The Prediction Racket

One of John Kenneth Galbraith’s better and more sound witticisms was that economic forecasting was invented to make astrology look good. He should have lived long enough to take in climate change predictions. While we continue Beta testing our Climate Change Cliché Counter and scoreboard, we are pleased to take note of a new website that will surely be indispensable: This group effort looks to be a one-stop shopping archive for all of the crazy—and contradictory—predictions that have piled up over the years. Like:

“By the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people … If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.”

—Paul Ehrlich, Speech at British Institute For Biology, September 1971.

Or even better:

“[By] 1995, the greenhouse effect would be desolating the heartlands of North America and Eurasia with horrific drought, causing crop failures and food riots…[By 1996] The Platte River of Nebraska would be dry, while a continent-wide black blizzard of prairie topsoil will stop traffic on interstates, strip paint from houses and shut down computers.”

—Michael Oppenheimer, published in “Dead Heat,” St. Martin’s Press, 1990

You’ll definitely want to bookmark this site, and send along suggestions for inclusion in the archive.  There’s an entry template for you to do that.

Meanwhile, my pals at the Pacific Research Institute have produced the following very snappy five-minute video on the classics of environmental hysteria, starting with “Why Haven’t We All Starved to Death?” Worth a look:

And while I’m at it, don’t forget to check out the Pacific Research Institute summer “Liberty-at-Sea” cruise while you’re thinking of vacation plans.

Greek Socialists to Send Lump of Coal to the EU?

Greece has elected a far-left socialist government that plans to dump austerity (and perhaps the Euro currency with it) into the dustbin of history. The socialist government is also likely to harsh some mellows among enviro-socialists who think socialism is the path for saving the planet. The Guardian reports the reality:

Syriza’s election victory has kindled hopes of an environmental champion pushing for greater climate ambition on the European stage, but the party will need to balance its green credentials with a commitment to new coal plants, and ambivalence about a major gas pipeline. . .

Syriza is torn between an economy that has contracted at a scale and speed not seen since the 1930s and a sizeable chunk of its party that is eager for growth now, at any cost. The government will need to quickly reframe the debate about ‘sustainable growth’ or lower green expectations, or both. . .

Syriza’s commitment to growth itself would be challenged by many European Greens, but Konstantatos said that ‘degrowth’ ideas would be viewed as “absurd” in the austerity-wracked Greece of today. Leading party thinkers see the ‘keep fossil fuels in the ground’ idea as equally inappropriate – when even Germany continues to burn coal.

“If we face fiscal difficulties from abroad in the medium term, then to burn more lignite instead of importing energy will seem a wise thing to do,” a Syriza source said. “If we don’t have money to import petrol then we will burn lignite which is free – not of a carbon footprint – but relatively cheaper. One way or another Greek lignite will be exploited.”

Those darn socialists. They let you down every time.

State Department funded group working to defeat Netanyahu

John has written about how President Obama’s campaign team is working to defeat Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel’s upcoming elections. To make matters worse, the anti-Netanyahu campaign is benefiting from U.S. taxpayer money.

As John noted, the organization “One Voice” wants to help take down Netanyahu’s party in the March 2015 Knesset elections that will ultimately determine the next Israeli Prime Minister. “One Voice” claims to be non-partisan, but it is working with V-15, an Israeli group dedicated to defeating Netanyahu. And “One Voice” itself admits that it is teaming up with V15 because Israel “need[s] a prime minister and a government who will be responsive to the people.”

I think we know the identity of the Prime Minister “One Voice” doesn’t mean. If not, here’s a hint: the son of Mahmoud Abbas reportedly sits on its advisory board.

“One Voice” is sufficiently well-financed to pay a crack team of five American campaign experts that includes Jeremy Bird, the Obama campaign’s national field director. But who is financing “One Voice”? According to Seth Mandel of Commentary, citing Alana Goodman, “One Voice” has been receiving money from John Kerry’s State Department. In fact, says Mandel, it obtained two State Department grants in the past year.

Confronted about this, “One Voice” didn’t deny the allegation. Instead, it claimed that the money it’s using in the campaign didn’t come from the State Department. A spokesperson stated, “No government funding has gone toward any of the activities we’re doing right now whatsoever.”

But money, as Mandel points out, is fungible.

John Kerry, absurdly cast by the Obama spin machine as Israel’s primary defender within the administration, has been attempting to bludgeon Israel into making reckless concessions to the Palestinians that Israelis oppose. First, Mandel reminds us, came his claim on Israeli TV that the alternative to more Israeli concessions was a “third intifada.” This lent respectability to the Palestinian violence that emerged after Kerry’s quixotic talks failed.

Then came the warning that if Kerry’s diplomatic initiative failed, there would be no stopping European retaliatory actions against Israel. This was an invitation for such retaliation.

But Kerry apparently wasn’t content to rely on violent Palestinians and anti-Israel Europeans to coerce Israel into changing its policy. His Department has been funding a group dedicated to unseating Israel’s Prime Minister, with portions of Obama’s political team taking a lead role, plus a share of “One Voice’s” money.

Our tax dollars at work.

Our Self-Obsessed President

Many commentators have noted how frequently Barack Obama’s speeches focus on himself. It is true: for Obama, no matter the topic, it turns out to be mostly about him.

Earlier today, Obama delivered a farewell speech in New Delhi, wrapping up his trip to India. The speech was only 33 minutes long, and yet…Barack managed to work in references to himself no fewer than 118 times. The folks at Grabien write:

Today in New Delhi, the president of the United States delivered an address to the people of India. Topics ranged from Obama’s pride in being the first U.S. president to visit India twice, to the historic nature of his attendance at India’s Republic Day Parade, to his grandfather’s occupation as a chef, to his graying hair, to his daughters … to his struggles against political critics back home. If this is starting to sound like the president spoke quite a bit about himself, that’s because he did. Somehow in the span of just 33 minutes, Obama referenced himself 118 times. (For those keeping score at home, that’s 3.5 Obama references per minute.)

Or once every 17 seconds. Here is the montage:

One thinks about world leaders who are serious men and women. Does Benjamin Netanyahu, for example, constantly talk about himself in speeches? I would say just about never, let alone once every 17 seconds. The real subject of pretty much every Obama speech is himself: his wonderfulness, his historic importance. The country may be in dire straits and the world may be going up in flames, but at least we enjoy the rare privilege of having Barack Obama as our president!

Trust us, we’re the government, Obama administration tells Supreme Court [With Comment by John]

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court heard a case in which the Obama administration made the extraordinary claim that there can be no judicial review as to whether a government agency met a statutory prerequisite for filing a lawsuit. The case is Mach Mining v. EEOC.

The Federalist Society asked me to report on the case via audiotape. My report is here.

The Civil Rights Act requires the EEOC to negotiate an end to an employer’s alleged discrimination before it sues the employer. The process is called conciliation. Congress required concilation because it believed, sensibly, that informally resolving discrimination suits, if possible, is preferable to resolving them through litigation.

But when the EEOC wants to bring a big lawsuit, it will often blow off conciliation. In my experience, it will do so, for example, by presenting a monetary demand with no explanation for its derivation and then, when the employer asks for one, declare that conciliation has failed. Then, it will proceed directly to court.

Why does the EEOC do this? Because the results of conciliation must remain confidential, and the EEOC wants the publicity that will come with the settlement of a lawsuit (or a victory in court).

When the EEOC behaves this way, the employer often will assert as a defense to the lawsuit that the EEOC failed to meet its statutory obligation to conciliate. For four decades, this has been a defense that courts would assess — typically under a standard that is deferential to the EEOC. If a court finds that the EEOC failed to meet its obligation, typically the EEOC will then engage in real conciliation, as Congress intended. If conciliation then fails, the case will proceed on the merits.

But the Obama EEOC challenged this regime, arguing, in effect, that there is no “failure to conciliate” defense. If the EEOC declares that it engaged in conciliation, that’s the end of the matter; there is no judicial review.

In Mach Mining, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the EEOC, thereby creating a split in the circuits. The Supreme Court granted review.

And no wonder. Although the issue of conciliating employment discrimination claims is hardly an earth-shattering one, the Obama administration’s position regarding the power of government in this context seems seismic.

A statutory requirement that courts cannot review for compliance is no statutory requirement at all. The Seventh Circuit’s ruling in Mach Mining leaves the EEOC free to refuse to do what the statute requires of it — “endeavor to eliminate the employment practice by informal methods of conference, conciliation, and persuasion.”

Compliance is entrusted entirely to the government. This is music to the Obama administration’s ears. But it should be chilling to the rest of us, especially when advocated not in the context of a need for secrecy to protect national security but rather in the connection with a garden variety government obligation.

During oral argument, the Supreme Court Justices may or may not have shivered, but the Court as a whole seemed a bit shocked. Justice Breyer, for example, reminded the government attorney that these days there is judicial review of virtually everything. He added, “of course there should be judicial review” here.

The Court, then, will almost certainly reject the EEOC’s position. The real questions are whether it will articulate a general standard for reviewing the EEOC’s conciliation efforts and, if so, what that standard will be.

The other question is whether any of the Court’s liberal Justices will back the EEOC’s position. The Obama administration has lost its share of Supreme Court cases 9-0. I hope this will be another such defeat. It’s appalling enough that the Seventh Circuit adopted the EEOC’s lawless position.

JOHN adds: This is a very serious matter. The sad reality is that the Democrats have succeeded in appointing a substantial number of far-left activist judges to the federal courts, and a handful of Republican appointees have joined them. The idea that any judge, let alone a circuit court panel, would endorse the Obama administration’s patent lawlessness in this case is almost unbelievable. It should be a wake-up call for Senate Republicans: they cannot allow the appointment of such out of the mainstream judges to continue.

A Foolish Consistency Is the Hobgoblin of Chait’red Minds [With Derision by John]

Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine has a very solid piece which we linked to in our picks section earlier today decrying the runaway political correctness on college campuses.  It contains a robust restatement and endorsement of the fundamental liberal case for democracy and free expression.  Good for him.

Except that Chait doesn’t seem to live by his own principles.  Because last week he wrote a column in which he argued that climate skepticism ought to disqualify someone from holding public office:

The Republican Party confidently and forthrightly rejects the firm conclusions of science on a major public-policy question. Isn’t that a completely disqualifying position? If a candidate for a managerial job at your office insists that two plus three equals seven, it wouldn’t matter how well-qualified this candidate may be at any other aspect of the job. Even if you agreed with everything else the Republicans stood for, how could a party so obviously unhinged be entrusted with power?

Never mind Chait’s completely tendentious rendering of the climate debate in those three sentences: I guess there are limits to Chait’s embrace of free expression.  Or perhaps this is best marked off as another example of the axiom of Charles Peguy: “It will never be known what acts of cowardice have been committed for fear of not looking sufficiently progressive.”

JOHN adds: In my opinion, Chait is a person of extremely limited intelligence. Put aside for the moment the fact that he knows nothing about climate science, or science in general. He thinks Republicans are “unhinged,” and should be disqualified from public office. But how about Democrats? Are they lining up behind proposals to de-carbonize our economy, and impoverish the American people? Of course not. When they controlled both the House and the Senate, they couldn’t even pass cap and trade, which John McCain favored. So are Democrats “unhinged”? Or just cowardly? Chait is, I think, a foolish person to whom no attention should be paid.

Sharyl Attkisson to testify on Lynch confirmation, but why?

Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s nominee for Attorney General, will testify tomorrow before the Senate Judiciary Committee. It should be an interesting day.

Coming up with lists of questions to ask Lynch has become a cottage industry. I offered my entry in November:

I hope that during Senate confirmation hearings, Lynch will be asked specifically about each issue as to which the Holder DOJ has applied or considered applying disparate impact theory.

More generally, Senators should ask for Lynch’s views on the full range of Holder’s abusive behavior: from his refusal to defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, to his refusal to enforce the contempt citation issued by the House against Lois Lerner, to his overly broad assertion of a privilege claim and refusal to turn over documents related to Operation Fast and Furious. . . .

Eric Holder has done great damage to the rule of law. The Senate should not confirm Lynch unless she can show that there is meaningful difference between her and the man whom she would replace.

Asking Lynch for opinions about Holder’s policy is one thing; parading in witnesses to vent against Holder is another. Unfortunately, it looks like the Committee intends, in addition to the former, to do the latter.

Its witness list includes Sharyl Attkisson and Catherine Engelbrecht. Both have grievances against the Obama administration. Attkisson says the Justice Department hacked her electronic devices when she was investigating “Fast and Furious.” Engelbrecht says the administration unfairly targeted her group, True the Vote. Both have filed lawsuits. Engelbrecht’s has been dismissed.

Both sets of grievances should be taken seriously, but I don’t understand how they materially bear on Lynch’s confirmation. The problems with the Holder Justice Department extend far beyond the particular concerns of Attkisson and Engelbrecht. Republican members presumably take it as a given that if they can expect a repeat performance under Lynch, then she is not a suitable replacement.

The key, then, is not to attack Holder but to test the extent to which Lynch professes allegiance to his policies. Whatever her private views, Lynch will not endorse, as a general matter, hacking journalists’ computers or having the IRS target conservative advocacy groups.

However, when it comes to substantive issues like disparate impact, protecting against voting fraud, the proper scope of executive privilege, “lawfare”/the war on terrorism, and so forth, Lynch can’t so easily skate. The Obama administration and its constituencies are publicly invested in the approach Holder took to these issues.

Accordingly, these issues should be the Committee’s focus. The time granted to Attkisson and Engelbrecht would be better devoted to witnesses discussing the substantive areas where Lynch’s expressed views are likely to diverge from those of Committee Republicans.

Tomorrow’s events may prove me wrong, but I fear the Committee has opted for flash over substance. I hope this is not a sign that Senate Republicans, resigned to Lynch being confirmed, are trying to appease the base by using conservative favorites to attack Holder.