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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Cruising the Web

Just this week, I've been discussing with my AP Government students how to be educated consumers of political polls. We're looking at the problems pollsters face in reaching voters in today's world of cell phones and call screening. I have examples going back for over a decade of poorly constructed poll questions that skew results. I've been collecting such examples since I started teaching the class in 2002. They read about push polls and were astounded to realize that the push poll against Jeb Bush in 1994 that cost him the governor's election that year might have changed history by meaning that it was George W. Bush who ran for the presidency in 2000, not the more wonkish brother, Jeb. Today John Podhoretz summarizes all the problems with today's polls about the candidates in the primaries - just what we'll be discussing in class today.
These polls are junk, and they are not reflective.

To take the most recent example, CNN trumpeted a poll showing Trump with 24 percent of GOP voters nationwide. The problem is that 52 percent of those surveyed by CNN said they’re going to vote in the GOP primaries.

That’s insane. The overall electorate is about 225 million. In 2012, 20 million voted in the GOP primaries. That’s 10 percent, not 52 percent.

A few days earlier, CNN did a poll of Iowa voters showing Trump in the lead — and even more outrageously, the poll’s findings suggested that 62 percent of Iowa’s population would attend the January caucuses. Oh? In 2012, a whopping 2.5 percent of Iowa’s adult population turned out. CNN’s poll is literally off by a factor of 25.

CNN isn’t the only offender by a long stretch. An Aug. 2 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll featured 1,000 adults, of whom 252 were said to be likely Republican primary voters. That’s 25 percent of all Americans — 2 ¹/₂ times the size of the 2012 GOP electorate.

The same poll sought to break down the preferences of those 252 voters and report them out as though they were statistically reliable as relates to the Republican Party — when a 250-person nationwide sample is far too tiny to be representative.

As a DC expert said to me yesterday, “These polls are either way too big or way too small.”

We’re flying blind here, people. Nobody knows what’s really going on.

These are our good friends and allies for peace.
Despite a ban on arms shipments to Iran under international sanctions, Russia appears willing to proceed with the sale of advanced S-300 surface-to-air missiles to the country -- in a development triggering objections from the Obama administration.
But don't worry, the Obama administration is protesting strongly. As if that will do anything. I think we need a Reset button.

Ah, so this is how Hillary made sure that her server was secure.
The IT company Hilary Clinton chose to maintain her private email account was run from a loft apartment and its servers were housed in the bathroom closet, Daily Mail Online can reveal.

Daily Mail Online tracked down ex-employees of Platte River Networks in Denver, Colorado, who revealed the outfit's strong links to the Democratic Party but expressed shock that the 2016 presidential candidate chose the small private company for such a sensitive job.

One, Tera Dadiotis, called it 'a mom and pop shop' which was an excellent place to work, but hardly seemed likely to be used to secure state secrets. And Tom Welch, who helped found the company, confirmed the servers were in a bathroom closet.

It can also be disclosed that the small number of employees who were aware of the Clinton contract were told to keep it secret.

The way in which Clinton came to contract a company described as a 'mom and pop' operation remains unclear.
However Daily Mail Online has established a series of connections between the firm and the Democratic Party.

Apparently, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson has joined the Vast Right-wing Conspiracy.
This isn’t about whether Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, which is likely. It isn’t even about whether she becomes our next president, which she has a better chance of doing than anyone else. It’s about basic respect — for us and for the truth.

Why, when she took office as secretary of state, did she decide to route official e-mails through a server in her suburban New York mansion? There is just one plausible explanation: She wanted control.
Robinson wants her to explain and apologize. Well, Mr. Robinson, if you don't like how Hillary has conducted herself, you can comfort yourself with the thought that this is an example of how she would behave if she won the White House.

Stanley Kurtz answers the question of why Hillary would have done something so risky and stupid as running her own server and how her advisers would have let her take such a step. The answer lies in her relationship to her staff.
Her advisors failed to open her eyes because Hillary cannot brook contradiction. She surrounds herself with yes-men (actually, more often yes-women), and everything about her administrative style discourages advisors from telling her what she’s reluctant to hear.

One of the biggest problems of the Clinton White House—and of every Clinton presidential campaign before and since—has been the existence of two separate staffs, one directly responsible to Bill and one to Hillary. The competition between the two groups, and the sheer existence of separate high-level staffs with different leaders, made for frequent confusion and mistakes.

Hillary’s strength was her ability to inspire loyalty from her staffers. She “went deep” with them, reading and studying the issues alongside them, making them feel they were on a mission with her. The result was a powerful esprit de corps. Her aides wore special “Hillaryland” lapel pins and derided Bill’s staff, which they famously dubbed the “White Boys.”

Clinton biographer Sally Bedell Smith has described the “starry-eyed” devotion of Hillary’s staffers as “almost cultlike.”

....Much has been written—and now forgotten—about Hillary’s harshness with staffers, not just Bill’s, but her own. Although many of Hillary’s Arkansas friends served in the Clinton White House, few would become part of her staff. According to Bob Woodward, Hillary could reduce close aides to tears. But unlike Bill, who would make up afterwards, Hillary would simply withdraw in silence.

Here is Smith again on the recollections of one of Hillary’s old Arkansas friends: “I couldn’t work for her and keep our friendship. She is too dogmatic. She gets so into it that she ends up being mean. That is why she has to have such a young staff. They take it, and they bow and scrape. With Hillary, it’s not intentional. It’s just that she is so intense. She is a really nice person if you don’t push her too far.”

....So is Hillary of victim, even in these sympathetic memoirs and biographies, of a double standard? Would a male boss be held to account for the same behavior? Even if there’s a grain of truth to this line of criticism, the overall pattern is too striking to be ignored, especially when the testimony comes from Hillary’s friends. To get psychological for a minute, Hillary’s treatment of staffers is reminiscent of her father, who was by all accounts a tyrannical and demeaning former Marine drill instructor.

The upshot of it is that Hillary’s overall management style drives away advisors who could stand up to her, attracting fiercely-loyal followers unwilling or unable to contradict her, instead. So given their knowledge of Hillary’s penchant for secrecy, it’s easy to see why her aides didn’t dare challenge her when the private server idea emerged. They knew there’d be hell to pay.

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This is Hillary's answer to being asked if she had wiped her server.
"But did you wipe the whole server?" Henry shot back.

"I have no idea. That's why we turned it over," Clinton said.

"You said you were in charge of it," Henry told Clinton. "You were the official in charge. Did you wipe the server?"

"What, with like a cloth or something?" Clinton asked facetiously. "No."

"I don't know. You know how it works digitally. Did you wipe the whole server?" Henry asked for the fourth time.

"I don't know how it works digitally at all," Clinton responded.
She is such a terrible spokeswoman for herself. Maybe the FBI can be able to recover some of the material from the server.

Daniel Greenfield examines how the "Iran deal is everything bad about Obama in one package."
Obama wants to turn the Iran deal into a referendum on the Iraq War. Over a decade later, he would rather refight campaigns against Bush and Hillary than answer difficult questions about his own policies.

And then there’s the opportunity for a fight with Jewish groups. The pro-Israel demographic has long been a thorn in the side of the left flank of the Democratic Party. Obama isn’t accidentally blowing dog whistles. He relishes the chance for a power struggle with the Jewish community, dispatching his anti-Semitic pal Sharpton to organize black churches while his advisers intimidate senators on social media.

The Obama toolbox is the same no matter what the issue might be. His political allies rush out smear campaigns accusing opponents of everything from treason to racism. The media fills with phony polls. The White House spews lies that it contradicts before denying that it ever contradicted them. Letters by “independent” experts are solicited without those worthies admitting their ties to the White House.

The Iran deal is being sold like ObamaCare. To the White House it’s just another batch of policy sausage to be pushed with misleading infographics, social media talking points and condescending speeches.

The issue isn’t the issue. The issue is always the revolution. And the Obama flavor of revolution is about demonstrating that even the most radical and unpopular policies can be rammed through in defiance of Congress, the Supreme Court and the people through sheer determination. Like the Cultural Revolution, this is as much about a show of power as about any of the actual issues at stake.

From Day 1, Obama has been obsessed with demonstrating that every White House Democrat before him was a weak coward for ever compromising with the other two branches of government. At the top of his legacy of mass political destruction is this demonstration that the will to power is all that matters.

Externally, Obama’s only foreign policy idea is appeasing enemies. In sharp contrast to the way that he seeks to destroy any rival domestic power, whether it’s the Republican political opposition, demographic groups like the Jewish community or the checks and balances of Congress, he appeases enemies from the Muslim Brotherhood to Russia to the Taliban to Cuba to Iran.

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So Hillary met with some activists from the Black Lives Matter movement. When she tried to persuade them that they need to focus on changing policy, one activist responded that she was essentially "victim blaming.
I don't know how this reply from Hillary will play among those who support the movement.
"Respectfully, if that is your position, then I will talk only to white people about how we are going to deal with the very real problems," Clinton retorted.

Slate Magazine explains why the Black Lives Matter movement is targeting Bernie Sanders, the Democratic candidate with the history on civil rights issues that should be most appealing to them.
Unlike his competitors, Sanders is simply the best available vessel for bringing activists’ concerns to the mainstream of the Democratic Party.

The picture might be different if Sanders were more marginal and on the periphery of the nomination fight (like former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb). As it stands, the Vermont senator is the leading alternative to frontrunner Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. He earns almost 20 percent or more in most national polls of the race, and is effectively tied for first in New Hampshire. He also dwarfs any other candidate for president—in either party—in terms of shear crowd size: 27,000 in Los Angeles, 28,000 in Portland, Oregon, and 15,000 in Seattle, where his speech was interrupted last week.

At the same time, Sanders doesn’t have the tightly closed-down campaign of Hillary Clinton. He is accessible, as evidenced by the ease with which activists have reached him on stage. And while he’s been clumsy in these incidents, he also hasn’t lashed out. In both cases, he ceded the mic. Compare that to the attempted Black Lives Matter protest at a Clinton rally in New Hampshire. Activists reached the event, but they couldn’t get past security to announce their presence.

In this environment, if you’re trying to make a splash, you go with Sanders, especially when he’s more open to change and adjustment than the alternatives. Disrupting Sanders gives you more bang for your buck: It keeps you in the news and puts indirect pressure on other campaigns that know they’ll have to answer to the movement’s questions. To that point, the New Hampshire demonstrators couldn’t crash the Clinton rally, but they still met with the candidate—quietly—and discussed their concerns. In all likelihood, the pressure on Sanders has forced Clinton—the likely nominee—to devote more time to Black Lives Matter, in a bid to protect her flank. And in turn, this brings their issues up the ladder, closer to the top of the party’s agenda.

Black Lives Matter isn’t a single organization—it is a loose collection of groups and individuals, unified by a common cause, under a single banner. While there’s coordination, there’s no guarantee that different groups of activists are working together. But that doesn’t mean the movement isn’t rational or strategic. And if we look at it as both, then its approach to the Democratic primary begins to make sense, even if it’s messy.

The Washington Post summarizes 20 times that Trump has changed his mind just since June. It's quite a list.
Trump seems to be making up his own platform as he goes along.

Looking back over his interviews and speeches, it appears that Trump came into the race with only a vague idea -- or perhaps no idea -- how he wanted to handle some major, obvious, policy issues. So, when someone pointed out a new wrinkle that Trump hadn't thought of, he came up with a new answer. And then another.

On some issues, Trump's campaign has gone through more than half a dozen plans in two months. And counting.
Go through the list. Then, if you're supporting Trump, ask yourself if you can have any confidence that what he says today is what he'd actually do. Who knows how many more contradictory iterations his policy proposals will go through in the next year and a half.

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Politico explains why Hillary Clinton is rooting for Jeb Bush. Gosh, this can't be the sort of analysis that the Bush campaign is hoping to see.

For some reason, Donald Trump took time from his campaign to comment on Heidi Klum's beauty and inform us that "Sadly, she's no long a 10." Heidi has fun answering Trump.

Hillary gets down. It's a vision that I can't believe that Americans want to see scenes like this for the four years.

Funny or Die imagines how a President "Abraham Trump" would have delivered an address on Gettysburg. It's quite funny and on point.

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