Friday, August 19, 2016

Is the gender pay gap fact or fiction? Depends on how you look at it

“Women all over America deserve a raise,” Hillary Clinton has said, again and again. “There’s no discount for being a woman — groceries don’t cost us less, rent doesn’t cost us less, so why should we be paid less?”

Depending upon which numbers you choose, women in America make 77 cents or 79 cents for every dollar men make. These numbers come from the U.S. Census Bureau, 77 cents to the dollar from the 2010 Current Population Survey, and an increase to 79.5 as of 2014.

What Clinton is saying in essence is that if a male family practice doctor makes $160,000, a female family practice doctor only makes $126,400. If a male schoolteacher makes $56,610, a female teacher only makes $44,722.

An analysis by Colin Combs at the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) tells us; “The claim that women only make 77 [or 79] cents for every dollar a man makes is usually followed by a call for a whole new wave of regulations and pay mandates to stop this discrimination. The gender pay gap is undeniably real; men earn more than women, on average. The question is ‘Why?’”

Partly, it is in how the numbers are determined, which is illustrated by the fact that the Bureau of Labor Statistics determined that women make 83 cents for every dollar men earned in 2014, not 77 or 79 cents per dollar men earned. But there are other factors that must be considered in this assertion.

One of those factors is using the average pay for all men and the average pay for all women as the standard for analysis, about which Combs wrote: “What these statistics reveal is not what people are being paid for the same work, but what the average full-time working woman makes against the average full-time working man. It ignores differences in occupation. The average surgeon makes more than the average librarian, so if more men choose to be surgeons and more women choose to be librarians (which they do), this will be reflected in their average wage.” In reality, it is “unequal pay for unequal work,” Combs wrote.

The fact is that women voluntarily choose lower paying occupations, such as teaching, psychology and nursing, while men head toward computer science and engineering. Married women often reduce their participation in the job market for family reasons, and many other women are self-employed and run their own businesses. When adjusted for these factors, the results show that women do earn less than men, but only 5 to 7 cents less per dollar, not the much-heralded 21 or 23 cents.

The reasons for this smaller difference are not clear, Combs writes. Such things as salary negotiating skills or women being more risk-averse than men are suspected factors.  Since the true factors have not been determined, efforts to correct the difference will likely misfire; to solve a problem you first need to identify the problem.

The NCPA analysis quotes data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
 Women’s inflation-adjusted wages have been increasing at a rate significantly higher than men’s, or rising even while men’s wages fall.
 While the real wages of both men and women without a high school diploma have fallen, this decrease is three times worse for men than for women.
 Women’s wages have been rising, even as the wages of men with a high school diploma or associate’s degree have been falling. Women are much more likely than men to interrupt their work for familial reasons, such as maternity leave.

Combs cites a Labor Department study conducted by CONSAD Research Corporation saying the 77 cent figure is misused and overshadows many real gains made by women since the 1970s. This is being done “to advance public policy agendas without fully explaining the reasons behind the gap,” the study said.

Never being one to let mere facts interfere with a good opportunity for demagoguery and pandering, Clinton charges ahead with her pledge to use government to get women a raise that they have largely already gained without her help.

“Our false preoccupation with pay equity is not costless,” said the Hoover Institution’s Richard A. Epstein, “for it leads to bad labor market regulations that hurt all workers.” Regulations imposed to achieve equality ultimately negatively affect the job market for both women and men.

Government tinkering with business elements it really knows nothing about, all to fix a small problem that it doesn’t understand is bad government. But bad government is a product that the Left produces in abundance.

This issue demonstrates how the Left is either unaware of, or simply chooses to ignore economic principles in order to pander to a special interest group to garner votes. Jobs have value based upon the dynamics of each business, and each business has its own dynamics. A government one-size-fits-all solution to this is, to be kind, highly unlikely to succeed.

An electorate that does not investigate issues and votes instead on emotion will help usher in more harmful policies like those that have prevented the U.S. from recovering from the recession that ended seven years ago.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Americans depend on accurate, balanced information from the media

Commentary by James Shott

After seven months since her last press conference in December, Hillary Clinton appeared before journalists last Friday. As reported, “Clinton spoke at a joint convention being held by the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ).” This lengthy hiatus has brought heavy criticism from Donald Trump’s campaign, and even from the mainstream media.

Clinton held what many called a press conference in Washington, DC, last Friday that was open only to members of the NABJ and NAHJ – two ethnic groups that are generally friendly to her – according to a press release for the event. “It is notable that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has recognized the 2016 NABJ-NAHJ Convention as a vital gathering to discuss her platform and the issues impacting black and Latino communities,” said NABJ President Sarah Glover in the news release. 

While the Slate piece was generally not complimentary of the responses Clinton gave to questions from the journalists, it did not mention the positive reaction she received to campaign positions prior to the question/answer period. Slate suggested the questions were submitted in advance for approval. A campaign appearance at a minority journalist organizations’ convention, with attendance limited only to members of those organizations, does not a press conference make.

It isn’t difficult to understand why Clinton, or any candidate, would want to speak at such an event, but it is fair to ask why objective journalists of any description would allow that, let alone invite it.

The Media Research Center outlined the fondness of CNN’s “New Day” for Donald Trump issues over the issues surrounding Iran and the payment of $400 million in possible ransom money for four hostages held by the Islamic nation. MRC’s detailed the allotment of time on the two topics: “CNN set aside nearly half of its air time on Wednesday's “New Day” to various recent controversies involving the Trump campaign — 1 hour, 24 minutes, and 18 seconds over three hours. By contrast, the program clearly didn't think much of the Wall Street Journal's Tuesday revelation that the Obama administration secretly airlifted $400 million in cash to Iran. John Berman gave a 27-second news brief to the report, but didn't mention that the payment was sent on ‘an unmarked cargo plane.’ ‘New Day,’ therefore, devoted over 187 times more coverage to Trump than to the millions to Iran.”

No matter what you believe about the Iran hostage release and potential ransom payment, no matter what actually transpired, the utter clumsiness of making a payment for any purpose that way on that date warrants more than a half-minute in a three-hour program that spent 84 minutes on the Trump issues.

All major media organizations spent hours of broadcast time and dozens of printed pages on the Republican and Democrat nominating conventions. At each of these events one speaker addressed the delegates about the loss of a child.

At the Republican convention the mother of Sean Smith, one of the four American heroes killed in the terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, spoke movingly about losing her son, and laid responsibility for it at the feet of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Pat Smith also noted that when her son’s body was brought home, Clinton “looked me squarely in the eye and told me a video was responsible.”

The following week at the Democrat convention Khizr Kahn and his wife Ghazala appeared and Mr. Kahn talked about the death of his son, Marine Capt. Humayun Khan, who died in Iraq heroically protecting his men. Kahn described himself and his wife as “patriotic American Muslims, with undivided loyalty to our country.” He then criticized Donald Trump for his comments about Muslims, and said, “You have sacrificed nothing and no one.” Predictably, Kahn’s comments about Trump triggered a response.

“While all the grieving parents deserve sympathy, the Big Three (ABC, CBS, NBC) network evening and morning shows seemed to only care about the parents that showed up at the Democratic Convention,” reported. “Khizr Khan and his wife Ghazala’s DNC appearance earned 55 minutes, 13 seconds of Big Three network coverage, nearly 50 times more than Pat Smith, whose RNC speech honoring her son earned just 70 seconds of airtime.”

The First Amendment protects free speech, and that includes newspapers, television and radio news operations; they are free to say what they like, bound generally by the same restrictions as individuals. The difference is that the public depends upon media sources for information upon which people base important decisions, such as deciding whom to elect to important positions.

Therefore, news organizations have a solemn duty to provide balance to the news they cover and how they cover it, and news journalists – as distinguished from opinion journalists – should be proscribed from injecting bias and opinion into their work. 

These recent examples show decision-making by journalistic organizations in selecting a convention speaker that raises questions about objectivity, and a clear, undeniable lack of balance in reporting on important events that Americans will use in deciding their choice for the presidency and other offices.

Surely the U.S. media can do better than this.

Cross-posted from Observations.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Democrats renew gun control measures for the campaign and beyond

The New York Times sees a renewal of Democrat’s efforts to increase restrictions on guns. The newspaper says that after 20 years of holding back on the gun control initiative, “a string of mass shootings involving high-powered weapons, rising anxiety about domestic terrorism, and killings of and by police officers have emboldened Democrats. They say the shootings are intensifying support for gun control, elevating weapons policy to a top-tier issue, with particularly strong appeal to suburban female voters.”

Democrats, The Times says, will press the case for new restrictions in political races across the country that will include expanded background checks, new limits on gun purchases and increased scrutiny on gun makers and dealers, all of which is buoyed by polls they say show strong support for these measures.

National Rifle Association (NRA) spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said, however, the American public would ultimately reject added gun control because Democrats, while cloaking their gun agenda in the language of “common sense,” really want to go much further. “The political elites and D.C. politicians don’t understand Middle America,” she said. “They don’t understand that voters support the Second Amendment and the individual right to self-protection.” The NRA says Clinton would put an individual’s right to self-defense at risk.

Connecticut Democrat Senator Christopher Murphy agrees that Clinton and other gun control advocates are committed to making the issue a major theme of the campaign, and should she win the November election will continue it in her presidency. “This issue is a core value for Hillary Clinton and it is good politics,” Murphy said. 

Clinton’s running mate, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, also supports the idea that gun control will be a presidential initiative. Kaine has long been an advocate for stricter gun laws, moved by the mass shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007 when he was Virginia’s Governor. The shooting, in which a South Korean student with mental health problems killed 32 students and faculty, prompted Kaine to seek to bar the mentally ill from acquiring guns. 

This idea has merit, but is fraught with potential danger in the hands of liberals, who so often fail to use due care in creating policy, and create as many problems as they solve. Liberals have the bad habit of indulging in what Dr. Thomas Sowell calls “stage-one thinking,” which ignores possible downstream results in order to rush through some “wonderful” idea.

In fact, the 2016 Democrat Party Platform states: “While responsible gun ownership is part of the fabric of many communities, too many families in America have suffered from gun violence. We can respect the rights of responsible gun owners while keeping our communities safe.” 

One of the favored talking points in support of restricting the rights of law abiding citizens to protect themselves and their families, and restrict their use of firearms for sport and recreation is that 30,000 people die in America each year from guns.

For the sake of discussion, let’s accept that 30,000 figure, which – taken all by itself, without context – is shocking. That’s a lot of people. 

However, when context is applied, that number seems substantially less damning. Considered as part of the roughly 320,000,000 total population of the United States, it represents just .0001 percent. That means each American has a one in ten thousand chance of dying from a gunshot each year. And that doesn’t dig down into the details of gun deaths, showing how many are accidents, suicides, or justified shootings.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 20 times more people die from heart disease each year than from guns, and nearly that many die from cancer. More people – 42,700 – die from “intentional self-harm (suicide)” than from gun violence. 

In 2013, according to, which cites data from the CDC, motor vehicle deaths totaled 35,369, all homicides were 16,121, and in 2014, drug overdoses claimed 47,055 lives. 

Gun deaths do not appear on the list of the top ten causes of death in America. In fact, The Times quotes FBI data showing slightly more than 8,000 gun homicides in 2014, quite a difference from the overhyped 30,000 figure.

Conspicuously missing from the liberal tirade is that guns are inanimate objects, incapable of doing anything on their own. Like such things as hammers, kitchen knives and automobiles, guns are under the control of their user. Is this simple concept too complex for liberals to understand?

Or perhaps it just gets in their way: They know and understand that a disarmed populace is a compliant populace.

The Patriot Post notes, “This year’s [DNC] platform doesn’t even bother to mention the words ‘Second Amendment’ … Drafters opted instead for the meaningless tripe about how ‘gun ownership is a part of the fabric of many communities.’ Fabric can be changed. Rights endowed by our Creator cannot.”

The actions of average Americans tell a story different from Democrats. reports that women obtaining concealed carry permits increased at twice the rate of men from 2012 to 2016. And the Crime Prevention Research Center notes that the murder rate fell by16 percent between 2007 and 2015.

Yet again Democrats are wrong about what Americans think.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Politics frequently involves making mountains out of molehills

Commentary by James Shott

A YUGE controversy arose over Melania Trump’s Republican convention speech, when she repeated some things that Michelle Obama had spoken eight years earlier. Melania was roundly accused of plagiarism.

The Oxford Dictionaries online defines plagiarism as “the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own.”

Approximately one minute of her roughly 14-minute speech dealt with some tried and true values that Americans have revered and promoted for the last 200-plus years, and that parents have worked hard to instill in their children, such as:
 Be prepared to work hard to get what you want
 Honesty and integrity are critical; it’s important to keep your word
 Treat others as you want to be treated, with courtesy and respect
Her expression of those ideas was much the same as Michelle’s in 2008.

What Melania is being chastised for, however, happens pretty often – people frequently say or write things in a similar manner as other people – and it wasn’t an attempt to take credit for some unique ideas, as these ideas did not originate with Michelle Obama. Using phrases someone else used to express common ideas is hardly criminal.

Consider this: If you are driving 27 mph in a 25 mph zone, are you speeding? Technically, yes, but from a practical viewpoint, it is essentially irrelevant. You may have broken the letter of the law, but you have not broken the spirit of the law, which is to cause people to drive slowly. 

At its core, the issue really is whether it makes any significant difference in the long run, and it doesn’t. 

Here is what Michelle said: “And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you’re going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them, and even if you don’t agree with them. And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and pass them on to the next generation. Because we want our children — and all children in this nation — to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.”

And here is what Melania said: “From a young age, my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond; that you do what you say and keep your promise; that you treat people with respect. They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily life. That is a lesson that I continue to pass along to our son. And we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow. Because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.”

The two excerpts inarguably share ideas and some of the same phrases. Could Melania and those helping write the speech have done a better job of expressing these ideas without sounding so “familiar,” and should they have? Obviously. 

But for this use of a few phrases to be truly relevant, those phrases would have to be special, like “four score and seven years ago …” Those phrases do not “belong” to Michelle; they are not her property. They are ideas common to many/most Americans. And First Ladies or hopeful First Ladies Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush and Ann Romney all expressed some of those same ideas before under similar circumstances.

If, on the other hand, Melania had said, “An important idea came to me the other day: Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” using those famous words spoken by President John F. Kennedy at his 1961 Inaugural without attribution would have certainly been over the line.

What many or perhaps most people do not know is that according to some of Kennedy’s classmates, the headmaster at a school they attended years before spoke those words originally. Was JFK a plagiarist? 

Laura Bush talked about being determined and working hard at the convention in 2004. Did Michelle plagiarize her speech four years later? In 2014 Hillary Clinton also used a phrase spoken by Michelle in 2008 about hard work and passing those values to her daughter. Did Hillary commit plagiarism? 

There are only so many ways to express an idea or thought, and the more people that write or speak about an idea, the greater the number of times someone will write or say a phrase, a sentence or a paragraph the same way that someone else wrote or spoke it, either verbatim, or in a very similar manner. These similarities may not have been intentional, and are therefore not plagiarism.

This kerfuffle illustrates the extremes to which the Left and its media lackeys will go to focus voter attention on irrelevant minutiae to distract them from the voluminous failures and shortcomings of Hillary Clinton.

Cross-posted from Observations

Monday, July 18, 2016

Lipstick on a pig: Administration putting a spin on the U.S. economy

Commentary by James Shott

It is natural for politicians to put things in the most favorable light, and the worse the general situation, the greater the need to do so. That serves as an appropriate introduction to the White House’s June economic analysis, which is summarized thusly: “The economy added 287,000 jobs in June, as labor force participation rose and the broadest measure of labor market slack fell.” As far as that statement goes, it is true.

That new jobs number is a decent number – the best jobs figure since October – and miles ahead of May’s revised number of only 11,000 new jobs. But it is not an outstanding number, and is only one of several really significant numbers.

Back in December 2009, six months after the end of the recession and 11 months into Barack Obama’s first term, economist Paul Krugman said that 300,000 new jobs each month were necessary to make up the job losses of the recession over the next five years, so the June figure falls short of that number. In the weak Obama recovery new job production has only met or exceeded 300,000 six times in 89 months. The last was in November of 2014 at 331,000.

Whether the 287,000 number holds up after revision we won’t know until August. May’s preliminary number was revised down by more than two-thirds to a mere 11,000; therefore August may show a downward revision, an upward revision, or a number that is pretty close to the preliminary figure.

Other relevant numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data set for June include an increase in the U-3 unemployment rate, the one President Obama prefers to cite, from 4.7 to 4.9 percent. Despite the increase, the U-3 rate still looks good because it discounts all those marginally attached to the labor force that involuntarily work part-time instead of full-time, or have given up looking for work because they cannot find a job. Those workers are included in the U-6 rate, which more accurately represents reality, and stood at 9.6 percent in June, and improved one-tenth of a percent since May, as some of the previously disaffected workers started seeking employment again.

Even so, the Labor Force Participation rate was still at the late-70s level of 62.7 percent. From 66.0 percent in December of 2007 when the recession began, the trend in the participation rate has been steadily downward and has been below 63 percent since March of 2014. The labor force is made up of those age 16 and older that are working, looking for a job, and not in prison or in the military, and totaled 94,517,000 people last month. That means that 56,228,000 working age Americans are not working, and not in the military or in prison.

In June, 1.8 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force. These are individuals who wanted to work, were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months, but were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.

Another 5.8 million individuals prefer full-time employment, but are working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they haven’t been able to find a full-time job.

The BLS reported, “Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates [U-3] for adult women (4.5 percent) and Whites (4.4 percent) rose in June. The rates for adult men (4.5 percent), teenagers (16.0 percent), Blacks (8.6 percent), Asians (3.5 percent), and Hispanics  (5.8 percent) showed little or no change.”

The 9.6 percent U-6 rate tells one part of the story, but the actual harm of the administration’s policies that keep the economy from cranking up are another story.

“Today’s jobs number can’t hide the ongoing struggles facing the country’s main jobs producers – small businesses – which are overwhelmed by over-taxation, over-regulation, and a lack of access to credit,” said Jobs Creators Network (JCN) president Alfredo Ortiz. “And it shouldn’t distract us from an underwhelming labor force participation rate—still the lowest figure since the 1970s.”

National Federation of Independent Business president and CEO Juanita Duggan commented, “Each month our survey shows that small business owners are trying to hire qualified workers,” and, “The job openings are there, but owners are not going to invest in new employment when labor costs are becoming insurmountable, and the political climate is wildly uncertain.”

All the way back in November of 2010 President Obama was already claiming a “new normal” for the economy: “What is a danger is that we stay stuck in a new normal where unemployment rates stay high,” he said on CBS “60 Minutes.”

Today, with a real unemployment close to 10 percent, Obama may be viewed as a pretty good prophet. However, rather than seeing the future, he engineered it, and the term “new normal” is much less a reality than an excuse. As the JCN’s Ortiz noted, high taxes, rampant and intrusive regulation and limited credit do not a good recovery make.

America deserves better. November’s election provides the opportunity to elect as president someone who understands job creation.

Cross-posted from Observations

Thursday, July 07, 2016

The Constitution is under attack, and from an unexpected source

Commentary by James Shott

Just when you think you have heard the silliest thing possible, someone comes along and slaps you in the head with something sillier yet.

It is no secret that lots of Americans do not appreciate or honor the U.S. Constitution, and millions have no clue what it is, what it means, or why it exists. Among those we do not expect to find in that group are people trained in the law, and especially those who have been elevated to the judicial bench through appointment or election. Of course, every group has its eccentrics, even the judiciary.

To wit: Richard Posner, a judge in the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, who expressed an idea on that baffles those of us who honor the country created for us 200-plus years ago, and the controlling document, the U.S. Constitution, the law of the land that has been the anchor keeping our republic relatively stable all these years. It has done so to the extent it has been followed, and its principles upheld by those specially trained folks who study the law.

Said Posner: “I see absolutely no value to a judge of spending decades, years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, or seconds studying the Constitution, the history of its enactment, its amendments, and its implementation,” which he followed with: “Eighteenth-century guys, however smart, could not foresee the culture, technology, etc. of the 21st century. Which means that the original Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the post-Civil War amendments (including the 14th), do not speak to today.”

Education, it seems, is frequently incomplete. For example, some doctors seem to have not had the class in Bedside Manner 101. News journalists often appear not to have heard the idea that news reporting requires impartiality and accuracy. Many teachers at all levels do not understand that their job is not indoctrination, but the presentation of, and assistance in helping students understand their subject.

Posner apparently missed the class where it was discussed how the Constitution could be improved through amendments, and also where one should have learned about the concept of principles, like those set forth in the Constitution.

A principle, in this sense, is a broad concept, not merely a list of specifics. For example, the First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right of free speech, the freedom of religion, etc. to all Americans, and the Fourth Amendment guarantees the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Constitution is not intended to limit its protections to only those threats that existed in the 1700s, but also to any that may arise thereafter. 

Giving Posner credit not substantiated by his comment, let us assume that he understands that a nation must have laws. Since he does not respect the fundamental law that now exists, if we take his argument that the Constitution is old, outdated and therefore useless, what are we supposed to replace it with? Whatever ideas are the most popular? Or the ideas that a particular group of judges like best? Or, worse yet, what each judge and law enforcement official decides ought to be legal and illegal.

Would he prefer a set of rules proposed by the sitting president? Or, would he prefer a set of “living” rules that changes with the winds of popular opinion?

Posner’s article does not address that aspect.

Even with the protections of the Constitution, we see frequent over-stepping by government officials and agencies that ignore its limits on government, so without it how would the citizens of the United States be protected from government excesses? By what measures could we keep our government from becoming just another tyrannical body like communist China or North Korea?

The Constitution in Article III, Section 1, provides: “The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour…” This runs contrary to the widely accepted idea that federal judges are appointed for life or until they decide to step down. Clearly, the Framers foresaw that a judge might exhibit behavior other than “good Behaviour,” in which case he or she is subject to removal from the bench.

With that in mind, several judicial watchers have suggested that Posner’s idea of discarding the Constitution, the document he is sworn to uphold, warrants his impeachment, and also said that a Congress that took both Posner’s oath and its oath seriously would impeach him.

However, Posner is protected by the provisions of the very document he so disdains and wants done away with, the First Amendment’s protection of free speech, which was written not to protect speech with which we agree, but speech that is not popular to some, and even critical of the government. This includes criticism of the Constitution, even by someone so high in the judicial hierarchy as a federal Circuit Court judge.

Our freedoms are now under more serious attack than ever before since the nation’s founding, by political correctness and those who find some protections inconvenient, and now by some charged with defending them by upholding the Constitution’s protections.

Cross-posted from Observations

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Politics, ideology often trump duty and honor among public servants

Commentary by James Shott

Here in America, the land of the free, it ought to take actual wrongdoing for government to act against individuals and organizations. And when those in positions of authority in government are properly serving the people they work for, that is the way it is.

Alas, that is not always so. It seems to be getting more frequent to see misfeasance by public servants who, rather than seeking out criminal or civil misbehavior, now use their offices that they are paid to operate honorably for purposes outside their scope of responsibility. Apparently the punishment for abdicating one’s sworn duty to honorably do his/her job are insufficient to discourage bad behavior. Or maybe it is because people rarely are held accountable and punished for their misfeasance.

Perhaps the best-known recent episode of such public dis-service was the targeting for harassment of conservative organizations that had filed for non-profit status with the IRS, a function under the control of one Lois Lerner.

During a Congressional hearing investigating the affair, Lerner refused to answer questions, hiding behind the 5Th Amendment’s protection from self-incrimination, later resigning her federal position and, having avoided criminal charges, lives peacefully on her government pension.

While Lerner used her IRS position against political adversaries, public servant misbehavior also creeps into the area of harassing ideological adversaries. The environmental left’s position that burning fossil fuels significantly harms the environment is based upon evidence so weak and heavily disputed that a substantial number of Americans – perhaps a majority – reject the idea. Unable to convince people through the strength of scientific evidence, the liberals then resort to using the power of government to force people into line.

This time the target is ExxonMobil and a dozen independent groups that are in the crosshairs of a state prosecutor because they do not accept the idea that fossil fuels significantly damage the environment, and have had the unmitigated gall to express their opinion publicly.

Earlier this month ExxonMobil released a copy of an April 19 subpoena filed by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey demanding forty years of communications regarding climate change from the company and the organizations. Exxon has filed a motion for injunction in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, accusing Healey of waging a politically motivated fishing expedition aimed at silencing oppositional opinion on climate change.

Did Exxon engage in legally actionable fraud as Healy claims? “Fossil fuel companies that deceived investors and consumers about the dangers of climate change should be, must be held accountable,” she said, referring to what she called the “troubling disconnect between what Exxon knew, what industry folks knew and what the company and industry chose to share with investors and with the American public.”

Healy’s statement suggests that someone can be held criminally liable for knowing the left’s argument about climate change, and failing to discard their own opinion in favor of that argument. Merely knowing that the environmental faction thinks fossil fuel use is harming the environment makes you legally obligated to adopt it, even if you do not agree and, more importantly, even if there is no actual proof that assumption is correct.

Healy and the fellow travelers on the left seem to believe that their opinion becomes truth, merely because they believe it, even if it has never been proven true or valid, and if you disagree you can face legal action. Free speech and the First Amendment apparently no longer apply where climate change is concerned.

Of this poorly thought through legal fiasco, Alex Epstein, whose Center for Industrial Progress is one of the dozen organizations targeted by Healy along with Exxon, had this to say: “What ExxonMobil is being prosecuted for is expressing an opinion about the evidence that the government disagrees with … There is a fundamental distinction in civilized society between fraud and opinion.”

In his excellent book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, Epstein advances the position that fossil fuel use has provided millions and millions of people wonderful advantages in terms of higher living standards, increased life expectancy, decreased infant and child mortality than they would have had without fossil fuels, and he references the manic climate change narrative that produced repeated predictions of doom that did not materialize.

A fundamental truth in the United States is that one may hold and espouse any opinion he or she chooses, without regard to whether that opinion is true or false; it is not a crime to disagree, even if the subject is climate change.

This effort to force acceptance of the weak theory of fossil fuels damaging the environment is an initiative of “AGs United for Clean Power.” This perhaps signals a coming expanded effort to silence disagreement. But it has aroused the attention of 13 attorneys general, who signed a letter to their counterparts across the country that said: “We think this effort by our colleagues to police the global warming debate through the power of the subpoena is a grave mistake.”

Whether that letter will help redirect AGs tempted to the dark side or not is unknown. But it is a step in the right direction.

Cross-posted from Observations