PowerLine -> The Future of Energy Is Still . . . Coal – Whose Side Is the New York Times On?

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PowerLine -> The Future of Energy Is Still . . . Coal – Whose Side Is the New York Times On?

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Daily Digest

  • Whose Side Is the New York Times On?
  • Romanticizing the Detroit riots
  • Was the Houston Disaster Man-Made?
  • The Future of Energy Is Still . . . Coal
  • Orfield plays the race card
Whose Side Is the New York Times On?

Posted: 29 Aug 2017 04:01 PM PDT

(John Hinderaker)

The New York Times has run a lot of pretentious ads since the last election, claiming to stand for “truth.” But their latest one strikes me as odd, and perhaps revealing:

Who is the “they” who have politics on their side? The Republicans, who have generally fared well in recent election cycles? Conservatives? I can’t think of any other obvious possibilities. And who is the “we” who have journalism on “our” side? Democrats? Liberals? Truth-seekers? It is hard to say.

But I find it disturbing. I am so old, I can remember when journalists didn’t admit that they were on anybody’s side.


Romanticizing the Detroit riots

Posted: 29 Aug 2017 02:20 PM PDT

(Paul Mirengoff)

This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the Detroit riots of 1967. Michael Barone reminds us that the rioting went on for six nights, with some 2,500 stores looted and burnt, some 400 families displaced, and property damage estimated at around $300 million in 2017 dollars. Forty-three people, many of them innocent bystanders, were killed. More than 1,000 people were wounded.

Even so, the riots were always going to be romanticized with the passage of time. With the rise of Black Lives Matter, the anti-Trump resistance, and Antifa, the romance is turning into a love fest.

C-SPAN is doing its part. It televised a discussion in which several leftists declared the riots an “uprising.” They attributed the lawlessness and violence to police brutality and the black community’s sense that, for all the talk of civil rights, nothing had changed or was likely to change for them. In the portions of the program I watched, there was no suggestion that the rioters share the blame.

However, the discussion of how the riots started — the statement of facts if you will — made me wonder. At around 3:30 in the morning, Detroit police officers raided a club known as a “blind pig” and arrested 85 customers for after hours drinking and gambling. According to one of the panelists, the club was called a blind pig because of the police — “the pigs” — turned a blind eye to the unlawful after hours activity that took place there.

In America, we have the absolute freedom to call police officers “pigs,” and illegal drinking and gambling do not justify roughing anyone up. Moreover, it would be foolish to deny that white racism existed in the Detroit police force of 1967.

Still, it’s clear that the police had grounds for the arrests. It also seems clear that those arrested held the police in contempt and probable that many of them were intoxicated. Thus, it’s likely that the police officers encountered more than a little belligerence.

In fact, they did. According to this account by a retired police officer who was there, people started throwing billiard balls at the officers. The violence escalated when white police officers tried to pull their undercover comrades, who were black, out of the room. It took about an hour to arrest everyone and load them into paddy wagons.

In the meantime, a crowd had gathered outside the blind pig. Its members saw their fellow black citizens being loaded, perhaps roughly in some cases, into the vans. They may not have been aware of the violent belligerence the police encountered.

The rioting was triggered not by the shooting or beating of any black, but by the actions of the unstable son of the blind pig owner who, in his words, “was seeking the pleasure of hitting [a police officer] in the head, maybe killing him,” When he threw a bottle at an officer for that purpose, all hell broke loose.

Did it break loose because the rioters believed that, for all the talk of civil rights, nothing had changed or was likely to change? I don’t think so.

Plenty had changed by 1967. In 1964, Congress passed sweeping civil rights legislation. In 1965, it passed major voting rights legislation.

Detroit had elected Jerome Cavanagh mayor. Barone describes him as “a young, bright and ambitious liberal” He was “elected with the near-unanimous support of black voters [and] had aggressively launched anti-poverty programs, trying to make the nation’s fifth largest municipality a model of the Great Society’s War on Poverty.”

Things probably were changing for African Americans in Detroit more rapidly than ever before.

To be sure, the black community still had obvious reasons for discontent. However, as Barone says, “people throw bottles, break windows, loot stores and set fires when they think that enough other people will be doing the same as to make them immune from punishment.” That was the case in Detroit beginning shortly after the rioting commenced when police officers were ordered not to shoot.

The riots were not premeditated. They had no explicit policy goals. A crowd fueled by hatred and, most likely, liquor tested the “web of civilization” (as Barone puts it) and found it weak.

It’s an old story and one that should never be romanticized.


Was the Houston Disaster Man-Made?

Posted: 29 Aug 2017 12:19 PM PDT

(John Hinderaker)

Hurricane Harvey wasn’t man-made, obviously, but the scale of the destruction was, in large part, an unintended consequence of government policy. Michael Grunwald reports at Politico: “How Washington Made Harvey Worse.”

Nearly two decades before the storm’s historic assault on homes and businesses along the Gulf Coast of Texas this week, the National Wildlife Federation released a groundbreaking report about the United States government’s dysfunctional flood insurance program, demonstrating how it was making catastrophes worse by encouraging Americans to build and rebuild in flood-prone areas. The report, titled “Higher Ground,” crunched federal data to show that just 2 percent of the program’s insured properties were receiving 40 percent of its damage claims. The most egregious example was a home that had flooded 16 times in 18 years, netting its owners more than $800,000 even though it was valued at less than $115,000.

That home was located in Houston, along with more than half of America’s worst “repetitive loss properties” identified in the report.
Houston’s problem was runaway development in flood-prone areas, accelerated by heavily subsidized federal flood insurance. Now that Hurricane Harvey has turned Conrad’s warnings into reality, it’s worth noting that Houston’s problem was in part a Washington problem, a slow-motion disaster that was easy to predict but politically impossible to prevent.
Hurricane Harvey is not the first costly flood to hit Houston since that 1998 report. In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison dumped more than two feet of rain on the city, causing about $5 billion in damages. Two relatively modest storms that hit Houston in 2015 and 2016—so small they didn’t get names—did so much property damage they made the list of the 15 highest-priced floods in U.S. history. But Houston’s low-lying flatlands keep booming, as sprawling subdivisions and parking lots pave over the wetlands and pastures that used to soak up the area’s excess rainfall, which is how Houston managed to host three “500-year floods” in the past three years.

People have been talking about the perverse consequences of federal flood insurance for a long time, but nothing has been done. Congress enacted a semblance of reform in 2012, providing for premiums that more closely reflect the risk of flooding of flood plains. But political pressure led Congress to retreat in 2014. Hurricane Harvey will most likely result in more federal spending on flood relief, and more unintended consequences in the future, rather than fewer.


The Future of Energy Is Still . . . Coal

Posted: 29 Aug 2017 10:43 AM PDT

(Steven Hayward)

Renewable energy, along with unicorn flop sweat, Al Gore’s organic gasses, and moonbeams always get the ink for the “future of energy.” And don’t forget how Tom Friedman and others like to remind us that China is going to overtake the U.S. as a “clean energy leader” because Trump dumped the Paris Climate Accord (thereby causing Hurricane Harvey in the process).

Turns out if you look close you find out two things. First, in 1990, 88 percent of the world’s energy came from fossil fuels. After more than 25 years and over a trillion dollars in subsidies for “renewable” energy, in 2015 the world’s share of energy from fossil fuels was . . . 86 percent. (See figure immediately below.) At this rate, it will take 150 years to get fossil fuel energy down to 75 percent of the world’s total energy supply. I’m sure just $200 trillion in subsidies will do the trick.

Second, where is most of new energy supply for the developing world (including China) coming from? Here are two recent headlines—first from the Wall Street Journal today:

Big Name in Coal’s Resurgence: China

China’s reemergence as a coal importer has boosted the fortunes of U.S. producers who are now shipping more coal abroad than any time in the last two years. . .

Industry leaders say that good fortune has been backed up by a change of sentiment led by Mr. Trump. Business would have been worse and future prospects would be lower under a Democratic administration that used new rules to move consumers further away from coal, they said.

And now from India:

Coal to Remain India’s Main Energy Source in Coming Decades: Gov’t Think Tank

Coal, which powers around three-quarters of India’s electricity, will continue to be the foremost energy source over the coming decades, government think-tank Niti Aayog said in its Three-Year Action Agenda released Thursday.

It is important that India increases its domestic coal production to provide energy security and reduce its dependence on imports, it said.

By 2019, the government will explore 25% of the untapped 5,100 sq km coal bearing area to ensure availability of more coal mining blocks, it said.

There will also be efforts to convert 25% of the 139.15 billion mt of coal reserves that were in the ‘indicated’ category as of March 31, 2016 into the ‘proved’ category by offering top exploration companies attractive contract provisions, the report said.

So much winning.


Orfield plays the race card

Posted: 29 Aug 2017 07:03 AM PDT

(Scott Johnson)

University of Minnesota Law School Professor Myron Orfield has materialized in the Star Tribune this morning to play the race card against Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Stras. The Senate’s consideration of Justice Stras’s nomination to the Eighth Circuit has been blocked by Minnesota Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken. With the dishonesty that permeates his column, Orfield declares that Klobuchar and Franken “are exhibiting appropriate diligence.”

It is true that Franken purports to be studying Justice Stras’s record now that he has returned from his shift as a disc jockey for a day curating the offerings on SiriusXM’s Grateful Dead channel while promoting his new book. The more than three months during which Stras’s nomination has been left hanging should have been more than enough for Franken to get a handle on Justice Stras’s record.

How does preventing a hearing on the nomination constitute “due diligence”? It doesn’t. This Myron Orfield is one slippery customer.

Klobuchar’s “due diligence” is equally illusory. Klobuchar is using the nomination as a bargaining chip to secure leverage over Minnesota’s four federal vacancies, including United States Attorney and two district court judgeships. That is her “due diligence.” Klobuchar must be grateful to Orfield for providing her cover; she’s a little sensitive about the exposure of her partisan game-playing with those vacancies, even if the exposure has been limited so far to Power Line.

Orfield’s column draws mostly on Justice Stras’s assessment of Anthony Kennedy’s concurring opinion in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1. In his brief comment on Justice Kennedy’s concurrence, Stras sought to ascertain which were to be deemed controlling authority and which parts dicta.

Unlike Orfield, Stras is a scholar, not an ideologically driven hack. See for yourself here. Orfield makes no argument that Stras got anything wrong. Rather, Orfield exploits the average reader’s lack of access to the relevant text to make a dishonest point.

Orfield’s dishonesty may culminate in this assertion:

Stras, in his words and writings, has suggested he’d prefer that judges worry less about their “moral and ethical obligations” to the country. Stras once lamented that the Supreme Court’s “ventures into the contentious areas of social policy — such as school integration, abortion and homosexual rights” have politicized judicial nominations.

Orfield’s assertion lacks even his usually creative dishonesty; it is derivative of an earlier, equally dishonest Star Tribune op-ed column by one Beth Gendler. Six Minnesota law professors with diverse political views joined together to respond to Gendler:

With respect to Stras’ academic work, Gendler’s piece distorted a book review written by Stras in 2008 called The New Politics of Judicial Appointments to suggest that Stras “lamented” the Supreme Court’s school integration decision in Brown v. Board of Education. That review discussed the work of Benjamin Wittes, a leading journalist and scholar at the Brookings Institute. As Wittes correctly observed, school integration in 1954 was a controversial subject, and the court’s decision in Brown became an issue during confirmation hearings for subsequent Supreme Court justices. Stras summarized Wittes’ views in his review. To suggest this discussion somehow means that Stras “lamented” the school-integration decision is absurd.

In his Texas Law Review book review of two books on the confirmation wars — the book review just cited, this is what Justice Stras wrote to summarize the review’s concluding section (i.e., part III):

Part III begins where both books leave off by identifying the structural, judicial, and external factors that account for growing politicization of the judicial appointments process. Structural factors, such as the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment and the proliferation of confirmation hearings for judicial nominees, have driven the Senate to take a more active role at the confirmation stage. External factors, such as the rise of organized interest groups and the mass media, have exerted pressure on the key players in the process, including senators and the president, to act with a keen eye toward pleasing constituent groups and maintaining a consistent policy image. Finally, the Court’s own ventures into contentious areas of social policy—such as school integration, abortion, and homosexual rights—have raised the stakes of confirmation battles even higher. In fact, the new politics of judicial appointments have become so contentious, especially with respect to circuit court nominees, that the process for appointments now bears striking similarity to the polarizing legislative process that so many Americans find objectionable.

Myron Orfield, you might say, is a case in point.

When it comes to playing the race card and dealing it from the bottom of the deck, as Robert Shapiro said of the late Johnny Cochran in his defense of the murder charge against O.J. Simpson, Cochran had nothing on Myron Orfield.


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