Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Cruising the Web

This is a fascinating thread from Israeli journalist Barak Ravid about the Mossad mission that netted all those Iranian documents about their nuclear-weapon plans. Apparently, the Israelis knew of the Iranian nuclear archive back in February 2016 and developed plans to gain those documents. The Iranians,

They then set to work with 50 analysts to read and translate the documents. And there was a lot there, contrary to the Obama apologists who think that there is nothing new there.

David Harsanyi reminds us of what an atrocious agreement this whole Iran deal was.
The Iran deal might be the only international accord the United States has entered into where it offered extensive concessions to a nation that continued to destabilize U.S. interests, kill its soldiers, and threaten its allies. In return, we asked for nothing other than a promise that Iran keep its preexisting obligations. The Islamic state, we shouldn’t forget, was already a signee to the non-proliferation agreements when the Obama administration saved its economy and reinvigorated its military.

The Iranians, to no one’s surprise, do not plan on keeping promises.

It’s also worth remembering what we’ve given up for this deal. There was almost nothing Obama wouldn’t do to save it. To pass it, the administration created (then bragged about) a media echo chamber that smeared the opposition at home. Obama accused those who opposed the deal of being in “common cause” with Islamists in Iran, offering the ludicrous false choice: his way or war. Some of the nastiest attacks were reserved for fellow Democrats like Chuck Schumer, whose tepid pushback triggered Obama flunkies to accuse of him of harboring dual loyalty.

Then there was the constant subjugation of American interests to placate the Iranians. First, Obama made “common cause” with Russia and Syria. It seems increasingly plausible, in fact, that the president was hamstrung in Syria because he wanted to avoid upsetting the Iranians and Russians. Vladimir Putin, the man who helped Iran create its nuclear program, was a fan of the deal. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was also an admirer, confident that Iran would continue its “just causes” after the deal was wrapped up. What could he possibly mean?

The Iran deal remained Obama’s predominant concern during his second term, even as Tehran grappled with a contracting economy and inflation brought on, in part, by international sanctions that had been set up over a decade. Despite its natural resources, Iran’s economy still struggles. One can imagine what it would look like with another two years of sanctions.

Later we learned that Obama’s machinations were worse than we imagined. In his January 2016 speech announcing the lifting of sanctions, Obama claimed that as a “reciprocal humanitarian gesture” the United States would release a number of Iranian-born “civilians” who “were not charged with terrorism or any violent offenses.”

Far from mere “civilians,” the administration was releasing Iranian spies whom the Justice Department had tagged as threats to national security. Of the 14 civilians, one was a top Hezbollah operative named Ali Fayad, who had not only been indicted in U.S. courts for planning to kill U.S. government employees but whom agents believed reported to Putin as a key supplier of weapons to Syria and Iraq. Another was serving an eight-year sentence for “conspiring to supply Iran with satellite technology and hardware.” Another, Seyed Abolfazl Shahab Jamili, was charged with illegally conspiring to procure “thousands of parts with nuclear applications.”
There is nothing good that has come out of this deal. Basically, we've released money to Iran that they've used to kill civilians and fight our efforts in Iraq. Harsanyi wonders what the left would have said if Trump made a similarly worthless deal with Russia. What if Trump bent over so far to appease Russia as Obama did for Iran.
On top of that, Obama administration was “slow-walking” investigations against Iranian spies here in the United States and efforts to extradite suspects. It also, according to Josh Meyer’s source-heavy reporting that has never been factually refuted, neutralized efforts to stop Hezbollah from funding its operations through criminal enterprises in the United States.

When the Iranians released American hostages in early 2016, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry claimed it was due to “the relationships forged and the diplomatic channels unlocked over the course of the nuclear talks.” In actuality, the Obama administration secretly airlifted more than $1.7 billion worth of cash as ransom to obtain the release of four Americans so as not to derail the Iranian deal. Because all of it was above-board and absolutely not a ransom payment, it was sent on wooden pallets stacked with euros, Swiss francs, and other currencies on an unmarked cargo plane.< “We do not pay ransom for hostages,” Obama maintained later. But State Department spokesman John Kirby soon acknowledged that Iran’s release of the hostages was “contingent” upon the $400 million cash payment. “Ransom: a sum of money or other payment demanded or paid for the release of a prisoner.”

And then in 20205, Tehran will be released from the deal and be able to develop the nuclear weapons it was always planning to work on.

Jim Geraghty is mystified by the defense of the Obama folks that there is nothing new in the Israelis' cache of documents because they already knew that Iran was lying.
Fans of the Iran deal scoff at Israeli prime minister Bibi Netanyahu’s presentation about the long and sordid history of Iran’s secret nuclear program: “There was nothing we didn’t already know.” “Everything he said was already known.” “There is nothing new in Bibi’s presentation.”

I don’t quite get how “hey, everybody always knew the Iranian regime lies all the time” is such a sterling defense of the Iran deal. I mean, is that we’re so confident in the limited inspections that we don’t think Iran would cheat by doing things at military sites? You can’t argue, “Oh, we never trusted their word” and “That’s why we have to keep trusting them” in the same breath.
Well, rationality was never a foundation for the agreement....

I’m reminded of a past warning about Iran’s treachery and ambitions by an American leader known for launching military strikes in Middle Eastern countries:
This is not the first time that Iran has concealed information about its nuclear program. Iran has a right to peaceful nuclear power that meets the energy needs of its people. But the size and configuration of this facility is inconsistent with a peaceful program. Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow — endangering the global non-proliferation regime, denying its own people access to the opportunity they deserve, and threatening the stability and security of the region and the world.

That was President Barack Obama on September 25, 2009.

Michael F. Cannon writes at Reason makes the good point that the problems with the Department of Veterans Affairs isn't who the head of it is, but the whole format of the system. This is public health care.
Shortages and waiting lists at the V.A. are hardly surprising. Its health care system, the VHA, is the United States' version of the U.K.'s single-payer National Health Service. It is an entirely socialist enterprise, where the government owns the means of production (hospitals, clinics, CT scanners, bedpans), employs the workers, decides how much everyone gets paid, and generally chooses how to allocate all those capital and human resources.

In other words, it's a system without true prices—and that's why it doesn't work.

The purpose of the price mechanism is to get the right amount of stuff to the right place at the right time. Instead of using prices to allocate resources within the V.A., Congress relies on its own wisdom and that of V.A. bureaucrats. So it's no surprise that thousands of veterans die waiting for eligibility-appeals rulings, and others kill themselves while waiting for mental health services.

As is the case in Britain, Canada, and all other countries where government runs health care, in some regions the VA has too much stuff and not enough patients. In other areas, it has too many patients and not enough stuff.
There are solutions out there, but not if they keep the status quo. The preferred solution would be to give veterans vouchers to get health care from private providers. Reportedly, that is why Trump got rid of the former Secretary of the VA, David Shulkin. Shulkin opposed this plan.
Current V.A. enrollees would still need Congress to underwrite, Medicare-style, the care they receive through that system, or whatever system they choose. But further reforms would allow active-duty personnel to receive future veterans benefits from entities who face incentives to keep rather than renege on those commitments. Indeed, such reforms could make Congress and the president less likely to engage in unnecessary wars, thereby reducing the risk that active-duty personnel would need veterans benefits in the first place.
Cannon has more ideas to transform VA health care. It's time to innovate rather than keeping the same failed policies.

Hmmm, this is an interesting question about the impact of DNA testing services on affirmative action.
How will these DNA testing services affect affirmative action?

Case in point, a friend of mine who has been Italian all his life recently found out that he’s actually 3 percent African.

Since his family came from Sicily and he’s always been olive-skinned, that is not surprising.

But could my friend, who I will call Mike because that’s his name, have applied for scholarships, favorable admission and the like to universities because of that 3 percent?

Mike’s too old now to learn anything, so this won’t matter to him.

But how about the millions of kids who apply to schools and jobs each year who could get beneficial treatment because of this?

I called around to some universities and they didn’t want to, or wouldn’t, discuss the matter. But could people finding out they have a slice of minority in them complicate affirmative action?

Dunno, but it has me wondering.
Now it has me wondering too.

Nicholas Frankovich ponders how the British authorities in the tragic case of little Alfie Evans were shifty in their definitions of what was in the "best interest" of the child.
After the boy had already been admitted to Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool, Evans and James sought opinions from doctors abroad. From Rome and from Munich they received treatment plans that differed from Alder Hey’s plan to remove artificial ventilation immediately so the child could die. The prognosis from none of the three groups of doctors — Liverpool, Rome, Munich — was rosy. To its credit, Bambino Gesù pointed out the risk that Alfie could die in transit to Italy.

Both in the courts and in the media, opponents of the Bambino Gesù plan shifted their ground. Their primary contention was that Alfie’s brain disorder had dimmed his consciousness to the point that he was no longer living a meaningful life and had no prospect of ever doing so — and that in any case he was near death., But then they cited as unacceptable the risk that he would die in the air ambulance that Bambino Gesù had readied for his transit from Liverpool to Rome.

Moreover, representatives of Alder Hey had already told a court that his death on their removal of his life support would be fast. So, with respect to life expectancy, even in the worst-case scenario for the Bambino Gesù plan, the outcome would not have differed significantly from what the Liverpool doctors had pronounced optimum under the circumstances.

Opponents of the Bambino Gesù plan also argued that, since it was “highly unlikely” that Alfie felt pain but not impossible, it was better to err on the side of caution and assume that he did. They adduced the stress of air travel and of the surgery in Rome, as if the Italian pediatricians had no anesthesia or competence in pain management. Of course, if Alfie did feel pain, that would raise the question whether he had sufficient awareness for his life to be meaningful after all in the judgment of those who said that, because he didn’t, it wasn’t....

“Both cases,” Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans, “highlight the problem of defining ‘best interest’ and of trying to discover it through the court system,” Kenan Malik writes in the Guardian. “It is not clear, for instance, that it would have been against Alfie Evans’ best interest for him to have received palliative care in an Italian hospital, as his parents wanted, rather than in Liverpool.” (Whether or not “palliative” is the best characterization of the care that Bambino Gesù proposed, the point that it’s not clear that Alfie’s transfer to it would have been against his best interest stands.)

Ah, May Day and the joys of celebrating socialism, a political ideology more responsible for death and misery than any other ideology in history. In the May Day celebrations, we see revealed the true character of the movement's adherents. For example, this banner actually appeared on the streets of London.

Yup, all the great ones, right?

So Hitler is unacceptable, but Lenin, Stalin, and Mao who, together, are responsible for many more deaths - they're perfectly fine to celebrate. Gotta love that sense of freedom of expression in Britain.

And then there is France.
Riot police in Paris arrested more than 200 anti-capitalist demonstrators today as they went on the rampage to mark May Day.

Water cannon and tear gas were used against the protestors, many of whom were anarchists belonging to the Black Bloc movement.

‘They have mainly targeted places of business, including branches of McDonalds and banks,’ said a Paris police spokesman.

‘More than 200 people were arrested by late afternoon, and isolated incidents of violence are on going.’

Worst hit was a McDonalds and Renault garage close to the Austerlitz railways station in the east of the city.

Cars and wheelie bins were also torched, while officers had rocks and other projectiles thrown at them.
Ah, torching cars - a delightful French pastime.

Jay M. Smith, a history professor at UNC-Chapel Hill
has written a book about how the university created sham classes that were taken mostly by athletes but, after a long investigation, the NCAA declined to punish UNC for its manipulation of the rules to keep athletes passing classes, even if the classes were fake. Smith tells the story of how the university shamefully worked behind the scenes to prevent him from teaching a class about the corruption in college sports.
As these events unfolded, I co-authored a book that chronicled UNC’s handling of its scandal and placed the story in the context of the relationship between academics and athletics. Later, I developed a history course on big-time college sports. In that course, students learned about the conflicts of interest that had defined intercollegiate athletics from their beginning in the 19th century. They read about how the prime beneficiaries of college sports—coaches, university presidents, alumni and governing boards, the NCAA—had created a system that kept money rolling in but kept athletes always disadvantaged. They learned about the long-term origins of the systematic educational fraud that the UNC case exemplified.

UNC administrators, and the boosters to whom they answer, were not pleased about the new course. (When the athletic director heard about it, he insisted that he teach it in my place.) The course had flown under the radar of academic administrators in 2016, but when they discovered that I planned to teach it again in 2017, they intervened to suppress it.

The dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, a longtime friend to athletics, pressured the chairman of the history department to yank my course from the schedule. He made ominous noises about the history department being “over-resourced.” He asked the chairman to consider whether it was “strategic” for the course to be offered. He ended by saying, “This is not a threat”—but it would be a bad idea for the department to schedule the course in 2017. The department chairman told me to find something else to teach.

After a nine-month battle, administrators relented and allowed the course to be taught this spring. That news came days after I had submitted a formal grievance to the faculty committee charged with enforcing the rules of faculty governance. The faculty committee decided unambiguously in my favor, scolding the dean for interfering in the scheduling of a course that happened to cover controversial issues. They called on administrators to reaffirm their support for academic freedom.

The findings of the faculty committee had no effect. Exercising their prerogative to override any faculty decision, the administrators simply rejected the recommendations. In the face of a report that highlighted administrative bullying (“this is not a threat, but”), the chancellor wrote, “I do not believe that the Dean . . . violated existing tenets for providing proper administration” of curricular programs. Since the grievance process is advisory only—a sign of the powerlessness of faculty in the modern university—administrators were free to assert that intimidation is a legitimate academic practice. Controversial courses will remain vulnerable to suppression.

It would be hard to imagine a more demoralizing example of the tail wagging the dog. UNC is a “public ivy.” Its faculty win Nobel, Pulitzer and Guggenheim awards. Since 1987, UNC ranks first among public universities in competitions for Rhodes scholarships. Chapel Hill is not the typical football factory. Yet UNC’s leaders were willing to carry water for the athletic department—even in the wake of an enormous athletic scandal. They were also willing to limit what their students could learn, threaten the academic freedom of a tenured professor, use intimidation tactics against a distinguished department, and risk the reputation of the university.

At UNC, the power of big-money sports led administrators to defend the legitimacy of fake classes that had no professor. It then led them to wage an all-out war against a real class that asked common-sense questions about sports in institutions of higher learning.
Smith's argument is that big-time college sports end up corrupting education because they bend rules in order to keep the big money rolling in. In UNC's case, it's hard to argue.

On another worrisome sports topic, ESPN has a deep dive report into why things have been tense between Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs this year. I'm hoping that have been rather a mystery this season. The basic problem is that the team and Kawhi's doctors disagree about what is the source of his injury and therefor, disagree on the treatment. Things seem fractured now, but not irredeemably so. As a fervent Spurs fan, I took heart from the news that Kawhi and Pop still communicate with each other and that Kawhi was going to come to the finals games if Pop had coached after his wife's death. Perhaps, Pop will be able to use that residual affection to repair that relationship. That is what I'm crossing my fingers for. Meanwhile, I'm over the moon at how the Celtics (my Eastern division favorite) showed up in their first game after the 76ers.