Is “Climate Change” Causing the Western Drought?

Much of California, and other areas in the West, are enduring a severe drought. In February, President Obama decreed that the drought is the product of man-made “climate change.”

This is a good example of a proposition that should be self-evident, but is generally ignored: you can’t talk intelligently about climate change unless you know something about climate history. Which, not surprisingly, Barack Obama doesn’t. The reality is that California is no stranger to drought, and hasn’t been for millennia. This chart from Anthony Watts, covers the American West beginning in 800 A.D., based on tree rings:


As Watts headlines, “Spot the portion of California drought caused by ‘climate change’.” With regard to climate, as in other fields, ignorance of the past tends to lead to hysteria whenever anything changes.

The Significance of the Michael Brown Autopsy

The results of the first of three planned autopsies on the body of Michael Brown were released today by Dr. Michael Baden. Dr. Baden found that Brown was shot six times, with all six bullets coming from the front. This appears to rule out the claim that Brown was shot while running away from police officer Darren Wilson.

The New York Times tries to make the best of it, repeating that Brown was “unarmed” three times. But that is not very significant. If he was charging officer Wilson, Wilson would reasonably have perceived a risk of grave bodily harm and would have been entitled to use deadly force to defend himself, regardless of whether Brown was armed or not.

Likewise, the suggestion that six shots are somehow excessive is misguided. It usually takes several bullets to stop an attacker, and in this case, it appears that only the last shot, which hit Brown in the top of the head, would immediately have incapacitated him. The location of that bullet is consistent with the theory that Brown had his head down and was charging toward Wilson, but it could be consistent with other scenarios as well.

Other than the fact that the bullets all came from the front, the only significant autopsy finding is that Brown had marijuana in his system. From news accounts, I can’t tell whether he was high at the time of the encounter with officer Wilson, or whether it was a residue from pot he had consumed the evening before. In any event, I wouldn’t think marijuana would cause a person to do something as crazy as to try to assault an armed police officer.

To me, the most puzzling aspect of the Brown affair is that we still haven’t heard Darren Wilson’s account of what happened. Given that rioting and looting are going on, multiple investigations have been launched, and many observers are making assumptions (probably false) about what transpired, I don’t understand why Wilson’s side of the story hasn’t been made public. At this point, those who are disposed not to believe whatever he says will think that the Ferguson police deliberately put off releasing Wilson’s account to see what other information–videos, eyewitness accounts, autopsy findings–would come out that potentially might contradict it. That is unfortunate.

Between law enforcement and looters, Obama is, as usual, neutral

President Obama said today that he will not visit Ferguson, Missouri so as not to “put[] my thumb on the scale” in the investigation into the killing of Michael Brown. We should be grateful that he’s staying put.

Yet, short of following the investigators around, it’s not clear why Obama being in Missouri would put his thumb on the scale of the investigation. It’s his comments, not his physical presence, that matters.

Nor is there any need for Obama’s thumb. With Eric Holder’s Justice Department involved, the investigation is already in reliable left-wing hands.

When it came to the pressing matter of enforcing the law in Ferguson, Obama showed no reluctance to put his thumb on the scale. He stated, “I’ll be watching over the next several days to assess whether [the National Guard] is helping rather than hindering progress in Ferguson.” If that isn’t an attempt to shape the National Guard’s conduct, I don’t know what is.

Moreover, Obama’s statement makes little sense. The National Guard’s job isn’t to “help progress” in the abstract. The Guard’s job is to restore order.

How might the National Guard “hinder progress?” Presumably, Obama was referring to policing that alienates the mob. But at this stage, it’s difficult to see how the looting and rioting in Ferguson can be stopped without alienating the mob.

Obama’s preferred “liberal policing” has already been tried. It didn’t work. Thus, the time has come for Obama to let the professionals handle the law enforcement crisis free from the intimidation that comes with him looking over their shoulders.

What we see from Obama in Missouri is similar to what we see from him in foreign hot spots. He stands high above the fray passing judgment — almost always adverse — on all sides.

In Israel, Obama had “no sympathy for Hamas” but was quick to condemn Israel for its attempts to destroy the weapons used by these terrorists. And his administration was at least as apt to support a cease fire proposed by the backers of Hamas’s terror (like Qatar) as it was to support one proposed by Egypt.

Looking to the wider Middle East, Obama seems to blame the U.S. (pre-Obama) and the mullahs equally for the hostility that exists between the two nations. In Syria, he was unable to pick a side in any sense that mattered.

For years, he blew off the non-jihadist rebels who were fighting both the Iran/Hezbollah-backed regime and the brutal Islamist opposition. Apparently, they failed to measure up to his lofty standards.

In Iraq, Obama found the government of Maliki too much of a hindrance to progress to lift a finger to help it as ISIS swept through the western part of the country towards Baghdad. Then, he found the Kurds too much of a hindrance to the government of Maliki to help them when ISIS swept north.

In this context, Obama’s apparent neutrality in Missouri is hardly the most worst example of his detached and perverse judgments. But it’s egregious nonetheless.

We do need to get to the bottom of the Michael Brown shooting. But right now, the priority is restoring order in Ferguson. To the extent Obama watches, his focus should be on whether the National Guard is accomplishing this mission, not on whether it’s helping promote some leftist notion of “progress.”

How To Wreck Thomas Frank’s Day in Three Easy Steps

If Thomas (What’s the Matter With Kansas?) Frank didn’t exist, we’d have to invent him as a museum specimen of a clueless liberal.  Among other things, if people are supposed to vote their economic self-interest, why didn’t he write What’s the Matter With the Upper West Side?  Apparently only voting against your economic self-interest for Republicans counts as evidence of stupidity.

But Frank’s own retrograde ignorance is on full display in a Salon column this week, “How to Wreck the GOP in Three Easy Steps.”  The three-steps to this dance are a doozy of a liberal Hokey-Pokey, because Frank really needs to turn himself around.  Let’s take them in order:

1. President Obama should instruct his Attorney General to start enforcing the nation’s antitrust laws the way Democrats used to do.

Once upon a time, monopoly and oligopoly were illegal in America. Our ancestors believed, correctly, that concentrated economic power was incompatible with democracy in all sorts of ways.

Boy, here’s a slogan to stir the masses at the ballot box.  Well, they can try that if they want to, but they’ll likely lose in court.  Frank is obviously unaware of the revolution in anti-trust theory and law back in the 1970s that received the approval of many liberals, such as Lester Thurow.  How many Nobel Prizes in economics were won for the devastating critiques of antitrust theory?  I lost count.  So who’s being anti-intellectual now?  In any case, the Reagan Administration scaled back anti-trust prosecution in part because of better economic analysis, but also because they began losing most of the cases they did bring to court.

2. Investigate and prosecute fraud committed during the housing bubble.

Fine with me.  So when are we going to arrest Franklin Raines, Jim Johnston, Janet Napolitano, and all the other Democratic factotums who ran Fannie Mae, one of the primary engines of the housing bubble and crash?  And let’s not forget to subpoena that other Frank (Barney the dinosaur) as a hostile prosecution witness.  Oops.

3. Make it clear that he will no longer tolerate the college tuition price spiral.

So we’re going to kill off all of the government loan programs and federal mandates that have been a primary driver of college tuition inflation?  I’m all for it.  When do we begin the layoffs of all the associate deans for diversity and the compliance officers for Title IX?  When do we start demanding higher teaching loads from tenured faculty at our public research universities? That ought to go down well with Obama’s primary constituency.

Maybe I should go easier on Frank.  I’m starting to wonder whether Frank isn’t a Karl Rove (or Koch brothers) plant inside the left, designed to work mayhem.  If so, it’s another genius idea that is working splendidly.

Advocating Israel: Shavit vs. Stephens

At Hadassah’s 97th annual convention in Las Vegas last month as the Gaza war was raging, conservative Wall Street Journal foreign affairs columnist Bret Stephens and liberal Haaretz columnist Ari Shavit discussed the current situation in Israel and the future of Zionism. Las Vegas? Stephens remarks in passing: “We are in occupied territory right now; I just want to remind everyone in this room of this fact.”

Professor Gil Troy served as the indulgent moderator of the two in what was styled as a debate. Martin Kramer, on whose Twitter feed I found the video of the debate, scores it in favor of Stephens on points. This is more of a discussion than a debate, and both Stephens and Shavit are worth listening to, but Stephens is the guy who really needs to be heard and who justifies taking the time to consume the video below (80 minutes). Stephens’s excellent opening remarks appear at 24:30-44:30.

Breaking: Nuclear Sabotage in Europe?

Here’s a curious story out of Belgium that is receiving no media attention (outside a few mentions in the specialized press) in the US:

Belgian Doel-4 Nuclear Reactor Closed Till Year-End

PARIS, Aug 14 (Reuters) – Belgian energy company Electrabel said its Doel 4 nuclear reactor would stay offline at least until the end of this year after major damage to its turbine, with the cause confirmed as sabotage. . .

The shutdown of Doel 4′s nearly 1 gigawatt (GW) of electricity generating capacity as well as closures of two other reactors (Doel 3 and Tihange 2) for months because of cracks in steel reactor casings adds up to just over 3 GW of Belgian nuclear capacity that is offline, more than half of the total. . .

Energy experts have raised the spectre of possible blackouts this winter and say Belgium will have to boost interconnection capacity with neighbouring countries to prevent power shortages.

A GDF Suez spokesman confirmed Belgian press reports about suspicion of sabotage.

“There was an intentional manipulation,” he said, adding that somebody had tampered with the system used for emptying oil from the Alstom-made turbine.

He said no outsiders had penetrated into the plant but declined to say whether an employee could have purposely caused the leak, as has been reported in some Belgian media.

He said Electrabel had filed a complaint and that the Belgian police had started an investigation.

According to a separate report in the Belgian press, Belgian anti-terrorism investigators are working on the case.

Meanwhile, a 1-gigawatt power plant is significant for a country of Belgium’s size, and it will be worth seeing whether this leads to increased electricity output from conventional sources in Germany and elsewhere to make up the slack (with the consequent increases in greenhouse gas emissions).  The fact that blackouts are possible as a result of this shows the narrow capacity margins Europe operates under right now.  Coming soon to a state near you?

A comment on the Perry indictment

John has referred to the indictment of Governor Perry as a Democratic dirty trick. Paul has referred to it as lawfare. I have referred to it as an egregious farce. Governor Perry himself has characterized it as a “farce of a prosecution.” I think these words accurately characterize the legal substance of the indictment. Yet Austin attorney Mary Lou Serafine writes from Travis County, where the indictment was handed up, with a comment in the nature of an objection:

Power Line Friends:

As one of your long-time readers and a long-time conservative in Travis County, I disagree with your commentary only to the extent that it understates the gravity of the Perry indictment to characterize it as a “farce,” “dirty trick,” or “bad joke.” To the contrary, the people of Travis County, and its DA and Grand Jury, are profoundly serious. They are largely not politically or strategically motivated in the ordinary sense. They are philosophically and morally motivated, intent on destroying by any means necessary what they
conclude is wrong thinking by bad people.

And the Perry indictment is not merely the Democrats’ attempt to harm a high-profile Republican. It has historical roots, too, in liberal Republicanism, which is why Lehmberg’s “Public Integrity Unit,” despite the fact that it prosecutes state-wide, has remained under the control of all-blue Travis County voters.

Far from being a farce, the indictment of widely-supported, duly elected officials like a sitting governor — and before Perry, our Tom Delay and Kay Bailey Hutchison — is among the darkest corruptions we are likely to see in our lifetimes.

We shouldn’t assume justice will be done after the bad joke is over. Tom Delay was innocent of “money laundering,” but he was jury-tried, convicted, and sentenced for it. Only after an extraordinary delay was the conviction reversed on appeal, but not unanimously (the Democrat dissenting), and, I believe, it’s not yet completely closed.

Mary Louise Serafine
Attorney at Law
Licensed in Texas, California, New York, and the District of Columbia
Austin, Texas

Our reader’s linguistic critique may or may not be well taken, but the larger point here is inarguably true and important and worthy of repetition, and I trust we will return to it as developments warrant. Thanks to Ms. Serafine for her message and her permission to attribute it to her by name.