Seth Barrett Tillman: Conlawprof and Climate Change

Interesting observations:

On August 18, 2019, on Conlawprof, Professor BBB wrote:

Your note reveals a common misunderstanding of the predictive models. First, the models tend to under-predict. That is, the observed macro-effects exceed what the models predict. The models and reports also tend to under predict global temperatures. (The IPCC noted that “the [observed] level of warming in 2017 was 0.15°C–0.35°C higher than [predicted] average warming over the 30-year period 1988–2017.”) [citing: ]

I note that Professor BBB adds the word “predicted”. It is not in the original quotation. I checked the original quotation in IPCC5, and it struck me—generalist though I am—that he had inadvertently inverted the meaning of the quoted material. But not being expert, and realizing that different minds might reasonably disagree about such things, I promptly wrote my friends at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Secretariat…

Seth links to a paper he wrote whose abstract includes this passage:

Legal academics and the public are fascinated by both constitutional text and the processes by which it is interpreted. The precise role for legal academics in the interpretation of such charters is controverted. Doctrine and case law as established by the courts remain the core of academic legal discourse. Case law is, after all, the object about which doctrine is based, built, and extended. But the interpretation of constitutional text through case law comes with costs — it seems to lack democratic legitimacy, and where unconnected to text and history, it has a tendency to fence out (even the well-educated) the public. On the other hand, when legal academics shift to text and history, their work gains populist credentials, but, at that point, the legal academic risks his privileged position. For the legal academic has no monopoly, or even highly developed expertise, with regard to textual exegesis or the best use of historical materials…

Substitute “scientists” for “legal academics”, and “climate data” for “text and history”, and there might be some kind of parallel here.

“Red Flag” Laws

From this helpful summary of recent trends in US gun laws at

After a wave of mass shootings in 2017 and 2018, one of the most fashionable pushes for gun control was the rise of so-called “red flag” laws, or Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs).
[. . .]
Red flag laws enable law enforcement to confiscate firearms from an individual who is considered a threat to themselves or others. However, these confiscatory actions can be taken based on simple allegations. An accusation from a family member, friend, or associate is enough of a justification for law enforcement officers to seize an individual’s firearms.
Potential for due process violations has emerged since red flag laws started gaining traction. Even the American Civil Liberties Union, who views the Second Amendment as a collective right as opposed to an individual right, has expressed concern about how red flags will essentially create Minority Report-like scenarios in America. Individuals could see their rights stripped just based on speculation on the part of petitioners and a judge.
Subsequently, the accused are compelled to take their accusers to court, even though the accused has never been charged with or convicted of a crime. To make matters worse, the defendant could have their weapons seized without even a hearing before a judge. Months could go by before a gun owner wins back his gun rights in court.

It seems likely that govt officials will use red flag laws to harass unpopular people. It seems likely that red flag laws will have perverse unintended consequences such as ex-girlfriend empowerment. Red flag laws will be enforced by the same institutions and officials whose inability to prevent or stop mass shootings is used as an argument for passing red flag laws.

In politics, if it feels good, if it’s fashionable, if it’s glib, if everyone seems to want it, it’s probably a bad idea.

Quote of the Day

Dennis Prager, quoting and expanding on Bret Stephens’s explanation of how the New York Times could come to publish an obviously anti-Jewish cartoon:

“The reason is the almost torrential criticism of Israel and the mainstreaming of anti-Zionism, including by this paper, which has become so common that people have been desensitized to its inherent bigotry. So long as anti-Semitic arguments or images are framed, however speciously, as commentary about Israel, there will be a tendency to view them as a form of political opinion, not ethnic prejudice. But as I noted in a Sunday Review essay in February, anti-Zionism is all but indistinguishable from anti-Semitism in practice and often in intent, however much progressives try to deny this.”
Exactly right. As I wrote in “Why the Jews? The Reason for Anti-Semitism” 40 years before Stephens wrote his column, there is no difference between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Of course, one can criticize Israel, just as one can criticize any country, but that is not anti-Zionism. Anti-Zionism is not criticism of Israel. It is a hatred of Israel — a hatred greater than that of any other country and a delegitimization of Zionism, the movement to reestablish the Jewish national home. Imagine someone who argued that the establishment of the Italian state — Italy — was illegitimate and who hated Italy more than any other country in the world yet claimed that he was in no way anti-Italian, as he had Italian friends and loved Italian culture. No one would believe such an absurdity.

Seth Barrett Tillman: Why Obama and Clinton Described the Sri Lankan Victims as “Easter Worshippers” and not as “Christians”: A Friendly Amendment for Dennis Prager

Why do senior politicians across the Western world systematically engage in this and other similar sorts of newspeak? Here, I suggest, Obama and Clinton (and their peers) believe millions of otherwise ordinary American citizens are deplorables. They believe that if they were to discuss the reality of world events with their fellow citizens, and do so without dissembling, then any number of our fellow citizens would organize communal violence, mayhem, and murder—on a mass scale.

Read the entire post.

Seth Barrett Tillman: Today’s Question On CONLAWPROF: Where Would You Put Trump?

Professor ZZZ asks: “Trump is not Stalin but in the history of national (federal) political figures in this country, I’m wondering … where [would] you put Trump? … Having a POTUS so publicly awful along those lines lowers the horrible bar so dramatically that we will pay for years to come. Not being Stalin but being Roy Cohn is a hell of a legacy.”
Tillman responded:
[. . .]
Trump is ahead of Woodrow Wilson: World War I, and! his resegregation of the federal civil service. I grant you that being ahead of Wilson is not saying much…but then, the nation survived Wilson, and no one today thinks of Wilson as having lowered the bar vis-a-vis future presidents. Professor ZZZ seems to be worried about this. He wrote: “Having a POTUS so publicly awful along those lines lowers the horrible bar so dramatically that we will pay for years to come.” Really?—Will we pay for it in years to come, or is this just a shabby slippery slope-type argument?
I cannot say I see much sense in Professor ZZZ’s references to Roy Cohn. Roy Cohn’s permanent claim to fame is his association with McCarthy and aggressive anticommunism. Trump, by contrast, has been criticized for being too close to Putin. It is not exactly the same; actually, the two are not alike at all.
If words and pretty speeches are the measure of a president, then Trump comes up short. The question is whether that is the correct standard for measuring presidents in a dangerous world.

Read the whole thing.

Seth’s last line is a good summary of the general flaw with many anti-Trump arguments. However, Seth doesn’t go far enough with specific examples:

-Trump didn’t withdraw US forces precipitately from an overseas conflict, leaving the worst of our enemies to fill the resulting power vacuum as Obama did in Iraq.

-Trump didn’t reverse longstanding US policy, deprecating alliances with pro-American countries, in a foolish and futile effort to buy the love of the Iranian mullahs as Obama did.

-Trump didn’t let himself get played by the North Korean dictatorship as Clinton, both Bushes and Obama did.

-Trump didn’t use the IRS to harass his political opponents – as Nixon threatened to do, as the Clintons did to right-wing activist organizations, and as Obama did to organizations and individuals who were active in the Tea Party movement.

-Trump didn’t use the FBI and CIA to spy on his Democratic rivals’ election campaigns as Obama seems to have done to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

I can think of numerous other examples of unwise or malicious actions taken by previous presidents that Trump hasn’t done. Feel free to add additional examples in the comments.