How Presidential "Non-Opinion" Polls Drive Down Third Party Numbers and Facilitate Debate Exclusion

This week, the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates announced what polls it will utilize in excluding candidates from its debates. 

The CPD says candidates like the Libertarian Party's Gary Johnson and the Green Party's Jill Stein must get 15 percent in polls conducted by "five national public opinion polling organizations" -- ABC/Washington Post, CBS/New York Times, CNN/Opinion Research Corporation, Fox News, and NBC/Wall Street Journal.

Not only -- as several have correctly argued -- is the 15 percent threshold arbitrary and exclusionary, but these polls don't actually ask voter preferences at all. 

They all ask "If the presidential election were being held today for whom would you vote?" or some minor variation of that.

Who you want or prefer and what you would do in the voting booth may be very different things. These "public opinion polls" don't actually measure opinion -- they are a non-opinion polls. They ask a false hypothetical regarding a future action. 

A better public opinion question would be: "Who do you want to be president" or "Who do you prefer to be president?" or "Who is your first choice to be president?" 

By contrast, the question that the CPD relies on from these media organizations -- if held today, who would you vote for -- is a tactical question. As has become increasingly clear, there are many people who would like Gary Johnson or Jill Stein to be president. However, many who fear Trump or Clinton are currently planning on voting for Clinton or Trump. 

Each of the dominant candidates is using fear of the other to prevent public opinion from manifesting itself. 

Our voting system puts voters in a bind, making it difficult for them to vote their true preference. 

But public opinion polling should be a relief from that. Such polling should find out what the public thinks and wants -- especially if the electoral system doesn't allow for those choices. But that's not what's happening. The "tracking" poll question that's being used over and over and obsessed over by all these organizations is actually disguising public opinion. And then the CPD, acting on behalf of the two major parties, is using that to exclude third party candidates from the debates, further marginalizing any public thinking that questions the establishment parties. 

This is more egregious since the CPD has basically asked for the "who do you want/prefer to be president" question to be used. When some suggested alternative criteria for inclusion in presidential debates, like if a majority wanted another candidate to be in the debates, the heads of the CPD rejected the effort. Then-CPD Director and former Republican Senator Alan Simpson said: "The issue is who do you want to be president. It's not who do you want to do a dress rehearsal and see who can be the cutest at the debate." Similarly, Paul Kirk, the then-co-chair of the CPD (now co-chairman emeritus) and former head of the Democratic National Committee, said: "It's a matter of entertainment vs. the serious question of who would you prefer to be president of the United States."

Why Sarah Silverman is a Comedian

In remarks from the Democratic National Convention stage applauded by big media, Sarah Silverman lauded the Democratic Party primary process as "exemplary".

I guess that's why she's a comedian.

Perhaps she doesn't know who Debbie Wasserman Schultz is. Perhaps she doesn't know that Schultz just resigned as head of the Democratic National Committee after the release by WikiLeaks of DNC internal emails showing evidence of them conspiring against Sanders. Of course, Schultz was then immediately named "honorary chair" of the Clinton own campaign. Schultz as "honorary" anything -- now that's funny. 

Mike Pence: The Leading Member of the "Israel, What Nuclear Weapons?" Flat Earth Society

Last night, Pence addressed the Republican Convention: "And if the world knows nothing else, it will know this: America stands with Israel." 

I've heard him say that before. 

Being a journalist based in the Washington, D.C. area, I try to ask tough questions of political figures when I can. Perhaps my favorite question is some variation of "do you acknowledge that Israel has nuclear weapons?" I've asked this of many political figures and virtually none have given me a straightforward response.

But the most surreal -- almost comical -- response came from Donald Trump's VP pic, Mike Pence, in 2011. At the time, he was a congressman and vice-chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia:

Could the Republican Party Use its "Crack up" to its Benefit, Different Parts Controlling Different Branches of Gov?

Some Republicans are trying to do "Dump Trump" at convention. I suspect that what they are doing is trying to distance themselves from him so that they can keep House and Senate if he goes down. And they might be wanting to tell the "Tea Party" types a big "I told you so," so they can retake full control of party after the election. 

But, my channeling Theodore J. Lowi (who wrote The End of the Republican Era about the breakup of the Republican coalition) leads me to wonder: They might be experimenting with the notion of having different parts of the GOP in charge of Executive and Congress as a way of keeping the different elements of the party together. That is, resolving their factions by having each in charge of different part of government. It might fail, it might work, especially because of the hatred toward Hillary Clinton. 

Garrison Keillor's Prophecy and Apostasy

On what was billed as his last show, Garrison Keillor, host of "A Prairie Home Companion" got a call from President Barack Obama and they traded extensive compliments, with Keillor telling Obama he was "the coolest president." 

Keillor's signing off on July 4 weekend was likely calculated to accentuate his presumed ties to all things Americana, but for me it actually highlighted his hypocrisies and contradictions. 

For one, my favorite story of his was set on the Fourth. I'd long thought that any reasonable person who hears that story would concur it was his greatest. Unfortunately when I asked him about it last year, Keillor himself clearly wouldn't fit into that category. 

To #PPLSummit friends: VotePact -- Toward defeating Trump and Clinton

Dear friends, 

I'm sorry I couldn't make the #PPLSummit. I've been swamped dealing with backlash against Muslims after the horrific Orlando shooting. This week began with Trump brazenly blaming Muslims for not fingering terrorists (and Clinton doing so subtly), a story line based largely on questionable anonymous sources around the shooter's widow. That story line seems to have slowed, largely to information I've been able to get out the last 72 hours

But I'm writing to you because I want you to know about a path toward defeating Clinton and Trump while you're at the Summit: VotePact.org. There's a way out of fear, out of silence in not knowing what to do when faced with the "choice" of Clinton or Trump. If you can't vote for either fine, vote for who you most really want, but you'll want to share this with comrades who are trapped and torn. 

If you're trapped, there's a way out. It requires work, but it's a real path: Sanders supporters and other progressives can reach out to conscientious conservatives they know -- friends, relatives, neighbors, debating partners, etc. -- and both vote for the independent candidates of their choice. That way they don't change the balance of between Clinton and Trump, but both individuals -- who have to trust each other -- get to overcome their fear and get a greater measure of political freedom. 

You become free of the prospect of voting for Clinton's and all her wars and Wall Street ties and your "votebuddy" is free of voting for Trump's misogyny and bigotry. 

It's about really breaking down barriers, reaching out and instilling fear into Trump and Clinton instead of each of them using fear people have to keep them trapped in that "choice".

There are lots of benefits to this, some outlined in my latest piece from earlier this month, below. 

Happy to hear back from people on this, please feel free to share this email and idea with others at conference. 

all my best, 
Sam Husseini

PS: And here's my latest piece on VotePact: #BernieAndBoom

Noor Zahi Salman: Everything You're Hearing About Me Is a Lie

[Article originally posted June 15, 2016 at approx 5:43 ET p.m.]

Addendum: My source has now been in direct communication with Noor Zahi Salman. She says that she has read this article. She states in a text which I have seen that instead of blaming her, since she had nothing to do with the shooting, shouldn't the people who sold the guns take some blame? She writes all she wanted "was a home, family, and peace -- for the media to say these lies isn't right." A friend, who is with her, adds: "It is not an easy time for her ... and having a child ask a mother 'where is daddy' can't be easy and for New York Post to show her son's face is not right." [Added June 16 at approx 11:55 ET a.m.]

Original article: 

Virtually everything in the media about Noor Zahi Salman, Omar Mateen's wife, is from anonymous government sources. They lie in situations like this. 

Such anonymous sourcing helped facilitate the lies used to invade Iraq and countless other horrific policies. They're doubly dangerous during a panic, consider that after government anthrax killed people in 2001, Andrew Sullivan talked about using nuclear weapons

And the government has a lot of incentives to lie about this case. They failed to keep people safe. So, what to do? Blame the wife. Blame the Muslims. They didn't alert us. They are suspect. Potentially, all of them. That's what Trump -- and Clinton in more subtle ways -- are saying. 

I didn't need to be in contact with people who know Noor Zahi Salman to know that, but it helps. 

In fact, I am in touch with a friend of hers who is in regular contact with people around her now. This means I am probably in closer touch with the actual facts of the case than the zillion media outlets blaring whatever it is "sources" are telling them to blare at you. In so doing, they are smearing a woman who was questioned by the most powerful government in the world, smeared on the largest media outlets as a virtual accessory to mass murder -- all without the benefit of a lawyer. 

She is apparently telling people around her that virtually everything you're hearing about her is a lie. 

Some examples:

NBC claims: "The Orlando gunman's wife feared he was going to attack a gay nightclub overnight Saturday and pleaded with him not to do anything violent — but failed to warn police after he left, NBC News has learned."

Noor Zahi Salman is apparently saying she didn't have any idea of an attack. 

NBC claims: "In addition, she said she was with him when he bought ammunition and a holster, several officials familiar with the case said."

Noor Zahi Salman is apparently saying she didn't do that. She says it might be possible that they went shopping together -- and she went to buy food or clothing and he might have gone to a gun store. In any case, why is this on her? Why are people focusing on her and not the "security" firm G4S that employed Mateen? How is it that the FBI is suddenly off the hook? 

The Daily Beast claims: "Noor Zahi Salman also reportedly drove Mateen to the gay nightclub Pulse to case the place before he killed 49 people there on Sunday night."

Noor Zahi Salman is apparently saying that she never drove him to the club and that in fact, she doesn't like to drive at all. 

ABC claims: "After Noor Mateen began to answer questions, agents administered a polygraph test to determine whether she was telling the truth."

Noor Zahi Salman is apparently saying she offered to take a polygraph but the government declined. 

What we apparently have is severe logrolling between media and government -- where government sources hide behind anonymous quotes and media hide behind anonymous sources. So, basically, they can mutually absolve each other and publish most anything that will benefit the both of them. 

Seriously, what's the justification for using anonymous sources on this story? My justification for using my anonymous sources is that they are scared. The only thing the government sources driving this story are afraid of is that they will be held responsible for their words. 

We're not seeing a free-for-all in terms of everyone speculating as they please. There might be justification for that: Bring on the government stenographer, then bring on the false flag theorist. No, what we're seeing are directed leaks laying out a pattern of smearing an individual, smearing a community and getting the government and media off the hook for the fact that 50 people are dead. 

Some friends of Noor Zahi Salman are apparently speculating that what actually happened was that Omar Mateen was about to be outed as gay -- and went nuts. This could have broader implications since "Israel surveils and blackmails gay Palestinians to make them informants." That clearly is speculative. But far more responsible than speculation that is streaming forth from your TV. 

I know more, including an allegation about how the government treated Noor Zahi Salman that would turn your stomach. 

I'm not telling all I know now because I have reason to believe it might make the family and friends uncomfortable. 

See what I did just there? I was forthright with you, my reader, while respectful of my sources. 

Big media propagating anonymous government allegations about Noor Zahi Salman distracts from their own failure to protect the public from attacks. 

Instead, it fingers the Arab and Muslim communities as responsible. And that's a message that is being articulated in ways crude and subtle from our "leaders": 

Says Donald Trump: "But the Muslims have to work with us. They have to work with us. They know what’s going on. They know that he was bad. They knew the people in San Bernardino were bad. But you know what? They didn’t turn them in. And you know what? We had death, and destruction."

More subtly, says Hillary Clinton: "Since 9/11, law enforcement agencies have worked hard to build relationships with Muslim-American communities. Millions of peace-loving Muslims live, work, and raise their families across America. They are the most likely to recognize the insidious effects of radicalization before it’s too late, and the best positioned to help us block it. We should be intensifying contacts in those communities, not scapegoating or isolating them." Clinton pretends to be against "scapegoating" when that's exactly what she just did. Most just let it slide because it's not as crass as Trump's formulation of much the same idea. 

Most subtle still is President Obama: "Since before I was President, I’ve been clear about how extremist groups have perverted Islam to justify terrorism. As President, I have repeatedly called on our Muslim friends and allies at home and around the world to work with us to reject this twisted interpretation of one of the world’s great religions."

I don't know Noor Zahi Salman. I have not had the opportunity to speak to her directly. I don't know for certain how forthright of a person she is, though even through media reports, several people who have known her have said she's upstanding. My immediate source I believe is very reliable. Things are rushed, there maybe misunderstandings here. Noor Zahi Salman is quite likely in shock, she may be honestly misspeaking, especially when in a coercive environment before threatening government agents. 

Now, would I like more sources to confirm what I'm writing? Yes, I would, but I think it would be irresponsible to let what are likely falsehoods contaminate the public mind on virtually every major media outlet given the limited capacity to communicate directly with Noor Zahi Salman at this time. 

Correction: This article originally stated "Noor Zahi Salman is apparently 'free', but with an electronic bracelet." That sentence has now been removed. In fact, my source now tells me that she doesn't have a electronic bracelet on her, she has rather been told by the FBI to keep a phone they gave her. My source states: "The FBI was waiting for a search warrant and that apparently didn't come as fast as they wanted so they asked if they could search the apartment. She said she had nothing to hide and signed something allowing them to take her phone, ipad, and a camera. Again, she said she had nothing to hide and they could have them. The FBI gave her a cell phone to carry with her in the mean time (and possibly in place of a bracelet as a tracking device). After she gave the authorization to take the items is when they said she was free to go." [Correction added June 16 at approx 11:05 ET a.m.] To clarify: I believe that the misunderstanding over the electronic bracelet occurred because Noor Zahi Salman and/or a friend or relative offered for the FBI to put a electronic bracelet on her as a condition of release, but the FBI was willing to let her go if she checked in with a phone. This would seem to speak to the level of her cooperation. [June 16 at approx 3:15 ET p.m.]