Monthly Archives: October 2017

Why the Uranium One deal still matters, despite what Joy Reid thinks

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:, October 27, 2017)

{Feel free to send any comments about this essay to: or}

It was one of the busier slides in a grievously long student presentation on nuclear proliferation at the National Defense Intelligence College (NDIC) in 2009.

Buried in a slide explaining the nation’s sources of strategic minerals, such as uranium, was an indented bullet point about the pending acquisition of the controlling stake in a Canadian-based mining company (Uranium One) by a Russian entity (Rosatom).

The significance of the bullet point missed most of us in the class until the professor noted that this acquisition, if approved by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the U.S. (CFIUS), would give the Russians mining rights to a significant percentage of U.S. uranium deposits.

It was a WTF!? moment for me. Can the Russians really do that?

“Yes, they can,” the professor said. “It’s called an open economy.”

The professor then told us, under federal law, the CFIUS reviews any foreign investments in the U.S. with possible national security concerns. Uranium would quality in that regard.

The professor, a retired intelligence officer, was memorable in how he would lean back in his chair and start caressing his temples anytime he had a problem with some aspect of U.S. national security policy — which was most of the time. The International Traffic in Arms Regulations (known as ITAR) were a particular sore spot with him.

As to the pending Uranium One sale, he told us: “The committee (CFIUS) can approve acquisitions, but only the President can disapprove of them.”

“Will they approve of this sale?” someone asked the professor.

“I don’t know why they wouldn’t,” he responded, without any temple rubbing. In his view, access to uranium ore is not a substantive barrier to nefarious entities wanting to build nuclear weapons.

The student moved on in her presentation and I wouldn’t think about Canadian mining companies or uranium mining rights for another seven years.

Until the 2016 presidential election. And, even then, the controversy of whether former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had greased the skids to get the Uranium One deal approved, in exchange for past generosity to the Clinton Foundation, was buried under the coverage of her “email problem.”

However, the recent story by The Hill that the FBI was investigating Russian spy activities and possible bribery surrounding the Uranium One deal returned my thoughts to that NDIC class on nuclear proliferation eight years ago.

Many of the details from that class have faded from my memory, but some of the general ideas remain, such as:

  • Conceptually, it is not hard to build a simple, fission bomb. On a practical level, however, it still requires nation-state-level resources and commitments.
  • There are intelligence officers in the U.S. intelligence community (USIC) that ALL they think about is nuclear proliferation: What countries have fully developed nuclear weapons? What countries quickly could, if the need arose? What countries control any of the constituent parts and knowledge bases required to make nuclear weapons?
  • This country puts forth a considerable effort to track the intermediary and constituent parts needed to build nuclear weapons, including: raw uranium ore, weapons-grade fissile material, timing devices and detonators, centrifuges, advanced milling machines and metalworking, etc.
  • No detail is too small for intelligence officers to track if it relates to the proliferation of nuclear materials and technologies across the globe. They care about who controls the world’s uranium ore. And there is a zero chance they would stay silent if the Secretary of State (or President) fast tracks the sale of a uranium mining company to the Russians if, collectively, they believed the sale was a threat to national security. A zero chance.

As the most recent headlines emerged concerning the Uranium One deal, I couldn’t help but think about that class. How the professor seemed nonplussed by the idea of the Russians controlling up to 20 percent of U.S. uranium mining still resonates with me.

Fox News’ narrative is seductive — that something inappropriate, at odds with this nation’s security, was involved in the Uranium One deal. That somehow Hillary Clinton was repaying a debt when she made no effort to stop the acquisition of Uranium One by the Russians.

Yet, I have no evidence to suggest the intelligence community, or anyone with a non-partisan perspective, viewed the acquisition of Uranium One by the Russians as a threat to national security.

So when the Hillary Clinton says on CSPAN that the “pay for play” accusation with respect to the Uranium One deal has been debunked, I have no reason to doubt her…

…but I still have a problem with Hillary’s connection to the Uranium One deal.

Why? Because I believe the type of structural corruption the Clinton’s have exploited since they left the White House is exemplified by the Uranium One deal. This deal was right in their soft corruption wheelhouse.

My graduate school mentor always asked his students to start any social inquiry at the most general level. “Don’t get buried in the details,” he would say.  “Nuance and details are likely to deceive rather than inform.”

What is the 30,000-foot view of Bill and Hillary Clinton?

Since leaving the White House, the Clinton’s have amassed one-quarter billion dollars in net worth. How? By selling their access to power.

It’s not complicated and, worse yet, its not illegal.

Generally, it is legal to offer a service where your access to power elites can benefit others who want access and favorable decisions from those power elites. That is called special interest lobbying. You have to register with the U.S. government to do that on an international level, which is why Paul Manafort will be spending a lot of time in front of a judge over the next year.

The Clintons, of course, have no need for the special interest lobbying model. Too plebeian. Its beneath their status. Instead, they have created a hybrid approach through their intermingling of genuine humanitarian efforts with private, corporate interests. For this effort, the Clintons profit both directly (speaking fees and campaign donations) and indirectly (the Clinton Foundation).

Access to power is what the Clinton’s peddle and that is why they may retire as near billionaires once all is said and done.

However, the fact that this is legal doesn’t make it ethical. And even though Bill Clinton has made positive contributions to the world since his presidency, it doesn’t justify the methods he has used to enrich himself (and his family) since leaving office.

This truth gets lost in MSNBC host Joy Reid’s self-serving setup of a conservative journalist who didn’t understand the real meaning of the Uranium One deal. The Clinton’s are not in the quid pro quo business. Amateurs are in the quid pro quo business. The Clinton’s are in the access selling business, at a level only ex-presidents, some U.S. cabinet members, and a few former U.S. Senators can realistically claim.

You will never find an audio recording or an email where Bill or Hillary Clinton communicate, “If you give to our Foundation X number of dollars, we will  make sure Y happens.”

That is quid pro quo for dumbkopfs. That is what Paul Manafort might have engaged in, but that is not what the Clinton’s do. They aren’t so pedestrian.

Rather, this is the deal the Clinton’s have sold the world’s elites since 2000: I am Bill Clinton, a former U.S president married to a U.S. Senator and future U.S. president. Give to our family foundation and we will learn about your interests and give you access to any world leader you require to fulfill those interests.

That is the Bill and Hillary Clinton business model. It is an awesome and lucrative model. It is the model Barack Obama is poised to employ and modify over the remainder of his post-presidency. Obama will die a billionaire if our nation’s laws don’t try to address this form of soft corruption.

If you are OK with that, than the Uranium One deal really is a nothin’ burger. If, on the other hand, you have a problem with a former U.S. President and U.S. Secretary of State engaging in that type of influence peddling, then the Clinton’s are the exemplar.

For all intents and purposes, Uranium One deal is business-as-usual for the Clintons

There is a reason politicians rarely go to jail. Lawyers understand how difficult it is to prove criminal intent (mens rea). It is their ‘get out of jail free’ card and they are not embarrassed to use it.

Former FBI Director James Comey’s decision not to indict Hillary Clinton for the mishandling of classified information was largely rooted in the knowledge that proving Clinton’s general intent — the lowest level of criminal intent — would be difficult. Nay, impossible.

The most direct evidence of general intent is a defendant’s confession, which prosecutors cannot force from a defendant given their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Or sometimes general intent is discerned through a wiretapped conversation.

Without concrete evidence of general intent, much less specific criminal intent, the Uranium One deal is a dead-end for Clintons’ critics. And the smart critics know it.

Besides, that is not how modern influence peddling works…not the way it is practiced by the Clintons.

The Uranium One deal was not about U.S. mining rights

James Conca, a geologist writing for Forbes magazine, offers a lucid summary and explanation of why the Uranium One deal is not going to yield any serious criminal investigation.

“Those U.S. facilities obtained by Russia produce almost nothing, ” writes Conca. “The uranium deposits are of relatively poor grade and are too costly to compete on the uranium market, but the facilities do have good milling capacity to process ore, if anyone gives it to them, which hasn’t happened in about 10 years.”

Conca lays bare any suggestion that national security was at stake with the Russians purchasing control of Uranium One. “The real reason Russia wanted this deal was to give Rosatom’s subsidiary Uranium One’s very profitable uranium mines in Kazakhstan ― the single largest producer of commercial uranium in the world,” writes Conca. [Rosatom is Russia’s state atomic energy corporation and is the world’s largest uranium enrichment leader.]

National security aside, the suggestion that Canadian businessman Frank Giustra’s $140 million in donations to the Clinton Foundation was related to CFIUS’s approval of the Uranium One deal is equally specious. As emphasized in MSNBC host Joy Reid’s take down of Washington Examiner reporter Jen Kerns, Guistra had divested himself from Uranium One three years prior to the sale to Rosatom. Though, Reid fails to mention Ian Telfer, another Uranium One investor, who donated $1.3 million to $5.6 million to the Clinton Foundation during and after the CFIUS review.

Five million dollars is not as eye-popping as $140 million, but nonetheless invites suggestions that more was going on between the Clintons and Uranium One than just a lot of good intentions.

Also feeding the conservative media’s feeding frenzy on the Uranium One deal is Bill Clinton’s $500,000 speaking honorarium in 2010 from a Russian bank connected to the Uranium One deal. However, given there will never be an email or recorded phone conversation where Bill Clinton says, “You pay me $500,000 and I will make sure you get CFIUS to approve your Uranium One acquisition,” any suggestion of wrongdoing on Bill’s part is purely speculative and nowhere close to an indictable offense.

Those types of emails or phone calls will never be uncovered, not just because the Clinton’s understand the legal concept of criminal intent, but because that is not how their influence peddling operation works.

It is far more sophisticated and, yet, still simple.

The Clintons’ activities are filled with interpersonal relationships that feed conspiracy theories the guileless conservative media inevitably promote as the next ‘greatest scandal in American history,’ only for the Clinton-friendly mainstream media to, on cue, easily knock it down like the green pigs in an Angry Birds game app.

No, the Clinton influence peddling model is far more subtle.

The Clintons are a symbiotic dream team. One is a former U.S. president and the other is (was) a future U.S. president. They have a charitable foundation that does good work throughout the world. This foundation offers to its major donors this obvious benefit: high-ideal, visible philanthropy. In Frank Giustra’s own words: “I admire what he (Bill Clinton) does and I want to be a part of it.”

But, this is where it gets murky, and deliberately so. The Washington Post reported that a Canadian charity, founded by Giustra in 2007, kept its donors secret, despite an agreement between the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton that the Clinton Foundation would reveal its donors.

Hillary Clinton never intended to honor her agreement with the Obama administration, whose malignant indifference to Hillary’s side businesses would define their reaction to Hillary’s “reckless” mishandling of classified information and destruction of government records as Secretary of State.

The Clinton Foundation’s connection to Giustra’s Canadian foundation allowed anonymous donors, “including foreign executives with business pending before the Hillary Clinton-led State Department,” to funnel money to the Clinton Foundation.

And, boy, did they.

Over 1,000 donors to Giustra’s charitable foundation are tied to the Clinton Foundation and remain unknown to the public, according to The Washington Post.

Anyone concerned about the integrity of charitable foundations should be outraged at the lack of transparency provided by the Clinton Foundation.

Is it at a criminal level? Unknown. Is it unethical? Absolutely.

According to The Washington Post, “Bill Clinton has used Giustra’s MD-87 luxury plane 26 times for foundation business since 2005, including 13 trips in which the two men traveled together.” The Clinton Foundation does not reveal Bill Clinton’s travel behavior, including modes of transportation or travel companions.

More importantly, Giustra’s private business activities benefited directly from his connections to Bill Clinton.

To business titans like Giustra, international philanthropy enhances both his reputation and bottom line. By coincidence or intent, Giustra entered into some of his biggest deals of his business career in the same countries where he traveled with Bill Clinton for philanthropic purposes.

That is the Clinton business model exemplified.

For example, at the same time he was dining with Bill Clinton in Kazakhstan, Giustra concluded a massive purchase of uranium mines in the same country. Coincidence? That is what Bill Clinton, Frank Giustra and Joy Reid want you to believe.

Kazakhstan president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, became Kazakhstan’s first elected president in 1991 with 99 percent of the vote. By any sensible definition, Nazarbayev is a dictator and has been accused of significant human rights abuses by various human rights organizations and the United Nations.

Is there evidence Bill Clinton personally intervened in Giustra’s negotiations with Nazarbayev? None, but again, that is the hallmark of the Clinton business model. It doesn’t require Bill’s personal negotiation skills. It only requires his personal connections. Whether Giustra has the skill to negotiate with Nazarbayev is Giustra’s problem.

When Giustra formed a Colombian oil company it received important drilling rights from Colombia’s state-owned oil company, Ecopetrol. When did this happen? After Giustra met the Colombian president through his affiliation to the Clinton Foundation.

Again, coincidence? Giustra insists the approval of the Colombian government was not required for his company’s Colombian drilling rights. We have to take his word for it, but forgive those that have doubts.

But, once more, this timeline regurgitation confuses the real power the Clinton’s offer global elites. Bill Clinton (and his wife) aren’t about the negotiation details. They are about facilitation and the mutual understanding that comes with being part of the world’s economic and political elite.

If you give to the Clinton Foundation, Bill and Hillary will know everything they need to know about your private business interests. You don’t need to ask them for help. If you give them (or rather, their foundation) enough money, they will learn what they need to know about your private business interests and how they can help.

It is a nice business model if you are an ex-U.S. president (or married to one). And it is all legal.


About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.




















Russian Election Meddling Could Turn into a U.S. Gov’t Power Grab

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:, October 24, 2017)

{Feel free to send any comments about this essay to: or}

“We cannot turn back the clock. We cannot undo the impact of technology. Nor would we want to,” said Robert Mueller, former FBI Director and current special prosecutor investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, in his keynote speech at the March 2012 RSA Cyber Security Conference.

Mueller said the businesses and institutions embracing the newest technologies will prosper over those in denial or trying just to “keep up.”

Though he didn’t say so, the U.S. electoral system is definitely in the latter category.

Given the known Russian activities in the 2016 U.S. election, from the troll factories to the fake-news-spreading Twitterbot accounts, trying to control or eliminate foreign actors (rogue or otherwise) from participating in this country’s electoral process is a merry chase: American elections are an international affair whether we like it or not, particularly at, but not limited to, the presidential level.

Federal election regulations may be able to impede foreign money coming into our electoral system (though even that enterprise is dubious), but controlling information originating from foreign actors is a different matter. That may be an impossible task.

Do our first amendment rights give us the right to be influenced by campaign speech initiated by foreign agents?

At the individual-level, the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment implicitly protects the right of any U.S. citizen to re-tweet Tweets or post Facebook content generated by foreign sources of unknown veracity and integrity.

If someone believes a news story on the Russian government-funded news website,, is worthy of being passed around to their Twitter followers or Facebook friends, it is their constitutional right to do so. Any attempt by the U.S. government to abrogate that right will be met with the appropriate outrage.

While nobody can knowingly proliferate social media content that threatens physical or permanent harm towards others, we have no legal obligation to vet the content we download and share on the internet.

Morally, however, we have a civic obligation to eschew known falsehoods and to prefer truths, as uncertain as those may be sometimes. But, Twitter, Facebook and Google are under no current legal requirement to distinguish truth from falsehood. They are merely high-tech, digital conveyor belts designed to move and share information generated by their users.

Freedom of speech is messy and social media just makes it messier.

“The main issue to remember when dealing with the internet is that people still have their basic rights intact,” says Kelly O’Connell, a senior editor for Internet Business Law services.

The internet, unfortunately, also offers individuals the means to publish and propagate malicious or erroneous information that can spread to thousands, even millions, of individuals within a short period of time. Furthermore, this false information can reside near permanently on the internet, even after it has been discredited.

According to O’Connell, internet users are subject to the same defamation laws that newspapers and television broadcasters must also follow — and if rogue actors believe they can spread false and defamatory information on the internet with anonymity, they may be disappointed. “The internet is not as completely anonymous as the typical person may presume,” says O’Connell.

Even the Russians couldn’t hide their interference in the 2016 election (assuming they were trying to hide to so).

Yet, it is unlikely our defamation laws are an impediment to Russian influence operations. A libeled or slandered politician may be able to sue individual bloggers or vloggers located in the U.S. for damages, but it is doubtful a Russian internet troll would be similarly vulnerable.

Is the internet too big and decentralized to regulate campaign communications?

The size and scope of the internet should humble any U.S. congressional attempt to regulate and manage its content. But the internet is finite.

Most of the internet’s traffic enters and leaves the United States through over 40 network nodes via submarine cables connected to Europe, South America, Asia, Australia and Africa. (see map below).

World Submarine Cable Map (Courtesy of

Despite its ubiquitous and circuitous nature, it is not impossible for the U.S. government to control the internet content available to Americans. The Chinese government does it to their citizens, facing a task only marginally easier than what the U.S. government faces. And though significant content gets past Chinese internet censors, what the government does control is still substantial.

Regardless of whether the U.S. government should, it is naive to think the U.S. government is incapable of imposing significant controls on what Americans can see on the internet.

We already know our government monitors, categorizes and selectively warehouses much of this content as it passes through these 40 entry/exit nodes. This government activity is not a secret.

Visualization of Worldwide Internet Traffic in 2012 (IPv4 addresses only), Source: Carna Botnet

However, the philosophical and practical difference between monitoring internet content, as opposed to controlling, is substantial.

Social media botnets played a visible role in the past U.S. presidential election. These accounts are generally defined as a group of social media accounts (on services such as Facebook or Twitter) connected in a coordinated fashion for malicious purposes. They are, in effect, a force multiplier for rogue actors trying to magnify their presence in the social media information stream.

Studies found that around 20% of 2016 U.S. election-related Twitter activity came from suspect botnet accounts. These botnet accounts will need to be addressed by social media internet companies and the U.S. Congress, hopefully, before the 2018 midterm elections.

However, whatever rage many Americans feel about this past election, this should not cloud our nation’s judgment on how best to protect our electoral system from malicious external actors. Any congressional legislation this country passes in response to Russian electoral interference cannot be done without strict bipartisan oversight and accountability.

Just as many feel the 9-11 terrorist attacks led to, in the name of heightened security, unnecessary infringements on Americans’ civil liberties, we must be equally vigilant against any federal government power grab under the pretense of keeping foreign influences out of our campaign communications.

What can the government do to keep the Russians out of our elections?

How Congress will monitor and regulate content on Facebook, Twitter or Google is still a work-in-progress. Congressional Democrats have been restrained so far, as evidence continues to be gathered by congressional committees and the Mueller investigation on what actually happened in 2016; but, the initial legislative ideas coming out of Washington, D.C. have been narrow and are unlikely to deter the Russians or other rogue actors determined to interfere in American elections.

One example is the Honest Ads Act, a bipartisan bill introduced in October by Democratic senators Mark Warner and Amy Klobuchar and cosponsored by Republican senator John McCain, is the first legislative attempt to address Russian interference.

The bill would require political advertisers on social media and other online platforms to disclose who is paying for their ads. In effect, the bill requires internet political advertisers to comply with the same disclosure standards already required of broadcast, radio, and print advertisers. But the democratic nature of digital platforms — which, unlike radio and television, allow virtually anyone to create content — means rules aimed only at advertisements will have a limited effect.

Even the bill’s proponents agree that it will do little to hinder the Russians.

“It’s a good piece of legislation to address the modern realities of campaign financing and the need for disclosure,” Adam Sharp, former head of news, government, and elections at Twitter, told Wired magazine. “But I’m skeptical of how it will tamp down on behavior by bad actors like we saw in the 2016 election.”

Congress will need to address social media-based botnet accounts, perhaps the most effective tool utilized by the Russians in 2016, and there are a number of ways to identify and eliminate botnet accounts, some more intrusive and sophisticated than others.

Botnets distort the democratic pretenses of social network sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Their existence is inconsistent with the notion that these social networks are the modern day version of the ‘public square.’

One solution to botnets is rather mundane and easy to implement. Scholars at the University of Indiana suggest that Twitter use “captcha” tests for certain users to prove they’re human before they can post content. As a Twitter user, it would be annoying, but a small price to pay for limiting the power of botnets.

Another option would be for the social networks to allow users to directly flag suspected bot accounts — a sort of wisdom of the crowd method. This idea however could prove to be more an indication of the partisan bias of Twitter or Facebook users than a good detector of botnets.

Another option would be for the social networks to further develop sophisticated algorithms to detect botnets. While this anti-botnet solution may offer the least disruption to social network users, it places an extremely high burden on the social networks to maintain the relevancy of these artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms. Where there is a will to evade such algorithms, rogue actors will find a way.

Given their potential for making decisions that could impact large swaths of social media content, using AI algorithms to identify botnets cannot be carelessly implemented simply to placate an angry Congress. AI systems are still relatively new and are limited in their operationalization.

“Real-world planning and decision-making is still beyond the capabilities of modern computers, the exception being very well-defined, constrained problems such as mission planning for satellites,” says Max Welling, who teaches artificial intelligence courses at the University of California-Irvine.

Finally, at a nation-state diplomatic level, we could implement meaningful sanctions against any country harboring agents disruptive to American elections. We know what the Russians did in 2016. Are we willing to back up our evidence with action?

I’m guessing, no. Our Congress will more likely inconvenience American citizens and social media companies with whatever legislation they finally pass to protect American elections.

Whatever Congress decides, the social media companies will likely be adversaries to their effort

Any attempt to control foreign-sourced election communications must recognize the user-count business models of social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

Emilio Ferrara, a computer scientist at the University of Southern California and bot specialist, says, “Twitter’s business is selling advertising but bots don’t buy products and they don’t click on ads.”

The Twitterbot problem may, in fact, expose Twitter as being less than it says it is to advertisers and investors. Twitter is claimed to have 328 million monthly active users, as of the second quarter of 2017,  though to what extent that number includes Twitterbots is uncertain.

Twitters recent announcement to no longer accept advertising from the Russian government-supported news services, and, will have no impact on future Russian influence operations.

What is clear is that the Twitter stock price is largely driven by its user base numbers. When Twitter reported earlier this year that its monthly active users were up 6 percent year over year and 3 percent sequentially, investors sent Twitter stock shares up almost 11 percent.

Twitter has a strong incentive to stonewall attempts to determine the number of Twitter botnets in its user population or attempts to delete botnets from the Twitterverse.

Nonetheless, that is exactly where the Congress will need to go if it wants to defend the legitimacy of American elections in the age of social networks. Furthermore, when rogue actors illegally hack into email systems for political purposes, that is crime and should be pursued as such.

Does that mean we ignore the information, no matter how accurate or pertinent to the campaign, once it is made public by some entity like Wikileaks? Unlike a jury, it is hard to ask the American voting public to disregard information already available on the internet.

What is possible is exposing the likely source of this illegally-obtained information and letting voters decide if it warrants their consideration when making a vote decision. This is exactly what happened in 2016 and, in that sense, it was our greatest defense against Russian interference.

The Internationalization of U.S. Elections is Here to Stay

Here is a prediction: Future U.S. elections will include information (some of it ‘fake news’) created by foreign sources aiming to disrupt the election. Email servers will be attacked. Botnets will become more sophisticated. Online trolls will continue to target American voters on the various social media platforms. Even at the risk of retaliatory sanctions, the incentive for the Russians (and other nations) to influence American campaigns will not go away. This is the price of a free society.

This prediction does not mean, however, we should ignore these international miscreants. Our political parties and campaigns need to be more sophisticated in how they protect their private information. Our state governments need more secure methods for maintaining their voter registration records and more consistent technical standards for their voting machines. No entity should ever be able to hack into a U.S. voting machine from a remote location (Note: There is, as yet, no evidence this happened in the 2016 election; nonetheless, the theoretical possibility that it could happen should make us concerned).

At the same time, Americans cannot let its defense of our elections become another power grab by the federal government. Congressional Democrats, in particular, assume a government-imposed solution, often accompanied by increased federal powers, will solve the problem. It won’t.

One inference from Mueller’s speech at the 2012 RSA Cyber Security Conference was that the ‘bad guys’ will never go away and will adapt as fast as we build defenses to stop their attacks. That doesn’t mean we stop improving our cyber security efforts. It does mean we need to be realistic about what we can and can’t do. Their are no fail-safe solutions, but what we can do is keep Americans informed on what foreign actors are doing during our elections and how voters, on an individual-basis, can self-identify rogue actors and ‘fake news’ populating our social media platforms.

Americans must always have access to foreign sources of campaign information. This does open the door for other countries’ intelligence services to manipulate such information, but that risk is small compared to the risks associated with our federal government becoming a gatekeeper to what we can read, see and hear on the internet. The risk of foreign interference in our elections is attendant with our constitutionally-protected freedoms. Let us not harm the latter thinking we are stopping the former.

K. R. K.

About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.

Packers and McCarthy are Destined to Part Ways

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:, October 23, 2017)

{Feel free to send any comments about this essay to: or}

As reported earlier this year, the Green Bay Packers and Head Coach Mike McCarthy mutually agreed, short of a Super Bowl appearance in one of the next two seasons, the team will not renew his contract after the 2018 season.

Has the Aaron Rodgers likely season-ending injury changed that informal agreement?

One Packer management source close to the McCarthy’s negotiations says, “Yes.” This year is even more critical, not less, to McCarthy’s future with the Packers.

Nothing shows the value of a coach more than how a team responds to the loss of its best player. The Packers 26-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints is not, by itself, an indicator of McCarthy’s coaching ability, but our source close to Packer senior management says this season has become more important to McCarthy’s future following Rodgers’ injury.

“Behlichick won a Super Bowl (2016) with Brady out for six games,” notes our source. “Brady missed almost the entire 2008 season and the Patriots still finished 11-5. That’s the standard we expect for the Packers as well.”

Since the Packers’ 2011 Super Bowl victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Packers have not returned to the Super Bowl. Considering many NFL analysts view Rodgers as the best quarterback in the game today, the Packers’ absence from the Super Bowl leaves many wondering who is to blame: Packer management or the coach? Or both?

Packer management, of course, looks at McCarthy as a key factor to success and recent results have not proved favorable to his cause.

Despite a dramatic victory over the Dallas Cowboys in last season’s playoffs, the Packers’ subsequent 41-22 destruction at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game left many in Packer management feeling McCarthy’s time with the organization is nearing its end.

That conclusion seems harsh to many that still regard the Packers’ 2011 Super Bowl victory as a testament to McCarthy’s coaching acumen. Rather, some analysts pin the blame for the Packers’ post-2011 misfortunes on Packer management itself. Namely, management’s in ability to build a championship caliber defense around their future Hall of Fame quarterback.

The Packer defense, in terms of yards allowed per game, has only once finished a season in the league’s Top 10 since the 2011 season (when it was ranked 1st in the league).

2012: 22nd

2013: 8th

2014: 18th

2015: 18th

2016: 11th

2017 (in first 7 games): 22nd

“The problem with the Packers’ defense is that it is predicated so much on Rodgers getting hot early and allowing the unit to play with a significant lead,” wrote Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer after the Packers 2017 NFC Championship game loss. “Green Bay, perhaps spoiled by Rodgers, has taken that approach too far, to the point of no return to the Super Bowl.”

Radio sports talk host and long-time Packer observer, Steve Czaban, thinks blaming the Packers’ post-season misfortunes on specific management decisions is off-the-mark; instead, he believes the Packer’s unique municipal ownership structure must share some of the blame.

“I know that Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy have tried. And no, I don’t have any specific critiques of missteps on personnel,” says Czaban. “But the one, and only time it hurts the Packers to not have an actual owner is right now. It’s when those men responsible for wasting a generational talent like Rodgers’ career would otherwise feel the heat and urgency of a single billionaire calling them into his office to ask simply: “what the f**k? What… the F**K!”

Injuries have hobbled the Packers every year since their Super Bowl season, but one of the features of their last Super Bowl victory was that the team overcame a number of critical injuries that championship season.

Jermichael Finley, the Packer Pro Bowl tight end, was a big loss for the offense in 2011, but even bigger loses occurred on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive back Al Harris missed the first half of the 2010-11 season due to injury. All-Pro linebacker Nick Barnett was out the last two-thirds of the season, including the playoffs. Likewise, for starting defensive back Morgan Burnett and linebacker Brady Poppinga.

The 2010-11 Super Bowl winning season guaranteed McCarthy’s job would be safe for more than a few years. But this is 2017 and the Packers, in all likelihood, are not going to make it to the Super Bowl this year.

To what extent does the Packer management hold McCarthy accountable for the fact that the Packers haven’t been back to the Super Bowl since 2011? Packers president and chief executive office, Mark Murphy, will ultimately answer that question.

The fact that their Hall of Fame certain quarterback is no longer available for the 2017-18 season does not work in McCarthy’s favor. Should the Packers not contend for their division title this year, our sources say McCarthy will be all but done with the Packers.

Short of Super Bowl appearance next season, McCarthy will be out of a job on December 31, 2018.


About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.









Unitarians and Democrats: Misery Loves Company

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:, October 17, 2017)

{Feel free to send any comments about this essay to: or}

Our Unitarian-Universalist (UU) minister was midway through a touching and powerful Sunday sermon celebrating National Coming Out Day.

She had shared a story about the pending arrival of her and her spouse’s second child and how, when telling a stranger about the new arrival, the person assumed her spouse was a man, when, in fact, she is not.

It was a funny, well-told story about a same-sex couple having a baby in America today.

Then she told a second story about a married, middle-aged man who decided, after a lifetime of hiding his true identity, to tell his dying mother that he was bisexual. In the minister’s telling of the story, the man felt a personal burden had been lifted — he no longer needed to hide who he was to his mother.

As the congregation members around me nodded their heads in approval, and some even shedding tears, the minister’s sermon moved on to other poignant ‘coming out’ stories.

But I couldn’t let go of the middle-aged man’s story. I stewed on it as the minister and congregation had moved on. Something just rubbed me wrong about a man telling his mother, in the last days of her life, about his sexual preferences.

“What a self-indulgent sack of shit he is,” I thought.

Perhaps my wife had the same visceral reaction as I had to his story? In private, later, I asked for her reaction. But, no, she thought the story was just fine. “We shouldn’t have to go through life hiding from our family about who we love,” she said.

Yeah, but…I just couldn’t articulate at that time why the story felt so off key to me. So, I kept repeating the story in my head in the drive home…

His mother is on her deathbed and THAT is the time this man decides to inform his poor mother about HIS sexual preferences.

Mother Mary and Joseph! Really? The guy couldn’t let that one resentment towards his mother go unsettled? He HAD to get it off his chest. For whose benefit? Definitely not hers.

The UU minister’s story implied the man’s mother was not so open-minded about LGBTQ issues. For this reason, the man, married with adult children, never felt comfortable sharing his sexual identity with his mother — a not uncommon and often sad story repeated all over this world.

I empathize with his struggle and the need to tell his mother; but, presented as it was by the UU minister, the story did not come across to me like an act of liberation or love. It came across as self-serving and even vengeful.

The story glorified a selfish act. That’s the conclusion I draw from it.

The minister didn’t share the mother’s reaction to her son’s news because that was irrelevant to the story’s purpose. The mother was a stage prop in a man’s vainglorious ‘coming out’ drama.

Cue the congregational choir and their spirited rendition of “Standing on the Side of Love.”

Judge Not, Lest You Be Judged

Why is my judgment so harsh towards this tormented man in my minister’s story?

Insomuch as we are all self-centered, this man’s act felt unusually selfish and senseless; and when presented by the minister as heroic, it became a serious case of rhetorical overreach.

But more upsetting to me was that I could not find anyone else in the congregation, including my wife, that shared my ambivalence with the story. Can someone empathize with this man’s lifelong identity struggle and still question the way in which he brought his dying mother into the ‘coming out’ process? Based on reactions from my wife and other UU congregants, apparently not.

“When is it a good time to come out?” was one representative response.

Maybe if the minister had brought the mother into the story more I would have reacted better? I would like to think the mother gave her son a hug and told him, “Son, I always knew and I love you no matter what.” I need closure, even if it has to be Disney-fied.

But, apparently, other Unitarians don’t.

From listening to the post-church service chatter, I realized that most in the congregation thought the ‘coming out’ story was a potent representation of the sermon’s central narrative: We should not need to hide who we really are.

What could I have possibly misinterpreted in the story to think it was a tale of self-absorption, cruelty and heartlessness? I do not rule out that the problem is with me, and not the story.

Yet, I don’t think so in this case. Something bigger is going on. Something I’ve seen developing within liberal religious communities over thirty years. Something that widens my disconnect from what I hear more frequently from the pews at my UU church.

Identity issues are an unhealthy obsession with liberals. I’m saying nothing new in that statement. We hear it all the time now, post the 2016 elections. But I’ve never felt, until now, that how my religious community was doing harm to themselves in using identity — be it race, ethnicity, sexual preferences or gender — to turn otherwise empathetic people into self-absorbed…bigots.

Ouch! That hurts just to type the word. I’ve grown up in the Unitarian tradition. I refrain from calling anyone a bigot or a racist or sexist or whatever –ist you use. Because I am a Unitarian, I look to context and root causes when trying to understand other people’s behavior and attitudes. I would like to think I am empathetic, in part, because of my liberal religious upbringing.

Sadly, times have changed…and not for the better.

Partisan Religions are a Bad Idea

Two forces are drawing Unitarians away from their better angels. One is their growing acceptance of using identity issues to label entire groups as sharing one homogeneous, subconscious mindset. This is called stereotyping. It used to be a bad thing for anyone to do. Now it is acceptable for liberals and Unitarians to do it.

People are now assumed guilty of thought crimes based on the color of their skin or their sex organs, or whatever the out-of-favor personal characteristic at the moment. That is what Unitarians used to call bigotry.

Social critic, Reni Eddo-Lodge, gives voice to this new, socially acceptable form of bigotry in her article: “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race.”

It’s not just their race that disqualifies some people from being welcomed participants in the social dialogue. It could also be their ethnic category, or their sex category, or their gender category, or their sexual preferences…or some identity category we haven’t politicized yet.

The identity-centered parables delivered from the UU pulpits today no longer just strive to present the liberal religious ideals of explorationinquiry and inclusion — they now also serve to exclude and shutdown certain groups and ideas as well.

Today’s UUs now like to identify their enemies.

The UU Church may reject the Christian concept of original sin, but have replaced it with their own original sins called racism, sexism and bigotry. Self-aware or not, we are all sinners in this regard, or so we are told from the UU pulpits.

All this dovetails into the second negative force infecting today’s liberal religious thinking: the partisan politicization of identity issues.

Much of what you hear from the UU pulpits today are also dominating conversations at the Democratic Party’s state conventions and monthly county committee meetings.

This new assumption of original sin is now part of the Democratic Party’s core orthodoxy, even if it is dishonest and ultimately harmful to the Party’s attempt to regain majority status in the state and national legislatures.

It is important to acknowledge the importance of politics in fighting for, and extending rights to, disenfranchised and disadvantaged groups in America. Without politics, slavery doesn’t end, women don’t get the right to vote, Social Security doesn’t exist, and same-sex couples don’t have the right to marry.

Politics is central to addressing social grievances.

But it is the level (and assumption) of partisanship driving social and civil rights projects today that is different. Martin Luther King met frequently with a wide range of Democratic and Republican leaders, and often non-sympathizers to the civil rights cause.

U2 frontman, Bono, tells a great story about how he persuaded North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, a conservative Republican, to advocate increasing U.S. aid to Africa to combat AIDS.

“The great old cold warrior himself, after going through this with him and explaining that there was 2,103 verses of Scriptures pertaining to poverty, and that second to redemption, this is the second most important theme, and that sexual behavior, even misbehavior, doesn’t seem to be there that much — it’s mentioned a couple of times in the Old Testament — he was amazing,” Bono said during a PBS “Frontline” interview in 2015. “Not only was (he) moved by this; he was moved to do something. And he had a press conference where he publicly repented for the way he thought about the AIDS virus.”

Those kind of stories are not happening anymore. Not consistently. Not in a way that is changing U.S. political outcomes.

Today, once you’ve politicized an issue, you’ve guaranteed it won’t be solved anytime soon.

Increasingly, Unitarian sermons and Democratic candidates merely lecture us on how our ascribed characteristics (e.g., sex and race), gender identities and sexual preferences define us. Today’s liberal Democrats frenzy feed on the notion that our identities go a long way in explaining all aspects of our lives, including how we vote. The new business school religion called Big Data is built on this deeply flawed, error-prone supposition.

To Unitarians and Democrats, we are captives to our identities (though we have the latitude to change our gender self-identification) and, therefore, not solely responsible for our personal outcomes. Social norms and institutions — built by others in positions of privilege — are the problem.

Unitarians and Democrats take the lead in the drumbeat against privileged groups within mainstream society. In their worldview, ‘mainstream’ equates to ‘oppressor.’ To think of the social dynamic any other way is to condone and reinforce its inherent biases, excesses, and dysfunctions.

Misery Loves Company

The irony, of course, is that most Unitarians, and increasingly Democrats, are from the most privileged segments in our society. If you are looking for wealthy and/or highly-educated white people, I’d start with any local UU church congregation. Looking for African-Americans, Hispanics, working-class Americans or Muslims? They are as rare in a UU congregation as ‘shit is from a rocking horse,’ as my grandmother might say.

No, it is hard to find undocumented Dreamers or victims of police violence in a UU congregation. But you will nonetheless find lots of suffering, miserable people.

Many religious theologies are founded on guilt and suffering — the Unitarians are not exceptional in that regard. But having spent a few years attending Catholic services (during my first marriage), there is something qualitatively different about how Unitarian theology treats suffering. For Christians, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists, it is an intermutual phenomenon. For Unitarians, it is personal. Christians, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists accept it (mash’ Allah, says the Koran). Unitarians soak in it.

In market research we would say, Unitarians over-index in their miserableness quotient.

We UUs do not adhere to fixed dogmas — so we renamed them principles and covenants.

Fixed dogmas. This is where the UU Church and religious liberals, in general, go off course. Their foundational assertion that they are in a constant search for truth, and that their principles and covenants are evolving ‘works-in-progress,’ is merely a pretense.

The first of the UU Church’s Seven Principles emphasizes “the inherent worth and dignity of every person.” Yet, as so often happens with core religious principles, a simple dictum like this becomes neutered over time.

My UU religious community, while embracing the rights and dignity of all individuals from the pulpit, in fact, acts to enforce the exact opposite approach on a societal level. To UUs, your individuality is subsumed under, not above, your identity. What you think, how you interact with others, and even how you vote is largely determined by your identity.

If this sounds like the national Democratic Party’s approach to election campaigns, it is not a coincidence. The religious Left is the conscience of the political Left. They go to the same universities, vacation in the same locations, read the same books, and invest their 401ks in the same socially responsible mutual funds.

You may think you are enlightened or open-minded or broadly accepting of others, but to religious liberals, you are a category and, in that inviolable assignment, gain the institutional advantages (or disadvantages) inherent to all people in your category. You may have the approved attitudes, but that doesn’t change who you are.

“Oh, you’re a typical white male,” my wife chides. “Sounds like a Sean Hannity-level analysis to me.” She knows how to hit with words.

I did basically steal this rant from Tucker Carlson, but still, I ask her, “What would happen if I stood up one Sunday at our local UU Church and declared that my interpretation of the UU’s First Principlethe inherent worth and dignity of every person — must include the unborn.”

Most UU congregations do not have Tiki torches readily available, but there are usually enough unclaimed potluck dinner bowls and pans in the church kitchen to cause some real damage if thrown in the general direction of someone uttering a heretical statement like that.

The religious Left has zero tolerance for opinion diversity. Zero tolerance.

Ask former Omaha, Nebraska mayoral candidate, Heath Mello, a Catholic Democrat who is marginally pro-life, about the national Democratic Party’s tolerance for opinion diversity.

Former Omaha, Nebraska mayoral candidate, Heath Mello.

The Republican candidate ended up winning the race (53 vs. 47 percent) after Democratic National Committee chairman, Tom Perez, withdrew his unqualified support for the Mello candidacy due to the abortion issue. Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential vote in Douglas County (which includes Omaha) by 52 percent to 47 percent, and lost it by a similar margin in 2012. Omaha is a winnable constituency for Democrats.

Mello’s loss is natural product of a fixed dogma.

As Ohio congressman, Tim Ryan (Democrat), puts it: “Requiring everybody to fit some purity test is a recipe for disaster.”

And its not just abortion.

Do you oppose raising the minimum wage to $15-an-hour on the basis that the empirical evidence shows such policies generally have a negative impact on employment levels for unskilled labor? If this is your opinion, do not utter it on UU Church grounds or within earshot of your county Democratic Party headquarters.

What happened to their search for truth? Some might call this hypocrisy.

Yes, but the religious and political Right are no less rigid, you may retort. Maybe. But is that the benchmark the UUs want for their church or the Democrats want for their party?

And, for those that prefer empirical data, the evidentiary case actually suggests the political Right’s voters have more opinion diversity than voters on the Left. I recommend Lee Drutman’s analysis of the 2016 election which makes this observation — though he draws from it some terribly misguided strategic recommendations for the Democrats, such as: The Democrats do not need working-class whites anymore, so let them go.

A really bad idea, Democrats.

Cradle Unitarians of the World, Unite!

I need to be clear on this point. There is no other church for me outside the UU Church. It is my spiritual home port.

I was born into a UU family, which makes me a cradle Unitarian. My parents joined the UU Church in the late 1950s in direct reaction to the McCarthy-era and the rise of an odious form of religion-sourced bigotry that settled into places like Iowa (my birth state).

Religious bigotry was not invented in the 1950s, nor was its politicization. What was different was the prosperity spreading across the U.S. at this time. My parents were both college-educated; with the exception of my maternal grandmother, their parents didn’t even complete high school.

My parents openly questioned the religious dogmas of their Midwestern upbringing and soon realized many others in their age and social group felt similarly disconnected to their traditional religious roots.

My religious journey to the UU Church was second-hand, but I still share my parents’ reasons for choosing this religious community.

Once I moved away from Iowa for work and school, I didn’t attend UU services very often, but I reconnected when needed, particularly after the end of my first marriage and the death of my father. The UU religious community never failed to be there for me at those moments.

I met my second wife at the Unitarian Church of Montclair (New Jersey) and we have raised our 11-year-old son in the Unitarian Church. There is no other church for us.

So why do I now find Unitarians so frustrating? So intolerant? So close-minded?

I fear it reflects our times. We are all more polarized and less open to new ideas. Like dark matter accelerates the expansion of distant galaxies from our own, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter seem to serve that same function here on earth. We are all moving away from each other faster than ever. Sadly, my own church is part of the problem, not yet the solution.

Unitarians are ‘canaries in the mine’ for American liberals. If liberals are on the verge of collective over-reach, this will first manifest itself, often in extreme form, among Unitarians.

In the mid-70s, when I was entering my teen years, a small but significant number of Unitarians in our congregation embraced (or, literally, flirted with) the idea of open marriages. My parents thankfully resisted the concept. Yet, even as bystanders, their marriage suffered damage.

Open marriage was an awful idea in 1970s and the broken families and psychological carnage this minor movement left in its wake quickly ended its limited popularity. The Unitarians, always willing to question social norms, paid a disproportionate price.

But Unitarians have always loved being the vanguard for any movement that rams a stick up conservative America’s ass.

Fast forward to the present, a similar dynamic exists among Unitarians with respect to identity politics, particularly transgender issues. Empathy for the bias transgender individuals experience on a daily basis is one of the admirable features of the UU Church. There is no religious tradition more supportive to those who outside mainstream norms.

However, for most Americans, the transgender issue is relatively new and it draws out many complex attitudes and deeply-held prejudices. It does not surprise me that a Public Religion Research Institute poll in February 2017 found that 53 percent of Americans oppose bathroom laws that disallow transgender individuals from using the bathroom of their choice.

It also doesn’t surprise me that 72 percent of Americans, according to a Rasmussen Poll in February 2017, don’t believe this is an issue for the federal government to address.

Unitarians have the luxury, even an expectation, to stand against mainstream opinion when it stands on the wrong side of an issue. The Democratic Party, however, does not have that freedom.

UUs would rather shame others for not supporting the bathroom rights of transgender Americans (who are about 0.6 percent of the U.S. population), than understand why 47 percent Americans have a problem with transgender individuals with male genitals going into women’s bathrooms.

Unitarians and Democrats share one unfortunate trait: their intellectual arrogance and intolerance for opinion diversity. They speak of empathy for some, but for those holding opinions outside their “green zone,” it is aggressively withheld.

There is someone else many think lacks empathy, to go along with his probable narcissistic personality disorder. Yes, that’s an provocative comparison to make, but I regret that it fits.

Donald Trump’s personal flaws are well-documented. He is ill-informed. He is dangerously inarticulate. He also appears incapable of understanding and soothing other’s pain — but isn’t identity politics just a group level manifestation of this same pathology? If you are outside an approved group, you are shunned. There is no attempt at finding common ground. That would require listening, constructive dialogue, and…well, empathy.

Dialogue? Empathy? Why bother? Its much easier just to get your people to turn out and vote.

Donald Trump is a symptom of a sickness within society-at-large, not a cause. And it infects all political persuasions. The illness doesn’t discriminate.

There are other Unitarians and Democrats that lament the current emphasis on identity theology and politics. We see its divisiveness and know that it may cause as much harm as it relieves.

We also know from experience that the tight correlations between group identities and attitudes are not permanent and can shift rapidly.

Those of us that doubt the efficacy of identity theology and politics are not all white or uneducated. Some of us may be rich, but most of us are not.

We lurk in the shadows like a secret society and exchange approving winks and nods every now and then. We exist, but we are quiet. We regret the increasingly narrow path we see our religious community going down and fear our preferred political party is not far behind.

But we are not leaving our progressive faith community and still lean towards staying in the Democratic Party, even as both make it increasingly clear that people that think like us are not welcome.


About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.

Trump and Bannon Already Conceding the 2018 Elections

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:, October 12, 2017)

{Feel free to send any comments about this essay to: or}

Steve Bannon is a very smart man — always three moves ahead of his opponents.

When Bannon told Sean Hannity on Fox News’ “Hannity” recently that he is looking to challenge every sitting GOP lawmaker except Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), he was laying the groundwork for President Trump’s defense should the Republicans lose the U.S. House in the 2018 midterms.

“There’s a basic agenda that Trump ran on and won. He carried states Republicans haven’t carried in living memory — Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania. This agenda works. The American people voted for it,” Bannon told Hannity.


Bannon’s clever but risky move is an implicit concession that the Republicans are going to lose big in the 2018 midterm elections, but he does not want Republicans to blame the losses on President Trump’s weakness, but rather, on Trump’s strength within the Republican Party.

It would be unprecedented in U.S. electoral history for allies of an incumbent president to sabotage the president’s own party during midterm elections.

Yet, that is exactly what Bannon says he will do. By undercutting Republican incumbents now, Bannon is attempting to minimize Trump’s culpability should the GOP lose the U.S. House.

It’s a counter-intuitive strategy, but if anyone can pull it off, it is Bannon.

Unfortunately, this malignant intra-party skirmish is merely an attempt to divert the public’s attention from the real story of the Trump administration’s first year in office. There have been no major legislative accomplishments.

Will the media and the public fall for this diversionary tactic? Probably. But will Bannon’s intra-party purge attempt actually replace disloyal Republican incumbents with Trump loyalists?

That’s a more difficult question.

Primary challenges rarely succeed in U.S. House and Senate Races

According to Michael Malbin of the Campaign Finance Institute, as of July 2017, 212 U.S. House and Senate incumbents have a primary challenger who has filed a financial report with the Federal Election Commission.

In the 2014 midterms, there were only 95 incumbents with a challenger at this point in the election cycle. The chart below from compare the number of challengers for the last three midterm elections (as of July in the year prior to the election).

“Defeats of incumbents are rare, and it is very rare for a successful challenger to go on to win the general election,” according to Dr. Robert Boatright of Clark University. “In years with no redistricting, no more than three or four Congressional incumbents are likely to lose their primaries.”

In all likelihood, few Republican incumbents are going to lose in a primary challenge in 2018. But will the Bannon-fueled primary challenges hurt these same incumbents in the general election?

Not likely.

What will happen in the 2018 midterms?

Most analytic models used to predict aggregate midterm election outcomes rely heavily on presidential job approval ratings. That does not bode well for the Republicans given Trump’s current job approval ratings hover around 39 percent job approval.

If Republicans do lose the U.S. House in 2018, it will be because of Donald Trump’s low job approval ratings. The contention that Trump can distance himself from his own party’s electoral fortunes has no analog in U.S. presidential history.

Unless President Trump’s approval ratings improve significantly, many prognosticators say the Republicans are likely to lose control of the U.S. House in 2018. The Huffington Post sees the Republicans losing control of the House by seven seats.’s generic U.S. House poll averages show the Democrats about eight points ahead of the Republicans, which is the margin the Democrats will need to take back the House according to their prediction models.

However, there is still reason for cautious optimism among Republicans. The Crosstab blogsite, maintained by G. Elliott Morris, continues to predict the Republicans have a 68 percent chance of maintaining control of the U.S. House, despite the Democrats likely winning 54 percent of votes for the U.S. House in their prediction models.

The futures-based prediction market, PredictIt, also continues to give the Republicans a 55 percent chance of keeping control of the House.

But these predictions are all noise to Bannon’s ears. A lot can change in 13 months. More importantly, Bannon has an enemies list and none of these predictions can account for what Bannon’s offensive against GOP incumbents will mean to the Republican’s chances in 2018.

We are in uncharted waters.


About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.

The American Death Cult

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:, October 7, 2017)

{Feel free to send any comments about this essay to: or}

Keith Olbermann was only half right when he tweeted, “@realDonaldTrump, the @GOP and @benshapiro have sold their souls to the NRA and the death cult.”

Not just pro-Second Amendment conservatives belong to this cult, we all belong to the American death cult.

The latest mass shooting in Las Vegas merely reinforces our cultural dependency on violence. And this dynamic is not just coming from the Republicans or the political right. We all participate.

When a Planned Parenthood medical director attending a professional conference openly describes abortion as “violence” and “killing,” it shouldn’t require an undercover conservative journalist to spark the outrage, we should all be saddened this barbaric procedure (regardless of its legal status) is considered an expression of freedom and civil justice by many. We had a presidential nominee hesitate in a debate to even rule out abortions up to the very moment of birth…and was cheered for her brave stance. The theater of the macabre, American presidential campaign style.

While the liberals turn a blind eye to the unborn, the conservatives aren’t occupying the moral high ground either. Their support for the unborn is not matched by a similar respect for the living. From their callous refusal to join the civilized world in ensuring affordable, basic health care for all of its citizens to their tepid condemnations of neo-Nazi marches, conservative America has little empathy for the weak and most vulnerable in our society. Live and Let Die could be their anthem. Its Calvinist theology as public policy.

Why do Americans tolerate such high levels of violence?

Few advanced countries tolerate violence and death like Americans do. Our media and entertainment sources soak us in it. Our politicians nurture it. Our companies package it. Our economic elites profit from it. We all grind on it.

“We have the best military in the world,” crows President Trump, stating the obvious. He even told The Washington Post there should be more military parades with F-16s over Brooklyn and Marines “marching down Pennsylvania Avenue.” And, on cue, the Democrats cry “Fascist!” at Trump’s suggestion.

Democrats, have you been to a football game or NASCAR race in this country? We already do this. Every day. What Trump is saying is not new.

With every mass shooting in the U.S., we confirm our own American exceptionalism. We are different than France, or Germany or Canada by choice. We are not just bad asses to our external enemies, we will put our own people in the rifle scope’s cross hairs.

That is who we are and neither the Democrats or Republicans have any real incentive to change this foundational aspect of American society.

But most Americans want better, more effective gun control — so why hasn’t it happened?

Americans, like most people, want to feel safe. But personal safety has a yin yang quality that gun control advocates don’t seem to understand. Yes, the statistics strongly suggest that bringing a gun into a household increases the chance a household member will die from gun violence (including suicides). But, for many, guns make them feel safe. The overwhelming majority of gun owners have good intentions. Whether motivated by security or sport, their gun ownership poses no proximal threat to society-at-large.

Still, a June 2017 national survey by Pew Research Center shows 84 percent of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, support an expansion of background checks to include private firearm sales and purchases at gun shows.

Gun control advocates rightfully suggest the public understands these types of gun control laws are just good common sense.

Unfortunately, public opinion doesn’t matter in the case of gun control. Why? Because few Democratic politicians are voted out of office for supporting gun rights. In fact, Democrats use their support for gun rights as evidence of their independence from rigid liberal orthodoxy.

Furthermore, politicians raise millions amidst America’s self-inflicted carnage, particularly on the political right.

According to Geoff West of, an campaign finance watchdog group, “Gun rights interests have given about $41.9 million to candidates, parties and outside spending groups since 1989, with 89 percent of the funds contributed to candidates and parties going to Republicans. And in the 2012 and 2014 election cycles, they let loose another $48 million (at least) in outside spending.”

In contrast, gun control interests have given only a fraction of the amount in the same time period. “They’ve given $4.2 million since 1989 (and) 96 percent of their contributions to parties and candidates have gone to Democrats,” says West. “In the 2016 cycle, gun control groups accounted for $3 million in outside spending versus $54.9 million from gun rights organizations, including $54.3 million from the NRA.”

Money is not always a direct measure of political influence. It is, however, a good proxy for influence in this case.

There simply is no stomach for gun control in America. If this country was not compelled to change gun laws after the 2012 Sandy Hook shootings of 20 children, there is no event that will bring about meaningful gun control.

The same media outlets that saturate their mawkish news coverage of each mass shooting with cloying appeals to our worst fears, inevitably remind us that we, as a country, can show our unique strength by going on with life as normal.

“Don’t let the S.O.B. change us,” former Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman told CNN’s Michael Smerconish, after 58 people were senselessly murdered at a concert in his city.

So, there you go gun control advocates. Change our gun laws? Apparently, doing so means the homicidal maniacs win.

In the privacy of our thoughts, many of us know, short of confiscating all guns from the civilian population (which will never happen), no law, new regulation, or enhanced background check will really reduce the gun violence in America. Mass shootings are a by-product of our tolerance for violence. And that is a cultural problem, not a legal one.

The American death cult needs the violence. It nourishes the American exceptionalism narrative that justifies the U.S. spending more on defense than the next eight countries combined. It rationalizes why we, as a society, spend as much money on guns and ammunition as we do on educational tutoring for our children.

We indulge in violence at all levels of our social lives. Our most popular music is violent. Our favorite national sport is violent. Our movies are violent. Even the everyday language we use to talk to each other is laced with profanity and violence, and usually unnecessary given the context of most conversations. Like a nervous tick, we use profanity as the conversational equivalent of Hamburger Helper.

With each mass shooting we remind ourselves that we can care, we can feel compassion, feelings that for many is increasingly hard to find in their daily lives.

We even feel pride and envy when the heroes are inevitably marched out by the media as symbols of our resolve and resilience against inexplicable treachery. It prompts hero fantasies that we play out in our heads.

We are a warrior culture that values the acquisition, use and taming of violence. A modern-day Sparta minus the awesome head gear. Guns are just one element of this social disorder. Mass shootings are just one symptom.

We know, collectively, without the guns and violence, we are just a more populated version of Canada (minus universal health care, of course).


About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.

Climate realists drive U.S. energy policy: Will they do enough?

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:, October 5, 2017)

{Feel free to send any comments about this essay to: or}

The alarmists and deniers dominate the climate change debate on the cable news networks, but neither dominate U.S. energy policy.

Climate realists are driving American energy policy and there is little reason to think the Trump administration can reverse the climate change initiatives already in place.

Today’s federal court ruling upholding the Obama-era EPA methane rules punctuates this fact.

Who are the climate realists? They are the forces driving the rise of natural gas for electricity generation concurrently with the development of renewable sources such as wind and solar. They include industry executives in the oil and gas sector, Wall Street investors, environmentalists, government bureaucrats, the courts and the major congressional committees overseeing our nation’s energy policies.

Are the climate realists just another arm of the Deep State? Perhaps. Whoever they are, they are not hindered by our nation’s hyper-partisanship. Instead, a massive realignment of our nation’s energy production and consumption mix is well underway and not even President Trump and EPA Chief Scott Pruitt can stop it.

Since 2000, the U.S. has restructured the nation’s electricity generation mix away from coal and towards cleaner energy sources, such as natural gas and renewables.

Primary Electricity Net Generation in U.S. from 1949 to 2016 (Billion kilowatt hours)
Data source: U.S. Energy Information Agency (July 2017)

Coal peaked at 2 trillion kilowatt hours in 2008 and has been in decline ever since; whereas, natural gas has been rising as a source of electricity generation since the late 1980s. Today, coal and natural gas each account for 33 percent of total U.S. electricity generation.

As for renewable energy sources, no politician receives less credit than George W. Bush for pushing the advance of green energy. As the governor of Texas, Bush signed legislation that created a renewable electricity mandate so that today Texas leads the nation in wind generating capacity.

President George W. Bush more than once pushed Congress to extend the production tax credits for renewable energy sources, particularly wind power. Bush’s policies had the tangible result of increasing renewable energy’s share in U.S. electricity generation from 10 percent in the early 2000s to about 15 percent in 2016.

According to U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) forecasts, by 2050, renewable energy sources will account for about 30 percent of U.S. electricity generation, putting it behind only natural gas (40%) as the largest contributor. Coal will account for around 17 percent.

Data source: EIA (May 2017)

A number of assumptions underlie the EIA U.S. energy forecasts, one of them being the continued implementation of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), which is already under threat from the Trump Administration’s executive order in March telling the EPA to kill it.

Easier said than done. Since the CPP has already gone through the full federal rulemaking process, ending it will require a similarly laborious process. As of today, the CPP still stands, if only barely, and the federal judge hearing the opposition to the CPP by 27 states — including EPA Chief Scott Pruitt’s home state of Oklahoma — has ruled that the Trump administration must offer its new course of action in lieu of the CPP by October 6th.

To CPP advocates, the endless mélange of arcane legal procedures and bureaucratic stodginess may appear impenetrable, but this is what happens when the federal executive and legislative branches stop working together and economic policy is implemented through executive fiat. Throw into this political mosh pit over half of the state attorney generals trying to kill the CPP and it is fair to ask, what chance does the country have at changing its national energy policies on a scale that can possibly address climate change?

It turns out,  the chances are looking pretty good — though three more years (at least) of the Trump administration is likely to sap some of that optimism.


The major trends are undeniable. Coal is rapidly being replaced by natural gas and renewable energy (wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric) as the primary sources of U.S. electricity production. Recent increases in coal electricity production in 2017 are not likely to change these trends as many coal energy plants are scheduled to be shutdown over the next decade.

Along with the decline of coal, there are four other macro trends that will drive U.S. energy production and consumption over the next 30 years:

  1. Natural gas will continue as a stop gap energy source until renewables  become more cost effective and reliable.
  2. Cost decreases in renewable energy generation will continue and spur its future growth
  3. While renewable energy will continue to grow, it will not be fast enough to see the effective end of fossil fuels by 2050 (as required by the Paris Accords) unless major efficiency improvements occur in energy production and use.
  4. The U.S. will not see nuclear power playing a significant role in replacing fossil fuels (but that will not the case in China and India).

How did this all happen? Our elected leaders notwithstanding, the other players in the making U.S. energy policy (Big Oil and Gas companies, federal bureaucrats, regulators, the environmental lobby, and public opinion) have opted for a realist view of global warming.

When the Trump administration decided unilaterally to relax the regulatory requirements for limiting the escape of methane gas during the natural gas extraction process, the environmental lobby weighed in, but did so without undercutting the importance of natural gas in addressing climate change.

“(The Trump administration) listened to a few industry players eager to cut costs and to maximize profits in the short-term, while shirking their responsibility to help America’s booming natural gas industry stay competitive for decades to come,” said Ben Ratner, Director of the Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) Corporate Partnership’s Program.”States such as Colorado show that methane leaks, can, in fact, be managed cost-effectively and without harming production.’

So who are the Big Oil and Gas industry players like Exxon-Mobil siding with on this issue? The EDF and the climate change lobby, of course.


“The major multinational oil and gas producers like ExxonMobil and Shell have said they are already following methane pollution rules finalized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last year (2016),” says Jon Goldstein, Director for Regulatory and Legislative Affairs at EDF. ‘Better to anticipate future compliance issues today and bake them into your forward planning, than to be caught flatfooted tomorrow.”

That is climate realism as practiced by Big Oil and Gas.

Popular culture views oil executives as derivative forms of Dallas‘ J.R. Ewing. In reality, they are often Ivy League educated business managers with the education and experience  to know that risk must always be managed, not ignored. The geologic and political realities underlying fossil fuels leave just one outcome. Fossil fuels will not be the dominant energy source by the end of this century.

As regressive as the Trump administration has been on climate change policy, there is little they can do to change the global trends. Recent increases in coal electricity generation is illusory. Coal is dead. Instead, the central question facing U.S. policymakers is the extent to which natural gas extraction — including the use of fracking — is going to continue. When does natural gas stop being a stop-gap measure?

Even the most alarmist environmental lobby groups recognize that natural gas has driven the recent reductions in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. But what divides them from climate realists is their long-term view of natural gas. The alarmists will not accept an energy source (natural gas) that is only 50 percent cleaner in its greenhouse gas emissions than coal.

Climate realists, in contrast, consider the economic risks and disruption associated with a crash program to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy sources. And economists are quick to point out that recent public and private investments in clean energy have been full of fits and starts. Forbes reported in June that “new investment in clean energy fell to $287.5 billion in 2016, 18 percent lower than the record investment of $348.5 billion in 2015 and 9 percent lower than the $315 billion invested in 2014.”

Climate realists want the trends to be in the right direction, while the alarmists want a worldwide “Man on the Moon”-like resolve to see the practical elimination of fossil fuels by 2050.

This is what divides climate alarmists from realists and it represents a mighty big chasm. The good news is that both groups agree (for the most part) on the basic science behind global warming.


Let’s immediately dispense with the scientific nonsense promulgated by those who claim the science is still unsettled. Yes, of course, some aspects of the science is unsettled. But here is what the climatologists are telling us:

The planet’s recent warming is due largely to human activities. This additional warming is not due to natural variation. It is due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases (particularly CO2) in the atmosphere.

Here is a fun little graphic from contrasting the two contradictory views on global warming:

Even many hardcore climate change skeptics (like myself) are moved by the growing empirical evidence.

Climate skeptics are not swayed by peer pressure, which invites bias and herd mentalities. And don’t bother them with the ’97 percent of climatologists’ agree argument. That figure was basically pulled out of Harvard researcher Naomi Oreskes’ ass 17 years ago. Only recently has a meta-analysis of published research found some credence in that ’97 percent’ figure — but only after researchers ignored the majority of climate change research papers that did not take any stand regarding global warming.

Science isn’t a democracy and facts are determined by vote counts. I’m sure at some point 97 percent of physicists ascribed to the Steady State Theory of the Universe. Scientists can get things really wrong sometimes.

Instead, only evidence matters and it has been unequivocal on global warming.

Even under the new administration, NASA’s offers a convincing summary of the data evidence behind the conclusion that recent global warming is anthropogenic (human-caused):

Data source: NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). Credit: NASA/GISS

However, the most compelling evidence was offered in 1990, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its first forecast for global temperatures. It was impossible to know at the time, but the report’s forecast for global temperatures was relatively accurate, despite being based on a simple statistical model driven primarily by the increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The 1990 IPCC report forecast an increase global temperatures between 0.10 to 0.35°C per decade. In actuality, global temperatures have risen 0.15°C per decade since the 1st IPCC forecast.

“The IPCC models do an impressive job accurately representing and projecting changes in the global climate, contrary to contrarian claims,” says science writer Dana Nuccitelli. “In fact, the IPCC global surface warming projections have performed much better than predictions made by climate contrarians.”

Source: IPCC AR5. Solid lines and squares represent measured average global surface temperature changes by NASA (blue), NOAA (yellow), and the UK Hadley Centre (green). The colored shading shows the projected range of surface warming in the IPCC First Assessment Report (FAR; yellow), Second (SAR; green), Third (TAR; blue), and Fourth (AR4; red).

‘Impressive’ may be an over-statement as the 1st IPCC Assessment Report (yellow shaded region in the above graph) over-estimated global warming; however, the 3rd and 4th IPCC projections were better. That is to be expected. Over time, the models should be better.

Global temperatures are rising. And by using ice core data to model climate dynamics over long periods of geologic time, the evidence also supports the connection between rising global temperatures and the increased concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

What is the exact sensitivity of global temperatures to greenhouse gas concentrations?That’s a complicated question well beyond my background, so I will let the climate scientists debate over the answer. For the hopelessly curious, the Skeptical Scientist website offers a layman-friendly discussion of this complex issue: HERE. [My personal fear is that climate scientists exaggerate humankind’s ability to modulate global temperatures through the manipulation of greenhouse gas emissions alone.]


One reason we see variations in the global temperature forecast models is that the scientific groups making the forecasts use different specifications and parameterizations of this temperature/greenhouse gases relationship.

Here is the good news: Eventually, climate scientists will determine which models best predict global temperatures…but it will take time…measured in years. But the best models will reveal themselves, that is certain.

In the meantime, does the world have the luxury to wait for the perfect answer. Sometimes (maybe always?) policymakers are forced to work with the 80 percent solution.

We all know the phrase — ‘better being the enemy of the good’ — popularized by Voltaire. But I like John Lennon’s version. When asked by a journalist when he knew if a song he was writing was finished, Lennon replied, “I stop writing when the song is good enough.”

The climate models are far from perfect, but they are good enough to make substantive policy decisions. The problem for climate alarmists however is that those policy decisions may not go far enough for them.

Policy making in a pluralist democracy like ours is driven by a multiplicity of relatively small and autonomous groups. Despite what Bernie Sanders says, no single group of elites dominate our policy process.

Thus, scientists are not empowered to dictate public policy on climate change but must instead fight it out with other political factions and organized interests. Madison, Jay and Hamilton envisioned our system to work that way for good reason.

The structure of our political system has profound implications on policy making. It encourages small changes over large, dramatic changes in policy.

Political scientist Charles Lindblom described the incrementalist predisposition of American policy making in his famous 1959 essay, “The Science of Muddling Through.” Since incrementalism failed to explain large policy shifts, however, Lindblom’s original model was supplanted by the punctuated equilibrium model of policy making which says major policy changes will occur over brief periods of time, followed by longer periods of incremental policy changes.

How the world addresses climate change is the ultimate policy model case study.


Collectively, the world has three possible policy approaches to climate change. They are: (1) Do nothing or the ‘wait and see’ approach (Deniers), (2) Incremental decisions as events demand (Realists), or (3) Dramatic policy shifts now in anticipation of the future (Alarmists).

All three approaches have strengths and weaknesses:

Policy ModelStrengthsWeaknesses
Wait and SeeShort-term costs are minimal; policy flexibility (in the short-term, at least)If worst-case scenarios occur, policy flexibility reduced; overall costs extremely high
IncrementalismModest costs in short-term; hedges fiscal bets in case worst-case scenarios don't materialize; maximum policy flexibilityInadequate policy responses in short-term may exacerbate problems in the long-term; high long-term costs under worst-case scenarios
Dramatic Policy ShiftsLower overall costs if worst-case scenarios prove correctHigh costs in short-term; if initial policies inappropriate to the problem, long-term costs at fiscal bankruptcy levels.

As to which policy is adopted will be partially driven by political leaders’ level of confidence in the empirical data. Alarmists accept the scientific evidence as irrefutable and deterministic. There is no need for political debate. Deniers reject the evidence as flawed and driven more by partisan agendas. And realists see the empirical data as credible but probabilistic.

Scientists do not make the policy decisions. That is not their domain of expertise. Policy making is the domain of the political class.

Unfortunately, that’s where the climate change debate becomes contentious. Throw in a healthy serving of Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt (with a dash of Rick Perry), and the debate is dysfunctional.

We can ignore the deniers as their policy goal is the simplest of all — do nothing. However, as already shown, the world’s energy production and consumption has already changed in significant ways and the deniers long ago lost control of policy making process. They are nearly irrelevant (even though control the U.S. executive branch right now).

The other two climate groups are relevant.

Climate alarmists see climate change in binary terms — it is “zero net emissions” soon after 2050 or global calamity. There is no middle solution or outcome. This deterministic view of the world — as in, “I know for fact this is going to happen” — places little value on negotiation and compromise. Climate realists, in contrast, are all about negotiation and compromise.


Climate realists are creatures of the existing policy making system. They see the world through a lens of probabilistic events where there is always a chance that even the most likely events fail to materialize. Furthermore, in the context of large structural budget deficits within the public sector, climate realists incorporate risk assessments into the policy mix which further discourages dramatic policy shifts.

Climate realists bring a healthy skepticism of the science yet are sensitive to its implications. This more sophisticated understanding of the intersection of science and policy place the realists in a better position to dominate U.S. energy and environmental policy.


Climate alarmists desire to end the fossil fuel industry within the next 30 years. In other words, divert $33 trillion of capital and assets from one industry to another.

Good luck.

This plan typically includes a carbon tax system (or some equivalent) that would divert around $3 trillion annually from the fossil fuel economy to government entities. These revenues would be diverted into investments in materials and energy efficiency, renewable energy capacity, and the infrastructure necessary to accommodate a 100 percent renewable energy economy.

Alarmists will quickly note that the $3 trillion annual tax levy would ultimately save more money than it raises. Ecofys estimated the savings around $6 trillion per year by 2050.

It’s a big bet. Nothing like it has ever been attempted in human history.

What if global warming comes in at the low-end of the forecasts? The models by design suggest the real possibility.

What if the higher order effects — such as tropical storm intensities, coastal and river flooding, drought frequency, etc. — do not reach levels predicted by the climate models?

What if relatively small investments in improved building materials, better building codes, and smarter zoning and development laws are fiscally more effective than a $3 trillion annual transfer of wealth to the public sector and the nascent clean energy industry.

For the alarmists to achieve a 100 percent renewable energy economy around 2050, a punctuated equilibrium policy change may not be enough. It may require something more revolutionary and disruptive.

Luckily, the climate realists will be pumping brakes on any attempt by the alarmists to change public policy on such a scale.


The Paris Accords set an aggressive global goal to have net zero carbon emissions early in the second half of this century. The difference in global temperatures between ‘low carbon emissions’ (blue shaded region) and the status quo (red shaded region) is significant:

If the world keeps energy policies at the status quo, by 2100, global temperatures will rise by 4 °C over 2005 temperatures. If we reach near zero net carbon emissions by 2050 (or soon after), global temperatures will rise only 1 °C over 2005 temperatures.

Of course, these predictions assume the global warming models are accurate. Alarmists assume humans can turn down the global thermostat and the globe will dutifully respond. The comedian George Carlin has a nice bit about this noxious type of hubris: It is just another arrogant attempt by humans to control mother nature.

But let’s play along with the idea that we can control global temperatures like the thermostats we use to control our homes’ temperatures. The only chance it happens is if we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero in a relatively short period of time. [Some scientists fear it may already be too late to prevent the globe’s temperatures from exceeding 2 °C over pre-industrial temperatures.]

From a policy perspective, getting to Paris Accords’ zero net carbon emissions target is problematic given current global reliance on coal and natural gas energy production and existing plans to build new coal and natural power plant.

Forecasts on the mix of energy sources in 2050, not surprisingly, vary significantly depending on what group is making the forecasts.

The following forecasts illustrate this variance.

A PLAN TO GET TO ZERO EMISSIONS BY 2050 (or soon after)

Energy consulting firm Ecofys produced a report in 2011 demonstrating the plausibility of ‘net zero emissions’ by 2050. In their forecast model, half of the ‘net zero emissions’ goal is met by reducing energy demand through increased energy efficiency, and the remaining part of the goal is met by the substitution of traditional energy sources with renewable sources (see chart below).

Ecofys’s forecast is aggressive and predicated on a number of strong assumptions and stretch goals, including:

  • Global energy demand in 2050 will be 15 percent lower than in 2005, despite a growing population and continued economic development in countries like India and China.
  • Create buildings that require almost no conventional energy for heating or cooling and have all new buildings meet this standard by 2030.
  • High growth rates in solar energy production will continue or decline only slightly
  • Growth rates in wind power will also continue so that it will provide one-quarter of the world’s electricity needs by 2050.
  • Scientific and technology breakthroughs will continue to lower the cost and raise the efficiency of renewable energy sources, energy conservation technologies, and energy (battery) storage capabilities.
  • And, finally, the world will collectively accept a carbon tax and levy system that will help raise the money necessary to invest in the other energy goals and milestones.

Not one of these assumptions are likely to hold, much less all of them.

Fueled by economic and population growth, total global energy demand will rise about 33 percent between now and 2050, according to the EIA, and most of this increase will come from outside the U.S. and Europe. To predicate a zero emissions plan on the expectation that American and European policy makers are going to influence domestic energy policies in China and India enough to lower their overall energy demand in 2050 from today’s levels (or 2005!) is laughable.

The safest assumption from the Ecofys plan is that renewables will continue to grow rapidly. British Petroluem’s 2017 Statistical Review of World Energy found that renewable power (excluding hydro power) grew by 14.1 percent in 2016 — which is below the 10-year average, but still robust.

The most promising Ecofys assumption is in solar energy, which recently has seen exponential growth rates. In 2016, there was a 50 percent increase in the amount of new solar power worldwide, bringing its contribution to total worldwide electricity generation to around 1.3 percent.

But Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance Outlook for 2017 is predicting this fast growth in solar power will soon slow down. Luckily for the solar energy industry, the pessimistic predictions on solar’s growth by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and business forecasters like Bloomberg have been notoriously wrong in the past. Of all of the Ecofys zero emissions plan assumptions, continued solar energy growth may be the most likely to materialize.

Where some pieces of the Ecofys zero emissions plan have merit, on the whole, it too dependent on optimism and good intentions. Using the Ecofys plan to represent the ‘zero emissions by 2050’ goal may seem like a straw man argument, but to Ecofys’ credit, the core elements of their forecast includes all of the factors that will need to align in order for the zero emissions goal to be met.

In fairness, Ecofys has removed their 2011 plan for zero emissions from their website, but the assumptions and milestones in the plan are still indicative of the massive challenge the world faces in achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions soon after 2050.


The following global energy forecast was published on the website and is more indicative of the climate realist perspective and shows us why zero emissions is a challenging goal unlikely to occur anywhere near 2050.

Fossil fuel geeks should be familiar with the Hubbert Linearization method for estimating the level of recoverable natural resources under existing technology, economics, and geopolitical trends. Historically, the Hubbert method has typically underestimated the amount of recoverable oil, gas and coal left in the ground. To mitigate this bias, the forecast is adjusted using EIA’s official projections on world oil and natural gas production from 2016 to 2040.

Their resulting forecast on world carbon dioxide emissions through 2100 makes the idea of a zero carbon emissions planet seem unattainable, in this century at least.

The good news: these forecasts are products of smart people doing a lot of guesswork. On one level, the idea that carbon emissions will peak around 2030 seems plausible given that we are already deep into 2017 and carbon emissions continue to rise with the growth of the world economy.

Where the forecast may go wrong is on the downside of the fossil fuel life cycle. If renewables become significantly more cost effective than fossil fuels, the move away from fossil fuels will be much more dramatic than what the above graph shows.

That is the optimist in me speaking.

Significant issues remain ahead for renewables however. The biggest is the cost of solar and wind intermittency.

As University of Houston Lecturer and Energy Fellow Earl J. Ritchie warns, “The continuing decrease in wind and solar costs is a very positive development. However, this trend may reverse as the percentage of variable renewable energy (VRE)  energy that isn’t available on-demand but only at specific times, such as when the wind is blowing – reaches high levels.”

At that point, integration costs become more of a factor in the overall cost of renewable energy.

“When variable sources are a small fraction of electricity supply, the cost of integration is low,” says Ritchie. But when these variable sources become a significant fraction, renewable energy costs can increase. Evidence of this can already be seen in Germany, where wind and solar are heavily integrated into the national power grid.

At what fraction do these costs become significant? It depends.

One study using data from Germany and Indiana found integration costs began to become significant when renewables reached 20 percent of total energy generation. As of 2015, only four countries had variable renewable energy over 20 percent. But that number will rise rapidly in the next 10 years.


There is one more aspect of the climate change movement that is puzzling. Where is nuclear energy in all of the scenarios where the planet reaches zero carbon emissions?

The task is daunting enough, why make it harder?

Ideological environmentalists need to take off their ideological blinders and accept that the quickest, most direct path to zero carbon emissions is with significant growth in nuclear energy. If safety or nuclear proliferation concerns keep them from signing on to new nuclear power plants, they need to update their information because molten salt (thorium) nuclear reactors may address both of those concerns while maintaining the low carbon emissions aspect of nuclear energy.

Why weren’t molten salt reactors developed sooner? Because countries with the resources to develop peaceful nuclear power also wanted the ability to retool quickly and develop a nuclear weapons program, which the uranium reactors made easier.

Nuclear power is not intermittent like solar and wind. That is a significant advantage. Furthermore, China, India, Brazil, Argentina, and many other large, growing countries are embracing nuclear power on a level to match what the French have already achieved.

Nuclear power plants generate 75 percent of France’s electricity, though that level may fall to 50 percent by 2025 as other renewable energy sources come online. As of today, France is the world’s largest net exporter of electricity due to the very low cost of nuclear power.

Without nuclear power out of the mix, the ideological environmental lobby is making the goal of zero carbon emissions even more unreachable.


The major energy sources that work 24 hours-a-day, 365 days-a-year are coal, natural gas, geothermal, hydroelectric (droughts not withstanding), and nuclear.

Renewable energy is still a supplemental source of power. Without fundamental advancements in energy storage technologies, countries will still need continuous power sources on cloudy and windless days.

And this essay hasn’t even touched transportation.

Throw in combustion engine automobiles likely to be in use in 2050 and the belief that this world can be anywhere close to ‘zero net carbon emissions’ anywhere near 2050 is fantasy.

This means global temperatures are going to come in somewhere in between the ‘status quo’ and ‘zero net emissions’ scenarios. In other words, by 2100, global temperatures may be close to 3 °C above pre-industrial temperature levels. At that level of global warming arrives increases in ice sheet melting and the impact of the slow climate feedback mechanisms which may push the warming to 6 °C above pre-industrial levels, regardless of any carbon emissions reductions that occur after we hit the 3 °C milestone.

At 6 °C above pre-industrial levels, our descendants will be seriously pissed at us for failing to do more to slow global warming.

We may already be witnessing the impact of global warming on tropical storms and flooding in the U.S. Again, that is a question difficult for science to answer definitively. There is not enough data yet. The empirical evidence says we have not seen a perceivable increase in the number or intensity of tropical storms in the Atlantic Ocean — even with Harvey, Irma and Maria included in the dataset.

However, that finding could change in a short period of time. Another year or two like 2017 in the Atlantic and the ‘no impact on tropical storms’ argument gets sent to the scientific dustbin.

On the positive side, if Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria are a precursor of the new normal, we have gained some insight on the financial risk global warming poses to the U.S. and other countries exposed to coastal flooding and hurricanes in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

Puerto Rico will rebuild. The goal should be to ensure that all new construction on the island will pass rigorous building standards designed to survive Category 5 hurricanes. Puerto Rico can be the leading edge of a new urban planning philosophy for coastlines that addresses the realities of the global warming age.

The damages to residences of Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico are tragic. But they are also manageable, particularly if our governments start developing concrete plans to help people migrate from at-risk areas and to improve building and zoning codes to minimize future weather-related risks.

What we don’t need to do is crush the world economy with a crash program of getting to ‘zero net emissions’ by 2050. At this point, such a goal is a castle in the sky built by climate change alarmists that have little to risk and much to gain by scaring policy makers into potentially counter-productive government interventions in the private economy.

Don’t compound the original mistake of recklessly burning fossil fuels in serving economic growth by embarking on an equally reckless path.

The Paris Accord targets were never going to be met. Any time you get that many countries to agree on something, you know it has to be more illusion than substance. Countries were willing to sign on to the Accords because it asked of its signers very little additional sacrifice beyond what they were already doing or planning on doing.

Global warming is real. Humans caused it. And there is a warming threshold (~ 3 °C) that we must avoid. And now we must pursue a series of policies that will adapt to this reality and hopefully mitigate most of global warming’s worst consequences.


About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.