January 9, 2017 – DRONES

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Just one item today; it is from Commentary and tells the almost 50 year history of drones. Last night’s 60 Minutes had a segment on autonomous drones. See it here.

“The agent is back,” the analyst said as he popped his head into Shabtai Brill’s office. “He has pictures.” The year was 1968. Brill, a major in the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate—known by its Hebrew acronym, Aman—set aside the report he was reading and got up.

Brill was used to seeing classified intelligence, but this day was special. The “agent” was one of the first Israeli spies to infiltrate Egypt successfully since the end of the Six-Day War a year earlier. He had photos that supposedly would help reveal Egyptian war plans, including possible preparations behind the ceasefire line.

A small crowd surrounded the agent in the department’s main nerve center. Colonel Avraham Arnan, Brill’s direct superior, was focusing on one photograph. “What do you think it is?” he asked the group of analysts. “It looks like a military bridge.”

It was. Egypt had moved the bridge to less than a mile from the Suez Canal, the strategic waterway that connected the world of commerce but separated Egypt from the territory it had lost to Israel during the Six-Day War. The bridge could be used by tanks and armored personnel carriers to cross the canal and invade Israel—far too close for comfort.

Before sending the agent to Egypt, Israel had pursued other avenues to gather intelligence on what Egypt was doing just over the canal. One officer designed a special platform to mount on tanks so that intelligence officers could stand on them and peer over the 30-foot-high sand barriers the Egyptians had erected on their side of the Suez. The platforms seemed effective until the day an Egyptian sniper took a shot at one of them. …

… In the meantime, while Israel’s Scouts were moving from one successful operation to the next, Israel’s greatest ally, the United States, was having difficulty getting its own drones off the ground. Billions of dollars were being poured into projects that closed down one after another. Nothing seemed to work.

A few years earlier, the Pentagon had funded the development of Aquila, a drone built by Lockheed Martin that required a few dozen people for takeoff but kept crashing. In 1987, after burning through over $1 billion, the Pentagon decided to shut the program down.

Boeing was also working on a drone—the Condor—that came with a 200-foot wingspan, as large as the reconnaissance aircraft it was being developed to replace. That program was also shut down after a $300 million investment. Only one Condor was built; today it hangs in a museum in California.

In December 1983, the U.S. finally decided to ask Israel for help. …

… Delivery of the Pioneers started in 1986. In 1991, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Kuwait. The U.S. went to war to free the Gulf state. During one operation, a Pioneer drone flew over a group of Iraqi soldiers, who saw the aircraft and, not knowing what it was, took off their white undershirts and waved them in the air—the first time in history a military unit surrendered to a robot. …

… The Gaza Strip is ground zero for Israel’s drone revolution. There, on a daily basis, the lawnmower hum of drones can be heard in the narrow alleyways. Gazans have given the drones the nickname “Zanana,” Arabic for “buzz” or “nagging wife.” In Gaza, drones collect intelligence and help the IDF build its “target bank” in the event of a conflict.

Weighing a mere 13 pounds, the Skylark has an operational endurance of three hours at altitudes as high as 3,000 feet.

During Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza, in November 2012, the IDF attacked nearly 1,000 underground rocket launchers and 200 tunnels that had been located and identified with intelligence gathered by drones. The first salvo of that operation was ordered in a drone-assisted attack. Ahmed Jabari, Hamas’s military commander, was driving in GazaCity when a missile struck his Kia sedan. Jabari, who had been at the top of Israel’s most-wanted list and had escaped four previous assassination attempts, was finally taken out by a drone.

Before Israel bombs Gaza in retaliation for rocket attacks, UAVs are there to survey the target; as helicopters and fighter jets move in to bomb a car carrying a Katyusha rocket cell, UAVs are there to ensure that children don’t move into the kill zone; when IDF ground troops surround a compound where Hamas terrorists are hiding, UAVs are there to provide real-time air support and guide the soldiers safely inside. And when needed, the drones can reportedly also attack.

At the smaller end of the IDF drone scale are drones not flown out of air-force bases but pulled from soldiers’ backpacks and literally thrown like a quarterback throws a football. One such drone, the Skylark, was delivered to IDF ground units in 2010. Weighing a mere 13 pounds, the Skylark has an operational endurance of three hours at altitudes as high as 3,000 feet. …

 

And yes, drones have cartoons too.

January 3, 2017 – COMFORT THE AFFLICTED

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“The newspaper … comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.” That phrase from Finley Peter Dunne, a Chicago newspaperman who knew better, was in a sentence he wrote to make fun of the hypocrisy of newspapers. Since the media take themselves so seriously, they have ignored the irony and repeat it often to wrap their efforts in virtue and importance. Other Dunneisms; “politics ain’t beanbag” and “all politics is local.”

Shortly, we will have an administration the media will want to afflict, and they thus will be performing a public service because they will be highlighting missteps of the Trump administration. This will be a welcome change from what we have experienced over the last eight years from people like David Remnick of the New Yorker, Fareed Zakaria of WaPo, etc., whose interviews of the president have resembled tongue baths. Truly they have spent this time “comforting the comfortable.” But, in the near future we can expect to start hearing about homeless people again. They’ve been ignored for eight years but a comeback is in sight.  

The media will be the least of Trump’s problems. Wait until the federal bureaucrats get into action. They will be on President Trump’s agenda like white on rice. During the last eight years the Bureau of Labor Statistics statistically disappeared 15 million people. They have increased the number of people “not in the labor force” to 95 million from 80 million. This created favorable unemployment rates for the current administration. Pickerhead predicts the reappearance of the disappeared. The gnomes at BLS will be subtle and slow, but by 2018, and certainly by 2020, the people who were an inconvenience for eight years will be recognized. Fooling with statistics is how you get a paragraph like this from Aaron MacLean of the Free Beacon.

… For years, Americans were told that after the financial panic in 2008, the president’s policies had put us on a steady course to a strong economy. But in much of the country, people looked around them and thought, That just doesn’t seem right. Especially in those parts of the country hit the hardest by the transition from the Industrial Era to the Information Age, people asked a number of questions. If the economy is doing so great, why are my adult children not moving out? If the unemployment rate is declining, why are so many prime-age males not working? And doesn’t it matter that the quality of jobs for non-college graduates is so obviously worse than it was a generation ago? Why, instead of working, are so many people dependent on public benefits and falling prey to addiction? …

   

That quote from “Requiem for a Narrative” jumped out of order in this post which has the goal of trying to explain how people who read the NY Times, in particular, and the mainstream media in general, become so ignorant. So, back to the main point as we get an inside look at narrative setting at the NY Times recently provided by Michael Cieply at Deadline.com who has been a movie critic for both the LA Times and the NY Times.

… For starters, it’s important to accept that the New York Times has always — or at least for many decades — been a far more editor-driven, and self-conscious, publication than many of those with which it competes. Historically, the Los Angeles Times, where I worked twice, for instance, was a reporter-driven, bottom-up newspaper. Most editors wanted to know, every day, before the first morning meeting: “What are you hearing? What have you got?”

It was a shock on arriving at the New York Times in 2004, as the paper’s movie editor, to realize that its editorial dynamic was essentially the reverse. By and large, talented reporters scrambled to match stories with what internally was often called “the narrative.” We were occasionally asked to map a narrative for our various beats a year in advance, square the plan with editors, then generate stories that fit the pre-designated line.

Reality usually had a way of intervening. But I knew one senior reporter who would play solitaire on his computer in the mornings, waiting for his editors to come through with marching orders. Once, in the Los Angeles bureau, I listened to a visiting National staff reporter tell a contact, more or less: “My editor needs someone to say such-and-such, could you say that?”

The bigger shock came on being told, at least twice, by Times editors who were describing the paper’s daily Page One meeting: “We set the agenda for the country in that room.” …

 

 

Here’s more on “the narrative” and how it works. Go to your search engine and ask for “Trump transition in disarray.” Bing provided 2,800,000 results which look like the following items. This was the narrative shortly after the election which finally collapsed since it was not supported by facts. 

Firings and Discord Put Trump Transition Team in a State …
www.nytimes.com/2016/11/16/us/politics/trump-transition.html
Nov 15, 2016 · WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald J. Trump’s transition was in disarray on Tuesday, marked by firings, infighting and revelations that American …


Trump transition team in disarray after top adviser …
www.theguardian.com › US News › Trump administration

Video embedded · Donald Trump’s transition to the White House appeared to be in disarray on Tuesday after the abrupt departure of a top national security adviser and …


Trump transition plunges into disarray with staff shake-up …
https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/politics/2016/11/15/trump…
WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump’s transition operation plunged into disarray Tuesday with the abrupt resignation of Mike Rogers, who had handled …

And so on . . . .

 

 

Scott Alexander provided another recent example of how the NY Times distorts the news. In an article on educational vouchers the Times says;

… Only a third of economists on the Chicago panel agreed that students would be better off if they all had access to vouchers to use at any private (or public) school of their choice. …

But, Mr. Alexander points out;

… 36% of economists agree that vouchers would improve education, compared to 19% who disagree. The rest are unsure or didn’t answer the question. The picture looks about the same when weighted by the economists’ confidence.

A more accurate way to summarize this graph is “About twice as many economists believe a voucher system would improve education as believe that it wouldn’t.”

By leaving it at “only a third of economists support vouchers”, the article implies that there is an economic consensus against the policy. Heck, it more than implies it – its title is “Free Market For Education: Economists Generally Don’t Buy It”. But its own source suggests that, of economists who have an opinion, a large majority are pro-voucher. …

 

 

Getting ready for the offensive against Trump, the media is stocking its shelves with Dem operatives with bylines. The Daily Caller reports; 

WikiLeaks’ publication of emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta revealed the close ties between prominent journalists and the Clinton campaign. Many of those same journalists will now be covering the Trump White House. …

… Last month, the New York Times announced it would be hiring Politico reporter Glenn Thrush to cover the Trump White House. Emails released by WikiLeaks showed Thrush sending stories to Clinton staffers for approval before publication. (RELATED: New York Times Hires Reporter Who Sent Stories To Clinton Staffers For Approval)

“Because I have become a hack I will send u the whole section that pertains to [you],” he wrote in an April 30, 2015 email to Podesta, including five paragraphs from a piece titled “Hillary’s big money dilemma.”

“Please don’t share or tell anyone I did this,” Thrush added. “Tell me if I fucked up anything.”

“No problems here,” Podesta replied.

On April 17, 2015, Thrush sent an email to Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri with the subject line: “pls read asap — the [Jennifer Palmieri] bits — don’t share.”

Palmieri forwarded Thrush’s email to other Clinton campaign staffers, writing: “He did me courtesy of sending what he is going to say about me. Seems fine.” …

 

And Katie Couric is back at NBC. Her distortions were so blatant she got her own Pickings post last July; Lyin’ Katie Couric.

 

And to sum up this post, a delicious discourse on ”fake news” by Matthew Continetti was in last month’s Commentary.

… Why the obsession with fake news? Readers with long memories will note that the mainstream media did not use this term to describe the work of Janet Cooke, Stephen Glass, and Jayson Blair, or the reporters who vilified and maligned the Duke Lacrosse Team, or the disgusting fabrications Rolling Stone told about fraternity life at the University of Virginia, or the myths parroted on CNN that Michael Brown shouted “hands up, don’t shoot” before he was killed in Ferguson. Nor was fake news a problem in 2012 when a man named Floyd Corkins said he shot an employee of the conservative Family Research Council in the arm because the Southern Poverty Legal Center had accused it of being a hate group. …

January 1, 2017 – DAVE BARRY

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Today we have the annual treat – Dave Barry’s End of the Year Review.

In the future, Americans — assuming there are any left — will look back at 2016 and remark: “What the HELL?”

They will have a point. Over the past few decades, we here at the Year in Review have reviewed some pretty disturbing years. For example, there was 2000, when the outcome of a presidential election was decided by a tiny group of deeply confused Florida residents who had apparently attempted to vote by chewing on their ballots.

Then there was 2003, when a person named “Paris Hilton” suddenly became a major international superstar, despite possessing a level of discernible talent so low as to make the Kardashians look like the Jackson 5. …

… Yes, we’ve seen some weird years. But we’ve never seen one as weird as 2016. This was the Al Yankovic of years. …

… Why do we say this? Let’s begin with the gruesome train wreck that was the presidential election. The campaign began with roughly 14,000 candidates running. …

… And we voters did our part, passing judgment on the candidates, thinning the herd, rejecting them one by one. Sometimes we had to reject them more than once; John Kasich didn’t get the message until his own staff felled him with tranquilizer darts. …

JANUARY …

… In health news, the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, responding to the spread of the little-understood Zika virus, cautions Americans not to have unprotected sex with foreign mosquitoes. Meanwhile the Flint, Michigan, water crisis worsens when samples taken from the city’s main water supply are found to contain traces of a Chipotle burrito.

North Korea successfully tests a hydrogen bomb, although this achievement is tarnished somewhat by the fact that the explosion causes the death, by startling, of the isolated nation’s lone remaining chicken. …

And so on …

  

And a few cartoons too.

 

December 30, 2016 – THE UNITER AND THE UN

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Always a uniter, the president has united Ted Cruz and Lindsay Graham; two men who can’t stand each other. And he has united many Democrats with Republicans. And some in the liberal media are joining with right-wing scribes in almost universal condemnation of his attack on Israel. Even Debbie Wasserface is in high dungeon. For an example of liberal media scorn for the president, here’s Josh Kraushaar of National Journal;  

At his year-end press con­fer­ence, Pres­id­ent Obama said he wanted to play a lead­ing role in re­build­ing the Demo­crat­ic Party. But in a sign of how Obama’s pro­gress­ive ideo­logy blinds him to polit­ic­al real­ity, his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s fi­nal act be­fore the new year put his party in an even deep­er hole.

By de­clin­ing to veto a res­ol­u­tion con­demning Is­rael at the United Na­tions, Obama un­der­scored how out-of-step his views are from the rest of the coun­try—and on this is­sue, even with his own party. Al­low­ing the anti-Is­rael res­ol­u­tion to pass was widely con­demned, by both the in­com­ing Re­pub­lic­an ad­min­is­tra­tion and the most in­flu­en­tial Demo­crat in Con­gress, in­com­ing Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Chuck Schu­mer. Jew­ish groups across the ideo­lo­gic­al spec­trum cri­ti­cized the de­cision in harsh terms, while even dovish Demo­crats such as Ohio’s Sher­rod Brown dis­tanced them­selves from the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ac­tion. Former DNC chair­wo­man Debbie Wasser­man Schultz, who sup­por­ted Obama’s con­tro­ver­sial Ir­an nuc­le­ar deal, called the U.N. res­ol­u­tion an “ir­re­spons­ible ac­tion [that] moves us fur­ther away from peace and hastens the like­li­hood that we lose the trust of our al­lies around the world.” She called the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ab­sten­tion “reck­less.” …

… At a time when Demo­crats are try­ing to win back voters that aban­doned them in this year’s pres­id­en­tial elec­tion, they can’t af­ford to ali­en­ate a bed­rock con­stitu­ency of their party. But that’s ex­actly what Obama’s last-minute slam of Is­rael threatens to do. It’s no co­in­cid­ence that Obama waited un­til after the pres­id­en­tial elec­tion to take a fi­nal slap at Is­rael, know­ing full well that it would have dam­aged Hil­lary Clin­ton’s pres­id­en­tial cam­paign. …

… Just look at the 2018 Sen­ate map to get a sense of how polit­ic­ally reck­less Obama’s de­cision could be for his party. Sher­rod Brown is one of the top Demo­crat­ic tar­gets in two years, and he is fa­cing a Jew­ish Re­pub­lic­an with close ties to the pro-Is­rael com­munity (Josh Man­del). Brown, des­pite be­ing a crit­ic of Is­raeli set­tle­ments, was one of the first Sen­ate Demo­crats to urge Obama to veto the “one-sided” res­ol­u­tion be­fore it passed. Rep­res­ent­ing a state that Trump car­ried by 8 points, Brown is ex­pec­ted to face a com­pet­it­ive reelec­tion and will need to run up his mar­gins around Clev­e­land, home base of the state’s Jew­ish com­munity. …

… Spend­ing his fi­nal weeks in of­fice at­tack­ing Is­rael is a fit­ting coda to the Obama’s second-term strategy of push­ing the Demo­crat­ic Party as far to the left as pos­sible. In­deed, it takes a lot of chutzpah for Obama to say he wants to help re­build the Demo­crat­ic Party when he’s busy burn­ing it down. His Is­rael policy will serve as a com­pel­ling case study of how the Demo­crat­ic Party in­furi­ated a cru­cial part of its base without get­ting any­thing in re­turn but ideo­lo­gic­al self-sat­is­fac­tion.

 

 

Steny Hoyer, House Democratic Whip, is fed up. Ed Morrissey with the story.

In about two hours, John Kerry will deliver a speech at the State Department to outline the Obama administration’s plan for a peace settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians. Needless to say, the Israelis aren’t happy about it, Republicans are furious about it — and even some Democrats want Kerry and the White House to shut up. Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House Democratic whip, lashed out at Kerry and the Obama administration for reversing decades of American policy on peace negotiations: …

 

 

And Alan Dershowitz, previously enamored with the administration’s willingness to govern against the will of the people, like with obamacare, continues with his abuse of the president.

… The bad news is that no future president, including President-elect Trump, can undo this pernicious agreement, since a veto not cast can never be retroactively cast. And a resolution once enacted cannot be rescinded unless there is a majority vote against it, with no veto by any of its permanent members, which include Russia and China, who would be sure to veto any attempt to undo this resolution. Obama’s failure to veto this resolution was thus a deliberate ploy to tie the hands of his successors, the consequence of which will be to make it far more difficult for his successors to encourage the Palestinians to accept Israel’s offer to negotiate with no preconditions. …

… Before the enactment of this resolution, I was not in favor of Trump immediately moving the US embassy to Jerusalem. I advocated that such a move should take place in stages, over time, and with consultation among America’s Muslim allies in the region. But now that the UN has made it a continuing international crime for there to be any Israeli presence in disputed areas of Jerusalem, including areas whose Jewish provenance is beyond dispute, there is a need for immediate action by Trump, upon taking office, to untie his hands and to undo the damage wrought by his predecessor. Congress will surely approve such a move, since the overwhelming majority of its members disapproved of the American decision not to veto the resolution, and since, in 1995, Congress enacted a statute, signed by President Clinton, declaring that the “United States maintains it embassy in the functioning capital of every country except in the case of our democratic friend and strategic ally, the State of Israel” and urged “the United States [to] conduct official meetings and other business in the city of Jerusalem in de facto recognition of its status as the capital of Israel.”

Obama’s ill-advised, lame duck, and undemocratic effort to tie his successor’s hands must not be allowed to destroy the prospects for a negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

 

 

Paul Mirengoff with more.

Critics of President Obama’s decision not to block (and, perhaps, to advance) the U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel say that it was solely an attempt to harm Israel — an effort motivated by vindictiveness and/or raw ideological dislike of Israel. Those who disagree with this assessment should be able to point to a positive objective Obama reasonably could think his decision might advance.

In theory, I can think of two possibilities. First, he might have thought that passage of the resolution would advance the “peace process.” Second, he might have thought that passage would at least lead to the curtailment of new building in East Jerusalem and the “West Bank,” which might eventually increase the likelihood of a peace agreement. There isn’t even the theoretical possibility that the U.N. resolution will cause Israel to tear down existing settlements absent a peace agreement, and I don’t believe that even Obama has called on Israel to do this.

It’s clear, however, that the passage of the U.N. resolution won’t advance either objective. If anything, it may retard them. Obama could have no rational basis for thinking otherwise. Thus, we must conclude that he was, in fact, motivated by vindictiveness, raw ideological dislike of Israel, or both. …

… Obama, the petulant ideologue, …

 

 

Turning our attention back to the UN, Slate’s Jonathan Katz has a history lesson on the tracking of infectious disease in the 19th century as those results provide background for methods used to find the causes of the cholera epidemic in Haiti; Which was started by UN peace keeping forces; facts hidden by the UN, the U. S. Center for Disease Control, and the current administration. This is a good example of the danger posed by the UN. Time to ask them to move their headquarters to some other country. And time to get them off the U.S. gravy train. In WashingtonLand, $8 billion is not a lot of money, but it is $8 billion less we have to borrow every year. Ten years from now we probably will have saved over $100 billion in total. As Everett Dirksen would say, pretty soon we are talking about a lot of money.

Last Friday, a friend doing research at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta sent me a photo of a (map on) display at the CDC’s in-house museum. She thought I’d be interested because it had to do with the cholera epidemic in Haiti, which I lived through at its beginning and have been reporting on ever since. …

… Now let’s go to the second map, the inset at the bottom right—the little beige street grid:This is the most famous map in the history of public health and one of the most important in the history of science. It was drawn in 1854 by John Snow, a Victorian anesthesiologist and polymath who, faced with one of the many catastrophic cholera outbreaks that plagued London in the 19th century, decided to figure out what caused it, scientifically. (At the time, most people thought cholera—a bacterial disease—was a product of either bad odors, moral and physical weakness, or the wrath of God.)

To do so, Snow went to Golden Square in the working-class Soho neighborhood and took a census of how many people had died in each house from cholera. Then he put them on the street map: one bar for each death. He found a pattern: The bars (deaths) were all clustered in one area, and as you got closer to the center of that area, the bars got longer. Most of the longest bars were next to a water pump on Broad Street, marked here: …

… In fact, despite making the direct analogy between Snow’s map and the Haiti map, the CDC display does not indicate a source of the epidemic at all.

Why not? A spokeswoman for the CDC says in an email that the Haiti map was devised “to optimize response activities on the ground.” Mapping the origin of the epidemic, she says, “was not germane to the purpose.”

That’s one answer. Another is that the CDC knows as well as anyone else that the source—that unidentified spot beside the red triangle, the Broad Street pump of Haiti—was a U.N. peacekeeping base. This one:… 

The U.N. soldiers at that base had just arrived from their home country, Nepal, where a cholera outbreak was underway. Thanks to negligent sanitation practices, such as the open dump pits above, there was a multiplicity of ways that their choleraic feces could have gotten from the base into the river, including latrine pipes leaking over a drainage canal that emptied into the river.

However it happened, from that very spot, that cholera strain—the same strain found in Nepal, which had never been seen before in Haiti, ever—spread throughout the country. By January 2011, the date given for the map, it had been well-established—mainly through my reporting and the work of French epidemiologist Renaud Piarroux—that this was the case. 

Since the first days of the epidemic, the U.N. has tried to cover up what it did. …

… The CDC, a U.S. government agency, discouraged journalists from asking about the epidemic’s origin, telling them that pinpointing the source, Dr. Snow–style, was “not productive,” “not central,” and would likely never happen. Its epidemiologists did provide a key detail early on, when they identified the strain in Haiti as having a recent South Asian origin—meaning it could have come from Nepal and not from South America, Africa, or anywhere else cholera was circulating at the time. But after that, the CDC refused to take environmental samples from around the base or test the soldiers during the small window when doing either would have been worthwhile. All of this detailed in a damning new book by Ralph R. Frerichs called Deadly River: Cholera and Cover-Up in Post-Earthquake Haiti. …

… The U.N. itself has never accepted any responsibility for the outbreak. The head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti at the time, Edmond Mulet, has been continuously promoted, even as he dissembles publicly about the facts of the case. He is now Ban Ki-moon’s chief of staff. …

… In fact, the epidemic continues in Haiti. Neither the U.N. nor its donors are anywhere close to raising the $2.27 billion it says is required to build the clean water and sanitation infrastructure needed to end it. Meanwhile, a lawsuit against the U.N. itself, in which Ban and Mulet are named defendants, is wending through U.S. federal court. The U.S. Justice Department has appeared at each session to argue on behalf of the U.N., against the Haitian victims. …

December 27, 2016 – UN KAPUTT

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What he has done for the Democrat party, the president might have done for the United Nations. He has now given us the reason and opportunity to kick that festering sore out of the country.  Roger Simon thinks the Prez’s vendetta is a good kick off for the Trump administration to start defunding the cesspool that is the UN. And the headquarters? Perhaps Donald Trump has some ideas for what could be done with the building.

We live in a world of unintended consequences and Barack Obama, in his overwhelming zeal to exact last-minute personal vengeance on Bibi Netanyahu in particular and Israel in general with Friday’s Security Council vote, opened the door to the defunding and serious diminution of the United Nations itself.

Donald Trump — who is seeking to spend a ton of taxpayer money on rebuilding our military and infrastructure — is undoubtedly looking for places to save. Nowhere would be better to start than that moribund center of international corruption and megaphone for tin-pot dictators, the United Nations. …

 

… why is Samantha Power, our current UN ambassador and putatively an expert in genocide, spending her time criticizing largely peaceful Israeli settlements while, just a few hundred miles away, soldiers of Iran’s Republican Guard are gunning down women and children in the streets of Aleppo in true genocidal fashion? Hypocritical?  Oh, well, that’s Iran — Obama’s protected class.

Enough already!

Donald, you’re on. You were able to negotiate with Carrier, Boeing, and Lockheed, so these clowns shouldn’t be all that difficult. Although, in this case, it would be useful to negotiate the entire institution out of existence, or at least impoverish it to the degree it will have to decamp from Manhattan and leave that pricey TurtleBay real estate for better purposes. (I understand there’s a lot of empty space in Yemen.)  And — just think — it would get rid of all those double-parking, cheapskate diplomats cluttering New York streets! They don’t even pay their parking tickets.

I wouldn’t doubt you would have all your deplorables solidly behind you in this negotiation/defunding and a lot more of the country as well, once they get full knowledge of exactly how much we’re actually paying for this insanity. As with most things, they haven’t been told by our media, who have no interest in informing the public on anything that might disrupt their narrative.

If ever some tweets were called for, this is it.  Go to it, Donald.  Scare the pants off them now. You made a good start when you tweeted, “As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th.”

 

Paul Mirengoff of Power Line linked to an essay by Anne Bayefsky.

The vicious condemnation of Israel at the UN Security Council on December 23, 2016 is a watershed moment in U.S.-UN relations – albeit not as President Obama hoped. Following the vote of fourteen in favor and one American abstention, Palestinian representative Riyadh Mansour and American Ambassador Samantha Power exchanged a telling handshake. Evidently, President Obama believes that he has put one over on Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu and the incoming Trump administration. But here’s another possibility: treachery at the UN will not be cost free. …

… At its core, this UN move is a head-on assault on American democracy. President Obama knew full well he did not have Congressional support for the Iran deal, so he went straight to the Security Council first. Likewise, he knew that there would have been overwhelming Congressional opposition to this resolution, so he carefully planned his stealth attack.

He waited until Congress was not in session. Members of his administration made periodic suggestions that nothing had been decided. There were occasional head fakes that he was “leaning” against it. He produced smiling photo-ops from a Hawaiian golf course with no obvious major foreign policy moves minutes away. Holiday time-outs were in full-swing across the country. And then he pounced, giving Israel virtually no notice of his intent not to veto.

Profound betrayal of a true democratic friend of the United States is the only possible description. …

… The Security Council and President Obama leave a trail of devastation across the planet, with evil empowered and good forsaken. But their record does not have to be our future. Today’s vote reminds us of what it takes for evil to triumph.

Doing nothing is not an option for our new President and our incoming Congress. The time has come to undertake an urgent and full review of America’s relationship to the United Nations, and to suspend financial support until that review can identify how best to use American dollars in the interests of peace, security and human dignity. The perfidy of Barack Obama will not be the last word.

 

And WSJ Editors weigh in. 

The decision by the United States to abstain from a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israel over its settlements on the West Bank is one of the most significant, defining moments of the Obama Presidency.

It defines this President’s extraordinary ability to transform matters of public policy into personal pique at adversaries. …

… Mr. Obama’s animus toward Prime Minister Netanyahu is well known. Apparently Mr. Obama took it as an affront that the President-elect would express an opinion about this week’s U.N. resolution.

It is important, though, to see this U.S. abstention as more significant than merely Mr. Obama’s petulance. What it reveals clearly is the Obama Administration’s animus against the state of Israel itself. No longer needing Jewish votes, Mr. Obama was free, finally, to punish the Jewish state in a way no previous President has done.

No effort to rescind the resolution, which calls the settlements a violation of “international law,” will succeed because of Russia’s and China’s vetoes.

Instead, the resolution will live on as Barack Obama’s cat’s paw, offering support in every European capital, international institution and U.S. university campus to bully Israel with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. …

December 26, 2016 – PRESIDENT BETRAYER

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Now we see the president’s true colors. We wrote March 3rd on the Passive/Aggressive Prez

“It’s been more than a week since the refusal of the president to attend Scalia’s (funeral) service and it still rankles. It was a perfect chance for a passive aggressive personality; without lifting a finger, he was able to flip the bird to millions of Americans.” 

Tom Cotton, Senator from Arkansas, summed up the president’s most recent betrayal of Israel;

“President Obama is personally responsible for this anti-Israel resolution. His diplomats secretly coordinated the vote, yet he doesn’t even have the courage of his own convictions to vote for it. This cowardly, disgraceful action cements President Obama’s richly deserved legacy as the most anti-Israel president in American history. …”

” President Obama vetoed a similar, but less anti-Israel resolution in 2011—back when he still needed pro-Israel voters for his reelection. …”

 

Jonathan Tobin in Commentary posts;

… This lame duck stab in the back of America’s only democratic ally in the Middle East should only further encourage President-elect Donald Trump to make good on his promise to move the U.S. embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and let the world know that the new administration not only repudiates his predecessor’s betrayal but that the alliance is as strong as ever.

That will have to wait until January 20th and Obama’s exit from the White House. In the meantime, this is a moment for Democratic friends of Israel to apologize for eight years of excusing and rationalizing Obama’s growing hostility to the Jewish state. Though some will disingenuously argue that the president is trying to save Israel from itself, today’s vote must be seen for what it is. Freed of political constraints, the president finally showed his true colors by throwing Israel to the wolves at a United Nations where anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias is integral to the culture of the world body. …

  

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air posts on the Washington Post Editors calling the UN abstention a “dangerous parting shot.” Morrissey goes into important, but mostly forgotten, background when the administration funded efforts to defeat Netanyahu in last year’s Israeli elections.    

 

“… The stunt at TurtleBay is all the more self-serving, because Obama and John Kerry torpedoed any chance of working with Netanyahu. Obama has spent a lot of time and effort decrying alleged Russian influence in our election, but almost two years ago, the State Department under Obama and Kerry actively attempted to do the same thing in Israel to force Netanyahu out of office. …”

 

“… The media coverage of this UN vote has almost entirely missed this particular point. They have noted Netanyahu’s defense of settlements and supposed intransigence on the peace process without ever noting that his US partner tried to push him out of office — the same partner who’s currently in high dudgeon over hostile governments attempting to do the same thing here. The purpose of this interference was to get an Israeli prime minister who would adopt Obama’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rather than one who represents the Israelis.

Instead, Netanyahu won a surprise victory, and Obama ended up with egg on his face. It’s difficult to see this stunt at the UN as anything more than a final, impotent, petulant tantrum. This was Obama’s final opportunity to humiliate Netanyahu regardless of the danger it might present to Israelis. It’s one last shameful act in a series from this administration, and it can’t hit the exits fast enough.

 

American Interest notes how even the Dems are turning on the president. 

… Obama is truly the great uniter. First he united the Arabs and Israelis in a repudiation of his Middle East policies, now he’s united Republicans and Democrats in a repudiation of his policies at home. Almost everywhere you look, the gap between Obama’s stirring rhetoric and his underwhelming accomplishments is immense. One of the biggest failures was his inability to make the Democrats competitive in every state.

This stems from many things, but one is his apparent indifference to state government. He seems to think of the Federal government as the only level of government that really matters. It is especially telling that he has been missing in action while his home state of Illinois drifted into a state of advanced decay due to a worsening pension problem. Ditto his home city of Chicago, where racial polarization and financial decline have proceeded while the Obama White House was largely uninvolved. Great U.S. Presidents, and even good ones, are usually rooted in local politics. They are citizens of real places, and they carry the concerns and the insights of those places into office. Obama was a member of the New York Times tribe, people for whom an absence of local loyalties is a sign of enlightenment. …

  

Cartoons are good today.

 

 

September 18, 2016 – PRESIDENT DETRITUS

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The president has pronounced that Trump is not qualified. That’s like Hillary calling someone else deplorable. They both have first person knowledge of unqualified and deplorable. Let’s go through a grab bag of items on the failures left in this president’s wake. First is Claudia Rosett posting on China’s dis of the poseur.

 

 

Claudia Rosett posts on the China snub of the president.

President Obama took office in 2009 promising that his brand of engagement would yield global respect for the United States. We’ve since had more than seven years of leading from behind, standing “shoulder to shoulder” with the “international community,” snubbing of allies, appeasing of enemies and cutting America down to size. As Obama makes what will likely be his final official visit to China, how’s it going?

Well, China, as host of the current G-20 summit, rolled out the red carpet — or at least the red-carpeted airplane stairs — for the arriving leaders of such countries as Britain, Australia, Germany and Russia.

For President Obama, arriving yesterday on Air Force One, there was no such dignified reception. Instead, there was a shoving match with the press and a confrontation with National Security Adviser Susan Rice, in which a Chinese official shouted “This is our country. This is our airport.” For lack of any portable stairs rolled to the front door of the presidential plane, Obama was left to jog down the aircraft’s own stairs at the back.

Obama downplayed the insult, telling reporters “not to over-crank the significance.” …

… Which brings us back to the matter of respect, and which leaders get the red-carpet treatment in China these days, and which don’t. Xi and his colleagues see an American president who treats his own country’s Constitution, voters  and national interests with no respect. For Beijing, that amounts to an enfeebled America. That translates into an opportunity, a wide-open invitation from the White House, to drive home to the world a message that China is on the rise — receiving at its latest summit an American president who arrives with tribute in his pocket. For such an emissary, no red carpet is needed. Of course he can exit from the back of his plane.

 

 

 

Walter Russell Mead posts on obama’s foreign policy turkey on the other side of the globe.

.. Erdogan’s pivot to Russia is the latest indicator of the ruins of U.S. foreign policy. In President Obama’s original strategy of bringing peace to the Middle East and marginalizing terror by reaching out to democratic Islamists, Turkey’s Erdogan was supposed to play a major role. Indeed, Obama was widely reported to have spent more time on the phone with him than with any world leader.

Meanwhile, of course there was also the “reset” with Russia—with “more flexibility” for Moscow promised after Obama’s re-election.

Yet America’s relations with both Turkey and Russia are in shambles. Domestically, Putin and Erdogan have gone in a more authoritarian direction. In geopolitics, Moscow and Ankara have refused to go along with the White House’s plans. This is not all President Obama’s fault of course—he doesn’t and cannot control other world leaders. But it’s hard not to notice that Obama’s early maneuvering hasn’t had the results he promised. The opportunities first-term Obama saw in Turkey and Russia have either been squandered or were never even there in the first place. Even after Obama has left office, it will be difficult for the U.S. to repair the damage caused by the president’s early geopolitical misreadings.

 

 

 

Richard Epstein writes on the failed presidency.

The week after the Fourth of July is a good time to take stock of the presidency of Barack Obama. It is highly unlikely that he will change course in his six remaining months in office, so he will be judged by history on his current record. That record reveals an enormous gap between his grandiose promises and his pitiful performance over the past eight years. …

… It is sobering to examine how and why his presidential performance stacks up so poorly against his ideals. An important question for any president is what issues fall in the domain of government action, and which should be left to the private sector. Any sensible answer starts with two presumptions that are antithetical to Obama’s progressive frame of mind. First, the government should seek to avoid interfering in economic affairs to allow the forces of competition and innovation to increase the size of the social pie from which everyone can benefit. Second, the government should focus its exercise of national power on defending the nation and its allies from aggression. Obama inverts these key relationships—a fundamental mistake. He is all too willing to use coercion in domestic economic affairs against disfavored groups, and all too reluctant to use it against sworn enemies of the United States and its allies.

A mistake of this magnitude cannot be corrected by marginal adjustments in office. The sad truth is that the United States today is weaker economically, more divided socially, and more disrespected across the globe than it was before Obama took office. With few exceptions, he made the wrong choices in all the areas in which he declared the dawn of a new era. Consider: …

… Foreign affairs, for their part, have been an unmitigated disaster. Everywhere one looks—Russia, China, the Middle East—the situation is more dangerous than it was before President Obama took office. That is the inescapable consequence of a presidential reluctance to trust military affairs to generals, and to rule out of bounds, virtually categorically, the use of American ground troops to stem the violence in the Middle East. The relative stability that George W. Bush bequeathed to Obama in 2009 has been shattered in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, and by the rising power of Iran. ISIS commits atrocities nearly daily, most recently in Baghdad and Bangladesh. …

… Nor has Obama done better on an issue close to his heart: race relations. Instead of firm moral leadership, the president has raised tensions. He announced, for example, that “if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” And even after his Department of Justice exonerated Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown, it buried that story behind a searing denunciation of Ferguson, Missouri for the alleged racism of its ticketing practices. The “Ferguson effect” has made policing ever more difficult in African-American communities. No wonder crime rates are rising across the country, even in cities like Chicago that have strict, but largely ineffective, gun control laws, which the president relentlessly champions without any explanation of how they are likely to do any good.

Behind all of these social ills lies a president who lacks the skills of a leader. Sadly, his frayed political legacy has left us with a choice between two undesirable candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, neither of whom has the capacity and temperament to correct the many ills that President Obama has created at home and abroad over the past eight years.

 

 

 

Craig Pirrong, The Streetwise Professor, posts on racial divisions fostered by the president.

Obama’s greatest opportunity as president was to advance race relations in this country. They have obviously improved almost miraculously since the Civil Rights and Jim Crow eras, but in 2008 they could have definitely improved even further. Sadly, in the past seven plus years, they have regressed rather than progressed. Obama squandered an opportunity that he was uniquely placed to exploit.

Uniquely placed, but sadly not uniquely qualified, as events have made all too clear. For rather than pour oil on troubled waters, Obama has thrown it on the fire. He does it with such regularity that I must conclude that is hardwired, or a conscious choice: which is worse, I can’t say. The horrific events of the past days represent the zenith of this behavior–at least I hope so.

The crux of the problem is that Obama is an echo chamber for Black Lives Matter memes, and a defender of and advocate for the organization. BLM is a divisive, confrontational, and frankly racist organization that is exacerbating tensions, rather than doing anything to reduce them, or to correct the underlying problems. BLM marches routinely involve chants advocating the murder of police (“Pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon”). Obama has hosted leaders of this group at the White House, and praised their effectiveness, saying that he was “confident that they are going to take America to new heights.” A sobering thought, that. …

 

 

 

More on this from David Harsanyi.

… When Obama calls for unity (you’ll recall this was a big part of his first campaign), he’s not talking about a nation that maximizes its freedom so that there is space for an array of cultural outlooks and ideas. He means a nation of diverse people who can all agree that progressivism is right for the nation.

This administration has made a habit of using the power of the state to coerce and compel others to accept its cultural attitudes. For him, unity means little dissent. In his last State of the Union, for example, Obama laid out a progressive agenda, then implored us to embrace “American ideals” as if they were the same. (He offered Trumpism as the only other choice. It’s not.)

Obviously, the nation is divided because Americans have deep-seated, legitimate, and meaningful disagreements about the future. One man can neither unify us nor break us apart on his own. But it’s been a long time since we’ve had a president as divisive as Barack Obama.

  

 

The administration’s war on for-profit schools claims another victim. Two years ago they ruined Corinthian Colleges and now it is ITT Technical facing collapse. Minding The Campus has the story. For the Corinthian saga see Pickings July 14, 2014. Yet more ruin in the wake of this knee jerk left wing ideological presidency. 

… While the government is indulgent towards wasteful state colleges, it has a very different, hostile attitude towards for-profit colleges. It will sometimes financially destroy them even without any proof of wrongdoing. The Washington Post editorial board gives the latest example of the Obama administration doing this, its destruction of ITT Technical Institutes:

Never mind that the higher education plans of tens of thousands of students will be disrupted. Or that 8,000 people will lose their jobs. Or that American taxpayers could be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in forgiven student loans. What is apparently of most importance to the Obama administration is its ideological opposition to for-profit colleges and universities. That’s a harsh conclusion, but it is otherwise hard to explain why the Education Department has unabashedly used administrative muscle to destroy another company in the beleaguered industry.

ITT Technical Institutes, one of the nation’s largest for-profit educational chains, on Tuesday abruptly announced that after 50 years in business it was shutting down more than 100 campuses in 38 states. The announcement, displacing an estimated 40,000 students, follows last month’s decision by the Education Department barring the school from enrolling new students using federal student aid and upping its surety requirements. The department said it was acting to protect students and taxpayers, noting the school had been threatened with a loss of accreditation and that it was facing a number of ongoing investigations by both state and federal authorities.

What is so troubling about the department’s aggressive move — which experts presciently called a death sentence — is that not a single allegation of wrongdoing has been proven against the school. Maybe the government is right about ITT’s weaknesses, but its unilateral action without any semblance of due process is simply wrong. “Inappropriate and unconstitutional,” said ITT officials.

Such unfairness sadly is a hallmark of the Obama administration policy toward higher education’s for-profit sector. …

September 13, 2016 – HILLARY FABULIST

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Twenty years ago NY Times columnist William Safire tagged Hillary Clinton as a “congenital liar.” The weekend’s health event was just another example of the fact that the default position of HRC is always a lie. John Hinderaker posts on her LSAT tale where she claims to have been harassed taking the law school test by a bunch of (dare I say it) deplorables. It’s a little thing but illustrative of her continuing ongoing mendacity.

I am not a psychiatrist, and am not qualified to say what causes Hillary Clinton to lie constantly, with almost every breath she takes.

 

Gersh Kuntzman in the Daily News opines;

… Why not just admit the pneumonia? It’s not as if there’s a stigma to catching it. After all, Hillary Clinton’s full-time job right now is rushing from place to place on those tube-shaped petri dishes called airplanes, speaking for hours on end with little sleep, and then diving into crowds of often unwashed deplorables thrusting babies into her face.

If she didn’t catch some sort of bug, I’d say she’d need to be examined to ensure that she’s human.

So instead of being forced to admit her own frailty, Clinton concocted a lie: it’s just allergies, you know, which come from happy things like flowers. It’s not a disease that brings to mind decay, 19th century industrial slums and physical weakness.

The larger question that will be raised by the “health scare” is the one that has dogged Clinton forever: Why does she create cover stories rather than reveal the truth? At many critical turns in her lengthy career, Clinton has chosen obfuscation rather than revelation. …

 

 

He was one of the first to say it. Scott Adams in the Dilbert Blog reviews some of his past posts on Hillary’s health. This was from last December.

… One of the skills a hypnotist has to master is reading people’s inner thoughts based on their body language. That’s a common skill for people in the business world too, but hypnotists go deeper than looking at crossed arms and furrowed brows. We learn to look for subtle changes in breathing patterns, tiny changes in muscle tone, variations in skin color (blushing or not), word choice, pupil dilation, and more. I assume law enforcement people look for similar tells when doing interrogations.

As regular readers know, I’m a trained hypnotist. And to me, Hillary Clinton looks as if she is hiding a major health issue. If you read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink, you know that so-called “experts” can sometimes instantly make decisions before they know why. In my case, I am going to make an “expert” hypnotist prediction about Hillary Clinton without knowing exactly which clues I am picking up, or whether I am hallucinating them.

Prediction: I’ll put the odds at 75% that we learn of an important Clinton health issue before the general election. That estimate is based on my own track record of guessing things about people without the benefit of knowing why. I think Trump is picking up the same vibe. He has already questioned Clinton’s “stamina.” …

 

 

David Harsanyi writes on Ricky Ray Rector’s contribution to the Clinton future. An example of deplorable. 

… Enter Ricky Ray Rector.

In 1981, Rector shot a man for refusing to allow his friend into a nightclub. Later, he shot another friend of his — a police officer — who came to arrest him. Rector then performed a partial lobotomy by shooting himself in the head in a suicide attempt.

Whether you support the death penalty or not, there was a plausible contention that Rector was unable to put forward a proper defense because he couldn’t even comprehend the charges against him. For his last meal, Rector reportedly asked the guard to put aside his pecan pie because he was “saving it for later.”

In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that putting mentally retarded people to death was “cruel and unusual.” But in 1993, the Clintons, with wilting poll numbers, saw an opportunity to show Bill was tough on crime and move beyond the Flowers’ fiasco.

In 1979, as governor Clinton commuted the sentence of a mentally ill murderer named James Surridge. He would go on to kill again. Now, during the 1992 primary race, faced with the prospects of losing his shot at the presidency, Clinton refused to even issue an order of executive clemency — not freedom — to stop the execution of another one.

That alone might have been understandable. This time, though, Clinton — I should say the Clintons — made a big show of traveling back to Little Rock in the midst of the campaign for the presidency so Bill could personally preside over the execution. It was covered by every major media outlet in the nation.

Rector was executed by lethal injection, …

 

 

Leaving Hillary’s lies, Sputnik News posts on proof Google is in the tank for HRC. This is long and will take some time to absorb, but it is written by a research psychologist, a Clinton supporter by the way, who is aghast at the lengths Google will go to support Hillary. The comparisons of three search engines, Bing, Yahoo, and Google will convince you to stop using Google as a search engine. For example if you enter “when is the election” Google will provide a picture of a healthy looking Hillary. No Trump, just her. Perhaps we should call them Lying Google.

… For the record, I am a moderate politically, and I support Hillary Clinton for president. I do not believe, however, that it would be right for her to win the presidency because of the invisible, large-scale manipulations of a private company. That would make democracy meaningless, and that is why I am trying to keep the public informed about my research findings.Biased search rankings can swing votes and alter opinions, and a new study shows that Google’s autocomplete can too. …

A scientific study I published last year showed that search rankings favoring one candidate can quickly convince undecided voters to vote for that candidate — as many as 80 percent of voters in some demographic groups. My latest research shows that a search engine could also shift votes and change opinions with another powerful tool: autocomplete.

Because of recent claims that Google has been deliberately tinkering with search suggestions to make Hillary Clinton look good, this is probably a good time both to examine those claims and to look at my new research. As you will see, there is some cause for concern here.

In June of this year, Sourcefed released a video claiming that Google’s search suggestions — often called “autocomplete” suggestions — were biased in favor of Mrs. Clinton. The video quickly went viral: the full 7-minute version has now been viewed more than a million times on YouTube, and an abridged 3-minute version has been viewed more than 25 million times on Facebook.

The video’s narrator, Matt Lieberman, showed screen print after screen print that appeared to demonstrate that searching for just about anything related to Mrs. Clinton generated positive suggestions only. This occurred even though Bing and Yahoo searches produced both positive and negative suggestions and even though Google Trends data showed that searches on Google that characterize Mrs. Clinton negatively are quite common — far more common in some cases than the search terms Google was suggesting. Lieberman also showed that autocomplete did offer negative suggestions for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

“The intention is clear,” said Lieberman. “Google is burying potential searches for terms that could have hurt Hillary Clinton in the primary elections over the past several months by manipulating recommendations on their site.” …

… Since then, my associates and I at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology (AIBRT) — a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in the San Diego area — have been systematically investigating Lieberman’s claims. What we have learned has generally supported those claims, but we have also learned something new — something quite disturbing — about the power of Google’s search suggestions to alter what people search for. …

… The impact of biased search rankings on opinions, which we call the Search Engine Manipulation Effect (SEME), is one of the largest effects ever discovered in the behavioral sciences, and because it is invisible to users, it is especially dangerous as a source of influence. Because Google handles 90 percent of search in most countries and because many elections are very close, we estimate that SEME has been determining the outcomes of upwards of 25 percent of the national elections in the world for several years now, with increasing impact each year. This is occurring, we believe, whether or not Google’s executives are taking an active interest in elections; all by itself, Google’s search algorithm virtually always ends up favoring one candidate over another simply because of “organic” search patterns by users. When it does, votes shift; in large elections, millions of votes can be shifted. You can think of this as a kind of digital bandwagon effect.

The new effect I have described in this essay — a search suggestion effect — is very different from SEME but almost certainly increases SEME’s impact. If you can surreptitiously nudge people into generating search results that are inherently biased, the battle is half won. Simply by including or suppressing negatives in search suggestions, you can direct people’s searches one way or another just as surely as if they were dogs on a leash, and you can use this subtle form of influence not just to alter people’s views about candidates but about anything.

Google launched autocomplete, its search suggestion tool, in 2004 as an opt-in that helped users find information faster. Perhaps that’s all it was in the beginning, but just as Google itself has morphed from being a cool high-tech anomaly into what former Google executive James Whittaker has called a “an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus,” so has autocomplete morphed from being a cool and helpful search tool into what may be a tool of corporate manipulation. By 2008, not only was autocomplete no longer an opt-in feature, there was no way to opt out of it, and since that time, through strategic censorship, it may have become a tool for directing people’s searches and thereby influencing not only the choices they make but even the thoughts they think. …

… Without whistleblowers or warrants, no one can prove Google executives are using digital shenanigans to influence elections, but I don’t see how we can rule out that possibility. There is nothing illegal about manipulating people using search suggestions and search rankings — quite the contrary, in fact — and it makes good financial sense for a company to use every legal means at its disposal to support its preferred candidates.

Using the mathematical techniques Robertson and I described in our 2015 report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, I recently calculated that SEME alone can shift between 2.6 and 10.4 million votes in the upcoming US presidential race without anyone knowing this has occurred and without leaving a paper trail.

I arrived at those numbers before I knew about the power search suggestions have to alter searches. The new study suggests that autocomplete alone might be able to shift between 800,000 and 3.2 million votes — also without anyone knowing this is occurring.

Perhaps even more troubling, because Google tracks and monitors us so aggressively, Google officials know who among us is planning to vote and whom we are planning to vote for. They also know who among us are still undecided, and that is where the influence of biased search suggestions and biased search rankings could be applied with enormous effect.

 

Very good cartoons today.

 

August 17, 2016 – STUDENT DEBT

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This blog has from its inception, pointed out the problems associated with the government sponsored explosion of student debt. In the last year Pickings has dealt with the problem here, here, and here. Just as the American left created a vast wasteland of wrecked lives with zero down payment home loans, it has continued its assault on the middle class with the siren song of an education financed by student loans. In the wake of the meddling do-goodism of left/liberals we find, yet again, millions of people with ruined credit.

In a blog post six years ago, Glenn Reynolds, Tennessee law prof, and Instapundit blogger coined Reynolds’ Law - “The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle-class people. But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.”

This from someone who is on the inside of the education establishment. An establishment that shows the hallmarks of a vast criminal conspiracy preying on those who fall into its grasp. Now that student debt is a 1.3 trillion dollar problem even the Volvo and arugula crowd has come to see the picture as one of their house organs - Consumer Reports devoted most of an issue to student debt.

Almost every American knows an adult burdened by a student loan. Fewer know that growing alongside 42 million indebted students is a formidable private industry that has been enriched by those very loans.

A generation ago, the federal government opened its student loan bank to profit-making corporations. Private-equity companies and Wall Street banks seized on the flow of federal loan dollars, peddling loans students sometimes could not afford and then collecting fees from the government to hound students when they defaulted.

Step by step, one law after another has been enacted by Congress to make student debt the worst kind of debt for Americans—and the best kind for banks and debt collectors.

Today, just about everyone involved in the student loan industry makes money off of the students—the banks, private investors, even the federal government. …

 

 

Consumer Reports continues with the “Faces of Student Loan Debt.”

“I feel I kind of ruined my life by going to college; I can’t plan for an actual future.” 

Jackie Krowen, 32

In Debt: $152,000

LaneCommunity College, PortlandStateUniversity, University of Rochester

Student Loans: $128,000

Remaining Balance: $152,000

Monthly Payment: $1,200

Occupation: Nurse

When she was 19, Jackie Krowen took out her first student loan to attend a community college in Oregon. She borrowed more when she transferred to PortlandStateUniversity, and still more for nursing school at the University of Rochester in New York.

“You didn’t have to meet with anybody,” she says. “You just clicked some buttons on the computer and you had a huge check.” …

 

 

VANESSA MCCLURG, 29

University of NorthTexas

Student Loans: $67,000

Remaining Balance: $73,000

Monthly Payment: $522

Occupation: Auto Shop Service Manager

McClurg’s father, a retired U.S. Navy officer, co-signed her loans. Then illness disrupted her education. She was hospitalized with pneumonia as a sophomore and later contracted a staph infection: “Unbeknownst to me,” she says, “I didn’t have a good immune system.” After missing more than a year of classes, she dropped out in 2010.

McClurg moved to Utah and got a $9-an-hour job in an auto repair shop, and says she couldn’t afford to pay her loans for a few years. Then debt collectors “really came after me,” she says, threatening to sue her. Then they said they would go after her father as well because he had co-signed her loans.  “They would definitely take away his pension,” she says she was told. “They said they have every right.”  Finally, she says, “my 84-year-old grandfather gave me every dime he had” so that she could get her loans current.

McClurg says she now earns $32,000 per year, enough to pay $522 each month for the education she never finished.

 

 

The NY Times reports on New Jersey’s killer collectors of student loan debts.

Amid a haze of grief after her son’s unsolved murder last year, Marcia DeOliveira-Longinetti faced an endless list of tasks — helping the police gain access to Kevin’s phone and email; canceling his subscriptions, credit cards and bank accounts; and arranging his burial in New Jersey.

And then there were the college loans.

When Ms. DeOliveira-Longinetti called about his federal loans, an administrator offered condolences and assured her the balance would be written off.

But she got a far different response from a New Jersey state agency that had also lent her son money.

“Please accept our condolences on your loss,” a letter from that agency, the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority, said. “After careful consideration of the information you provided, the authority has determined that your request does not meet the threshold for loan forgiveness. Monthly bill statements will continue to be sent to you.” …

 

 

The Boston Globe has more. The pictures of the students reported on here were such large files they could not be included. Follow the link to get them.

IT’S ONE OF THE MOST enduring selling points for the value of higher education: The best route out of poverty is through the college quad. Spend four years in college, and all that book learning, mind opening, and network expanding will help even the lowest-income student jump up several rungs on the economic ladder. Nowhere is that message preached as often or with as much evident authority as in Massachusetts, the nation’s historic capital of private, nonprofit higher education, where the concentration of colleges in some areas is surpassed only by the number of Dunkin’ Donuts franchises.

But just how true is this truism about college lifting low-income students out of their circumstances, Horatio Alger style? In fact, like the actual story of author Horatio Alger, who was born into a well-established family and graduated from Harvard, there’s more myth than truth. That’s been especially so in recent years, as nonselective private colleges from around the region have increasingly filled their freshman classes with low-income students — often the first generation in their families to go to college — from Boston and other urban areas. Quite a few of these small schools are former junior colleges and women’s colleges with rich histories of opening doors to students traditionally shut out from higher education, an admirable pursuit that officials refer to as “access.” Many of the colleges are also in tough financial straits, struggling with rising costs, stunted endowments, and declining enrollments.

So whether they are actively recruiting these low-income students for reasons of open-the-door altruism or keep-the-lights-on capitalism — or, more likely, some combination of the two — there has been a huge, largely hidden byproduct of this dramatic increase in access: These students are often being loaded up with staggering debt that is completely out of whack with the earnings boost they’ll likely get from a degree at a nonselective or less selective college. Already, average student loan debt is higher in Boston than any other metro area in the country, 44 percent above the national average, according to Credit Karma. But  more troubling, many of these low-income students — and, at some colleges, most of them — are not graduating. That means these non-completers are leaving campus saddled with lots of debt but none of the salary gains that traditionally come with a bachelor’s degree. …

 

 

 

JULY 14, 2016 – LYIN’ KATIE COURIC

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The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple provides a good example of lying leftist liberals in the media in his post on Katie Couric’s recent documentary on guns.

It looks as though Katie Couric stunned her interviewees. Knocked them out with a bombshell inquiry: “Let me ask you another question: If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?” prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?” Now check out the blank stares.

Nearly 10 seconds of silence, as if no one has an answer to Couric’s rather straightforward question. The scene comes from “Under the Gun,” a film written, produced and directed by Stephanie Soechtig and narrated by Couric, the global anchor for Yahoo News; Couric also serves as executive producer. The session depicted in the video above features Couric and members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a group whose motto is “Defending Your Right to Defend Yourself.”

And to hear the VCDL tell the story, those awkward seconds are a fabrication, a byproduct of deceptive editing. To prove the point, VCDL President Philip Van Cleave has released an audiotape of the session, which is available on the site of the Washington Free Beacon as part of a story by Stephen Gutowski. In that recording, the question from Couric is a bit different from the one in the video. She says, “If there are no background checks, how do you prevent — I know how you all are going to answer this, but I’m going to ask it anyway. If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from walking into, say, a licensed gun dealer and purchasing a gun?”

On the audiotape, a reply comes immediately from one of the VCDL members: “Well, one — if you’re not in jail, you should still have your basic rights.” More chatter follows.

In an interview with the Erik Wemple Blog, Van Cleave said, “My teeth fell out of my head when I saw that.” The result of the editing, he says, is that folks who view the documentary are “going to say these people are idiots. It affects all the gun owners.” Other scenes in the documentary, says Van Cleave, “accurately” represent the input of his fellow gun owners. But not the exchange on background checks. “This was beyond the pale.” Van Cleave says he has audio of the entire interview with Couric — a backstop against bogus editing that he learned from his dealings with the media. “I do that as a matter of course when I’m doing things like that,” says Van Cleave. “It has saved me a few times.” …

… Moments ago, the film’s people released this statement from Soechtig:

“There are a wide range of views expressed in the film. My intention was to provide a pause for the viewer to have a moment to consider this important question before presenting the facts on Americans’ opinions on background checks. I never intended to make anyone look bad and I apologize if anyone felt that way.”

Here at the Erik Wemple Blog we stroke our gray beard and reflect: In the years we’ve covered and watched media organizations, we’ve scarcely seen a thinner, more weaselly excuse than the one in the block above. …

 

 

Mollie Hemingway has a good memory. She notes Couric defended Planned Parenthood with claims of doctored footage, then does the exact same thing. And by the way, independent reviews showed the PP film was not edited with intended malice. Which is what Katie did.

… This willful and malicious doctoring of evidence to support an agenda is so unconscionable that even CNN, The Washington PostThe New York Times, and other media outlets made note of it.

Couric should have disclaimed the documentary and publicly acknowledge her error. Instead, the film’s director Stephanie Soechtig indirectly admitted she spliced in false footage when she issued the following statement:

My intention was to provide a pause for the viewer to have a moment to consider this important question before presenting the facts on Americans’ opinions on background checks. I never intended to make anyone look bad and I apologize if anyone felt that way.

This mealy mouthed mush was described as an apology at CNN while The Washington Post openly mocked the “apologize if” construction of the response. Erik Wemple of the Post added that he’d never seen a “thinner, more weaselly excuse” than the one proffered by Soechtig. For her part, Couric said “I support Stephanie’s statement and am very proud of the film.” …

… Indeed, when Katie Couric ran interference for Cecile Richards (Head of Planned Parenthood), doing a lengthy sit-down puffball interview and a tour of an abortion clinic where she didn’t once mention, uh, abortion, she twice decried the videos as “edited.” Couric is a long-time pro-abortion activist, not just using the mainstream media to advocate it, but having marched in support of the right to end unborn human lives. Last week on David Axelrod’s podcast, she said that her parents were major influences on her, specifically citing her mother’s volunteer work for Planned Parenthood and the fact that her mother invested in Trojan condoms when she learned about the AIDS crisis. Classy!

An accompanying write-up of the Cecile Richards interview falsely stated:

The videos, some of which were edited together in a way to depict Planned Parenthood employees talking about selling fetal tissue, which is illegal, rocked the organization.

The media have straight-up adopted Planned Parenthood’s false “deceptively edited” talking points and carried the water for Planned Parenthood’s campaign against the Center for Medical Progress. Here, one of their perky own in the mainstream media is caught red-handed actually deceptively editing in the service of gun control, and the most outrage The New York Times can muster is the headline, “Audio of Katie Couric interview shows editing slant in documentary, site claims.” What a joke our mainstream media are.

 

 

Tim Carney says you can blame Couric and her ilk for Donald Trump. 

Donald Trump tells us that journalists “are the most dishonest people” and are “sleaze.” This is silly.

But if my fellow journalists wonder why he gets away with his attacks and obfuscation towards the media, Katie Couric provides a good explanation.

Couric, who spent three decades as a supposedly straight-news reporter, this year narrated an anti-gun documentary. As a fig-leaf of balance, she included in the documentary an interview with Virginia Citizens Defense League. She used this as an occasion to “demolish” the gun nuts.

Reviewers got the message. The Hollywood Reporter wrote: “A group of blustery members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, however, suddenly remain painfully quiet when Couric asks them the hard questions.”

Indeed it’s painful to watch, or glorious to watch, depending on your perspective. The topic was background checks. Under current law, gun stores cannot sell a gun without conducting a background check on the buyer. If a gun owner sells his gun, however, he is not required to conduct background checks. Some gun-rights defenders oppose any mandatory background checks. No matter what, though, felons may not own guns.

“Let me ask you another question,” Couric says, as the gun-rights supporters look on, “if there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?”

One gun-defender blinks, an uncomfortable grimace on his face, as he looks to a compatriot at the table. The camera cuts to another man, quietly staring down at the table. A third man, bearded, glares without saying a word before turning his eyes down. Eight seconds of awkward silence greet Couric’s question.

Devastating.

But of course, that’s not what happened. Couric’s victims produced the audio from the meeting and published it online last week. In real life, Couric prefaces the question with “I know how you all are going to answer this, but I’m going to ask it anyway.”

 

Once she finishes her question, one participant immediately lays out the argument that felons, when they complete their prison sentences, should have their gun rights restored. …

… After first standing behind the filmmaker’s transparently false defense, Couric has apologized for approving the misleading edit. But her week-late, second-try apology isn’t commensurate to the crime.

On Amazon and on iTunes Thursday, you could still download the lying video. The Hollywood Reporter review is still out there, uncorrected. The film was scheduled to screen in Danbury, Conn., Thursday night, June 2.

The lying anti-gun film needs to be pulled from distribution until the lying scene is removed. Only pressure from the center-left mainstream media will make that happen. Some journalists probably hope the Couric flap can be ignored, but that would be the worst thing for a free press.

A free country requires a free press in order to hold accountable those in power — that includes the press itself.

 

No cartoons today. There’s nothing funny about Lyin’ Katie Couric.