Thursday, December 03, 2015

Cruising the Web

Last night, I turned to Twitter to follow news about the terrible shooting in San Bernardino and the hunt for the murderers. Gosh, what a sinkhole that can be. Before anyone knew anything about the shooters, there were attempts by the left to push their anti-gun message. That's predictable. But the tool for doing so was to ridicule those Republicans who tweeted their "thoughts and prayers" for the victims. That set off some on the left who were contemptuous of the idea of thinking and praying for victims of a terrible crime instead of adopting their preferred policies. Apparently, tweeting thoughts and prayers is a terrible thing, but tweeting #Bringbackourgirls as Michelle Obama did about the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram is a sign of deep and thoughtful concern.

The New York Daily News devoted their cover today to ridiculing Republican politicians who had tweeted their "thoughts and prayers," while asserting that "God isn't fixing this." The Atlantic's Emma Green writes how the new response to such events now is "prayer shaming."
There’s a clear claim being made here, and one with an edge: Democrats care about doing something and taking action while Republicans waste time offering meaningless prayers. These two reactions, policy-making and praying, are portrayed as mutually exclusive, coming from totally contrasting worldviews. Elsewhere on Twitter, full-on prayer shaming set in: Anger about the shooting was turned not toward the perpetrator or perpetrators, whose identities are still unknown, but at those who offered their prayers....

There are many assumptions packed into these attacks on prayer: that all religious people, and specifically Christians, are gun supporters, and vice versa. That people who care about gun control can’t be religious, and if they are, they should keep quiet in the aftermath of yet another heart-wrenching act of violence. At one time in American history, liberals and conservatives shared a language of God, but that’s clearly no longer the case; any invocation of faith is taken as implicit advocacy of right-wing political beliefs.

The most powerful evidence against this backlash toward prayer comes not from the Twitterverse, but from San Bernardino. “Pray for us,” a woman texted her father from inside the Inland Regional Center, while she and her colleagues hid from the gunfire. Outside the building, evacuated workers bowed their heads and held hands. They prayed.

I'm never sure of what to say about one of these terrible events except to express sympathy for the victims and their families. Can we at least wait until we know more before jumping on ideological bandwagons? And denigrating people's natural turn to their religion after such horrific events should never be ridiculed. There is something quite despicable about that.

Meanwhile, Ace has collected an assortment of liberal politicians and bloggers offering "thoughts and prayers" in the past after an attack. The White House feed regularly offered up "thoughts and prayers.

And this sort of action seems to have accomplished more than the administration's hashtag diplomacy. Imagine that.
The Cameroon Army said Wednesday it has freed 900 Boko Haram hostages and killed 100 of the group’s fighters during a three-day raid last week.

A government spokesman says joint forces from the nations of Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad and Benin killed more than 100 militant fighters and arrested 100 others in a three-day operation that unfolded in the Sambisa Forest over the weekend. The forest straddles northeastern Nigeria and Cameroon, and the Lake Chad area.

"A special clean-up operation from November 26 to 28" against Boko Haram in the border area with Nigeria "neutralized more than 100 jihadists," Defense Minister Joseph Beti Assomo said in a statement broadcast on national radio, AFP reported.

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Maybe because I teach polling and the problems there are today with political polls, I'm fascinated by all the attempts by analysts to try to figure out what is going on with Trump's polling numbers. Harry Enten at 538 has a long analysis building off the point David Drucker had made earlier how Trump's lead shrinks when you take out the internet, AVR, and automated polls. Of course, we have no idea now which polls are more reliable. Enten is torn because one of the pollsters using online polling, Survey Monkey, actually had a very good record on the 2014 elections. So perhaps pollsters shouldn't be pooh-poohing such polls. Pollsters traditionally prefer live-interview polls and Trump does a bit worse in those polls and his rivals do a bit better. Enten goes on to explain why, if he had to choose, he'd still prefer the live-interview polls. One reason is that the internet polls have less a track record in primaries where, given how much lower turnout is, it will be important to distinguish between those likely to vote and those who won't.

Enten points out something I hadn't known, but the anti-Romney candidates such as Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, and Perry all did worse in live-interview polls than they did in the non-live polls. Perhaps the voters who were excited about those candidates just were less likely to turn out to vote and the live-interview polls did better at screening them out.

Enten has always been one of my favorite analysts of polls. In 2012, when many Republicans were trying to convince themselves that Romney was going to do better than his numbers, Enten's was a voice of caution. But this has been a wacky year so it's quite possible that we can't predict what will happen with Trump's candidacy based on any past experience. But, as Enten points out, we're certainly going to learn a lot about the accuracy of polling and maybe we'll be able to come closer to resolving the live-interview versus nonlive-interviews.

Jonah Goldberg is quite amused by Harvard's decision to get rid of the word "master" for the faculty advisers for their dorms. He puts his finger on how exactly meaningless this is.
Now, even the Washington Post story points out the obvious: The “associations” with slavery are being imposed by the students (and faculty). This is Harvard. Last I checked, people there took themselves pretty seriously. And yet they lack the intellectual maturity to make this obvious distinction? This is the equivalent of twelve-year-old boys tittering and snickering during sex-ed class.

Moreover, if the biggest racial problem minorities at Harvard face is the use of the term “House Master,” then there are no serious racial problems at Harvard. And if there are serious racial problems at Harvard — I’m agnostic on the question — changing the title “House Master” to “Residence Facilitator” or “Indoctrination Minister” or whatever will do absolutely nothing to address those problems. In other words, this is entirely about power-assertion for its own sake and nothing more. No wonder the administration is caving in to this. It’s like giving an employee a new title instead of a raise; it don’t cost nuthin’ and it distracts from having to do anything serious.
Goldberg then has fun going to Wikipedia and noting how many things have the word "master" in them. I have a Master's degree. I guess that makes me a proponent of slavery. This reminds me of the kerfuffle there was a while back over the use of the word "niggardly," because ignorant people didn't know what the word meant. There is even a Wikipedia page devoted to such scandals when someone used the word and people then had hissy fits. One staffer to the mayor of Washington, D.C. even lost his job because he's used the word. This is what happens when ignorance drives outrage and then cowardly administrators or politicians cave to the pressure.

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A lot of what we know about Hillary Clinton's emails has come about from Freedom of Information Act requests. Otherwise, she and the State Department would have kept a lot of this secret. Now we might have a little of insight on one of the worse allegations from Peter Schweitzer's book, Clinton Cash. Judicial Watch is suing to get documents from the Treasury Department about Hillary's involvement in approving the acquisition by a Russian company of one-fifth of the United States uranium supply. What is particularly suspicious are the connections between Bill Clinton receiving big bucks for giving speeches and donations to the Clinton Foundation. Amidst all the other political news, this scandal has gotten lost, but I think it could be one of the most damaging for Clinton's candidacy. Buying political influence to facilitate Russia getting one-fifth of our uranium supply might be a step too far for a lot of swing voters. And it is not just Republicans who are upset about this story. It was the NYT which dug into this tawdry tale.
At the heart of the tale are several men, leaders of the Canadian mining industry, who have been major donors to the charitable endeavors of former President Bill Clinton and his family. Members of that group built, financed and eventually sold off to the Russians a company that would become known as Uranium One.

Beyond mines in Kazakhstan that are among the most lucrative in the world, the sale gave the Russians control of one-fifth of all uranium production capacity in the United States. Since uranium is considered a strategic asset, with implications for national security, the deal had to be approved by a committee composed of representatives from a number of United States government agencies. Among the agencies that eventually signed off was the State Department, then headed by Mr. Clinton’s wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well.

And shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.

At the time, both Rosatom and the United States government made promises intended to ease concerns about ceding control of the company’s assets to the Russians. Those promises have been repeatedly broken, records show.
We'll see how long Hillary's allies can block Judicial Watch's FOIA requests. This is just the sort of time bomb that could do a lot of damage if the documents are made public in the period leading up to the election.

If you had any doubts that a Hillary Clinton administration would be any different from the Obama administration in domestic policy, take a look at her announced proposals. IBD reports,
The Democratic front-runner won great applause among unions and the construction lobby when she recently announced her support for a new $275 billion program for public works projects because of "the sorry state" of our infrastructure.
But didn't Barack Obama spend hundreds of billions of dollars on "shovel ready" projects as part of his stimulus program? There's no word yet from Clinton about what happened to all that money or how she'll pay for the new bricks and mortar. She is, after all, still promising not to raise taxes on families who earn less than $250,000.

That promise looks more improbable in view of all the other programs Clinton wants to throw money at.

Rival Bernie Sanders continues to pull her to the left, and so the cost of her "free" agenda keeps escalating.

By our estimates, the running total tops $1 trillion, including both the direct tab to taxpayers and the mandated costs on employers.
We already have an $18.5 trillion debt. And she's merrily planning to add more as she promises goodies to her supporters and to gain votes.
Does anyone still think Hillary Clinton won't tax the middle class to pay for this trillion in freebies? Does she or anyone really believe she can pry all of this money out of the top 2% of taxpayers?

Since most Americans in that higher income group are small business owners or investors, it's hard to see how targeting them for higher taxes will lead to more jobs.

Bill Clinton ran for president as a pro-business, balance-the-budget Democrat. His wife runs so far from that agenda that her aims and those of Sanders are becoming less distinguishable by the day.

The only difference is that the admitted socialist is at least honest enough to say he'll sock it to the middle class to pay for it all. Clinton won't.
Clinton justifies all the spending she wants to do on infrastructure by saying what a terrible condition the nation's bridges and roads are in. Hmmm. Didn't we just have a huge stimulus bill that was supposed to address the nation's infrastructure? Actually, the GAO reports that are bridges and roads are in better shape than they've been in a long time, contrary to what she claims.
In any case, Hillary's plan raises an obvious question that reporters should be asking. If the nation's infrastructure really is, as she claims, in such a "sorry state," then what happened to all that money President Obama dumped into those "shovel ready" infrastructure projects on the promise that it would make a huge difference?

For those with short memories, Obama said in 2009 that, as a result of the massive $800-something billion stimulus bill, "we are remaking the American landscape with the largest new investment in our nation's infrastructure since Eisenhower built an Interstate Highway System in the 1950s." Not only would roads get rebuilt, but so too would "faulty dams and levees ... aging water and sewer pipes" as well as "America's rail system coast to coast."

If Obama's spending splurge failed to accomplish anything, why should anyone believe that Clinton's sequel would produce a different result?

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PJ Media points to this sad, but telling contrast.
A Marine and U.S. Naval Academy graduate who self-reported that he improperly stored classified documents will be separated from the Marine Corps Reserve following a decision by Assistant Navy Secretary Juan Garcia, the Washington Post reported Monday.

Maj. Jason Brezler's emails warned officials about the corruption, including homosexual pedophilia, of an Afghan police chief named Anwar Jan, whose servant later killed three Marines and wounded a fourth.
This Marine was warning officials about this suspicious Afghan, but it turned out that he had had classified information on an unsecured hard drive. He reported his fault himself. But that didn't do him any good and he has been expelled from the Marines.
However unfortunate, the decision to expel Brezler for mishandling classified information is essentially orthodox.

But it came the same day the State Department released a new batch of emails Hillary Clinton sent from her private server while secretary of State. The latest wave contained 325 "confidential" and one "secret" email, rendering the batch's classification rate 6.3 percent, and the highest so far, according to the Washington Times.

Clinton could not enjoy a greater contrast between her classified email fallout and Brezler's. Currently Brezler works full-time for the New York Fire Department and will likely soon be discharged from the Marine Reserves. Clinton is the Democratic presidential frontrunner.
If she were anyone else, she would be prosecuted. The contrast with this Marine major clarifies the real disparity in treatment of the elites and ordinary people today.

Tom Maguire contrasts two headlines from the New York Times as it profiled Robert Dear, the man who attacked Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs and how it profiled the man who killed two New York City policemen. The contrast continues in their profile of Major Nidal Hassan who killed 13 people in the Fort Hood shooting, you know, the attack that the Obama administration called workplace violence.

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This comment from Ted Cruz reminds me a little of when Dole said that all the wars fought in the 20th century were "Democrat wars." There was a kernel of truth perhaps there, but it was still offensive and misguided. As if Republicans hadn't supported those wars. Cruz claimed that most violent criminals are Democrats. He was basing his claim on a study, but the researchers reject the way that Cruz used their research.
“Only a small share of ex­-felons are convicted of violent crimes,” Meredith and Morse said, surfacing data from Iowa in their response to Cruz showing that only about 12 percent of the population of discharged felons in the state had been convicted of committing violent crimes.

“Senator Cruz is correct that people convicted of a violent crime are more likely to identify as Democrats than as Republicans,” the researchers said. “But people convicted of violent crimes have similar political orientations as non­violent offenders.”

“Senator Cruz was on stronger footing when, later in the interview, he dropped his focus on violent crimes and claimed that, instead, ‘convicted felons tend to vote Democrat,”‘ the researchers continued.

But there’s also statistical problem with Cruz’s extrapolation of their research. Meredith and Morse’s study investigates voting registration behavior in just three states — New Mexico, New York and North Carolina, which recently passed laws requiring ex-felons to be notified of their right to vote.

And although they did find that of the small percentage of ex-felons who registered to vote in those states, more registered as Democrats; in another paper in which they examined Iowa, Maine and Rhode Island, they found that a plurality of ex-felons registered as independents or with other parties.

They argue that ex-felons registering with the Democratic party might represent a demographic correlation more than it does any kind of causal link between being a felon and being a Democrat.

As Meredith and Morse point out, “African-Americans are both overrepresented in the ex-­felon population and have some of the strongest allegiances to the Democratic Party.”

Pointing to data in Florida, Morse and Meredith explain that blacks “overwhelmingly identify as Democrats whether or not they are ex-felons.” And a majority of disenfranchised ex-felons in Florida are non-black, and a significant proportion of them register as Republicans.

John Lott disproves Obama's assertion that we're the only country that has mass shootings. Remember that that was what Obama said this week in Paris of all places after a year that saw the Charlie Hebdo shootings and the mass attack on November 13.
Obama also overlooks Norway, where Anders Behring Breivik used a gun to kill 67 people and wound 110 others. Still others were killed by bombs that Breivik detonated. Of the four worst K-12 school shootings, three have occurred in Europe. Germany had two of these — one in 2002 at Erfut and another in 2009 at Winnenden, with a total death toll of 34.

Obama isn't correct even if he meant the frequency of fatalities or attacks. Many European countries actually have higher rates of death from public shootings that resulted in four or more murders. It's simply a matter of adjusting for America's much larger population....

In terms of the frequency of attacks, the U.S. ranks ninth, with 0.09 attacks per million people. Macedonia, Serbia, Switzerland, Norway, Slovakia, Finland, Belgium and the Czech Republic all had higher rates.

Irwin Stelzer notes this contrast between California and Israel.
California is reeling from a drought, rather like the one suffered by Israel in 1998-2002. California, with an 840-mile coastline on the world's largest ocean, has a water shortage; Israel, with a mere 170-mile coast line, does not. Israel invests in desalinization; California is building a high-speed train at a cost of somewhere between $68 billion and $90 billion, the most expensive public works project in the nation's history with no completion date in sight, but finds the $1 billion price tag on its first desalinization plant too high to bear, even though its 50 million gallon per day output would meet the daily requirements of something like 280,000 of the modest-income consumers now the hardest hit by the rationing system in place.

Besides, such plants have what the LA Times calls "a weighty environmental footprint" stemming from their high energy use. Better no water than more emissions, and no price too high to pay for mass transit, serving locations and on schedules specified by central planners. Oh, I forgot to mention that economist Charles Cicchetti, a long-time colleague now resident near the City of Angels, points out that California's porous infrastructure loses half the water put into it through leaks and evaporation, an example of politicians' preference for new attention-getting projects over mundane maintenance.
California wastes water to protect the delta-smelt, a tiny fish, rather than all the farmers who have been bankrupted by the ensuing drought. Now they're imposing rationing on many of the state's residents. Israel invested in desalination plants and uses that water to help its farmers. It's too bad that California can't learn from Israel's example.

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Doug Bandow ponders how sanctimonious John Kasich is about his expansion of Medicaid in Ohio and other policies he's adopted. It's not only that he thinks his policies are correct, but that he is doing God's will.
Perhaps Kasich’s strangest electoral ploy has been to present himself as God’s candidate. Criticize him for his spending and he’ll tell you that God wants it. Unfortunately for him, too many Republican voters actually read their Bibles to believe him.

Two years ago he decided to expand Medicaid eligibility in his state. How to best provide health care for those with lesser incomes is a tough issue. But Medicaid is a mess, costing a lot while discouraging physician participation with low reimbursements and offering beneficiaries a poor standard of care. There obviously are good reasons not to expand the program to ever more people.

But Kasich didn’t stop at trying to make a practical case for his proposal. Instead, he trashed opponents as “hard-hearted or cold-hearted.” After pushing the line that Medicaid expansion was the only alternative to leaving the poor “out in the street,” he declared that God, or at least heaven’s gatekeeper, St. Peter, was for it. He told a state legislator: “Now, when you die and get to the, get to the, uh, to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not gonna ask you much about what you did about keeping government small, but he’s going to ask you what you did for the poor. Better have a good answer.”
Kasich is perhaps the liberals' preferred GOP candidate. How do they feel about his using God to justify his policies? That might be fine if they agree with his policies, but what about when they don't?