Memo to the Gas Industry: You’re Next

Lenin said capitalists would sell the rope with which they’d be hanged, which intersects Churchill’s famous definition that  “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” Both of these came to mind a couple years back when the news leaked out that Chesapeake Energy had secretly given $26 million to the Sierra Club to boost the Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign that was compelling many utilities to switch from coal to natural gas. It was a perfect example of a “bootleggers and Baptist” coalition against open markets.

I thought it was a stupid thing to do at the time, but the motivation was easy to understand.  I recall a natural gas company CEO asking me what happened to their market, which had seen gas prices fall from around $14 per thousand cubic feet in the early 2000s to around $3 by the end of the decade.

“The answer is simple,” I said; “You’ve been too successful in bringing lots of new gas to the market.” It is amazing how often the law of supply and demand eludes corporate executives almost as often as it does liberals. This is the reason a lot of gas-intensive utilities supported the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill in 2009, thinking the regulatory foot of government would tilt the playing field in their direction. This is short-sighted appeasement of the worst kind.

One of the many strengths of Michael Grunwald’s terrific piece in Politico today about the Sierra Club’s campaign to destroy coal is that once environmentalists succeed in strangling coal, they’ll go after natural gas next:

 “The Sierra Club wants to stop coal now?” Inhofe asked. “You’ll see, they’ll be after gas next.”

Long-term, he’s right.  While the Club accepted some donations from natural gas interests under Carl Pope, it is now formally committed to eliminating gas as well as coal by 2030, and it has helped block new gas plants in cities like Austin and Carlsbad, California. After its victory last week in Asheville, Beyond Coal vowed to keep fighting to overturn Duke Energy’s decision to build a new gas plant to replace its 50-year-old coal plant.

Memo to natural gas executive: You’re next. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Where there’s corruption, there’s the Clinton Foundation

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Bill Clinton is unsurpassed at spotting and exploiting corrupt entities. This ability forms the subtext of Clinton Cash, Peter Schweizer’s expose of the Clinton Foundation.

If there is a corrupt government with which to engage in mutual backscratching, Bill Clinton will find it. Before long, a Clinton Foundation supporter will have obtained concessions from the government; Clinton will have obtained lucrative speaking fees generated by both the supporter (who will have made additional contributions) and the government; and the corrupt government will have obtained Bill Clinton’s public seal of approval plus (between 2009 and 2013) a friend at the head of the State Department.

It’s no surprise, then, that FIFA — the corrupt world soccer governing body just indicted by the Justice Department — has ties with the Clinton Foundation. The Daily Beast reports:

The Clinton global charity has received between $50,000 and $100,000 from soccer’s governing body and has partnered with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association [FIFA] on several occasions, according to donor listings on the foundation’s website.

That’s not all:

The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee [which is organizing the 2022 World Cup], partnering with the State of Qatar, “committed to utilizing its research and development for sustainable infrastructure at the 2022 FIFA World Cup to improve food security in Qatar, the Middle East, and other arid and water-stressed regions throughout the world,” according to the Clinton Foundation website.

The cost of the two-year project is not listed on the Clinton Foundation website, but the Qatar 2022 committee gave the foundation between $250,000 and $500,000 in 2014. . . .

Why these contributions? Clinton had headed the U.S. bid for the 2022 World Cup. According to the Washington Post, he “spent two years traveling the world, campaigning with the likes of Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Spike Lee, trying to convince FIFA officials to bring the World Cup stateside.”

Unfortunately, Clinton’s efforts failed. FIFA awarded the World Cup to Qatar.

Like Eric Holder, who also pitched the U.S. bid, Clinton did not take his failure well. According to the Sydney Morning Herald:

Bill Clinton looked anything but happy as he strode into the Savoy Baur en Ville hotel in Zurich in December 2010. The receptionists could tell he was irritated, but had no idea just how angry he was.

After closing the door to his suite, he reached for an ornament on a table and threw it at a wall mirror in a fit of rage, shattering the glass. . . .

‘Clinton was fuming,’ said one well-placed source. ‘He felt humiliated and felt the decision did not make sense.’

The contributions to the Clinton Foundation described above were, it seems clear, an attempt to make things right with the Clintons. Unfortunately for FIFA, there was no “Eric Holder Foundation” to which to contribute.

This case doesn’t fit the classic Clinton Foundation paradigm. Usually the Clintons are at the heart of the corruption. This time, Bill Clinton was an outsider, undone by the corruption of others and ultimately settling for “chump change” as a consolation prize.

Nonetheless, it’s not much of an exaggeration to say, as a reader wrote to me, that the FIFA-Clinton story represents the grand convergence of the most corrupt sports organization on earth with the most corrupt American political family ever.

Obama DOJ indicts world soccer governing body, but why?

FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, has taken a huge and well-deserved hit. The Department of Justice announced the unsealing of a 47-count indictment that charges 14 FIFA officials with racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracy.

Meanwhile, Swiss authorities announced an investigation into the awarding of the next two World Cups to Russia (2018) and Qatar (2022). In addition, they raided FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich and arrested several top FIFA officials (but not the corrupt president, Sepp Blatter).

I have denounced the absurd decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, and I rarely mention FIFA without attaching the word “corrupt.” FIFA deserves to be investigated and, almost certainly, prosecuted.

I can’t help but wonder, though, why the Justice Department chose to use its “prosecutorial discretion” to pursue FIFA. The U.S. is a soccer backwater. These days, to be sure, there is plenty of money to be made here through the sale of rights to televise the World Cup, as well as through marketing. And it’s easy to believe that corruption surrounds such broadcasting and marketing deals.

But this seems like small potatoes in the scheme of things. Why is the Obama administration devoting scarce resources to bring justice to world soccer? Why not leave it to the Swiss?

The answer may lie in the most important recent intersection of FIFA and U.S. — the decision to award the 2022 to Qatar rather than the United States.

The Obama administration vigorously pursued the World Cup. Our lead pitchman was none other than Eric Holder, who went all the way to Zurich in pursuit of the Cup. I understand that he was in the audience (along with Bill Clinton, about whom more in a follow-up post) when FIFA announced that Qatar would be the host.

Having already failed, notwithstanding his personal intervention, to land the Olympics for Chicago, I doubt that President Obama took his FIFA failure well. Nor is it likely that Eric Holder enjoyed striking out in Zurich. These guys take things personally.

Is the DOJ’s indictment of FIFA retaliation for its “snub” of Obama and Holder? I suspect so.

Behind Science Fraud, Chapter 3

Our first installment in this series took note of the NY Times op-ed by Adam Marcus, managing editor of Gastroenterology & Endoscopy News, and Ivan Oransky, global editorial director of MedPage Today (both are co-founders of retractionwatch.com), but now they’re back with another, longer piece at Nautilus that goes into more detail, and offers more shocking examples (such as the Japanese scientist who fabricated a whopping 183 papers that got published), about science fraud.

After reviewing the painstaking work that unraveled several serial fraudsters (it’s great reading if you have the time), Marcus and Oransky get down to business:

But this [careful statistical review of the raw data] is an approach that requires journal editors to be on board—and many of them are not. Some find reasons not to fix the literature. Authors, for their part, have taken to claiming that they are victims of “witch hunts.” It often takes a chorus of critiques on sites such as PubPeer.com, which allows anonymous comments on published papers, followed by press coverage, to generate any movement.

In 2009, for example, Bruce Ames—made famous by the tests for cancer-causing agents that bear his name—performed an analysis similar to Carlisle’s together with his colleagues. The target was a group of three papers authored by a team led by Palaninathan Varalakshmi. In marked contrast to what later resulted from Carlisle’s work, the three researchers fought back, calling Ames’ approach “unfair” and a conflation of causation and correlation. Varalakshmi’s editors sided with him. To this day, not a single one of the journals in which the accused researchers have published their work have done anything about the papers in question.

Sadly, this is the typical conclusion to a scholarly fraud investigation. The difficulty in pursuing fraudsters is partly the result of the process of scholarly publishing itself. It “has always been reliant on people rather than systems; the peer review process has its pros and cons but the ability to detect fraud isn’t really one of its strengths,” Yentis says.

Publishing is built on trust, and peer reviewers are often too rushed to look at original data even when it is made available. Nature, for example, asks authors “to justify the appropriateness of statistical tests and in particular to state whether the data meet the assumption of the tests,” according to executive editor Veronique Kiermer. Editors, she notes, “take this statement into account when evaluating the paper but do not systematically examine the distribution of all underlying datasets.” Similarly, peer reviewers are not required to examine dataset statistics.

When Nature went through a painful stem cell paper retraction last year, which led to the suicide of one of the key researchers, they maintained that, “we and the referees could not have detected the problems that fatally undermined the papers.” The journal argued that it took post-publication peer review, and an institutional investigation. And pushing too hard can create real problems, Nature wrote in another editorial. [Emphasis added.]

Remind me again why exactly are we supposed to trust the journal article review process?

The remarkable rise of Marie Harf

We have followed the performance of Marie Harf as a spokesman for the Obama administration foreign policy at the State Department. Harf gives the catastrophic foreign policy of the Obama administration a lighter than air, Valley Girl kind of feel. She is a walking self-parody. As such, she presents a novel use of expressive form.

Now comes word that Harf is being promoted to Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications to Secretary of State John Kerry. Like a helium filled balloon, Harf ascends. In her new position Harf will focus on negotiations between the U.S. and Iran on nuclear weapons. It sounds like a joke, but FOX News reports it as fact.

Harf has givesn us Obama administration foreign policy doctrine reduced to its talking points. Harf is a dim bulb and the complete authorized version of the doctrine according to Barry shines none too brightly to begin with. Reduced to talking points and subject to questions, the doctrine is quickly reduced to parody. Thus Marie Harf.

AP diplomatic correspondent Matt Lee mercilessly grilled Harf in her State Department press briefings. Will Lee still have Harf to kick around in her new position? I believe he will. So at least we have that.

In the video below Harf spoke up for UNRWA, the United Nations organization whose good works in Gaza included the hosting and return of Hamas missiles found in UN schools. During the latest conflict with Israel several sets of missiles had been found in UNRWA schools and returned to the authorities in Gaza (i.e., Hamas).

Harf had arrived at the briefing with a prepared statement explaining the situation to her satisfaction. Lee interrogated Harf on the internal contradictions that Harf had, ah, failed to discern in her statement. This is merciless comedy exposing error and pretension.

Obamacare in one state

Unfortunately for the people of Minnesota, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton had a free hand adopting Obamacare in Minnesota, and Minnesota has gone all in. Courtesy of Governor Dayton and a Democratic legislature, we have bought into the Medicaid expansion and all the rest.

In Minnesota the Obamacare set-up runs under the rubric of MNsure. I wonder how many voters know that Minnesota has adopted Obamacare and that MNsure, c’est ça. My guess: not many.

Why does Minnesota needs its own Obamacare exchange? Minnesota Public Radio helpfully explains: “Supporters of Minnesota building its own exchange argued that Minnesota could build a system that benefitted from the state’s long history of health care policy innovation and cost containment. They also maintained that Minnesota would wind up with an exchange tailored to the needs of state residents rather than a ‘one-size-fits-all’ federal exchange.”

State officials have had the usual problems getting the system up and running. The site has performed poorly. Paying its own tribute to the beauty of “diversity,” it has been deficient in diverse respects.

The Star Tribune reports on the failure of the small group aspect of the program to take off as expected: “The government-run marketplace was expected to cover 155,000 people in small group plans by next year. That number was 1,405 earlier this month.”

Wow. It sounds like we may need to put MNsure’s small group business on a Soviet-style five-year plan to increase productivity.

Quotable quote (Katie Burns, MNsure chief operating officer): “We agree that [enrollment is] modest at this point, but there’s opportunity for growth.”

Hillary’s old friend, Sid Vicious

Hillary Clinton doesn’t talk much to reporters and when she does, she reveals as little as possible. But she revealed plenty when she described Sidney Blumenthal as “an old friend.”

It’s hardly surprising Blumenthal is a friend of Hillary’s. For her, his combination of viciousness and weakness for conspiracy theories must be irresistible. What’s interesting is that Clinton admits to the friendship.

I’ve heard it said that Blumenthal’s legendary viciousness was a response to attacks against the Clintons during the 1990s — “the Clinton Wars,” as he calls them — which featured some pretty wild conspiracy allegations against the First Couple. Don’t believe it.

During the 1980s, Blumenthal became alarmed by the rise of conservatism as an intellectual-political movement. As a reporter for the Washington Post, he attacked those whom he viewed as in the vanguard of that movement, especially, it seemed, if they happened to be Jewish. Among his targets were Elliott Abrams (who, Blumenthal thought, didn’t take John Lennon’s death seriously enough), Richard Perle, Michael Ledeen, and David Horowitz, who writes about Sid’s viciousness here.

Michael Ledeen and his wife Barbara would again experience that viciousness in the late 1990s, when Blumenthal was working for the Clintons. By this time, Barbara had established the Independent Women’s Forum, which ripped Hillary for, among other things, kowtowing to China in spite of the Chinese government’s deplorable treatment of women (e.g., forced abortions).

Blumenthal’s vehicle for attacking the Ledeens, and many other conservatives, was a lawsuit he filed against Matt Drudge, who had accused Sid of beating his wife (Drudge would retract the accusation). Blumenthal had his lawyer subpoena for deposition Michael and Barbara Ledeen and approximately two dozen other critics of the Clintons. He also subpoened the records of the Independent Women’s Forum.

Blumenthal’s purposes were two-fold. First, he wanted to harass the Clintons’ critics. Second, he wanted to conduct a fishing expedition into “the vast right wing conspiracy” that he and Hillary had invented.

Michael Ledeen responded by having the transcript of his deposition, which went badly for Blumenthal, posted online. He also responded with a priceless “open letter” to the other conservatives — “the Blumenthal 25,” as he called them — who had been summoned by Sid’s attorney.

Here, with almost no edits, is the text of that letter:

Dear Friends,

I thought you might be wondering what Sidney Blumenthal has in mind by calling you to testify in his libel suit against Matt Drudge, and since Barbara and I have already been through it, our experiences will help you prepare.

As usual with the bizarre folks that work in the Clinton/Clinton/Gore White House, their announced intentions have very little to do with their real schemes.

Yes, you will be asked whether you know the source of Drudge’s short-lived story that Sidney beat his wife, but that doesn’t take long to answer (we didn’t know anything at all about it), and you should expect several more hours of questioning. These subsequent questions will have to do with you, your family, your friends, your associates, and, if you have written or broadcast anything, with your opinions.

Remember when Sidney stood on the courthouse steps during the Starr grand jury investigation into Clinton’s lies about Monica? Sidney falsely accused the Starr people of asking him about his conversations with journalists. He piously declaimed that he would never have believed, in this country that so values freedom of the press, that he would be asked about such things.

He wasn’t. But he’s going to ask you about your conversations with journalists (no doubt some of you are on the list of 25 because we “outed” you as journalists with whom we had spoken). And he’ll be asking you about anything you ever wrote or said critical of Sidney (with me, he tried to deconstruct the word “consigliere,” since I had suggested that Sidney was one of Clinton’s consiglieri), as well as your secret thoughts about Sidney.

We were both asked if we hated him; I was asked if I thought he was qualified for his White House position (I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but my own view is that Sidney is superbly qualified to work for the Clintons).

You might wonder why he asks all these outrageous questions. I think he sees this as an opportunity to fill in the details of his favorite fantasy: the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.

You and I know that it’s madness, but he really believes it (not for nothing do his cohorts call him “Grassy Knoll Blumenthal”), and you’ve made his suspect list. That’s why he wants to know whom you talk to.

Technically, of course, it won’t be Sidney himself, it will be his legal mouthpiece, an attorney from Baltimore named McDaniel (although Sidney and his wife were both present for our depositions, and Sidney passed little scribbles to his lawyer from time to time). McDaniel is one of those attorneys who thinks that you can be shaken and intimidated by the asking of nasty questions in an aggressive manner. McDaniel’s going to make you as uncomfortable as he can; he wouldn’t let Barbara get a glass of water when she got thirsty.

Think of it as an opportunity to show the American people what sort of frauds work in the White House nowadays. Sidney poses as a defender of free and open journalism, but his actions show he’s just the opposite. I’d be grateful if you all insist that the depositions be open to the public (he refused when we requested it). If he says no, then ask that a pool reporter be permitted to attend (he refused that one, too. . .).

And when you’re done, do what we did: Get the transcript from the court stenographer, and post it on the Net. Sidney doesn’t want everyone to know what he’s really up to; he demanded that the judge forbid any future posting. Don’t let him get away with it. Last time I checked the First Amendment was still on the books.

Sidney Blumenthal has re-entered our consciousness just in time to remind us what a Hillary Clinton presidency would be like. The notion of a “new” Hillary Clinton was always implausible. Now, as Rich Lowry says, “it’s impossible to credit ‘the new Hillary’ so long as she is dependent on the same old cronies.”