The disinformation campaign

Well see, someone gave them information about the Iran nuclear program, but they don’t want to be quoted because well, and the AP says, okay, buddy, good enough for me!

Claiming to have obtained proof that “Iranian scientists have run computer simulations for a nuclear weapon,” Jahn admitted that the diagram “was leaked by officials from a country critical of Iran’s atomic program to bolster their arguments that Iran’s nuclear program must be halted before it produces a weapon,” on the “condition that they and their country not be named.” You’d almost think someone wanted to trump up reasons for another war.


Devoid of any official markings or even a date, the crude diagram is supposedly one of several used as evidence for a controversial November 2011 IAEA report that raised multiple questions, but fell short of direct accusations, about possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program. The diagram, as well as the bulk of the other intelligence referenced in that report, were not obtained directly by the IAEA itself but admittedly received via other agency “member states.”


According to AP, the graph displays “a bell curve — with variables of time in micro-seconds, and power and energy both in kilotons — the traditional measurement of the energy output, and hence the destructive power of nuclear weapons.” As Nima Shirazi of Columbia University’s Gulf/2000 Project points out however, “[it] shows nothing more than a probability density function, that is, an abstract visual aid depicting the theoretical behavior of a random variable to take on any given value.” Such normal distribution curves can be plotted with nearly any data set and are not specific to nuclear physics at all.


The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists—the premier non-technical trade journal of nuclear policy discussion—concurs, adding that “even if authentic, it would not qualify as proofof a nuclear weapons program. Besides the issue of authenticity, the diagram features quite a massive error, which is unlikely to have been made by research scientists working at a national level.” It details the error, remarking upon the graph’s two curves:

[O]ne that plots the energy versus time, and another that plots the power output versus time, presumably from a fission device. But these two curves do not correspond: If the energy curve is correct, then the peak power should be much lower — around 300 million (3×108) kt per second, instead of the currently stated 17 trillion (1.7 x1013) kt per second. As is, the diagram features a nearly million-fold error.


The Bulletin goes on to conclude, “This diagram does nothing more than indicate either slipshod analysis or an amateurish hoax.”

Sore losers

Not that there aren’t some really good arguments for getting rid of the electoral college, but Dominic Pileggi’s been in Pennsylvania politics a long time, and he didn’t express similar concerns after George W. Bush was reelected. I assume he wants to change the rules because it makes it easier for Republicans to gain the system. Which is the point, I guess:

A Pennsylvania lawmaker’s plan to divvy up electoral votes based on a presidential candidate’s public support may be just the first of many state legislative moves to alter the way the nation chooses a leader.


State Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, a Republican from Chester, wants to replace the winner-take-all system, which gave President Barack Obama Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes, with one that divides them to reflect the proportion of public support for each candidate. His method would have given 12 votes to Obama and eight to Republican Mitt Romney this year.


“Anyone who voted for Governor Romney, and many Pennsylvanians did, does not have any reflection of that vote in the electoral college vote,” Pileggi said. “This is a proposal that is not party specific or partisan in any way, but just an attempt to have the popular vote reflected in the electoral college vote.”


Pileggi’s proposal, which he asked senators in a memo to cosponsor, may be the first of a spate presented to lawmakers nationwide. Daniel P. Tokaji, a law professor at Ohio State University in Columbus and associate director of its Election Law @ Moritz center said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Republicans and Democrats seeking ways to “game the system” ahead of the 2016 presidential election.


If all states had used Pileggi’s method, the final outcome Nov. 6 wouldn’t have changed, though it would’ve narrowed Obama’s margin of victory, according a preliminary legislative analysis of the proposal. The president would’ve won 281 electoral votes to Romney’s 256. Obama won, 332 to 206.


Next year, at least 36 states will have one-party control of legislatures and governor’s offices, including Pennsylvania, according to MultiStates Associates Inc., a lobbying firm in Alexandria, Virginia.


“It’s never too early for partisan gamesmanship among partisan politicians,” Tokaji said.

Do you hear what I hear

First Draft’s Atheae has a very, very good idea, so I hope she doesn’t mind that I stole it:

So I’m in my kitchen on Sunday making what feels like the thousandth batch of Christmas cookies I’ve made so far this year, and turning up the local Christmas music station to try to stave off the holiday blues, yelling along DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR and generally annoying the hell out of the longest-suffering husband on the planet, and this sticks in my throat:


Said the king to the people everywhere
Listen to what I say
Pray for peace people everywhere


Because it’s not enough to pray for peace, where prayer means mouthing words in pews. It’s not enough to wish for the best for this world. It’s not enough to take ten minutes every year for goodwill to all. You live it every day, as best you can. It’s cold out right now, and dark, and TV’s telling us to buy everything and decorate everything and also to be more thoughtful about what really matters, and it’s enough to drive you batty.


So what I do, in these situations, is find something to fix. We’ve sent care packages overseas and collected coats and brought one another some holiday cheer in the past. And because the TV news has forgotten let’s remember large parts of this country recently got flattened and they need help, so let’s help: 

My Students: We have finally started school again Hurricane Sandy destroyed our community in Far Rockaway. Most of our students and many of our teachers lost everything. I want to do anything I can to try to improve their lives right now, even if it’s more opportunities and resources in their classrooms.


Music is a skill and a passion that a child can take pride in for the rest of his or her life. It is time for our students to experience the power and joy that music can have in their lives.


Our school is a Title I elementary school with a culturally diverse student community. Our little scholars have not had music in their lives for over two years, and we are struggling to provide them everything they deserve. They are creative and bright students who crave music and the varieties of activities it can bring with it.


My Project: My students need a printer, ink cartridges, and paper for basic supplies in our classroom. The printer will be used to print student work, worksheets, and pictures to display in the room. We have shows coming up and the printer can be used to make programs and print accessories. The ink will be used to maintain the printer throughout the school year. Lastly, the paper will be used to print on.

Let’s give this classroom what they need so they can start off 2013 just a little less needy. Let’s adopt PS197 Ocean School, and help clean up what the hurricane destroyed, and make peace and joy happen.

Hey, let’s raise the Medicare age!

Badgered on all sides by yon lean and hungry Cantor and the teabagger caucus, Speaker John Boehner makes a counteroffer to the White House, and as Wonkblog’s Sarah Kliff explains, there are a lot of reasons why his proposal to raise the Medicare age is a bad one (even if Jacob Lew, rumored to be the next secretary of the Treasury, is said not to have a problem with it):

House Speaker John Boehner has made his counter-offer on deficit reduction and, as my colleague Lori Montgomery reports, it floats the idea of raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67.


This isn’t a new idea: It’s come up in a lot of deficit reduction proposals of years past, as economists and legislators stare down a Medicare program eating up a growing chunk of the federal budget.


The idea has, however, gained a bit more traction since the Affordable Care Act passed. If the Medicare age were raised, the thinking has gone, the 3.3 million 65- and 66-year-olds would still be guaranteed access to health coverage through the tax subsidies. The lowest-income seniors — those earning less than 133 percent of the federal poverty line – would qualify for Medicaid.


That’s the upside. Health care economists see a number of downsides, too. For one thing, Medicare tends to be a pretty efficient program. Its costs have grown slower than private health insurance plans. The Center for Budget Priorities and Policy estimates that, while the federal government would save $5.7 billion, the rest of the health care system would end up spending $11.4 billion more to provide those same benefits.


Seniors themselves would end up spending $3.7 billion more as the benefits on the exchange would be less robust than those currently covered through Medicare. Employers would end up footing part of the bill, too, continuing to sponsor an additional two years of coverage.


That $2.5 billion in orange on the chart above comes from increasing the premiums that a lot of other people pay for their health insurance coverage. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that moving these seniors into the health insurance exchanges would increase premiums there by 3 percent, as the larger insurance pool absorbs a patient population that tends to be older and sicker than its younger counterparts.


Medicare premiums likely would go up too. These seniors would be the more expensive enrollees on the exchange. But when it comes to Medicare, they’re the least expensive patients, the younger population with fewer health care needs than, say, the 90-year-old cohort.


There’s also concern that these seniors might not even have an option should the eligibility age get raised as some states do not plan to expand their Medicaid programs. That could leave any senior who earns less than 133 percent of the federal poverty line — about $15,000 for an individual — without any coverage option at all.

Not to mention that many, many specialists refuse to take Medicaid patients — a real hardship for the elderly.

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