Why Are Extreme Weather Events Becoming Less Common?

The Earth’s climate is poorly understood, and random variation likely accounts for most of the ups and downs of notable weather events. But for some reason, extreme weather events are becoming less common. The United States has now gone longer without a landfall of a Category 3 hurricane than at any time in recorded history.

And something similar is happening with tornadoes. Tornado frequency is at the lowest level in 50 years, a trend that is continuing so far in 2014. NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center says that the year to date is “[l]ikely the slowest start to tornado activity in any year in modern record, and possibly nearly a century!” NOAA says the severity of tornadoes is down, too.

Is “climate change” causing the weather to become milder? I doubt it. For one thing, the climate isn’t changing much at all, at the moment. But for whatever reason, we are living in a time of placid weather, compared with historical norms.

Media Alert

I will be on the Bill Bennett radio show tomorrow at 8:05 Eastern, 7:05 Central, talking about the epic hypocrisy of Tom Steyer. It is ironic that, at a time when Democrats want to focus attention on Republican contributors, the donor who can least withstand scrutiny is one of the fattest of the left’s fat cats.

If you don’t know where to tune in Bill’s show where you live, you can listen online here.

The Cotton Bowl, or Pryor Analytics Epic Fail

You can tell Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor, who owes his office to the fact that his daddy was Senator, is desperate when he accuses Tom Cotton of a sense of “entitlement” to a Senate seat.  Who does Pryor think he is—Chelsea Clinton?  If you want to see why Tom Cotton is going to wipe the floor with Senator Posterior Pryor in November, check out this awesome rebuttal—but in order to make sure he wipes out Senator Posterior, be sure to send a campaign contribution to TomCotton.com (and memo to FEC about this post: sod off!):

Low-Information Environmentalists

I spent more time today going over some of the Gallup Poll findings on the environment, and was startled by the sharp break in opinion seen in this first chart.  Could this mean that people are starting to grasp the facts of environmental progress?  Maybe, but that sharp break makes me suspicious.

Better 1

It’s quite unusual to see a sharp shift like this in just a single year—about any issue.  But especially this one, where it has long been fashionable to be pessimistic about environmental conditions in the United States, even though by most measures environmental quality in the U.S. has been dramatically improving for the last 50 years.

So . . . what happened in 2008 – 2009 to generate this shift?  This next chart shows that it really is a bad as you think:

Better 2

As you see here, all of the movement in a more optimistic direction came from Democrats and Independents.  Only a single fact changed: Barack Obama, the Lightworker, was elected president, and declared that the sea levels had stopped rising.  We’re saved!

Prediction: if the GOP wins the White House in 2016, the 2017 Gallup Poll will show a dramatic reversal in this trend.  It will be even larger if the nation has the good sense to elect another oil man, as it did in 2000.  (Heh.)

“The debate is over” — a core progressive tenet

Joel Kotkin writes about the spread of “debate is over” syndrome. It’s a good article, but marred by the author’s surprise that this “embrace homogeneity of viewpoint” finds expression by the American left, “the same people who historically have identified themselves with open-mindedness and the defense of free speech.”

Actually, “debate is over” syndrome expresses a core tenet of American progressivism, and one that has been present from the beginning. It stems from the historicism of the German philosopher Hegel.

Hegel maintained that history unfolds through a “dialectical” process, in which each stage is the product of the contradictions inherent in the ideas that defined the preceding one. Within these tensions and contradictions, Hegel believed, the philosopher can discern a comprehensive, evolving, rational unity. He called that unity “the absolute idea.”

History consists of an inevitable and progressive march to that idea. The modern State is the final fruit of that progressive march.

It is natural for a Hegelian to pronounce a debate “over” even as it continues to rage. Having discerned the comprehensive rational unity — the absolute idea — positions contrary to that idea can be written off as things of the past.

Hegel’s place in Marxist thought is well known. But if anything, the German holds an even more central position in American Progressive thought, thanks mainly to Woodrow Wilson, the intellectual father of American Progressivism. (Theodore Roosevelt was also influenced by the German philosophy of Hegel’s day, as Jean Yarbrough has shown).

Ronald Pestritto demonstrated the connection in his book Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism, which Scott Johnson and I discussed in this Weekly Standard article. Hegel’s historicism was irresistible to Wilson, who wrote, “the philosophy of any time is, as Hegel says, ‘nothing but the spirit of the time expressed in abstract thought.’”

Wilson took Hegel so much to heart that, in a love letter to his future wife, he observed that “Hegel used to search for–and in most cases find, it seems to me–the fundamental psychological facts of society.” And Wilson’s writing about the State, about administration, and about the U.S. Constitution all are founded in Hegel’s historicism.

As Scott and I argued, one can draw a straight line from Wilson’s Hegelianism to liberal constitutional theory. Wilson endorsed the emerging, Darwinian-inspired theory of a “living Constitution” under which that document’s original meaning must take a back seat whenever it stands in the way of the march of History.

Sound familiar?

The Hegelian spirit of the modern American left — manifest in pronouncements about the Living Constitution and the end of debate — is everywhere to be found. Notice, for example, how quickly Team Obama declares that those who do or say things it doesn’t like are “on the wrong side of history” or relying on 19th century methods.

That this seems to be just about the strongest condemnation Team Obama can muster (e.g., against Putin) seems laughable to conservatives. But for Hegelians the charge is pure damnation.

Hegel’s historicism is, at root, authoritarian, if not totalitarian. When you are on the wrong side of history you aren’t just mistaken, you’re the enemy of “the rational unity” — “the absolute idea.” You are part of the “ash heap of history” (to quote Trotsky), and those who are on the right side of history will be happy to escort your remains there.

Hegel inspired the worst totalitarian excesses of the 20th century. No one should be surprised at the 21st century authoritarian tendencies of Hegel’s ideological heirs, American Progressives, or at the excesses they would like to impose.

STEVE adds: Well put and exactly right.  I know Joel and have had some cordial arguments with him about exactly this point.  He doesn’t get it, chiefly because he just doesn’t have much theoretical imagination.  Plus, he comes from the Left himself (though he’s moved far far in our direction), and still has some sentimental attachment to much of the practical reformism of the old Progressive Era, which, to be sure, wasn’t all bad.  But the pernicious theoretical doctrines now form the core of the increasingly Authoritarian Left.

Voters can bar racial discrimination by their government, for now

The Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of a Michigan ballot initiative providing that the state, including state educational institutions, may not “discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.”

It is shocking, but not surprising, that the constitutionality of such a proposition — which is at the heart of the Equal Protection Clause — would be controversial under that very clause of the Constitution. How can a requirement that every one be treated equally without regard to race be deemed a violation of the Equal Protection Clause?

There may be policy arguments in favor of discriminating against or granting preferable treatment to individuals based on race, etc. But it is absurd to deny the constitutionality of a democratically enacted prohibition against such discrimination and/or preferences.

Yet two Justices, Ginsburg and Sotomayor, voted to strike the Michigan initiative down. Justice Breyer joined the center-right majority as to the result. Justice Kagan did not participate, presumably because of her prior involvement in the litigation.

Thus, by a 2-1 vote, Justices nominated by Democratic presidents concluded that its unconstitutional for voters to insist that their state not treat people differently because of their race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin. And a majority of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit had reached that same odious result (two Republican nominees to the Sixth Circuit recused themselves).

Is anyone confident that Kagan would have evened the Supreme Court count at 2-2? I’m not. Is anyone confident that if a Democratic president appoints a successor to Breyer, he or she would vote as Breyer (an old white guy) did in this case? I’m not.

Is anyone confident that someday fairly soon it won’t be deemed unconstitutional for voters to prohibit their government from doling out benefits and opportunities based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, and national origin? I’m not.

I haven’t read the Supreme Court opinions yet. You can find them at the Volokh Conspiracy.

Green men cross red line

“Green men” — armed gunmen wearing green — were at the vanguard of Russia’s Crimea takeover. Now they are stirring the pot in Eastern Ukraine. Russia claims they are local protesters. In reality, as Max Boot says, they are Russian soldiers and intelligence operatives.

The evidence is conclusive. According to the New York Times:

Photographs and descriptions from eastern Ukraine endorsed by the Obama administration on Sunday suggest that many of the green men are indeed Russian military and intelligence forces — equipped in the same fashion as Russian special operations troops involved in annexing the Crimea region in February. Some of the men photographed in Ukraine have been identified in other photos clearly taken among Russian troops in other settings.

Thus, Russia’s position that it isn’t behind the unrest being stirred up by the green men is a fiction.

But when it comes to fiction, Washington takes no backseat to Moscow. Consider this statement by our Secretary of State:

We fully expect the Russians . . . to demonstrate their seriousness by insisting that the pro-Russian separatists who they’ve been supporting lay down their arms [and] leave the buildings [in eastern Ukraine]. I made clear to Foreign Minister [Sergei] Lavrov today that if we are not able to see progress . . . this weekend, then we will have no choice but to impose further costs on Russia.

As the Washington Post editorial board observes, the weekend has come and gone and neither the pro-Russian separatists nor the “green men” have stood down. The government buildings remain occupied. And in Slovyansk, where Russian military operatives appear to be headquartered, a shooting incident has become the pretext for threats from Moscow to intervene in order to “save southeastern Ukraine from chaos.”

Another crisis; another Obama-Kerry red line disregarded.

What will the Obama administration do now? It will continue to dither (to use the Post’s word).

What should it do? It should (1) send lethal military aid to Ukraine so that it can defend itself; (2) send U.S. army brigades, not just companies as is being discussed, to Poland and the Baltic States; and (3) impose the broad sanctions against Russian banking, energy and mining sectors that Kerry, cliche-ridden as ever, has said were “on the table.”

These measures would change Moscow’s Ukraine calculus. Would the new calculus deter Putin from dismembering Ukraine? Maybe yes, maybe no.

But even if they didn’t, they would put U.S. relations with Russia on a proper basis instead of one dominated by colorful fictions.