Monday, October 05, 2015

Cruising the Web

Donald Trump tells Chuck Todd of NBC,
Donald Trump insisted “if I was dropping in the polls where I saw that I wasn’t gonna win, why would I continue?” when asked by Chuck Todd about his elections plans.

Appearing Sunday on “Meet the Press,” Trump explained, “I’m not a masochist” and if he sees himself in a position that he can no longer win, he said he would return to his business because he is a “realist.”

Trump said, “If I were doing poorly, if I saw myself going down, if you would stop calling me ’cause you no longer have any interest in Trump because ‘he has no chance,’ I’d go back to my business. I have no problem with that.”

Trump added, “I believe in polls. You know, how many elections do you see where the polls were wrong? Not that many. Okay. You see ’em, but not that many.” However, if Trump were to drop a few position in the polls and it looked like he should “not be running any longer,” he said he would “get out.” But he did indicate that currently “in all fairness, I think I’m in the exact opposite position right now.”
So it sounds like he's given the media the opportunity to rid us of this troublesome politician. Just stop calling him. Please.

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Ross Douthat argues that evangelicals would be mistaken to put their support behind Ben Carson.
Carson, on the other hand, is running a more content-free campaign. Like Trump, he’s underinformed and prone to wild rhetorical flights, but unlike the Donald he doesn’t have a distinctive platform. He’s offering a collection of pieties and crankery; mostly, his candidacy is just about the man himself.

And unfortunately evangelical voters have a weakness for this kind of pitch. From Pat Robertson in 1988 through thin-on-policy figures like Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, even Michele Bachmann briefly in 2012, the evangelical tendency has been to look for a kind of godly hero, a Christian leader who could win the White House and undo every culture-war defeat. (The resilience of evangelical support for George W. Bush as his presidency went sour reflected a persistent hope that Bush might be this hero in the flesh.)

Such unrealistic ideas are hardly unique to the religious right. But evangelical culture, as James Davison Hunter notes in “To Change the World,” his magisterial account of recent Christian engagement with American politics, has a particular fondness for the idea of the history-altering individual, the hope that “one person can stand at the crossroads and change things for good.”

As Hunter’s book points out, neither political nor cultural change usually happens like this. Instead, it comes from networks, institutions, interest groups, and it requires strategy, alliance-building and steady pressure.

This is part of why evangelical Christians, notwithstanding their numbers, tend to have less influence over actual Republican governance than fiscal conservatives or foreign-policy hawks. They’re always looking for a hero (or heroine), while the party’s other factions focus on staffing decisions and policy commitments, where the real work of politics takes place.

Jazz Shaw does a comprehensive analysis of the numbers behind deaths caused by gun violence. They're not all that they seem. If what we care about are murders, the numbers sink from over 32,00 to 8,583. And, of those, only 323 were committed with rifles which would include all sorts of rifles from hunting rifles to assault rifles. Compare that to approximate 1,700 who were stabbed and the 700 beaten with someone's bare hands.
So we’re down to 8,583 intentional killings using guns. That’s still one heck of a lot of bodies, and surely enough to justify new background checks and other restrictions on legal gun purchases, right? Again… not even close. The Justice Department has been studying the question of legal vs. illegal sources of guns used in crimes for decades, going back to this study issued in the early nineties. They admit that the numbers are simply too hard to track for us to pin down exact figures, but the trends are steady over the years. The vast majority of guns used in crimes were gotten through illegal means outside the legal purchase regimen followed by law abiding gun owners. Roughly one quarter of inmates convicted of gun crimes admitted to having stolen a gun in that study. For the ones that weren’t stolen directly, another 2004 study showed that 40% of convicts bought their guns on the black market and another 37% got them through the “gray market” in various illegal methods.

In fact, one study after another has shown that legally purchased weapons which followed all the normal firearms transfer rules accounted for somewhere between six and eight percent of all murders. And the majority of those were domestic violence incidents, violence between family members, crimes of passion and, yes… murders committed by the insane. But let’s give the gun grabbers the benefit of the doubt, round it up and say that ten percent were committed with legally purchases guns. That works out to around 850.

850 is too many people, but it’s a far cry from more than 32,000 per year.

So what do you want to do about it?
So most murders are being done with illegally purchased guns. How would more laws make a difference?

David Freddoso points out that the liberal meme that states with higher gun ownership have more gun deaths overlooks the fact that many of those deaths are suicides. Looking at states with gun murders, there isn't any correlation with gun ownership.
So now you see why Vox, Mother Jones and others deliberately confuse the issue of gun violence by including gun deaths that don't involve violence: because their cherrypicking makes it seem like people in states with high gun ownership are more likely to shoot other people, when in fact it just isn't so. Perhaps there's another argument to be had about suicide, but it's a very different sort of debate. When most people think about gun control, they're worried about whether it can help stop them from being shot, not about whether it will prevent them from having a gun in case they become incredibly depressed and decide to end it all.

In short, there isn't a good case in the state data for limiting gun ownership on the basis of gun murder rates. But if Mother Jones wants to make the case that gun ownership should be limited for paternalistic reasons because it makes suicide more likely, perhaps they can publish that argument instead, alongside their advocacy for physician-assisted suicide.

David Harsanyi follows on the idea that those liberals like President Obama rushing to excoriate gun rights activists really don't have any proposal to offer besides emotional appeals.
Then again, when the president asserts Americans are collectively answerable, what he really suggests—according to his own broader argument—is that conservatives who’ve blocked his gun-control legislation are wholly responsible. The problem with that contention, outside of the obvious fact that Republicans never condone the use of guns for illegal violence (in fact, these rampages hurt their cause more than anything) is that Democrats haven’t offered a single bill or idea (short of confiscation) that would impede any of the mass shootings, or overall gun violence. This is not a political choice, because it’s likely there is no available political answer.

For the liberal, every societal problem has a state-issued remedy waiting to be administered over the objections of a reactionary Republican. But just because you have a tremendous amount of emotion and frustration built up around a certain cause doesn’t make your favored legislation any more practical, effective or realistic. It doesn’t change the fact that owning a gun is a civil right, that the preponderance of owners are not criminals, or that there are 300 million guns out there.

And if it’s a political argument you’re offering—and when hasn’t it been?—you’ll need more than the vacuousness of the “this is bad and so we have to do something.” That’s because anti-gun types are never able to answer a simple question: what law would you pass that could stop these shootings?

....But despite all the administration’s fearmongering, and as horrifying as any shooting is, gun violence has precipitously declined over the decades without any meaningful federal law being enacted. This likely tells us there are a number of other social currents driving this kind violence. The Left believes the number of guns is at fault, rather than social ills—since no person can be evil, only a victim. So the debate takes on the same old contours, and we focus on firearms and nothing else. That kind of political debate only makes it less likely that anything good will happen.
Eugene Volokh has a post on his site at the Washington Post listing examples of what might have been mass shootings that were stopped by someone on the scene having a concealed-carry gun on hand to stop the potential murders. He adds this bit of advice that is totally in line with Jeb Bush's comments about not making policy in response to some terrible event.
Finally, always keep in mind that mass shootings in public places should not be the main focus in the gun debate, whether for gun control or gun decontrol: They on average account for much less than 1 percent of the U.S. homicide rate and are unusually hard to stop through gun control laws (since the killer is bent on committing a publicly visible murder and is thus unlikely to be much deterred by gun control law, or by the prospect of encountering an armed bystander).
But that wouldn't fall in with the desire of some to, as the President boasted, politicize the tragedy.

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Ben Shapiro excoriates the Obama administration for its moral equivalence between terrorists who kill Jews in Israel and Israeli police who respond and kill the murderers.

Shapiro also notes that, despite the left and the media's attempt to deliberately mischaracterize Jeb Bush's "stuff happens" comment about not making policy in the midst of a crisis, they haven't complained about the indifference that Obama showed to other tragedies. He allowed the Fort Hood slayings to be labeled "workplace violence." There was no effort to try to examine policies that might have facilitated that shooting. He referred to the killings in Benghazi as "bumps in the road." And, of course, he went to a Beyonce/Jay-Z event the next day. And after American journalist James Foley was beheaded, he said a few words and then went golfing. So don't get all high and mighty in your supposed indignation over something that Jeb clearly didn't mean, but helps your side to pretend that he meant.

It's not easy for politicians to pick the music that will supposedly characterize their campaigns. The National Journal looks at the thought that goes into picking those songs that will play as the candidate strides onto the stage. And if the aides and candidate aren't hip enough to pick a song, they can always hire the hip. That's what Hillary's campaign has done.
At least one 2016 con­tender is out­sourcing the task. Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign paid $9,000 to en­list the aid of a boutique mu­sic agency based in Port­land, Ore­gon, re­cords from the Fed­er­al Elec­tion Com­mis­sion show. Bill­board re­por­ted that the agency “has been tasked with mu­sic su­per­vi­sion and cre­at­ive sup­port” for a series of Clin­ton cam­paign videos, in­clud­ing the video that launched Clin­ton’s 2016 bid. (A spokes­per­son for the mu­sic agency said the firm is “ex­cited about our re­la­tion­ship with the Hil­lary cam­paign” but ad­ded that an in­ter­view would not be pos­sible due to a nondis­clos­ure agree­ment. The Clin­ton cam­paign de­clined to com­ment.)
Nothing establishes a connection to the electorate than an outsourced media consultant. It rather reminds me of when her husband had polling done to determine whether they should take summer vacation in Martha's Vineyard or Jackson Hole.

Joe Biden is still leaving all his supporters waiting anxiously to see if he will jump in the race. Maybe he's either just enjoying all the attention or he's waiting to see how low Hillary can sink.
Another deadline has come and gone with no decision from Vice President Biden about his possible late-breaking entry into the presidential campaign.

Biden seems poised to continue his deliberations for several more weeks — and possibly into early November — leaving precious little time to launch a bid and get on the ballot in key early primary states. Prominent donors are being courted, and senior strategists with ties to President Obama’s past campaigns are in conversation with Biden’s team....

ith every week that passes, Biden and his political team believe they are more ready than ever to launch a campaign. But with every week that passes, Biden is that much closer to the point of no return — when it would be too late to mount a credible campaign.

Critical states such as New Hampshire, Texas and Florida have filing deadlines that start in November and December, requiring campaign staff on the ground to assemble voter signatures.

That sets up a particularly tense October. The vice president has already blown through previous decision-making timelines, beginning with the end-of-August or early-September dates that advisers suggested in the spring, before the public knew that Beau Biden’s brain cancer had a recurrence.

By late summer, Biden’s camp clarified that the end of summer — officially Sept. 23 — was a more likely deadline, only to float Oct. 1 in recent weeks because that would still allow him to be on stage at the Oct. 13 debate. On Thursday, officials at CNN, the host of the Las Vegas event, reported that Biden is not expected to participate.

Those close to Biden suggest the debate would be high-risk for him. Despite his shoot-from-the-hip image, Biden is meticulous with debate preparations. For his 2012 vice presidential debate against Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Biden logged 100 hours of preparation, including 60 hours that had been completed a full month before the encounter.
Every year that I teach AP Government and Politics during an election year, I give the students a long-term project to follow the lead candidates for several months to analyze their campaigns in light of what we have studied about elections, the media, and interest groups. Normally, I would have given the assignment several weeks ago, but I've been holding off to see if Biden would jump in. I think I'll have to light this candle without Biden. But then again, perhaps he will be jumping in.
Visitors to Vice President Biden say their conversations suggest he’s leaning TOWARD a run. A confidant involved in the process told Playbook: “Nothing he has heard in the past couple of months has deterred him.” But several friends are making a last-minute plea to him NOT TO DO IT. Their message to the V.P.: With the likely outcome of a race against Hillary Clinton (a beat-down), that’s just not what he needs after what he and his family have been through.

Super-close sources tell us the most likely scenario is a family decision NEXT WEEKEND or shortly thereafter, with an announcement (or calls by the Vice President to confidants) possible a week from today -- which happens to be the day before the first Democratic debate. If the decision is a “go,” the announcement could be delayed as confidantes begin assembling a campaign.

A former Senate colleague said after visiting the V.P. recently: “He loves what he does, and he has a great deal of confidence that he could contribute in a meaningful way. He’s willing to face, ultimately, having his final political expedition be a defeat.”
Help me out with my class, Joe. Decide one way or another!

If Elizabeth Warren were to gain any more power, we would have to fear for freedom of thought and research in this country. Gordon Crovitz details how she and her followers hounded one economist from the Brookings Institution simply for the crime of analyzing the approach she advocates for economic research.
What good is a think tank if thinking isn’t allowed? That’s the question the hard-left senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, forced on the soft-left Brookings Institution by getting one of its top economists fired.

Her victim is Robert Litan, a Democrat who served in the Clinton administration and had been associated with Brookings since the 1970s, including as a former director of its economics division.

The ambush of Mr. Litan occurred in Internet time. At 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday last week, the Washington Post reported online a letter Ms. Warren sent to Brookings complaining about him. Twitter lit up, with her fans demanding Mr. Litan’s head. “If @BrookingsInst has integrity will loudly fire ‘scholar’ Robert Litan today, declare new policies. If not . . .” tweeted David Cay Johnston, a left-wing writer, at 8:52. By 9:30 Mr. Litan was gone.

In July Mr. Litan had testified against a Warren-backed Labor Department plan to regulate financial advisers. His cost-benefit analysis estimated that during a market downturn the regulation could cost investors—especially those who aren’t wealthy—tens of billions of dollars by depriving them of advice, such as against panic selling. Half of House Democrats and virtually all Republicans in Congress oppose the plan because of its costs.

Instead of rebutting his argument, Ms. Warren decided to punish it. Her letter to Brookings president Strobe Talbott accused Mr. Litan of concealing a conflict of interest. The first page of Mr. Litan’s testimony says: “The study was supported by the Capital Group, one of the largest mutual fund asset managers in the U.S.” She called that disclosure “vague”—an obvious falsehood.

Mr. Litan had told his colleagues at Brookings, including Mr. Talbott, about Ms. Warren’s complaints, and they seemed unconcerned as late as the morning her letter went public. “Two hours later,” he told me, “it was clear that there was a high level of distress at Brookings, and after 40 years I left. That’s it.”

Mr. Litan told Brookings in July he was unaware of a new rule at the think tank against nonresident scholars indicating a Brookings affiliation when testifying to Congress, but that became a problem only when the Warren letter made it one. Ms. Warren herself took lucrative consulting assignments when she was a professor at Harvard Law School.

A group of Democratic economists—including former Clinton administration officials Joseph Minarik, Bowman Cutter and Everett Ehrlich—signed a letter last week defending Mr. Litan: “Sen. Warren’s approach (and Brookings’ complicity with it) threatens ad hominem attack on any author who may be associated with an industry or interest whose views are contrary to hers.” Mr. Litan’s Twitter defenders used the hashtag #McCarthyismOfTheLeft.

Ms. Warren’s inquisition isn’t about ethics but about suppressing cost-benefit analysis, which until the Obama era was a bipartisan approach to identifying regulations doing more harm than good. A book published last year, “Trillion Dollar Economists: How Economists and Their Ideas Have Transformed Business,” details that history. The author, Mr. Litan, describes the great era of deregulation beginning in the 1970s, during the Carter administration. He shows how deregulation helped make the Internet economy possible.
Think of this was what she did against a Democratic economist. Imagine what she would do against conservatives?

Pollsters admit that they shouldn't be trusted.
Pollsters surveyed by POLITICO have a unanimous warning for the Republican National Committee and the TV networks who are using public-opinion surveys to exclude presidential candidates from debates: Don’t trust polls to detect often-tiny grades of opinion in a giant field.

Indeed, the unprecedented reliance on polls to winnow the Republican field is coming at a time when many pollsters feel they’re blinder than ever to trends in public thinking — and that using polls to keep out candidates who are otherwise well qualified could seriously alter the race.

“Polls are being used to do a job that they’re really not intended for — and they’re not as qualified for as they used to be,” said Cliff Zukin, a professor at Rutgers University and past president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research.
Zukin warned that polling has become increasingly unreliable because Americans are harder to reach — nearly half of adults are unreachable on a landline phone — and roughly nine in 10 are unwilling to participate in surveys even when pollsters manage to contact them. The declining response rates, Zukin says, create a situation in which true public feelings are more difficult than ever to discern.
Decisions are being made based on polls with small samples and large margins of error.
Jeb Bush, for example, is at 7 percent in this week’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, but the statistical margin of error means he’s really between 1 and 14 percent — a huge range that underscores why some pollsters continue to be uneasy about the prospect of averaging together surveys and then only admitting candidates above a certain threshold.

"These numbers all have a margin of error around them," said Jocelyn Kiley, an associate director at the Pew Research Center. "We try very hard, as do most of our colleagues in the field, to make clear when there are significant differences and when there aren’t."

So when pollsters themselves announce a margin of error, it should be taken seriously, she said.

The types of national surveys being considered by TV networks typically have as few as 200 respondents for the Republican primary — there were 230 in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that pegged Bush at 7 percent. A single respondent can make a big difference when networks are averaging as few as four polls together and a tenth of a percent could make the difference between appearing onstage with the front-runners — and standing next to George Pataki in the undercard.

“It’s like asking a scale that can only tell pounds to measure ounces,” Zukin said. “They’re just not that finely calibrated. ... I think polls can do a good job talking about tiers of candidates in name recognition. That’s all that polls can do. But they can’t tell the difference between Bobby Jindal, who’s not in the debate, and Chris Christie, who is."

....For now, the drama centers around Paul, for whom the difference between making the debate and falling short is only 0.25 percent — essentially, a matter of two respondents in all the polls put together.

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The Washington Post examines what Bernie Sanders is actually proposing.
He is not just a big-spending liberal. His agenda is not just about money.

It’s also about control.

The biggest pieces of Sanders’s domestic agenda — making college, health care and child care more affordable — seek to capture these industries and convert them to run chiefly on federal money.

Sanders thinks this would consolidate areas now shaped by a confusing mix of federal rules, state laws and the private market, and make these systems cheaper and more efficient.

The risk is that this authority would expand the federal bu­reaucracy, which has sometimes struggled to make itself run cheaply and efficiently.

Sanders said voters would welcome the change. Even if it means Americans must turn to the federal government to oversee new sectors of their lives. He bristles at the idea that this might be considered an intrusion.

“You’re not ‘turning to’ the government. You’re assuming that the government is some kind of foreign entity,” Sanders said in an interview. “The government, in a democratic society, is the people.”

Bernie Sanders — a senator from Vermont who describes himself as a “democratic socialist” — will never get everything he wants in Washington.

And that still would be true if he became President Sanders. ­Republicans in Congress would fight him fiercely. Democrats might not be much help. In fact, Sanders’s most recent Senate bills — legislation that would make college free and provide universal health care — attracted zero Democrats as co-sponsors.

But now, the same ideas that have made Sanders a lonely leftist in the Senate have made him a star on the campaign trail. And he is setting himself up as a champion of liberal ideals while making rival Hillary Rodham Clinton appear cautious by comparison.
Well, sure. If he is going to promise lots of free stuff, no wonder he's popular among quite a few voters.

Comedians and especially SNL must be praying that Donald Trump stays in the race a long, long time. He provides so many opportunities for humor. Although it might almost be difficult to be more absurd than he actually is. But SNL had a funny opening ridiculing Trump with a good impersonation by Taran Killam.
Of course, Trump could drop out of the race and there would still be many opportunities to use him for humor. They could have a running gag with Trump providing commentary on the election. Though Ken Tucker of Yahoo News thinks that SNL is doing its best to help Hillary win the election.
Saturday Night Live firmly endorsed Hillary Clinton during its season premiere. The real Hillary introduced one of host Miley Cyrus’ musical performances. Real Hillary played a bartender pouring drinks for Kate McKinnon’s Hillary in a sketch designed to show what a good sport Hillary Clinton is. And SNL took shots both smart and silly at Bernie Sanders, the other Democratic candidates the show says no one knows, as well as slapping around Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, and every Republican in sight. SNL guru Lorne Michaels went all-in for Hillary, as though the country’s life depends upon her election....Back to that Hillary-walks-into-a-bar sketch: It was really impressive on a couple of levels. McKinnon’s fine Clinton impersonation (the jabbing finger motions, the clipped bark of her voice) was augmented by a quick Darrell Hammond-reprising-his-Bill-Clinton cameo, and Real Hillary was a trooper as bartender, joining in singing the Bill Withers oldie “Lean On Me.” If this doesn’t help humanize her for the SNL audience, nothing will.
See what you think.

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The Daily Beast looks at "The Crash of Trump Air." It's not the sort of business history that Trump is trying to sell to voters. It also sounds like typical Trump behavior.
Donald Trump strode into a ballroom at the Plaza Hotel he owned on October 12, 1988, to announce his acquisition of yet another trophy property: the venerable Eastern AIR Shuttle, which had pioneered the original power flights between New York, Washington, and Boston.

The 42-year-old Manhattan real estate tycoon exuded an outsize confidence, airily waving aside any concerns about his ignorance of the business he was wading into. “It’s a diamond, it’s an absolute diamond,” he crowed to the packed crowd.

Classic Trump bravado, of course, but the airline insiders he’d tapped to run the show were already rolling their eyes. “When he started with that ‘diamonds in the sky’ line, I said, ‘We’re going to have to settle for cubic zirconia,’” said Henry Harteveldt, a former TWA and Continental executive who was the nascent line’s new marketing director.

“We inherited more than 20 of the world’s oldest 727 airplanes, because that’s what had been allocated to the shuttle,” said Harteveldt, now head of Atmosphere Research, a travel data research firm. “At first all we could do was to clean the planes and put a sticker with Trump’s name on the side.”

And so began one of the stranger episodes in aviation history.

Trump, according to sources close to him at the time, seemed less interested in the inner workings of the business than in what it could do for his brand. “It was this flying billboard for Trump properties,” said Harteveldt. “At the time, he was expanding his casino business [in Atlantic City], jet fuel was still relatively cheap. It was a combination of vanity and the lure of an appealing business.” Trump, sources said, apparently also dreamed of creating a national airline 10 times the size of the shuttle, a natural fit with the hotels he was rapidly collecting.

That was not to be, and interestingly, Trump’s airline dalliance appears to have been airbrushed from his official biography. He makes virtually no mention of it in the numerous memoirs and self-help books he’s penned since its demise in late 1991

Timothy Carney does a case study of one Tea Party-supported congressman, Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, and how he went from campaigning against special interests has become a recipient of much special interest money. It goes to show that both Democrats and Republicans are susceptible to the siren call of big money donations no matter how they campaigned when first running for office.