President Trump is back at the White House on Monday, after a week spent mostly at his private golf club in New Jersey. In short order, he was back to his typical routine at the executive mansion. Meaning, of course, that he spent some part of the morning watching cable news.
Shortly before noon, Fox Business aired a segment discussing testimony offered to the Senate last month. Robert Epstein, a psychologist who at one point was editor in chief of Psychology Today, told senators on July 17 that his research suggested that Google had given millions of votes to Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. A guest on Fox Business named Oz Sultan, who worked with Trump’s 2016 campaign, looped that claim back into the broader, ongoing criticism of social-media companies that’s currently in vogue among conservatives.
Trump, though, quickly picked out — and exaggerated — the claim about Clinton votes.
That’s not what Epstein said in his testimony. He estimated a range of 2.6 million to 10.4 million votes, with 15 million votes being the possible shift in 2020. That 2.6 million estimate, he said, was the “rock bottom” estimate. While Epstein identifies himself as a Democrat who backed Clinton, that’s a convenient figure, since Clinton won by about 2.9 million votes nationally.
There’s just one problem: Those estimates deserve far, far more skepticism than Trump would ever give them.
On its face, the numbers are dubious. In his prepared remarks, Epstein estimated that Google “gave at least 2.6 million votes” to Clinton, a statement that isn’t well-defined. Gave ... how? These were non-voters inspired to vote? Trump voters who switched? Without knowing that, it’s hard to evaluate the accuracy of the claim.
A claim, mind you, that is very bold. Getting millions of voters to vote a particular way is the sort of thing that political parties spend a lot of time trying to figure out. Epstein is claiming that more than 2 percent of all 2016 voters were influenced to vote for Clinton by Google. The scale is massive.
So why does he make this claim? He appears to have combined two bits of research he’s conducted: a 2015 look at how search engine results can influence political opinion and a collection of search results from users before the 2016 contest. Over the last 25 days of the campaign, a summary of the latter research suggests, “we found that search results were, on average, biased to favor Hillary Clinton on all of those days.” Given that his earlier research found that results could influence views of candidates, we get the top-line assumption.
What does “biased to favor Hillary Clinton” mean? We don’t know. The summary doesn’t explain what that looks like.
It does, however, suggest that it found results emailed to his research team from Google’s email system (Gmail) to be unusually unbiased.
“Perhaps Google identified our confidants through its gmail system and targeted them to receive unbiased results,” it reads, “we have no way to confirm this at present, but it is a plausible explanation for the pattern of results we found.” So they threw those results out.
One of the more baffling aspects to this research is that no indication is made about how the searches were conducted. Google’s search results are specific to users, and there’s no indication in the summary (mentions of using incognito mode, for example) that any effort was made to return unweighed results from the search engine. Nor is there information provided about who participated in the study. Collecting results from a group of well-to-do city dwellers, for example, might help explain any “bias.”
This is more problematic because while the research points to thousands of search results that were analyzed, only 95 people actually provided responses to the study. Meaning that if the results were driven by the identities of those individuals, the variation in the pool of results was actually 95. Oh, and of that group? Only 21 were undecided. If the 2.6 million figure derives from that group alone, the value of that figure is almost nil.
It’s worth noting that bias by Google is precisely what Epstein expected to see. In August 2015, he wrote an essay for Politico in which he predicted that Google might be able to influence the election and, voilà, so it did.
In his testimony, Epstein was also asked by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) to talk about another way in which Google might have influenced a federal election. On Election Day last year, Google’s home page changed its iconic logo to read “Go Vote.” Writing for the Epoch Times, Epstein claimed that Google could have spurred an additional 500,000 people to vote.
In 2010, Facebook ran an experiment aimed at boosting turnout by showing users friends who’d already cast a ballot. It estimates that this experiment — which used data about individuals to identify likely voters and showed people images of their friends who voted — increased turnout in a target pool of 60 million people by 340,000 votes. In what doesn’t seem much like a coincidence, Epstein’s estimate of an increase of 500,000 votes is about the same percentage of the 87 million people he claims saw Google’s logo as 340,000 is of 60 million.
So the same results, in effect — but without any of the use of photos of friends or targeting of likely voters. Sure.
Epstein also dances around the question of intentionality. Google insists that it doesn’t re-rank its results to influence politics — meaning that it didn’t intervene with the results of its initial algorithmic ranking. Epstein says he “never claimed it did,” which suggests that he’s finding fault with the algorithm itself. But, in his prepared remarks, he also pointedly claims that “[a] growing body of evidence suggests that Google employees deliberately engineer ephemeral experiences to change people’s thinking.”
If you want to allege bias but can’t prove bias, the above pair of claims seem like a needle you might want to thread.
This is one claim from one person that, as far as I can tell, hasn’t been peer-reviewed or replicated. On its surface, it’s dubious, as is the methodology underlying it. It’s the sort of thing that people in positions of authority — such as, say, a senator or a president — might be cautious about spreading.
But, on the other hand, it also lets Trump claim almost-victory in the 2016 election. And when something does that, Trump rarely shows any signs of hesitation about getting it in front of as many people as possible.
(...)looks to me like a bit of self-important hubris on the part of the author.
Ruchir Sharma, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, is the head of emerging markets and chief global strategist at Morgan Stanley Investment Management. Mr. Sharma drew on his extensive global travels for the books “Breakout Nations: In Pursuit of the Next Economic Miracles” and “The Rise and Fall of Nations: Forces of Change in the Post-Crisis World.”
Mr. Sharma started writing at the age of 17 for India's main economic daily newspaper, The Economic Times. His work has appeared in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times. Bloomberg Markets named Mr. Sharma one of the 50 most Influential people in the world in 2015. He is a dedicated sprinter who represented India at the 2011 World Masters Athletics Championships. He lives and works out of New York.
President Trump sought loyalty like that of a mafia boss, according to former FBI Director James Comey.
In his new book, A Higher Loyalty, set to hit shelves next week, Comey described the details of a private White House dinner with the president shortly after his inauguration where Trump demanded loyalty out of him
“I need loyalty. I expect loyalty,” Trump said to then-director Comey, which was met with silence, according to ABC News, which received an early copy of the book.
“The demand was like Sammy the Bull’s Cosa Nostra induction ceremony,” Comey wrote. Comey said Trump often exhibited mafia boss-like behaviors during the presidential transition period in meetings and phone calls.
When the president further demanded loyalty from Comey again later on during the dinner, Comey said: “You will always get honesty from me.”
“That’s what I want, honest loyalty,” Trump said.
Kudlow had credibility? The dickens you say...
You're right, I was indulging in a little theater of the absurd.....
Washington state lawmaker Matt Shea has in recent months faced calls for his resignation and been referred to the FBI for his how-to guide on the “Biblical Basis for War,” outlining a potential conflict in which Christians battle non-believers in the United States.
Now, new reporting from The Guardian and The Spokane Spokesman-Review has shed more light on Shea’s connections to a real-life “Christian warfare” training organization for young people, what one former associate called his “paranoid delusions” about law enforcement informants, and more. Here’s what we know:
1. Shea promoted a Christian military training group that prepared youth for war against “Muslim terrorists.”
According to emails obtained by both The Guardian and the Spokesman-Review in recent days, and in a Facebook video still up on Shea’s page, the Washington lawmaker promoted a group called “Team Rugged.”
In a July 2016 email, a man identified as Team Rugged’s leader, Patrick Caughran, told Shea that the group’s purpose was “to provide patriotic and biblical training on war for young men,” including learning “combatives, the use of a knife in defense, close quarters shooting with rifle and pistol and how to work effectively in teams of 2, 3 and 4.”
Police in the US state of Ohio have arrested a man they believe threatened to carry out a shooting at a Jewish community centre.
James Reardon, 20, posted a video online of a man firing a gun with a caption identifying the centre in Youngstown, north of Pittsburgh.
A search of his home revealed several weapons, body armour and a gas mask, police said.
A shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh last year left 11 people dead.
James Reardon was arrested in New Middletown, near Youngstown, on Saturday and charged with menacing and harassment.
Investigators said the alarm was raised when a post appeared on Instagram showing a man firing a gun with the caption: "Police identified the Youngstown Jewish Family Community shooter as white nationalist Seamus O'Reardon."
New Middletown Police Chief Vince D'Egidio said they believed Seamus O'Reardon was a pseudonym for James Reardon.
"He was implying that he was going to be identified as the shooter of the Jewish centre. That kicked off a very intensive investigation, a very rapidly evolving investigation," he said, quoted by WKBN-TV.
Security at local Jewish facilities was increased and the FBI was contacted, Chief D'Egidio added.
President Trump, confronting perhaps the most ominous economic signs of his time in office, has unleashed what is by now a familiar response: lashing out at what he believes is a conspiracy of forces arrayed against him.
He has insisted that his own handpicked Federal Reserve chair, Jerome H. Powell, is intentionally acting against him. He has said other countries, including allies, are working to hurt American economic interests. And he has accused the news media of trying to create a recession.
“The Fake News Media is doing everything they can to crash the economy because they think that will be bad for me and my re-election,” Mr. Trump tweeted last week. “The problem they have is that the economy is way too strong and we will soon be winning big on Trade, and everyone knows that, including China!
Donald J. Trump
The U.S. cannot allow EBOLA infected people back. People that go to far away places to help out are great-but must suffer the consequences!
6:22 PM - Aug 1, 2014
Donald J. Trump
Ebola patient will be brought to the U.S. in a few days - now I know for sure that our leaders are incompetent. KEEP THEM OUT OF HERE!
7:04 PM - Jul 31, 2014
Donald J. Trump
Stop the EBOLA patients from entering the U.S. Treat them, at the highest level, over there. THE UNITED STATES HAS ENOUGH PROBLEMS!
5:22 AM - Aug 1, 2014
Donald J. Trump
Ebola is much easier to transmit than the CDC and government representatives are admitting. Spreading all over Africa-and fast. Stop flights
2:52 AM - Oct 2, 2014
Donald J. Trump
I am starting to think that there is something seriously wrong with President Obama's mental health. Why won't he stop the flights. Psycho!
1:23 AM - Oct 16, 2014
Donald J. Trump
I have been saying for weeks for President Obama to stop the flights from West Africa. So simple, but he refused. A TOTAL incompetent!
7:31 PM - Oct 23, 2014
Stephen Miller was 22 and looking for work in Washington. He lacked government experience but had media appearances on talk radio and Fox News and a history of pushing causes like “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week.” A first-term congresswoman from Minnesota offered him a job interview and discovered they were reading the same book: a polemic warning that Muslim immigration could mean “the end of the world as we know it.”
By the end of the interview, Representative Michele Bachmann had a new press secretary.
" Ebola patient will be brought to the U.S. in a few days - now I know for sure that our leaders are incompetent. "
I have come to think Trump's supporters, for whatever reason they support him, are complicit in any and all of his actions, words and deeds by this point.
Somewhere else on the internet, there is a thread on a website where a leftist poster is making a list of all the Trump supporters on that site, for future reference when all the Trump supporters in the country are prosecuted in Nuremberg‑like tribunals.
I came across the thread in a search query because someone decided to condemn the Democrats for the WWII A‑bombings, and I just had to jump in and set the record straight.
Anyway, getting to the point, someone posted this meme graphic in the thread, and I thought it was funny, so I'm re‑posting it here: