Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Cruising the Web

The Washington Post has been going to town examining Trump's foundation and his rather meager charitable giving. Now they've uncovered potentially illegal actions to use money from his charity to settle his own legal disputes.
Donald Trump spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses, according to interviews and a review of legal documents.

Those cases, which together used $258,000 from Trump’s charity, were among four newly documented expenditures in which Trump may have violated laws against “self-dealing” — which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses.
That's in addition to using the foundation's money to buy portraits of himself and to tout his own businesses.
The other expenditures involved smaller amounts. In 2013, Trump used $5,000 from the foundation to buy advertisements touting his chain of hotels in programs for three events organized by a D.C. preservation group. And in 2014, Trump spent $10,000 of the foundation’s money for a portrait of himself bought at a charity fundraiser.

Or, rather, another portrait of himself.

Several years earlier, Trump had used $20,000 from the Trump Foundation to buy a different, six foot-tall portrait.
So sleazy and so typical.

It's hard to pick whose dealings with their charitable foundations was sleazier. But Hillary's depredations take the prize because she was dealing with a public office at the time. Here is yet another example of her actions to repay donors.
Hillary Clinton placed dozens of her donors on State Department advisory boards between 2009 and 2012, federal records show.

The former secretary of state's agency appointed 194 donors who had given either to her family's foundation, her political campaigns, or both, or were affiliated with groups that had.

Those donors represented nearly 40 percent of the 511 advisory appointments the State Department made during Clinton's tenure.

Atlantic Magazine provides a handy cheat sheet of Trump scandals. It goes with their primer on Clinton scandals. Or you can use this cheat sheet. I just finished covering Washington's presidency in my US History class. How dismal it is to turn from that subject to today's politics.

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It's just a short jump from using her position at the State Department to reward donors to the family foundation to promising taxpayer funds so she can convince key constituencies to vote for her. Isn't that basically what Hillary is doing when she tries to motivate young people to come out and vote for her by promising them government payment of their college debts?
Hillary Clinton, campaigning Monday at Temple University, told college students - many of whom are drowning in debt - that she's the candidate to address their needs.

Hillary Clinton told students that she is the candidate to speak to their needs, such as student debt levels. Slideshow icon SLIDESHOW
Clinton offers Temple students debt relief, urges them to vote

Clinton stresses 'resolve' on terror; Trump promises to get 'tough'
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"No one will work harder to make your life better," Clinton said, promising to give young people a say in White House decision-making.

Clinton told the crowd of 300 at Mitten Hall that she has a plan that would offer debt-free public college for everyone, apprentice programs for those who opt to not go to college, and high-quality child care for every family. The pitch was part of her campaign's push to get millennials involved and committed to voting for her in November.
Of course, that is just what Trump does when he promises a new entitlement to new mothers to give them maternity leave. It's off-putting for each of them and any other politicians to basically bribe voters using taxpayer funds.

Obama went to the United Nations yesterday to explain how the world is not living up to his expectations. Russia just isn't acting in its own best interests. Can't Putin understand that? The WSJ writes,
“In a world that left the age of empire behind, we see Russia attempting to recover lost glory through force,” Mr. Obama scolded. “If Russia continues to interfere in the affairs of its neighbors, it may be popular at home, it may fuel nationalist fervor for a time, but over time it is also going to diminish its stature and make its borders less secure.”

This is another expression of Mr. Obama’s now familiar progressive faith that the world’s bad guys are doomed to fail because, well, they are doomed to fail.

Meanwhile, in the real world, U.S. officials were telling the press Tuesday that U.S. intelligence agencies believe Russian jets conducted the strike that targeted a humanitarian aid convoy in Syria on Monday. This is the same Russia that Mr. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have been beseeching to stop aiding Bashar Assad as he seeks to crush his domestic opposition.
And now this latest ceasefire that Kerry struck with Russia has broken down. And, surprise, surprise, the ceasefire involved us giving up something to get nothing.
Mr. Kerry, another man of eternal progressive hope, had struck his latest cease-fire with Russia earlier this month. The deal includes sharing intelligence and targeting information with the Russian military, despite objections from the Pentagon. American officers worry that the info-sharing will give Russia’s military—which is testing NATO in Europe—insight into U.S. capabilities.

Mr. Assad and the Russians don’t appear to be honoring their cease-fire commitments, which was predictable given that they have most of the military leverage. Mr. Putin is busy establishing facts on the ground, while Mr. Obama lectures at Turtle Bay.
In addition to explaining to Russia the mistakes they're making, he also couldn't resist one last opportunity to knock the U.S. and others.
Yes, in America, there is too much money in politics; too much entrenched partisanship; too little participation by citizens, in part because of a patchwork of laws that makes it harder to vote. In Europe, a well-intentioned Brussels often became too isolated from the normal push and pull of national politics. Too often, in capitals, decision-makers have forgotten that democracy needs to be driven by civic engagement from the bottom up, not governance by experts from the top down. And so these are real problems, and as leaders of democratic governments make the case for democracy abroad, we better strive harder to set a better example at home.
So says the guy who rammed Obamacare down the nation's throat after protests around the country demonstrated that people didn't want that sort of top-down decision making. Jim Geraghty writes,
Yes, we know, America is flawed. But could our own president go out and give a speech that didn’t discuss our national flaws for once? Is it too much to ask?

Obama has been going around the world with humility and blunt honesty, even harsh criticism, of his own country for nearly eight years now. Has it diffused anti-Americanism? Has it placated those who hate the United States? Has it denied oxygen to vehement anti-American jihadism? Has all of this self-flagellation really helped us? Or have America’s critics mostly just turned around and said, “See, even Barack Obama admits…”

Yes, we know, Mr. President. We stink. We’ve made lots of mistakes. Everything was terrible until you arrived. “In America, there’s a failure to appreciate Europe’s leading role in the world.” “I know that promises of partnership have gone unfulfilled in the past, and that trust has to be earned over time.” “All too often our government made decisions based on fear rather than foresight.” “Too often, the United States has not pursued and sustained engagement with our neighbors.” Chrisians need to get off their high horse because of the Crusades. Your wife wasn’t proud of this country in her adult life until 2008. On and on and on…

It’s pretty insufferable for the guy who raised a billion dollars for his reelection campaign to lament “too much money in politics,” and for President “I won” to lament the entrenched partisanship. In this speech, Obama denounced, “religious fundamentalism; the politics of ethnicity, or tribe, or sect; aggressive nationalism; a crude populism — sometimes from the far left, but more often from the far right,” which was widely interpreted as a slam of Donald Trump.

So Obama takes a shot at the opposition party and follows it up by lamenting “entrenched partisanship.”

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Michael Gerson points to Obamacare as a drag on the Democrats this year even more than it has been previously. And Donald Trump may be the beneficiary.
If Trump succeeds in essentially turning out the midterm electorate in a presidential year — whiter, older, angrier — the main motivating issue may be the restriction of immigration. But the general atmosphere of contempt for government that helps Trump — of disdain for the weakness and incompetence of the political class — is due to the Affordable Care Act.

More than six years after becoming law, the proudest accomplishment of the Obama years is a political burden for Democrats. A recent Gallup poll found that a majority of Americans disapprove of Obamacare. The larger concern for Clinton and her party comes deeper in the numbers. Only 18 percent of Americans believe the Affordable Care Act has helped their families; 80 percent say it is has hurt or had no effect. A higher proportion of Americans believe the federal government was behind the 9/11 attacks than believe it has helped them through Obamacare.
Wow. 18% think it has helped their families.

Mark Hemingway explores how the MSM is covering up Sidney Blumenthal's role in pushing the Obama birtherism story back in 2008.
Ultimately there's no paper trail that establishes Blumenthal was pushing the birther rumor explicitly. It's [ former Washington bureau chief for McClatchy] Asher's word against Blumenthal's.

Except that Blumenthal's word is worthless, and there are absolutely no comparable reasons to doubt Asher. Blumenthal is an entirely discreditable political operative. In 2008, other Democrats reported in 2008 that Blumenthal was spreading rumors of similar dubiousness as the birther accusations regularly. "They aren't being emailed out from some fringe right-wing group that somehow managed to get my email address," wrote Occidental professor Peter Dreier in 2008. "Instead, it is Sidney Blumenthal who, on a regular basis, methodically dispatches these email mudballs to an influential list of opinion shapers — including journalists, former Clinton administration officials, academics, policy entrepreneurs, and think tankers."

And yet, the media have been awfully quick to ride to Blumenthal's defense, as well as buy the Clinton campaign spin. According to this remarkably defensive report from CNN, Blumenthal's smears of Obama can't be pinned on Clinton because "some 2008 staffers told CNN that Blumenthal was not officially part of the Clinton campaign, and a CNN check of Federal Election Commission records shows no payment to Blumenthal from the campaign." The Los Angeles Times says, "There is no evidence that Clinton or her campaign ever raised that question, and her campaign fired one aide in Iowa who did circulate an email raising the issue." According to McClatchy, "The Clinton campaign has denied any role in the birther conspiracy." Politico inches toward something more definitive, reporting Blumenthal was "playing an informal advisory role during the 2008 campaign."

The problem here is that Blumenthal seemed to think his own role with the campaign was something more definitive. According to Blumenthal, it even came with the title "senior adviser." That doesn't seem terribly informal.
This doesn't quite fit in with Peter Beinart's applause for what he calls the "death of 'he said, she said' journalism." He's very happy that journalists have given up reporting what one side said in a controversy and then how the other side answered it. He prefers that journalists now put their thumb on the scale to say who is really telling the truth. That's what the MSM has done with Blumenthal's denials that he was pushing the birther story. They're accepting his denial and acting like we just have to decide whom to believe: McClatchy's former Washington bureau chief who has no reason to lie or Sidney Blumenthal who has a history of sleazy dealings and every reason to lie. So I guess that the "death of 'he said, she said' journalism" only kicks in when it's time to challenge a Republican.

This abandonment of journalistic neutrality is a long way from Mike Wallace and Peter Jennings saying that they wouldn't warn American soldiers if they knew that there was going to be an ambush in which Americans would die. Read through James Fallows' description of Wallace and Jennings' answers and a Marine's angry response as an explanation of "Why We Hate the Media."

Look back at five times that Hillary in 2008 tried to "otherize" Obama. It was definitely something that they were trying to do back then.

Scott Walker's plan in Wisconsin to require able-bodied citizens to work in order to get food benefits is working.
Wisconsin has announced that significant reforms of its statewide food benefits program have led to nearly 15,000 gaining meaningful employment, joining a national trend toward putting more food stamp recipients to work.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker led a campaign to require able-bodied adults without dependents who participate in FoodShare, the state's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, to work at least 80 hours a month or risk limits to their benefits beginning in April 2015.

The existing FoodShare Employment and Training (FSET) program was redesigned last year to help participants meet the federally mandated criteria while providing them free resources they need to enter the job market so that they can be weaned off government benefits.

Fifteen months after the program's approximately $60 million recreation, Walker announced that Wisconsin Department of Health Services data shows that 14,400 FSET participants, 38 percent of those eligible, have found employment, averaging $11.99 per hour and working a little over 32 hours a week, which is significantly more than the state's minimum wage and the minimum requirement to keep food benefits.
Amazing what adding in a work requirement will do. Now if we could only apply this on the federal level. Wisconsin led the way with welfare reform in the 1990s and they can do it again with reform of food benefits programs.

Salena Zito, who has been doing some of the most interesting reporting on the election has an article exploring why lifelong Democrats in western Pennsylvania are voting for Trump. It's not quite the story we've been hearing about for why people support Trump. These are mostly employed people who have been Democrats all their lives as have their parents and grandparents. Their concerns are about their communities and what they worry might happen to them.
Democrats in these small communities want to hold on to their way of life; they feel their communities have as much value as those of their more-cosmopolitan Democratic cousins, and they cannot reconcile themselves to a national Democratic Party that they feel is working against them. They are the voters whose simple motivation to vote outside of the party they were born into has fallen under the radar of the national press and the polls.
Part of their concerns are that they work in the energy industry and they feel that the Democrats are hostile to the coal and oil industries.
“Sheik” Shannon, 55, a 17-year employee at the company, believes the political class fundamentally misunderstands what this election cycle is all about. “They think it is the celebrity of Trump. It’s not. They think we’ve all gone mad. We’ve not,” he said, emphasizing each sentence with passion. “Communities like where I live do not need to shutter and die. We lead solid, honest lives, we work hard, we play hard, we pray hard … we love where we are from, and we feel a duty to make sure that it is here for generations.”
And many of these people would not pass the screen in polls as likely voters.
Paul Sracic, a Youngstown State University political scientist, believes there are two categories of voters rallying to support Trump. “First, there are people who don’t normally vote,” he said. “Nearly half the voting-age population was either not registered to vote, or was registered and decided not to vote in 2012. And if even 10 percent of that group was to show up and vote this year, it could easily change the outcome in the important swing states.”

Sracic—who frankly admits he obsesses over opinion polls—wonders whether these voters are even represented in the endless presidential surveys: “If people aren’t registered voters, they won’t be picked up by most polls. If they are registered voters but don’t normally vote, they may be eliminated by ‘likely voter’ screens pollsters use.”
Zito names 10 key counties in Pennsylvania which she's watching to see if the results tally with what she has found with her reporting. I was traveling this summer through a lot of this region as we toured Gettysburg and then drove to southwestern Pennsylvania to see Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece, Falling Water. Then we spent a few days in Pittsburgh and then drove up to Niagara Falls and then traveled through the Finger Lakes of NY to Hyde Park. A lot of this driving took us on two-lane roads through small towns instead of on the interstate. And we were struck by how many Trump signs we saw, even in the summer before the election. It's quite a different scene than from what I see here in Raleigh. I don't spend time in small-town America as Zito just did, but her article did give me some insights into how people are thinking there. I'm not sure how Trump would actually help them, but they seem to believe that he has their backs.

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Nate Cohn writes of an interesting experiment about polling that he conducted. He gave four pollsters the same raw data of a poll of likely Florida voters. After analyzing the same data they came up with four different results.
Well, well, well. Look at that. A net five-point difference between the five measures, including our own, even though all are based on identical data. Remember: There are no sampling differences in this exercise. Everyone is coming up with a number based on the same interviews.

Their answers shouldn't be interpreted as an indication of what they would have found if they had conducted their own survey. They all would have designed the survey at least a little differently – some almost entirely differently.

But their answers illustrate just a few of the different ways that pollsters can handle the same data – and how those choices can affect the result.

So what’s going on? The pollsters made different decisions in adjusting the sample and identifying likely voters. The result was four different electorates, and four different results.
The pollsters had to make decisions about how to adjust the sample to make it representative. They had to define likely voters. As Cohn writes, these are good pollsters, but they made different decisions.
• You can see why “herding,” the phenomenon in which pollsters make decisions that bring them close to expectations, can be such a problem. There really is a lot of flexibility for pollsters to make choices that generate a fundamentally different result. And I get it: If our result had come back as “Clinton +10,” I would have dreaded having to publish it.

• You can see why we say it’s best to average polls, and to stop fretting so much about single polls.
Polling is more of an art than a science despite its pretense at precision. And, to tell the truth, no one really has a great grasp on what the turnout will look like in this election. He's right about looking at the average of polls, but for some states there just hasn't been that much polling and it's been conducted over several weeks so it's hard to grasp where the race is at this point. We might just have to wait until election night, the old-fashioned way.

Over at Huffington Post, they've done a premature finger-pointing analysis to explain why Hillary lost just so they're ready in case she does indeed lose.
If Donald Trump does sack the fortress, no one who lost the battle will want to admit it was Hillary Clinton’s fault. It will have had nothing to do with, say, “transparency” or calling bearded villagers “deplorables” or the Iraq War vote or the simple fact that middle-of-the-road Clintonism ran out of gas as a public philosophy.

No, other individuals, groups and forces will have to be blamed. In fact, they already are, pre-emptively. If Trump wins, we’re all going to be too busy moving to Canada to read the postmortems (or write them), so we offer them to you now:
From first to ninth, they rank their targets of blame: the media, the Russians, millennials, Bernie Sanders, Bill Clinton, sexists, Obama's people, James Comey, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC. Hmmm. How about the Democratic Party rolling over and supinely nominating one of the worst and most dishonest politicians of the modern era? It's not as if they didn't know the type of person she was before the primaries started. Do you think Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren would be facing the same unfavorable numbers that Hillary is?

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If you're like me, you're still having dreams of having to take a final exam in a class you never attended. For me, it's always a math class. I don't know why since I really haven't taken a math class since high school. Sometimes, I have a variant where I have to teach a class in a subject I'm totally unprepared for. Again, it's math. And I'm always left thinking in my dream - why did I sign up for this? Why didn't I prepare for this - I always prepared for classes in school and, as a teacher, I usually prepare all summer and am ready weeks in advance. Well, it's nice to know that these dreams are very common.
Gemma Marangoni Ainslie, an Austin psychoanalyst, agrees. The final exam, she says, “is likely representative of an occasion when the dreamer feels he or she will be tested or measured, and the anxiety is about not measuring up. The dreamer’s task in ‘awake life’ is to translate the final exam to a situation he or she is facing that stirs up concerns about potential failure.”

But why school? Why don’t we dream about current pressures — grant proposals that are due, impending legal briefs or oral arguments, or newspaper deadlines?

“Emotional memories and impressions made during high-stress experiences are particularly strong, and are further strengthened each time they are recalled and become the place the brain goes when the emotion is evoked,” Willis wrote in an email. “Since each new stress in the current day is ‘new,’ there is not a strong memory circuit that would hook to it in a dream. But there is that strong neural network of previous, similar ‘achievement’ stress. Since tests are the highest stressors. . . [it] makes sense as the ‘go-to’ memory when stressed about something equally high stakes in the ‘now.’ ’’

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