Beware the thumb on the scale of government data

To make decisions, our politicians need data that only the government can collect. Political tampering with that data marks the beginning of the end for fact-based policy — and for a nation claiming to serve the needs of the people. Imaginary facts are bad enough. Cooked statistics are much worse. For me, the most disturbing headline in … Continued

The self-serving Michael Flynn resignation letter is mostly fluff

Michael Flynn resigned yesterday as Donald Trump’s national security advisor. Media reports stated that he’d lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the content of his pre-inauguration conversations with the Russian Ambassador. Resignation letters should take responsibility, apologize, and say nothing further — but Flynn’s is strangely full of fluffy praise for Trump. Flynn’s letter is … Continued

Lessons from the appeals court’s ruling against Trump’s immigration order

A federal appeals court ruled against President Trump, refusing to allow Trump’s executive order concerning immigration and travel to go back into effect. It’s a complicated case, and a complicated ruling. Let’s look at the clearest parts of the ruling, and what’s good and bad about legal language. First, the context. Trump’s executive order 12 days ago … Continued

The courage of nonpartisan analysis — an interview with Len Burman

We need nonpartisan institutions, dedicated to objective analysis. That’s what the Washington, D.C.-based Tax Policy Center does — they score and analyze tax proposals so we can figure out what they’ll mean for taxpayers. But it’s increasingly difficult for nonpartisan organizations to get heard. Unbiased analysis is a passion of mine. It’s also a passion of the respected … Continued

Optimism, group bias, fake news, and why the Patriots won the Super Bowl

The New England Patriots heroically overcame adversity to beat the Atlanta Falcons in overtime in Super Bowl LI. That’s the story here in New England. Or, perhaps, Atlanta coach Dan Quinn’s bad decisions, tired Falcons players, penalties, the unlikeliest catch ever seen, and Patriots cheaters are what really happened. Which is it? My message today (sorry to harsh your mellow … Continued

The clarity of Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court

The New York Times described Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court as “an Echo of [Antonin] Scalia in Philosophy and Style.” But where the late Justice Scalia’s writings were sarcastic and passive-aggressive, Gorsuch’s are straightforward, logical, and clear. Because he writes often in the first-person, his arguments come across as direct rather than snide or veiled. Let’s … Continued

What’s really inside Donald Trump’s Executive Order on immigration

What did President Trump actually say in his executive order on immigration? To find out, I did a close reading. I found no ban on Muslims entering the country, but I did find lots of other juicy bits, like an endorsement for letting any jurisdiction — like, say, Alabama or Dallas — restrict who can live … Continued

The surprising effectiveness of Trump’s whitehouse.gov

When a U.S. administration changes, so does the president’s website. Under Trump, the new whitehouse.gov addresses six issues, each with a short, simple, direct block of text. Unlike the president, it’s focused, clear, and effective. My social feeds were full of protests when the pages for LGBT rights and climate change disappeared from whitehouse.gov. Were you really … Continued