Monday, January 02, 2017

Cruising the Web

The WSJ has done an analysis of the effect of early voting on turnout. It's just as I have always suspected, all early voting does is shift turnout; it doesn't boost it.
Most early voting programs didn’t increase the number of people who cast ballots in 2016, they just changed the way people participated, according to examinations of this year’s election results.

President-elect Donald Trump’s Nov. 8 victory also put aside long-held notions that pre-Election Day indicators from early-voting data could serve as useful predictors of who would win the election.
And limitations on early-voting periods doesn't decrease turnout.
Pre-Election Day ballots increased this year even though Ohio limited the early-voting period and added restrictions, such as a prohibition on counties subsidizing prepaid return envelopes on absentee ballots.

“You’re just moving the same amount of votes. You’re moving 30% of them to early voting but it’s not increasing the overall number,” said Mike Dawson, a former Republican political aide in Ohio who operates “Early voting is not increasing voter turnout. Voter motivation is what increases voter turnout.”
We kept seeing reports of how many people had voted early and how the Clinton campaign was doing such a better job of getting their supporters to vote early as if this had some strong predicative effect. But it turned out that all that meant was that her voters came out earlier than Trump's voters.
Much of the pre-Election Day prognostications using available early-voting data pointed to a Hillary Clinton victory, based on the Democratic nominee’s strengths in states such as Florida. There, 70% of ballots were cast before Nov. 8 and the data showed strong turnout in urban counties where Democrats do well.

Voter data compiled by Steve Schale, a Tallahassee political operative who was a senior official in President Barack Obama’s Florida campaigns, showed Mrs. Clinton led Mr. Trump by 247,000 votes when polls opened on Election Day. But Mr. Trump ultimately won the Election Day turnout in the state by 360,000 votes—a 13-point margin that wiped out her advantage.
And increased early voting had no correlation to overall turnout.
His figures show nine states—including competitive ones like Minnesota, Virginia and Wisconsin—and Washington, D.C., where the percentage of early votes increased from 2012 to 2016 as overall turnout fell. Meanwhile, pre-Election Day voting percentages dropped in 14 states, including Nevada, where overall turnout increased.
I like voting early but mostly that is for convenience sake and I like my early voting polling place better than my regular one. So I vote early, but I'd still vote if there were no early voting just as I did for years before the advent of early voting. What I noticed in North Carolina from anecdotal evidence was that there were big lines the first few days of early voting here, but it calmed down by the second week of early voting. I was able to walk right in and vote. But so was my husband who voted on election day. Let's remember these results next election and not get so excited about statistics of how many of either party are voting early.

Now we're seeing what foreign policy by Trump tweets will look like. It's not a pretty picture.
Donald Trump has praised Vladimir Putin for not retaliating against President's Obama's sanctions for Moscow's alleged hack of the presidential election.
In a dramatic intervention which puts him directly at odds with Obama, Trump said the Russian president is 'very smart.'
Putin had said he would keep his powder dry until Trump was in office, and seemed to go out of his way to praise America's president-elect in a New Year's message to world leaders.
Trump said in a tweet that it was a 'great move,' adding: 'I always knew he was very smart!'
He then tweeted later in the day: 'Russians are playing @CNN and @NBCNews for such fools - funny to watch, they don't have a clue! @FoxNews totally gets it!'
The official Twitter account of the Russian Embassy in Washington quickly retweeted the message.
Ugh! There is something quite disturbing for the president-elect of the United States tweeting about how smart Vladimir Putin is. Clearly, Trump never learned that it is "better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."

Allahpundit comments,
Trump is the same guy who once said years ago that his “problem” with Mikhail Gorbachev was that he didn’t use a “firm enough hand” like the Chinese did in Tiananmen Square. Putin, coincidentally, appreciates the virtues of “firm hands” too. Trump should be able to say “I think we can work with Putin on matters of common interest” without spinning for him like some RT host when he’s asked about him murdering journalists. And he should be especially sensitive to coming off that way not 24 hours after his own country’s government has sanctioned Russia for crimes committed against American citizens. At least pretend to be irritated that a hostile power was conducting cyberespionage inside the U.S., if only to dispel the suspicion that any sort of foreign meddling in the campaign would have been okay with Trump so long as it ended up damaging Clinton. That’s what’s really bugging people about today’s tweet, I think: It reeks of the sense that Trump sees him and Putin as somehow on the same “team” and together they’re going to show up Obama, the Democrat-in-chief, next month. That’s not how these teams are supposed to work, and a nationalist of all people should understand that. But that’s what this Russia kerfuffle boils down to for most people on both sides. Given a choice between Team Obama and Team Putin, which do you choose? Trump’s choice is pretty clear.

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Maajid Nawaz, a British Liberal Democrat politician devoted to countering Islamic extremism, writes in the Daily Beast to excoriate Obama's Middle East foreign policy.
Israel is not the biggest problem in the Middle East, by a long shot. But you wouldn’t know that from the disproportionate way in which the UN has treated the country. Despite abstaining from the vote, America’s UN Ambassador Samantha Power herself noted that for as long as Israel has been a member of the UN it has been “treated differently” from other nations. And commenting only a week before this latest resolution, even outgoing Secretary General Ban Ki-moon agreed that “decades of political maneuvering have created a disproportionate number of resolutions, reports, and committees against Israel… In many cases, instead of helping the Palestinian issue, this reality has foiled the ability of the UN to fulfill its role effectively.”
If you just looked at the number of resolutions against Israel at the UN, you wouldn't notice that there was anything on in the Middle East.
rom 2016 alone one need only look at the 18 resolutions against Israel adopted during the UN General Assembly in September, or the 12 resolutions adopted in the Human Rights Council. These were more than those focused on Syria, North Korea, Iran, and South Sudan combined.

Arabs, Muslims, Islamists, liberals, leftists, and our international organizations share this institutional bias.

Opposing Israel is The One Ring that binds us all. It is the sacred god that must not be questioned. So deep runs this bias against Israeli transgressions, that to call it out is to arouse immediately incredulity and ad hominem abuse.

So entrenched is it, that few noticed how on the very morning of Resolution 2334 a motion seeking to stem the flow of weapons going to what the UN itself fears are genocidal killers in South Sudan failed.

The Security Council could not even bring itself to adopt the simplest of resolutions calling for a seven-day ceasefire to halt the tragedy of Aleppo. Yet when it came to pushing through a final year-end condemnation of Israel, the Security Council suddenly mustered the will to act.
That's the side which Obama and Kerry have worked to put the United States. It is truly shameful. Nawaz points out the differing expectations of Israelis and Palestinians.
Settlements are illegal. But why is it that Israel is expected to integrate—and does a reasonable job of including—the 20 percent of its population that is Arab, yet a Jewish presence of 500,000 settlers in any future Palestinian state is deemed “an obstacle" to the two state solution? Are Palestinians assumed to be ethno-fascists? Are they not capable of building a multiethnic state just like Israelis? Is this how low the standard is to which Western leftists hold Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims?
And why do those who supposedly care so much about these disputed lands and nothing for other such conflicts around the world?
There is nothing unique about the Israel conflict deserving such disproportionate attention. Baluchistan, Kurdistan, Cyprus, Kashmir, and Taiwan are but a few other disputed territories not fetishized like Palestine is at the UN and in our media. All of these disputes involve deep religious, historic, and political meaning for their respective parties.
It would be nice if there were a similar proportionality, but there are too many at the UN who would prefer to single out the small Jewish democracy for animus. And Obama is one of those.
I remain unaware of a single Middle East pundit not tied to Obama’s State department who holds that the outgoing president has done a good job in the Middle East. Obama cut a deal with Iran and conditionally lifted sanctions, while the Iranians, Hezbollah and Russian President Vladimir Putin aided Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as he used crude chemical bombs and massively destructive weapons against his own people. And just as Obama’s inaction allowed others to act in Syria, his inaction at the UN set the tone once again, this time reaffirming the notion that Israel is the region’s biggest problem. That is despicable. It is inexcusable. And I could remain silent no more.
Nawaz's essay is very well done and worth reading the whole thing.

Paul Mirengoff
links to a report from Adam Kredo that there is increasing evidence that the Obama administration is lying about their role leading up to the UN resolution.
* There is evidence from multiple sources that Joe Biden phoned Ukraine’s president to ensure that country voted in favor of the resolution, though Biden denies it.

* Documents believed to have been leaked by Egypt show that John Kerry met with senior Palestinian diplomat Saeb Erekat, with Kerry pledging not to veto a condemnatory resolution is worded to the administration’s satisfaction. The document has not, to my knowledge, been authenticated, and the White House denies that such a meeting occurred. However, the meeting appears on Kerry’s schedule for December 12.

* Jonathan Schanzer, a Middle East expert and vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, says he spoke with U.S. officials in September who admitted that the administration was actively considering a U.N. measure regarding Israeli settlements. “We know that this administration was at a minimum helping to shape a final resolution at the United Nations and had been working on this for months,” Schanzer says.

Can we say for sure that the administration is lying about its role in the resolution? Not yet, in my opinion. But the evidence points very much in that direction.

Nor, at this juncture, is the Obama White House entitled to a presumption of truthfulness. Any presumption should run the other way. As Kredo points out, the Obama administration has been caught several times misleading the public about its campaign to discredit Israel, including the funding of an organization that sought to unseat Netanyahu in the country’s last election.

For those who think that the UN resolution that Obama did not have vetoed is no big deal, Charles Krauthammer explains how dangerous it is.
The administration pretends this is nothing but a restatement of longstanding U.S. opposition to settlements.

Nonsense. For the last 35 years, every administration, including a reelection-seeking Obama himself in 2011, has protected Israel with the U.S. veto because such a Security Council resolution gives immense legal ammunition to every boycotter, anti-Semite, and zealous European prosecutor to penalize and punish Israelis.

An ordinary Israeli who lives or works in the Old City of Jerusalem becomes an international pariah, a potential outlaw — to say nothing of the soldiers of Israel’s citizen army. “Every pilot and every officer and every soldier,” said a confidant of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, “we are waiting for him at The Hague” — i.e., the International Criminal Court.

Moreover, the resolution undermines the very foundation of a half century of American Middle East policy. What becomes of “land for peace” if the territories Israel was to have traded for peace are, in advance, declared to be Palestinian land to which Israel has no claim?
Krauthammer reminds us that the requirements that Kerry laid out last week are just about the exact same plans that Arafat rejected in 2000 and Abbas rejected in 2008. The Israelis were ready to accept them both times. So tell us again how the lack of peace is the fault of Israel.

As Krauthammer explains, the UN resolution includes not just settlements bordering the West Bank or those that border 1967 Israel. The real outrage is what the resolution says about East Jerusalem.
It’s the third category of “settlement” that is the most contentious, and that Security Council resolution 2334 explicitly condemns: East Jerusalem. This is not just scandalous; it’s absurd. America acquiesces to a declaration that, as a matter of international law, the Jewish state has no claim on the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, indeed the entire Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. They belong to Palestine.

The Temple Mount is the most sacred site in all of Judaism. That it should be declared foreign to the Jewish people is as if the Security Council declared Mecca and Medina to be territory to which Islam has no claim. Such is the Orwellian universe Israel inhabits.

At the very least, Obama should have insisted that any reference to East Jerusalem be dropped from the resolution or it would face a U.S. veto. Why did he not? It’s incomprehensible — except as a parting shot of personal revenge on Benjamin Netanyahu. Or perhaps as a revelation of a deep-seated antipathy to Israel that simply awaited a safe political interval for public expression.

Another legacy moment for Barack Obama. And his most shameful.

As Rich Lowry argues
, the outrage over Obama's actions at the United Nations presents an opportunity to cut back our support for the U.N.
We are the chief funder of a swollen, unaccountable UN apparatus that has been a gross disappointment going on more than 70 years now....

In the decades after the UN’s founding, the influence of Third World dictatorships grew and so did the institution’s anti-Western and anti-Israel orientation, culminating in the Zionism resolution that US Ambassador to the UN Moyhihan so memorably inveighed against. That vote was finally reversed in 1991, but prejudice against Israel has become one of the organization’s core competencies — as well as impenetrable bureaucracy.

As early as 1947, a US Senate committee flagged “serious problems of overlap, duplication of effort, weak coordination, proliferating mandates and programs, and overly generous compensation of staff within the infant, but rapidly growing, UN system.” And those were the early, lean years.

We pay more than anyone else to keep the United Nations in business, about 22 percent of the UN’s regular budget. As Brett Schaeffer of the Heritage Foundation notes, “the US is assessed more than 176 other UN member states combined.”
What are we getting for all that money? While I would be happy with a complete withdrawal from the U.N., I recognize that that is not going to happen. However, as Lowry argues, we should start flexing our monetary muscles at the U.N.
Because nothing involving the United Nations is clean or straightforward, it’s hard to even know how much the United States pays in total into the UN system. But it’s probably around $8 billion a year.

We should withhold some significant portion of it, and demand an end to the UN’s institutional hostility to Israel and the implementation of reforms to increase the organization’s accountability. There are individual UN agencies that do good work, and we can continue to support those.

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Some minority leaders in the Democratic Party are worried
that the Democrats might over-correct from their defeat in 2016 and start focusing too much on white voters.
Donald Trump’s White House victory, fueled in part by nativist rhetoric, has exposed schisms over race in the Democratic Party, as minority lawmakers worry the party will abandon its diverse constituency in the hunt to win back working-class whites.

Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the former head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and activists who work with both groups cautioned in interviews against turning away from the coalition that helped President Obama win two terms.

“By focusing in on, primarily, the white middle and working class, and by taking for granted the black working class or the black underclass, the party will add an arm and lose a body,” said Representative Bobby Rush, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus from Chicago. “The black vote is the foundation of the Democratic Party and we won’t be taken for granted.”

The Democrats’ internal debate over identity politics, and how much to prioritize issues of race, has been fueled by some prominent congressional Democrats who called on the party to develop a retooled, economics-first message specifically targeting white working-class voters — the group some analysts deemed responsible for Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton.
Yes, because it must be all about race and identity politics.

Mark Lilla, the Columbia professor who outraged many by writing in the NYT that "American liberalism has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender, and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force" is not backing down. Lilla faced a strong backlash to what he wrote including being accused of being a white supremacist by a colleague. But he still feels that colleges are too focused on group identity.
They’re too obsessed with identity. There’s a subtle distinction. Diversity as a social goal and aim of social reform is an excellent thing. But identity politics today isn’t about group belonging; it’s about personal identity. From the ’70s into the ’90s, there was a shift in focus from group identity to the self as the intersection of different kinds of identities. Identity became more narcissistic and less connected to larger political themes. For many students, their political interest and engagement end at the border of how they’ve defined themselves.

It’s extraordinary how much time and thinking they devote to exactly what they are as the subtotal of other identities, rather than seeing their time at the university as an opportunity to leave those things behind, or overcome them, or become something that’s actually themselves and autonomous in some way....

[T]here has been a radicalization of student demands and also a loss of a sense of proportion. Our campuses are not Aleppo. And to witness the rage around some of these issues — whether it’s the naming of buildings, the transgender-bathroom issue, or the pronoun issue — we’re an evangelical country, and we tend toward fanaticism whenever we try to reform ourselves. It’s unfortunate to see the university become a place where this kind of self-induced hysteria is drawing in students who should be thinking more outside of themselves. College administrators and professors have stood by and not resisted that very strongly.

It has created a spectacle that is very damaging — and here I speak as a liberal — to the liberal cause. A fact of our political lives as liberals is that everything we do and say is filtered through conservative media. To constantly feed the beast the way these identity theatrics do only harms the liberal cause when it comes to reaching out to voters. It’s an enormous distraction and an enormous loss of energy — energy that could be directed outward, toward common political goals in the real world. Instead it’s directed inward, toward the self and the little utopic communities we try to create for ourselves on our campuses.
He goes on to point out that there are too few conservatives on campuses and too much antagonism towards Republicans, conservatives, and evangelicals. So liberal academics are living in a bubble just as they allege that Republicans or Fox News viewers live in a bubble. There just isn't much cross-ideological discourse.

Salena Zito makes a similar point about media newsrooms.
But in fact one of the key lessons of Trump’s victory is that newsrooms don’t just have a lack of racial diversity in their reporting pools; they also have a lack of cultural diversity. They need more people who come from a blue-collar background, who perhaps didn’t go to Brown and who can be found in a pew on Sunday on a fairly regular basis.

And journalists need to step out of their geographical, social and political biases to really explore what has been going on in the interior of the country for quite some time.

Our country’s uneasiness began in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Since then, Americans have been living under the constant threat of terror, watched presidential and government powers increase exponentially and personally experienced middle-class stagnation.

And yet the obvious harm to Americans’ psyches had gone largely undetected by our politicians and the reporters who chronicle our lives.

That is, until the simmer finally reached its boiling point and rattled the political class this year.

Populism is easy to miss in its infancy. But the ingredients were all there.

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This is a disturbing look at the severe famine of the early 1920s in the Soviet Union. Lenin used famine as a military tactic to put down opposition to Soviet leadership. The famine was so severe that some resorted to cannibalism.
Standing solemnly in their thick winter coats behind a table laden with children's body parts, this is the grave photo of a couple that shows how starving people turned to cannibalism to survive during a man-made famine in 1920s Russia.
More than five million people died during the catastrophe, which began in 1921 and lasted through 1922.
Russian communist revolutionary Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin, had been in charge of the country since 1917. In a chilling disregard for the suffering of his fellow countrymen he instructed food to be seized from the poor.
Lenin's Bolsheviks party believed peasants were actively trying to undermine the war effort and by taking their food away it reduced their strength.
The famine was able to take root with ease due to the economic problems caused by World War I, five years of civil war, and a drought in 1921 which led to 30 million Russians becoming malnourished.
As Lenin declared ‘let the peasants starve’, the result was to force them to resort to trading human flesh on the black market.

This is a wonderful story about an Uber driver who saved a 16-year old runaway from her pimps.

Enjoy Dave Barry's Year in Review. He's always funny, but I'm not sure how eager anyone is to relive the events of the past year. A sample:
Internationally, the top story is “Brexit” — the decision by voters in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. This comes as a big surprise to professional pollsters, who had confidently predicted the opposite result; they enjoy a hearty laugh, then head across the Atlantic to apply their talents to the forthcoming American presidential election.

Meanwhile British politics is plunged into chaos, the result being that in …


… Prime Minister David Cameron and other top officials resign, new people take office, and the UK essentially has a new government, ready to move on. This entire process takes about two weeks, or less time than it takes the major American political parties to agree on the seating arrangements for a “town hall debate.”

In U.S. politics, the Republicans gather in Cleveland to nominate Trump, although many top party officials are unable to attend because of an urgent compelling need to not be there. Nevertheless Trump receives enthusiastic prime-time endorsements from former celebrity Scott Baio, several dozen Trump children and current Trump wife Melania, who enthralls delegates with a well-received speech in which she tells her heartwarming story of growing up as an African-American woman in Chicago. The dramatic highlight comes on the final night, when Trump, in his acceptance speech, brings the delegates cheering to their feet with his emotional challenge to “grab the future by the p---y.”

On the Democratic side, the month gets off to a rocky start when FBI Director James Comey, announcing the results of the bureau’s investigation, reveals that when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, her official emails, some including classified material, were basically as secure from prying eyes as a neon beer sign. Nevertheless, Comey says he is recommending that no criminal charges be brought against Clinton, because, quote, “I don’t want to die.”

With that legal hurdle cleared, relieved Democrats gather in Philadelphia for their convention, which opens — in a bid to placate Sanders’ delegates — with the ceremonial caning of Debbie Wasserman Schultz. This is followed by several hundred speeches praising Hillary Clinton for the many accomplishments she has achieved, as well as the achievements she has accomplished, while at the same time being, historically, a woman. In her acceptance speech, Clinton calls on Americans “to join with me in building a better world for us and for our children,” adding, “or I will crush you like an insect.”

In a media shakeup, Roger Ailes resigns as chairman of Fox News following allegations that his name can be rearranged to spell “I ogle rears.”
If you can stand remembering how Looney Tunes this past year has been, it really is quite funny.