Thursday, January 28, 2016

Cruising the Web

All the attention on the Iowa caucuses is really ridiculous. Historically, the turnout is only about one-sixth of eligible voters.
n 2012, 121,503 Republicans — or 19.7 percent of the state’s 614,913 registered GOP voters — participated in the caucus. The low turnout rate applies to both parties: In 2004, 23.3 percent of registered Democrats in the state cast a ballot.

The one recent exception was 2008, when there was unusual excitement on the left surrounding Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s barrier-breaking campaigns. That year, 239,872 Iowa Democrats — or 39.5 percent of the state’s registered Democratic voters — participated in the party’s caucus.
And for all the fuss about Sanders and Trump energizing new voters, we're not yet seeing the upturn in voter registration numbers in Iowa that we might expect if lots of people who had never voted before were set to turn out for the caucuses.
According to statistics from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, the number of registered Republicans has decreased from January 2015 until January 2016. The same can be said for Democrats. The number can typically fluctuate as registered members of either party do not participate in a given cycle and the actual number of participants who register on the actual caucus night will not be finally tallied until months later, after auditors extensively pour over the numbers.

What can be said about this cycle is that there is a surprisingly small change in the number of registered voters in the latter half of 2015. For instance, compared to the lead-up to 2008’s Iowa Caucus, where Barack Obama pulled off a surprise win against Hillary Clinton, the number of registered Democrats skyrocketed. In June 2007, there were 596,259 registered Democrats in the state, according to statistics from the Iowa Secretary of State. By the time that number was tallied in January 2008, it was 606,209. Looking at the same window for Democrats, this cycle, the number has gone from 584,737 to 584,111, essentially flatlining.

“It’s a little surprising,” University of Iowa political science professor Timothy Hagle told The Daily Beast. He said that sometimes the assumption among campaigns is “If you’re showing up at their events, you’re showing up to vote.”
Maybe the numbers will go way up with the update due today. Iowans can register the night of the caucuses so maybe the numbers will increase on February 1. Also, people can change their party registration that night. The Obama campaign really worked to register new voters before the caucus night and then organized to get those voters to the polls. I well remember being impressed in 2008 at how the Obama campaign had organized to get college students out to vote since that year the caucuses were scheduled during winter vacation. Many college students in Iowa live in Illinois. The Obama campaign got many of those students to register to vote in Iowa and then hired buses to bring them in from Illinois over break to vote and arranged for the colleges to open dorms for one night for students to stay over after caucusing. The Clinton campaign had nothing on that scale. Reportedly, the Cruz campaign has really been working hard on their get-out-the-vote efforts and there is little indication that the Trump campaign has anything similar. That would involve his spending his own money to fund the get-out-the-vote effort. He seems to think that it's enough to collect names at his rallies while exhorting folks to turn out to vote.

Jim Geraghty does the math
on some recent Iowa polls and finds that they're modeling a massive increase in turnout for the caucuses.
Right now, Iowa has 612,112 registered Republicans.

If the turnout is at the usual 20 percent or so, that would mean about 122,000 Republicans will turn out Monday night. Some GOP consultants are predicting turnout could be significantly higher, perhaps 140,000 – bumping up turnout to about 22 percent.

Right now, Iowa has 584,111 registered Democrats. That party enjoyed much higher caucus turnout in 2008 (with the high profile Obama vs. Clinton vs. Edwards battle) with 39.5 percent; their turnout in 2004 (Kerry, Dean, Gephardt) was 23 percent. If turnout is at the 2004 level, we should see about 135,000 Democrats on caucus night; if it’s at 2008 level, we should see 230,000 Democrats at the caucuses.

In other words, the maximum turnout we should expect in both caucuses combined is about 370,000.

The CBS News Battleground Tracker poll asked 1,247 registered voters, “How likely is it that you will vote in the 2016 Presidential caucus in Iowa?” and 52 percent said they “definitely would vote.”

Either turnout will be unlike anything we’ve ever seen before – a half-million voters – or a significant chunk of those people who are telling CBS they’re definitely participating aren’t going to participate.

CNN called 2002 adult Iowans and found 266 likely to participate in the GOP caucus and 280 likely to participate in the Democratic one. At first glance, that seems like a nice, tight voter screen, but that still adds up to 546 respondents out of 2002 – 27 percent. And remember that’s not 2002 registered members of either party; that’s of any adult Iowan who answered the phone. Iowa has 2.37 million people above age 18. If 27 percent of all 2.37 million adults in Iowa participate in the caucuses, that would be a turnout of almost 640,000 people.

Look, determining who’s actually going to show up on caucus night is difficult. Maybe Trump and Cruz will drive up turnout in the GOP caucus, and maybe Sanders will reenact some of Obama’s magic. We’re not going to know who actually participates until well into the evening on February 1.

But if the final results look significantly different than these last couple polls, it will be fair to ask if the polls counted a bunch of “likely caucusgoers” who were not, in fact, all that likely.

Even if we're talking about some huge increase in the number of Republicans who show up to caucus - let's say 150,000 people come out to caucus in the Republican caucuses which would be a substantial increase from the record number that showed up in 2012 during a hotly contested fight, and 121,503 showed up. According to the RCP average of Iowa polls, the difference between Trump and Cruz is just 5.8%. If that held up, that would mean that about 8700 voters would determine who won. And for the choices of several thousand Iowans, we're supposed to consider ourselves well on the way to choosing a candidate. Every year it boggles my mind that we pay so much attention to Iowa.

I say, instead of "blowing up" the Los Angeles Clippers after Blake Griffin's mystifyingly stupid fight that broke his hand, let's "blow up" the whole nomination process and remove Iowa and New Hampshire from their primacy in the system.

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Well, this will change everything! Marco Rubio has scored the much anticipated George Pataki endorsement.

Take the quiz to see who said it:
Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

Mollie Hemingway points out a similarity between Obama and Trump. They both don't like Fox News.
Oh dear. Let’s take some deep breaths.

Is it true that Donald Trump has killed media criticism? Or is Trump’s boycott far more akin to Barack Obama’s (also inconsistent) boycott of Fox News? There are many ways Obama and Trump are similar, from stoking the insecurity of their base voters to getting publicity for not really doing anything, from citing credentials instead of accomplishments to bragging too much. They both seem to love authoritarian use of executive power and surrounding themselves with sycophants.

But for our purposes, let’s note that they both constantly complain about being treated unfairly by Fox News and claim cable news is awful while clearly being obsessed with it. They also blame other people for their failures and can’t handle criticism.

If someone were going to implode the very serious conservative critiques of structural media bias, it wouldn’t be President Obama any more than it would be Donald J. Trump.
The NYT posits the real reason why Trump doesn't want to be in the debate. It's not because Megyn Kelly asked him a tough question about things he'd said in the past in the first debate while asking all the other candidates tough questions about their weaknesses as candidates.
But for Mr. Trump, participating in a debate four nights before the Iowa caucuses would also most likely mean being pelted with many of his past remarks, in a setting in which he could not expect to dominate the microphone or the questioners.

It would be the exact opposite, for example, of the exchange between Mr. Trump and an NBC reporter who, at the same news conference Tuesday at which Mr. Trump pulled out of the debate, tried to confront him about his previous support for abortion rights, including the late-term procedure that opponents call partial-birth abortion.

Mr. Cruz and a well-funded group supporting him have been bombarding Mr. Trump with attack ads using footage of a 1999 interview in which he called himself “very pro-choice” and “pro-choice in all respects.” But when the NBC reporter, Peter Alexander, tried to ask Mr. Trump about that quotation, Mr. Trump repeatedly cut him off, talked over him and turned the tables on him, demanding an apology.

Abortion is not the only subject on which Mr. Trump could be forced to defend or explain his remarks in a tough-minded presidential debate: The ads being run by Mr. Cruz, for example, also show a clip of Mr. Trump, in November, asking “how stupid” the people of Iowa must be for believing Ben Carson’s story of personal redemption.

Mr. Trump’s debate performances debates have not always been unmitigated triumphs: While he acquitted himself well in rebutting Mr. Cruz’s denigration of what he called “New York values” in a Jan. 14 debate in South Carolina, for example, Mr. Cruz savaged Mr. Trump for much of the first half hour.
And now he can host an event in which he doesn't have to answer tough questions or respond to the criticisms of his opponents. He won't have to risk being asked questions about foreign policy that expose his ignorance or questions about domestic policy for which all he has are slogans rather than any actual policy that might be enacted. Just the way he likes things to be - all about him without any pushback. And he can soak up all the media attention talking about him, him, him.

And don't buy his grandstanding about giving the money to veterans or Ted Cruz's challenge to hold an event between the two of them and giving the proceeds to veterans. If either of them were interested in helping veterans, they would have already given that money. They don't need to cloak their self-aggrandizement with a pretense of being charitable.

And it turns out that Trump doesn't have that great a record toward veterans when they tried to earn some money near him.
The Trump who now extols veterans spent years clamoring for New York City’s politicians to take action and ban even those street vendors with special disabled veteran’s licenses from the environs of Trump Tower.

As was reported in the New York Daily News, Trump wrote in a letter to the New York state Assembly back in 1991, “While disabled veterans should be given every opportunity to earn a living, is it fair to do so to the detriment of the city as a whole or its tax paying citizens and businesses?”

He went on, “Do we allow Fifth Avenue, one of the world’s finest and most luxurious shopping districts, to be turned into an outdoor flea market, clogging and seriously downgrading the area?”

He was still at it in 2004, when he wrote a letter to Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

“Whether they are veterans or not, they [the vendors] should not be allowed to sell on this most important and prestigious shopping street,” Trump declared.

He warned, “The image of New York City will suffer…I hope you can stop this very deplorable situation before it is too late.”

The state Legislature had originally accorded a special vendor’s license to disabled veterans in the aftermath of the Civil War. Trump and other moneyed folks were not able to get the vendors banned, but the authorities did cap the total number of veterans with special licenses and restrict the number who could work on particular streets at a given time.
And Trump's foundation hasn't done much at all to help military veterans.
As Emily Canal of Forbes reported in October: "The Donald J. Trump Foundation has donated $5.5 million to 298 charities between 2009 and 2013 (the most recent year available), according to the non-profit's 990 tax forms from those years. Of that, only $57,000 has been donated to seven organizations that directly benefit military veterans or their families, Forbes found. Wounded Warriors was not among the organizations Trump's foundation gave to in that time period."

Some veterans say that the billionaire has been AWOL when it comes to helping veterans. "Donald Trump is not a leader in veterans' philanthropy, unless he's donated a lot of money that nobody knows about," Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told the New York Times in July.
So they didn't give much to military veterans. But you know whom they did give money to? You guessed it.
The Trump Foundation's $57,000 in donations to veterans groups from 2009 to 2013 amounted to far less than Trump's donations to the Clinton Foundation. "Trump is listed on the Clinton Foundation's donor page as having given somewhere between $100,001 and $250,000," the Daily Caller reported last year....

The Smoking Gun has documented Trump's overall miserly giving for years. In 1999, the website called Trump "The .00013% Man," referring to the percentage of his wealth that the foundation had donated. As a percentage of Trump's overall net worth, the Donald J Trump Foundation's contributions haven't increased much in recent years.

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Jim Geraghty explains why FBI Director James Comey might indeed resign if the FBI recommends an indictment of Hillary Clinton and the Attorney General either refuses to do so or just stalls.
As FBI Director, Comey was completely in the loop on the decision to bring charges against Petraeus, so Clinton’s case is familiar territory for him. Cuccinelli says that if the FBI’s handling of Petraeus is any guide, Comey’s agents are likely to recommend a Clinton indictment to the Department of Justice.

Then, the issue becomes really high-stakes.

There is no time limit on how long Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the DOJ can take in reviewing the FBI’s recommendation and the evidence on which it’s based. But if the Department of Justice gives the signal that they’re going to ignore the FBI’s investigations, or drag out their own review past election day, Cuccinelli — along with Judge Andrew Napolitano, Roger Stone, Charles Krauthammer, and other observers — predicts that Comey will resign in protest, and other high-level FBI officials could follow him out the door.

Not many people remember that Comey almost resigned a high-profile law-enforcement job once before, upset because he thought White House politics were overruling the law. Back in 2004, Comey was Attorney General John Ashcroft’s top deputy. The Justice Department determined that the Bush administration’s domestic-surveillance program, run by the National Security Agency, was illegal. Ashcroft was hospitalized at the time with a pancreatic ailment, and his authority had been transferred to Comey during the hospitalization. Then–White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales and President Bush’s chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., went to the hospital to persuade Ashcroft to re-authorize the program. Comey and then–FBI director Robert Mueller raced to the hospital to lobby Ashcroft against signing the authorization papers.

Ultimately, Bush agreed with the Justice Department’s assessment and scrapped the program. Comey later told Congress that he, Ashcroft, Mueller, and their aides had prepared a mass resignation in case the White House ignored or defied their legal assessment.
Maybe so. It would the honorable thing to do. But the FBI director serves a ten-year term and Comey was just appointed in 2013. He might want to continue in that job until 2023.

Hillary Clinton goes back and forth on whether she's sorry for using her own server. Now she clarifies her position. She's sorry because of all the attention it's led to. Not because it was the wrong thing to do and was actually, well, illegal. As Ed Morrissey translates her answer, "I really do regret my e-mail server, mainly because I got caught."
Besides, the measure of regret can easily be seen in actions, not words. Hillary kept that server well past her time at State, but when the system got exposed, she refused to turn it over or give State the electronic records from it. Instead, she and her legal team deleted half of the e-mails on the system, claiming that they weren’t work related, and then only submitted printouts of the remaining e-mails rather than give investigators the archives in data form. Her team then attempted to wipe the server in order to hide the rest of the data and balked at coughing up the hardware until the FBI demanded it. All of that doesn’t just say “regret” — it speaks loudly to guilt.

The need to maintain an illusion that “all is well” is certainly understandable in a political sense, but it doesn’t make it believable. And when even Hillary Clinton can’t remember where she stands on the regret scale even with a large assist from Chris Cuomo, that goes straight to credibility, too.

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Germany has figured out how to stop Muslim men from assaulting women. They're going to give them pamphlets explaining that this is not the way to treat women.
Cologne and Bonn carnival organisers have begun handing out rules for refugees for next week's jollity - with warnings about women, alcohol and urinating in public.

The cities are on edge after mass sexual assaults by immigrants against hundreds of women on New Year's Eve in Cologne. The number of complaints resulting from the frenzy in and around the main station now stands at over 820.

In Bonn, carnival organisers have now printed leaflets welcoming migrants - provided they behave themselves.
Printed in several languages including Arabic, the flyers read: 'People dress up to celebrate, sing and dance together. In the carnival time everyone must deal respectfully with one another and observe the laws.
'B├╝tzen - that means kisses on the cheeks. Sexual approaches are not allowed! Women and men must always be in agreement. No means no!

'Dancing to the music is also a way to celebrate carnival. Many people also celebrate with drinks and alcohol. Please - only in moderation!

'Urinating in public is forbidden!'

Bonn carnival chief Christoph Arnold went with representatives of the police and the local integration commissioner Colette Manemann to a refugee centre to hand out the leaflets in person.

In Cologne one of the points raised on the leaflet - which is printed in Arabic too - is also about alcohol, which Muslims are not supposed to consume.

It reads: 'Many in Cologne will be drinking beer or other alcoholic beverages at carnival time, but of course there is no obligation to do so.

'Having fun, singing and dancing can all be done as well without alcohol.'
Well, that should totally clear things up. Steven Crowder is not impressed.
ood, so let’s ask ourselves when our minds have ever been changed by a pamphlet. Think back. Think long, think hard. When someone handed you a flyer about correcting a behavior that’s been ingrained in you since that first time you laid your head on a rug facing east, was your mind blown? The topic in this case is a systemic disrespect for women, their bodies, their humanity. Sure, this is a difficult mental exercise, for despite the feminists railing on about “rape culture” here in the USA, it just doesn’t exist. Perhaps that is why the people in Germany are at such a loss. I can see it now. They’re all sitting around a giant table, after having formed the “Committee of Peoples For the Cultural Appropriation of The Muslim Rapists,” nomming on their coffee and schnitzel. Someone has an epiphany and says “LEAFLETS!”
In addition to the pamphlets, Cologne will also set up "safe zones" for women during carnival.
There are concerns the large crowds could leave women vulnerable to the sort of attacks seen on New Year’s Eve, when police were havily outnumbered.

The authorities plan to provide extra street lighting and set up a “safe zone” for women in the city centre, staffed with social workers.
That should give people confidence in the police, shouldn't it? And now we learn how difficult it is turning out to prosecute those involved in the assaults, rapes, and robberies that took place on New Year's Eve.
The news came as police warned they could face difficulty securing convictions against those responsible for the sex attacks.

“We’re really giving it everything, and we may end up with a few suspended sentences — if that,” a police source told Spiegel.

Officers have been seconded to the investigation from across the Cologne force.

“Every tenth detective in Cologne is now working on the events of New Year’s Eve,” Sebastian Fiedler of the German police union said.

But the investigation is believed to be struggling because Cologne has no official CCTV cameras.

Police are being forced to identify suspects from private security cameras belonging to nearby businesses and mobile phone footage.

The time stamps on the different cameras often do not match, making it difficult to use the footage as evidence in court.
But the Dutch have found the real culprits they need to worry about.
In rare instances, Dutch police are knocking on social media users' doors and asking them to be careful writing posts about refugees that could lead to real-life violence and, ultimately, to charges of online incitement.

One example is Mark Jongeneel, a small business owner in the small city of Sliedrecht who tweeted his reaction to asylum plans in his city:

"The college of Sliedrecht has a proposal to receive 250 refugees in the coming 2 years. What a bad plan! #letusresist"

Hours later, his mother (with whom he lives) contacted him to say local police had visited her house and were now on their way to his office.

"I asked them what the problem was. And they said, 'Your tweets,'" Jongeneel told DW. "And they asked me to be careful about my Twitter behavior, because if there are riots, then I'm responsible."
As always, it seems that the real problem that European authorities are worried about are not those committing true crimes but those who aren't sufficiently supportive of the country's immigrant policies.

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Common Core was a very expensive decision
for states to make.
A California commission has just decided the technology costs for Common Core tests are an unfunded mandate, which will require state taxpayers to cough up approximately $4 billion more to local school districts, Californian and former U.S. Department of Education official Ze’ev Wurman tells The Federalist.

This adds to the extra $3.5 billion the legislature gave schools for Common Core in spring 2015 and a separate infusion of $1.7 billion Gov. Jerry Brown snagged for Common Core spread across fiscal years 2014 and 2015. That makes a total of approximately $9.2 billion above and beyond existing tax expenditures Californians will pay to have Common Core injected into their state.

This even though both vested and independent analyses found that California’s pre-Common Core curriculum mandates were of higher quality than the Common Core that replaced it. You read that right: Californians got their kids worse instruction, and are paying $9.2 billion extra for it.

California contains approximately 12 percent of the U.S. K-12 population. Given that, Wurman says: “Another way to look at it, the nationwide cost of Common Core exceeds $80 billions, even as most states carefully avoid separating the Common Core costs like California does.”

The only independent analysis, done after nearly all states had already agreed to accept Common Core for a shot at extra federal money because almost no states examined costs beforehand, calculated that the nationwide cost of rolling Common Core out would be nearly $17 billion, or less than one-fourth the nationwide costs California’s actual expenditures now suggest.

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I really want to, but I haven't yet seen the musical "Hamilton." I'm waiting for it to go on tour. I've always been fascinated by Hamilton's life. But perhaps Aaron Burr is the unsung hero of the musical.

Stephen Miller has fun with the whole #OscarsSoWhite uproar.
As our moral betters in Hollywood prepare to walk the red carpet and allow us to celebrate them, their hopes for a glamorous, self-congratulatory Oscars have been dashed by claims of exclusion and racism — none of the major acting categories feature a nominated performance by a person of color — and the advent of a social-justice warrior hashtag campaign: #OscarsSoWhite.
Will Smith and his wife are two of the leaders complaining about the lack of racial diversity in Hollywood. As Miller points out, Will Smith isn't the best spokesman to criticize "racial and religious disharmony" in Hollywood.
Smith’s declaration that Hollywood is now a “regressive” industry is interesting given the roles he’s appeared in over the course of his career. There was a stretch — from roughly the mid ’90s to the middle of the last decade — when Will Smith was the most bankable movie star in the world. The Men in Black franchise was based on a comic book featuring two white secret agents who hunt aliens. His film I Am Legend, based on the 1954 novel, went through several development incarnations with white actors attached. Smith starred in the adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot, as well as 1999’s Wild Wild West, a big-screen version of the television show that saw Smith step into the role originally played by white actor Robert Conrad. And the former Fresh Prince star is set to appear in DC Comics’s forthcoming Suicide Squad as the villain Deadshot, who was created and illustrated as a white character.

Judging by box offices receipts, American audiences have been just fine with the idea of Smith taking the roles of fictional characters played by white actors in the past, which sounds like progress not “regression” to me.
Should conservatives care about this brouhaha? Or should we just sit back and eat the popcorn?
The film industry acts increasingly as though it is providing us a privilege by deigning to let us observe them accept golden statues and thank a bunch of people we don’t know and won’t ever hear about again for the rest of our lives. Perhaps there is a race problem within the confines of Hollywood. But what are we, as cultural conservatives, a demographic with an overwhelmingly minority foothold in that industry, supposed to do about it? We are being told that an industry rife with Democratic donors and culturally liberal narratives also happens to be overrun with sexism and racism — and somehow it’s this country’s conservatives who are responsible? In fact, as Sonny Bunch noted in an excellent break down in the Washington Free Beacon, the ultra-liberal George Clooney himself has shunned cast-mates of color as both a performer and a director.

This might come as a shock to social-justice activists at the Oscars, but average Americans aren’t exactly high on what’s become of this phony costume ball for millionaires. Ratings have been on a steady decline and the argument could be made that the last film with mass appeal to take home Best Picture honors was Gladiator – 15 years ago. “White people” in fly-over country — who the social-justice warriors blame for Hollywood’s race problem — hated The Artist just as much as #OscarsSoWhite activists did.

....If this discussion about the biases of institutions they control is one that progressives only want to have within their own rank and file, they are certainly welcome to it. While it certainly concerns us on the right when the accusatory finger of racism, sexism, and classism is pointed our way, we’d be perfectly happy to see the Oscar ceremony fold completely, saving us from the entire ordeal.

Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen. Come February, expect host Chris Rock — he has signaled he will rewrite some material for his monologue referencing the controversy — to make plenty of jokes at the expense of the blustery campaign antics of Donald Trump and the rest of the Republican field while downplaying the allegations of racism and sexism aimed at the people seated right in front of him. And we can probably expect another finger-wagging cameo from the president or the first lady — not wanting to miss out in their final year on the nation’s premier pop-culture stage.

Hollywood is welcome to examine its own perceived racist and sexist biases — sins that apparently run rampant in an industry that was promoting and voting for Hope and Change just seven years ago.

But kindly leave us out of it.

Now that the snow blizzard has moved through Washington, D.C., the local authorities can get to work doing what people really need from them - they've issued $1 million worth of parking tickets to people since the blizzard. A lot of people abandoned their cars when they couldn't move during the snow and now they can't move the cars to clear them out because of all the snow. It's a real quandary. The city wants to send crews to plow streets up to the curb so cars have to be moved, but people can't move their cars next to the curb because of all the snow. Hey, that's one way to fund city government.