Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Cruising the Web

Wow! That ending last night of the UNC_Villanova game was certainly worth staying up for! Both teams will go down in NCAA history for such a classic finish. Congratulations, Villanova. I'm very happy for you guys.

As a Duke fan, it would have been tough seeing the Tarheels win in what should have been a year that they were suffering serious penalties for years and years and years of academic fraud that helped them win a championship in 2005 and that they managed to continually stall so the investigation wouldn't be wrapped up in the year they had one of the best teams in the nation. We'll see how much longer the NCAA, feckless organization that it is, will take to issue their findings and punishment and what they'll do with a school that demonstrated such longer and systemic cheating than so many of the other universities who did comparatively so much less. So Villanova's buzzer beater had me cheering last night.

Oh, by the way, I guess we can retire that whole storyline about how difficult it would be for players to make three-pointers in the Houston's NRG Stadium.

Though I still think that N.C. State's victory in 1983 with Lorenzo Charles' buzzer beater was the very best ending ever to any NCAA men's tournament championship game. But maybe that is because my husband had just accepted a job offer from N.C. State. a couple of weeks before the tournament and had watched with awe our new school's underdog survive-and-advance progress through the ACC and NCAA tournaments. I'll never forget that.

The Onion had some fun with UNC.

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This is the real scandal about the Panama Papers.
But it’s hard to see how the big question in this story is whether everyone with a company in Panama paid the correct amount of tax. The far more important question is how so many public officials in so many governments managed to accumulate so much money.

It’s no surprise that the world’s undemocratic and nontransparent regimes figure prominently in the Panama Papers. The leak offers new insights into how the powerful few enriched by such regimes deploy their cash.

Western governments should be particularly alert to the ICIJ’s suggestion that some of the transactions it identified were intended to circumvent Western sanctions on regimes or individuals. Russian and Chinese citizens in particular deserve to know more about their leaders’ finances, and the good news of the Internet era is that they’ll find out despite their government’s efforts to suppress the news.

All of these angles warrant further exploration, in the press and among voters and perhaps also in courtrooms around the world. The mistake now would be to narrow the focus prematurely, zeroing in on tax avoidance that is a hobbyhorse of the political class but in this case is a distraction. The real news here are the incomes and far-flung bank accounts of the political class.

Oh, dear. Walmart needs to learn some geography.

The liberals who closed their eyes for years as college students protested and kept conservatives from speaking on their campuses are now learning that the chickens are coming home to roost.
Soon after officials at all-female Scripps College, in Claremont, Calif., announced Albright would speak to graduates, an article in the school paper derided the Czech-born diplomat for her skin color and previous policy positions, and other students posted their concerns on social media, according to The Claremont Independent.

“Just out of curiosity, does anyone know how many [people of color] we’ve had as guest commencement speakers at Scripps?” asked one student.

Whites who practice yoga are now guilty of cultural appropriation.

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Our partners in peace, the Iranians:
The crew of a U.S. Navy ship stopped a massive Iranian arms shipment dead in its tracks, seizing thousands of weapons, AK-47 rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers that likely were headed to Yemen, the Pentagon announced Monday.

The seizure, which unfolded in the Arabian Sea on March 28, was the third of its kind in recent weeks, military officials say. Iran has been supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen in their proxy war against a Saudi-led coalition backed by the United States. Like Iran, the Houthis are a Shia-led group.

The arms shipment appears to mark the latest provocative action from the defiant Islamic republic, which reported last month that it tested missiles marked with the phrase "Israel must be wiped out." And on Monday, the Iranian government warned the U.S. to butt out of trying to control its missile program. "The White House should know that defense capacities and missile power, specially at the present juncture where plots and threats are galore, is among the Iranian nation's red lines... and we don’t allow anyone to violate it," Deputy Chief of Staff Brig-Gen Maassoud Jazzayeri told state media.
Obama's response - to say that Iran is obeying the "letter" of the nuclear agreement, but not the "spirit" of it.

Well, duh! Why did he ever think they would respect the "spirit" of the agreement? What behavior had Iran ever shown that they would act for peace?

Hans A. von Spakovsky refutes
liberal arguments against anti-voter-fraud laws. None of the dire predictions of what would happen if states instituted Voter ID laws have come to pass.
That claim has been disproven by the turnout results in states such as Georgia and Indiana, whose voter ID laws have been in place for years. In fact, these states experienced almost no problems despite apocalyptic predictions of opponents. The number of Americans who don’t already have an ID is minuscule — and every state with a voter ID law gives a free ID to anyone who can’t afford one.

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Politico looks
at how Hillary is starting to get quite irritated by criticisms and Sanders' continued presence in the campaign. She had a couple of incidents last week when she got angry with voters daring to question her. But that leads to doubts about how she'd respond once she gets into the general election and Republicans start unleashing all the attacks they've been storing up on her.
“This is a docile campaign that has not raised serious negatives about her,” said one longtime ally, noting the attacks and accusations in a potential matchup against Donald Trump are only going to get worse.
If she's sick of Bernie's gentle attacks on her, she better start working on getting a tougher hide.

Hillary managed to irritate both pro-choicers and pro-lifers when she stated on Meet the Press that, under current law, “the unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights.” Of course, pro-lifers would disagree, but the pro-choice movement can't tolerate calling the fetus a "person."
The pro-choice movement takes extreme care to avoid calling an unborn child a person — preferring the term “fetus” in order to preserve the argument that abortion involves the well-being of only one person, not two.

In fact, a Planned Parenthood representative spoke out after the interview saying that Clinton did the abortion movement no favors by using the term “person” in reference to the unborn....

Hillary Clinton will never admit that these unborn babies deserve any rights, but she will now have to live with the fact she’s admitted that killing a “person” should be perfectly legal.
It's good that Chuck Todd asked her the question, but I would have liked to see him follow up with her as many questions from the right as Chris Matthews asked Trump from the left. For example, Todd could have pressed her on her support for late-term abortions or ask her about why she opposes laws requiring parental permission for minors getting an abortion. In many states, minors need to get parental permission for getting their ears pierced or a tattoo and schools can't give out a Tylenol without a parent's permission, but somehow, it is considered unthinkable for parents to have to give permission for a medical procedure when that procedure is an abortion.

Of course, Trump's blathering about abortion is so very much worse. He's totally incoherent. Apparently, there is no one on his staff who could give him a two-minute tutorial on what pro-lifers believe so Trump could go out and pretend to be pro-life when he has been publicly pro-choice all his life. After his gaffe with Chris Matthews about prosecuting women who had abortions which his campaign had to retract, he still didn't have anything comprehensible to say on abortion.
On Friday, April 1, he tried again to clarify his position during the taping of an interview with John Dickerson on Face the Nation (which aired Sunday, April 3). Perhaps the most revealing moment came when, recanting his line about arresting women, he stumbled his way into claiming, "I've been told by some people that was an older line answer and that was an answer that was given on a, you know, basis of an older line from years ago on a very conservative basis."

Even allowed days to get it right, knowing the question was coming, Trump could explain only that he had dredged up some old, half-remembered conservative line from decades past—because . . . what? He hadn't thought about it since then? He hadn't followed the pro-life movement? He needed "some people" to tell him, after the fact, that the argument has made some advances on the positions of the "very conservative" in 1980?

Under the pressure of follow-up questions by Dickerson and a sense that his earlier clarifications had been inadequate, Trump went on to talk himself into yet another corner. Abortion law should return to the states, he insisted—which is actually a good, modern talking point. But the states shouldn't try anything, because "At this moment, the laws are set. And I think we have to leave it that way." As National Review's Rich Lowry immediately noticed, that answer leaves him a functional supporter of legalized abortion. And it meshes poorly with the strangely coy admission that he doesn't "disagree with" the claim that abortion is murder.
It's clear that he is not pro-life and is lying when he says he is. But that's okay. His supporters apparently think that Trump's lies are actually a sign of strength. Ben Shapiro writes,
But to many of his followers, these lies are half the attraction. When Trump himself admits he lied or openly flips positions, his supporters rage that he never lied, that he never switched positions, that he’s as constant as the Northern Star. They term him a “non-politician,” as though shifting positions constantly is a reflection of honesty rather than dishonesty; they excuse his lies by portraying him as a victim of an adversarial media, as though Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) faces friends each time the red light goes on.
Shapiro goes on to break Trump supporters into three groups: 1) the True Believers who believe in the alternate reality that Trump inhabits 2) the Alt-Right Machiavellians who think his lies are just fine and an indication of how great the guy is and 3) the Burn-It-All-Down Crowd who are so angry that they don't care if he lies.

But it's time to wake up.
We’re now nine months into the Trump movement, and it’s time for Trump supporters to realize that Trump may be the stripper you date, but he isn’t the girl you bring home to mother. The world isn’t lying; Trump is. Trump isn’t lying to everyone except Trump supporters; he’s lying to Trump supporters, too. He’ll be loyal to his allies so long as that’s convenient. Then he’ll throw them over for something better.

Liars lie. It’s what they do. And making excuses for those lies puts his supporters in Trump’s moral boat – a boat rocking wildly side-to-side, taking on water fast.

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Stewart Baker of the Washington Post ponders the likelihood that Clinton's emails were intercepted during her trip to Asia in February of 2009.
I continue to be fascinated by the very early chapters of the Hillary Clinton homebrew email saga. For one simple reason: the clintonemail.com server apparently didn’t have the digital certificate needed to encrypt communications until late March 2009 — more than two months after the server was up and running, and after Secretary Clinton’s swearing-in on January 22.

Two questions are raised by this timing: First, why didn’t the server have encryption from the start? And second, why did it get encryption in March, at a time when Clinton should have been extraordinarily busy getting up to speed at State, not messing with computer security protocols?

The simplest answer to the first question is that the lack of a certificate was just a mistake. But what about the second? What inspired the Secretary to get an encryption certificate in March when her team hadn’t bothered to get one in January or February?

The likely answer to that question is pretty troubling. There now seems to be a very real probability that Hillary Clinton rushed to install an encryption certificate in March 2009 because the U.S. intelligence community caught another country reading Clinton’s unencrypted messages during her February 16-21, 2009, trip to China, Indonesia, Japan, and S. Korea.
He goes through the recently released documents from that period and has found something interesting and damning.
One staff message [on March 11] says that during Clinton’s conversation with Boswell, “her attention was drawn to a sentence that indicates we [the diplomatic security office] have intelligence concerning this vulnerability during her recent trip to Asia.”

I am struck by the mix of delicacy and insistence in that phrasing. It seems likely that Clinton’s attention was drawn to that sentence because the intelligence was about Secretary Clinton’s own communications security, something a discreet diplomat would not want to say directly in written communications. Clinton certainly acted like the intelligence concerned her. She asked Boswell to get her “the information.” On March 11, Boswell is told by his staff that the report is already on the classified system, and he is reminded that he had already been briefed on it. Presumably he conveyed it to Clinton soon after March 11.

Eighteen days later, Clinton’s server acquires a digital certificate supporting TLS encryption, closing the biggest security hole in her server.

I suppose this could all be coincidence, but the most likely scenario is that the Secretary’s Asia trip produced an intelligence report that was directly relevant to the security of Clinton’s communications. And that the report was sufficiently dramatic that it spurred Clinton to make immediate security changes on her homebrew server.

Did our agencies see Clinton’s unencrypted messages transiting foreign networks? Did they spot foreign agencies intercepting those messages? It’s hard to say, but either answer is bad, and the quick addition of encryption to the server suggests that Clinton saw it that way too.

If that’s what happened, it would raise more questions. Getting a digital certificate to support encryption is hardly a comprehensive response to the server’s security vulnerabilities. So who decided that that was all the security it needed? How pointed was the warning about her Asia trip? Does it expand the circle of officials who should have known about and addressed the server’s insecurity?

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Victor Davis Hanson daydreams about a possible attack ad that could have been run in 2008.
Images of Bill Ayers, Father Pfleger, Rashid Khalidi, and Reverent Jeremiah Wright flash across the top of the screen. Simultaneously, trailers at the bottom of the screen stream choice Obama quotes of 2008 (e.g., “spread the wealth around,” referring to his grandmother as a “typical white person,” telling his supporters to “get in their [friends’ and neighbors’] face,” saying of his opponents that “if they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” “they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them . . .” etc.). An ominous right-wing voice would then warn that an adolescent, inexperienced, and hard leftist President Obama could very well go to Cuba and do the wave with Raul Castro, tell Argentines to “choose from what works” in Communism and capitalism, implement a de facto amnesty and render federal immigration law null and void, apologize from Turkey — the birthplace of 20th-century genocide — for purported American sins, bow to the Saudi royal family, map out the March Madness picks on TV, play a record amount of golf for a president — and now flash the peace sign at a formal photo of world leaders. What would pundits have called such a hit piece: racist, nativist, xenophobic, Rovian, Kochian, McCarthyite — or prescient?

Donald Trump has sent his first wife, Ivana Trump, out there to talk about how he would make such a great president. And she is quite frank in her views about immigrants.
“I have nothing against Mexicans, but if they [come] here — like this 19-year-old, she’s pregnant, she crossed over a wall that’s this high” — Ivana lowers her hand to 4 inches above her wall-to-wall carpeting. “She gives the birth in American hospital, which is for free. The child becomes American automatically. She brings the whole family, she doesn’t pay the taxes, she doesn’t have a job, she gets the housing, she gets the food stamps. Who’s paying? You and me.

“As long as you come here legally and get a proper job . . . we need immigrants. Who’s going to vacuum our living rooms and clean up after us? Americans don’t like to do that."
Well, there we go. We need at least some immigrants to vacuum and "clean up after us."

This is policy-making from the left. California governor Jerry Brown admits that, economically, it's a bad idea to raise the state's minimum wage rate to $15 an hour. But that doesn't matter.
Brown, traveling to the state’s largest media market to sign the landmark bill, remained hesitant about the economic effect of raising the minimum wage, saying, “Economically, minimum wages may not make sense.”

But he said work is “not just an economic equation,” calling labor “part of living in a moral community.”

“Morally and socially and politically, they (minimum wages) make every sense because it binds the community together and makes sure that parents can take care of their kids in a much more satisfactory way,” Brown said.
As Scott Shackford at Reason writes,
The key word is “politically.” Politics don’t hold communities together. But they can keep entrenched interests in power.
So Brown is willing to sign a bill that economists agree will damage poor people by raising prices and limiting jobs for those without skills for basically political and symbolic reasons.

Ben Casselman at 538 looks at how the law will will affect those outside of the coastal big cities of California.
New data on the earnings of individual occupations, released Wednesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows just how much bigger the impact of the planned hike would be in some communities than in others. In San Francisco, most of the jobs that pay less than $15 an hour (or at least those that likely will in 2022, when the $15 wage is expected to take effect) are typical low-wage work: fast food cooks, dishwashers, manicurists, cashiers. But in Fresno, the list is much longer, and includes jobs that are often considered working- or even lower-middle-class: preschool teachers, nursing assistants, bank tellers.
There is a major difference in how the law will affect workers in various parts of the state.
n San Francisco and San Jose, only about 10 to 15 percent of workers are in highly affected occupations. In the San Joaquin Valley area of Visalia-Porterville, that figure is close to 50 percent.
What effect will it have on a community to institute that level of economic impact? Who knows?
For economists, then, California’s hike is exciting, a valuable test of the effects of a big wage hike. But for the workers and businesses that will be the guinea pigs, it could be a nerve-wracking experiment. The higher wage could bring up standards of living, inject more money into the economy and turn out to be a win-win for workers and businesses. Or it could lead to lost jobs and higher prices, ultimately hurting the very workers it was designed to help. Or perhaps both. There will almost certainly be both winners and losers, but no one knows how many of each, or whether the benefits will prove worth the cost.
Sure why not use real people as your guinea pigs for your
moral and political experiment?

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Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated has a fascinating look at the one amicus brief filed in the NFL's appeal to the Court of Appeals on the Deflategate case. The brief comes from Robert Blecker, a law professor, who is disgusted with the NFL and not too happy with the way that the NFL Players Association has conducted their defense of Tom Brady.
Blecker’s principal reason for writing the amicus brief stems from his frustration with both the NFL and NFLPA over what he considers a failure to question the honesty of the NFL’s investigation and accompanying conclusions.

From that lens, Blecker contends that the no court should affirm Brady’s four-game suspension. “From the start,” Blecker writes in his amicus brief, “the NFL’s investigation, adjudication, and punishment of Tom Brady for actively participating in a scheme to illegally tamper with ball pressure has been infected with bias, unfairness, evident partiality and occasional fraud.”

Blecker stresses how many in the scientific community have rejected the theories of Exponent, an engineering firm retained by Ted Wells to reach scientific conclusions about the footballs used in the 2015 AFC Championship Game. Blecker, in particular, highlights the research of Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor John Leonard, who has demonstrated the PSI measurements taken at halftime were consistent with Ideal Gas Law. Others, like behavioral scientist Ben Taylor of Back Picks, have authored similarly critical commentaries about the NFL’s approach to data and measurement of air pressure. For Blecker, the science is essential to proving what he maintains is the fundamental truth: Brady was innocent. Keep in mind, Brady not serving a four-game suspension because he is innocent is a more morally authoritative victory for Brady than him not serving a suspension because the NFL erred.

With that in mind, Blecker’s brief also takes sharp aim at the NFLPA, of which Brady is of course a member. In Blecker’s view, the NFLPA has been interested less in vindicating Brady and more in limiting the powers of Goodell—two complementary but not identical goals. Blecker contends that although U.S. Supreme Court case law allows it, the NFLPA has repeatedly “failed to assert or explore the NFL’s bias, dishonesty, or fraud in the investigation.” Instead, Blecker insists, the NFLPA has dwelled on minor and technical issues, such as whether the collective bargaining agreement authorizes fines for first-time equipment violations. Blecker acknowledges the NFLPA’s primary duty is to pursue the best interests of all NFL players, not just those of Brady, but Blecker nonetheless contends the NFLPA has misguidedly downplayed crucial scientific and investigative facts while amplifying narrow concerns about methodology.
Read the article for some of the details of how biased the NFL has been.

As I tell my students when we're discussing how the judiciary works, there is nothing requiring judges to read an amicus brief. One thing that might ensure that the judges read the brief is that Blecker publicly criticized statements made by the NFL's lawyer Paul Clement and the brief that the NFL attorneys submitted to the Court. He wrote a letter to the judges hearing the case with his criticisms. Clement wrote a letter to the judges protesting against Blecker's accusations. Clement's letter might, Blecker hopes, force the judges to go back and read Blecker's letter and perhaps even read his brief.