Briggs Schools Justice Kagan on Expertocracy

William Briggs writes at his blog Elena Kagan’s Blind Love Of The Expertocracy: SCOTUS Slaps The EPA.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.

SCOTUS ruled 6-3 that, in effect, without Congressional authorization, the EPA does not have the power to regulate carbon dioxide. Justice Elena Kagan dissented.

Kagan opened her dissent thus (whole opinion; with my paragraphification for screen readability):

Climate change’s causes and dangers are no longer subject to serious doubt. Modern science is “unequivocal that human influence”—in particular, the emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide—“has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.” [Cites IPCC] … The rise in temperatures brings with it “increases in heat-related deaths,” “coastal inundation and erosion,” “more frequent and intense hurricanes, floods, and other extreme weather events,” “drought,” “destruction of ecosystems,” and “potentially significant disruptions of food production.” [Cites, of all things, a case in which this was quoted.]

If the current rate of emissions continues, children born this year could live to see parts of the Eastern seaboard swallowed by the ocean. See Brief for Climate Scientists as Amici Curiae 6. Rising waters, scorching heat, and other severe weather conditions could force “mass migration events[,] political crises, civil unrest,” and “even state failure.”

So Kagan has bought and believes, seemingly sincerely, the failed predictions of global warming, which she calls “climate change”. This is her adopted opinion, provided her by climate Experts, who claim there is no “serious doubt” about their theories.

We have seen many times that her (or her Experts’) quoted predictions of doom are false. There have not been an increase, but a decrease, in floods. Same for drought. There is no “destruction of ecosystems.” And just last week a paper appeared—a peer-reviewed paper in the regime-approved journal Nature, going by the name “Declining tropical cyclone frequency under global warming“—which shows the number of tropical cyclones have been decreasing, not increasing.

Here’s a picture from that paper (ignore the straight and red lines, which are models and not the data):
So Kagan’s suppositions about the dooms of global warming are false, and known to be false with only a little investigation. Which she did not make. Nor did Wise Latina, and nor did the other guy who’s now retired and will be quickly forgotten. Both signed Kagan’s dissent.

Their non-curiosity and blind acceptance of the Expert Consensus is point one. And really is our only point, as we’ll see.

Under the Clean Air Act, as Kagan writes, Congress gave power to the “EPA to regulate stationary sources of any substance that ’causes, or contributes significantly to, air pollution’ and that “may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.’”

As we know, EPA called carbon dioxide, the basis of almost all life on earth, the very stuff of your breath, the food of plants, “pollution”. And started to regulate it. Scientifically, this is like the American Medical Association saying “not all women have cervixes”, and allowing the AMA to regulate the English language.

Do people forget, or maybe they never knew, that CO2 is plant food? And not only plant food, but the plant flood. Back in olden days, they used to teach photosynthesis. No longer? Remove CO2 and plants die. Then you die.

So what the EPA did in trying to regulate CO2 was ridiculous—unless you really do believe global warming, a.k.a. “climate change”, is an “existential crisis.” As Kagan, Wise Latina, and Gone Guy believe, or say they do. But which all observations show is not so.

Models, on the other hand, show the “existential crisis” is true. And all models only say what they are told to say. So models are told to say that “climate change” is an “existential crisis.” Experts told models to say this.

Experts, therefore, value models over observation. The Deadly Sin of Reification.

The real problem, then, is letting Experts make decisions based on models which are beautiful, to Experts, but which make lousy predictions. Experts are trusted too much.

Even if you think not, and still believe the models, nothing follows from them. That is, no policy is suggested, implied, or necessary because of the models. Not one. It is separately true that all policies, suggested from any source, have consequences, which may be known to greater or lesser extent—their uncertainty in them also are models.

It is scientism, a fallacy, to say Experts who wrote climate models also know what is best to do about the weather. Scientifically, it is like saying the CDC knows what is the best rate to pay for rent during a disease outbreak. Which they did say. And were rebuked for saying. A rebuke which they ignored. Which may happen here with the EPA, too.

Therefore, even if you believe the models, which stink, a fact that requires only minor effort to check, it does not follow the Experts who created those models, including agents in the EPA, know what is best to do about model predictions.

That power should fall to Congress, and to state and local governments, who have that mandate.

In other words, the Expertocracy, which was in part struck down and which Kagan dissented against, is based on two false assumptions. The first is that Expert models have skill. They do not. And the second, which is independent, is scientism, which is that scientists with expertise in one are are equipped with greater senses of good and evil on all subjects, which is absurd.

Kagan, though, embraces the Expertocracy. She said (her emphasis):

Members of Congress often don’t know enough—and know they don’t know enough—to regulate sensibly on an issue. Of course, Members can and do provide overall direction. But then they rely, as all of us rely in our daily lives, on people with greater expertise and experience. Those people are found in agencies. Congress looks to them to make specific judgments about how to achieve its more general objectives. And it does so especially, though by no means exclusively, when an issue has a scientific or technical dimension. Why wouldn’t Congress instruct EPA to select “the best system of emission reduction,” rather than try to choose that system itself?

Second and relatedly, Members of Congress often can’t know enough—and again, know they can’t—to keep regulatory schemes working across time. Congress usually can’t predict the future—can’t anticipate changing circumstances and the way they will affect varied regulatory techniques. Nor can Congress (realistically) keep track of and respond to fast-flowing developments as they occur.

Kagan is quite wrong. For all the reasons we discussed. Congress (as sick as that institution is) does know enough, and it knows vastly more than weather Experts about law. Because it knows, or is supposed to, what laws are, and what laws should do, and what the consequence of laws are. Climate or weather Experts do not. Congress can consult with Experts: “If we pass this law, what are the bounds of uncertainty on this particular weather-effected thing?” That is sensible. But it is rank foolishness to trust weather Experts to decide what laws are best, even if you by subterfuge call those laws “regulations”. And it even more dangerous to trust people who have something to gain, as Experts do, to decide what is “best” to do.

The impetus for the Expertocracy, and the faith in it, is there in Kagan’s words. She reasons, in effect, that Experts know more than anybody else on their subjects of expertise, therefore we have no right to interfere with their decisions on any subject.

It is a bad argument because Experts don’t always know best about their own subjects, as we see now everywhere. And even if Experts do know best about their subjects, they don’t know what is best to do about them.

Democratic Socialists Party Platform

Everyone can see that a kind of Star Chamber hides in Biden’s shadow and dictates what he says and signs. Over the last year and a half, the game plan has been revealed by the exercise of authority assumed by federal and state Democratic Socialistic party.  The platform below summarizes what we have witnessed from these political operatives.

Establish Wokeism as the new state religion.

Under the guise of “Diversity-Inclusion-Equity, the doctrine is to eliminate pluralism from American Life. Critical Race and Gender Theories, among others, are to be asserted as secular truths, and all other beliefs are to be banned from the public square in the name of separation of church and state.

In the cult of Woke, adherents have a “critical consciousness” and are able to see the “problematics” in everything. This includes in speech, writing, institutions, thoughts, people, systems, knowledge, history, one’s past, and society itself. Society is broken into different groups or classes (social group identity) that are oppressive on one side, oppressed on the other, and in conflict over this. That is, conflict theory is the belief that different social groups in society are always in conflict with one another for power and dominance.  And rather than working together in complex, dynamical ways that can be mutually beneficial, they are at war.

Any criticism or questioning of Woke Doctrine is: racist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, imperialistic, hateful, bigoted, unjust, evil, ignorant, wrong, and a crime against humanity.

Purge Public and Private Institutions of customs and symbols adverse to Wokeism.

To facilitate the dominance of Woke doctrine, the heritage of previous widely adopted beliefs must be purged. Thus monuments of past American heroes must be destroyed, and doubt must be cast over the documents and writings of the founders of the American Republic. Rituals like the Pledge of Allegiance or prayers at public events must be replaced with pride rainbows or kneeling to BLM flags.

Persecute and prosecute individuals whose speech and/or actions are contrary to Wokeism, or who are less than enthusiastic.

To achieve Woke totalitarian dominance, dissenters must be reviled as heretics. And if unrepentent, they must be incarcerated or otherwise excommunicated by removing their reputations and employment. Any spokespersons for alternative opinions to Woke views of history and identity politics must be driven out of public awareness and discourse.

Expand the administrative bureaucracy to extend social and economic control and to deepen dependency upon the state.

By declaring states of emergency, a la Covid or Climate, Executive agencies will create more rules regulating enterprises, indeed all employees public and private, constraining personal choices to align with Woke doctrines. Expanding the regulatory authorities will greatly increase numbers on the public payroll, and shift financial power away from the private sector.

Strip the citizenry of firearms to prevent resistance to the force of governmental edicts.

To complete the state’s monopoly of coercion force over the populace, citizens’ right to self-defense must be rendered mute by confiscating guns and ammunition.

Rig the election process so that the Woke party is always returned to power.

In line with Marxist theory, Woke doctrine includes believing that only one political party is legitimate; that is the one representing the victims of oppression. All others are illegitimate, and cannot be allowed to form the government by means of a free and fair election. The illusion of voters choosing will be maintained, but political communication will be slanted to heavily favor the Woke appointed candidates. Also the collecting and counting of ballots will be coordinated to ensure the right outcome.

Neutralize Congress and Supreme Court as checks upon Executive authority.

With the centralizing of governance in the Executive branch. Congress and the Courts must be relegated to advisory roles. Deliberation will occur in the agencies with Executive oversight, while congressional discussions will give the appearance of representation for the electors. The courts will limit themselves to reaffirming Woke doctrine against heresies arising from time to time.

Postscript

I have used satirical images to poke holes in this mistaken political movement, but this is a serious moment in the struggle for the soul and future of the American Republic.  For example, note these statements excerpted from a recent fundraising email from Ron DeSantis, addressing these same points in resolute language. The Appeal of Ron DeSantis

Our country is currently facing a great threat. A new enemy has emerged from the shadows that seeks to destroy and intimidate their way to a transformed state, and country, that you and I would hardly recognize.

This enemy is the radical vigilante woke mob that will steamroll anything and anyone in their way. Their blatant attacks on the American way of life are clear and intensifying: stifling dissent, public shaming, rampant violence, and a perverted version of history.

A group that will, literally, tear down monuments and buildings but — perhaps in an even more sinister way — tear down the American spirit itself.

To destroy America, they go after the family unit, parental rights, traditional moral values, the church, and fact-based education.

Over the past few years, we’ve watched horrified as this group has attempted to brainwash our children into thinking we live in an evil, racist, irredeemable country.

With regard to Covid, we listened to them deny science and data to exert political theater all the while trampling over personal liberties enshrined in the Constitution.

We saw them take to the streets for an entire summer like outlaws burning, looting, and destroying everything in sight while being told they were “mostly peaceful” and “passionate.”

We watched Big Tech moguls in Silicon Valley be the arbiters of truth – deciding who gets to speak and who gets silenced through the digital public square.

We The People still have a say. We know the truth, you and I, about America and the country she is and can be. We must fight to defeat these false pretenses and predetermined narratives.

I am choosing to counter this enemy with faith, with reason, and with freedom. As Governor of the Free State of Florida, I have chosen to lead with a vision that builds America up rather than tears it down.

Together we can ensure that our children are raised to know they live in the greatest state in the nation, the greatest country in the world and that they have an opportunity to continue making them even greater.

Am I embarrassed to speak for a less than perfect democracy? Not one bit. Find me a better one. Do I suppose there are societies which are free of sin? No, I don’t. Do I think ours is, on balance, incomparably the most hopeful set of human relations the world has? Yes, I do.

2000 Mules is the Smoking Gun

Now we know why they avert their eyes from watching the film 2000 Mules.  And why the panel investigating the January 6 protest didn’t dare to screen the documentary.  Because it shows beyond reasonable doubt that election theft activities were coordinated and replicated in multiple states, proving a national criminal enterprise rigged the 2020 US Presidential election.  The smoking gun is there for all to see, and even more, it is only part of the pattern of corruption.

Charlie Johnston explains in his American Thinker article D’Souza’s Mules Left Tracks.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Many conservative commentators have noted that Dinesh D’Souza’s documentary, 2000 Mules, offers compelling evidence of large-scale vote fraud. It offers more than this, though. It provides compelling evidence of a massive, centrally coordinated conspiracy to commit vote fraud. Examining several states with different voter laws while focusing on just one form of fraud, the movie found that the method of fraud was executed identically in each of these states.

That is prima facie evidence of central organization and management.

From the moment counting was stopped in the dead of night in five Democrat-run swing states on election night, Democrats and the media have treated anyone who questioned election integrity in 2020 like a mob boss treats anyone who threatens to testify against him: shut up, or we will cancel you.

Democrats and the media routinely smear anyone who questions the election results as a conspiracy theorist.  They routinely pronounce any evidence that emerges as “debunked.”  For the record, “debunked” does not mean “inconvenient to the leftist narrative.”  It means “thoroughly investigated and proven to be false.”  Almost none of the evidence has been debunked; very little has been officially examined.  Leftists treat actual evidence like how a vampire treats a crucifix.  There is no reasoned discourse, just a lot of hissing and snarling.

From well before he took office, Donald Trump faced an ongoing administrative coup attempt. First was the long-running Russian collusion hoax, mounted by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee and abetted by the FBI and intelligence agencies. Federal employees who were, theoretically, subordinate to Trump gleefully worked to undermine his administration. Two baseless impeachments were mounted against him by Democrats who know nothing other than shrieking partisanship anymore.

The slow-moving coup finally succeeded on the evening of November 3, 2020, when those five states quit counting ballots to give Democrats time to “fortify” the election. The last real hurdle to thwarting election integrity came on December 11, 2020, when the Supreme Court ruled that Texas and 18 other states lacked standing to complain of massive fraud. How states that conduct honest elections lack standing to complain of states that don’t in an election that affects them all is beyond my understanding. It looked like unconditional institutional surrender to massive fraud to me. All hail the barbarians!

D’Souza’s documentary examined only the slice of fraud that involved
organized physical ballot-stuffing.

It did not touch on compromised voting machines and systems or unconstitutional, administrative election law changes. If the single slice that 2000 Mules so effectively biopsied is filled with the cancer of fraud, it is willful ignorance to believe that everything else was clean.

If the election of 2020 had been fundamentally clean, Democrats and the media should have been the loudest advocates for a thorough and bipartisan investigation of the election to put widespread doubts to rest and own the conservatives. (By bipartisan, I do not mean like the J6 committee, where the Democrats unilaterally appointed all members, including a couple of Republican chumps for show.) Instead, the left hisses and snarls at every piece of evidence brought forth, no matter how compelling. A guilty man tries to suppress every bit of evidence at his trial, never knowing which piece will seal his conviction, while an innocent man tries to get every piece into evidence he can, never knowing which piece will exonerate him. To assess credibility on this, look who is trying to suppress evidence and who is trying to get evidence into the public record.

At this stage, it is hard to credit Democratic and media intransigence to anything innocent. If they are not just stupid, they have become co-conspirators in the only actual insurrection America has seen over the last six years. Understand, this coup was not primarily aimed at Trump and conservative Republicans; it is a coup against the very idea of self-government. Alas, many Republicans may disagree with elements of Democratic methods but agree with them that a self-serving elite class should rule the citizen-serfs they think constitute the American people.

The relentless smears, the constant howls, and the shrieking rage of the leftists are not because they are so offended that the right would challenge them. It is because the mud of massive deception is being washed away to reveal the rock of stark fraud the left mounted to steal an American presidential election. That is genuine insurrection. Confession, repentance, and forfeiture of all offices of public honor or trust by the conspirators could begin to establish American honor and liberty anew. That, of course, will never happen. Power is the left’s only god, and pursuit of it by any means its only liturgy.

Republicans will win by unprecedented margins in November. If they hold the left to account for its depredations against the American system of law and systemic attack on the Bill of Rights, we can begin to crawl out of this hole of despotism. If, instead, the Republicans largely choose to let bygones be bygones, as they have done with the Russian collusion conspirators, there is little hope that America can long survive as anything the founders would recognize. Renewal will come. Americans will not forever submit to be ruled by any class of people — and certainly not to this degenerate class of aspiring despots.

However it comes, D’Souza’s documentary is the seminal moment the tide washed away enough mud that, despite their shrieks and howls, the left can no longer hide the ugly truth of what it did.

Massive election fraud in 2020 is a conspiracy, but it is no longer merely a theory.

USA Today Outed for Fictional Fact Checking

Paul Joseph Watson writes at Summit News Top ‘Fact Checker’ USA Today Forced to Delete Articles Over Fabricated Sources.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.  H/T Tyler Durden

USA Today, which is used as a ‘fact checker’ by social media platforms, was forced to delete 23 articles from its website after an investigation found one of its reporters had fabricated sources.

Well, this is awkward

The news outlet has an entire section of its website dedicated to ‘fact checking’ and is used by Facebook to ‘fact check’ stories published by other outlets, downranking them in algorithms in a form of soft censorship.

However, it appears as though USA Today should have devoted more resources to fact checking itself before publishing articles by its own staff.

“USA Today’s breaking news reporter Gabriela Miranda fabricated sources and misappropriated quotes for stories, the news outlet confirmed on Thursday. The outlet conducted an internal audit after receiving an “external correction request” on one of its published stories,” reports Breitbart.

The 23 articles which were removed for not meeting the paper’s “editorial standards” included pieces on the Texas abortion ban, anti-vaxxer content and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Miranda, who has now resigned from her position, “took steps to deceive investigators by producing false evidence of her news gathering, including recordings of interviews,” according to the New York Times.

“After receiving an external correction request, USA TODAY audited the reporting work of Gabriela Miranda. The audit revealed that some individuals quoted were not affiliated with the organizations claimed and appeared to be fabricated. The existence of other individuals quoted could not be independently verified. In addition, some stories included quotes that should have been credited to others.”

As we previously highlighted, USA Today was also forced to hastily delete a series of tweets which critics said were tantamount to the normalization of pedophilia after the newspaper cited “science” to assert that pedophilia was “determined in the womb.”

The newspaper was also lambasted by critics after it ‘fact checked’ as “true” claims that an official Trump 2020 t-shirt features a ‘Nazi symbol’.

In February last year, the news outlet published an op-ed which denounced Tom Brady for refusing to walk back his previous support for Donald Trump and for being “white.”

The newspaper also had to fire their ‘race and inclusion’ editor Hemal Jhaveri after she falsely blamed the Boulder supermarket shooting on white people.

In summary, USA Today has a severe bias problem and shouldn’t be used as a non-partisan ‘fact checker’.

 

Our Childish Leaders

Donald J. Boudreaux writes at AIER Beware the Allure of Simple ‘Solutions’.  H/T Brownstone Institute.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.

The attitudes and opinions of today’s so-called “elite” – those public-opinion formers who Deirdre McCloskey calls “the clerisy” – are childish. Most journalists and writers working for most premier media and entertainment companies, along with most professors and public intellectuals, think, talk, and write about society with the insight of kindergartners.

This sad truth is masked by the one feature that does distinguish the clerisy from young children: verbal virtuosity. Yet beneath the fine words, beautiful phrases, arresting metaphors, and affected allusions lies a notable immaturity of thought.

Every social and economic problem is believed to have a solution,
and that solution is almost always superficial.

Unlike children, adults understand that living life well begins with accepting the inescapability of trade-offs. Contrary to what you might have heard, you cannot “have it all.” You cannot have more of this thing unless you’re willing to have less of that other thing. And what’s true for you as an individual is true for any group of individuals. We Americans cannot have our government artificially raise the cost of producing and using carbon fuels unless we are willing to pay higher prices at the pump and, thus, have less income to spend on acquiring other goods and services. We cannot use money creation to ease the pain today of COVID lockdowns without enduring the greater pain tomorrow of inflation.

While children stomp their little feet in protest when confronted with the need to make trade-offs, the necessity of trade-offs is accepted as a matter of course by adults.

No less importantly, adults, unlike children, are not beguiled by the superficial.

Pay close attention to how the clerisy (who are mostly, although not exclusively, Progressives) propose to ‘solve’ almost any problem, real or imaginary. You’ll discover that the proposed ‘solution’ is superficial; it’s rooted in the naïve assumption that social reality beyond what is immediately observable either doesn’t exist or is unaffected by attempts to rearrange surface phenomena. In the clerisy’s view, the only reality that matters is the reality that is easily seen and seemingly easily manipulated with coercion.

The clerisy’s proposed ‘solutions,’ therefore, involve simply rearranging,
or attempting to rearrange, surface phenomena.

♦  Do some people use guns to murder other people? Yes, sadly. The clerisy’s superficial ‘solution’ to this real problem is to outlaw guns.

♦  Do some people have substantially higher net financial worths than other people? Yes. The clerisy’s juvenile ‘solution’ to this fake problem is to heavily tax the rich and transfer the proceeds to the less rich.

♦  Are some workers paid wages that are too low to support a family in modern America? Yes. The clerisy’s simplistic ‘solution’ to this fake problem – “fake” because most workers earning such low wages are not heads of households – is to have government prohibit the payment of wages below some stipulated minimum.

♦  Do some people suffer substantial property damage, or even loss of life, because of hurricanes, droughts, and other bouts of severe weather? Yes. The clerisy’s lazy ‘solution’ to this real problem focuses on changing the weather by reducing the emissions of an element, carbon, that is now (too simplistically) believed to heavily determine the weather.

♦  Do prices of many ‘essential’ goods and services rise significantly in the immediate aftermath of natural disasters? Yes. The clerisy’s counterproductive ‘solution’ to this fake problem, “counterproductive” and “fake” because these high prices accurately reflect and signal underlying economic realities, is to prohibit the charging and payment of these high prices.

♦  When inflationary pressures build up because of excessive monetary growth, are these pressures vented in the form of rising prices? Yes indeed. The clerisy’s infantile ‘solution’ to the very real problem of inflation is to blame it on greed while raising taxes on profits.

♦  Is the SARS-CoV-2 virus contagious and potentially dangerous to humans? Yes. The clerisy’s simple-minded ‘solution’ to this real problem is to forcibly prevent people from mingling with each other.

♦  Do many Americans still not receive K-12 schooling of minimum acceptable quality? Yes. The clerisy’s lazy ‘solution’ to this real problem is to give pay raises to teachers and spend more money on school administrators.

♦  Do some American workers lose jobs when American consumers buy more imports? Yes. The clerisy’s ‘solution’ is to obstruct consumers’ ability to buy imports.

♦  Are some people bigoted and beset with irrational dislike or fear of blacks, gays, lesbians, and bisexuals? Yes. The clerisy’s ‘solution’ to this real problem is to outlaw “hate” and to compel bigoted persons to behave as if they aren’t bigoted.

♦  Do many persons who are eligible to vote in political elections refrain from voting? Yes. The ‘solution’ favored by at least some of the clerisy to this fake problem – “fake” because in a free society each person has a right to refrain from participating in politics – is to make voting mandatory.

The above list of simplistic and superficial ‘solutions’ to problems real and imaginary
can easily be expanded.

The clerisy, mistaking words for realities, assumes that success at verbally describing realities more to their liking proves that these imagined realities can be made real by merely rearranging the relevant surface phenomena. Members of the clerisy ignore unintended consequences. And they overlook the fact that many of the social and economic realities that they abhor are the result, not of villainy or of correctible imperfections, but of complex trade-offs made by countless individuals.

Social engineering appears doable only to those persons who, seeing only a relatively few surface phenomena, are blind to the astonishing complexity that is ever-churning beneath the surface to create those surface phenomena. To such persons, social reality appears as it does to a child: simple and easily manipulated to achieve whatever are the desires that motivate the manipulators.

The clerisy’s ranks are filled overwhelmingly with simple-minded people who mistake their felicity with words and their good intentions for serious thinking. They convey to each other, and to the unsuspecting public, the appearance of being deep thinkers while seldom thinking with more sophistication and nuance than is on display daily in every classroom of kindergartners.

Truckers or Trudeau? You Decide, Part 1

 

Chapter One of Trucking For Freedom is titled; “How We Got Here”. The objective of this episode is to adequately introduce the political and social climate leading up to the truckers’ convoy through the lens of C19 mandates, news footage, government officials, and views from Canadian citizens. A philosophic analysis of freedoms, rights, and responsibilities is also portrayed along with reenactments and dramatizations to convey the story. The chapter ends on a cliffhanger…leaving the viewer on a precipice as interest in the Freedom Convoy surges.

FERC Aims to Decarbonize, Shoots Down Energy Security

Marlo Lewis explains the Biden regime push to undermine critical energy supply in pursuit of climate virtue in his CEI article Why FERC’s Greenhouse Gas Regulatory Policy Cannot Pass a Cost-Benefit Test.  Excerpt in italics with my bolds.

Today, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) filed comments on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) proposal to consider climate change impacts in reviews of infrastructure projects under the Natural Gas Act (NGA). The comments were jointly submitted by my CEI colleague Patrick Michaels; Heritage Foundation Chief Statistician, Data Scientist, and Senior Research Fellow Kevin Dayaratna (commenting as an independent scholar rather than as a representative of any organization); and yours truly.

We submitted comments back in January on FERC’s November 2021 technical conference on the same issues. We advised FERC to steer clear of climate policy, for three main reasons.

1.  Decarbonizing Goals Conflict with Natural Gas Act Purpose

First, the Biden administration’s NetZero agenda to decarbonize and degasify the U.S. electric power sector cannot lawfully be aligned with the Natural Gas Act. Biden’s goals conflict with the NGA’s “principal purpose,” which is to:

 “encourage the orderly development of plentiful supplies
of electricity and natural gas at reasonable prices.”

In addition, climate change is not a factor Congress authorized FERC to consider. The words “climate,” “carbon,” “greenhouse,” “global,” “warming,” “mitigate,” or any of their cognates do not occur in the Act.

2.  Infrastructure Emissions Do Not Threaten the Environment

Second, although the direct and indirect emissions of natural gas infrastructure may be “reasonably foreseeable,” the climate effects are not. FERC’s project reviews are governed by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires scrutiny of major federal actions “significantly affecting the human environment.” Even the emissions of the largest natural gas projects are too small to discernibly affect global climate, and no project’s “carbon footprint” is big enough to influence the fate or fortunes of any community, business, or human being anywhere in the world.

3.  Social Cost of Carbon Is Speculative and Subjective

Third, the social cost of carbon (SCC)—an estimate of the present value of the cumulative climate damages of an incremental ton of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions—is too speculative and subjective, and too easily manipulated for political purposes, to be weighed in the same scales with an infrastructure project’s estimated economic benefits. The Biden administration’s SCC estimates are egregiously biased in favor of climate alarm and regulatory ambition, rendering any agency action that relies on them arbitrary and capricious.

Unsurprisingly, FERC did not take our advice, and proceeded in February to adopt an “interim” policy statement on NGA project review and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. That stirred up controversy, including pushback by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-WY). As a result, FERC in March demoted its GHG policy statement from “interim” to “draft,” and extended the comment period until today, April 25.

Unlike several presenters at FERC’s November 2021 technical conference, the draft GHG policy statement does not advocate requiring SCC analysis in NGA determinations of public convenience and necessity. Neither, however, does FERC disavow an intent to require it in later policy statements. The Commission may simply be waiting for the Biden administration’s Interagency Working Group (IWG) to finalize its interim SCC estimates, or for courts to resolve Louisiana’s challenge to federal agencies’ use of those metrics.

The Commission’s draft GHG policy statement establishes a “rebuttable presumption that proposed projects with 100,000 metric tons per year of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) emissions will be deemed to have a significant impact on climate change.” FERC also implies that it may condition project approval on the sponsor’s plans to “mitigate all or a portion of the project’s climate change impacts.”

The camel’s nose is already under the tent.

It is not hard to guess where this is going if FERC does not quickly reverse course. The usual suspects will pressure the Commission to:

(1) progressively lower climate significance thresholds,
(2) monetize undetectably small project-related climate “impacts” using agenda-driven SCC estimates, and
(3) either reject needed natural gas infrastructure projects outright or impose mitigation requirements that render them uneconomic.

This is bad policy, as Michaels, Dayaratna, and I explained in our January 7 comments. If an infrastructure project is commercially viable and helps ensure plentiful supplies of electricity and natural gas at reasonable prices (the NGA’s principal purpose), the Commission knows in advance that the project’s economic benefits far exceed its climate-related externalities. Therefore, no further investigation of the project’s GHG emissions is required, nor does it make sense to condition the certificate of public convenience and necessity on the project’s adoption of mitigation measures.

Conclusion

New research by Dayaratna (hereafter “Heritage analysis”) further confirms that conclusion. Using the U.S. government’s leading energy and climate policy models, the Heritage analysis demonstrates that banning construction of new U.S. pipelines would have a negligible effect on U.S. annual CO2 emissions through 2050 and, thus, a similarly negligible effect on global temperatures through 2100. The policy implication for FERC is clear. No level of overregulation or prohibition that regulators might apply to the development of U.S. natural gas pipelines could meaningfully affect the Earth’s climate.

Consequently, no regulation or prohibition of new natural gas pipelines could possibly be worth the economic losses imposed on construction companies, natural gas producers, and energy consumers.

See Also Seeking Climate and Energy Security

Elitist Lies About Inflation

The editors at Issues and Insights reveal false and misleading statements by a leading elitist spokesperson, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.  The article is  See If You Can Follow Yellen’s Bouncing Inflation Ball.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said over the weekend that we’re going to have to “put up with inflation for a while longer,” which means that she has now held just about every possible — and almost always wrong — position on an issue about which she is supposedly an expert. Is it any wonder nobody trusts elites anymore?

Yellen was on CNBC over the weekend and, when asked whether inflation had peaked, said:

“Well, it may have peaked, but … I think the shocks emanating from this unjustified attack on Ukraine will prolong inflationary pressures. So, the outlook is uncertain. As you know, the Fed is taking steps to bring inflation down, but I think we will have to put up with high inflation for a while longer.”

Let’s leave aside Yellen’s dubious claim that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had any meaningful impact on inflation. Why would it? Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, which was far more disruptive to the global oil market, bumped oil prices up for a short period but had no broader inflationary effect.

The Putin-is-to-blame for skyrocketing prices is one of team Biden’s big lies
meant to deflect blame. But the press never calls them on it.

No, what’s really troubling is the fact that Biden’s Treasury secretary has been so utterly clueless about inflation since joining his cabinet.

Let’s look at what Yellen has claimed about inflation since early last year and the actual results. The chart shows what inflation was doing when she made these statements.

  1. February 2021: “I’ve spent many years studying inflation and worrying about inflation, and I can tell you, we have the tools to deal with that risk if it materializes.”
  2. March 2021: “I don’t think it’s a significant risk. And if it materializes, we’ll certainly monitor for it, but we have tools to address it.”
  3. May 2021: “I don’t think there’s going to be an inflationary problem, but if there is, the Fed can be counted on.”
  4. June 2021: “Supply bottlenecks have developed that have caused inflation. I believe that they’re transitory, but that doesn’t mean they’ll go away over the next several months.”
  5. October 2021: “I don’t think we’re about to lose control of inflation.
  6. November 2021: “If we want to get inflation down, I think continuing to make progress against the pandemic is the most important thing we can do.”
  7. January 2022: “If we’re successful in controlling the pandemic, I expect inflation to diminish over the course of the year and hopefully revert to normal levels by the end of the year around 2%.”
  8. February 2022: “I think people heard ‘transitory,’ and to them it meant a couple of months. Maybe a better word could have been chosen.”
  9. March 2022: “We’re likely to see another year in which 12-month inflation numbers remain very uncomfortably high.”

Keep in mind who we are talking about here. Yellen has a sterling resume. A doctorate in economics from Yale. Professorships at Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley. On the faculty of the London School of Economics. President of the Western Economic Association and vice president of the American Economic Association. Head of the Council of Economic Advisors under President Bill Clinton. President of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Chairwoman of the Federal Reserve.

So how in the world can her pronouncements about inflation under President Joe Biden be as reliable as the weather forecast? Is her understanding of economics tainted by liberal ideology? Is she just doing the bidding of an incompetent and desperate Biden administration?

Does it matter? Yellen is a shining example of why so many in this country
feel betrayed by the people who claim lordship over them.

 

 

 

Fake Virtue Demeans Us All

Explained at Peak Prosperity For The Narrative-Creators, The Play Is You… And You Are Not Real.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.  H/T Tyler Durden

If, like me, you’ve been wondering about why things are the way they are in today’s world, and how this relates, this is my explanation: For the actors, writers and directors who create real world narratives, the play is you. And you are not real.

Actors and Reality

Much has been made of the jarring dissonance between the heroic stand of the president and the people of Ukraine and the facile signaling of the Social Justice crowd. Feel free to pick your favorite exemplar, from the merely stupid banning of Russian cats and renaming of White Russian cocktails to the more sinister cancelling of Russian performers, or the horrific threats and vandalism to places serving Russian food. There’s no shortage of content here. And, as we’ll get to shortly, that’s the point.

Ukraine’s policy goals do not map fully to those of the United States (think Azov Battalion, for starters), and we can and should carefully consider our response with that awareness. But this does not change Ukrainian heroism. Zelensky wants planes, a no-fly zone, and he would no doubt love NATO boots on the ground. Prudence may dictate we provide him none of these, but it is worth noting that any of us in his circumstances would likely be asking for the same things. Any of us who stayed during the onslaught, that is.

Clearly, Putin’s bet from the beginning included Zelensky on the first plane out to serve as the leader of the Ukrainian government in (comfortable) exile, after which the dismemberment of that nation would rapidly become a fait accompli. Zelensky was having none of it. He stayed, and continues to stay, at great personal risk to himself and his family. He is, unquestionably, a hero.

It is the contrast between these two extremes (the banning of Russian-themed menus et al vs. Zelensky’s stand) that provides ample opportunity to reflect on the idea that many Americans are just not serious people. Unsurprisingly, their response to events in Ukraine has been to simply cut and paste from the outrage-of-the-week playbook: change profile picture, use a hashtag, find some people to cancel, and congratulate oneself on how virtuous one is. In the real world, rational people are tempted to say, “None of this ‘support’ matters”. It’s just empty signaling. So why is it happening, why has it become so pervasive, and how should we contend with it? Examination of a few high-salience topics can shed some light.

Covid and Wuhan Lab Leak Theory

Consider this first in the context of Covid and the by now well-known case of the Lab Leak Theory. Peter Daszak of the Eco-Health Alliance was the prime mover behind the infamous Lancet Letter branding any lab leak speculation uninformed conspiracy. This makes perfect sense when considering his incentives. Daszak (and Fauci, and others) had something to lose here. Perhaps a lot to lose. U.S. funding of Gain of Function research in Chinese labs resulting in a global pandemic is, to put it mildly, not a very good look and could be costly both financially and criminally.

And that’s where those laws, norms, and standards come in. In an environment with many disinterested actors, those entities without skin in the game would easily out-produce the relatively small number of individuals invested in a particular narrative. In that environment, the idea that zoonotic transmission and escape from a biolab in the same city where researchers were known to be working on bat viruses were both very real possibilities would be obvious.

But that is not at all how it went down.

Instead, the idea that it might be prudent to investigate what role the lab in Wuhan may have played in the pandemic became roughly equivalent to arguing Flat Earth Theory. What the hell was going on here? Did everyone in the American media landscape owe Daszak a favor? Did Fauci have a secret cache of compromising emails and photos to dangle J. Edgar Hoover style over the heads of troublesome journalists? Why on earth would hundreds or thousands in the media run cover for these guys and for the Chinese government to the extent of making claims that mere investigation of the possibility of a lab leak was racist?

More puzzling still is the idea that there is nothing about either potential source of the pandemic that presupposes an explicitly liberal or conservative position. Indeed, one could easily flip the script and imagine a campaign urging people to “follow the science” rather than resorting to xenophobic tropes about savages in wet markets. Until, that is, Donald Trump and other conservatives brought it up, which was like Christmas came early for Daszak and his co-conspirators. For the progressive left, the endorsement of anything by President Trump was more than sufficient cause to oppose it, and thus the wheels began to turn.

None of this should be surprising to anyone who’s been paying attention. At its heart, this is an expression of the luxury of operating without consequences. The luxury of not having to think operationally. To be clear, what I am saying is that Daszak and his cronies were able to leverage a system in which those with the loudest megaphones literally did not and do not care where and how Covid originated. For them, it just doesn’t matter. The pandemic is just background noise. That may seem like a strong statement. So, why and in what sense did they not care?

Personal Gain Not Public Trust

In a recent episode of Bari Weiss’ podcast Honestly, journalist and academic Yuval Levin articulated a theory of the change from institutions-as-formational to institutions-as-platforms. In his view, institutions of all types formerly served to develop the individuals inside them. If for example, you worked at the New York Times as a young journalist, you would be shaped by the ethos of that institution, informed by the repository of values developed over time within that structure.

According to Levin, this has been replaced by the notion of institution-as-platform,
the idea  that these structures exist as a launching pad for one’s personal brand.

Understood from this perspective, the great Lab Leak crackdown suddenly makes a great deal of sense. One of the baseline branding positions operating was “not-Trump.” I am completely persuaded that if Trump had spoken out in favor of the wet market theory, we’d all have been loudly advised to “follow the science” in precisely the opposite direction.

It is also worth noting that these personal brands are rivalrous goods. Having a “take,” even the right one, is necessary, but not sufficient. Your take must outcompete the other signals in the marketplace in order to claim disproportionate attention. And this explains why the Lab Leak Theory had to be, “conspiracist,” “anti-science,” and eventually, of course, “racist.”

The more extreme the position is,
the more effective it is in gaining audience-capture.

And this is not part of the story; it’s the entire story. There is effectively nothing behind the curtain. Because of these powerful incentives, what has happened without us realizing it is the creation of a public dialogue between a small, privileged elite that is fixed on in-group signaling and status-capture. The policy concerns or post-pandemic reforms that should differentially apply depending upon the origin of the disease diminish in importance to the extent that they functionally do not matter at all.

And people impacted by those decisions by extension do not matter either.
They are extras and scenery.

The Damaging Script

This goes a long way toward explaining the persistence of the otherwise bewildering advocacy that has permeated American life. Democratic New York Mayor Eric Adams noted that the Defund the Police crowd “are a lot of young white affluent people.” Of course they are. Poll after poll reveals that those who live in high-crime neighborhoods want more police, not less.

Like any other sane person, those citizens also want their police officers to be professional and not corrupt, but “I want my police officers to fight crime and be professional” is just not an exciting take. From this perspective, insanity like Defund the Police isn’t surprising, but rather inevitable. It is the position pushed to its logical extreme. And that is why arguing with this group is useless.

Perhaps nothing is more indicative of this trend than the increasingly unhinged claims emerging from the trans-activist community, as LGB became LGBT and now for some is properly expressed as LGBTQQIP2SAA, in order to be “inclusive” to intersex, pansexual, asexual, and two-spirit people.

For an outsider, it can all seem like satire.
How could anyone engage in these abbreviation acrobatics unironically?

For outsiders, the criticism seems insane. That is because, once again, we are not the audience. What we are seeing is a process of in-group jousting for status, where increasingly bizarre formulations become predictable and indeed necessary to gain attention. “I disagree with J.K. Rowling” is hardly a winning message, especially compared with “J.K. Rowling threatens my right to exist!” Thus, once again, appeals to reason, biology, or even compassion for a generation of children we are harming irrevocably do not and will not work.

No one affected by these positions exists in any meaningful way
because, again, they are not real.

By far the best example of this phenomenon is Black Lives Matter, a marketing triumph that proved beyond all doubt that these tactics can work, work well, and most importantly, be monetized. The familiar script is here, but no one has ever executed it better, as activists turned their rallying cry into a movement indistinguishable from religion. No nuance or difference of opinion was tolerated. Even to remain silent was proof of apostacy.

The net result? More than $60 million, most of which remains unaccounted for, and a series of high-end real estate purchases by the activists behind the whole thing. No policy achievements of any kind, because of course those were never the point from the beginning, as was obvious to anyone paying attention.

The response to this from BLM? Condemn the black reporter who exposed their murky finances and questionable real estate transactions as racist, smear the black Harvard economist as a sexual predator, and suggest that even the financial reporting required of non-profits is, you guessed it, racist. It’s not that hard to parse this: BLM activists are not friends or allies of black communities whatsoever. Instead, we come back to the same point: everyone outside of the in-group are just extras and scenery. Including those for whom they purport to advocate. None of them are real.

Luxury Beliefs

Rob Henderson calls all of this a symptom of “Luxury Beliefs.” According to Henderson, these are “ideas and opinions that confer status on the rich at very little cost while taking a toll on the lower class.” What we have is a catechism, a portfolio of dogma that operates as a signaling mechanism among the elite. And so, in addition to “Follow the Science” on Covid, “Trans Women are Real Women”, and “Black Lives Matter”, we have a host of other statements expressed as moral imperatives, including things like “Healthy at Any Size”, “All Family Structures are Equal”, “Open Borders”, etc.

All of this can be considered an unexpected and unwelcome consequence of our own success. The complex, exquisitely-tuned supply chains that funnel us goods and services have become so remarkably effective they are essentially invisible. Elites don’t have to worry about how things get done, how X leads to Y, or how thing A gets to place B.

It just happens. Magically. Invisibly.
How the sausage is made is a question for smaller minds.

In my view, Henderson gets one thing wrong about his theory. Luxury Beliefs are not in fact, the provenance of the rich, but rather of the educational elite, some of whom are also rich in the bargain. Journalists, other media members, academics, and activists typically have little to no experience in actual business and even less incentive to ever gain any. The effortless flow of goods and services they experience allows them the freedom from having to think operationally or consequentially.

Over the past two years, COVID revealed and supercharged the insular status of these elites. If you talk to business owners, no matter how wealthy they may be, who vitally need to think operationally and consequentially every day, you find considerably less support for these elitist notions.

All of this is bad enough when locked in some academic ivory tower, but as we’ve seen, this has escaped into the American Wild with terrifying effect. Crime, inflation, record border crossings, education, and more. Pick your topic, as the list goes on and on.

The Final Act

Which brings us back to Ukraine as the setting for the ridiculous virtue signaling and posturing by these same luxury elites. It is jarring when juxtaposed against actual tanks and soldiers, but it is just more of the same.

I stated earlier that these are not serious people, but that is not entirely accurate. They are extremely serious, just not about anything other than their own internal conversations.  These people will not change, and they will not be persuaded by your arguments, your statistics, and your facts.

Because the people who make any of the things elites consume and the people elites purport to stand up for are all equally irrelevant. Performance is the point. The performance is the whole thing, and the actors, playwrights and directors aren’t taking suggestions from you, the extras and the scenery.

Which leads us to the final act: maybe it’s time to think about shutting down the whole play.

 

Free Speech (Musk) or Curated Speech (Obama)?

The alternative attitude was recently put forth by Obama exercising his free speech rights in front of a Stanford audience who both like him and like what he says.  In effect he said he is all for free speech but tech companies need to censor some speech to protect democracy.  Seems like a semi-pregnant posture.  It reminds me a Rodney Dangerfield scene portraying a business executive: He tells his secretary, “Hold some of my calls!”

Jenin Younes explains the issue and its import in her Brownstone Institute article The Federal Government Forces Social Media Companies to Censor Americans.  Excepts in italics with my bolds and added images.

In May of 2021, the Biden Administration began a public, coordinated campaign to combat the dissemination of “health misinformation” related to Covid, especially across social media platforms.

Members of the Administration, including Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and the President himself, often through White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, have made clear that they blame Big Tech for American deaths from the virus, and insist that these platforms have an obligation to censor those who articulate views that depart from the Government’s messaging on Covid-related matters.

The Administration has stated that it supports “a robust anti-trust program,” a not-so-subtle warning that if the Twitters and Facebooks of the world do not do the Government’s bidding, they will suffer the consequences.

The campaign has been increasing in intensity for nearly a year.

Ms. Psaki and Dr. Murthy have subsequently stated that the government is flagging problematic posts for social media platforms to censor and commanded them to elevate the voices of those who promote the approved messaging through algorithms while banning those whose perspectives conflict with the government.

The President has affirmed his belief that social media platforms “should be held accountable” for misinformation circulated on them. On March 3, Dr. Murthy announced an initiative, wherein he demanded that tech companies provide the government with “sources of misinformation,” including the identity of specific individuals, by May 2.

Like many others around the world, Michael P. Senger of California, Mark Changizi of Ohio, and Daniel Kotzin of Colorado, operated Twitter accounts that centered around criticizing government and public health Covid restrictions. All three accounts rapidly became popular.

Starting last spring, right around the time the Biden Administration’s efforts became public, the three were subject to temporary suspensions. Mere days after Dr. Murthy’s March 3 statement, Mr. Kotzin was suspended for a week, and Mr. Senger permanently. This means he is never permitted to create another Twitter account. He has lost his 112,000 followers, and in his own words, been “silenced and completely cut off from” the network he developed over two years.

According to Twitter, the suspensions were for spreading Covid “misinformation.” Mr. Senger, Mr. Changizi, and Mr. Kotzin had, in the cited tweets, expressed opposition to vaccine mandates and suggested that the vaccines do not slow the spread of Covid. They also argued that government-imposed restrictions do not work to mitigate viral spread, the risks Covid poses to children are sufficiently low to disfavor vaccination for them given the long-term unknowns, and naturally acquired immunity is superior to that attained through vaccination.

None of these claims is outside the realm of legitimate scientific discourse.

In fact, figures like CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, Anthony Fauci, and President Biden, who a mere six or eight months ago expressed absolute confidence that, for example, the vaccines stop transmission and confer better protection than naturally acquired immunity, have now been confronted with unequivocal evidence that they were wrong.

A meta-study out of Johns Hopkins University concluded that lockdowns did not reduce Covid deaths, while causing quite a bit of harm, corroborating observational data from around the world. Several Scandinavian countries recommend against vaccinating healthy young children based on an objective risk assessment, and study after study has proven that naturally acquired immunity is superior to vaccine-induced immunity.

Following nearly two years of insistence that community masking is effective, many prominent public health officials have changed course. It is a great irony that those who have been so wrong throughout the pandemic now seek to silence dissenters, particularly those who have proven prescient on many topics.

And even if they were expressing flatly incorrect views, the First Amendment gives them the right to voice those opinions. The concept of free speech was embraced by the Framers of the Constitution, who were clearly wiser than many who govern us today. They recognized that censorship does not work practically: rather, it encourages people to operate covertly, often exacerbating the problem, and that the cure to bad speech is good speech.

But most of all, they understood that giving government the authority to determine which ideas should be heard and which should be suppressed is a dangerous game.

Of course, many will argue that Twitter and other tech companies censored Mr. Senger, Mr. Changizi, and Mr. Kotzin of their own volition, and as they are private actors, the First Amendment is inapplicable.

That argument should be rejected. When the government commandeers, coerces, or utilizes private companies to accomplish what it cannot do directly, courts recognize that is state action. In a mid-20th century version of this case, Bantam Books v. Sullivan, the Supreme Court held that a state government commission consigned with reprimanding sellers of pornography and advising them of their legal rights (a veiled threat) “deliberately set about to achieve the suppression of publications deemed ‘objectionable’ and succeeded in its aim.” The Court looked “through forms to the substance” and concluded that this program violated the First Amendment.

That is similar to what is happening here. The Biden Administration knows that it cannot get away with issuing orders directly prohibiting people from articulating views about Covid-related matters that differ from the government’s, or from obtaining users’ private information, so it is coercing companies into doing this on the government’s behalf.

Fearing reprisal from the government—reprisal that the government has publicly contemplated—the companies are ramping up censorship. These companies are also likely to turn over information about users that Dr. Murthy demanded, a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against warrantless searches.

Not only are individuals like Mr. Senger being silenced outright. Mr. Changizi, Mr. Kotzin, and millions of others are afraid to say what they really think because they do not want to suffer Mr. Senger’s fate. Courts should “look through forms to the substance” and recognize what is going on.

The Government is deciding what speech is acceptable and may be heard, and what speech is not acceptable and must be silenced, on the most hotly debated political topics of our time. This strikes at the heart of what the First Amendment is supposed to protect.

See also Weaponized Claims of Disinformation