Biden and Nothingness

The revolution devours its children. And like clockwork, the progressive mob has set on K y r s t e n Sinema.

Her refusal to bow to the left’s price tag and timeline has incensed colleagues and activists alike. So the party member has now officially been declared an enemy of the party cause—fair game for the tactics the left long ago honed for use against the right.

“We’re committed to birddogging” Ms. Sinema, vowed Our Revolution Executive Di- rector Joseph Geevarghese to Politico this week. “We’re going to make her life unpleasant or uncomfortable” until she follows orders.

Until she follows orders!

Saturday’s Thought Piece

by Lance Morrow

Progressives now see no difference between history’s monsters and people they don’t like on TV.

Fifteen or 20 years ago, when I was preparing to write a book on the subject of evil, I asked a variety of people whether they had ever known someone whom they considered to be evil. The over- whelming majority stared into space for a moment and then said, “No— no one I would call truly evil. There was Hitler, of course. But I didn’t know him.”

An exception to the pattern was William F. Buckley Jr., who, without hesitation, replied, “Gore Vidal.” I laughed, but Mr. Buckley didn’t. I think he was serious. He stared at me with hard, enameled eyes.

In those days the word evil still carried the weight of its old significance. Evil remained a great mystery—like (at the opposite end of human experience) love. Evil inspired respect and humility, fear and awe. There is, after all, no appeal from evil. It is uncompromising, unforgivable.

Hitler—the real thing—was proof that evil existed. Auschwitz set the 20th century standard. Charles Manson, a nasty curio of the 1960s, became the tabloid version. He and other high-concept nightmares of the time carried the idea of evil across the straits separating religion and popular culture. The 1960s young (via, for example, the Rolling Stones) tended to glamorize evil, even to propose it as a precondition to freedom: noisy Byronism. Joan Didion’s essays unforgettably conjured the atmosphere; her writing in those years seemed to open doors, one after another, in the corridors of Bluebeard’s castle.

But, like youth, the novelty passed. The country settled into a routine of mass shootings: evil, of course, but soon enough demystified as a string of psychotic episodes. By the time I asked people if they had known someone who was evil, Manson was wasting away in a California prison, still dreaming about an apocalyptic race war, I suppose, with the razored swastika fading on his forehead.

Here we are. The word evil has suffered from severe grade inflation in the 21st century. Just as every college student must now get an A, so, in the hysteria of social media, the most ordinary pipsqueak may now be flattered with the grand honorific. Evil, once an august item in the range of human possibilities, has been reduced to a cliché of political abuse.

Recently I revived my question. I started by asking progressives whether they ever knew someone who was evil. Their number one answer—surprise—was Donald Trump. Do they really mean it? Are they being metaphorical? Hyperbolical? (If Mr. Trump is evil, what would be the word for Pol Pot?) When they are through with Mr. Trump, progressives mention such lesser devils as Derek Chauvin and Dylann Roof. Then their eyes dart back and forth and less likely names fetch up, people they know from the screens: Josh Hawley, Tucker Carlson. In the end, there is no distinction in their minds between the mass murderer in the church in Charleston and someone with whose opinions they disagree.

Mr. Trump himself tosses around the word evil in a mindless way. He uses it almost as often as he does the word “incredible.” It is one of his six adjectives. Progressives and Trumpists accuse one another, batting the word “evil” back and forth like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck disputing whether it is “duck season” or “wabbit season.”

The other day, Tony Norman, a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist, got warmed up by referring to Mr. Trump as “the twice-impeached abomination of desolation.” In his next reference, the former U.S. president was “Satan” (a bit of a letdown) and, after that, “the Antichrist.” He left out “Prince of Darkness.” Gasping down the home stretch, he described Mr. Trump’s base as a “death cult,” subscribers to his “End Times fever dream.”

Never-Trump conservatives are shy. They tend to be circumspect, in the old style. They avoid the word evil entirely. By contrast, I know one hard-core conservative who shouts from the rooftops that “all Democrats are evil” and “the Democratic Party has long been a criminal enterprise.”

Politics (essentially a media performance in the 21st century) has taken over the work of organizing our moral lives—distorting them, trivializing them and making them hysterical. The reckless use of absolute language freighted with old religious toxins causes political disagreements between fellow citizens to become invested with ultimate meanings. Idiots start talking about “the end of days.”

If you are serious about evil, talk about consequences. You can’t call a person evil unless—as with Hitler or Stalin or Mao or Pol Pot—the evidence is there: the body count. Evil once belonged to the realm of reality. But the 21st century has lost its appetite for objective proof. Feelings are enough. If you feel that some- thing or someone is evil, why then it is so. What you feel (the mirage of your emotions) acquires the status of reality. You must, after all, “speak your truth.”

The Salem witch trials proceeded on the same premise.

Mr. Morrow is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. His latest book is “God and Mammon: Chronicles of American Money.” 

Who Is Really Running The County

For my money, it’s Bernie, Warren and AOC. Kimberly Strassel sums up the Schumer/AOC connection.

“Me and my shadow / . . . Not a soul can bust this team in two / We stick together like glue.”

If Sinatra reveled in his shadow, Chuck Schumer lives in semicomical fear of his. It’s hard to know who runs the Senate these days—the majority leader, or his harrier from the Bronx, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Mr. Schumer released the Senate to recess this week, having accomplished the AOC and Bernie Sanders plan for the most audacious expansion of government in U.S. history: a $3.5 trillion budget outline that proposes to create new permanent entitlements, lay the foundation of the Green New Deal, take the first steps toward Medicare for All, and soak the rich and the middle class with a new tax regime. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has hailed it as “absolutely a progressive victory.”

What AOC wants, Mr. Schumer delivers. A few days earlier, the majority leader had joined Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley (an original member of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s “Squad”) to complain that President Biden’s new order to “pause” student loan payments didn’t “go far enough.” AOC has been pushing for outright debt cancellation, and Mr. Schumer is now so all in that he wears a face mask emblazoned “#CancelStudentDebt.”

Or witness Chuck last week jogging across the Capitol to congratulate Missouri Rep. Cori Bush, another Squad member, for her sit-in that pressured the administration to extend its illegal eviction moratorium. “You did this!” Mr. Schumer roared, hugging Ms. Bush and AOC for the cameras. “You guys are fabulous!”

What Mr. Schumer meant to say was: “You guys are terrifying!” The 70-year-old New Yorker has had a lock on his Senate seat since 1998. But these days he’s suffering the ghosts of Joe Crowley and Eliot Engel. Those powerful, longtime (and old, white and male) representatives were both defeated in primary upsets—the former in 2018 by AOC, the latter in 2020 by progressive Jamaal Bowman.

The Ocasio-Cortez team within months of AOC’s taking office hinted she was hungry for more. Progressives have since become more brazen with the threat to run against Mr. Schumer in the 2022 primary. Her decision “is dependent on what Schumer does,” Waleed Shahid, communications director for Justice Democrats (which recruited AOC for her House run) told Politico in February. Adopt the AOC agenda, or prepare for retirement.

Mr. Schumer made his choice, and there’s not an issue on which he’s willing to let AOC get to his left. He’s proposed to kill the filibuster and pushed a federal takeover of elections. AOC wants the Green New Deal; Chuck does too. AOC wants to decriminalize marijuana; Chuck does too. At least Sinatra’s shadow took him to jazz clubs. Mr. Schumer’s signed him up for paid family and medical leave, free community college and subsidized child care.

The AOC threat has produced one of the more rapid and disturbing political transformations in Washington. While always a liberal, Mr. Schumer’s career was defined by New York pragmatism. A self described “angry centrist,” he could as easily be found in a Wall Street boardroom as at a labor rally. His primary interest was his state’s industry and residents, making him a modulating voice against higher taxes or excessive regulation of banks, hedge funds or private equity. Bidding to succeed Harry Reid as Democratic leader, he even sought to define himself by working with Republicans—most notably as part of the bipartisan immigration Gang of Eight. Before he became minority leader in 2016, New York’s Daily News wrote that he was “expected to use peacemaking style to unite Congress.”

Donald Trump’s election and the ascendancy of the Democratic left changed the calculation. Progressives are Mr. Schumer’s true problem. In the not-so-long-ago days of raw New York political power, a Senate leader would have simply ordered state political bosses to gerrymander AOC out of political existence. To do so today would be to earn animated progressive wrath and guarantee a primary challenge.

Mr. Schumer’s other, obvious option is to show some backbone and lead in a way that doesn’t harm the country or his party’s political prospects. Polls show only about 15% of Americans self-identify as progressive, and most voters reject the progressive agenda, from the Green New Deal to open borders. Even the Democratic primary electorate chose the “moderate” Joe Biden over Mr. Sanders. The AOC agenda could make Mr. Schumer minority leader again.

Mr. Schumer seems happy to take that risk if its spares him losing his job altogether in a primary fight. The Democratic establishment, including the White House, is running scared of the progressive bogeyman. And Ms. Ocasio-Cortez isn’t about to give up her leverage. Asked this week if she’d decided on a primary challenge, AOC was noncommittal. “Senator Schumer and I have been working very closely on a lot of legislation and that, to me, is important,” she said, grinning. “And so, we shall see.”

Appeared in the August 13, 2021, WSJ print edition.

Climate Change Doesn’t Cause All Disasters

Warming annually causes about 120,000 heat deaths but prevents nearly 300,000 cold deaths.

Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. That old quip, often attributed to Mark Twain or his friend Charles Dudley Warner, now guides most news coverage of severe weather. The media say that natural disasters are a result of climate change and we need to adopt radical policies to combat them.

But this framing tells only a small part of what is scientifically known. Take the recent flooding in Germany and Belgium, which many, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, are blaming on climate change. Yet a new study of more than 10,000 rivers around the world shows that most rivers now flood less. What used to be a 50-year flood in the 1970s happens every 152 years today, likely due to urbanization, flood-control measures, and changes in climate.

Some rivers still flood, and reporters flock there, but more scare stories don’t mean more global flooding. The river Ahr, where most of the German flood deaths occurred, had a spectacular flow on July 14, 2021, but it was lower than deadly flows in 1804 and 1910. The real cause of increased fatalities from riverine flooding in Germany and many other places is more people building settlements on flood plains, leaving the water no place to go. Instead of more solar panels and wind turbines to combat climate change, riverside communities need better water management. And foremost, they need a well-functioning warning system so they can evacuate before disaster strikes.

Here, Germany has failed spectacularly. Following the deadly European floods in 2002, Germany built an extensive warning system, but during a test last September most warning measures, including sirens and text alerts, didn’t work. The European Flood Awareness System predicted the floods nine days in advance and formally warned the German government four days in advance, yet most people on the ground were left unaware. Hannah Cloke, the hydrologist who set up the system, called it “a monumental failure.”

But of course, blaming the deadly floods on climate change instead of taking responsibility for the missed early warnings is convenient for politicians like Ms. Merkel, who, during a visit to Schuld, a devastated village on the Ahr, said, ”We must get faster in the battle against climate change.”

Similarly, climate change is often blamed for wildfires in the U.S., but the reason for them is mostly poor forest management like failing to remove flammable undergrowth and allowing houses to be built in fire-prone areas. Despite breathless climate reporting, in 2021 the burned area to date is the fourth-lowest of the past 11 years. The area that burned in 2020 was only 11% of the area that did in the early 1900s. Contrary to climate clichés, annual global burned area has declined since 1900 and continues to fall.

We have data on global deaths from all climate-related weather disasters such as floods, droughts, storms and fire from the International Disaster Database. In the 1920s, these disasters killed almost half a million people on average each year. The current climate narrative would suggest that natural disasters are ever deadlier, but that isn’t true. Over the past century, climate-related deaths have dropped to fewer than 20,000 on average each year, even though the global population has quadrupled since 1920.

And look at 2021, which is now being branded the year of climate catastrophes. Add the deaths from the North American heat dome, from floods in Germany and Belgium, from Indian climate-related catastrophes that you may not have heard about, and from more than 200 other catastrophes. Adjusted to a full year, climate-related weather disasters could cause about 6,000 deaths in 2021. With greater wealth and technological development, we no longer see half a million or even 18,000 lives lost to climate-related weather disasters, but 6,000.

Every death is a tragedy, yet current warming is avoiding many more tragedies.

One of the few well-documented effects of climate change is more heat waves, which have made headlines around the world this summer. But global warming also reduces cold waves, which kill many more people globally than heat waves, according to a new study in the Lancet.

According to the study, temperature increases over the past two decades in the U.S. and Canada cause about 7,200 more heat deaths a year. But the study also shows that warming prevents about 21,000 cold deaths a year. Globally, the study shows that climate change annually causes almost 120,000 additional heat deaths but avoids nearly 300,000 cold deaths.

Climate change is a real problem we should fix. But we can’t rely on apocalyptic stories when crafting policy. We must see all the data.

Mr. Lomborg is president of the Copenhagen Consensus and a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution. His latest book is “False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet.”

Saturday

‘A transgender weight-lifter and a horse walk into a bar . . . 

“That’s not funny!” 

Welcome to the wonderful world of woke comedy. And it’s not as if they say it with the indulgent attitude your mother used to have—when she knew it was inappropriate but was kind of amused anyway. No, these people are not joking. They’ll kill your career, get your children to turn on you, dredge up your every purported misstep, and make sure all of it goes on your permanent record. 

We’re talking a mentality that blacklisted the “Seinfeld” episode in which Kramer stomps on the Puerto Rican flag to put out the fire he’s set with a sparkler, and forced HBO to saddle “Blazing Saddles” with a dreary three- minute introductory spiel by an academic explaining to the unwary—i.e., idiots—that “racist language and attitudes pervade the film. But those attitudes are espoused by characters who are portrayed here as explicitly small- minded, ignorant bigots.” 

No wonder that even non-edgy comedians like Jerry Seinfeld won’t go anywhere near a college campus. In a remarkable turnabout, today’s students have all the live- and-let-live joie de vivre of Dean Wormer from “Animal House.” 

Progressives have been getting away with comic murder for quite a while now, not only being unfunny, but also—through their dominance of entertainment and especially social media—empowering themselves to dictate what others should be al- lowed to find funny. Nowhere is this more evident than in political humor. Whereas progressive internet snarkmeister Andy Borowitz is widely hailed as a wit in the hallowed tradition of New Yorker predecessors James Thurber and Dorothy Parker, equivalent voices on the right are routinely deplatformed and defamed. When the Babylon Bee—the Onion’s conservative foil—belatedly came to the attention of the cultural Torquemadas at the New York Times, the paper ran a story asserting the site “frequently trafficked in misinformation under the guise of satire.” The Bee’s response? In addition to threatening legal action, which got the Gray Lady to back down, it produced another of its all-too-on-target headlines: “New York Times Attacks Babylon Bee for Being More Accurate Than They Are.” Talk about striking exactly the right tone! 

Yes, those who police our common culture are indeed an unsettling bunch. In enforcing their smelly orthodoxies, pitting black against white, young against old, poor against rich, they are undermining the foundations of the republic. 

But know what’s also true? In their indifference to truth and basic biology, in the profound intolerance of their vaunted tolerance, in their astonishing lack of self-awareness, they are ridiculous. 

And know what gets them even more apoplectic than imagined dog whistles or faux hate speech—and might just turn the tide in the culture war? Making them the laughingstock they so richly deserve to be. 

By Harry Stein 

The Biden Adminstration

I have not said anything about the Biden administration. I knew it would be bad, but it is greatly exceeding my expectations. It makes Obama look like a JV play.

It took until June, but Bernie and Elizabeth finally popped up. Bernie with a dream list of progressive pork and Liz with nominees to obstruct or restrict every damn thing.

The Biden administration and its progressive hangers-on are providing a master class on “How to Be an Anticapitalist” and suck the air out of the economy. 

Start by paying people to do nothing—1.8 million workers, according to a recent Morning Consult poll, have turned down jobs due to generous unemployment benefits, including an extra $300 a week from the federal government in some states. Meanwhile, Burger King is offering a $1,500 signing bonus. 

Anticapitalists then shut pipelines (except Russian ones) and suspend drilling leases in parts of Alaska, helping send oil prices above $70. The government says it wants to limit carbon emissions, but then it squashes better energy options like nuclear. 

An anticapitalist would next restrict capital formation, so President Biden has proposed raising the top capital-gains rate from 23.8% to a punitive 43.4% and the top individual income-tax rate to 39.6%. Mr. Biden also wants to waive Covid vaccine patents—making pharma companies think twice before investing in new drugs—and is even pushing a series of antitrust bills that could reverse mergers, like Facebook’s 2012 purchase of Instagram, as if that would do anything good for the economy or consumers. Nothing is safe. 

Add the Federal Trade Commission’s roadblocks to mergers. It worked hard to block early-cancer-detection pioneer Grail’s merger with genome- sequencing firm Illumina, now on hold as it lets the European Commission investigate. This is moronic. If you or a loved one is diagnosed with late- stage cancer in five years, the Biden administration could be to blame. Without meddling, Grail may have found it earlier, when it was still treatable. 

Anticapitalists in Congress are pushing $3.5 trillion in spending unrelated to infrastructure with an Orwellian sleight of hand by declaring it “human infrastructure.” Big surprise, it is larded with climate provisions and other progressive party favors. 

Then anticapitalists limit speech, open the borders, mess with education (math isn’t about getting the right answer anymore), ruin healthcare, and defund the police, causing crime rates to rise. Cities and suburbs have homeless encampments and brazen daytime crime. San Francisco shoplifters limit themselves to a total haul worth less than $950 knowing that the cops won’t stop them if they commit what 2014 California ballot proposition redefined as a misdemeanor. 

My Body My Rights

Variations of “my body my rights” have been a central theme for the Left for decades.  I am all for this (as long as we are applying it to adults wholeheartedly but more restrictively to minors).  But I have argued for years that this represents faux libertarianism — the Left believes this absolutely when it comes to abortion (and more recently for gender transitions among minors) but not so much when it comes to any other issues.  You want to eat GMO foods?  Sorry, you can’t do that.  Smoke?  Sorry, no dice.  Teenage tanning salon visits?  Sorry, not without more parental paperwork than is required for an abortion.

The woke are angry, humorless, and—worst of all—vindictive.

Pride In America

This goes against the popular notion

Is pride in America a thing of the past? Not if you ask Americans. As the nation celebrates its 245th birthday, the first in a series of I&I/TIPP polls finds that 68% of adults say they are “very” or “extremely” proud to be an American, with another 15% “moderately” proud. . . .

Even among blacks and Hispanics, who are repeatedly described as victims of embedded American racism and intolerance, pride is strong. The poll found that 55% of blacks and 57% of Hispanics say they are either extremely or very proud to be Americans. Just 7% of blacks and 9% of Hispanics say they aren’t proud at all of their nationality.

So, which is the one—and only one—demographic group in the poll that is not proud to be American? It’s young people age 18 to 24.

The poll found that only 36% of this group say they are very or extremely proud, making it the sole demographic group tracked among whom pride falls below 50%. . . Pride in America rises to 59% for those 25-44; 75% for those 45-64; and 86% for those 65 and over.

Drill, Baby, Drill

Betchya didn’t know this

Remember the cringeworthy “Drill, baby, drill” slogan from the 2008 Republican Convention? Maybe they were on to something, but not what you think. We’re bombarded daily with calls for sustainable, renewable and carbon chewable technologies to meet our energy needs. But the solution may be just underfoot.

Dig deep enough and, no surprise, it’s hotter than hell down there. Isotope reactions in the mantle under the Earth’s crust generate 20 terawatts of constant heat flow. Typically, the temperature rises about 25 degrees Celsius for every kilometer, or 75 degrees Fahrenheit for each mile, and more the deeper you go. The steam wafting out of hot springs in Yellowstone National Park or Iceland, places where the Earth’s crust is thin, shows how much heat the mantle gives off.

We already have a good-sized surface geothermal industry in the U.S. For $15,000 to $30,000, you can hire someone to dig a few hundred feet and install a heat pump that circulates heated water to keep your house cozy.

But that’s just scratching the surface. There is huge upside to digging down miles and injecting water into underground reservoirs—think radiators—and then the heated water is pushed back out to generate steam and electricity. It’s carbon-free—clean, green and mostly unseen.

The trick is to get a large enough surface area to do the heat exchange. A typical vertical oil well might have 1,000 to 10,000 square feet of surface area. But it turns out that the same thing that’s been perfected over the past 30 years to make America energy independent can also increase that surface area—horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

I called one of the industry pioneers, University of Texas engineer Mukul Sharma, who is sometimes called the Frack King (get it?) and has a startup named Geothermix that develops enhanced geothermal systems.

Mr. Sharma walked me through the process. Millions of oil and gas wells have been drilled in the U.S. over the past century. Maps exist that show the thermal conductivity of underlying rock by region—suggesting how deep you’d have to drill to get a temperature hot enough to generate cost-effective electricity, typically 0.5 to 4 miles down. After drilling down you can then drill horizontally and hydraulically fracture the rock to create an underground reservoir. With this technique you could get 10 million to 20 million square feet of surface area for the heat exchanger, thousands of times more than a standard well.

Mr. Sharma thinks we’ll have several commercially viable deep geothermal systems operating in the next five years, maybe costing $10 million to $15 million each, from his company and others like Sage Geosystems and Fervo Energy. He thinks by 2030 we’ll have second- and third-generation systems operating much more efficiently, just as fracking constantly gained in output as technology improved.

The promise of geothermal energy keeps getting better. The deeper you drill, the hotter the rock, and at maybe 10 kilometers, temperatures can reach 373 degrees Celsius or higher. The water that emerges is what physicists call “supercritical,” which means it holds more energy and can be 10 times as efficient doing heat exchange. A lot of invention is still required, especially for high-heat materials and drills that can operate at such high temperatures—not a trivial problem, but not insurmountable. For now, Mr. Sharma says, “the costs go up exponentially as you dig deeper and hotter.” A supercritical-water geothermal system might cost $50 million. But it might be worth it. Some scientists even think drilling into volcanoes might make sense.

Further in the future, we may not even need to fracture the rock, but instead use horizontal drilling and pipes to run fluid through closed-loop systems, with the heat exchange done through the pipes. You could do this anywhere if you drill deep enough, under New York or any other city.

So why are so few talking about deep geothermal? Eco-warriors seem to pine only for solar panels, carbon sinks and bird-slicing wind turbines. Maybe because anything having to do with drilling is considered dirty, even if deep geothermal is carbon-free. The knock on enhanced geothermal systems is the same as for fracking: Critics go on about the risk of seismic activity. But according to Mr. Sharma, that’s a canard. He says seismic activity from fracking wells is “fairly uncommon” and would be even less so with deep geothermal, because the wells are much deeper and you’re merely “circulating fluids” after the initial drilling to create the underground hot reservoir.

It’s early but, like fracking, this technology could change the energy industry over the next 20 to 30 years. Those that can absorb the risk could see huge rewards. Mark Twain once said, “Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.” Maybe toward hell for both. Drill, baby, drill.

Andy Kessler for the Wall Street Journal