Iran moves the goal posts again

In negotiations, parties tend to moderate their positions as the deadline for a deal approaches. Sometimes, though, the parties (or at least one of them) aren’t willing to compromise. Instead, they continue to insist on the positions they have maintained throughout the process.

What’s quite unusual is for a party, at eleventh hour, to insist on a position it hasn’t previously taken. When this occurs, it means one of two things: either the party pulling the switch doesn’t want a deal or it realizes that the other side is so desperate for a deal that it can act in blatant bad faith with impunity.

The New York Times reports that “with a negotiating deadline just two days away, Iranian officials on Sunday backed away from a critical element of a proposed nuclear agreement, saying they are no longer willing to ship their atomic fuel out of the country.” Until now, Iran has been agreeable to sending the material to Russia.

Has Iran decided that it doesn’t want a deal? Or has it concluded that President Obama is so desperate for one that it can pull the rug out from under him at the last minute and get a better bargain as a result?

In either case, the U.S. should walk away. But Iran has taken the measure of Obama and correctly concluded that, however outrageously it acts, Obama will not walk away.

Instead, according to the Times, the administration is looking at “other ways of dealing with the material” such as “blending it into a more diluted form.” Here we see the complaint of Amir Hossein Mottaghi, the Iranian defector, made manifest. As he says, the U.S. negotiating team is “mainly [present] to speak on Iran’s behalf.”

Even the New York Times acknowledges that keeping the fuel in Iran would, at a minimum, give Iran another way to cheat on the agreement. Would inspectors be able to make sure the material was being diluted? Might not they be denied the access necessary to detect such cheating, as they have been denied access in other contexts?

Quite possibly. In any event, we shouldn’t have to worry about these scenarios, especially since Iran has been willing all along to accepts an arrangement that precludes them.

According to Ray Tekeyh, “one of the core administration arguments has been that the uranium would be shipped abroad as a confidence building measure.” Iran’s sudden unwillingness to ship out the uranium should therefore undermine whatever confidence Team Obama might have in Iran’s intent to comply.

The negotiations have, indeed, built confidence. Iran has become fully confident that Obama, so desperate for any deal, will take without serious complaint just about any kick in the teeth the mullahs deliver.

Each kick makes a bad deal even worse.

Americans Support Nuclear Deal With Iran?

The Washington Post reports that a “clear majority” of Americans support President Obama’s proposed nuclear deal with Iran:

By a nearly 2 to 1 margin, Americans support the notion of striking a deal with Iran that restricts the nation’s nuclear program in exchange for loosening sanctions, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds.

As always, we need to know what question was asked. Here it is:

Q: Thinking now about the situation with Iran – would you support or oppose an agreement in which the United States and other countries would lift major economic sanctions against Iran, in exchange for Iran restricting its nuclear program in a way that makes it harder for it to produce nuclear weapons?

So the question assumes that Iran would, in fact, “restrict its nuclear program” so that it would be “harder for it to produce nuclear weapons.” Heck, I might answer that question Yes, in the abstract. The WaPo poll also shows that most respondents doubt whether an agreement would, in fact, prevent Iran from going nuclear. Presumably, hardly any of those telephoned by the pollsters realized that the objective of the agreement, assuming that Iran abides by it–a laughable assumption–is to extend the time it will take Iran to build a bomb to one year. Even assuming that objective could be achieved, which most experts do not believe, it would be a small payoff for ending sanctions, which will entrench the mullahs’ regime and increase the resources they can devote to nuclear enrichment and ICBM development, which will not be addressed in the prospective deal.

For the Obama administration, this is all about politics (unless Obama really is the Manchurian President, and he wants to empower Islamic extremists). The Hill reminds us how disconnected from reality many observers are:

Obama entered the talks as part of an effort to shift the U.S. posture in the Middle East toward diplomatic engagement — and not military involvement.

Sure, it’s either this or invade a couple of countries. What could be simpler?

“Stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program would be a major accomplishment for this or any other administration,” said Robert Einhorn, a former non-proliferation adviser at the State Department under Obama.

But of course, “stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program” isn’t even contemplated by the agreement being hammered out in Switzerland.

“There is no getting around Iran’s rise,” said Hillary Mann Leverett, a former Iran adviser at the National Security Council under George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. A deal would allow the U.S. to “recover its strategic position in the Middle East, which is now in free fall.”

I agree that our influence is now in free fall, but why, exactly, would a bad deal with Iran, which allows it to continue enriching uranium and building ICBMs, permit us to “recover our strategic position”? This is known as a non sequitur.

There are two principal parties to the negotiations that are now reaching a climax. The Iranian mullahs are determined to build nuclear weapons and ICBMs that will carry those bombs to the United States, the “Great Satan.” The Obama administration is determined to sign a paper agreement that will boost Obama in the polls for a week or two. (This is the most charitable assumption.) For the radical clerics, a year, ten years, twenty years mean little: they can wait. Who do you think is going to come out on top in that negotiation?

If, ten years from now, fifteen or twenty Iranian ICBMs deliver nuclear bombs to Manhattan, and Chicago, and Los Angeles, and elsewhere in the “Great Satan,” no one will remember that by a two to one margin, Americans favored an agreement that would “restrict [Iran's] nuclear program.”

What Can Bristlecone Pines Tell Us About the Gulf Stream? Um, Nothing.

A recent, highly-publicized article by Stefan Rahmstorf and the notorious Michael Mann claimed that the Gulf Stream is slowing down due to global warming, with potentially significant consequences for northern Europe. Rahmstorf describes the article:

Climate models have long predicted such a slowdown – both the current 5th and the previous 4th IPCC report call a slowdown in this century “very likely”, which means at least 90% probability. When emissions continue unabated (RCP8.5 scenario), the IPCC expects 12% to 54% decline by 2100 (see also the current probabilistic projections of Schleussner et al. 2014). But the actual past evolution of the flow is difficult to reconstruct owing to the scarcity of direct measurements.

So they didn’t actually measure the flow of the Gulf Stream. Rather, they confirmed what their models predict through…proxies!

What is new is that we have used proxy reconstructions of large-scale surface temperature (Mann et al, 2009) previously published by one of us (study co-author and RealClimate co-founder Mike Mann) that extend back to 900 AD (see “What we can learn from studying the last millennium (or so)”) to estimate the circulation (AMOC) intensity over the entire last 1100 years (Fig. 3).

It turned out, however, that some people actually have measured Gulf Stream flow for a considerable time:

[N]one of the studies include any direct measurements of the current over an extended period to prove their point.

But this is exactly what has been underway at the University of Rhode Island and Stony Brook University for the last 20 years: measurement of the strength of the Gulf Stream. And according to a paper published in Geophysical Research Letters, the researchers find no evidence that the Gulf Stream is slowing down. These new results reinforce earlier findings about the stability of Gulf Stream transport based on observations from as far back as the 1930s. …

“The ADCP measures currents at very high accuracy, and so through the repeat measurements we take year after year, we have a very powerful tool by which to monitor the strength of the current,” said Rossby. “There are variations of the current over time that are natural — and yes, we need to understand these better — but we find absolutely no evidence that suggests that the Gulf Stream is slowing down.”

This is typical: global warming alarmism is based on models, not data, and when the data contradict the models, the alarmists ignore the data. But it gets even worse, as Steve McIntyre explains at Climate Audit:

The new article by Rahmstorf and Mann has been criticized at WUWT for making claims about Atlantic Ocean currents based on proxies, rather than measurements. But it’s worse, much worse than we thought.

Rahmstorf and Mann’s results are not based on proxies for Atlantic current velocity, but on a network consisting of contaminated Tiljander sediments (upside-down or not), Graybill’s stripbark bristlecone chronologies, Briffa MXD series truncated to hide-the-decline and hundreds of nondescript tree ring series statistically indistinguishable from white noise. In other words, they used the same much-criticized proxy network as Mann et al 2008-9. It’s hard to understand why anyone would seriously believe (let alone publish in peer reviewed literature) that Atlantic ocean currents could be reconstructed by such dreck, but Rahmstorf et al 2015 stands as evidence to the contrary.

After so much controversy about Mann’s prior use of contaminated data, it defies credulity that he and Rahmstorf have done so once again.

And when the National Research Council panel recommended in 2006 that stripbark bristlecone chronogies be “avoided” in temperature reconstructions, they can scarcely have contemplated (let alone, endorsed) their use in reconstruction of Atlantic ocean currents.

Seemingly leaving no stone unturned, the Rahmstorf and Mann dataset even truncates the Briffa MXD chronologies in 1960, thereby hiding the decline (see here for a discussion of MXD truncation in Mann et al 2008 in September 2008, long before we learned from Climategate emails that they were using a trick to “hide the decline”).

In 2002, even Keith Briffa [one of the leading global warming alarmists] was frustrated enough by the Mann et al 1998 reconstruction to observe:

I am sick to death of Mann stating his reconstruction represents the tropical area just because it contains a few (poorly temperature representative) tropical series. He is just as capable of regressing these data again[st] any other “target” series, such as the increasing trend of self-opinionated verbage he has produced over the last few years, and … (better say no more)

But at least the network that Briffa complained about contained a “few poorly temperature representative” tropical series. Rahmstorf et al 2015 dispensed with even that meager precaution by purporting to reconstruct Atlantic ocean currents without using any proxies purporting to directly measure Atlantic ocean current.

What is one to say of a climate science field which permits such practices to continue unchecked? …

Only one thing can be surmised from Rahmstorf and Mann’s claim that the Mann et al 2008-9 network can be used to reconstruct not just NH temperature, but also SH temperatures and now Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation: using Mannian RegEM with the Mann et al 2008-9 network of 1209 “proxies”, one can probably “reconstruct” almost anything. Are you interested in “reconstructing” the medieval Dow Jones Index? Or medieval NFL attendance?

The blunt truth is that climate alarmism isn’t science at all. It is a combination of politics, religion and–perhaps most of all–financially self-interested hucksterism.

Deal With Iran? It’s In Allah’s Hands!

John Kerry is in Switzerland, negotiating with (or on behalf of) the Islamic Republic of Iran. On Friday, a reporter asked whether a nuclear arms deal can be reached by tomorrow’s deadline. Kerry’s reported reply: “Inshallah!” “Allah willing!”

God help us.

GOOSE, SKY, AND MONSTER MASH — ALL-TIME KENTUCKY BASKETBALL GREATS

Over the weekend, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Michigan State, and Duke advanced to what looks like an attractive Final Four in the Men’s NCAA basketball tournament. Once again, I will present all-time all-star teams for these programs.

I have previously done so for Wisconsin and Kentucky, who were in the Final Four last year. Wisconsin’s list will need to be redone.

As for Kentucky, the combination of (1) a phenomenal history, (2) current reliance on “one-and-doners,” and (3) current sharing of playing time, which depresses individual stats, means that Kentucky’s list can stand as is. Here are my selections:

First Team:
Kyle Macy (1977-80)

A transfer from Purdue, he’s sixth on the Wildcats all-time assist list and was a first-team All American as a senior. For his UK career, Macy shot 52 percent from the floor and 89 percent from the line. He was the starting point guard on the 1978 national championship team.

Kevin Grevey (1972-75)

Averaged 21.4 points per game (on 51.7 percent shooting) during his career, and 23.5 as a senior. That year, he led Kentucky to second place in the NCAA tournament. UK lost a close title game to UCLA in John Wooden’s final game. Grevey also averaged 6.5 rebounds per game for his career. He went on to have a solid NBA career, including a championship with Washington in 1978.

Jamal Mashburn (1990-93)

He’s number six on the Wildcats all-time points list with a career shooting percentage of 51.6. As a senior, Monster Mash was SEC player of the year and a first-team All-American. And why not? That season he averaged 21 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game.

Kenny “Sky” Walker (1982-86)

Because he fizzled as a pro, it’s easy for non-Kentucky fans to forget how dominant Walker was in college. A three-time all SEC selection, he’s second in career points, with a 57.2 career shooting percentage, and sixth in rebounds. “Sky” lived up to his name when he won the NBA slam dunk contest in 1989.

Dan Issel (1967-70)

They don’t come much better than Issel. Despite playing only three years for the Wildcats, he’s number one in both career scoring and rebounding. Issel made first-team All American as a senior, when he averaged just under 34 points and just over 13 rebounds per game. As a pro in the ABA and then the NBA, his career averages are 22.6 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.

Second Team:
Dirk Minniefield (1980-83)

He easily tops the UK career assists mark and is tenth is steals. Minniefield lacked a good outside shot and thus was a “pass first” point guard. By picking his spots, he compiled a 52.4 percent shooting percentage for his career.

Tony Delk (1992-96)

Delk starred on the 1996 championship team. That year, he was a first-team All American and the Most Outstanding Player in the Final Four. Delk is fifth in career points at Kentucky; second in career steals; and first in three-pointers made (at a success rate of nearly 40 percent).

Tayshaun Prince (1998-2002)

One of the best defensive forwards ever (with four NBA all-defensive team selections to prove it), Prince ranks number eight on the Wildcats all-time scoring list. Twice, he was first team all SEC and once he was SEC player of the year.

Cliff Hagan (1950-54)

As a senior, Hagan averaged 24 points and 13.5 rebounds per game. He was a two-time first team All American. As pro, Hagan made six NBA all-star teams while playing for the St. Louis Hawks alongside another SEC legend, Bob Petit (LSU).

Anthony Davis (2011-12)

Davis played only one season for the Wildcats, but what a season. He was National Player of the Year, National Defensive Player of the Year, and Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. More importantly, he led his team to a national championship. Not bad for a freshman.

Third Team:
Ed Davender (1984-88)

Eleventh on Kentucky’s career points list, eighth in assists, and fourth in steals.

Louis Dampier (1964-67)

Dampier was the star of the 1966 all-white Kentucky team that lost in the NCAA final to a Texas Western team that started five blacks. He averaged 19.7 points per game for his Kentucky career on .508 shooting. Later, he lit it up in the ABA.

Ron Mercer (1995-97)

Star of the 1997 national runner-up team. That season, Mercer was SEC player of the year and a first team All American. He averaged 18.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game.

Jack “Goose” Givens (1974-78)

As a senior, Givens was National Player of the Year and Most Outstanding Player in the Final Four. He led Kentucky to its first national championship in 20 years. Givens’ performance in the championship game against Duke — 41 points — was one of the best in NCAA tournament history.

Alex Groza (1944-49)

The brother of football’s Lou “The Toe” Groza, he led Kentucky to back-to-back national titles in 1948 and 1949, and was Most Outstanding Player in both Final Fours. He also was the leading scorer on the 1948 U.S. Olympic Team that won the gold medal. His point total in 1949 ranks tenth in Kentucky history. Unfortunately, Groza later was implicated in having shaved points that season.

The honorable mention list could go on almost forever. I’ll name just these few:

Rajon Rondo: The game of this smooth point guard is best enjoyed to classical music.

Wayne Turner: The starting point guard on two national championship teams (1996 and 1998).

John Wall: Like Anthony Davis, Wall was National Player of the Year in his freshman season. Unlike Davis, he stumbled in the tournament.

Keith Bogans: The Washington DC area’s own (out of DeMatha), he’s fourth on Kentucky’s career scoring list.

Rex Chapman: One of the premier shooters in Kentucky history, he was all SEC in his sophomore (and final) year at Lexington. Chapman averaged 40 percent from three-point territory.

Cotton Nash: Averaged of 22.7 points per game for his Kentucky career and ranks fifth on the career rebounding list. Played in three professional sports leagues — the ABA, the NBA, and baseball’s major leagues.

Frank Ramsey: Averaged nearly 13 rebounds a game as a sophomore on Kentucky’s 1951 national championship team. Later an outstanding “sixth man” for numerous Boston Celtic championship teams.

Antoine Walker: Led Kentucky to the national title in 1996, averaging 15.2 points and 8.2 boards per game.

Sam Bowie: Had a great sophomore campaign but then sat out two seasons due to injury. Returned as a senior to help propel UK into the 1984 Final Four.

As I said, no one from the current team makes the list. However, if Karl-Anthony Towns plays the way he did on Saturday against Notre Dame and leads Kentucky to the title, he will deserve at least honorable mention even if he goes to the NBA after this, his freshman year.

The Virginia bar continues to disgrace itself

As we reported here, the Virginia State Bar (VSB) cancelled its midyear legal seminar trip to Israel. In response to stinging criticism of this decision, including from the Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, VSB president Kevin Martingayle sent this letter trying to justify his decision:

Dear Fellow Members of the Virginia State Bar,

On Friday March 27th, we canceled the Virginia State Bar’s planned Midyear Legal Seminar trip to Israel. The decision was based primarily on a U.S. State Department advisory: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/israel.html, “Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements.” We were forced to conclude there were potential difficulties some of our VSB members might face in obtaining entry to Israel. Additionally, we were well short of the required number of confirmed attendees necessary for the trip to proceed.

President-elect Edward L. Weiner, chair of the Midyear Legal Seminar Committee, communicated with the Israeli Embassy. An embassy official expressed a desire to facilitate the trip but acknowledged that security protocols are strict and could lead to exclusion or restriction of some VSB members.

In the face of this information, we felt it necessary and appropriate to forego this trip. This was not a political decision and is not a “boycott.” We are an inclusive organization and do not discriminate against any religion.

Unfortunately, some mischaracterized this decision as anti-Israel and anti-Semitic, even going so far as to mislabel it as a “boycott.” Although the message was sent over the president’s signature, we jointly drafted and approved what was sent Friday night. Apparently we could have done a better job of explaining the situation and decision. We are writing now to provide further clarity.

Our decision was not based on any political factors or influences. We understand that Israel is in a difficult position when it comes to security. We are not expressing opinions regarding Israel’s border security measures. We are merely recognizing the reality that our very large and diverse membership, consisting of well over 40,000 members, includes individuals who may encounter lengthy examination and possible rejection in attempting to navigate the immigration security procedures in Israel.

You may recall that on March 25, 2015, we sent a message urging VSB members to sign up for both the Israel trip and the Annual Meeting in Virginia Beach. We very much wanted the Israel trip to be a success and were trying to reach the required number of participants for it to be a go. We deeply regret that a combination of circumstances led to the trip’s cancellation, and we also regret that our good faith efforts and decisions may have been misinterpreted and misunderstood.

We remain committed to the core objectives of the VSB: public protection, access to justice and improvement of the legal profession. Thank you for reading and thank you for allowing us the privilege of serving.

Kevin E. Martingayle, President

Edward L. Weiner, President-elect & Chair, Midyear Legal Seminar Committee

Note that Martingayle is now claiming that “a combination of circumstances” led to the trip’s cancellation. He cites alleged difficulties in getting enough VSB members to sign up for the seminar.

However, his cancellation letter cited only allegedly discriminatory entry policies and practices by Israel. Thus, Martingayle’s revised rationale, concocted under duress, should not be credited.

Martingayle’s initially-stated rationale — potential entry problems for some members — doesn’t hold up well either. He appears to have based his decision on a petition by anti-Israel members and outsiders, coupled with a statement by someone at the Israeli embassy that Israel’s security protocols are strict and could lead to exclusion or restriction of some VSB members.

It’s hardly a scoop that Israel has strict entry procedures and that it can’t guarantee entry to every member of a large organization. Martingayle surely understood this when the VSB selected Israel.

What changed after the VSB made the selection? The answer is the petition by a small number of anti-Israelis.

As Martingayle said in his initial, more honest letter, he was advised of “some unacceptable discriminatory policies and practices pertaining to border security” and upon review he concluded that there were enough legitimate concerns to warrant cancellation. However, Martingayle declined to say which of the concerns cited by the anti-Israel petitioners were “legitimate.”

In his follow-up letter, Martingayle doesn’t say anything about “discrimination.” He simply points out that the VSB “includes individuals who may encounter lengthy examination and possible rejection in attempting to navigate the immigration security procedures in Israel.”

But this “may” also happen to people entering the United States. If you get the chance, look into the area at Dulles Airport where people trying to enter the U.S. are being detained for questioning. You won’t see a random cross-section of ethnic groups.

In fact, as William Jacobson points out, CAIR has lodged the same kind of complaint against U.S. entry procedures that the anti-Israel petitioners presented to the VSB.

The key questions regarding Israeli security procedures are those posed by Prof. Jacobson:

How many people are questioned more intensively? How many are barred? In how many cases did Israel have legitimate security concerns such that more extensive questioning was reasonable?

How many of those complaints were real, and how many were used to create a pretext for the Israel boycott movement? Are those rates higher than for people entering the U.S.?

Have people attending other bar association trips to Israel been barred?

How is it that so many groups and so many millions of tourists visit Israel, yet the Virginia State Bar almost alone has decided that a de facto boycott is in order?

These questions become particularly important because Israel-haters commonly present false claims about border security procedures — claims intended to dupe people like Martingayle into steering clear of Israel. Jacobson observes:

At the Modern Language movement in 2014, a resolution was introduced condemning “arbitrary” Israeli denials of visas to academics wanting to visit the West Bank. That language was removed when the accusation was revealed to be false at an open debate at the MLA’s annual meeting, and data were presented showing the Israeli visa denial rate for U.S. academics was a small fraction of the U.S. visa denial rate to Israelis.

In the case of the VSB, there was no open debate. The Israel haters presented a petition full of complaints, the most inflammatory of which came from the Arab American Institute, a virulently anti-Israel group. The other side appears to have had no say, except that the Israeli embassy confirmed what, as noted above, Martingayle surely understood all along.

In reality, Israel welcomes and accommodates tourists, including Arabs. According to Prof. David Bernstein:

The American Bar Association has recently held meetings in Israel, for example here and here [update: along with hundreds of international conferences that are held in Israel every year, including, for example, a conference on Arabic literature with Muslim attendees from abroad.]

Israel strongly encourages tourism from Muslim countries, to the point that Hamas attacked an Israeli efforts to encourage tourism to Jerusalem from Islamic countries. It called this a “dangerous Zionist plot.”

Hamas would have nothing to fear if Israel were persecuting Arabs who want to visit.

It’s unfortunate that Martingayle has made the VSB an instrument of the boycott Israel movement. I doubt that Martingayle and other VSB leaders are anti-Israel in any strong sense. After all, they initially set the seminar in Jerusalem.

Instead, Martingayle appears mindlessly to have subscribed to trumped up grievances cast in the kind of politically correct language that causes a certain type of person to respond like Pavlov’s dogs. It’s through such disgraceful knee-jerk reactions that the leftist, anti-West rot spreads.

“Genderflect” With Pep Boys!

I’m too old to stay up for Saturday Night Live any more, but I wish I had been able to monitor the outrage on social media among the Social Justice Warrior set this last weekend, when SNL took down both Starbucks and the whole swollen transgenderism fetish in one fell swoop. If you missed it too, it is definitely worth two minutes of your time for this: (more…)