traveling around the country to promote his book.

    In other words, it looks like Rosenstein responded to their demands by not only releasing these memos to the congressional committees, but by allowing them to be released publicly. That cuts off either aim Trump’s enablers had in mind. They can’t hold him in contempt of Congress or impeach him for refusal to comply and they can’t cherry-pick what is released to the public.

    Clever! Assuming that’s how it happened, of course. Maybe Nunes will now start a whole new investigation about how these memos leaked.

  • Quote of the Day: Michael Flynn Is Nuts

    From Donald Trump, commenting in 2017 on Michael Flynn, his choice to be National Security Advisor:

    The guy has serious judgment issues.

    This is according to contemporaneous notes written by James Comey after a meeting with Trump. Apparently Trump hadn’t figured this out before then.

  • Rudy Is Back in the Saddle

    Siavosh Hosseini/NurPhoto via ZUMA

    Donald Trump has had trouble finding any decent lawyers who are willing to work with him on the Russia probe, so he’s finally decided to let his pal Rudy Giuliani come on board. But what exactly is Giuliani’s role going to be? Here are three takes:

    New York Times: Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and longtime friend of President Trump, will join the president’s legal team in an effort to “quickly” resolve the special counsel investigation into Russian election interference and possible ties to Trump associates.

    Wall Street Journal: In an interview, Mr. Giuliani, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said his first task after joining the team will be to “find out what Bob Mueller needs” to complete the investigation. “I’m pretty sure we can comply with it,” he said. Mr. Trump’s legal team has “worked so hard to get this done. Hopefully we can speed it up,” Mr. Giuliani said.

    Washington Post: “I’m doing it because I hope we can negotiate an end to this for the good of the country and because I have high regard for the president and for Bob Mueller,” Giuliani said in an interview.

    Giuliani wants to “quickly” resolve the investigation. He wants to “speed it up.” And he wants to “negotiate an end” to it. In other words, he’s less a lawyer than he is an ambassador to Robert Mueller. And apparently he thinks he can wrap things up in just a few weeks.

    Okey doke.

  • Not So Raw Data: Who’s Buying New Cars?

    This is from a Fed Note published in 2016:

    The column on the far right is the one to look at. It means that the likelihood of buying a car didn’t change much for different age groups once you control for family and income:

    In summary, the probability model of new vehicle purchases that includes controls for employment, income, and other household characteristics suggests that the differences in average vehicle purchasing rates observed among age groups appear to reflect economic and (non-age) demographic factors….Using a probability model and household-level vehicle purchasing data, we find that new vehicle purchasing rates by age group have declined since 2007, but these declines do not appear to differ significantly by age group once we condition purchases on economic factors such as income and employment.

    Our results suggest the decline in the per capita rate of new vehicle purchases since 2007 more likely reflects economic factors than permanent shifts in tastes and preferences for vehicle ownership.

    The authors suggest that young people are buying cars at about the same rate as always, once you control for income and family. The Great Recession was a big hit on incomes, of course, one that we’ve only barely begun to make up. And young people have been starting families at steadily later ages since at least the Baby Boomers:

    What does this all mean?

  • Raw Data: Who Lives In Our Biggest Cities?

    Here’s some demographic data to chew on. Go ahead and mull it over for a while. What conclusions can we draw from it?