Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Cruising the Web

Instead of baseless rumors about Hillary's health and parsing her opening a pickle jar on a comedy show, maybe it's time to have independent medical exams of presidential candidates. Then we wouldn't have a ridiculous letter that some doctor wrote out boasting about how Trump would be the healthiest president in history in five minutes while Trump waited in a limo. I really like this idea.
The idea of asking candidates to undergo an independent medical review isn’t new; it’s kicked around medical conferences and academic journals for years. But the concept has gained traction this campaign season as conspiracy theories about Clinton’s and Trump’s health have gone viral. Caplan and others argue that a panel of a half-dozen doctors could do a comprehensive workup of the candidates—checking everything from their bloodwork to physical fitness and even mental health—and share a summary that voters could find trustworthy and useful. “They don’t have to get down to psychoanalysis,” Caplan caveats.

Here’s the drawback with our current system: We don’t actually know how healthy Clinton or Trump are. Candidates don't undergo any kind of independent examination and they aren’t obligated to release their medical records, either. And what they do share isn’t always the full story, given the risk of political damage. “The things that we’d want to know are the things, unfortunately, that people won't want to reveal,” says internal medicine doctor Connie Mariano.

As the White House physician to three presidents, Mariano has seen the rigors of the job up close, and she ticked off the list of conditions that candidates might be tempted to hide. “Mental illness, like being treated for depression. Seizure disorder. If they have cancer—will there be a reoccurrence. Have they ever had a stroke, or heart disease.” Fairly or not, those conditions have been perceived as disqualifying.
I'd much prefer some sort of independent panel of doctors than depending on some vague letter released by a doctor friend of the candidate. We wouldn't have to rely on silly accusations telling us to read the internet to diagnose the health of a candidate.
So make it like the presidential debates, says NYU’s Caplan: Have an independent, non-partisan commission set the terms. “We trust the fairness of the presidential debates, generally,” he points out. “And at least you’d have everyone looking at the same information, minimizing conflict.”
Now Trump is challenging Clinton that they should both release detailed medical records. Why should he wait for her? He should release his records and try to shame her into releasing hers. And she could answer that she's still waiting for his tax returns. But I have to say that I wouldn't trust either of them for the records they release.

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Andrew Malcolm has some questions to ask Hillary if she ever held a press conference.
▪ Violently ousting Moammar Gadhafi was a plan you pressed as secretary of state. Was that really a good idea and example for Iran? He’d given up his nuclear weapons program as requested. Now, Libya lives in lawless chaos with feuding terrorist clans.

▪ You heartily supported the hasty withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011. Was that really a good idea given the rise of ISIS in the vacuum? How do you feel about hundreds of thousands of Iranian troops taking their place?

▪ Would you repeat Obama’s $400 million hostage ransom deal? How would you patch the wobbly nuclear pact with Iran, given its continued support of global terrorism, seizing of Americans and attempted maritime intimidation of U.S. ships, four times just last week?

▪ North Korea expands its nuclear weapons program again, now claiming it can deliver warheads to mainland United States…. Maybe true. Maybe not. What would you do?

▪ And China’s militarization of the South China Sea?

▪ Now, about ISIS: This talk by you and Donald Trump of an Arab force crushing the terrorists with no (more) U.S. boots on the ground seems rather far-fetched. How exactly would that work since it hasn’t so far? And if it doesn’t, ISIS can continue to foment attacks in Europe and here?

Stephen Hayes reminds us of an incident in the last year of Bill Clinton's presidency when Pakistani doctors held a fund-raiser for Hillary who was then running for the Senate in order to influence Bill's itinerary on a trip to Asia. They deliberately schedule the dinner for Hillary before the schedule for Bill's trip had been set in order to encourage him to visit Pakistan. She came out for the trip at the dinner and lo and behold, a couple of weeks later he added the stop onto his plans. So the pattern was established right away that gifts to one spouse could help influence decisions of the other spouse. Hayes goes on to summarize some of the many connections between gifts to the Clinton Foundation and actions Hillary took at State. We're finding more and more about those connections because of information that has come out about the emails that the FBI recovered from her server that had been supposedly deleted because they dealt only with personal items. Apparently, a whole lot of those supposedly personal items dealt with the Foundation.

As Hayes points out, now that we're learning what was in that batch of emails, FBI Director Comey's story about those deleted emails seems increasingly suspect.
Many of these recent revelations have come despite efforts by Clinton defenders to keep them from the public. The FBI last week turned over to the State Department nearly 15,000 emails it recovered during its investigation of Clinton's private server. Many of them—"thousands," according to FBI director James Comey—were "work-related" emails that Clinton claimed she had turned over to the State Department. On August 8, 2015, Clinton signed a declaration submitted to the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., swearing "under penalty of perjury" that she'd directed all emails that "were or potentially were" work-related turned over to the State Department.

That plainly didn't happen. Why not? Comey offered several explanations in his July 5 press conference announcing he wouldn't be charging anyone in connection with the scandal. Perhaps they were lost in routine system purges of the kind that any email user might perform. Or maybe her lawyers mistook these thousands of "work-related" emails as "personal" because their search techniques weren't as sophisticated as those used by the FBI.

While the FBI recovered thousands of work-related emails that Clinton failed to turn over, Comey reported that many others had been deleted. The FBI director acknowledged that while the FBI did not have "complete visibility" as to the contents of these emails or a thorough understanding of how they were permanently erased, he nonetheless offered his assurances that "there was no intentional misconduct" in the sorting of the emails.

If Comey's explanations seemed generous when he made them, they seem even more charitable today. In his telling, Clinton's failure to turn over thousands of work-related emails—at least some of which include evidence of coordination between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department that Clinton World was eager to keep secret—was merely the result of incompetence or bad luck. And the efforts her lawyers undertook to delete the others were unremarkable, benign. "We found no evidence that any of the additional work-related e-mails were intentionally deleted in an effort to conceal them," Comey said at his press conference. Yet moments later, Comey acknowledged: "They deleted all e-mails they did not return to State, and the lawyers cleaned their devices in such a way as to preclude complete forensic recovery."

There may be a simple reason the FBI didn't find evidence of intent: They didn't ask. That's the explanation Representative Trey Gowdy offered in an interview with Fox News on August 24. "I didn't see any questions on the issue of intent," Gowdy said, referring to the FBI's notes from its interview with Secretary Clinton.
Might convenient that, isn't it? And then we learn that they used a special technology called BleachBit to permanently delete more of those supposedly personal emails.
So Clinton, who took virtually no precautions to safeguard her emails—"personal" or "work-related"—while they sat on her server, went to great lengths to ensure that the emails she withheld from the State Department could never again be seen by anyone. She did this nearly two years following her departure from the State Department and only after she understood that the government was interested in seeing her emails. Seems like a lot to do to protect yoga schedules and emails about the grandkids.

The challenge for Clinton is simple: survive until November 8. So she's avoiding the media—265 days and counting since her last press conference—and trying to offer reassurances about the Clinton Foundation.

There's little reason to believe her. This is the same woman, after all, who promised during her nomination hearing seven years ago that she would take extraordinary measures to separate the foundation from her work at the State Department and do her best to "avoid even the appearance of a conflict."
Corruption. It's what they do.

Mother Jones, no right-wing rag, has a detailed report looking at an anecdote that Hillary and Bill Clinton tell over and over again about how she can work across the aisle because she worked with Tom DeLay as First Lady to pass a bill on adoption in 1997. See, she could work with a guy who continually attacked her husband in order to pass a law to help foster children get adopted. She continually brings up this story to demonstrate her ability to work with Republicans. The only problem is...the story is not true.

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Josh Zeitz, a well respected historian, writes at Politico about elections in which the man behind in the polls either made a come-back by election day to win or came close. Of course, the example that all those behind in the polls look to is Harry Truman's 1948 campaign. If you're interested in that campaign, I highly recommend David Pietrusza's excellent and fascinating history of that campaign, 1948:Harry Truman's Improbable Victory and the Year that Transformed America. I've read all his election year histories on the elections of 1920, 1932, and 1960 and so enjoyed them.

Zeitz's description of how Truman accomplished his victory foreshadows what we see in the Democratic Party today.
Truman worked from an uncommonly strong playbook. In November 1947, advisers Clark Clifford and Jim Rowe furnished the president with a 47-page memo that broke down the dynamic of FDR’s New Deal coalition. It was, they counseled, a coalition comprised of different ethnic and interest group blocs: Jews, African Americans, white ethnic union members, farmers. Rather than run for the vast center, the incumbent should stridently appeal to each of these groups on issues directly of interest to them. For African Americans, strong support for civil rights. For Jews, recognition of Israel. For urban workers and residents of the farm belt, an expansion of New Deal programs.

In this approach, Truman enjoyed a third advantage: the GOP-controlled Congress. Rowe and Clifford advised that the administration “should select the issues upon which there will be conflict with the majority in Congress. … Its recommendations—in the State of the Union message and elsewhere—must be tailored for the voter, not the Congressman; they must display a label which reads ‘no compromise.’” Obstructionist in the extreme, Republican leaders took the bait. Truman called Congress into special session in the summer of 1948 and called on its leaders to expand Social Security, enact a national health care program and expand civil rights. “They can do this job in 15 days if they want to do it," he taunted. Predictably, Republicans balked at embracing the president’s agenda.
That sounds a whole lot like what both Bill and Hillary Clinton and Obama have done in their campaigns. Democrats appeal to segments of the population to keep their coalition together rather than run to the middle. And then they demonize Republicans for not adopting Democratic policies. Truman made some really vicious attacks on Republicans in that campaign, but no one seems to pay attention to them now. They just mythologize his "Give 'em Hell" approach. He was one of the first Democrats to compare Republicans to the Nazis and call them Fascists.
A “small group of rich manufacturers, bankers, and landowners…decided that Germany had to have a tough, ruthless dictator who would play their game and crush the strong German labor unions,” Harry Truman explained during the 1948 presidential campaign. That’s how the Nazis prevailed. And things were just as precarious in America, where, Truman continued, there’s “a growing—and dangerous—concentration of immense economic power in the hands of just a few men,” who constitute “the powerful reactionary forces which are silently undermining our democratic institutions” by “working through the Republican Party.”

Well, this is certainly worrisome.
Illinois election officials say private information from up to 200,000 registered voters was accessed by hackers during a breach in late June.

It’s part of a breach under investigation by the FBI in both Arizona and Illinois. In both cases, the hacks involved online voter registration data.

Illinois State Board of Elections General Counsel Ken Menzel said that hackers were able to access the personal information of up to 200,000 voters.

“They got into the online registration portal, but they weren’t just getting at online registration data. They got into the database of the whole,” Menzel said.

And despite recent security upgrades and investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, hackers again tried to hit the Illinois State Board of Elections database on Aug 12, according to a breach report issued last week.
And the news from Arizona is also daunting.
It turned out that the hackers had not compromised the state system or even any county system. They had, however, stolen the username and password of a single election official in Gila County.
Of course, the FBI suspects that Russians are behind the hacks.
The Russian campaign is also sparking intense anxiety about the security of this year’s elections. Earlier this month, the FBI warned state officials to be on the lookout for intrusions into their election systems. The “flash” alert, which was first reported by Yahoo News, said investigators had detected attempts to penetrate election systems in several states and listed Internet protocol addresses and other technical fingerprints associated with the hacks.
Just imagine if the Russians started deleting files of registered voters and how that could mess with elections.
For example, if a voter’s name were deleted and did not show up on the precinct list, the individual could still cast a provisional ballot, Hicks said. Once the voter’s status was confirmed, the ballot would be counted.

Hicks also said the actual systems used to cast votes “are not hooked up to the Internet” and so “there’s not going to be any ma­nipu­la­tion of data.” However, more than 30 states have some provisions for online voting, primarily for voters living overseas or serving in the military.

This spring, a DHS official cautioned that online voting is not yet secure.

“We believe that online voting, especially online voting in large scale, introduces great risk into the election system by threatening voters’ expectations of confidentiality, accountability and security of their votes and provides an avenue for malicious actors to manipulate the voting results,” said Neil Jenkins, an official in the department’s Office of Cybersecurity and Communications.

William McGurn reminds us that, as Hillary works to tie Trump to the KKK and indicate that he's different from other Republicans, actually the Democrats have been trying to imply that Republicans are vicious racists.
This is what Democrats do.

It didn’t start with Mr. Trump, either. For years Democrats have portrayed the GOP as one giant hate group. Each presidential election, the drill goes like this: After Republicans nominate someone, he immediately finds himself having to prove he’s not a hater—of African-Americans, of women, of gays, etc.

This year Democrats added a twist. Mr. Trump, they claim, represents a break with all those decent and lovable Republicans such as Mitt Romney, John McCain and George W. Bush. Of course, this isn’t what they were saying back when these men were running for president.

• In 2000, for example, an NAACP ad recreated the gruesome murder of James Byrd to imply that then-Gov. Bush was sympathetic to lynching black men. Over footage of a chain being dragged by a pickup truck, Mr. Byrd’s daughter says, “So when Gov. George W. Bush refused to support hate-crimes legislation, it was like my father was killed all over again.”

• When John McCain ran in 2008, Barack Obama warned that Republicans would scare people by saying, “You know, he doesn’t look like all those other presidents on those dollar bills.” The McCain campaign fired back, accusing Mr. Obama of playing the race card from the “bottom of the deck.” Funny thing: All those reporters always hearing “dog whistles” from Republicans somehow didn’t hear this one.

• In 2012, when Mitt Romney went to the NAACP and told them face-to-face about his opposition to ObamaCare, the stories were all about how he was really just trolling for the racist vote. Vice President Joe Biden put it more explicitly, telling a largely African-American audience that if Mr. Romney were to win, he’d “put ya’ll back in chains.”
Is it any wonder, with such tales constantly being peddled, that the Democrats have over 90% support from African American voters? The response to Donald Trump's recent overtures to the black community indicates how the BLM movement is about politics rather than helping actual blacks living in crime-ridden communities. Suddenly, it's racist to talk about how gun violence is killing innocent bystanders in black communities because the only storyline that is acceptable to these folks is that white police are deliberately murdering blacks. They don't care what the actual statistics show. Heather MacDonald, author of The War on Cops, does a deep dive into rising homicide rates and who the real victims have been.
In America’s largest 56 cities, homicides rose 17% last year, the largest one-year increase in more than two decades. In Washington, D.C., homicides jumped 54%; in Milwaukee, 73%; in Cleveland, 90%.

The reason is a drop-off in the proactive policing that activists and academics denounce as racist. While cops continue to rush to 911 calls in minority neighborhoods, they are making fewer pedestrian stops and engaging in less public-order enforcement. Backing off such activity is presumably what Black Lives Matter supporters, including President Obama, want.

Yet the victims of the resulting crime surge are almost exclusively black; whites have largely been unaffected. In Baltimore, 45 people were killed in July 2015, 43 of them black. In Chicago, 2,460 blacks were shot last year, lethally or non-lethally, according to the city’s police department. That’s nearly seven a day. Seventy-eight white residents were shot in 2015, though the white share of the Chicago population is about the same as the black share. Blacks in Chicago were 18 times more likely to be killed last year than whites, up from eight times more likely in 2005.

Police shootings are a minute fraction of this carnage. So far this year in Chicago, they account for about 0.5% of all shootings. Four studies published this year alone have further undercut the claim that we are living through an epidemic of racially biased policing shootings. Harvard economist Roland Fryer, for example, examined data from Dallas, Austin, Houston, Los Angeles and six Florida counties. He found no evidence of racial discrimination in police shootings; officers in Houston were nearly 24% less likely to shoot blacks than whites.

When Mr. Trump pledges to restore law and order, he is not promising to “protect White America,” in Sally Kohn’s words. He is addressing a problem that whites could easily ignore, if they were the bigots that the Black Lives Matter movement and nearly the whole of academia make them out to be.

Strangely, it is Mr. Obama and Black Lives Matter sympathizers who have turned their eyes from the rising black victimization. FBI Director James Comey warned last October that the “chill wind blowing through American law enforcement” was leading to a “huge increase” in urban homicides and shootings. Mr. Obama promptly accused him of “cherry-picking data” and having a “political agenda.”
Just because the message is coming from Donald Trump doesn't mean it isn't true. And those who truly cared about black lives would be talking about what is happening and what to do about it.

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The infantalizing of college students continues.
A University of Iowa professor is asking the athletics department to make the university’s mascot, Herky the Hawk, display friendlier facial expressions, arguing that his angry grimace is traumatizing students.

“I believe incoming students should be met with welcoming, nurturing, calm, accepting and happy messages,” Resmiye Oral, a clinical professor of pediatrics, wrote Tuesday in an email to athletic department officials, obtained by the Iowa City Press-Citizen.

“And our campus community is doing a great job in that regard when it comes to words. However, Herky’s angry, to say the least, faces conveying an invitation to aggressivity and even violence are not compatible with the verbal messages that we try to convey to and instill in our students and campus community,” she argued.

Ms. Oral told the Press-Citizen that she has been concerned for some time about Herky the Hawk’s lack of emotional diversity. Her email to the athletics department was included in a message she sent Tuesday morning to her fellow members of the UI Faculty Senate.

“As we strive to tackle depression, suicide, violence, and behavioral challenges and help our students succeed, I plead with you to allow Herky to be like one of us, sometimes sad, sometimes happy, sometimes angry, sometimes concentrated,” Ms. Oral wrote.
Oh, geez! It's a bird costume. If kids can't figure out that the grimace on Herky the Hawk's face is not the approach they should take with their roommates then they're too immature to go to college and should go back to Kindergarten. What now? We're going to have calls to remove birds of prey from the list of acceptable college mascots and team names?

I think I'd be more impressed with Colin Kaepernick if he actually was doing something to help the people he says that he's concerned about. He makes a whole lot of money out of this supposedly racist country. He's there out there in San Francisco. There are a whole lot of poor blacks suffering in Oakland. He could found a school or a scholarship for students or financial aid for victims of violence. Instead he makes a meaningless gesture that no one noticed until he told us about it. And perhaps he could give those poor young men some of his hundreds and hundreds of Nike shoes. This is a man who turned his garage into a shoe closet and tweeted about it.

I prefer Kevin Durant's take on the United States.
“You look in the stands, and you see everybody that has an American flag on, or red, white and blue. And it’s not about the Warriors or the Raptors or the Clippers or the Knicks, it’s all about Team USA.”

....“To see that, and to feel that unity (at the game) with all that’s going on in our country right now, it was amazing,” said Durant, who looked plenty motivated in the 105-78 win over Argentina in which he had 27 points, seven rebounds and six assists. “Just to hear ‘USA,’ it just shows that we’re the most powerful and greatest country there is, and to see everyone come together no matter (the) race, no matter the background, anything, just to hear that, that’s what I thought about. It was amazing, man. I wish I could’ve taped that moment, but I didn’t have my phone on me.

“The fans just have so much pride, man, and I feel like we can do that (in America). But we’re just so separated, man. It’s sad to see. I just hope at some point, as a nation, that we just start to find it.”
He acknowledges that there are problems, but still expresses how emotional it made him to see the flag and hear the anthem. When Melo, Chris Paul, LeBron, and Dwyane Wade spoke out at the Espy's, they referenced both sides of the issue, and didn't just ramble on about police murdering blacks as Kaepernick did. And I'm not impressed with Kaepernick's sensitivity to those who are suffering. Remember this is the guy who tweeted insensitively when Houston was flooded last year.
Kaepernick, who of late has taken to promoting himself with the hashtag #7tormsComing, used that very same one Tuesday in an Instagram post about the deadly Texas floods featuring a photo of dozens of cars submerged under water.

"I warned you the #7tormsComing !!! #Houston," Kaepernick wrote, either unaware or unconcerned of the human suffering and damage caused by the killer storm.
One Houston sports columnist, Brian T. Smith, is not impressed with Kaepernick's moral grandstanding.
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick told NFL Media.

I guess no one bothered to tell the guy who went 2-for-6 for 14 yards that the country he's protesting has had an African-American as its publicly elected president the last eight years....

Speaking of: Why do we even care what a backup QB on a team that won five games last season has to say?

Are we so hopelessly addicted to new noise in this era of endless sports-information overload that the most important topic is always the latest, juiciest (and often most lame) one?

Heck, yeah.

Perhaps Kaepernick would benefit from reading Heather MacDonald's War on Cops, but I don't get the feeling that he is that interested in hearing anything that interferes with the message he's absorbed from BLM.