What Price 'Infrastructure'?

It seems like just yesterday then-President Obama put Joe Biden in charge of that “three-letter word: J.O.B.S.,” and while he failed in that mission, as president he’s back at it, this time with incoherent strategies and massive graft opportunities for all his Democrat constituencies.

The proposed $2 trillion giveaway, dubbed the American Jobs Plan, only thinly disguises the graft-enabling nature of the proposal. And the means to pay for this giveaway -- higher taxes on persons, investments and businesses -- are more likely to destroy the economy, most particularly regarding small businesses, long the generator of jobs in this country, than the expenditures proposed for actual infrastructure are to increase job opportunities and prime the economy already reeling from the Covid lockdowns.

But let me begin with the most ludicrous of Biden’s ideas, supersonic jets and a national high speed railroad, something not specified in the Plan, but Buck Rogers-ish notions he keeps talking about nevertheless, perhaps under the misguided notion that these are in the Plan. Perhaps even to deflect from what is in it.

Biden claims, “If we decide to do it, be able to traverse the world in an hour, travel at 21,000 miles an hours.” Earth’s circumference is slightly short of 25,000 miles. To circumnavigate it these imaginary planes would have to fly 25,000 miles per hour, coincidentally the escape velocity of the earth. The last supersonic jets were the Concorde fleet which took 3 1/2 hours to fly from New York to Paris to London, so noisy and at an operating cost so high that these factors  caused its demise in little over two decades.

Of course, it would be interesting to see how supersonic jets could, in any event, function without Biden’s hated fossil fuels. Maybe some sharp engineers can rig up solar panels and windmills on them without jeopardizing reliability or reducing air speed.

All aboard the Shanghai maglev express!

Equally unrealistic is his advocacy for a cross-continental high speed railway, something once bandied about, then scrapped for decades. To my knowledge, the fastest trains operating today still move at less than conventional air speed: “ Shanghai Maglev has the highest run speed of 431 kph for an operational train covering a 30.5 km distance in 7 mins 20 secs.” Japan’s L0 Series Maglev due to be operational in 2027 will travel at 310 miles per hour, slightly less than half the speed (about 570 mph)of a Boeing 747.

It’s almost 3,000 miles from New York City to Los Angeles. To be of any value, any cross-national high-speed train will have to connect major urban areas, and the difficulty of obtaining the right of ways through already well-developed tracts in a country with so many litigation opportunities available to opponents seems as difficult as getting high-speed trains operating on such varied topography and wind speeds as a national railway would encounter.

Even without the delays and legal costs to obtain rights of way, the last estimate I saw for construction of high-speed rails was $60 million per mile. The Chinese have fewer property rights they can defend in court, and Shanghai’s 30 km Maglev line cost 1.2 billion to build. This, of course, doesn’t cover recurring capital costs --Shanghai’s train is losing about $33 million per year on those. Given the way Amtrak is run (it manages to lose money even on $9.50 cheeseburgers, we can expect to lose far more on our national railroad.

But the final kicker, it seems to me, is that like the push for all-electric vehicles, Maglev high speed trains require a great deal of electricity (between 1 and 3 kilowatts per ton ), but nothing in any of the administration’s grand plans includes increasing electric-power generation. If it did, fossil fuels would still be needed to create the electricity unless the administration has some super-secret plan to create much more nuclear energy generation. Do you see that on the horizon? I don’t. And there's not a whisper of it.

Just as fantastical as Biden’s wish list for things not in the Plan, are the items in it. This is how the Democrats who like this infrastructure bonanza define “infrastructure":

Translation: It’s everything they want to use tax revenues to pay for. Like Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty, the Democrats seem to think ,”when I choose a word, it means just what I choose it to mean.”

In the real world, however, infrastructure is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g. buildings, roads, power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.”

In real infrastructure terms only 5 percent of the  $2.7 trillion  would go for roads and bridges. More than half the plan is designed to eliminate fossil fuels. $213 billion would go to build and retrofit energy-efficient homes and buildings. Elsewhere, retrofit investment costs came to almost twice the actual energy savings with an average return of minus-7.8% annually. The plan calls for $85 billion for regional mass transit, just as mass transit ridership is collapsing because Covid-19 has warned people of the dangers of it.

Of course there is no mention of continuing high capital costs, safety concerns and the demonstrably poor management of such systems. In Washington, D.C., we had a multi-billion dollar federally financed mass transit system which has been so poorly managed it has become unreliable and dangerous to passengers. People in ever larger numbers are refusing to ride it. To lure riders back, the management is now offering lower fares, further increasing the operating deficits which were already high. It’s estimated that by 2025 the revenue shortfall over expenses for this single system is expected to be some $2 billion. Taxpayers, of course, will be making up the difference.

Moral: you can build these things at great expense but you can’t make us ride them. And you can’t ignore the fiscally painful experience that huge continuing capital outlays will be needed to keep them afloat.

The D.C. Metro: if only it worked like it looks.

As the Administration works to banish fossil fuels, which presently make up more than half of American electric generation, Biden works to boost the wind and solar industries and is making the power grid less reliable in the process. His idea of providing tax credits for battery storage and high-voltage transmission lines to places now reliant on fossil fuels, is equally unrealistic.

I've already discussed here the plans to pay states, cities and schools to buy electric vehicles and build 500,000 charging stations, and how ludicrous this is without a plan to increase electric generation. Biden plans to shell out $178 billion in grants to create these charging stations along the 50,000 miles of interstate highways and thousands of other major highways. How to decide who gets those grants and where the charging stations will be built? If you live in a Democrat-run city you can figure this out. If not, ask a savvy friend who lives in one.

Less remarked upon are the tranches of cash for things no one would actually consider infrastructure:   building and upgrading schools and child-care facilities and extending broadband service to all Americans.

The plan to spend $100 billion on K-12 facilities includes $50 billion in direct grants for facilities and $50 billion in construction bonds. Another $45 billion in Environmental Protection Agency funds would be used to reduce lead exposure in schools and early-childhood facilities. In addition to expanding broadband, Biden’s plan would seek to lower the cost of internet service.

Also not well-publicized is the plan to kill the suburbs, a refuge for middle class Americans from crime, bad schools and high taxes -- this would be done not only by making transportation by cars more expensive, but also by “diversifying” neighborhoods through forced changes to local zoning laws that would end single-family-home neighborhoods. Placing low-income, multiple-unit rental housing in single-family suburbs, something that overturns the long established right of municipalities to create their own zoning preferences, will likely face a mountain of legal challenges.

Meanwhile, zoning is now racist.

The Plan, is manifestly unrealistic and expensive. Will it create the 19 million new jobs the administration claims? No way. Moody’s chief economist estimates that the plan will net only 2.7 million new jobs, 600 percent smaller than Biden's claim. To however many jobs are created by building charging stations and upgrading nursery schools to be more energy efficient, subtract the large number of jobs lost in the fossil fuel and carbon-intensive industries.

But they even have a plan for that: some $40 billion is to be allocated for a "dislocated workers" program and $10 billion for a Civilian Climate Corps. How wonderful will it be for oil rig workers and coal miners to learn to code from Democratic functionaries or to have your homes and schools retrofitted by people who've never done this work before and are unlikely to have the skills to do it properly?

In sum, the plan is built on fantastical notions respecting transportation choices, is littered with graft opportunities and means to pay off supporters without doing much to improve actual infrastructure, transportation, energy use or that “three-letter word, J.O.B.S." -- which in Biden's mouth now really does seem like a four-letter word.

The Democrats are attempting to ram through an expensive, job killing, neighborhood destroying, pelf-increasing, waste of money. In Congress, they have the slimmest of majorities. At the moment they hold the House by only six votes (218-212) and the Senate is 50-50. One can only hope the Republicans will stand firm and that enough Democrats will see that their political survival depends on their joining the opposition to kill this monstrosity.

John Kerry in La-La-Land

"Climate czar" John Kerry made a particularly tin-eared comment recently which demonstrated how ignorant liberals are about the world outside of their utopian fantasies. Kerry was asked what he would say to oil and gas workers who would "see an end to their livelihoods" should the Biden administration's climate agenda be fully implemented. He responded, "What President Biden wants to do is make sure that those folks have better choices... That they can be the people to go to work to make the solar panels."

This was justly mocked as a modern-day rendering of the apocryphal Marie Antoinette quote, "Let them eat cake." But it's worth noting that there's something more shocking about Kerry's blockheadedness. Does he really not know how ridiculous it is that Green Energy jobs could replace the natural resource ones he wants to disappear?

The U.S. government subsidizes wind and solar power to the tune of $7 billion per year to make it even somewhat competitive with traditional energy sources. Even if the Biden administration doubled that, so-called renewables wouldn't come close to filling the gaping hole left by lost oil and gas jobs. In an editorial about green jobs, the New York Post offers a relevant anecdote:

[Andrew] Cuomo spent $950 million in public money to put up a solar plant in Buffalo. The first tenant, SolarCity, went bust; Elon Musk had to have Tesla take SolarCity over. Panasonic was lured in to help Tesla make a go of the plant, only to flee a year ago. With nearly a billion bucks down the drain, the project has never come close to offering the jobs once promised for it.

Pouring money into renewables isn't going to create the jobs they claim it will, and certainly not in Appalachia or the Rust Belt, which would be hit hard by a fracking ban.

It's worth noting that 70 percent of the world's solar panels are manufactured in China, and that isn't going to change anytime soon. Meanwhile, China's preferred power source is carbon-intensive coal. In fact, China's new coal-fired energy capacity in 2020 outstripped the rest of the world by 300 percent.

Which is to say, whatever his intentions, Kerry's energy preferences don't amount to blue collar job creation, but to increased American investment in Chinese renewables in order to subsidize China's addiction to coal. Maybe if he came down off his private jet for awhile he'd realize how crazy that is.

The Cartoon: Genocide Joe and the Climate-Change Dragon

Did 'Climate Change' Cause Coronavirus?

It's shocking how often the Wuhan Coronavirus seems to confirm the priors of our elite governing class. Or it would be shocking if they weren't the ones who control the Covid narrative.

Take, for instance, this article, which reports that researchers now believe "[c]limate change may have played a 'key role' in the transmission of the novel coronavirus to humans by driving several species of pathogen-carrying bats into closer contact." Which is to say, our newest enemy -- the virus behind the present pandemic -- is, in reality, our old enemy -- climate change. "Always has been," to quote the popular meme.

According to the article, "[r]esearchers... used temperature and rainfall data over the last 100 years to model populations of dozens of bat species based on their habitat requirements." And what did they find? That, in the course of that time, as many as forty species of bat "had relocated to southern China, Laos and Myanmar," where the virus is thought to have originated.

"Our paper is a long way away from saying the pandemic would not have happened without climate change," lead author Robert Meyer... told AFP. "But I find it difficult to see that this climate-driven increase in bats and bat-borne coronaviruses make something like this less likely to happen."

He goes on to claim that "changing climate and habitat destruction in Asia had driven virus-carrying species into ever closer contact with human populations."

That's a pretty big jump. Even the widely accepted “zoonotical" claim, which holds that Covid-19 evolved organically -- i.e. that it wasn't engineered in a lab, but developed in nature to the point that it could jump to humans -- has tended to reject the idea that the virus moved directly from bats. That's because Covid-19, while similar to a variety of bat coronaviruses, differs in several key ways which are the difference between a virus that's dangerous to humans and one that's not. Consequently, the current operational theory is that it passed to humans not via bat but through a pangolin, perhaps one that was sold at one of China's notorious wet markets.

Considered in that light, with bats in the wild infecting pangolins in the wild which are eventually captured and eaten by humans, the Bats-Dispossessed-by-Climate-Change theory seems a lot less plausible. Bat displacement throughout the 20th century, whether or not it had anything to do with climate change, didn't increase contacts between humans and animals, human agency did.

Speaking of human agency, it is funny that New York magazine's extremely persuasive article from the beginning of the year on the possible lab leak origins of Covid-19 never seem to get the same attention as these far-fetched hypotheses.

The argument of that piece is complex, but the basic idea is that we should not discount the possibility that the Wuhan Institute of Virology -- which houses "the most comprehensive inventory of sampled bat viruses in the world" and is quite close to the wet market originally identified as the original source of the outbreak -- had some hand in engineering this virus. Its author, Nicholson Baker, reports in painstaking detail the idiosyncrasies of this virus which make such a possibility more likely, including the famous "spike protein," which doesn't appear in any of the bat coronaviruses, but which is triggered by furin, a protein found in human lungs.

Adding agents like this into animal viruses to make them more contagious for humans is one of the main activities of BSL-4 labs, like the one in Wuhan. But talking about this possibility will get you labeled a crank. Meanwhile, positing that climate change caused Covid-19, that nature is punishing us, that will get you research funding.

Go figure.

Of Pledges, Promises, and Pie-Crusts

“Elections have consequences,” President Obama liked to say to journalists and political opponents when they objected to some of the policies he pursued as president. It’s a fair point, especially when a  presidential candidate has promised to introduce those policies in the party platform or campaign speeches.  It’s even got some force when he introduces policies that were never mentioned in the campaign but that can be plausibly presented as necessary responses to crises that no one foresaw earlier.

Governments are elected to cope with emergencies. It’s part of the job, and they need the flexibility to do so. But what about those policies that a political leader explicitly denied he would pursue if elected? A president can’t justify those policies by saying that elections have consequences if the policies are exactly the reverse of the what the electorate chose on election day when they voted for him. He has zero democratic justification for them. And if he wants to pursue them anyway, he owes the voters (and his defeated opponent) the courtesy of an explanation and apology.

That doesn’t happen very often, of course, but it should happen whenever election pledges are unceremoniously broken. Crude reversals of policies that were promised in the campaign undermine the unwritten contract between the voters and elected officials that votes are exchanged for pledges. It’s totalitarians who treat promises with contempt—for instance Lenin who famously remarked “Promises are like pie-crusts, made to be broken.” Democratic leaders are supposed to mean them and to abide by them.

Failing to meet this  obligation can sometimes get a political leader into serious electoral trouble. Britain’s 1960s-1970s Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, got a bad reputation for infidelity to the electorate when he said of a particular manifesto commitment: “This is no lightly-given promise. It is a solemn pledge.” An opposition back-bencher, tongue firmly In cheek, asked him at Question Time if he could list for the voters which of his commitments were solemn pledges and which were lightly-given promises. Collapse of stout Prime Minister.

Which lie should I tell?

Which brings us to President Biden’s election pledge not to ban fracking—a method of extracting natural gas from deep underground by injecting water into rocks (my very non-technical definition.) That was an important pledge economically and politically. Economically, the so-called “fracking revolution” had made the U.S. energy-independent after decades of being held to ransom in foreign policy by Middle East and other foreign energy producers.

It had reduced American carbon emission levels more than any other major industrial power had done. It had made possible the switch from “dirty” coal to “clean” natural gas (hence the reduced carbon emissions.) And it had powered the massive recovery of the U.S. economy, delivering the highest rise in wages and salaries for poor and minority Americans for decades.

Politically, it was a potentially election-winning issue for President Trump in states such as Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and Texas which had millions of workers to whom the fracking boom had given high levels of prosperity and a sense that America was back.

All in all it was a tricky issue for the Democrats and for candidate Joe Biden, in particular because his party’s powerful radical Left wing was strongly opposed to fossil fuels in general and to fracking in particular. As a result, Biden in the primaries gave the impression that he was opposed to fracking while in the general election he claimed to be in favor of it.

Thus, in a July 2019 exchange, CNN’s Dana Bash asked the former  Vice-President if there would be any place for fossil fuels, including coal and fracking, in a Biden administration. To which Biden responded boldly: “No, we would . . . we would work it out. We would make sure it’s eliminated and no more subsidies for either one of those, either . . .  any fossil fuels.”  Less boldly his campaign staff told the media that Biden meant that he intended to eliminate not fracking but government subsidies to oil and gas.

We can work it out.

Similarly, as the campaign got going, Biden said in a March 2020 debate with Bernie Sanders that he was against “new fracking” and afterwards his campaign again told the media that this referred to a ban on oil and gas permits on public. No promise to ban fracking here, folks, move along please.

Once the general election campaign arrived, however, the strategy dictated that Biden should now assure the voters, especially those in Pennsylvania, that he was a supporter of fracking and always had been. Biden did not make this claim personally, but because his campaign wanted to keep him out of the public view except when he could issue some soothing bromide to pacify the voters, the burden of presenting this case fell to his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris.

Though she had herself been a passionate fracking opponent, Harris had no difficulty in stating this argument in the most unqualified terms. “The American people know Joe Biden will not ban fracking,” she told Mike Pence in the October 7 vice-presidential debate. “That is a fact. That is a fact.”

It was not “a fact,” of course. And given how much calculation and choreography of lying went into the presentation of Biden’s positions on fracking in the two years of the campaign, it wasn’t exactly a lightly given promise either. It was a calculated attempt to confuse and deceive the American voter of an elaborate kind -- and therefore a lie.

Because of its obvious contradictions, it could hardly have succeeded in its deceptions as it did—see the Pennsylvania voting—if it had been critically examined by the media. The media participated in this deception, however, not only by not examining Biden’s policies critically but in a series of absurd "fact-checks" by actually protecting its contradictions. I am obliged to my National Review colleague, David Harsanyi, for neatly demolishing one attempt:

In a Forbes article, “Did Biden Break Campaign Promise On Fracking? No—And Here’s Why,” Rachel Sandler makes the acutely irrelevant observation that “the president does not even have the power to ban fracking nationally.” Biden, you see, is only banning the fracking he can ban. Which is tantamount to arguing that Donald Trump never supported a wall on the southern border because he didn’t have the power to unilaterally build it.

In his first few days in office, we now know, Biden set out to ban the kind of fracking he could ban. That was always going to happen because his larger promises to eliminate oil and gas in the U.S. economy “over time, over time” and to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 inevitably meant the end of fracking—and over a fairly short time period to boot.

And when the political costs of enforcing a lower standard of living on the American people through higher taxes, higher energy prices, and lowered competitiveness against a rising China bring on an electoral whirlwind, Biden or his successor will suffer all the odium of having made promises to the voters that, like pie-crusts, were made to be broken.

Not Healing Nature But Controlling It

Political environmentalism frequently warns about the dangers of meddling with nature,  warning against the encroachment of human settlements on wilderness areas, mining, fishing or drilling for oil. However it neglects the impact on nature by scientists and environmentalists themselves.

Nicholson Baker's article in a recent issue of New York Magazine soberly examines the pros and cons of the proposition: did the coronavirus escape from a lab? The answer of experts? Maybe.

For decades, scientists have been hot-wiring viruses in hopes of preventing a pandemic, not causing one. But what if … there were laboratory accidents. By 1960, hundreds of American scientists and technicians had been hospitalized, victims of the diseases they were trying to weaponize.

In the U.S., “more than 1,100 laboratory incidents involving bacteria, viruses and toxins that pose significant or bioterror risks to people and agriculture were reported to federal regulators during 2008 through 2012,” reported USA Today...

And then consider the cautious words of Alina Chan, a scientist who works at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. “There is a reasonable chance that what we are dealing with is the result of a lab accident,” Chan told me in July of last year...

Not only that, but they’d figured out how to perform their assembly seamlessly, without any signs of human handiwork. Nobody would know if the virus had been fabricated in a laboratory or grown in nature. Baric called this the “no-see’m method...”

What began as a high-minded effort to heal humanity also became the deadliest endeavor on earth. Scientists wanted to anticipate nature by inventing the pathogens first enabling them to create a vaccine template that could deal with most if not all threats. That effort included American funding for bug hunting and amplification in Wuhan.

It wasn’t only AIDS that changed the way the NIH funded research. The War on Terror also influenced which diseases got the most attention.... Vaccine development had to progress much faster, Fauci believed; he wanted to set up “vaccine systems” and “vaccine platforms,” which could be quickly tailored to defend against a particular emergent strain some terrorist with an advanced biochemistry degree might have thrown together in a laboratory. “Our goal within the next 20 years is ‘bug to drug’ in 24 hours.”

In fact, WHO sent a fact-finding team into the origins of the virus to China is  because nobody knows for sure what the side effects of that effort have been. At least Fauci has his vaccine platform development. "You may be surprised to learn that of the trio of long-awaited coronavirus vaccines, the most promising, Moderna’s mRNA-1273, which reported a 94.5 percent efficacy rate... had been designed by January 13 [2020]."

The Moderna vaccine design took all of one weekend. It was completed before China had even acknowledged that the disease could be transmitted from human to human, more than a week before the first confirmed coronavirus case in the United States. By the time the first American death was announced a month later, the vaccine had already been manufactured and shipped to the National Institutes of Health for the beginning of its Phase I clinical trial.

The bad news: reliance on the vaccine platforms is likely to become permanent.  Edward Holmes, one of the two scientists to first publish the genome sequence of SARS-Cov-2 said in an interview that vaccination will become a fixture of future life:

My guess is that as immunity [to Covid] rises in the population, hopefully by vaccination, you will start to see immune escape gradually. That will happen. That's an inevitable consequence of natural selection. It's been played out for millennia, and it's going to happen again. We will very likely need to update these vaccines at some point. That may take 2 years or 5 years or 1 year; I don't know.

Round and round we go.

Perhaps the most candid admission that modern environmentalism is about controlling nature rather than leaving it alone comes from discussions around the Paris climate agreement. It is becoming the foundation stone of climate engineering.

Under article 3 of the Paris Agreement, states are required to identify a range of contributions (NDCs) to address climate change. So long as these contributions are consistent with the underlying articles, there is no express restriction on including climate engineering measures as part of an NDC in order to achieve net emissions neutrality (a balance of emissions and removals) by 2050. The definition of “mitigation” includes sinks, which appears to include CDR [carbon dioxide removal] technologies as they are defined broadly under the UNFCCC to include “any process, activity or mechanism which removes a greenhouse gas.”

Two of the most prominent climate engineering proposals are now politically visible and therefore fundable. The Hill writes: "Climate change has been viewed as a national security threat multiplier. To offset its damage, scientists in the United States and other countries are working on technology to manipulate the climate. This is known as geoengineering that is divided into two types, which are carbon dioxide removal to take out carbon from the air and solar radiation management to reflect a small fraction of sunlight away from the earth."  These are gigantic engineering projects. The Oxford Geoengineering Programme has a more detailed description of what "healing nature" involves:

Solar Radiation Management (SRM)

  1. Albedo enhancement. Increasing the reflectiveness of clouds or the land surface so that more of the Sun’s heat is reflected back into space.
  2. Space reflectors. Blocking a small proportion of sunlight before it reaches the Earth.
  3. Stratospheric aerosols. Introducing small, reflective particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect some sunlight before it reaches the surface of the Earth.

Greenhouse Gas Removal (GGR)

  1. Afforestation. Engaging in a global-scale tree planting effort.
  2. Biochar. 'Charring' biomass and burying it so that its carbon is locked up in the soil.
  3. Bio-energy with carbon capture and sequestration. Growing biomass, burning it to create energy and capturing and sequestering the carbon dioxide created in the process.
    Ambient Air Capture. Building large machines that can remove carbon dioxide directly from ambient air and store it elsewhere.
  4. Ocean Fertilization. Adding nutrients to the ocean in selected locations to increase primary production which draws down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
  5. Enhanced Weathering. Exposing large quantities of minerals that will react with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and storing the resulting compound in the ocean or soil.
  6. Ocean Alkalinity Enhancement. Grinding up, dispersing, and dissolving rocks such as limestone, silicates, or calcium hydroxide in the ocean to increase its ability to store carbon and directly ameliorate ocean acidification.

These will potentially cost trillions. Twenty-first century environmentalism has already become the province of big pharma and gigantic engineering firms. Climate politics is not about leaving nature alone but subordinating it to the diktat of governments. The Hill glimpses the incipient danger.

If the moral and ethical frame of geoengineering should shift from one of global benevolence where all stakeholders have a voice and international law applies, to one of national security and international law is dismissed, a climate arms race becomes more likely.

At some point the idealists will be shoved aside and the power players will take over. Like the current biosecurity crisis the world is now living through,  a climate arms race is virtually certain.

WHO Done It?

To say that the World Health Organization badly mishandled the Covid-19 outbreak right from the outset might be the understatement of the century. In the early months of the crisis, as the virus was spreading throughout Wuhan and then China, the WHO consistently downplayed what was happening, praised China for its effective response, declined (at Beijing's behest) to declare a health emergency, and generally repeated CCP talking points about what was actually going on.

This while their inspectors were being denied access to Wuhan itself, to the wet market where the virus apparently first infected humans, and then to patients who were suffering from the virus.

The global response to the virus has been hysterical, but had the WHO not bent over backwards to minimize what was happening in China -- the New York Times reports that every word of the WHO's initial report on the crisis had to be approved by the CCP -- perhaps Covid could have been contained.

The WHO doesn't want this to become the commonly accepted narrative. If it is, taxpayers around the world might begin asking their governments why they contribute to the organization's $4.4 billion annual budget when it clearly only has the interests of one particular country at heart. So, they obfuscate and misdirect.

For the latest example of this, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus -- who is not a doctor -- has released a video statement for this past weekend's International Day of Epidemic Preparedness saying that the present pandemic should remind us how important it is to get ahead of the next public health emergency. He was referring, of course, to climate change.

Here's what the Director-General said:

The pandemic has highlighted the intimate links between the health of humans, animals, and planet... Any efforts to improve human health are doomed unless they address the critical interface between humans and animals, and the existential threat of climate change, that is making our earth less habitable.... [T]his will not be the last pandemic... but with investments in public health, supported by an all-of-government, all-of-society, One Health approach, we can ensure that our children and their children inherit a safer, more resilient, and more sustainable world.

His point in favor of a collectivist approach to such problems is strange since it was his globalist organization working in concert with a communist country with imperial pretentions which caused the crisis in the first place. But the reference to climate change and a "more sustainable world" is meant to distract from the incoherence. This is an appeal to virtue signalers worldwide. How can they stay mad at a man who is so clearly on their side?

Not that the country for which the WHO consistently carries water is known for its environmentalist friendly policies, but liberals pride themselves on embodying F. Scott Fitzgerald's maxim that the mark of "a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time." By that measure, they're off the charts.

Red Dragon, Green Agenda

The record continues to grow of China’s influence on Western institutions, which the Chinese deploy to advance China’s interests. Recent high-profile examples include ties to academic researchers who then lie about their relationship with Chinese underwriters, and agents for China serving as aides or fundraisers for, and, purportedly romantic interests of, elected officials. 

Author Rupert Darwall has specifically explored how China is using the “green” agenda to gain advantage over America, including through its influence with environmental pressure groups. Patricia Adams detailed this further in an early December 2020 report published by the United Kingdom’s Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). 

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Both conclude that Western green groups serve as “China’s propagandists” while turning blind eyes to China’s own environmental and human rights record which – according to the Greens’ expressed standards – would otherwise be subject to strident condemnation and pressure campaigns.

Instead, China is oddly praised by Western environmentalist groups. One wonders if this is related to the fact the groups require special approval from the state to operate within the communist country.

Darwall argues that, taking all of these machinations into account, the climate change issue has become “a national security threat – but not in the way the national security elite assumes.” That is to say, “For China, climate change offers a strategic opportunity. Decarbonizing the rest of the world makes China’s economy stronger – it weakens its rivals’ economies, reduces the cost of energy for its hydrocarbon-hungry economy, and sinks energy-poor India as a potential Indo-Pacific rival.”

For example, already, litigants in the United States have cited the Paris Climate Agreement as requiring judicial commandeering of energy and environmental policy from the political branches, leaving judges to decide what economic development may occur and how. This past summer, the U.K. Court of Appeal blocked major transportation infrastructure construction citing among the reasons that such projects are incompatible with the Paris commitments. 

As China cheers...

Expect more such mischief, via proxies for China, in the United Nations “Climate Conciliation Commissions” which await the U.S. if it “re-joins” the Paris climate agreement as Joe Biden vows to do.

This is one of many reasons President Trump should recognize Paris as the treaty it obviously is, by transmitting it to the Senate for the required “advice and consent” before the U.S. can be bound in any way.

Even Sen. Lindsey Graham Tweeted in favor of such a move, adding, “As currently drafted, the accord is a big win for China and India.” 

Graham had been silent on the issue even as President Obama showed “disturbing contempt for the Senate’s constitutional rights and responsibilities” by declaring an obvious treaty to be something he could commit the U.S. to on his own. Indeed, records obtained under Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation show Graham – one of three original sponsors of “cap-and-trade” legislation in the Senate until it became obvious this was not in his political interests – was targeted by then-Secretary of State John Kerry as a possible supporter of the Paris deal, along with climate obsessive Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. 

No longer. China’s scheming has become too aggressive to further ignore.

Still other FOIA’d emails revealed dealings among Western greens and the Obama-Biden State Department, an apparent business as usual that is likely to soon resume. For example, one April 15, 2015 email, sent by the then-Global Director of the World Resources Institute (WRI) Climate Program to State Department officials, candidly stated the role the WRI played in assisting China to develop the post-Obama “climate” world in Washington, D.C.

Other emails show the Obama State Department leapt at the invitation to help the WRI help China, arranging team-wide conference calls and other follow-up.

In light of this and other revelations, in 2018 the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources sent two oversight letters to WRI and other groups including NRDC, from which Biden has chosen his domestic "climate czar" Gina McCarthy (letters since scrubbed from the website by the new Democratic Chairman). Investigators pressed for clarity on apparent contradictions involving the group’s claims about its relationship with the Chinese government, and how that impacts its political activities within the United States.

The Committee specifically referenced the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which requires anyone acting as an agent of foreign principals “in a political or quasi-political capacity” to formally report that relationship and all “activities, receipts, and disbursements in support of those activities."

Somebody's watching.

The green groups lawyered up with white-collar defense teams, the 2018 elections brought a new House majority, and the inquiries died. Still, one commentator observed that special counsel Robert Mueller “opened the door to more intense scrutiny of some U.S. environmental groups” by invoking FRA to pursue prosecution of former Trump campaign officials.

Given the influence these groups have in Washington generally, and particularly with Democrats, the precedent of invoking FARA to pursue all things Trump does not translate to pursuit of environmentalist pressure groups, as well, despite a clear record of involvement with, and even boasting of their ties to, China on matters of U.S. policy.  

The foreign-agents act, like other statutes, appears to be merely a political weapon, intended only for those who threaten “the way things work” in Washington. And among the lessons of 2020 is that the way things work in Washington, as in academia and other institutions, is under substantial Chinese influence.

A Second, Unaccountable EPA for Biden?

Liberals continue to fret about how the Biden Administration will enact Joe's climate agenda without complete Democratic control of Congress. For the latest example of this genre, here's Derek Brower writing in the Financial Times:

More than 81 million Americans and a majority of electors backed a candidate who said he hoped to “transition from the oil industry” and put clean energy at the centre of a US$2 trillion green plan to decarbonize American electricity in 15 years and create a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050....

Yet as the dust settles on Biden’s victory, the political realities are starting to set in too. Despite retaining a majority, Democrats lost seats in the House of Representatives and at best can hope to split the Senate 50:50 by winning two run-off elections in Georgia in January. For all the enthusiasm of his supporters — and despite the mandate from the popular vote — the full gamut of Biden’s transformative US$2 trillion energy plan has little chance of progressing through such a divided chamber.

Brower goes on to lament "an increasingly conservative judiciary will be an obstacle to federal bodies acting expansively" (translation: Trump-appointed judges will make it difficult for Biden's White House to work around the Constitution), and consequently it will likely take a few years to fully undo Trump's efforts at rolling back onerous regulations on the resource sector.

He is hopeful, however, that a few key administrative actions will have big impact nationwide. These include toughening up fuel economy standards and granting California a new Clean Air Act waiver (Trump revoked the previous one) which will allow the state to impose significantly stricter emissions standards than the federal government, an act which (because of the Golden State's size) could have a ripple effect on the entire auto industry.

Brower is also encouraged by Biden’s announced appointments of "several heavyweights to key energy positions" which he feels denote a "bold climate agenda," the lack of Congressional support notwithstanding. He mentions a few of these appointments, including new international climate envoy John Kerry and domestic "climate czar" Gina McCarthy. These names are, in fact, pretty striking, especially considering the roles they've accepted. Kerry, former Democratic presidential nominee and former secretary of state, and McCarthy, a former EPA chief, have both been cabinet members and now they're content with newly created positions which sound pretty meaningless. What gives?

The Daily Caller's Larry Behrens thinks he's figured it out. His contention is that Biden's object is to create what is effectively a second EPA within the White House, one whose officials aren't confirmed by the Senate and whose actions won't require congressional oversight.

Kerry and McCarthy are perfect choices for that type of role. They're big names who will get the liberal media excited, but who might be shy of Senate confirmation hearings. According to Behrens, McCarthy would be especially reluctant to answer questions about her most recent job as head of the Natural Resources Defense Council, "an environmental organization that faced scrutiny for their relationship to Chinese entities." Of course, as Behrens points out, this is an appropriate background for her new job, which is to undermine America's resource industry while pushing solar panels that are manufactured in China.

Framed that way -- a president creating powerful executive branch positions for people who are unlikely to get through a senate confirmation to enact a policy agenda that he didn't campaign on for the benefit of a foreign power -- this all is a perfect encapsulation of modern American governance.

Green Pen, Green Phone

On Wednesday I mentioned that Democrats were disappointed by the failure of their projected blue wave to materialize. Their congressional majority has been whittled down to almost nothing, the best they can hope for in the Senate is a draw, and in the presidential race, the decisive rejection of Donald Trump they were hoping for didn't happen.

What's more, less radical (or more pragmatic) office holders, like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), have been arguing that the Green New Deal, along with other extremist proposals like Medicare for All and Defunding the Police, are the reason they fared so poorly.

But, of course, backing off on such proposals, which might make the party more attractive to actual voters, would alienate the leftist donor class. So what is the solution? Executive orders of course! Faced with a similarly divided government, Barack Obama proudly proclaimed that his administration was

[N]ot just going to be waiting for legislation.... I've got a pen and I've got a phone… and I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions.

In various liberal publications right now, the details of a Biden administration's own climate-related "pen and phone" strategy are being hammered out.

To take just one example, in the Los Angeles Times, Anna M. Phillips has a list of five climate actions Biden can take immediately, "without Congress’ help." These include imposing California's onerous auto emissions standards nationwide; halting the issuance of new permits for fracking and oil drilling on federal land (a position Biden stumbled his way onto over the course of his campaign), as well as imposing new regulations on oil and gas companies operating on existing federal permits (decidedly not something he campaigned on); declaring a climate national emergency; and creating a "climate club" of countries who mutually agree to reduce carbon emission through carbon taxation.

On this last point, a club would have two uses. First, if all nations involved impose carbon taxes on themselves, none can reap the economic rewards of being a cheaper and easier place to live or do business. And second, each one can mutually agree to punish any other country that attempts to get a leg up on the others, "through trade measures such as tariffs" in Phillips' words. It is worth noting that leftists have already started making lists of countries they want to see punished in this way -- see this Vox article entitled "How Joe Biden could make Brazil his first “climate outlaw.”

By the way, if you're surprised to see Brazil as the highest climate priority, rather than mega-polluter China -- the world's second largest economy -- you'll be doubly so to read through article and see China mentioned as a potential ally against Brazil. This is as good a detail as any to demonstrate that this isn't really about the climate, it's about power.

So, while AOC's legislative Green New Deal might be D.O.A. in Congress, the Executive Green New Deal is rarin' to go. We will all suffer the consequences.