Climate Change and Thoughtcrime

View 823 Monday, May 05, 2014



“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009


If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.

Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983



Last week had more locusts to devour my time. They seem to come in flocks lately. To make it worse, this week is Pledge Week for KUSC, meaning that it’s subscriber appeal time at Chaos Manor, and this at a time when things have been a bit less active than usual. Nothing I can do about that. This place takes a certain amount of time and costs and energy to keep going, and unless I get enough subscriptions I can’t keep it open. As most of you know, we operate on the Public Radio model – hence the coupling of subscription drives to the schedule of KUSC the Los Angele Good Music Station – and it’s always free to all but it won’t stay open without subscribers. We’ve run this way for years, good years and not so good, and we’re still here.


Well, the LA Clippers last night made another $100 million dollars for Mr. Sterling, their owner, who is guilty of having told his mistress, presumably in private, that he wished she would not appear in public at Clipper basketball games accompanied by black players, and particularly not with Magic Johnson. Somehow a recording of him saying that to her has gone public. One suspicion is that this was a boggled blackmail attempt, but she denies that. The NBA Commissioner immediately fines the billionaire Sterling several million dollars and forbids him to have anything to do with the management of the team he owns (how that is to be accomplished without letting him appoint a manager is not clear), or even to enter the building they are in at practice or to attend Clipper games. How this is to be enforced isn’t so clear. One presumes his mistress can continue to attend Clippers games, with or without accompaniment of her choosing.

The National Basketball Association also said that Sterling would be forced to sell the Clippers, but he hasn’t the authority to do that; he can only ask that 2/3 of the owners of the other teams vote to require him to sell. Sterling says the team is not for sale, and the other owners haven’t voted yet. Sterling paid some $12 ½ Million for the team many years ago. As of the opening of this year’s basketball season the team was worth more than $100 Million, but then came the team’s best season ever, bringing the value of the team up to about $800 million. Then Saturday night the Clippers beat the Warriors in a last minute rally, probably raising the value of the team another $100 million. If they win this series with Oklahoma that starts tonight the team will easily be worth $1 Billion, no small sum.

Magic Johnson is rumored to be one of those interested in owning the Clippers. He hasn’t the money, but he could front for those who do.

It is not clear who will get the money from the fines. It is not clear whether the mistress will be able to keep her multi-million dollar condo – Sterling’s wife is suing her to recover gifts that the wife contends ought to have gone to her – but I doubt we will see her sleeping under a Freeway overpass any time soon. And so it goes.

My concern is that Sterling is guilty only of Thoughtcrime. I covered that previously.


Lese de Marque

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

What Donald Sterling is guilty of is not thought-crime, exactly: it’s brand-injury. "Lese de marque." He’s a showman, an impresario, a dealer in images; and these images must be maintained for the financial health of the company. Many of his workers and customers are black men; it just wouldn’t do for the team’s owner to insult them; therefore Sterling had to go.

So the Market has ruled. You object that this has a whiff of tyranny about it. Very well then; the Market can be tyrannical. The Customer is King, not Prime Minister.

He was a showman, and the two of them put on a show. Rich old jerk vs. scheming gold-digger is a fine comedy; it always draws a crowd. Hand me some popcorn.

Count your blessings, it could be worse. Sterling was obnoxious but not frightening. Remember that audio playlet, that went viral on the Web in the summer of 2010, starring Mel Gibson as the Psycho Boyfriend and Oksana Grigorieva as the Desperate Mistress? That too was solid entertainment; but it was a much darker script than this.



We are not in disagreement: this is the way the market ought to work, and Sterling, despite all his previous efforts, has no moral or legal right to the good opinions of mankind. If you want to own a basketball team, it would be better if you had no prejudices against blacks; if you do have any it is absolutely essential that you keep them to yourself and let not hint of that get out to the public, because you will need highly competent players. And indeed Sterling took strenuous steps to give a different impression of his sympathies, winning two Lifetime Achievement Awards from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He was careful to say nothing in public that would tarnish his image as a philanthropist who supported the NAACP among many other causes. Now that the story has come out there are many coming forward to say it was all a sham; indeed the President of the local chapter of the NAACP, who was about to give Sterling another award, has just resigned because he wasn’t telepathic and didn’t discern the true thoughts of Don Sterling.

And yet, isn’t that a bit disturbing? The tradition in Western law has been toward requiring an act – or at least a public speech – to establish that a crime has been committed; that is, over time, we moved from punishing beliefs to punishing acts. Thoughts and beliefs, heresies, remained outside the realm of the state. Even conspiracy – an intent — requires an overt act in aid of the planned crime before wanting to commit a crime becomes punishable. The Constitution of the United States requires an overt act witnessed by two before treason can be charged. Heresy is a Thoughtcrime – unacceptable belief – and the Inquisition used various means to extract confessions of that. Modern ideological warfare seems to be reviving the practice. You must not only act right but think right. A hundred years of freedom of thought is reversed.  This year racism is a Thoughtcrime.  How many years until sexist beliefs become Thoughtcrimes?  Can Jimmy Carter be prosecuted after all these years for lusting in his heart?

Die Gedanken sind frei, but not for Mr. Sterling, and indeed it seems to depend on the thought. Some crimes like racism are so terrible that no good act can compensate for such evil thoughts. And so it goes. Sterling is not going to be harmed. He’ll get his $Billion out of this. There will be a Kabuki act in which he will insist the team is not for sale, the Association will insist it is, an auction will be arranged, and just before the bidding starts someone will offer him a billion, and lo! the sale is concluded. And Sterling will have to compensate himself with something other than ownership of a basketball team – which, if he really is contemptuous of blacks, couldn’t possibly give him much pleasure of ownership anyway since it is pretty well impossible to put together a winning NBA team with only non-black players, even if it were legally or socially possible to do that in the first place.

So he gets his billion (he already has one, apparently, but everyone can use another billion), the NBA can have a five minute hate for Sterling before every game until he sells, and who knows, perhaps some good will come of all this. And nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

My friend Steve Sailer has an interesting but unprovable theory on all this. I don’t share it but it is amusing.


Climate Change arguments with a new twist: Caleb Rossiter’s Sacrificing Africa for Climate Change, raises an argument I made back in the days of “The Limits To Growth” and “Small is Beautiful”: the third world will say “We understand this movement. Now that we get a piece of the action the game is over.” Now that Africa can get rich without living off charity, they will have to do it without coal and oil and other fossil fuels, and since they haven’t the capital to do that, they will remain in economic bondage to the West. Well, and to China: China has ignored all this “go green” and “Stop global Warming NOW” stuff, and cheerfully builds coal and oil fired electric plants as well as big dams and a lot of nuclear power plants, and can now profit by keeping Africa in an exploitable state.

Sacrificing Africa for Climate Change

Western policies seem more interested in carbon-dioxide levels than in life expectancy.


Caleb S. Rossiter

Every year environmental groups celebrate a night when institutions in developed countries (including my own university) turn off their lights as a protest against fossil fuels. They say their goal is to get America and Europe to look from space like Africa: dark, because of minimal energy use.

But that is the opposite of what’s desired by Africans I know. They want Africa at night to look like the developed world, with lights in every little village and with healthy people, living longer lives, sitting by those lights. Real years added to real lives should trump the minimal impact that African carbon emissions could have on a theoretical catastrophe.

* * *

The left wants to stop industrialization—even if the hypothesis of catastrophic, man-made global warming is false. John Feffer, my colleague at the Institute for Policy Studies, wrote in the Dec. 8, 2009, Huffington Post that "even if the mercury weren’t rising" we should bring "the developing world into the postindustrial age in a sustainable manner." He sees the "climate crisis [as] precisely the giant lever with which we can, following Archimedes, move the world in a greener, more equitable direction."

I started to suspect that the climate-change data were dubious a decade ago while teaching statistics. Computer models used by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to determine the cause of the six-tenths of one degree Fahrenheit rise in global temperature from 1980 to 2000 could not statistically separate fossil-fueled and natural trends.

Then, as now, the computer models simply built in the assumption that fossil fuels are the culprit when temperatures rise, even though a similar warming took place from 1900 to 1940, before fossil fuels could have caused it. The IPCC also claims that the warming, whatever its cause, has slightly increased the length of droughts, the frequency of floods, the intensity of storms, and the rising of sea levels, projecting that these impacts will accelerate disastrously. Yet even the IPCC acknowledges that the average global temperature today remains unchanged since 2000, and did not rise one degree as the models predicted.

There is considerably more. The evidence for the man made global warming theory gets shakier and the costs of pretending that it is true are rising. Of course there is money to be made from pretending its truth.


Caleb Rossiter is the son of Clinton Rossiter, whose books on the late Roman Republic and constitutional crisis I discovered as an undergraduate, and his 1787 remains one of the best accounts of the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 you will ever find. I prefer Wilmore Kendall’s Introduction to the Federalist Papers to Rossiter’s, but not by much, and one cannot be harmed by reading both. Of course The Federalist is no longer standard fare in liberal arts history courses now. Pity.


The Mexicans have arrested a US Marine who was moving and had all his possessions in his car, wandered over the border, and while trying to get back to the US was arrested by the Mexican authorities for having a rifle, and shotgun, and a handgun in his car. He found himself past the last freeway exit before the border, and went into Mexico and turned around, and whammo. He is said to have been wounded by other prisoners in a Mexican jail. The Mexicans seem glad to have a US prisoner. This is a nation that has armed cartels running riot but wants to jail a US Marine who had firearms in his trunk, and he wants to go home. He’s been there a month and has been injured.

I fear my solution to this were I president would be to tell the Commandant at Camp Pendleton to send a battalion of this Marine’s comrades down to escort him home, and THEN telephone the Governor of North Baja that they are coming; he will come home, and with all his possessions. It would be better if neither he nor his escorts meet any interference, but he WILL come home. The Marines have their instructions on how to respond if their weapons are demanded. Hint: We learned that from Leonidas a long time ago. You do not want to hear them say it. Have a nice day.


And this just in:


World Class Lie

At the press conference the NBA commissioner may have told a world-class lie:

Q. What kind of authority do they have to force a sale?

ADAM SILVER: The owners have the authority subject to three quarters vote of the ownership group, of the partners, to remove him as an owner.

If this reading of the bylaws is correct, what he said is patently false:

Which should make things even more interesting.  Incidentally, the Clippers won against Oklahoma tonight so they come back to LA for two at-home games having won one of the four they need to get past this stage.  They played very well.  Doc Rivers is getting a lot out of his players, and coordinates them well.


It is Pledge Time at KUSC meaning that it is time to subscribe to this site.  If you have never subscribed this is the right time. If you can’t remember when you subscribed, this would be a great time to renew.  This site is free, but it remains open only if paid for.


Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




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