Friday, August 11, 2017

Cruising the Web

Having an embassy in Havana has led to a really bizarre and scandalous story.
In the fall of 2016, a series of US diplomats began suffering unexplained losses of hearing, according to officials with knowledge of the investigation into the case.

Several of the diplomats were recent arrivals at the embassy, which reopened in 2015 as part of former President Barack Obama's reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Some of the diplomats' symptoms were so severe that they were forced to cancel their tours early and return to the United States, officials said.
Of course, the Cuban government denies having anything with it. Do those on the left who are often so full of praise for the Castro regime find this just a benign treatment of diplomats?

Monica Showalter reminds us of incidents in which the Cubans filled the homes of U.S. diplomats with liquid and solid waste products or attacked family dogs. So what have we gotten from Obama's establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba?

Blue on blue attacks are always fun. Erik Wemple of the Washington Post reports on a mistake the New York Times made when reporting that a climate change report wasn't available even though it had been posted to the internet in January.
That correction, which sits at the foot of the story, dutifully straightens out the record. Yet given the magnitude of the screw-up, it should sit atop the story, surrounded by red flashing lights and perhaps an audio track to instruct readers: Warning: This story once peddled a faulty and damaging premise.
The Times had patted itself on the back for exposing the report that they characterized as being suppressed by the administration. Even when they made the correction, they still tried to pretend that something ominous was going on.
As part of its corrective effort, the New York Times has pulled the language saying that “a copy of it was obtained by the New York Times,” as well as the mistaken assertion that it has “not yet been made public.” Even so, the article continues to carry this line: “Another scientist involved in the process, who spoke to The New York Times on the condition of anonymity, said he and others were concerned that it would be suppressed.” As well as this one: “Scientists say they fear that the Trump administration could change or suppress the report.”

Though it may be the case that certain scientists maintain such fears, that’s a pretty tough position in light of the fact that the report “was uploaded by the nonprofit Internet Archive in January” and publicized by the New York Times in August.
It seems that the NYT eagerly jumped to a conclusion without doing sufficient investigation.

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Bernie Sanders is saying that support for a single-payer federal health plan should be a litmus test for Democratic candidates. He's willing to take on Democrats who don't pass his test. IBD hopes that the Democrats go for it.
While polls show support for single-payer health care creeping upward — in which all private insurance plans would be outlawed and every American would be put on the equivalent of Medicaid — that's largely because the polls never bother to point out the massive costs and disruptions of socialized medicine.

The latest IBD/TIPP poll, for example, found that, of those who are following the health care reform debate closely, an astonishingly high 57% say they support "a government-funded single-payer health care system in which all Americans would get health insurance from a single government plan."

That finding is likely exaggerated for the simple reason that those following health care closely may be predisposed to single-payer-style solutions.

Nevertheless, just scratch the veneer of single payer, and support among this subgroup of tumbles.
They point to a poll that they've done that found that results of the poll change if respondents are asked about the consequences of such a plan.
The IBD/TIPP poll asked a follow-up question, noting that some experts say the high cost of single payer would "lead to reduced access to high quality health care services, as well as longer wait times."

This is precisely what has happened in every country that has imposed single payer on their people, and on single payer programs like the Veterans Health Administration here at home. Government underpays providers, shortages result, and patients wait interminably for "free" treatments, if they can get them at all.

When that prospect is even hinted at, support for single payer drops to 50%. And that's only because Democrats remain firmly behind it. In fact, 65% of Democrats still support single payer when these side effects are mentioned, compared with 29% of Republicans and 49% of Independents. And, again, these numbers include only those following the debate closely.

When IBD/TIPP asked the question in a different way, support collapsed altogether. The poll asked if people believed that "it is the responsibility of the federal government to provide free health care for all Americans."

Just 47% say that it is. Since that's precisely what Bernie Sanders says he wants, it's not good news for the single-payer crowd.
This relates to a problem with polls that ask the public about policy questions. They often just present a brief question about a certain proposal that sounds like a good idea, but they leave the question free of any message about unintended consequences for such proposals.

Cato found similar results when they polled people if they supported laws guaranteeing that people with existing conditions were not penalized when they sought health care.

As Milton Friedman so succinctly put it,

Of course, changing the public's perceptions of such proposals necessitates having someone on the other side who can enunciate clearly and understandably the consequences of such proposals. I've never seen Trump as someone who can explain complex policy results for the public. Paul Ryan can do it, but is anyone listening to him anymore?

Yuval Levin explains
a proposal that Senator Mike Lee has made with a tiny, common-sense reform to what the CBO does when it scores a policy proposal.
A few days ago, Senator Mike Lee proposed legislation that would begin to point the way in that direction. It’s a modest first step, but it would be the right first step and an important one. Lee introduced what he calls the “CBO Show Your Work Act.” The bill would basically require CBO to follow the “data availability guidelines” that the American Economics Association recommends for academic economists. It would have to publish the data, the models, and the data-preparation routines used to arrive at its cost estimates and projections. Those could be used by other modelers, and through them by policymakers and analysts, to better understand CBO’s methods and assumptions, and to offer informed criticism, improvements, and alternatives. There would be protections for sensitive data used by the CBO in its modeling, which would be designed to make those constraints clear and to allow people who also have access to the data to replicate CBO’s work.

The bill doesn’t require CBO to change how it does its core work. It doesn’t really move the agency toward something more like tending and curating a set of open-source models. That should happen over time. But this first step toward transparency, which would only require CBO’s professional staff to follow the standards and practices their colleagues in academic institutions do, would make a big difference. It would strengthen, not undermine, CBO’s ability to offer the projections required of it by law, and would make it easier for the agency to answer critics and to pre-empt them.
Who would oppose the CBO having to do what academic economists have to do? Isn't transparency what everyone always claims they want?

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Daniel DePetris reminds us of how U.S. policy toward North Korea has been failing for years.
Convincing or forcing Kim to give up his nuclear weapons capability in return for security guarantees and a normalization of the U.S.-North Korea relationship has been the de facto U.S. policy over the last 25 years.

It was thought that, like many other governments, Pyongyang would come to the conclusion that pouring money into nuclear and missile research, testing, and production would only further their economic and political isolation. Eight rounds of U.N. Security Council sanctions, including one last weekend, and threats of military action would eventually snap North Korea back into reality. The Kim dynasty would have no choice but to accept full and unconditional denuclearization if it wanted to survive.

Yet, for three generations of the Kim family, obtaining a nuclear weapon and attaining the ability to put those weapons onto a long-range projectile was the key to their regime's survival. Pyongyang rightly determined that no country, not even the U.S., would launch a preemptive attack if a nuclear counter-strike on the U.S. mainland was a possibility.

Negotiations, sanctions, diplomatic isolation, threats of force, and a combination of all four have all failed to produce the intended outcome that Washington sought.
Jim Geraghty looks at provocative actions that North Korea has taken in recent years. As he points out, the North Korean government has taken actions that, if it weren't a nuclear state could have earned serious consequences. Either North Korea doesn't recognize how provocative actions like firing on South Korean ships or firing on a South Korean island or planting land mines on the South's guard posts near the border aren't terribly provocative or that their opponents won't retaliate.
In other words, every once in a while, North Korea just goes out and tries to kill some South Koreans without warning because it wants to send a message. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they don’t. So far, South Korea is willing to suffer those casualties and respond proportionally, managing not to escalate a particular clash into a second Korean War. If the North Koreans sank a U.S. Navy ship, shelled U.S. troops in South Korea, or made some other direct attack, how would we respond? Would it be proportional to North Korea’s attack, or would there be an attempt to deter further attacks by demonstrating overwhelming force? More importantly, would North Korea perceive our response as the opening salvo in an invasion? These are big questions under any U.S. president, but Donald Trump is another giant X factor.

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Berkeley has built a back-door "escape hatch" for the university staff in the chancellor's office in case there should be student violence. They've also beefed up security around the home of the chancellor - seems he needs a $700,000 security fence. Staffers and members of the administration are plain scared of what might happen if students decide to target the chancellor at home or at work.
So there you have it: Administrators are no longer figuratively retreating or cowering from out-of-control students. They’re creating the physical architecture to literally do so. It might be more dignified and less expensive to have these kids arrested when they break the law.