Powerline -> John Hinderaker – Why Won’t Liberals Look at the Evidence On Climate? + Elimination of bias, MN style

Powerline -> John Hinderaker – Why Won’t Liberals Look at the Evidence On Climate? + Elimination of bias, MN style

Daily Digest


  • Why Won’t Liberals Look at the Evidence On Climate?
  • Media alert
  • Khashoggi, Netanyahu, and the Washington Post
  • Elimination of bias, MN style
  • Team leniency sells a bill of goods on FIRST STEP
Why Won’t Liberals Look at the Evidence On Climate?

Posted: 12 Nov 2018 04:27 PM PST

(John Hinderaker)This is a theme that Steve and I have recurred to many times on this site. Today it is voiced by Freeman Dyson, one of the world’s most eminent scientists. Dyson, a theoretical physicist and professor emeritus of Mathematical Physics and Astrophysics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, is famous among other things for unifying the three versions of quantum electrodynamics. He has been a harsh critic of the slovenly science practiced by climate alarmists.

Dyson wrote a forward to a report on the benefits of carbon dioxide by Indur Goklany which is quoted at length in the Science and Environmental Policy Project’s The Week That Was. Here are some excerpts:

To any unprejudiced person reading [Goklany’s] account, the facts should be obvious: that the non-climatic effects of carbon dioxide as a sustainer of wildlife and crop plants are enormously beneficial, that the possibly harmful climatic effects of carbon dioxide have been greatly exaggerated, and that the benefits clearly outweigh the possible damage.

I consider myself an unprejudiced person and to me these facts are obvious. But the same facts are not obvious to the majority of scientists and politicians who consider carbon dioxide to be evil and dangerous. The people who are supposed to be experts and who claim to understand the science are precisely the people who are blind to the evidence. Those of my scientific colleagues who believe the prevailing dogma about carbon dioxide will not find Goklany’s evidence convincing. I hope that a few of them will make the effort to examine the evidence in detail and see how it contradicts the prevailing dogma, but I know that the majority will remain blind. That is to me the central mystery of climate science. It is not a scientific mystery but a human mystery. How does it happen that a whole generation of scientific experts is blind to obvious facts? In this foreword, I offer a tentative solution to the mystery.

There are many examples in the history of science of irrational beliefs promoted by famous thinkers and adopted by loyal disciples. Sometimes, as in the use of bleeding as a treatment for various diseases, irrational belief did harm to a large number of human victims. George Washington was one of the victims. Other irrational beliefs, such as the phlogiston theory of burning or the Aristotelian cosmology of circular celestial motions, only did harm by delaying the careful examination of nature. In all these cases, we see a community of people happily united in a false belief that brought leaders and followers together. Anyone who questioned the prevailing belief would upset the peace of the community.

Real advances in science require a different cultural tradition, with individuals who invent new tools to explore nature and are not afraid to question authority. Science driven by rebels and heretics searching for truth has made great progress in the last three centuries. But the new culture of scientific skepticism is a recent growth and has not yet penetrated deeply into our thinking. The old culture of group loyalty and dogmatic belief is still alive under the surface, guiding the thoughts of scientists as well as the opinions of ordinary citizens.

To understand human behavior, I look at human evolution. About a hundred thousand years ago, our species invented a new kind of evolution. In addition to biological evolution based on genetic changes, we began a cultural evolution based on social and intellectual changes. Biological evolution did not stop, but cultural evolution was much faster and quickly became dominant. Social customs and beliefs change and spread much more rapidly than genes.

Cultural evolution was enabled by spoken languages and tribal loyalties. Tribe competed with tribe and culture with culture. The cultures that prevailed were those that promoted tribal cohesion. Humans were always social animals, and culture made us even more social. We evolved to feel at home in a group that thinks alike. It was more important for a group of humans to be united than to be right. It was always dangerous and usually undesirable to question authority. When authority was seriously threatened, heretics were burned at the stake.

I am suggesting that the thinking of politicians and scientists about controversial issues today is still tribal. Science and politics are not essentially different from other aspects of human culture. Science and politics are products of cultural evolution. Thinking about scientific questions is still presented to the public as a competitive sport with winners and losers. For players of the sport with public reputations to defend, it is more important to belong to a winning team than to examine the evidence.

Cultural evolution was centered for a hundred thousand years on tales told by elders to children sitting around the cave fire. That cave-fire evolution gave us brains that are wonderfully sensitive to fable and fantasy, but insensitive to facts and figures. To enable a tribe to prevail in the harsh world of predators and prey, it was helpful to have brains with strong emotional bonding to shared songs and stories. It was not helpful to have brains questioning whether the stories were true. Our scientists and politicians of the modern age evolved recently from the cave-children. They still, as Charles Darwin remarked about human beings in general, bear the indelible stamp of their lowly origin.
Indur Goklany has assembled a massive collection of evidence to demonstrate two facts. First, the non-climatic effects of carbon dioxide are dominant over the climatic effects and are overwhelmingly beneficial. Second, the climatic effects observed in the real world are much less damaging than the effects predicted by the climate models and have also been frequently beneficial. I am hoping that the scientists and politicians who have been blindly demonizing carbon dioxide for 37 years will one day open their eyes and look at the evidence.


Media alert

Posted: 12 Nov 2018 01:47 PM PST

(Paul Mirengoff)Later this afternoon, I will be the guest of Seth Leibsohn on KKNT 960—”The Patriot”—in Arizona. I’m scheduled to appear at 6:30 Eastern Time.

We will be discussing FIRST STEP, the leniency for drug felons legislation I wrote about yesterday.


Khashoggi, Netanyahu, and the Washington Post

Posted: 12 Nov 2018 08:22 AM PST

(Paul Mirengoff)Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post blasts Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not taking a hard line on Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Diehl’s op-ed comes as no surprise. The Post hates Netanyahu and Khashoggi wrote op-eds for the paper.

Diehl is normally a pretty sensible guy. But in this instance, his rage has steered him off course. Virtually every paragraph of Diehl’s op-ed is wrong or misguided.

Diehl describes Mohammed as “a latter-day version of Saddam Hussein.” That’s ridiculous. Mohammad may have had Khashoggi killed (I assume he did), but he’s no mass murderer. It would be more accurate to describe Mohammad as a later day version of the oppressive Saudi leaders Khashoggi supported and, indeed, worked for. The biggest differences are that Mohammed is a reformer and has been friendlier towards Israel and the U.S.

In the next paragraph, Diehl rips Netanyahu for saying “what happened in the Istanbul consulate is horrendous, and should be duly dealt with [but] it’s very important for the stability of the world. . .that Saudi Arabia remain stable.” Both prongs of this statement are true. Or does Diehl think it’s not important that Saudi Arabia remain stable?

In the next paragraph, Diehl rips Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., for saying we should not “throw out the prince with the bathwater” (not a fortunate turn of phrase because in this affair, at least, the prince appears to be the bathwater). In response, Diehl admits that the Mohammed is at the core of a U.S. strategy for the Middle East that “was going smoothly” until Khashoggi’s murder.

The benefits of that strategy are substantial. Foremost among them, as Diehl acknowledges, is that the U.S. has been able to forge an alliance between Israel and the new generation of Saudi leaders — backed by American muscle — against Iran.

So why abandon this strategy over one killing? Diehl never quite answers this question.

If Mohammed were to lose power over the killing, it would make sense to abandon him. But Diehl admits this isn’t likely to happen. Instead, he says, Mohammed will likely be weakened and won’t be able to help Trump settle the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Considering the very long odds against such a settlement under the best of circumstances, I think we can live with that consequence.

The Israeli-Palestinian dispute will be resolved when these two parties are ready to resolve it. The Saudis have nothing to do with it, whatever Jared Kushner, boy diplomat, might think.

Diehl predicts that a weakened Mohammed will be able to contribute nothing to the anti-Iran coalition except “pumping gas.” Gas plus a stable Saudi Arabia is enough. However, there’s no reason why the Saudis can’t contribute more once the matter of Khashoggi’s murder blows over.

Diehl attacks Netanyahu not just for “throwing a lifeline” to Mohammed, but also for being too close to Trump. Netanyahu “even called out CNN for ‘fake news,’” Diehl complains.

Given CNN’s decades of biased anti-Israel coverage, Netanyahu’s use of that label is more than just an effort to cozy up to Trump. Not that there’s anything wrong with a conservative leader of Israel trying to have a strong relationship with a conservative American leader. Netanyahu wanted good relations with the previous American leader, a left-liberal, but Obama demanded too many concessions to the Palestinians and treated him with contempt.

Diehl attacks one of Netanyahu’s cabinet members for “defending Trump against charges that his support for white nationalism has encouraged U.S. anti-semites.” That’s because Trump does not support “white nationalism,” he supports American nationalism. The charges against Trump are rubbish. Why shouldn’t Israel’s leaders dispute them?

Diehl concludes by warning Israel that aligning itself with Trump will destroy bipartisan support for Israel in America. He notes that, although the older generation of Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi, are staunchly pro-Israel, “many of their new rank and file will not be.”

In his last paragraph, Diehl has finally hit upon a truth. Not only are the “new rank and file” Democrats not staunchly pro-Israel, they are not pro-Israel at all.

The American left, which will likely dominate the Democratic party going forward, is pro-Palestinian. Israelis are the oppressor; Palestinians are oppressed “other.”

This thinking has little to do with Netanyahu; it stems from leftist ideology. Obama shared it to a fair degree. That was an important source of the tension between Netanyahu and the former president.

In any event, none of this has anything to do with Khashoggi or the crown prince who had him murdered. Netanyahu could call for Mohammed’s head. Doing so might earn him one positive op-ed piece in the Post before normal Netanyahu-bashing service resumed.

It would count for nothing with the “new rank and file” of anti-Israel Democrats.


Elimination of bias, MN style

Posted: 12 Nov 2018 05:01 AM PST

(Scott Johnson)I last spoke about Minnesota’s elimination of bias continuing legal education requirement for attorneys at the Federalist Society’s 2013 National Lawyers Convention. I called my talk “Bias in the air” and posted it on Power Line.

The elimination of bias CLE requirement was formally adopted by the Minnesota Supreme Court and is implemented by the court’s enforcers at the Minnesota State Board of Continuing Legal Education. To satisfy the elimination of bias CLE requirement, a course must be accredited by the board.

My eagle-eyed friend Peter Swanson alerts us to an unusual opportunity to fulfill the requirement at a course sponsored by the Hennepin County Bar Association this morning. It involves separation of attorneys based on the color of their skin. The HCBA course listing reads as follows (whole thing here):

Attorneys of Color PLUS: Maneuvering Barriers to the Successful Practice of Law
11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

This CLE will present issues of attorneys of color who face additional barriers such as being female, mothers (parents), LGBTQI, immigrants or of different nationality, having a mental health/addiction/or other disability, etc. There will be two different types of lessons available, depending on the background of the CLE attendees. Those who are not attorneys of color will learn from the knowledge and personal experience of the panelists about the specific obstacles attorneys of color face in trying to fully participate in practicing law to reach the result of a satisfying career.

Peter himself comments with restraint in his post “Separate but equal continuing legal education.”

I would add that the sponsors of the course need a lesson in clear writing. I don’t know what “issues of attorneys of color” means, but I think I have a handle on “background.” From context, I infer (along with Peter) that it is a euphemism for skin color, although it is not clear whether those who attend the program have the option of choosing their “lesson” without regard to the color of their skin. I infer from the use of the word “available” that they do, but that isn’t clear either given the statement that those who are not colored “will learn” what they learn in a different lesson.

Clarity has gone missing and probably not due to incompetence alone. Obfuscation has its purposes. The sponsors of this course should be ashamed. This course as offered is a disgrace that takes us back to the misbegotten origin of the requirement itself.


Team leniency sells a bill of goods on FIRST STEP

Posted: 11 Nov 2018 09:38 PM PST

(Paul Mirengoff)Team leniency — the folks who favor shorter sentences for federal drug felon and favor letting these felons out of jail before their sentences have been fully served — promised it would push for such legislation as soon as the elections were over. They weren’t going to push for it before the elections because leniency legislation is massively unpopular.

Now that the elections are safely behind them, leniency supporters have started their push in earnest. We can expect that some form of their pet bill — the FIRST STEP Act — will be voted on by both chambers of Congress before the end of the year.

Whether leniency legislation is enacted ultimately depends, I think, on whether President Trump wants it. Trump has made at least one public statement suggesting that he does, but he has also privately expressed opposition. And, of course, toughness on drug crime and drug criminals has been a staple of his rhetoric. Indeed, he has suggested that fentanyl dealers should get the death penalty in some cases.

I’d like to believe that Trump won’t sign or support legislation that shortens sentences for federal drug felons and puts them back on the street before they have served their sentences. And I’d be surprised if he signs and supports such legislation against the wishes of the law enforcement community.

Until now, the law enforcement community has solidly opposed to leniency legislation. But now, one major law enforcement organization, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), has expressed support for FIRST STEP. You can read its statement of support here.

Fortunately, the other major organizations continue forcefully to oppose First Step. However, the FOP is, without a doubt, an important player.

Here’s the thing, though. The FOP has been sold a bill of goods. A reliable source on Capitol Hill says that, based on the most recent draft (as of November 10) of the First Step legislation, it appears that the bill’s authors have not followed through on the promises they made to induce FOP’s support — promises the FOP relies on its statement of support.

In some cases, yes, there is legislative language included that is relevant to the promises outlined in the FOP’s statement of support. However, the bill’s authors have also slipped in significant carve-outs and loopholes that render the touted language ineffectual. In other words, the bill’s authors have paid lip service to the promises made to the FOP, but haven’t actually delivered.

I expect to discuss these promises, and the failure to deliver on them, in a series of posts. Tonight, I will focus on one of them — the crucial promise that, to quote the FOP statement, “[T]ruly dangerous offenders, like those who commit crimes while armed and those who traffic in deadly narcotics like fentanyl, are ineligible to participate in the First Step program.”

I’m told that this promise is false. First, as to those who commit crimes while armed, the bill does contain an exclusion from the time credit system for offenders convicted of using or carrying a gun during a violent crime or drug trafficking offense. But the exclusion applies only if (1) the criminal has already been convicted of the same section (or an equivalent crime at the state level); and (2) the criminal has been able to “meaningfully participate” (whatever that means) in recidivism reduction programming during each of his prior gun convictions.

Thus, armed criminals are not precluded from benefiting from leniency legislation if they haven’t previously been convicted of the same crime (even if they have significant criminal histories). And repeat gun criminals are not excluded if they have ever served time for a previous gun conviction without “meaningfully” have gone through the recidivism reduction programming. (Assuming these programs are worthwhile, the premise of FIRST STEP, one can argue that if they had gone through such a program meaningfully, they wouldn’t have committed more offenses).

Thus, for example, if an offender had five previous gun convictions at the state and federal level, but only went through recidivism reduction programming four times, he would still get an early release under the time credit program. How ridiculous is that?

Fentanyl dealers aren’t excluded either. The exclusion for them applies only if the trafficker is also found by the sentencing court to be an “organizer, leader, manager, or supervisor” in the drug trafficking operation.

The majority of fentanyl traffickers aren’t organizers or leaders of their drug trafficking organization. But they are still major contributors to the epidemic that is killing so many Americans. They are key accomplices to these killings.

As noted, President Trump has talked about tougher sentences for those who deal fentanyl. He wasn’t talking about just organizers and leaders of trafficking organizations.

Keep in mind, as well, that organizers and leaders of fentanyl dealing organizations can benefit from the leniency legislation by plea agreements under which they are not labeled as such. Indeed, according to my source, 93 percent of all drug traffickers (and 91 percent of all heroin traffickers—a close proxy for fentanyl traffickers, given that the Sentencing Commission doesn’t track the role adjustments for fentanyl traffickers specifically) did not receive an “organizer or leader” enhancement in 2017.

Thus, more than 90 percent of fentanyl traffickers would not be excluded from the time credit system based on the language of the latest draft bill.

Note too that this language does not exclude fentanyl traffickers from leniency if they traffic in multiple drugs (as virtually all fentanyl traffickers do) and are either convicted of or plead to trafficking in one of the other drugs (often because it is easier to prove heroin or cocaine trafficking than to prove which analogue of fentanyl was involved in the offense).

Again, President Trump didn’t advocate tougher sentences for 10 percent of fentanyl dealers, he advocated tougher sentences for all of them.

By contrast, and perversely, FIRST STEP delivers lighter sentences for up to 90 percent of fentanyl dealers and tougher sentences for none, not even those whose dealing directly causes death — the group Trump said should receive the death penalty.

The Fraternal Order of Police has been sold a bill of goods. President Trump shouldn’t buy it.


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