“If You Like Your Peace In Our Time…”

In Lausanne, talks with Iran continue past the supposed March 31 deadline. This is no surprise, since the deadline was wholly arbitrary. The Washington Post reports:

Negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program blew past a Tuesday deadline, U.S. officials said, with diplomats struggling to reach consensus on the difficult issues of sanctions, enrichment research and future limits. …

The decision to keep talking suggests negotiators believe an accord in some form is still possible.

Of course it is! We just need to yield on a few more points.

The extension was surprising, partly because State Department officials had been adamant that the March 31 deadline they set when an interim agreement was extended in November was firm.

It wasn’t surprising to us.

In fact, the deadline was mostly about American politics.

Naturally. Everything in this administration is about politics. National security is an afterthought, if that.

Few lawmakers reacted publicly on Tuesday to the latest developments in the talks. But Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said that the prolonging of talks into an extra day, “in the face of Iranian intransigence and duplicity, proves once again that Iran is calling the shots.” He also predicted Obama would make “further concessions” to Tehran.

That’s a pretty safe prediction. Much safer than, say, Kentucky in the Final Four.

We have had much to say about the administration’s negotiations with Iran over the last several months, and will have more to say in the days to come. For now, let’s leave it with Michael Ramirez, who reminds us that we are relying on the most duplicitous, most shameless and least reliable president in modern history. Click to enlarge:


The Germanwings Crash and Gun Control

Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz carried out a horrifying mass murder of the passengers aboard Germanwings flight 9525. It has come to light that he was diagnosed with serious mental illness, but medical professionals were prevented by German law from communicating his condition to the airline, and Lubitz hid his psychological issues:

Strict medical privacy laws mean the companies were oblivious to the potential dangers lurking in Lubitz’s mind as the first officer took the plane into a steep descent over the region that members of his local gliding club, where he developed his passion for flying, had toured in the past. Confidentiality regulations, designed to protect medical data and encourage people to consult doctors without fear of repercussion, put the onus on patients to disclose potentially hazardous diagnoses to authorities and their employers.

“The medical secrecy rules are centuries old and touch the core of the medical profession,” said René Steinhaeuser, an attorney at Wigge lawyers in Hamburg who specializes in medical law. “Without that, the relationship between physician and patient, and thus the medical system as a whole, wouldn’t work.”

Tonight’s news includes suggestions that someone at Germanwings may have had information about Lubitz’s situation, but put that to one side for purposes of this discussion.

The point I want to make is that the privacy concerns that likely contributed to the Germanwings disaster are similar to those that we see here in the United States with respect to gun control. Everyone agrees that a deeply depressed, suicidal or homicidal person shouldn’t be piloting a commercial aircraft. Likewise, everyone agrees that such a person should not be purchasing firearms. But it is not easy to say how that goal should be achieved.

In the context of aviation, mental health professionals have warned that breaching the confidentiality of the doctor-patient relationship may deter depressed individuals like Lubitz from seeking help, making the problem worse rather than better.

In the firearms context, liberals are constantly agitating for universal background checks. In fact, background checks are already universal with respect to licensed firearms dealers, but arguments are made for expanding those checks to sales between private citizens.

In general, there are two types of people we don’t want possessing firearms: criminals and the mentally disturbed. With respect to criminals, background checks work reasonably well, as far as they go. If you have a felony conviction, you won’t be able to buy a gun from a licensed dealer. Criminals know this, of course, so they do one of three things: they buy guns from friends or fellow gang members, who would simply ignore a legal requirement to run a background check; or they steal firearms; or they have a straw purchaser, typically a girlfriend, buy the gun for them. So universal background checks would do nothing to prevent criminals from acquiring guns.

When gun control advocates talk about expanding background checks, they have in mind mass shootings. The problem here is that a background check is only as good as the list against which the check is run. Expanding background checks will do nothing unless the person question is on the list, and experience shows that the people who perpetrate mass shootings, even though they may be palpably crazy, are seldom on don’t-sell list. Seung-hui Cho, the Virginia Tech murderer who I believe is the worst “mass shooter” in American history, famously passed two background checks. NPR suggests that the problem is largely in the wording of the current law:

Federal law is supposed to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, but many say the language in the current law is outdated and confusing.

“People adjudicated as mentally defective is one category, and the second category are people committed to mental institutions — and that’s the terminology that’s used in that law,” says Ron Honberg, director of policy and legal affairs at the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

He says the policy language is “horribly stigmatizing, and in fact so offensive that it’s hard to even discuss the substantive aspects of the law.” Honberg also says it’s not particularly helpful to officials who have to decide who should and shouldn’t be allowed to buy a gun. He says “no one really understands what it means.”

You can put people who have been adjudicated as mentally defective and those who have been committed to mental institutions on a don’t-sell list because you don’t need to violate doctor-patient confidentiality to do so. But what about those who are crazy as loons but haven’t yet been committed? Most mass shooters fall into this category, e.g., Seung-hui Cho, James Holmes and Adam Lanza.

Holmes is an interesting case. He passed a firearms background check, but the psychiatrist who treated him at the University of Colorado-Denver, Dr. Lynne Fenton, recognized that he was a danger to others and reported him to the University’s campus police. That did no good. As far as I know, her report did not satisfy the criteria for inclusion on the federal don’t-sell list, and, in any event, Holmes probably had accumulated plenty of weapons and ammunition before Dr. Fenton concluded that he was a threat to public safety. So her warning went nowhere.

This is a big topic, far beyond the scope of a single blog post. But there is an ineluctable tradeoff between security and medical privacy. If we want to be sure that pilots who fly commercial airplanes aren’t sliding off the deep end, we will have to require their doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists to report on them, perhaps speculatively, perhaps prematurely, perhaps wrongly. Likewise, if we want to prevent the mentally ill from obtaining firearms, we will need a far more robust system of getting their names into the don’t-sell database. At a minimum, this would entail requiring mental health professionals to blow the whistle on their patients, as some states have now legislated. Realistically, it would also require a system where friends and relatives could put a mentally ill person on the list, with, presumably, some sort of appeal process.

Some will argue that, given the rarity of mass shootings and pilot mass murder, the game is not worth the candle. That may well be the right answer. My point is that in both contexts, if we want more robust security, we may need very different privacy assumptions than those that have prevailed for the last several centuries.


For the second year in a row, the University of Wisconsin has made it to the Final Four of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Last year, I tried my hand at naming Wisconsin’s all-time basketball greats. I did not include any members of the 2013-14 team.

This year, I think some of Wisconsin’s current stars need to be added to my list. After all, this group has twice accomplished what no other Badger managed to do even once in my lifetime — made it the Final Four team.

Here, then, is my revised all-time Wisconsin team:
First Team:
Devin Harris (2001-04)

He was Big Ten Player of the Year and Cousy award runner-up in 2004, and an NBA lottery pick in that year’s draft. Harris averaged 19.4 points per game that season. Number ten all-time in Badger scoring and number eight in assists.

Michael Finley (1991-95)

A personal favorite of mine, Finley ranks second on the all-time Badger scoring list. A two time all Big Ten selection, he averaged more than 20 points a game in each of his final three seasons at Wisconsin. Finley was a first round NBA pick and won a title with San Antonio.

Alando Tucker (2002-07)

Wisconsin’s all-time leading scorer, Tucker was the school’s first consensus first-team All American since 1942. He averaged more than 19 points per game his last two seasons. Also a first round NBA draft pick.

Claude Gregory (1977-81)

A Washington DC basketball legend out of Coolidge High, “Little Stretch” (his brother James “Big Stretch” Gregory preceded him at Coolidge and Wisconsin) is Badgers all-time leading rebounder. He averaged 20.4 points per game his senior and ranks fourth on Wisconsin’s scoring list.

Frank Kaminsky (2011-15)

Considered a very strong contender for national player of the year, Kaminsky averaged 18.7 points, 8 rebounds, and nearly 3 assists per game this season. He shot 55 percent from the field and 41.5 percent on three-pointers. In the two Round of 8 games in which he played, Kaminsky scored 28 and 29 points.

A man of many nicknames, Kaminsky has gone by “Frank the Tank,” “The Moose,” “College Joe,” and my favorite, “The Sleepy Faced Assassin.”

Second Team:
Taylor Jordan (2008-12)

He is seventh on the all-time Badger scoring list and second all-time in assists. A finalist for the Cousy award for best college point guard, Jordan set the NCAA record for best assist-to-turnover ratio.

Wes Matthews (1977-80)

His 18.6 points per game ranks third on the Badgers all-time list. In his final season at Madison, Matthews averaged 19.6 per game on .512 shooting. Another first round pick who won an NBA title (with the Lakers).

Danny Jones (1986-90)

The Badgers number two all-time scorer. He also led the team in rebounding twice. Jones’ career field goal percentage was .535.

Mike Wilkinson (2001-05)

All Big Ten as a senior, Wilkinson led the Badgers in rebounding in each of his four seasons at Madison. He’s number eight on the all-time scoring list.

Joe Franklin (1965-68)

He’s number two in all-time rebounding for Wisconsin. Franklin was a first-team all Big Ten selection his senior year.

Third Team:
Trent Jackson (1985-89)

Star of the 1989 team that made Wisconsin’s first post-season tournament since 1947 (the NIT). He averaged 19.1 points per game that year (on .493 percent shooting) and 19.5 the year before. Left Wisconsin as its all-time leader in steals.

Rick Olson (1982-86)

He averaged 20.4 points per game his senior year, and is fifth on the all-time scoring list. Olson’s career free-throw percentage was .870, best in school history.

Kirk Penny (1999-2003)

A two-time all Big Ten selection, Penny is the Badgers ninth all-time leading scorer. Made just under 40 percent of his career three-point shot attempts.

Cory Blackwell (1981-84)

First-team all Big Ten selection his senior year, when he averaged 18.9 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.

Jon Leuer (2007-11)

Led the Badgers in scoring and rebounding during his junior and senior year. As a senior, he averaged 18.3 points per game. Leuer has made a good living in the NBA knocking down three-pointers (49 percent of his attempts) as a “stretch 4.”

Honorable mention goes to:

Sam Dekker (2102-15), whom many consider a better pro prospect than Kaminsky. Dekker looked like a national player of the year candidate in the Round of 8 game against Arizona, when he scored 27 points on 5 of 7 shooting from 3-point territory.

During this past season, Dekker averaged 14 points and 5.5 rebounds. He shot .526 from the field and .338 from 3-point territory, and was named second-team all Big Ten.

Tracy Webster (1991-94), who holds Wisconsin’s top three single-season assist records and the Badgers single-season mark for 3-point field goal percentage;

John Kotz (1940-43) who led the Badgers to the 1941 NCAA championship;

Jim Clinton who averaged 15.6 rebounds per game in 1951;

Josh Gasser (2011-15) who, as a guard on the two Final Four teams, gives the Badgers a little bit of everything. Except for defense — he gives them tons of defense.

Clarence Sherrod (1968-71) who holds the Badgers single season points per game record (23.8 in 1971) and is eleventh on the all-time scoring list, but who shot only .407 for his career.

Sherrod went on to graduate from Wisconsin law school and had a distinguished career as an attorney.

How Long Can Noah Tread Water?

The Daily Show has announced little known South African comic Trevor Noah as Jon Stewart’s replacement, and going with an unknown talent is an understandable move for such an iconic show. (Some initial media reports predictably referred to this South African as “African-American” because they’re afraid to say “black,” because PC.)

But speaking of PC and compromised comics, the furor that has erupted over some of Noah’s old un-PC tweets reminds me of that old Bill Cosby punch line: “Noah—How long can you tread water?” Because it looks as though Trevor Noah may come undone for making jokes about un-petite women and Jews. Dave Weigel notes over at Bloomberg that Noah has gone from Progressive hero to villain in 24 hours.

Uh oh:

Noah 1 copy Noah 3 copy Noah 4 copy Noah 5 copy Noah 1

Unless Noah recants fast, he’s only going to be able to play in Indiana.


Noah 2 copy

Harry Reid, Serial Liar

Perhaps the lowest of the 2012 presidential election’s many low points was Harry Reid’s absurd claim, asserted on the floor of the Senate, that Mitt Romney hadn’t paid any income taxes in ten years. It was a classic Democratic Party lie, too dumb to be believed by people of any sophistication–which, of course, didn’t prevent it from being widely reported–but catnip to the party’s base.

Now that Reid has announced his retirement, he is giving a series of mostly-celebratory interviews about his career. On CNN, Dana Bash asked Reid whether he regretted his statement about Romney, the implicit premise being that it was a lie. Reid didn’t deny that he lied. Instead he responded, “Romney didn’t win, did he?” Here it is:

Chris Cillizza comments:

This sort of “the winners make the rules” approach is part of the broader partisan problem facing Washington and the polarization afflicting the nation more broadly. There is no trust between the two parties because they believe — and have some real justification for believing — that the other side will say and do literally anything to win.

But this is wrong, isn’t it? It may describe the Democrats accurately–I think it does–but when did Mitch McConnell or John Boehner peddle an outright, slanderous lie about Barack Obama? It hasn’t happened. Hysteria is a constant among Democrats: consider Reid’s crazed attacks on the Koch brothers, the current ridiculous misrepresentations about Indiana’s RFRA, the repeated suggestions that scientists who prefer data to global warming alarmism should be shot or imprisoned. There simply isn’t anything like this on the right.

Harry Reid may be exiting the stage, but he leaves behind a party that never had any problem with his lies, as long as they worked.

So much for Hillary’s “one device convenience” excuse

I doubt that anyone believed Hillary Clinton when she claimed she exclusively used a personal email address on a home server for “convenience,” so that she could carry a single device. In this day and age, the assertion is sufficiently implausible that only a Clinton would offer it.

Now, the Associated Press reports that Clinton used an iPad in addition to her BlackBerry to email staff. In response, Clinton admits, through a spokesman, that she used her iPad from time to time. She claims that she did so primarily to read news clippings, but doesn’t deny that she also used it for email.

We don’t know for certain whether Clinton “carried” the iPad with her, as she did the BlackBerry. Presumably, she (or someone in her retinue) did; that way she could read news clippings whenever she wanted to.

But it doesn’t matter. The fact that she used the iPad for email shows that her stated reason for exclusively using a single, private email account — the desire to rely on a single device for email — is false.

Perhaps one day in the distant future, when Clinton next takes questions from the press, someone will ask her to explain the inconsistency between her claim that she emailed from only her private account because she used one device for email and the fact that she used at least two devices for email.

Then again, perhaps not.

An MSNBC state of mind

As an outlet for political news and commentary, MSNBC is not completely worthless. It provides a window onto the left-wing mentality. Indeed, it gives us a comprehensive view: the political ego/superego/id of Al Sharpton & company. One gets the impression that medication has already done all it can do to make it fit for public consumption. A kind of cure will come only when management pulls the plug.

The Free Beacon’s David Rutz has compiled a Reader’s Digest version of gleanings from NSNBC for our viewing pleasure in the video below. He calls it “Questions so stupid only MSNBC could ask them.” I’m filing this under Laughter Is the Best Medicine.