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 MSNBC 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.

The Clinton/Kendall claptrap

After seeking a two-week extension within which to respond to the outstanding subpoena issued by the House Select Committee on Benghazi for Madam Hillary’s email and request for email server, Clinton attorney David Kendall responded by letter that copies of all responsive documents had been turned over to the Department of State and the server had been wiped clean. The Democrats on the House Select Committee have posted David Kendall’s six-page, single spaced letter here.

Shannen Coffin parses the letter in “The latest bombshell from Clinton’s lawyer.” Shannon captures the defiant tone of Kendall’s letter:

Lawyers are not usually this bold when disclosing evidence that suggests potential breaches of criminal law. I say “potential” because it is impossible to know for sure — unless, of course, you, like most congressional Democrats, are willing to take Mr. Kendall’s (and Mrs. Clinton’s) word for it. But the destruction of any record while a person is subject to a congressional-committee investigation is a reason for humility, rather than hubris, on the part of that person’s lawyer. This is so because a number of federal laws prohibit obstruction of such investigations.

Shannen’s column addresses the legal issues in the context of the subpoena/request of the House Select Committee. Byron York takes a look at Clinton’s response in the context of previous subpoenas. Byron’s column is “Hillary Clinton withheld information from Congress. Now what does Congress do?”

Losin’ in Lausanne (6)

Omri Ceren writes by email from the negotiations in Lausanne:

After a bruising week for the Obama administration – where literally every news day started with a scoop about another Western concession or Iranian backtrack – things are limping to a close. The AP says there will be something by tonight, which the wire gingerly describes it as “a statement that lacks specifics[.]”

It’ll take about 7 seconds for today’s announcement to get tagged as something like “an agreement to keep trying to agree,” which is effectively where the parties were 6 to 18 months ago, depending on how generous you want to be. At that point the administration will face questions about what it gave up over the last week to get just this announcement. The last week has been kind of a news cycle bloodbath in that regard:

Wednesday — WSJ scoop on PMDs concession — the WSJ revealed that the administration was willing to let Iran put off fully disclosing its nuclear program until after sanctions relief had been granted, a concession that would gut any verification regime.

Thursday — AP scoop on Fordow concession — the AP revealed that the administration was willing to let Iran continue spinning centrifuges in its underground military enrichment bunker at Fordow, ensuring that Iran would be allowed to maintain nuclear infrastructure completely impervious to Western intervention if they decided to break out.

Monday — NYT scoop on Iran stockpile bait-and-switch — the NYT revealed that the Iranians had backed away from suggestions they would ship their enriched uranium to Russia, a scenario they had used for months to secure concessions on the number of centrifuges they’d be allowed to run.

Congress gets back into session April 13.

In a subsequent email previewing a conference call this morning with former IAEA deputy director Olli Heinonen — Omri cites his paper “Iran’s nuclear breakout time: A fact sheet” — Omri writes:

There are two levels to the debate that’s going on right now. The top level has to do with whether the Obama administration even has the right goal in the Iran talks, i.e. whether a 1 year breakout time is adequate to prevent Iranian nuclear weapons acquisition. Then after that, there’s the question of whether whatever deal the parties work out meets that goal, i.e. whether, after all of the concessions that the West has made to Iran, the final deal really guarantees a 1 year breakout time.

Heinonen has taken up both of these questions in recent weeks.

A 1 year breakout is not enough – The Heinonen/Hayden/Takeyh overview on this question is a short read. There are theoretical scenarios that say the US could detect and reverse an Iranian breakout, but none of them hold up when you start talking about real-world constraints: the international bureaucratic process to confirm cheating, the political process to move the intelligence to the President, the diplomatic process to mobilize international action, etc. And then at the end of it, the go-to option would be sanctions – which take more than a year to cause pain anyway (see here).

The deal won’t even achieve a 1 year breakout – Heinonen subsequently published a longer version of the argument, that has both a a primer on breaakout calculations and a calculation that shows the actual breakout time secured by the rumored deal is about 7-9 months. That piece also elaborates on the bureaucratic process for detecting and acting in the wake of Iranian cheating, and suggests that the deal could not stop an Iranian breakout or sneakout (Heinonen’s paper is here).

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 Takeyh, “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.