This is not going to end well for either side…

Share this...
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source: NuQum.com; May 21, 2018)

When in American electoral history has the incumbent party’s administration launched a counterintelligence investigation against the opposition party’s presidential candidate?

Never. Until the 2016 election.

This past week’s revelation that the FBI used a secret informant to investigate whether Donald Trump’s presidential campaign had ties to the Russians is a defining moment in U.S. history. There is no precedent.

Presumably, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and his investigative team will eventually present evidence to the U.S. Congress that will justify such an investigation. Former intelligence chief James Clapper is already priming the pump for the news media narrative that the Obama administration “spying” on the opposition party’s presidential campaign was the “right thing to do.”

Until the real story emerges (if ever), circumstantial evidence, baseless conjecture, and media-fueled hyperbole will be the news media’s primary currency while covering the Trump-Russia investigation.

Its worked for the media so far. Their ratings and profit margins have rarely been higher. So why stop now?

The following New York Times headline from May 19th regarding the FBI’s interference in the 2016 election says all you need to know about the elite bias of our nation’s most respected newspaper:

That headline is straight-up deceptive, frosted with layers of creamy dishonesty. The definitional nuance between “spying” and “using an informant to investigate” was likely dictated to the New York Times’ writers — Adam Goldman, Mark Mazzetti and Matthew Rosenberg— by their Department of Justice (DoJ) sources. And then there are the story’s opening paragraphs:

President Trump accused the F.B.I. on Friday, without evidence, of sending a spy to secretly infiltrate his 2016 campaign “for political purposes” even before the bureau had any inkling of the “phony Russia hoax.”

In fact, F.B.I. agents sent an informant to talk to two campaign advisers only after they received evidence that the pair had suspicious contacts linked to Russia during the campaign. The informant, an American academic who teaches in Britain, made contact late that summer with one campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, according to people familiar with the matter. He also met repeatedly in the ensuing months with the other aide, Carter Page, who was also under F.B.I. scrutiny for his ties to Russia

No independent, unbiased journalist writes opening paragraphs as convoluted as those without being told to.

“President Trump accused the F.B.I…without evidence, of sending a spy to secretly infiltrate his 2016 campaign…,” they write. And then in the next sentence(!) they provide the very evidence the president is referring to when he says his campaign was spied on.

If, after more than a year, we haven’t figured out President Trump doesn’t navigate complexity and nuance very well, then we haven’t been paying attention. The man has a working vocabulary of a fourth-grader. That is not an exaggeration. It has been measured…and he speaks at a fourth-grade level.

So, please, forgive President Trump if his interpretation of the F.B.I.’s admitted use of a secret informant to gather information from three campaign advisers comes out as: “They were spying on my campaign!”

The vast majority of Americans would come to the same conclusion if the FBI had done that to them.

In both cases, the “informant” or “spy” does not reveal their purpose (i.e., collecting intelligence) or their client (i.e., the FBI) to their targeted sources. But the distinction the DoJ and its publicity arm, The New York Times, are trying to sell is that “spying” would be if the FBI was investigating the Trump campaign itself; whereas, using an informant to investigate Russian election meddling is entirely different. To quote the late-Richard Pryor, “Only white people can come up with sh*t like that.”

Did George Papadopoulos really get this started?

There is some good reporting and news analysis going on with respect to the Trump-Russia investigation. My top-of-mind list includes The Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross, the National Review’s Andrew C. McCarthy, The Wall Street Journals’ Shane Harris, Carol E. Lee and Kimberley Strassel, Politico’s David Stern, The Federalist’s Sean Davis, and The New York Time’s Michael Schmidt, among others.

All of the reporting agrees that on May 10, 2016, a drunken Papadopoulos boasted to Australian diplomat Alexander Downer that the Russians possessed thousands of stolen Hillary Clinton emails. It was this meeting, supposedly, that prompted the FBI to open a counterintelligence investigation (‘Crossfire Hurricane’) into the Trump campaign on July 31st, according toThe New York Times.

But the Times’ own reporting leaves open the question as to when the Australians notified their American counterparts about the Papadopoulos drunken confession? The Times presumes Wikileaks’ publishing of the DNC emails in mid-July prompted the Australians to contact the FBI, but there is no concrete evidence offered by the Australians, the FBI, or anyone else that confirms this. All we have is the formal start date of the FBI counterintelligence investigation (July 31st).

Thanks to The Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross, we know the FBI planted an informant, Stefan Halper, a Cambridge professor with connections to the CIA and its British counterpart, MI6, close to the Trump campaign to investigate Russian election meddling. From Ross’s reporting, we know one of Halper’s earliest contacts with a Trump campaign adviser occurred when Halper met with Carter Page at a London symposium around July 11th.

Was Halper already an FBI informant at that point? If so, the original Papadopoulos-Downer meeting on May 10th was still unknown to the FBI, so how could that meeting have been so pivotal in the FBI’s decision to launch ‘Crossfire Hurricane’? The easiest and most obvious conclusion is that the Papadopoulos-Downer meeting wasn’t pivotal.

Is it possible, however, that the FBI’s interest in the Trump campaign predated even the Papadopoulos-Downer meeting? Consider that the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative publication, had hired Fusion GPS to collect intelligence on Trump in late 2015, and that contract was taken over by a Democratic National Committee-connected law firm in the Spring 2016.

The U.S. intelligence community (USIC), which includes the FBI, and its web of private contractors is surprisingly small and insular, particularly at the highest management levels. It should not surprise us if, in the coming months, we learn that the FBI knew of Fusion GPS’ efforts from the beginning, or at least after the contract was handed off to the Democrats.

After more than a year, what do we really know?

When considering all of the reporting done so far, an open-minded but always skeptical citizen could reasonably come to these conclusions about the Trump-Russia connection:

(1) Russian intelligence operatives targeted the Trump campaign no later than Spring 2016. It was at that time Professor Joseph Mifsud, suspected to have connections to Russian intelligence, told Papadopoulos that the Russians had thousands of Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.

As an aside, Mifsud also introduced Papadopoulos to the woman who would become Papadopoulos’ fiancee (see photo below).

George Papadopoulos and his fiancee, Simona Mangiante

Yeah, I know what you are thinking. Russian intelligence may operate the world’s greatest dating service (if you are a single guy, at least).

(2) More likely, Russian intelligence started an intelligence operation against Donald Trump around the time of the Miss Universe Pageant held in Moscow in November 2013. It would be consistent with known Russian intelligence conventions for them to target wealthy American with a known interest at the time in running for president. If they didn’t, I would ashamed of them.

(3) There is nothing in Donald Trump’s known personal code of conduct that rules out the possibility of a ‘pee-pee tape’ from his November 2013 trip to Moscow. I’d bet my left arm there is one. There is also no reason to believe Trump’s supporters (and potential supporters) would abandon him if such a tape were to surface.

(4) The Russians pursued an aggressive, multi-faceted campaign to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. And their efforts were focused on two outcomes: (a) creating division within the American electorate (like both U.S. political parties aren’t doing that already!) and (b) helping to get Trump elected.

(5) Trump campaign operatives, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Carter Page, and, of course, George Papadopoulos, had verifiable connections to wealthy and politically-connected Russians. The Trump campaign was also decidedly aggressive in trying to find Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails.

None of that behavior is necessarily illegal, but these behaviors obviously opened each of them up to intelligence collection and manipulation by Russian intelligence. Were any of these Trump campaign operatives working “for” Russian intelligence? Highly unlikely (though Carter Page still seems a little odd to me).

(6) And, finally, Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election. And did the Russian meddling make a difference? I encourage to read my quantitative analysis on that question, where I do find evidence that the Trump campaign’s digital efforts (which included work by Cambridge Analytica) were an important factor in solidifying Trump’s voter base, particularly voters that would have otherwise considered voting for Hillary Clinton.

So, that is what we know. What will happen next?

It will soon be Roger Stone’s time in the barrel

Media reports are emerging that Roger Stone is now the focus of the Mueller probe, at least until a Trump interview is arranged.

Stone’s uncanny ability to predict the release of the Wikileaks-published Podesta emails and his tendency to promote his important political contacts (e.g., Guccifer 2.0, Julian Assange, etc.) makes him hard to ignore, if you are Robert Mueller.

The truth about Stone and his contact with Wikileaks and Guccifer 2.0, however, is not quite as damning as Trump’s opponents would prefer; or, at least, that was my takeaway after reading The Atlantic’s Natasha Bertrand’s comprehensive rundown of Stone’s Wikileaks and Guccifer 2.0 communications. Stone is a blowhard and serial exaggerator and it is hard to believe anything he says.

As a political science graduate student in the late 1980s, one of my first research projects was documenting the rise of a new generation of political consultants, many of whom were associated with the Ronald Reagan presidential campaigns of 1980 and 1984. Perhaps the most infamous was the firm, BMSK & Associates, started in 1980 by Charles Black, Paul Manafort, and Roger Stone (and later joined by Peter Kelly and a young pit viper from South Carolina named Lee Atwater).

[Side note: Reagan’s pollster, Richard Wirthlin, was the real strategic genius in the Reagan campaigns]

Black, Manafort and Stone were infamous to political consultant-wannabes like myself because they were so ruthless and unconnected to common rules of decency…and they didn’t hide it. They helped their political clients win through raw intimidation. Sound familiar?

The firm established their dark side reputation early in their history by representing notoriously brutal dictators such as Mohamed Siad Barre (Somalia), Ferdinand Marcos (Philippines), Mobutu Sese Seko (Zaire) and Jonas Savimbi (Angola).

British journalist Richard Dowden wrote of Mobutu Sese Seko’s reign in Zaire: “The CIA helped bring Mobutu Sese Seko to power to stop the pro-Moscow Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba. Protected physically by Israeli security guards and financially by Washington, Mobutu turned the country into his personal fiefdom, treating the national treasury as his own bank account.”

But Angola’s Jonas Savimbi was even more cringe-worthy. During the Reagan administration, Savimbi’s UNITA movement was fighting to overthrow the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), which was supported by the Soviet Union (with manpower assistance from Cuba). But even ardent Communism fighters in Reagan’s State Department, like the Secretary of State, George Schultz, found Savimbi’s methods for maintaining discipline in his ranks to be unacceptable. Along with executions, torture and the disappearance of any internal rivals, Savimbi also tolerated public witch burnings.

Just an example of the types of clients BMSK & Associates specialized in serving.

It is hardly a coincidence that Roger Stone and Paul Manafort joined the Trump campaign when they had a chance. These were two old war horses, no longer considered relevant by a political consulting community that generally likes to discard its elders when young mavericks touting the newest campaign methods are available. Political campaigns are a young person’s game and Stone and Manafort were no longer relevant in 2016…until Donald Trump, having won a series of early primaries for the Republican nomination, needed a credible campaign organization as fast as possible.

So entered two of the oiliest, money-hawking bastards to every run a major presidential campaign.

Documenting that period in the Trump campaign, filmmakers Dylan Bank, Daniel DiMauro, and Morgan Pehme released their documentary about Roger Stone, Get Me Roger Stone, to rave reviews for their unfiltered portrait of how Stone’s brand of dirty tricks defined the Trump campaign’s attitude.

As critical as I have been about the mainstream media’s frequently dishonest reporting of the Trump-Russia collusion story, there is no doubt Roger Stone and Paul Manafort are capable of such chicanery. But when one of the Get Me Roger Stone co-directors was recently asked on CNN if he believed Stone could have engineered the Trump-Russian collusion effort, he said, “Roger doesn’t have those kind of contacts in Russia.”

It is much more likely Stone was grasping for relevance in the 2016 election, using any connection he could conjure up to make him look important (and raise some cash).

How will this all end?

Regardless of the Mueller investigation’s final outcome, serious damage has been done to the American political system. This country will not be the same and neither political party and its staunchest partisans will emerge unscathed, to say nothing of the damage the news media has done to itself.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s decision to pass President Trump’s request for an investigation to the Department of Justice’s Inspector General is just a polite way of Rosenstein telling the president to stick his request up his ass.

Inspector General offices are the B-teams of criminal investigations within the federal government. Conservative radio’s Mark Levin is right when he calls for a special counsel to investigate the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign. Unless that happens, nothing significant will happen.

Who ultimately will lose when Mueller wraps up his final report?

(1) Donald Trump is the obvious loser. Independent of whether or not his campaign colluded with the Russians, his presidency is permanently handicapped by the constant drone of a hostile media and D.C. political class (the “swamp” if you prefer) that will never accept him as president. Mueller will have done his duty to Democratic partisans if he can extend his investigation through the 2018 midterms.

However, unless Mueller can offer up a video of Trump taking orders from his Russian handlers, there is nothing that is likely to come from the Mueller investigation that will force Trump to resign or be removed from office.

(2) The news media is the next big loser. When Trump fades away (and he will), the news media will have lost their money tree and will, instead, be left with a public image so tarnished by their collective dishonesty that even Manhattan’s corporate liberals won’t have any patience left for Rachel Maddow’s meandering monologues to nowhere.

If you still live under the fiction that the news media is doing a good job covering the Trump administration, just read journalist Glenn Greenwald’s incomplete list of instances when the U.S. press corps screwed up in their coverage of Donald Trump in 2017 (you can find his list here.)

When I think of the American press’ love for its war on Trump, I am reminded of Lt. Col. George Custer’s famous quote about war:

“You ask me if I will not be glad when the last battle is fought, so far as the country is concerned I, of course, must wish for peace, and will be glad when the war is ended, but if I answer for myself alone, I must say that I shall regret to see the war end.” —Lt. Col. George Custer

(3) The third big loser is the Republican Party’s establishment, led by Mitch McConnell, John McCain, Lindsay Graham, and the Bush family, who will all be culpable for their arrogant exploitation of their electoral base, working-class and evangelical Americans. For forty years, the Republicans ginned up religious, nationalist and ethnic fears in order to keep their base loyal; while, at the same time, pursued social, economic and military policies that ignored their interests. If you want to explain Donald Trump’s appeal, you start there.

(4) Finally, Barack Obama, and the corporatist Democrats that created him, will not be treated kindly by historians. History doesn’t reward whiners.

Barack Obama’s presidential legacy is in ashes; and, even if the Democrats take back control of the government in the next two and a half years (and I think they will), corporatist Democrats offer nothing substantive to think we are on the brink of a new, permanent Democratic majority. if you think Republican obstructionism was bad during the Obama years, wait and see what they’ll be like during the Kamala Harris administration.

I tire of Obama apologists bemoaning how little the Republicans worked with him during his eight years in office. Obama’s inability to work across the aisle was his failing, not the Republicans. If the U.S. had a parliamentarian system like the British, Obama would have been justifiably removed from office right after the midterm elections in 2010.

Hopefully, future presidents will reject the hubris of Obama’s famous brush-off of congressional Republicans when he told them soon after his 2008 victory that “elections have consequences.”

Yes, they do Mr. Obama. And everyone of those Republicans you insulted were elected too.

Will there be any good outcomes?

Hopefully, at least good outcome will arise from the Trump presidency. After four consecutive failed presidencies (Clinton, Bush Jr., Obama and Trump), it is time for Congress take back power usurped by the ever-creeping executive branch.

The days are hopefully over when a president can send Americans to war without congressional approval, enter international treaties without Senate approval, or re-write immigration policy on the whim of a presidential executive order.

Moreover, whether we call it the ‘deep state,’ ‘the permanent government,’ or just the mundane ‘federal bureaucracy,’ the unelected members of our executive branch have become too powerful and unaccountable. Our Founders established a democratic republic, but our democracy has evolved into a bureaucracy in service of oligarchs.

If, as a result of Trump’s time in office, the U.S. presidency were to once again be rendered a co-equal branch of government, a little Russian election meddling in 2016 was a small price to pay.

Please send cards and letters to: kroeger98@yahoo.com or kkroeger@nuqum.com

Share this...
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

Government Transparency Does Not Compromise Citizen Privacy

Share this...
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

By Kent R. Kroeger (May 2, 2018)

A delusive debate has erupted in Washington, D.C., driven mostly by narrow partisan agendas, with little attention to the real issues involved. In the process, the Trump administration has put congressional Democrats in the position of defending government secrecy and privilege at the expense of the public’s right to know how its government operates.

This newest partisan conflict concerns a proposed policy at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that will change how the agency assesses and uses scientific research during the regulatory and rule-making process.

Though this new policy has not been formally written, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced in an April interview with the Daily Caller a potential policy that would prohibit the EPA from using scientific research unless its resultant data are released publicly for independent scientists and industry experts to review.

Pruitt’s policy proposal would change a long-standing EPA policy allowing regulators to depend on non-public scientific data in developing environmental rules and regulations.

“We need to make sure their data and methodology are published as part of the record,” Pruitt said to The Daily Caller. “Otherwise, it’s not transparent. It’s not objectively measured, and that’s important.” According to Pruitt, ‘scientific secrecy’ increases the likelihood of bad science— and even fraud — influencing public policy.

Pruitt will reverse long-standing EPA policy allowing regulators to rely on non-public scientific data in crafting rules.

The response from Democrats and environmental advocates was swift. In their view, this policy is designed to restrict the scientific research available to the agency when it writes environmental regulations and, in cases where a study’s data are made available to the public, risks violating confidentiality agreements signed by the study’s participants.

Moreover, such transparency will give critics of EPA regulations, particularly those pertaining to the fossil fuels industry, an increased opportunity to undermine the credibility of the science underwriting those regulations.

Recalling industry resistance to the Six Cities Study (published in 1993) on the health impact of air pollution, Sean Gallagher, a government relations officer with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said Pruitt’s new transparency policy would have prevented research like the Six Cities Study to influence environmental policy.

“They (the fossil fuels industry) didn’t like the regulation, so they tried to attack the science underlying the regulation,” Mr. Gallagher told the New York Times. “It has become very clear to us that this is not about science. This is a means to an end.”

According to Pruitt’s critics, this transparency policy would have a significant impact on environmental regulations premised on research linking pollution and other toxic hazards to individual health outcomes. Without human exposure data, many EPA regulations would never exist.

Hence, the strong belief among congressional Democrats that this is exactly the outcome Pruitt and the Trump administration want.

The New York Times editorial board summarized Pruitt’s motives as such:

“Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, took yet another step to muzzle the scientific inquiry that for years has informed sound policy at an agency he seems determined to destroy. He told his subordinates that they could no longer make policy on the basis of studies that included data from participants who were guaranteed confidentiality.”

So who is right? Is the Pruitt transparency proposal an attempt to increase the government’s accountability to the people? Or a cynical use of privacy rights to prevent significant public health research influencing environmental policy?

In essence, this current dispute is a battle between two equally democratic virtues: government transparency versus individual privacy rights.

With respect to EPA regulations, Pruitt’s critics assume privacy is sacrificed by increased transparency. Pruitt and the Trump administration, in contrast, believe one doesn’t compromise the other.

In this debate, Pruitt and the Trump administration are more right than their critics. Increased scientific transparency through the public release of scientific data does not have to jeopardize study participants’ privacy and, therefore, should not impact the availability of scientific data in the development of environmental policy.

I worked for five years (2002–2007) in the Defense Manpower Data Center, the U.S. Department of Defense unit responsible for implementing the release of public use datasets derived from opinion surveys of U.S. military personnel.

Our research office conducted surveys of military personnel on topics ranging from a person’s financial situation, health status, mental health issues, sexual assault and attitudes about their military service. These were highly sensitive topics and privacy was paramount in the successful collection and analysis of this type of information.

Internally, data from our surveys informed personnel policy decisions ranging from sexual assault to the DoD’s Tricare health care system. But we also had researchers external to the government using our data for evaluating the status of our nation’s civilian and military defense personnel.

In that effort, our office implemented de-identification methods on the survey data that protected the privacy of survey respondents but also allowed academic and defense policy ‘think tanks’ to access DoD survey data.

It is unlikely that the datasets informing environmental policy are more sensitive than those informing defense personnel policy.

Transparency was not compromised by privacy considerations within DoD survey research because it was never considered a zero-sum game. Both democratic virtues of transparency and privacy existed together without ever one diminishing the other.

How is that possible?

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is a measurement standards laboratory, and a non-regulatory agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce whose mission is to promote innovation and industrial competitiveness.

The Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA) of 2014 establishes NIST as responsible for developing information security standards and guidelines for federal information systems, including establishing rules and procedures for protecting Privacy Act of 1974 information.

In Dec. 2016, NIST released draft guidelines on how government agencies can prepare datasets for public release once those agencies de-identify individuals within the datasets without compromising their scientific value while also protecting individuals’ private information.

According to NIST, “De-identification is not a single technique, but a collection of approaches, algorithms, and tools that can be applied to different kinds of data with differing levels of effectiveness. In general, the potential risk to privacy posed by a dataset’s release decreases as more aggressive de-identification techniques are employed, but data quality decreases as well.”

Data scientists have established procedures by which identifying information in a dataset can be protected using indirect identifiers, such as the commonly used k-anonymity modelFurthermore, a wide range of software tools are already developed to implement various de-identification procedures, including AnonToolARXthe Cornell Anonymization ToolkitOpen AnonymizerPrivacy Analytics Eclipseµ-ARGUSsdcMicroSECRETA, and the UTD Anonymization Toolbox.

Once identifying information is removed from a government dataset, the government has a number of methods by which it can release the dataset to the public. These include:

● The Release and Forget model: The de-identified data is released to the public directly without any access restrictions.

● The Data Use Agreement (DUA) model: The de-identified data is made available only to qualified users under a legally binding data use agreement that details how the data can be used.

● The Synthetic Data with Verification Model: A synthetic dataset is created that maintains the statistical properties of the original dataset, but which does not contain private information.

● The Enclave model: The de-identified data is maintained in a segregated enclave that restricts access to the original data, and only accepts queries from pre-qualified researchers.

There is no privacy-based excuse for federal agencies to restrict the use of individual-based scientific data in the development of public policy.

Under the Obama administration, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) directed Federal agencies in 2013 to develop plans to provide for increased public access to digital scientific data. Under its guidelines, Federal agencies were charged with releasing data in a form that permits future analysis but does not threaten individual privacy.

Pruitt’s proposal for new transparency rules within EPA are entirely consistent with the OSTP directives. Does that mean Pruitt and the Trump administration won’t use this new requirement to de-legitimize research data that may contradict their political agenda? Of course that is a possibility. Pruitt’s transparency proposal may be no more than a Trojan horse designed to undermine existing and future environmental regulations.

But the challenge facing environmental scientists under Pruitt’s transparency proposal is not how to avoid public disclosure of their research data, but how to defend their findings in the political arena.

Pruitt’s transparency proposal is entirely consistent with this nation’s democratic ideals.

So, why the resistance from Democrats and environmental activists to Pruitt’s proposal?

The answer is politics. Period.

K.R.K.

Insults and ad hominems can be sent to: kroeger98@yahoo.com

Share this...
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

ANES Data Showing Impact of Trump Digital Efforts in 2016 Campaign

Share this...
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source: NuQum.com, May 2, 2018)

A number of NuQum.com subscribers have asked for the American National Election Study (2016) dataset used to determine the impact of Donald Trump’s 2016 digital efforts.

The dataset we used is here: 2016 ANES Analytic Dataset (SPSS)

The above dataset includes the original ANES variables and constructed variables used to conduct the analysis. If you have any questions regarding the data, please contact us at: kroeger98@yahoo.com

 

 

Share this...
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

Climate Realism Rising

Share this...
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source: NuQum.com, April 28, 2018)

No serious person can deny that global temperatures are warming (see chart below) and mankind is a major cause of this geologically recent trend.

Nonetheless, a real scientific debate continues in the climate science community regarding exactly how fast the globe is warming and exactly what is humankind’s contribution to that warming relative to natural variation. And with respect to the higher order impacts of global warming, such as rising sea levels, heat waves and tropical storm intensities, there is even more uncertainty, though most climate scientists agree sea levels will rise, heat waves will be more frequent, and tropical storms will be more intense, on average.

Source: Dr Roy Spencer

On one side of the debate is the vast majority of climate scientists who argue we will see global temperatures increase by at least 3.0°C over pre-industrial levels by 2100 with catastrophic results to the environment. I refer to them as climate alarmists as the term conveys the urgency they feel about the importance of converting the world economy to renewable energy sources as soon as possible.

On the other side of the argument is a small group of scientists that believe the forecast models are wrong and over-estimate the rate at which the earth is warming and under-estimate the role natural variation plays in the current warming trend. The obvious term for them may be ‘climate non-alarmists’ but I call them climate realists. They don’t deny the science, even as they question the panic mode endorsed by the climate alarmists.

Climate realists refuse to go away to the consternation of many in the climate science community. The reason revolves around the term: equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS). And if a recent climate study published in the Journal of Climate is an indication, its actual value is still uncertain.

The ECS estimate is a summary of the eventual warming of the planet’s surface from a doubling of CO2 once the world’s climate system has adjusted to the higher levels of CO2. Estimates of the ECS are important because they drive conclusions on whether the globe will experience catastrophic temperature increases by the end of the 21st century. If the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is correct, global temperatures will be 3.1°C higher than pre-industrial levels by 2100.

But a new study in the Journal of Climate is now suggesting the IPCC’s ECS estimate might be too high by a factor of two.

Dr. Judith Curry, a climate scientist and former Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Nicholas Lewis, a retired financier with a background in mathematics and physics, report in their study an ECS estimate of 1.66°C (5–95% uncertainty range: 1.15–2.7°C).

Why does their model not run as hot as IPCC global temperature models? They say for two reasons: their model (1) takes into account historical atmospheric and ocean temperature trends since the mid-19th century, and (2) draws on new findings since 1990 of how atmospheric ozone and aerosols are likely to affect global temperature trends.

Their critics, of which there are many, cite other reasons for their ‘less warm’ temperature forecasts.

Climate scientist Steven Sherwood, commenting on an earlier study by Lewis using a similar methodology to the Lewis and Curry 2018 paper, claims Lewis cherry-picks evidence and methodologies that “point toward lower sensitivity while ignoring all the evidence pointing to higher sensitivity.”

Dr. Drew Shindell, a climate scientist at NASA, has found in his research that studies based on observed warming (such as the recent low climate sensitivity study Lewis and Curry) have underestimated the sensitivity because they did not account for the greater response to aerosol forcing.In other words, Lewis and Curry’s temperature model is too simplified to make reliable forecasts.

There is another reason to be cautious of Lewis and Curry’s 2018 research finding of lower climate sensitivity to CO2.

“It’s particularly important not to fall victim to single study syndrome for this type of study,” contends Dana Nuccitelli, an environmental scientist at a private environmental consulting firm in the Sacramento, California area. “It can be tempting to treat a new study as the be-all and end-all last word on a subject, but that’s generally not how science works. Each paper is incorporated into the body of scientific literature and given due weight.”

Dr. Malte Meinshausen, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and the University of Melbourne’s School of Earth Sciences, cautioned about over-interpreting lower estimates for climate sensitivity. If these lower ECS estimate are correct it “only results in a delay of less than a decade in the timing of when the 2°C threshold would be crossed,” according to Meinshausen.

Climate alarmists on a principled level believe the relationship between science and public policy demands greater weight be placed upon the research estimating higher levels of climate sensitivity.

“The policy should be about avoiding risk,” Meinshausen told The Guardian in 2014. “If we shift policies to a more relaxed approach and then find the higher estimates are more likely, then we have locked ourselves into a pathway of high fossil fuel use and eliminated our chance of staying below two degrees of global warming. We want a good chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change — not one that’s like guessing the toss of a coin.”

But Meinshausen’s viewpoint begs the larger question, why should scientists care about the risks of global warming to human beings? The earth doesn’t care if humans can live comfortably on it. The laws of nature didn’t require congressional approval or a social consensus before they took effect. So why do climate scientists need to consider “risks to humans” when talking about their models of the planet’s climate system? A scientist’s first task is to get the science right. To consider the human risks as they build the science is to introduce systematic bias into the process. Using science to justify dramatic public policy measures to counteract global warming brings it own set of risks:

  • Is it possible we could spend trillions, cause tremendous disruptions in the global economy, and still not impact the current global warming trend? (Curry says, “Yes.”)
  • Is it possible mankind’s current rapid conversion to renewable energy has already put us on a path to successfully mitigate and adjust to the higher order impacts of global warming? (That is an argument I summarize here)

The mainstream media’s oft-repeated exaggeration that the climate science is settled only hardens the partisan divide between the scientific community and defenders of the fossil fuel economy. And, besides, when is science ever settled? Einstein is still defending his theories of general relativity and special relativity.

Though a critic of Lewis and Curry’s research, one climate scientist acknowledges the climate science, particularly with respect to climate sensitivity measures, is not settled. “Climate sensitivity remains an uncertain quantity,” according to Professor Piers Forster of the University of Leeds, who published a study with Jonathan Gregory of the University of Reading in 2006 that gave an ECS estimate of 1.6°C for a doubling of CO2.

Morevoer, if Lewis and Curry’s ECS estimates were the lone outlier, their research would be easier to dismiss. But their estimates don’t stand alone. In the July 2017 issue of Nature Climate Changeclimatologists Thorsten Mauritsen of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology and Robert Pincus of the University of Colorado reported an ECS of 1.5°C (0.9–3.6°C, 5th–95th percentile).

And one of the original ‘climate realists,’ Dr. Richard S. Lindzen, a climatologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a colleague, Yong-Sang Choi of Ewha Womans University (Seoul, Korea) reported an ECS estimate around 1.5°C in their 2011 study.

As seen in the chart below, most recent model estimates of the ECS are around 3.0°C, twice that of Curry and Lewis (2018), Mauritsen and Pincus (2017), and Lindzen and Choi (2011). There is real variation in this chart that simply cannot be dismissed as the sole product of the global warming deniers.

Source: Australian Department of the Environment

At this juncture, the safer bet may be to assume the ECS estimates around 3.0°C are more accurate. However, scientific insurgencies must start somewhere and it is becoming increasingly untenable for climate change alarmists to ignore research suggesting the planet may not be warming as fast as once assumed.

In addition, the global warming hiatus between 1998 and 2015 remains at the center of the debate regarding the relative contribution of man-made sources of greenhouse gases and natural variation. If man is responsible for 100 percent of the global warming since 1950, as suggested by NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt, how do we explain the pause without reference to natural variation? And can we assume natural variation cancels itself out over the long-run, as suggested by climate alarmists, leaving only anthropogenic factors as the cause of current global warming?

“Numerous recent research papers have highlighted the importance of natural variability associated with circulations in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, which is now believed to be the dominant cause of the (warming) hiatus,” Curry told the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology in 2015. “If the recent warming hiatus is caused by natural variability, then this raises the question as to what extent the warming between 1975 and 1998 can also be explained by natural climate variability.”

“Climate models do not simulate correctly the ocean heat transport and its variations,” said Curry.

In contrast to Meinshausen’s belief that government’s should err on the side of caution and promote dramatic measures to combat global warming, Curry takes a different approach:

“We should expand the frameworks for thinking about climate policy and provide policy makers with a wider choice of options in addressing the risks from climate change,” said Curry. “Pragmatic solutions based on efforts to accelerate energy innovation, build resilience to extreme weather, and pursue no regrets pollution reduction measures have justifications independent of their benefits for climate mitigation and adaptation.”

Lewis and Curry are not deniers of anthropogenic global warming. By including them in the three percent category of global warming deniers, the mainstream of the climate science community is doing their discipline a disservice.

While Lewis and Curry have undoubtedly accepted research monies from wealthy interests that do deny the realities of global warming, their climate research is credible enough to be published in peer-reviewed journals and wholly consistent with the consensus that humans have impacted the global climate through the production of greenhouse gases. Their heresy is that they believe the pace of this warming and the relative contribution of humans versus natural causes remain open questions.

They may be wrong. But criticism of their research should be solely driven by scientific considerations, and not by political agendas. Climatologist Michael Mann’s famously direct disrespect for a congressional committee’s inquiry into global warming in 2017 highlights the poisonous environment within which climate science now operates.

As Curry told a previous U.S House committee on climate science in 2015:

“ I am increasingly concerned that both the climate change problem and its solution have been vastly oversimplified. My research on understanding the dynamics of uncertainty at the climate science-policy interface has led me to question whether these dynamics are operating in a manner that is healthy for either the science or the policy process.”

Bill Ritter, Jr., a professor at Colorado State University and director of the Center for the New Energy Economy, recently suggested the controversies in the climate science are increasingly becoming irrelevant as market forces have moved decisively towards converting the U.S. to a clean energy economy.

“Today, renewable energy resources like wind and solar power are so affordable that they’re driving coal production and coal-fired generation out of business. Lower-cost natural gas is helping, too,” writes Ritter. “And, despite the Trump administration’s support of coal, a recent survey of industry leaders shows that utilities are not changing their plans significantly.”

Climate alarmists can be largely thanked for the positive trends in renewable energy.

Assuming utilities continue in their efforts to convert from fossil fuels to renewables, climate scientists should find it easier to free themselves from the partisan squabbles that presently loom over their research and, instead, return to what Thomas Kuhn called “normal science,” where the regular work of scientists is in theorizing, observing, and experimenting within a settled paradigm or explanatory framework.

The fact that research by climate realists such as Lewis and Curry is now regularly appearing in peer-reviewed scientific journals is evidence that “normal science” is returning to the climate science community.

The better news is, in twenty or thirty years, we will know who got the climate science right and who didn’t. That’s how science should work.

K.R.K.

{Send comments to: kkroeger@nuqum.com}

About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.

Share this...
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

Progressives, take back your party

Share this...
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source: NuQum.com, April 22, 2018)

Cartoonist Charles Schultz was a subversive. Lucy Van Pelt pulling the football away from Charlie Brown at the last second was his metaphor for the insincerity and duplicity of the power elites.

Lucy was the power establishment. Charlie Brown was the rest of us.

Progressives today may not want to be associated with Charlie Brown (he seemed to lose a lot), but there is no shame in that comparison. Charlie Brown was honest, trusting, and pure of heart. There is no dishonor there.

As our mainstream media teed-up another superfluous non-issue to relentlessly grind on (this time it was Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen), a progressive leader had the gall to suggest her party’s pursuit of the current president should not blind them to a real issue: Americans’ civil rights.

Nina Turner, president of ‘Our Revolution’, a progressive advocacy organization started by Bernie Sanders’ former presidential campaign staff, was on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper when she weighed in on the FBI’s raids on the offices of Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen:

“Throughout the history of this country, especially when it comes to African-American folks — Black Panthers, Dr. King, Malcolm X and other civil rights freedom fighters— you can see that sometimes the government can go too far in its efforts. Now that is not to say the Cohen incident is parallel to that, but as American citizens we should have some concern for how this goes, even if it is against someone we don’t like. This is about how we act as a government.”

Turner understands that the ‘means’ do not necessarily justify the ‘ends.’ Furthermore, she made clear that the FBI’s Cohen raids were not necessarily an abuse of power, but simply that Americans should be vigilant in ensuring the government doesn’t violate the rights of its citizens, even those citizens we don’t otherwise ‘like.’

Predictably, on cue, establishment Democrats lashed out at Turner:

What will it take for Democratic Party progressives to realize they are no longer welcome in their own party?

Since 1992, there have been two political parties in this country: the traditional Republican Party, led (for now) by Trump, and the Pro-Choice Republican Party, otherwise known as establishment Democrats, led by Obama administration holdovers, such as Tom Perez, and the smoldering embers of what is left from the Clinton political machine.

Since Bill Clinton took control of the Democratic Party in 1992, our nation has effectively lived under one-party rule, where the two nominal parties wage electoral battles on social and culture war issues, distracting voters from the real economic issues that most impact people’s lives.

And Donald Trump is the Frankenstein monster this one-party-system has created. It’s a system that ignores the economic realities of working-class and middle-class Americans. It’s a system that allows income disparities on a scale not seen since the robber baron era in the late 19th-century. It’s a system that pretends the covert drone wars perpetuated and refined by the Obama administration are antiseptic enough to keep our political leaders’ hands clean while they proceed to destabilize Muslim-majority countries not sufficiently suppliant to American interests.

And now the establishment Democrats demand discipline from the progressive wing of their party in order to slay a creation of their own making — Donald J. Trump.

Progressives, don’t fall for the con. Donald Trump came to power on their watch, not yours.

In their heart, progressives know Democratic Party leaders no longer welcome them and every day progressives try to bring their concerns and ideas to the attention of the party elites, is a day they’ve lost turning those concerns and ideas into actual public policy.

It’s a political system where bank executives and fund managers are allowed to sponge billions of dollars from average Americans through fraudulent underwriting practices and deceptive risk pricing (among other causes of the 2007–2008 financial crisis) and not ONE goes to jail. Eight years of the Obama administration and no banker goes to jail for their naked theft of billions of dollars?!

Establishment Democrats are in no position to lecture progressives about the dangers of the Trump administration.

Not when Democrats controlled both congressional chambers for first two years of the Obama administration and fulfilled his campaign promise of affordable, universal health care by passing a Republican-designed health care plan, the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Did progressives ever ask Obama, if you are going to pass a health care law without the support of Republicans, why not bite the whole enchilada and pass a true universal health care plan?

Bernie Sanders and Michael Moore did. Who else?

Many progressives still don’t want to hear this fact: Obama and the establishment Democrats’ health care, Big Pharma and insurance industry donors were never going to allow substantive health care reform. It was all a con, sold to progressives by an intelligent and charming community organizer from Chicago.

This is not cynicism. This is how government works in a one-party-system. False choices. Pre-determined outcomes.

And, now, those same establishment Democrats are demanding progressives get in line and take down Trump and the Republicans. When progressives suggest the media’s obsession with the Trump presidency, particularly the Trump-Russia collusion story, is a distraction from genuine issues, the establishment Democrats quickly stomp the thought out through shaming and rich-splaining.

Never mind that the policy constants of the past thirty years supported by these same Democrats, globalist economics (deregulation and open markets) and neocon regime change wars (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and now Syria), have left this country with dangerous amounts of public debt, increased income inequality, and seemingly irreconcilable social divisions.

These policies laid the groundwork for the populist uprising in the Republican Party and is directly responsible for the rise of Donald Trump.

It takes real balls for the establishment Democrats to then turn around and blame progressives for the election of Trump.

One Step Back to Take two Steps Forward

There comes a time when it takes one step backwards before you can take two steps forward.

This is that time for the progressives.

Two intersecting forces make NOW the time for the progressives to show their strength.

The first force is the impending implosion of the Republican Party under Trump’s incompetent leadership. Not even Nikki Haley will save the party by the time the 2020 election comes around. The Republicans are a dead-party-walking.

The second force is the overwhelming expectation that the Democrats will regain control of the U.S House in 2018. Perhaps even the U.S. Senate is in play.

Progressives must understand this simple reality: Establishment Democrats are Republicans. They have seduced progressives with their socially liberal inclinations, though progressives should have had a clue at their insincerity when it took Hillary Clinton until 2015 to publicly declare her support for marriage equality. You may have been with her, but she was never really with you.

The humble truth is, when establishment Democrats win, the Republicans win.

The progressives must therefore focus on taking back their own party from establishment Democrats before taking on the Republicans. The progressives have no chance of rolling back Republican policies until the establishment Democrats are shown the door and gifted back to the Republican Party where they belong.

Let the Republicans have Bill and Hillary Clinton. Trust me, the Democratic Party won’t miss them.

For now, run as independents

So, for those progressives that recognize the establishment Democrats’ big con, what next?

Where progressive Democrats have already won the party nomination. the task is straight forward: Get them elected.

In many states, it is already too late to put up progressives Democrats in the primaries. The only option now is to run progressives as independent party candidates in the general election.

Bernie Sanders’ supporters have built the grassroots fundraising and electioneering infrastructure necessary to organize a nationwide candidate filing program for the general election.

However, independent and minor party filing deadlines for the general election are rapidly approaching. Here are just a few coming up in the next few weeks:

Source: http://www.politics1.com/calendar.htm

A more complete list of filing deadlines is here.

In those states where deadlines are missed, progressives can partner with other minor parties (such as the Green Party) with candidates on the general election ballot.

Yes, if successful, this strategy will keep the Republicans in power another two years.

That is the price progressives must pay for allowing Republicans to usurp control of the Democratic Party in 1992 and letting them carry the party’s banner for the next 26 years.

Progressives will never beat the Republicans in Congress until they beat them in their own party.

How the establishment Democrats continuously mistreat and marginalize people like Nina Turner tells us all we need to know about their true intentions.

Progressives, now is the time to take back your party.

K.R.K.

Cards and letters can be sent to: kroeger98@yahoo.com or kkroeger@nuqum.com

Share this...
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

How the Democrats could still lose the 2018 midterms

Share this...
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source: NuQum.com, April 20, 2018)

{Send comments to: kkroeger@nuqum.com}

The chances are still good that the Democrats will win control of at least the U.S. House this November.

The prediction market PredictIt.com gives the Democrats a 69 percent chance of gaining control of the U.S. House. And while the same market gives the Democrats only a 38 percent chance of controlling the U.S. Senate, those are odds the Democrats only a year ago would have made them giddy with optimism.

My own midterm election models (which you can access here) indicate, under current conditions, the Republicans will lose 37 House seats and 4 Senate seats, putting both chambers under the control of the Democrats.

The smart money remains solidly in the Democratic Party’s corner for the 2018 midterms.

Yet, with the 2016 presidential election as a vivid reminder, Democrats know there is no such thing as a ‘sure thing’ in American politics. Despite a year and a half media obsession over the Trump-Russia collusion investigation, on November 7th, the Democrats could still find themselves in the minority in both congressional chambers.

Here is why that is still a real possibility…

The Mueller investigation may not end with a definitive conclusion

For 18 months the Trump-Russia collusion story has dominated the national news media. According to the Tyndall Report, among the Top 20 news stories of 2017, Russia-related stories accounted for 31 percent of the coverage by the three broadcast news networks. The ratio for the cable news networks undoubtedly would be even higher.

Yet, after all this hostile coverage of the Trump presidency, Democrats need to prepare themselves for this real possibility: The Robert Mueller-led investigation probably will not indict Donald Trump.

“Mueller will not indict Trump for obstruction of justice or for any other crime. Period. Full stop. End of story. Speculations to the contrary are just fantasy,” wrote Paul Rosenzweig in The Atlantic last January. “Mueller will not indict the president, even for money laundering. The resolution of the current American crisis is going to be political, not criminal. The future lies with Congress and, ultimately, the electorate, not with prosecutors and the courts.”

Rosenzweig isn’t coming out of nowhere with that conclusion. Twenty years ago he served as a Senior Counsel in the investigation of President Clinton. What is his rationale? “The Department of Justice has a long-standing legal opinion that sitting presidents may not be indicted,” writes Rosenzweig. “First issued in 1973 during the Nixon era, the policy was reaffirmed in 2000, during the Clinton era.”

And what can we expect from the Mueller probe with respect to President Trump? According to Rosenzweig, he will file a report on his findings with the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein (since the Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself).

We are going to get a report. And based on what has been revealed so far, the chances of the Mueller probe proving Trump (or anyone in his orbit) colluded with the Russians to impact the 2016 election is less than certain.

Such an ambiguous outcome might further energize #TheResistance’s resolve to put the Democrats in charge of Congress. But it also has the potential to torpedo the movement’s organizing assumption that Trump is not just a misogynistic buffoon, but a traitor. The reality that Trump is not a Russian tool will be deflating for many of his critics.

Americans may come to the defense of an embattled president

Democrats should be concerned about another potential outcome of the Mueller probe. The American public may not just grow weary of the Trump-Russia collusion story, a significant percentage may rally around the president, particularly if the economy remains strong and real progress towards peace is achieved on the Korean peninsula.

There is an historical precedent for this phenomenon. Kenneth Starr’s probe into an array of controversies surrounding President Bill Clinton, including his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, resulted in the House impeaching the president on Dec. 19, 1998. Interestingly, as evidenced in the graph below, Clinton’s Gallup job approval ratings rose consistently until the House impeachment. And though his ratings did dip during the Senate trial (in which Clinton was not convicted), they never dropped below 50 percent.

Source: Gallup Organization

Of course, how Americans react to Trump’s impending impeachment (assuming the Democrats take the House back) may be very different from the Clinton experience.

According to the April 2018 Quinnipiac poll, 52 percent of Americans believe Robert Mueller is conducting a “fair” investigation. While still a majority, this is the lowest level of support the Mueller probe has received from the American public.

Source: Quinnipiac University

Is this evidence of “Mueller probe fatigue”? Perhaps. At a minimum, the Democrats would be well advised to track the public’s mood with respect to the Mueller probe, particularly among independents and Democratic-leaning voters. Should either segment show growing signs of ‘Mueller fatigue,’ the Democrats will have a problem in November.

The economy shows no signs of slowing down

The economy is not working in the Democrats’ favor either. It shows no signs of slowing down, even with trade wars lurking about. Whether the credit belongs chiefly with Barack Obama or with Trump is anyone’s guess. What does matter is to whom the American people give the credit and the most recent evidence, from an April 2018 Quinnipiac University poll, is that a plurality of Democrats (!) now believe Trump — not Barack Obama — is responsible for the current strength of the country’s economy. As of April 9, 46 percent of Democrats agreed that Trump is more responsible for the United States economy’s current strength is due to Trump.

According to the New York Fed’s yield curve model, there is an 11 percent probability of a recession in the United States in the next twelve months (please check out this model’s accuracy here).

The Democrats are not likely to get any help from a souring economy when election day rolls around and they will face an opposition party that will try to make the election all about the economy.

If I were a betting man (and I am), I would say the economy is not going to help the Democrats in November, not that they need it to since midterm election results are not a simple function of the economy. Nonetheless, the Democrats’ chances of taking back Congress would be better if the economy wasn’t humming along as it is.

A formal peace on the Korean peninsula will prove deadly to the Democrats

The impending meeting of Trump and Kim Jong Un is the ultimate wild card before the midterm elections. It is easy to make glorious predictions (positive or negative) about any tangible outcomes coming from this meeting, but there is simply no way to know.

History suggests the chances are near zero that concrete steps towards a real peace agreement will arise from this first meeting. Nonetheless, just the novelty of it and the positive coverage likely to surround it works in the Republicans’ favor. Short of a physical brawl breaking out between Trump and Kim Jong Un, it very probable that Trump’s image will benefit substantially. And, frankly, a fist-fight might lift his image as well with a lot of Americans.

The Blue Wave may crest too soon

It is also possible that the “Blue Wave” may crest too soon. There is only so much energy that can be sustained by a political movement. Even true believers can get to a point where they just want to say “screw this, lets go see a movie.”

There are already “tentative” signs that Trump’s worst days in terms of job approval ratings may be over. Trump’s job approval ratings have been slowly but steadily rising for the past four months. This is the longest sustained increase (+3%) in his numbers for his young presidency. Of course, it would take just one ill-considered tweet for him to lose all of this improvement.

Source: RealClearPolitics.com

In addition, the generic ballot polling questions regarding the midterm elections are starting to show a small rebound for the Republicans. While the party gap in the poll averages are still over 5 percentage points (in the Democrats favor), it is a big improvement over just five months ago when the gap was near 12 percentage points.

Source: RealClearPolitics.com

These recent trends are small and far from conclusive. But, if I am a Democrat, I’m obsessing about those ‘small turns in the numbers.’ They may be an ‘early clue to the new direction.’

One of my favorite movie scenes comes from The Beatle’s first film, A Hard Day’s Night, wonderfully summarizes the political punditry class’s unending quest to predict future trends.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THIS MOVIE CLIP

In the scene, George Harrison accidentally stumbles into an advertising executive’s office and finds himself recruited to be in an ad campaign featuring a young model named Susan.

Near the end of the scene, after Harrison is run out of the office for mocking ‘this Susan,’ the ad executive turns to his secretary and asks: “You don’t think he’s the new phenomenon, do you?”

“You mean an early clue to the new direction?” she replies.

“Where’s the calendar?” he says as he points to the calendar. “Its’s alright. He’s just a troublemaker. The change isn’t due for three weeks yet. All the same. Make a note not to extend Susan’s contract. Lets not take any unnecessary chances.”

That’s a pretty fair depiction of political polling and marketing as well. Seek the early clues. The new directions. Nate Silver, Kellyanne Conway and Frank Luntz are millionaires for a reason.

The smart money still remains solidly in the Democrats’ corner for the midterms. A lot must change in the environment for the Republicans to have any chance of keeping the House. Even as some national poll numbers improve, on a race-by-race analysis, the sudden rash of retirements and the district-level polling data do not bode well for them.

Nonetheless, we’ve seen this movie before. Heading into election day, the Democrats are in control. What could possibly go wrong?

K.R.K.

{Send comments to: kkroeger@nuqum.com}

About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.

Share this...
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

This is what the run-up to a regime change war feels like

Share this...
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

By Kent Kroeger (Source: NuQum.com, April 12, 2018)

 

As inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) prepare to go to Syria to investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Syrian city of Douma, the U.S. and its allies are sending mixed messages on what should be the proper response to the chemical attack which left a reported 70 people dead and 500 more injured.

French President Emmanuel Macron says he has proof the Syrian government used chemical weapons in Douma, though nothing has yet been released to the public. At the same time, he insists any response to that attack on civilians must not escalate the Syrian conflict. British PM Theresa May has been similarly conflicted and non-committal on what the proper response should be.

As typical, German chancellor Angela Merkel has been more decisive, ruling out any German participation in any military action in Syria, and emphasizing instead the importance of unity among Western allies.

For his part, U.S. President Donald Trump remains characteristically vague and contradictory about any U.S. response, saying it “could be very soon or not so soon at all.”

As this is happening in the Western capitals, the OPCW announced on Tuesday its plan to investigate the Douma incident: “The OPCW Technical Secretariat has requested the Syrian Arab Republic to make the necessary arrangements for such a deployment. This has coincided with a request from the Syrian Arab Republic and the Russian Federation to investigate the allegations of chemical weapons use in Douma. The team is preparing to deploy to Syria shortly.”

 

Where is this all heading?

The Russian Defense Ministry says Russia will target any U.S. missiles from their launch point, which is likely to be either the U.S.S. Donald Cook or U.S.S. Porter, two U.S. Navy destroyers already in the Mediterranean.

Andrei Kortunov, head of the Russian International Affairs Council, a state-backed think-tank in Moscow, says a military strike against Syria will only escalate U.S. and Russian tensions while doing little to change the trajectory of the conflict. More ominously, he believes a wider Middle East war is possible if such a retaliatory attack occurs.

“I don’t want to sound apocalyptic — we are not there yet. But we are moving in that direction,” he said earlier in the week.

The U.S. is beyond just ‘moving’ in that direction. In January, the Trump administration decided to permanently separate northeast Syria from the rest of Syria with the intent of keeping Iranian influence out of Syria and keeping the U.S. relevant when a final Syrian settlement is negotiated.

The U.S. plan to train the Syrian Border Security Force (BSF), which will be primarily composed of Kurdish fighters along the Syrian-Turkey border, has already aggravated Turkey, which is engaged in its own internal conflict with Kurdish terrorist groups, such as the Turkish Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Should the Trump administration decide to turn its occupation of northeast Syria into a regime change war, the U.S. will need far more than the 2,000 troops already in place in northeast Syria.

But, as we’ve seen from previous U.S. invasions in the Middle East, troop numbers can escalate rapidly once the president gives the order.

From late October 2002, when the U.S. Congress approved military action in Iraq (Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002), the U.S. and its allies had 125,000 in Kuwait by mid-March 2003 and would add 100,000 more by late April.

As with the Iraq War in 2003, when the George W. Bush administration accelerated its “marketing campaign” in September 2002 to sell the idea of an Iraq invasion to the American public, the first indication of the Trump administration’s intent to invade Syria may come from the U.S. news media.

Prior to the 2003 Iraq invasion, The New York Times’ Judith Miller penned the first of many disastrously inaccurate stories about Saddam Hussein’s alleged WMD program in December 2001, in what became a coordinated war dance by the national news media by the end of 2002.

We may be seeing this same dynamic starting again, evidenced by the U.S. news media’s coverage of the Douma attack which has been peppered with often blustery calls for the Trump administration to escalate the American military role in Syria.

MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell (April 8, 2018): “Trump has to take action. What he ought to do is a coordinated action. There has to be a comprehensive response (to the Douma attack).”

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough (April 8, 2018): “As Trump leaves (Syria) to fight his imaginary border war, he’s leaving the real war where we could make a difference and he’s turning it over to Assad and Iran and ISIS. This is something Barack Obama wouldn’t even do if confronted with these set of facts.”

National Review editorial board (April 11, 2018): “We should get an authorization from Congress for using force in Syria rather than stretching Bush-era authorizations to justify red-line strikes and other operations in the country. One way or the other, the missiles are going to fly. What remains to be seen is if this the beginning of a more robust Syria strategy or a substitute for one.”

The New York Times editorial board (April 11, 2018): “What to do next in Syria is a crucial test for Mr. Trump, who has shirked America’s traditional leadership role. He has tried to seem like a macho leader who would aggressively use American power where President Barack Obama wouldn’t, while talking about pulling out of the Middle East and walking away from international commitments. With such inconstancy, he will not be able to stop the violence in Syria, and with no clear, unified plan with the Western allies, he will only empower Mr. Assad.

The New York Times is all but calling Trump a ‘chicken’ and doing the obligatory wing flap and cackle.

This kabuki dance the U.S. news media does prior to every new U.S.-led war is predictable. The media, for its part, is in the business of attracting audiences and wars do exactly that.

Hopefully, this isn’t the run-up to a much larger U.S. commitment in the Syrian conflict.

I fear, however, it is.

K.R.K.

Share this...
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

Data shows effectiveness of Trump’s digital strategy during the 2016 election

Share this...
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

By Kent R. Kroeger (April 9, 2018)

{Send comments to: kkroeger@nuqum.com}

Donald Trump’s digital strategy in the 2016 presidential campaign, led by his son-in-law Jared Kushner and with a likely assist from the Russians, had a demonstrable impact on the election outcome.

If it was not a decisive factor in the final outcome, it was pretty damn close.

Its apparent targeting focused on those potential “conservative” voters most vulnerable to defecting to the Hillary Clinton: Less-than-strong conservatives over 40 years of age who used social media to share political information during the campaign.

“Slightly conservative” and “conservative” Americans accounted for 25 percent of the U.S. vote eligible population in 2016 according to the 2016 American National Election Study (ANES). And within that 25 percent, just under half of them said they used Facebook or Twitter (hereafter referred to as social media) to share political information during the campaign. That is almost 29 million people.

That is a large number of potential voters considering the 2016 electoral college result would have changed if only 70,000 Trump voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin had voted for Clinton instead.

Our findings, summarized below, are derived from an analysis of the ANES, a pre-post election survey fielded by Stanford University and the University of Michigan (see Appendix A for details on the survey methodology).

Older, less-than-strong conservative voters in 2016 that used social media for sharing political information had noticeably different attitudes

Trump’s digital strategy appears to have been focused on shoring up support among his base by driving up negative feelings towards Hillary Clinton. And, based on the ANES data, the strategy was effective.

In rating Hillary Clinton on a 0 to 100 favorability scale, on average, “slightly conservative” adults aged 40 or older who used social media to share political information gave her a rating of 20.7, compared to 32.1 among otherwise similar adults who had not used social media for sharing political information (see Figure 1 below). A similar relationship emerged among “conservative” adults (aged 40 or older).

Figure 1: Favorability Towards Clinton by Ideology and Facebook/Twitter Use (aged 40+); Source: NuQum.com

Within the other voter segments defined by age and ideology, there were no significant differences in Clinton ratings between social media users and non-social media users.

While not be definitive evidence of the impact of Cambridge Analytica or Russian meddling, it is strong evidence of the effectiveness of Trump’s digital strategy.

When we looked at the relative difference in favorability towards Clinton and Trump (see Figure 2 below), older conservatives again stood out.

Older conservatives that used social media to share political information were significantly more positive towards Trump relative to Clinton (Favorability Gap = 74.1 points), when compared to those in the same demographic category but who did not use social media for political information sharing (Favorability Gap = 53.7 points).

Figure 3: Favorability Gap by Ideology and Facebook/Twitter Use (aged 40+); Source: NuQum.com

Relative perceptions of the candidates’ honesty was also an important factor in voters’ decision calculus (see Appendix B for a logistic regression model of the 2016 vote choice).

When assessing the honesty of the two presidential candidates, “slightly conservative” and “conservative” adults (aged 40 or older) who used social media also indicated a greater honesty gap in Trump’s favor (Honesty Gap = 1.8 and 2.5, respectively), compared to otherwise similar adults (Honesty Gap = 0.9 and 1.9 points, respectively; see Figure 3 below).

Figure 3: Clinton-Trump “honesty” gap by Ideology and Facebook/Twitter Use (aged 40+); Source: NuQum.com

We believe these findings are strong, if not conclusive evidence, that Trump’s digital campaign had a demonstrable impact on the 2016 election.

Quantifying the impact of Trump’s digital strategy

Based on the 2016 ANES survey data, we estimate 28.7 million vote eligible Americans (or about 12 percent of the voter eligible population) were prime targets for the Trump campaign’s social media strategy, and 15.9 million of them voted (see Table 1 below).

Table 1: Estimated population sizes (Source: NuQum.com)

If we remove the “social media effect” (SME) in the 2016 presidential election, we estimate that 849,000 Trump voters would have voted for Clinton instead (Note: We refer to the “social media effect” as the “Facebook-Twitter effect” (FTE) in Table 2 below.)

Table 2: Estimated impact of conservative Facebook-Twitter users on the 2016 vote (Source: NuQum.com)

Without the SME, Trump would have lost the popular vote by 3.7 million votes and would have lost Michigan by 19,000 votes (see Table 2 above), yet he still would have won the electoral college in our estimation. But not by much.

Keep in mind, we are not considering other subgroups, particularly “middle of the road” voters, that also may have been impacted by Trump’s social media efforts. The 849,000 votes switched estimate is probably conservative.

Trump’s Facebook ads (particularly those created by the Russians) probably broke through the clutter

The 2016 ANES data cannot tell us what social media ads respondents saw during the campaign. But our analysis reveals the targeted impact of Trump’s digital strategy.

All you have to do is look at some of the Facebook ads from the 2016 campaign to see why Trump’s, particularly those created by the Russians (Internet Research Agency), may have worked better than Clinton’s.

Across the small sample of Facebook ads below, the mainstream Clinton and Trump ads all look professional but are unspectacular and mostly forgettable. The Trump ads created by the Russians (IRA) are crude, unprofessional, and hard to ignore.

Clinton Facebook ads

Trump Facebook Ads

Trump Facebook ads (Russian-created)

For better or worse, Trump’s campaign was about breaking the rules and conventions of presidential campaigning. He was an unconventional candidate and his digital strategy reflected that fact.

And we now have evidence that the Trump campaign’s digital strategy had a measurable and possibly decisive role in determining the 2016 election outcome.

K.R.K

Appendix A — Methodology

The 2016 American National Elections (Time-Series) Study is sponsored and managed by the University of Michigan and Stanford University.

The national survey is designed to assess electoral participation, voting behavior, and public opinion as it relates to eligible U.S. voters. In addition to the political content of the survey, it also measures media exposure, cognitive style, and personal values.

Data collection for the ANES 2016 Time Series Study began in early September and was completed in January, 2017. Pre-election interviews were conducted with study respondents during the two months prior to the 2016 elections and were followed by post-election re-interviewing beginning November 9, 2016. Both face-to-face interviewing and Internet-based data collection was conducted independently, using separate samples but substantially identical questionnaires. Web-administered cases constituted a representative sample separate from the face-to-face.

The SPSS dataset we used for our analysis combined the face-to-face and Internet samples which can be summarized as follows:

Analytic survey weights, provided by the ANES researchers, were used in all of the quantitative analyses presented in this article.

A complete description of the ANES 2016, including datasets, questionnaires, and supporting documentation, can be found here.

Appendix B: Logistic Model of the 2016 Presidential Vote (American National Election Study)

Table 3: Based on 2016 ANES individual-level survey data; data are weighted to represent the 2016 vote eligible population; dependent variable coded as 1 = Trump vote / 0 = Clinton or other vote
Share this...
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

The drum beat for war grows by the day

Share this...
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

By Kent R. Kroeger (April 9, 2018)

 

News of another chemical weapons attack in Syria, this time in Douma, reminds us of how deep and unresolved that conflict remains.

The Western media have generally been quick to blame the Assad regime for this latest attack, while Assad and the Russians have been equally quick to deny their culpability in this horrendous act that killed at least 70 civilians, mostly women and children.

That the blame has been so quickly assigned to Assad’s regime is predictable and with some merit; however, it is the breadth and ferocity of America’s media and governing elite to also blame Donald Trump for this cruel act that is most troublesome.

In a Washington Post editorial just days before this latest chemical attack, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough writes: “ That the U.S. president announced his plan to cede Syria to Vladimir Putin had to be deeply unsettling for those three countries, which are under continuous threat from Russia. But they are certainly not alone. America’s friends and foes alike must be asking themselves what kind of country cedes Iraq to Iran in a catastrophic, ill-planned war; abandons that country in 2011 after returning a semblance of order; sits idly by while 500,000 Syrians are slaughtered; allows, through inaction and neglect, for the rise of the Islamic State; and belatedly crushes the Islamic State’s dream of a thousand-year caliphate — only to once again move to abandon the region, thereby empowering the Islamic State, Iran, Russia and the murderous Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.”

But the most troubling conclusion Scarborough draws is the following: “After years of endless bloodshed, the U.S. military has finally learned to fight an enemy such as the Islamic State in a way that is successful and sustainable.”

Scarborough’s builds his thesis from the dubious assertion that the defeat of ISIS (at least as a territory-controlling entity) was solely the work of U.S. military strategy and ignoring the fact that, by following Russia’s lead, we stopped fighting a two-pronged war (one against Assad and one against ISIS) and decided to concentrate on the beatable foe, ISIS.

The Washington Post’s David Ignatius takes the war-mongering to an even more cynical level by suggesting it is the ‘feel-good’ thing to do.

“One face of the war in Syria that Americans don’t often see is the U.S. Army trauma surgeon, standing in the midday sun on the outskirts of Raqqa, taking a brief break from her near-constant duty in the operating room treating Syrians whose limbs have been shattered by bombs and booby traps. The doctor is a lieutenant colonel serving with U.S. Special Operations forces,” writes Ignatius about one of his experiences during a four-day trip to Syria in February. “The lieutenant colonel is part of the Syria mission that President Trump seems determined to end. Reflecting on the surgeon and the scores of other U.S. soldiers I’ve met during three trips to Syria since 2016, I can’t help thinking that there’s something about this mission — which has been low cost and high success, according to commanders — that Trump doesn’t understand.”

The U.S. doesn’t fight wars so our troops can feel good about themselves. We fight wars to protect our national interests when they are threatened.

As an extra measure, for any remaining skeptics towards a new U.S. occupation in the Middle East, Ignatius ends with this doughy anecdote: “I’m flying out of Syria on a C-130 cargo plane. Sitting next to me is a young officer who’s upset to be on that flight, for two reasons. He is going home to see his mother, who’s very ill. And he is leaving his comrades on the battlefield before the fight is over. He hates that last idea. So should we all.”

Ignatius should have told the young officer, no need to worry, the war in Syria will never be over. The officer will have plenty of time to rejoin the fight.

A fight that Scarborough and Ignatius both suggest the U.S. has learned how to win.

After almost 17 years of U.S. troops fighting jihadists and anti-Western combatants, have we really discovered the secret sauce necessary to bring peace and stability to Syria and the Middle East in general?

Of course not.

Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis, USA, Ret., who retired in 2015 after serving in four combat deployments (including Syria) offers boots-on-the-ground experience in the Middle East and concludes that now is not the time for the U.S. to make a bigger troop commitment in Syria.

“Aside from the fact it is militarily impossible to accomplish the laundry-list of goals in Syria — ‘countering’ Iran (which can’t even be defined), opposing Assad (which isn’t necessary for U.S. security), and stopping Turkey from attacking Syrian Kurds (risking confrontation with our NATO ally),” Davis writes in an op-ed essay for CNBC.com. “It is not in America’s interests to stay in Syria for objectives so disconnected from our security and prosperity. Contrary to conventional wisdom in Washington, the strategic benefit doesn’t come anywhere close to justifying the cost.”

Davis also counters the suggestion the U.S. leaving Syria will embolden Russia.

“ Many fear that a U.S. withdrawal from Syria would hand a victory to Russia. That concern is also misplaced. Russia has an enduring interest in Syria in holding on to their sole Middle East warm water port at Tartus,” Davis writes. “ So long as Assad stays in power, they (Russia) will continue to hold it (Tartus), quite irrespective of whether the U.S. remains or withdraws. What Russia wins by the departure of U.S. troops, however, is becoming the primary owner of the Syrian disaster and all the strategic costs that come with it. American power throughout the Middle East remains robust and undiminished, and will continue to dwarf that of Russia even after the small contingent of U.S. troops has returned home.”

Davis finally concludes: “ Syria remains embroiled in a civil war with scores of groups and militias trying to attain various and competing objectives. The remaining fight there belongs to them, not the United States.”

The chemical attack in Douma is tragic and must be addressed by the international community. And should the UN confirm Assad’s role in the attack, there must be an international response that includes holding Russia accountable as well.

A new and larger U.S. occupation force in Syria, however, should not be considered one of the viable options.

K.R.K.

{Send comments to: kkroeger@nuqum.com}

About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.

Share this...
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

If Trump cured cancer, the anti-Trump media would declare he was a healthy cell supremacist.

Share this...
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source: NuQum.com, April 4, 2018)

{Send comments to: kkroeger@nuqum.com}

Sinclair Broadcast Group, the owner of 173 television stations in the U.S., recently required its stations’ news anchors to read a script promoting the objectivity of their news coverage and warning viewers about the partisan bias plaguing other news outlets.

In the broadcast business, this is known as a ‘must-run,’ and Sinclair is well-known for using ‘must-runs’ for conservative commentaries.

In response to Sinclair’s promotion, the anti-Trump media had a collective meltdown.

The irony of Sinclair promoting its stations’ objectivity in news coverage is undeniable. Yet, it must also be acknowledged that Sinclair, as a for-profit business enterprise, has every right to distinguish its service from its competitors, even if it is based more on fiction than reality.

As critical as I’ve been about the anti-Trump news media’s reporting (e.g., MSNBC, CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Politico.com, Vox.com, etc.), I have always supported their right to be biased in their coverage. I also recognize how partisan-driven news attracts audiences which, in turn, generates profits. The Fox News Channel has been proving that for the past 20 years.

That is our nation’s commercial news system. We can lament its existence and the lack of mainstream, non-partisan alternatives, but we cannot deny the partisan (anti-Trump) media’s right to do what they do.

And Donald Trump has been a godsend to many news outlets, as exemplified by the New York Times surpassing $1 billion in revenues and MSNBC attracting its largest audiences ever this past year.

The anti-Trump news outlets have a tangible incentive to be biased.

And Sinclair has every right to call them out for this bias, regardless of the hypocrisy involved.

The subsequent industry-wide freak-out about Sinclair forcing its local news anchors to read a statement about the importance of news objectivity is equally hypocritical.

Cue MSNBC’s Morning Joe reaction to Sinclair’s marketing strategy:

“I don’t understand reading that (Sinclair script),” bemoaned Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski. “This was a disgrace across the board on the part of the journalists involved who were acting out a script rather than understanding the perspective of the news and pushing back when necessary.”

Never to be out-outraged by his co-host, Joe Scarborough chimed in: “It was ripped straight out of the playbook by Donald Trump which is attack mainstream media, talk about ‘fake news’ while Donald Trump spent the whole weekend spewing out ‘fake news.'”

Fair enough. It took some audacity for the Sinclair stations to present themselves as objectivity purists, but was it “extremely dangerous to our democracy”? Really?

Let’s go through the actual Sinclair statement (in bold type below) line-by-line and find where the threat to our republic lies…

ACTUAL SINCLAIR-WRITTEN SCRIPT READ BY THE SINCLAIR TV ANCHORS:

Our greatest responsibility is to serve our Northwest communities. We are extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that [TV Station Call Letters] News produces.

Hypocrisy aside, there is nothing democracy-threatening in that first line.

But we’re concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country. The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media.

This next sentence has merit as well. It is not hard to find examples of CNN or MSNBC anchors recklessly conjecturing on what crimes Donald Trump may have committed, based often on little more than hearsay or a cryptic court filing by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation team. That’s not objective journalism. That’s called guessing.

Of course, I would throw Fox News and Sinclair stations in that mix of irresponsible journalism even though that was not Sinclair’s intent.

As for the third sentence, some could interpret it as more of a criticism of the right-wing social media environment than anything else. A broader interpretation is that there is biased and false news stories being bandied about Facebook, Instagram and Twitter from all ideological persuasions. A true statement.

More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories… stories that just aren’t true, without checking facts first.

Read my previous comment.

Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’…This is extremely dangerous to a democracy.

That is pretty much what you hear on any given night from anchors on MSNBC, CNN and Fox News, though I would argue they are pushing a ‘corporate bias and agenda’ and not their own.

At [INSERT TV STATION CALL LETTERS] it’s our responsibility to pursue and report the truth. We understand Truth is neither politically ‘left nor right.’ Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.

This first sentence in this paragraph is true. The second sentence, ditto. And I really want to believe that they believe in the third sentence, but skepticism is warranted. Nonetheless, Sinclair anchors saying this on-air is hardly a threat to our democracy. I only hope their audiences hold them to that standard.

But we are human and sometimes our reporting might fall short. If you believe our coverage is unfair please reach out to us by going to (our website) and clicking on CONTENT CONCERNS. We value your comments. We will respond back to you.

We work very hard to seek the truth and strive to be fair, balanced and factual… We consider it our honor, our privilege to responsibly deliver the news every day.

Forgive me if these last sentences don’t elicit fear for the impending end of our constitutional republic either. If anything, it is the hyper-sensitive and disproportionate reaction by the anti-Trump media that seems like the ‘fake news.’ Sinclair engaged in a marketing campaign, ham-handed as it may have been, and in that effort enlisted (or, as they say in the military, voluntold) its news anchors, also known as employees, to read a script. That is as much of a non-news story as you can get.

If you are a journalist at Sinclair station and you don’t like how Sinclair does business, quit. Which is exactly what one Sinclair employee decided to do.

Former Sinclair news director Aaron Weiss quit over the ‘objective news’ promotion and promptly went on CNN to criticize Sinclair for forcing its news anchors to read the corporate-written statements verbatim. His displeasure with the practice is defensible, particularly if any job threats were involved, as he suggested there were.

“I have no problem with conservative-slanted or liberal-slanted news, but own it,” Aaron Weiss told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota. But it begs the question, does that also apply to corporatist Democratic-slanted news as well? I’m talking to you CNN and MSNBC.

The act of owning one’s political bias assumes a level of self-awareness not common within most people. And, frankly, naming one’s own biases is more complicated than simply referencing partisanship. There are other, often more powerful, biases at play in the media. There is confrontation bias (news organizations like to see stories as conflicts). There is narrative bias (the tendency to connect news stories to larger narratives). And there is, of course, today’s anti-Trump bias (a form of the narrative bias) which transcends partisanship and manifests itself anytime Donald Trump says or does anything.

Trump could cure cancer and the anti-Trump media would declare he was a healthy cell supremacist.

All the variations in bias aside, partisan bias has become the summary description of the news media today and some media observers are not surprised or alarmed at its rise to dominance.

Gabriel Sherman, who covers the media for New York Magazine, believes partisan journalism is the historical norm and it is objective journalism, uniquely post-World War II phenomenon, that is unsustainable.

He may be right, but his conclusion exists in the context of a commercial, profit-driven media environment. What he cannot tell us is whether the American public, and by extension our democracy, is better served by a partisan media versus a more objective one.

Partisan media do serve a purpose in a democracy. They not only inform voters of the policy and ideological preferences of the major parties, but strengthen the opinion congruence between the party leaders and voters. It makes parties more ideologically homogeneous.

We see evidence of this in today’s highly partisan electorate (see Figure 1 below from research by Dr. Lee Drutman) and from the increasing distance between the ideological centers of the parties (see Figure 2 below from the Pew Research Center).

 

Figure 1: Ideological clustering of the 2016 electorate (Source: Dr Lee Drutman)

 

Figure 2: Increasing Ideological Gap between the Democrats and Republicans (Source: Pew Research Center)

Objective news outlets, on the other hand, helps us critique the performance of the parties, particularly when they are in power.

Without the objective news media, the likelihood decreases that citizens will modify their own views as party performance warrants. If a democracy requires anything, it is the responsiveness of elected leaders and policies to the will of the people. It must have the flexibility to change policies as conditions and performance change. The partisan media has made that evaluation more difficult, and that is a very bad thing for a democracy.

Today, American public policy does a piss-poor job representing the interests of average Americans.

In their highly-regarded study of the link between public policy outcomes and public opinion, political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page concluded: “When one holds constant net interest-group alignments and the preferences of affluent Americans, it makes very little difference (to public policy outcomes) what the general public thinks.”

That is not exactly the American democracy I read about in textbooks. And it reinforces the belief that we need to bring objective journalism back into the mainstream of American media.

Sinclair’s local news anchors proved they can parrot the ideals of objective journalism, but do they really mean it? And will any other news media organizations follow?

K.R.K.

{Send comments to: kkroeger@nuqum.com}

About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.

 

 

 

Share this...
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

A Taxonomy of Political Lies

Share this...
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:  NuQum.com, March 28, 2018)

{Send comments to: kkroeger@nuqum.com}

“It’s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.”
― Noël Coward

In the 2016 election, many people thought President Donald Trump was honest, or was, at least, selectively honest.

“He says it like it is — he doesn’t speak out of both sides of his mouth like other politicians,” a Trump supporter told me as he waited for Trump to arrive at a Des Moines, Iowa campaign rally early in the 2016 presidential campaign.

What he was describing was more Trump’s off-the-cuff, rambling speaking style, not his honesty. Nonetheless, relative to other politicians, Trump was a refreshing change of pace to many voters.

Voters know politicians lie. They even understand why on some level. We all lie over the course of a lifetime for various reasons: to protect someone’s feelings, to motivate people, to avoid a conflict the truth would otherwise ignite, or to hide our own mistakes, misdeeds, or inadequacies.

It is human to lie.

“To keep society running smoothly, we need to tell white lies,” says Dr. Paul Seager, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire (UK). “We all lie and those who say they don’t are probably the biggest liars of all.”

But not everyone that studies deception and lying agrees with Seager’s conclusion that it benefits society or that all people are predestined to be liars.

“We are not born liars,” says Dr. Roland Losif Moraru, a psychologist from the University of Petrosani (Romania). “There are lots of reasons that could motivate people to tell lies, and even though each reason might be different than the other, all of them stem from one root cause which is being unable to bear the consequences of telling the truth.”

“Lack of courage, lack of problem-solving skills and lack of the ability to properly handle unexpected events may make escaping from a situation a much better option than facing it,” says M. Farouk Radwan, author of How to Make Someone Fall in Love with You. “Consequently, lying is the combination of being unable to face the results of honesty and the lack of proper values.”

That last sentence may be a perfect summary of America’s political class.

Donald Trump was elected, in part, due to his blunt, unfiltered, and generally unstructured way of speaking. In the view of his supporters, his frankness is one of his defining qualities. To his detractors, at best, he is an “intellectual sloth” prone to falsehoods, if for no other reason than, he doesn’t know the truth in many cases. At worst, he is a scheming charlatan dedicated to abusing the power of the presidency for his own private gain (perhaps to also serve the interests of his Russian handlers).

Conservative columnist George Will pointedly said of Trump’s chronic estrangement from knowledge, “The problem isn’t that he does not know this or that, or that he does not know that he does not know this or that. Rather, the dangerous thing is that he does not know what it is to know something.”

“This seems to be not a mere disinclination but a disability. It is not merely the result of intellectual sloth but of an untrained mind bereft of information and married to stratospheric self-confidence,” Will wrote.

But speaking in ignorance, as Trump often does, is a different form of lying. To assert a point of fact while not knowing if it is true seems particularly noxious. It may not fit into a narrow definition of lying, but its consequences can be every bit as consequential.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell asserting at a 2003 UN Security Council meeting that Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime had an active weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program an example of a political lie? Or was it just wishful thinking given the decision to go to war with Iraq had all but been made?

Former members of the George W. Bush administration continue to argue their mistake on Iraqi WMDs was either an honest one or not a mistake at all.

Secretary Powell, representing the most common defense of the Bush administration’s using Iraqi WMDs as a pretext for war, now calls his UN speech the product of a “great intelligence failure.”

But was it something, in fact, more dishonest than simply a breakdown in the intelligence collection and analysis process?

If Secretary Powell knew it might not be true, was the WMD assertion just another potent type of political lie?

The more conventional definition of lie — when someone with a knowledge of the facts consciously misrepresents those facts to further an agenda — may generally be considered the clearest form of lying, but politicians have mastered other methods of manipulating facts to achieve the same goals.

Not all lies are equal

The political dysfunction we experience today is complemented by the inability (or disinterest) of the news media to distinguish between the various types of lies emanating from politicians.

Donald Trump saying he is the “smartest person in a room” is not the same as Barack Obama saying, “If you like the health care plan you have, you can keep it.” Both were lies, but one far more substantive than the other.

The news media tend to deposit all political lies into a collective bucket, regardless of degree or impact, which doesn’t serve the public interest well.

Furthermore, fact-checking websites like Politifact.com tend to focus exclusively on politicians’ statements easily verified through widely-available information sources. But what about situations where the critical knowledge can only be obtained through sources far outside the typical access channels of journalists or the public? Or even members of Congress?

When U.S. Special Operations soldiers died in Niger last year, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham admitted to NBC’s Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, “I didn’t know there was 1,000 troops in Niger.”

The U.S. Special Forces Niger operation was not a secret. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) had been openly posting on Twitter about U.S. involvement in Niger since it started in 2013, reports SpecialOperations.com.

If Congress can be in the dark on routine U.S. military operations, it should surprise few people that journalists might also be in the dark. Moreover, the potential for public officials to lie to the news media increases considerably when the government’s activities are off everyone’s radar.

The news media is also ill-equipped to separate truth from fiction when they must assess a politician’s intent.

We may never know Hillary Clinton’s true intent for why she preferred a private server for her work e-mails over the more legally-appropriate (and probably more secure) e-mail system already in place at the U.S State Department.

But her intent is the essence of whether or not she lied when she told reporters she chose the home-brew system for its “convenience.” Her explanation reminded me of George Washington’s famous line: “It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.”

By shielding her emails from public scrutiny, including the deletion of over 30,000 emails after the emails had been subpoenaed by a congressional committee, it became reasonable to ask, “What is she hiding?”

There is a substantive difference between Donald Trump sending out his press secretary Sean Spicer to lie about the size of the crowd at the presidential inaugural and Hillary Clinton’s mendacity regarding why she needed a private email server.

There was a national security interest in knowing the content of Clinton’s e-mails which resided on a unsecured private network. There was nothing at stake with Spicer’s inaccurate boast about crowd size, except his credibility as a press secretary.

Yet, Politifact.com gave Sean Spicer’s untruth a ‘Pants on Fire‘ rating, while the truthfulness of Clinton’s claim she authorized a private e-mail server for the ‘convenience’ could not be assessed.

Not all lies are equal and treating them as such serves the interests of those telling the most dangerous lies.

If, on the other hand, journalists and the political class were to share a common schema for categorizing the various types of lies one hears in the nation’s capitol, it might aid the public in distinguishing between a  ‘run-of-the-mill’ Washington, D.C. lie and one of real consequence.

A Taxonomy of Political Lies

During the 2016 presidential, WNYC’s On the Media radio broadcast, hosted by Bob Garfield and Brooke Gladstone, created their own taxonomy of the classic political lies, which included: lies of omission, lies of distortion, lies of exaggeration, the bald-faced lie, and lies that feel like they must be true.

All excellent types of lies, but for the purpose outlined in this essay, they fail to distinguish the most toxic lies from innocuous ones.  Some bald-face political lies are relatively harmless (Donald Trump: “No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days.”), while others can lead a country into war (George W. Bush: “Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.”).

Instead, a useful taxonomy of political lies needs to go beyond simply the content of the lie (exaggeration, distortion, factual omissions) and attempt to discern its scope and purpose.

In that effort, here is a simple taxonomy of political lies that distinguishes them along two dimensions:

  • Self-awareness — is there good reason to believe the (alleged) liar knows if they are telling a lie?
  • Impact — does the (alleged) lie relate to a subject matter of great importance or impact (e.g., national security, a major federal policy, etc.)?

In many cases, where a lie fits on both dimensions will be a subjective judgment and won’t be known with any certainty, if ever, until many years have passed. In other cases, it may be easier to determine the substance of a lie than the self-awareness of the liar. A liar’s intent is particularly difficult to discern as it often requires knowing what was in their heart at the time they spoke an untruth.

Clinton saying “the private e-mail server was for convenience” is impossible to prove as lie unless she left a documented record of saying otherwise. And she didn’t, as far as we know.

Still, the taxonomy of political lies can help journalists and the public decide what politician-sourced untruths are more important than others, even when it is unclear if an untruth has been spoken.

Figure 1 below shows the basic dimensions of the political lie taxonomy. The horizontal axis assesses the potential impact of the lie based on its subject matter. For example, a lie about the outcome of a military engagement is less consequential than a lie about campaign donations. The vertical axis is based on the degree to which the (alleged) liar is aware they are telling a lie. As mentioned, it is usually difficult to know the extent to which the liar is aware they are telling a lie. A better way to utilize the ‘self-awareness’ dimension therefore is to estimate the probability that the (alleged) liar is consciously lying. For example, we can say with high probability now that Richard Nixon knew about his White House’s effort to cover up the Watergate break-in. It always helps, of course, when there is a documented admission as there was in Nixon’s case. In contrast, there is decent probability that Donald Trump believes he had the largest inauguration audience in history.

Figure 1: A Taxonomy of Political Lies

The two-dimension taxonomy creates four categories of lies. There are lies of ignorance, lies of indifference, lies of narrative, and lies of purpose. Generally, the most serious lies will be those with a potentially high impact (Lies of Purpose and Lies of Narrative).

Figure 2 provides a short description of the four lie types and Figure 3 offers examples from history of each lie type.

Figure 2: A Description of the Four Lie Types

We will start in the lower left-hand quadrant: Lies of Ignorance. This is probably the easiest category to explain and some will rightfully argue this is not really a lie. This is the type of lie where we often speak using gross simplifications, or go “outside the data,” or talk in areas far outside our areas of competency. Such a lie can be driven by a desire just to be social or out of our need to be respected for our intelligence. Insecure people often tell these types of lies and might account for the vast of majority of Trump’s spoken untruths.

There is one caveat with this category, however. Being wrong about a point of fact is not the same as lying. For a politician’s untruthfulness to earn a spot in this quadrant, they must recklessly disregard any attempt to learn the facts before they speak their untruth.  I stand guilty of this lie more times than I’d like to admit but it is Trump that has taken this category to weapons-grade levels.

The second quadrant — Lies of Indifference — is populated by political lies where the speaker of the lie knows they are lying but it concerns a matter of relative lesser importance. A recent example would be former press secretary Sean Spicer telling the press corps that Trump’s inauguration was the most watched ever. It wasn’t, even if you include online and replay viewers.

Some could this is the worst kind of lie, since you knowingly do it even though it concerns something of relative insignificance. Only a congenital liar would potentially compromise their integrity and trustworthiness for a lie whose benefits would be minimal at best. Trump telling Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that the U.S. has a trade deficit with Canada (which is not true and Trudeau immediately challenged Trump on the claim) was a pointless effort and served no tangible purpose.

Figure 3: Examples of the Four Lie Types

The third quadrant — Lies of Narrative — includes lies that are often controversial in that the liar contends they ‘honestly believed’ the untruth they told. Short of a deathbed confession stating otherwise, these lies are taken on faith that the liar is telling their truth about their ignorance. What makes this problematic is that lies of narrative concern issues of high importance (national security, federal legislation, etc.). I am convinced that when Trump said of illegal Mexican immigrants — “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people” — he was certain of his statement’s truth. That shouldn’t exonerate him for the depth of the lie.

Lies of narrative, as the label implies, typically propel a larger narrative in the political blood stream. A better example may be Powell’s WND speech before the UN. On his word, I accept that he believed the intelligence given to him. But Powell is a bright man. He knew the score when he was provided the intelligence on the non-existent Iraqi WND program. The U.S. was going to war with Iraq. The narrative was set. Powell just needed to advance the ball one more step. These lies may be the most dangerous as politicians have mastered them as tools to avoid the consequences of their infidelity to the truth. If caught speaking untruths, they just need claim they acted in good faith. As long as they don’t document their deliberate misapplication of the facts, who can prove otherwise? Forthright ignorance is a viable defense in Washington, D.C.

The fourth quadrant — Lies of Purpose — includes lies that we probably think of when we think of political lies. Watergate. Tammany Hall. Gulf of Tonkin. Iran-Contra Affair. This category also includes less criminal but still significant lies such as President Obama’s claim about the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA) that “if you like the health care plan you have, you can keep it.”

Their defining characteristic is that the (alleged) liar knew they were speaking an untruth but did so in the pursuit of a specific political outcome or personal gain. It was pre-meditated. They didn’t just turn a blind-eye to contradictory evidence. They actively strangled and buried it.

When is a lie better than the truth?

Leo Tolstoy has an answer for this last question: “Anything is better than lies and deceit.”

Yet, today, the observation that lying is an art from in Washington, D.C. is hopelessly banal. Career politicians and senior civil servants cannot survive long without mastering this dark art.

Lying is a survival tool and the successful politicians know how to wield its powers. In contrast, Jimmy Carter’s failures as president were exacerbated by his unwillingness to employ it on the political battlefield.

“Jimmy Carter may have been wrong — often — but one thing he was not was a liar,” says conservative blogger David Pettit. “He was and is a great human being who was wholly unsuited for the deceptive and underhanded rigors of the Office of President.”

In contrast, there is Bill Clinton. A man that many regard as a successful, though under-achieving, president. Perhaps more than any president in history, lies for him were purely utilitarian devices. He used lies the way you use shortcut keys on your laptop keyboard. His lies helped him to survive to fight another day. The ends justified the means, and if it required lies to achieve a larger goal, so be it.

The lesson to be learned from the 2016 election is that simple definitions of lying don’t convey their power or their impact on voters. Millions of Americans did not care that Trump didn’t tell the truth a lot of the time. When it mattered to them, they thought he was a truth-teller. Even if the facts proved otherwise.

At the end of the 2016 presidential campaign the Washington Post determined that 64 percent of all Trump statements were totally false. Compare that to the average politician who makes completely false statements 10 to 20 percent of the time.

The wrong conclusion from 2016 and the Trump presidency is not that we are in a post-truth era. Speaking the truth has been and will always be important, particularly from our elected leaders. What has happened, however, is that the use of lies has become so ingrained in our political culture, we don’t see it anymore. Its like that ugly, textured wallpaper your mom put up in the kitchen in the mid-70s. After awhile, you don’t see it anymore, but it is no less ugly.

We don’t need the ‘deep state’ concept to recognize that it is too acceptable for the political establishment to say one thing among themselves, but something totally different when they speak to the public. In fact, the media and political elites lionized President Bill Clinton for his ability to prevaricate for political purposes, even as they feigned in public how disgusted they were at how effortless it was for him to do so.

His wife, Hillary Clinton, probably said it best in her April 2013 speech to Wall Street banking executives: “If everybody’s watching all of the backroom discussions and the deals, then people get a little nervous, to say the least. So you need both a public and a private position. You just have to sort of figure out how to balance the public and the private efforts that are necessary to be successful, politically, and that’s not just a comment about today.”

In Topeka, Kansas, that is called lying. In the social circles of our political and media elites, that’s called being smart.

Perhaps these words from author Laura Ingalls Wilder, who, not coincidentally, was raised in the Midwest, can help bring a culture of honesty back to our political system:

“The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.”

― Laura Ingalls Wilder

K.R.K.

{Send comments to: kkroeger@nuqum.com}

About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.

Share this...
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

When will it be OK to say the Parkland kids are obnoxious? (And are hurting our chances for meaningful gun control legislation)

Share this...
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:  NuQum.com, March 26, 2018)

{Send comments to: kkroeger@nuqum.com}

Parkland student David Hogg’s impassioned plea at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C. over the weekend to hold lawmakers accountable at the ballot box if they don’t pass gun control legislation soon was an exercise in earnest cluelessness.

Hogg’s sincerity is not the issue. That the Democratic Party and its network of government-empowering interest groups would use children to advance their political agendas, though troubling, is not the issue.

The problem with the March for Our Lives movement and pro-gun control Americans in general is that they are fighting a battle that is rigged against them. Earnestness, persistence and hard work will not overcome that problem. Voting Republicans out of office won’t even help.

First things first, I must disclose my own biases on this issue. I fully support banning “assault weapons” and their deadly enhancements, such as high capacity magazines and bump stocks. Unlike the 1994 assault weapons ban, which left many loopholes in its definition of an “assault weapon,” I would aggressively broaden the definition (For an excellent summary of the deep flaws in the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, I recommend Brad Blumer’s article in the Washington Post from December 17, 2012).

“Experts who have studied the (1994) law tend to agree that it was rife with loopholes and generally ineffective at curbing gun violence,” reported Blumer in his 2012 Washington Post article.

And why was the law ineffective?

“For starters, only 18 firearm models were explicitly banned. But it was easy for gun manufacturers to modify weapons slightly so that they didn’t fall under the ban. One example: the Colt AR-15 that James Holmes used to shoot up a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., last summer would have been outlawed. Yet it would have been perfectly legal for Holmes to have purchased a very similar Colt Match Target rifle, which didn’t fall under the ban,” wrote Blumer.

I want to see substantive gun control legislation passed in this country as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the marches I watched on Saturday didn’t address the barriers to gun control and may have, in fact, setback any chance of such legislation passing anytime soon.

Three factors work against seeing any meaningful gun control legislation passed by this Congress, or a Democrat-controlled Congress after the 2018 midterms.

The Constitution stands in the way of gun control legislation

The first factor is the constitution itself. Often we hear a pro-control argument that goes something like this: “There are more legal and administrative restrictions in place to restrict our ability to get a driver’s license than there are to buy a gun.”

The problem with that argument is that we don’t have a constitutional right to drive a car. If we did, the barriers to getting a driver’s license would be very different. An absurd comparison only because there were no cars when the Founding Fathers wrote the constitution.

But what about the right to vote? That is also a constitutional right that is continuously threatened by Republican efforts to erect more and more barriers to the voting booth.

While true in the short-term, the historical arc with respect to voting rights in this country actually supports the notion that gun rights are going to be protected by future courts as well. With few exceptions, the voting franchise has been consistently expanded and barriers to voting significantly reduced since this country’s founding.

When Republicans tried to pass a voter ID law in North Carolina in 2013, the Supreme Court quickly knocked it down by allowing lower court rulings against it to stand.

The Fourth Circuit court found in 2016 that the 2013 package of voting reforms in North Carolina, including the establishment of a strict voter-ID requirement and restrictions on early voting and same-day registration, “were enacted with racially discriminatory intent.”

When something is a constitutional right, the courts take a circumspect view of attempts to restrict that something.

If the Constitution included a positive right to basic health care, which has been erroneously suggested as FDR’s intent in his “Second Bill of Rights” speech in 1941, we would have had universal health care in this country already.

But we don’t.

Gun control advocates face a similar problem.

James Madison, our fourth president and Father of the U.S. Constitution, laid out in Federalist Paper No. 46 the importance of the people possessing the right to form well regulated state militias:

“Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger.”

Our Founding Fathers had good reason not to trust a federal government. History was rich with evidence showing strong central governments monopolizing the tools of violence to control the people.

If state militias are essential to repelling a federal army, in Madison’s view, and in sharp contrast to the views of many European legal scholars at the time, the American republic cannot be afraid to “trust the people with arms.”

Subsequent to Madison’s writings, early U.S. court rulings adopted a restricted (well regulated militia) view of the Second Amendment. In United States v. Miller (1939) the majority opinion for the U.S. Supreme Court wrote: “The Court cannot take judicial notice that a shotgun having a barrel less than 18 inches long has today any reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, and therefore cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees to the citizen the right to keep and bear such a weapon.”

Hardly a stance the National Rifle Association (NRA) would endorse today. And, since 1939, U.S. courts have taken increasingly more negative views of attempts to restrict gun rights, in part, due to the NRA’s expansive and sophisticated lobbying efforts.

There is no question the NRA has been a powerful force for gun rights, though its power is exaggerated through its association with the inherent potency of a constitutional amendment.

Take away the Second Amendment, we wouldn’t be talking about banning assault weapons in the U.S. right now. From their first inception they would have been banned.

Partisanship hurts the prospects of gun control legislation

The second factor is the role of partisanship in national policymaking.

Once partisanship has infected an issue, it is all but impossible to pass substantive and enduring legislation.

Partisanship has given us a graveyard of stunted and unfulfilled legislative dreams. National health care? Partisanship gave us the weak alternative called Obamacare. It may well die before another Democratic president and Congress can get elected.

A sustained national commitment to a complete conversion to renewable energy to combat global warming? Partisanship has limited government action to a series of executive orders and bureaucratic rulemaking, all potentially reversed under an opposing party’s administration.

Is there an example of a current national policy driven by a bipartisan consensus?

Yes — the vast majority of federal spending: Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, debt servicing and national defense.

Source: U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB)

Attempts to cut Social Security or Medicare/Medicaid spending is token at best, typically led by a small faction of libertarian deficit-hawks in the Republican Party (e.g., Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee).

As for defense spending, the overwhelming majority of congressional Democrats and Republicans can’t fall over themselves fast enough to put money behind their shared prosaicism that they want to “support our troops.” The flat defense spending under Obama was the result of his administration overseeing the reduction in combat operations initiated under George W. Bush. And the increases just passed by the current Congress and signed by Trump significantly reverse those lean Obama budgets.

When bipartisanship prevails, substantive legislation happens. When partisanship takes over, substance is replaced by platitudes and posturing.

That is a fair summary of the rhetoric at the March for Our Lives. 

Parkland students, like Hogg, lecturing their “old ass parents” for not knowing how to “use a f-king democracy” is not only laughably stupid and ahistorical, but does more to help ignite the backlash against passing gun control legislation.

Had the Democratic Party and associated interest groups not co-opted the Parkland students, there may have been a real chance to see a broad assault weapons ban in this country. Once CNN, Ted Lieu and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz got their paws on the Parkland students, however, the odds of such legislation dropped dramatically.

Enabling the Parkland students to publicly humiliate Florida Senator Marco Rubio during the CNN town hall on gun control or during the March for Our Lives rally didn’t help either.

Rubio is the exact type of Republican the gun control lobby needs to be working with, not against.

At this point, assuming the Democrats control both the White House and Congress after 2020 presidential election, the best-case scenario is passing an assault weapons ban as riddled with loopholes as the 1994 law.

Only a bipartisan effort can hope to counterbalance the NRA’s influence on the relevant congressional committees.

The importance of gun control to the American public is volatile

The third factor stopping gun control legislation is its long-term volatility in importance relative to other problems facing our nation.

In its most recent poll on the most important problems facing the U.S., the Gallup Organization reports a surge in their importance of gun control.

“The U.S. Gallup’s March update finds 13 percent of Americans mentioning guns, up from less than 1 percent in early February, before the (Parkland) shooting occurred,” according to Gallup analyst Jeffrey Jones. “The percentage mentioning guns in response to this open-ended question is the highest Gallup has recorded since it first began compiling mentions of gun-related issues in 1994. The previous high was 10 percent after the Columbine school shooting in Littleton, Colorado.”

Not surprisingly, this current rise in the importance of gun control is driven by the Parkland shooting incident. Opinion surveys, particularly when asked about national issues most Americans only experience through the media, are mostly reflections of what people directly or indirectly read, hear and see in the media. Opinion surveys are prone to the ephemeral effects of event-driven phenomena.

But policymaking is typically a long-term project. The volatility in the importance of gun control to average Americans will not work in gun control advocates’ favor. As the table below shows, the importance of gun control spiked with the Las Vegas shooting in October 2017 but quickly eroded by December. The importance of gun control will fall after Parkland too. Perhaps not as fast or as far as previous shootings because of the news media’s higher level of attention to the issue, but it will fall.

Source: Gallup

Assigning too much weight to poll results at this point only sets up gun control advocates for the inevitable disappointment when the media spotlight turns to the next cable-news-driven event (Stormy Daniels Round 2? The next series of Mueller indictments? The next stock market collapse? A strategic strike on North Korea or Iran?). It is just a matter of time and if there is no action in Congress soon on gun control, the chances of passing an assault weapons ban diminish rapidly.

The Democrats must strike while the iron is hot.

“If [McConnell and Ryan] were to simply let the (gun control) bills comes to the floor, they would pass,” New York Senator Chuck Schumer said at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C. “The NRA represents a small minority, but it has a stranglehold on Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan.”

But McConnell has already tabled gun control on the Senate’s 2018 schedule in favor of banking reform. Anything gun control legislation that does make it to the floor before the midterms will be limited to enhancing background checks, raising age minimums for gun purchases, and limiting the sale of bump stocks and high capacity magazines. Those are not insignificant policy changes, but they are not likely to change the levels of gun violence in this country.

With the deck stacked against them, what are gun control advocates supposed to do?

Of course, giving up on passing gun control legislation is not an option.

But anyone advocating changing the Second Amendment is spitting into the wind.

Instead, gun control advocates must focus on what they can control: the media and themselves.

Hopefully, it is not controversial anymore to say that the major news media outlets (Fox News and The Wall Street Journal notwithstanding) are in the tank for the establishment Democrats’ political agenda.

That fact is a double-edged sword for gun control advocates. On the one hand, anything that can keep gun violence high on the public agenda works to their advantage. But by associating gun control with a partisan agenda works to their disadvantage.

At a minimum, adults need to assert control of the message coming out of the gun control movement. The maudlin, over-heated theatrics coming from the Parkland students will backfire over time if left unfiltered.

If there is one iron-law in political communication it is that Americans don’t like to see their political leaders excessively emotional. It is tolerated in brief, well-defined moments: Reagan hugging the family members of the space shuttle Challenger victims. Obama shedding a tear for the Sandy Hook students.

Gun violence victims and their families should express their profound emotions. But for political leaders, crying, swearing and yelling are generally not effective political communication styles.

Effective political leaders are not victims. They are compassionate but even-tempered, and when they do show strong emotions, they must appear in control of those emotions.

But the sonics and optics at these mega-marches, including the Women’s march in January 2017, are not designed to attract fence-sitters and independents to a cause. These marches are meant to rally troops (hence, why they are called ‘rallies’!), but they are piss-poor at expanding a political base.

The Vietnam War marches ushered in two Richard Nixon election victories. The Nuclear Disarmament Marches in the 1980s preceded Ronald Reagan’s 1984 electoral victory, the largest election landslide since FDR.

The point is, marches don’t necessarily presage significant political victories in the marchers’ favor.

Two-thirds of Americans now support stronger gun control measures. The rise in support is almost exclusively among Republicans and Independents, not Democrats (see charts below):

It is support among independents and Republicans that will determine the final outcome of the current momentum to pass gun control legislation. Calling anyone over 18-years-old part of the problem, which is what more than one Parkland teen expressed at Saturday’s march, is a recipe for choking off the momentum gained since the Parkland shooting tragedy.

Chuck Schumer telling marchers that the students like those at Parkland “are our leaders” says more about the Democratic Party’s leadership vacuum than anything else.

Gun control advocates therefore should take that as a sign that letting their movement align with the Democratic Party is a grave mistake.

There are Republicans ready to work with the Democrats on meaningful gun control legislation. Don’t alienate them with immature spokespeople like David Hogg.

K.R.K.

{Send comments to: kkroeger@nuqum.com}

About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.

 

Share this...
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

Are Americans growing weary of the Trump-Russia story?

Share this...
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:  NuQum.com, March 23, 2018)

{Send comments to: kkroeger@nuqum.com}

The signs are starting to appear…

The American people may be growing weary of the Trump-Russia story.

The first sign is what scares media executives the most…TV ratings. It’s the canary-in-the-mine indicator.

MSNBC’s three leading prime time news programs experienced ratings declines between January and February this year. Rachel Maddow lost 159,000 adult viewers, Lawrence O’Donnell dropped 248,000, and Chris Hayes shed 87,000. At the same time, Fox News saw complementary increases across its prime time lineup.

Its just one month and MSNBC’s weekday evening schedule still garners more viewers than a year ago. But trends start somewhere.

The second sign of Russia-fatigue is the recent sustained increase in Donald Trump’s job approval ratings. As of March 23rd, the RealClearPolitics.com average was at 41.6 percent.

He’s not exactly popular. In fact, he remains historically unpopular for this stage in a presidency. Yet, for Trump, 41.6 percent looks good. He is well off his all-time lows in mid-December 2017, when he had 37 percent approval, and if the trend were to continue through October, the GOP would have a decent chance of keeping control of the U.S. House.

Trump is too unpredictable to justify any prediction that bold. But it is also true he is in the midst of his presidency’s most sustained increase in job approval. Hardly evidence that the American public is losing faith in his presidency over the Trump-Russia probe.

And the third sign of Russia-fatigue should scare establishment Democrats the most. Progressive Democrats are openly starting to wonder if the Democrats’ obsession with Russia isn’t designed to distract Americans from the real issues that affect their lives: Jobs, health care, college costs, income inequality, etc.

During a March 19th live-streamed discussion of income inequality, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and filmmaker Michael Moore both highlighted the excessive coverage given to the Trump-Russia story.

“You turn on the TV and it’s ‘Russia, Russia, Russia!’” complained Moore, with Sanders quickly adding: “And don’t forget Stormy Daniels!”

“These are all shiny keys to distract us,” said Moore during the broadcast. “We should know about the West Virginia (teachers) strike. What an inspiration that would be. But they don’t show this, Bernie, because, what would happen if they did?”

The American people might realize progressives can take collective action in conservative states like West Virginia and actually achieve progressive policy outcomes supported by the majority of people in those states.

While always at risk of sounding like Jan Brady with their “Russia, Russia, Russia” lament, progressives are justifiably insecure and a little paranoid right now. Their own party’s leadership, led (on paper at least) by Democratic National Chair Tom Perez, is at war with them.

In October 2017, Perez purged a number of the party’s progressives of their at-large delegate status or leadership positions, while appointing dozens of new members, many of whom were Hillary Clinton campaign veterans or former corporate lobbyists.

Perez’ thinly-veiled message to progressive Democrats: We don’t need you to win elections.

How can Perez and the Democratic establishment be so confident? Because they have the major news outlets doing the heavy lifting for them. Just keep hammering the American public with Trump-Russia collusion stories, throw in a little ‘Facebook is selling your private information’ fear-mongering, and add in an extra helping of ‘The Parkland kids are going to end gun violence in this country,‘ and the American public won’t know Bernie Sanders from Colonel Sanders.

That’s the hope of the Obama-Clinton wing of the Democratic Party, at least.

In the past month, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), chaired by New Mexico Representative Ben Ray Lujan, openly undermined progressive candidates in three Texas U.S. House primary races through their support of the establishment-approved candidates.

The DCCC was even so bold as to publicly release opposition research against progressive Democrat Laura Moser in the primary race for Texas’ U.S. House District 7. Despite (or because of) the national party’s efforts, Moser finished second in the Houston-based district and will face establishment candidate Lizzie Pannill Fletcher in a runoff election on May 22nd.

When will establishment Democrats learn? Let your party’s voters decide who should run in the general election. If you had done that in 2016, we’d probably be talking about President Sanders right now.

Will the establishment’s strategy work? It will, of course, depend on the final disposition of the Mueller investigation. Even with CNN and MSNBC’s insistence that the Mueller probe is closing in on Trump fast. The verifiable public evidence suggests otherwise.

Writes The Washington Post‘s Ed Rogers: “Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and his team of investigators appear to be aimless and are wandering, Democrats are grasping at straws and President Trump is lawyering up. Going by what information has, so far, been made public, there is no collusion with Russia to be found — at least on the part of the Trump campaign. And with obstruction of justice difficult to establish, Mueller’s plate seems to be full of side dishes but no entree.”

Rogers may be engaged in a bit of selective observation; but, in the end, he may be correct to this extent — the public evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians is insufficient, if the goal is to impeach and remove a sitting president.

However, if the goal is simply to weaken a president and his party for his entire term, the Trump-Russia investigation is right on schedule.

The problem the establishment Democrats risk is that, by focusing on Russia, the American people are bound to notice the party’s failure to address the serious problems that continue to fester, particularly in parts of the country Hillary Clinton has decided are too ‘backward’ to belong in any future Democratic Party coalition. She denies she said that, of course, but we have it on tape (here).

And as signs add up that the American public is ready to move on from the media’s Russia obsession and on-going rationalization of Hillary Clinton’s defeat, the establishment Democrats may want to reconsider the marginalization of their progressive brethren.

Trump’s recent rise in approval has occurred despite a daily diet of insults, lies, denials and threats. His congenital lying is baked into public opinion already.

More distressingly, his administration accomplishes little of substance at home (except explode the national deficit) as it seems to be committing this country to a wider-scale Middle East war at the behest of our allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The neocon’s liberal sounding board, The Washington Post, is already softening up opinion on the Left to the idea of a larger U.S. military commitment in Syria.

As if it was not enough that 17 years in Afghanistan has given this country little to show for it, and a 10-year engagement in Iraq has only created an Iranian client state, now the Trump administration quietly, with congressional Democrats’ apparent complicity, positions our military for a renewed war on Syria’s Assad and a potentially larger conflict with Iran. All this while Saudi Arabia uses American weapons to target Yemeni civilians which only pushes Yemen further into chaos and despair, ensuring a whole new generation of young men and women dedicated to hating the West.

Its called perpetual war and its good for business. Literally, its good for business.

It probably kills Hillary Clinton that she’s not the one leading the country into this regime change war against Assad. It was her brainchild after all.

But, instead, we have Trump. And with his replacement of H. R. McMaster with John Bolton as his national security adviser, the Trump war cabinet is taking shape. If trends continue, we will be in a hot war with Syria, Iran, or North Korea before the midterm elections. Hopefully not all three.

But we don’t hear bupkis from Democratic leadership on the increased likelihood of this next U.S. military adventure. Two lone voices in the U.S. Congress have credibly sounded the alarm on what the Trump administration is doing: Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard. Not coincidentally, neither is loved by their party’s leadership.

And the news media? They are too busy covering Russia, the story that will keep on giving and giving, especially if CNN and The New York Times are allowed to make up a few things now and then. If being glorified stenographers for the U.S. intelligence agencies and the “deep state” means getting a few facts wrong, what do they care as long as profits stay strong?

But the signs are there that the news media’s latest gilded age may be almost over.

The American public grows tired of the Trump-drama. They may not flock to Trump’s defense as they did with Bill Clinton in 1998, but they may hold the Democrats as equally responsible as the GOP for the absurdity of this presidency. They may even vote him back into office if the Democratic Party’s leadership continues to fixate on Russia (and now gun control) instead of the ‘bread-and-butter’ issues that matter most to Americans.

Imagine that…six and a half more years of President Donald Trump. And you can thank Adam Schiff, Mark Warner, and Tom Perez if that happens.

K.R.K.

{Send comments to: kkroeger@nuqum.com}

About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.

Share this...
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

Cambridge Analytica may be guilty of being too successful

Share this...
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:  NuQum.com, March 19, 2018)

{Send comments to: kkroeger@nuqum.com; the SPSS dataset used in this article can also be provided upon request}

According to whistleblowers, a voter profiling company, Cambridge Analytica, started collecting private information in 2014 from more than 50 million Americans through their Facebook profiles. This unauthorized “data breach” represents one of the social media giant’s largest data leaks.

Facebook claiming it was unaware of Cambridge Analytica’s exploitation of Facebook users for the Donald Trump campaign’s targeting of potential voters is a bit like Captain Renault in the movie Casablanca saying, “I  am shocked…shocked!..to find that gambling is going on in here!”

Facebook is equally phony. By its own admission in a statement last Friday, the company knew, as early as 2014, what Cambridge Analytica was doing with Facebook users’ profile data and chose to ignore it.

Why? Because it is good for business. Facebook’s business model is built on the premise that the personal information it collects on its users has considerable market value. And Facebook aggressively sells this feature of its service.

Furthermore, any attempt to call what Cambridge Analytica did with its access to Facebook profile data a “data breach” is cynical misuse of the term.

“There was no unauthorized external hacking involved, meaning that Facebook databases were not breached by an outside malicious actor,” according to Ido Kilovaty, a Cyber Fellow at the Center for Global Legal Challenges and Resident Fellow at the Information Society Project, Yale Law School.

Cambridge Analytica simply exploited the Facebook profile data for maximum value. Its innovation was to pull in users’ Facebook friends to expand its analytic base.

The Trump campaign’s voter targeting firm may have pushed boundaries by harvesting 50 million Facebook user profiles to build its own database for communications targeting, but its methods were well-known within Facebook.

Why? Because Barack Obama’s two presidential campaigns pioneered such use of Facebook data to target voters.

Investor’s Business Daily nicely summarizes the 2012 Obama campaign’s methods:

In 2012, the Obama campaign encouraged supporters to download an Obama 2012 Facebook app that, when activated, let the campaign collect Facebook data both on users and their friends.

According to a July 2012 MIT Technology Review article, when you installed the app, it said it ‘would grab information about my friends: their birth dates, locations, and likes.’

The campaign boasted that more than a million people downloaded the app, which, given an average friend-list size of 190, means that as many as 190 million had at least some of their Facebook data vacuumed up by the Obama campaign — without their knowledge or consent.”

And it should surprise no one that Hillary Clinton’s campaign was doing something similar in building their own voter targeting algorithm, Ada, which also relied on social media content to build its models.

The current hand wringing by the mass media about Facebook’s role in helping the Trump campaign appears to be nothing but another poorly veiled partisan attack on Trump.

Had Clinton won the election, Ada’s algorithms would be legend. Instead, Ada is a monument to Clinton’s over-reliance on Moneyball-inspired data for its decision-making.

In contrast, Cambridge Analytica, because it aided the Trump campaign, is a digital age boogey man meant to instill fear in every red-blooded America who has ever re-posted an anti-Hillary meme on Facebook or ‘liked’ a group page dedicated to protecting the Second Amendment.

The unacknowledged truth is that all of these sophisticated data algorithm’s are somewhere between profound data-driven insights and modern versions of a kabuki dance — a stylized ritual meant to convey legitimacy to the data firms promoting the superior value of data analytics.

Does that mean data analytics are a fraud? No, of course not. It does mean that assigning excessive value to data analytic methods undervalues the real mechanisms behind how people decide their vote preferences.

Too frequently in today’s social science, personified by Cambridge University psychologists, Michal Kosinski and David Stillwell, who helped build the psychological profiling algorithms employed by Cambridge Analytica, interesting correlational relationships substitute for sound insight.

Stillwell, specifically, developed an app for Facebook where users would take a short personality quiz and get a score on five personality traits — Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism. In exchange for their cooperation, Facebook users would agree to give Stillwell access to their Facebook profiles.

By 2015, Cambridge Analytica, who had signed a contract with Facebook to gain access to Facebook’s users, would leverage Stillwell’s app to develop personality profiles for millions of Facebook users.

Among the unique insights from Cambridge Analytica was that people who liked ‘I hate Israel’ on Facebook also tended to like Nike shoes and KitKats.

Those types of findings are a tell-tale sign of pseudo-intellectual bullshit.

There is no causal social theory that links the purchase of Nike shoes and KitKat bars to antipathy towards Israel. Those types of relationships are “spurious” in that they represent statistically significant correlations in data that fail to account for the true causal factors actually linking variables.

We repeat. Buying Nike shoes or KitKat bars is not a subconscious indicator that you are anti-Israel.

In all probability, the relationship Cambridge Analytica found in their data was either a product of random chance or an artifact of the targeting used in marketing Nike shoes and KitKat bars that may correlate with social subgroups prone to anti-Israel sentiments.

Either way, suggesting a substantive relationship between KitKat bars and anti-Israel sentiments is shitty social theory and bad business practice.

Cambridge Analytica and other mainstream data analytic firms will argue they aren’t in the business of developing solid social theory. What they care about are the deep correlations in data, not the true causal mechanisms behind them. They will defend their methods with the oft repeated academic canard that we are “data rich and theory poor.”

No kidding.

Unfortunately, throwing one’s arms up and giving up on developing good theory does not justify findings like, “the purchase of Nike shoes and KitKar bars correlates with anti-Israel sentiments.”

It is an intellectual cop-out that may explain why so many sophisticated modeling algorithms, like the Clinton campaign’s Ada algorithm, fail in practice.

But there are other reasons supporting skepticism about the big data analytic models like the ones employed in the 2016 presidential campaigns.

The 2016 presidential election results were predictable months in advance of the election itself. In some cases, months before a single general election ad had been purchased by the Clinton or Trump campaigns.

Contrary to the popular myth promoted by the mainstream media, the polls and econometric models were exceptionally accurate in their predictions for the 2016 popular vote. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by about 3 percentage points and that is very close to what the polls and econometric models predicted on the morning of November 8th.

What failed in 2016 were the prediction markets (i.e., “the experts). The econometric models, which generally rely on economic data gathered months prior to election day, performed particularly well — as usual (see Figure 1 below).

Figure 1: Forecast Errors in 2016 presidential election by forecast method (Source: Andreas Graefe, Pollyvote.com)

What shocked the system was the degree to which the Clinton vote clustered along the American coastal states and under-performed in the American rust belt.

Had the Clinton campaign recognized her vulnerability in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, the outcome could have been very different. Robby Mook should never be allowed to present himself as a political expert in any forum. Hillary Clinton lost because he was not good at his job.

And it is that type of strategic intelligence that Cambridge Analytica may have maximized using its own data models. Cambridge Analytica identified marginally conservative Americans most vulnerable to voting for Clinton and targeted them for anti-Clinton campaign ads.

NuQum.com has previously shown in its analysis of 2016 American National Election Study (ANES) that older conservatives most engaged in using social media (e.g., Facebook and Twitter) for sharing political information were particularly negative towards Hillary Clinton.

Older conservative voters that used social media for sharing had noticeably different attitudes in the 2016 election

In rating Hillary Clinton on a 0 to 100 favorability scale, on average, “slightly conservative” adults aged 40 or older who used Facebook or Twitter to share political information gave her a rating of 20.7, compared to 32.1 among otherwise similar adults who had not used Facebook or Twitter for sharing political information (see Figure 2 below). A similar relationship emerged among “conservative” adults (aged 40 or older). This pattern did not appear however among adults under 40 years of age, regardless of political ideology.

Figure 2: Favorability Towards Clinton by Ideology and Facebook/Twitter Use (aged 40+); Source: NuQum.com

“Slightly conservative” and “conservative” Americans accounted for 25 percent of the U.S. vote eligible population according to the 2016 ANES. And within that 25 percent, just under half of them said they used Facebook or Twitter to share political information during the campaign.

That is still almost 12 percent of the population that had a distinctly more negative view of Clinton by the end of the campaign, compared to other eligible voters with otherwise similar demographic and attitudinal characteristics.

We believe something unique happened to this group during the campaign. We may have prematurely called this evidence of “Russian meddling” but we feel comfortable in calling it the “social media effect” (SME).

When we looked at the relative difference in favorability towards Clinton and Trump (see Figure 3 below), the same older conservatives appeared to stand out. “Conservatives” (aged 40 or older) that used Facebook and Twitter to share political information were significantly more positive towards Trump, relative to Clinton, than those in the same demographic category but did not use Facebook or Twitter for political information sharing.

Figure 3: Favorability Gap by Ideology and Facebook/Twitter Use (aged 40+); Source: NuQum.com

When assessing the honesty of the two presidential candidates, “slightly conservative” and “conservative” adults (aged 40 or older) who used Facebook or Twitter for sharing political information thought Trump was much more honest than Clinton than did otherwise similar adults who had not used Facebook or Twitter for political information sharing (see Figure 4 below).

Figure 4: Clinton-Trump “honesty” gap by Ideology and Facebook/Twitter Use (aged 40+); Source: NuQum.com

We believe these findings are tentative evidence of the Trump campaign’s intense targeting of conservative voters, particularly those most open to voting for Clinton, with negative campaign ads.

Within the 2016 ANES survey data, the relative favorability and honesty evaluations of the two candidates were highly significant predictors of actual vote decisions (see the SPSS output for a logistic model of 2016 vote choice in Appendix).

When we quantify our findings on the impact of Facebook/Twitter use for sharing political information, we get these results (see Table 1 below):

Table 1: Estimated population sizes (Source: NuQum.com)

Based on the 2016 ANES survey data, we estimate over 28 million vote eligible Americans (or about 12 percent of the voter eligible population) were prime targets for the Trump campaign’s social media strategy. They were self-described as “conservative” or “slightly conservative” and used Facebook and/or Twitter for sharing political information. We consider this subgroup to be the primary source of any “social media effect” (SME) in the 2016 presidential election.

On election day, almost 16 million of these voters actually voted.

Table 2: Estimated impact of conservative Facebook-Twitter users on the 2016 vote (Source: NuQum.com)

Using an admittedly ‘back-of-the-envelope’ method, we compare the actual vote totals with an alternative result had conservative Facebook-Twitter users held the same opinions as conservative voters that did not use Facebook-Twitter for sharing political information.

We estimate that, without the “social media effect” (SME), Trump would have lost the popular vote by 3.7 million votes and would have lost Michigan by 19,000 votes (see Table 2 above) He still would have won the electoral college in our estimate, but it would have been even closer than the actual 77,000 vote margin.

Keep in mind, we are not considering other subgroups (i.e., “middle of the road” and “slightly liberal” voters) that also may have been impacted by Trump’s social media efforts.

Nonetheless, the practical impact of an effective social media campaign can be the difference between winning and losing a presidential election. In our estimate, at a minimum a additional 1 million votes would have gone to Hillary Clinton had it not been for the Trump campaign’s (i.e, Cambridge Analytica’s) social media efforts.

More directly, we think Cambridge Analytica’s data insights were one of the decisive factors in Trump’s electoral victory, along with the mainstream media’s excessive gift of “free media” to the Trump campaign.

Did Cambridge Analytica pass its data to the Russians?

The big question becomes, did Cambridge Analytica pass its data (and algorithms?) on to the Russians? That is clearly where the mainstream media intends to take the Cambridge Analytica story.

The Twittersphere is flush with conspiratorial theories and some unverified evidence linking Cambridge Analytica to the Russians.

First reported by Slate.com, reports in late-October 2016 surfaced about a server in Trump Tower connected to a bank in Russia (the Alfa Bank).

Soon after the initial reports, bloggers @TeaPainUSA  and @Conspirator0 analyzed server log data and suggested the Trump Tower server had been communicating during the 2016 general election period in a manner suggesting ‘database replication’ had occurred at distinct times by the Alfa Bank server. In addition, another server in the U.S., this one controlled by Spectrum Health, a company owned by the Devos family, which includes the current Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, was also communicating with the Trump Tower server.

In addition, a September 2017 blog post by another blogger reported that a Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) server was also “sending Cambridge Analytica data targeting and propaganda messages to Trump’s server, in order that they be washed with the voter registration and DNC databases that were being sent to and from Alfa Bank” during the 2016 campaign.

As one might imagine, conspiracy theories have blossomed regrading the Trump Tower server, which is now part of the Mueller investigation. But, in all fairness, some early reports have thrown cold water on the suspicious Trump Tower and Alfa Bank server connections, suggesting they are the result of normal spamming activities that are common between commercial servers.

It is also possible that the Russian’s hacked into the Trump Tower servers without assistance from the Trump campaign. The Russians are good at that.

Nonetheless, particularly since the latest Cambridge Analytica controversy, the Trump Tower server story remains a small cottage industry for some investigative reporters and will hopefully be resolved when the Mueller investigation is completed.

Until that time, the 2016 voter opinion data we have analyzed convinces us that the Trump campaign’s social media efforts — whether aided by the Russians or not — were a significant factor in the 2016 presidential election. Call Cambridge Analytica’s methods sleezy and improper if you’d like, there is solid evidence they succeeded in helping get Donald Trump elected.

K.R.K

Appendix: Logistic Model of the 2016 Presidential Vote (American National Election Study)
Table 5: Based on 2016 ANES individual-level survey data; data are weighted to represent the vote eligible population; dependent variable coded as 1 = Trump vote / 0 = Clinton or other vote

{Send comments to: kkroeger@nuqum.com}

About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.

Share this...
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page