Whatever Happened to Puritan Wine?

Writing back in February, Christopher Horner had a great line which pops back into my head every now and again:

[C]limate changes – it always has, it always will. Of course, saying “climate changes” makes one a “climate change denier.” Go figure.

I was reminded of his observation recently, while reading David Hackett Fischer's classic historical study, Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America. The book itself argues that America's complex culture can be understood, in large part, by looking at the waves of English-speaking settlers who came to the New World between 1629 and 1775, with each wave bringing men and women from a particular region of England to a particular region in America, and with them the peculiar habits and mores (and accents) of their points of origin.

In the first section of the book, concerning the emigration of East Anglians to Massachusetts in the early 1600s, Hackett Fischer describes the initial, and fairly grim, encounter with the New World of those Puritans who had crossed over on the advance ships of the Winthrop Fleet, as documented in their journals:

Their first sight of America was not encouraging. In the month of June 1629, when England was all in bloom, these weary travelers reached the Grand Bank of Newfoundland. Suddenly the wind turned bitter cold and they passed an enormous iceberg hard aground in forty fathoms of frigid water, with the green Atlantic surf roaring against it. It seemed to be "a mountain of ice, shining as white as snow, like to a great rock or cliff," towering above their little ships. In great fear they sailed onward through a foggy night, while drift ice scraped dangerously against fragile hulls and the ships' drums beat mournfully in the darkness.

Dress warm, Pilgrims!

As they traveled further south towards Massachusetts Bay, things became more pleasant, but Hackett Fischer spends some time meditating on the unusual climate of the land the Puritans found themselves in, which proved surprisingly amenable to the foundation of their "Calvinist utopia."

The first and most important environmental fact about New England is that it was cold -- much colder in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries than today. The Puritans arrived in a period of the earth's history which climatologists call the "little ice age." Ocean temperatures off the coast of New England were three degrees centigrade colder in the eighteenth century than the mid-twentieth. In the coldest years of the seventeenth century, the water temperature off New England approached that near southern Labrador today. The Puritans complained of "piercing cold," and salt rivers frozen solid through the winter. One wrote that many lost the use of fingers and feet, and "some have had their overgrown beards so frozen together that they could not get their strong-water bottles into their mouths."

It's worth noting that Hackett Fischer doesn't say a single word about the industrial revolution or any other purported horseman of anthropogenic climate change. Most historians would include a virtue signalling nod in this direction today, but Albion's Seed was written in 1989, just before the current climate narrative had hardened into gospel. He simply states the widely shared interpretation of climatological data of the time.

Welcome to the Bay State: brrrr.

That interpretation was, essentially, that fairly dramatic worldwide climatic fluctuation is a common feature of both the historical and scientific records, with the Roman and Medieval warming periods providing a background to the expansion of the Roman Empire, the far-flung voyages of the Vikings, and the building of the great cathedrals. (There is also agricultural evidence for this warming, memorably mentioned by Mark Steyn, who pointed out that in the Middle Ages, there were vineyards "in places where one would certainly not dare to drink any local wine now," such as northern and southeastern England).

And then, round about 1300, the world began to cool, with the aforementioned Little Ice Age as the result. (Though even this is an overly-neat presentation of the data, as we know that there was a dramatic cold spell in the 900s A.D., and tree-ring records seem to indicate that some of the hottest years in the history of the Mediterranean occurred during the Little Ice Age).

Temperatures began to rebound in the mid-19th century, though they haven't done so in anything like a straight line, as the popular presentation seems to suggest. In 1974, Time Magazine famously warned us all about what was then "three decades" of global cooling, which, it was speculated, could be "the harbinger of another ice age." More recently, beginning in the late 1990s, temperatures have been more or less flat, which climatologists have taken to calling the "pause" in global warming (though one wonders if this "pause" is the basis for their terminological shift to the more accurate, if less meaningful, "climate change"). All of which is to say, there have been ups and downs, as well as plateaus.

Of course, from the perspective of the experts invested in climate change, these fluctuations had to be made to disappear. As John Robson put it,

Climate doomsters don’t like to talk about the Little Ice Age for obvious reasons: a natural temperature drop between around 1300 and 1650 and a rebound after 1850 make it pretty plain that much of the increase in the last 150 years was, at least prima facie, natural as well. And to get rid of the LIA they also had to do in the Medieval Warm Period, along with the Roman and Minoan ones and for that matter the Holocene Climate Optimum.

The climate changes. Modern climatologists would have you believe that change is rare, that gentle cooling was the norm for at least a thousand years before humans started emitting significantly more carbon through industrial activities. But both sides of that statement -- the gentle decline and dramatic increase of temperatures -- are contradicted by both science and history.

Just ask the Puritans, who might not have been induced to leave East Anglia had it been full of the vineyards their distant ancestors had once tended there. Then again, considering the abstemious nature of their sect, had they grown up surrounded by the grape, they might never have become Puritans.

Beware the Environmentalists' False Flags

You're probably familiar with the phrase "false flag operation." Referring originally to a ship's flying the flag of a different nation than that with which it was aligned in order to deceive the enemy, it has come to refer to any such misrepresentation, particularly those with the intent of casting one's opponents in a negative light.

The thing that makes false flag operations so effective is that it is often impossible to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that one has actually taken place. Absent an admission of guilt, all one can do when investigating the circumstances is to lay out the facts and let the jury decide.

I bring this up because I've recently stumbled upon two stories which have the appearance of false flag operations. The first is by Jazz Shaw, who reports on the attempt to build what's being billed as the next generation of nuclear power plant in Idaho. The plant would serve roughly 720,000 homes in that state and in neighboring Utah. Communities in both states which would benefit from this project have already signed on, but one group of activists have made it their mission to convince all involved that it's a bad deal.

The group is called the Utah Taxpayer Association, and their principal argument is that the project is a waste of taxpayer money and (because the technology is still being developed) is likely to fail and lead to higher electricity prices.

Well, as a conservative, fiscal responsibility arguments always get my attention. But Shaw points out that there is something fishy about the organization making the argument:

As to the “fiscal conservative” group trying to get municipalities to pull out of the project, the Utah Taxpayer Association is being fronted by The Hastings Group. One look at their client list at that link will give you an idea of their general ideological makeup. They include:

Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists
Green America
National Resources Defense Council
Renewable Nation
Union Of Concerned Scientists

The Utah Taxpayer Association has also enlisted anti-nuclear power advocate Peter Bradford as a spokesperson. The list of their association with green energy and environmentalist groups goes on.

Shaw doesn't mention this, but along those same lines, the website of The Hastings Group is full of boasts about their "18-month push" to pressure the Trump administration to stop off-shore drilling and their "12-year campaign to shift media attitudes about socially responsible/sustainable investing," the latter being code for divesting from fossil fuels.

Judging by these relationships, it seems unlikely that the Utah Taxpayer Association is the confederation of Goldwater Republicans that its name and rhetoric would lead you to surmise. It's rather more likely that some textbook Greenies, aware that their normal pitch would have less purchase in rural mountain states, decided to attack the problem from a different angle, hoping that cost-conscious conservatives would miss the lefty agenda behind the scenes.

And what is that agenda exactly? After all, as Shaw notes, nuclear power is effectively zero carbon, so you'd think that anti-carbon emissions activists would be on board with this project. Their opposition reveals their true colors -- for a lot of them, at least, it isn't the carbon they care about so much as limiting the competition for their so-called renewable energy projects.

The second potential false flag is rather more complicated, and has to do with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a planned project which was principally owned by Richmond, Va., based Dominion Energy. It was meant to move natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation in West Virginia through Virginia and then down to North Carolina. Had the pipeline gone through, it is probable that Dominion would have built a second natural gas liquefaction terminal, likely in the Newport area, to complement the one it already owns in Cove Point, Md., creating lots of well-paying jobs for Virginians and allowing the company to export significantly more natural gas overseas.

"Was" is the operative word here, however, because in July it was announced that Dominion is cutting its losses and pulling out of the $8 billion project, citing "the increasing legal uncertainty that overhangs large-scale energy and industrial infrastructure development in the United States." This is being spoken of principally as a victory for the environmentalist groups which have been trying to kill the project since it was launched, with Michael Brune of the Sierra Club crowing,

Dominion did not decide to cancel the Atlantic Coast Pipeline—the people and frontline organizations that led this fight for years forced [it] into walking away.

However, journalist and Virginia native Arthur Bloom is skeptical. As he put it in a recent podcast appearance, "the death of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has sort of been heralded by activists as this big win, this is the new Virginia, pushing back on decades of probably-racist Republican rule. Virtually none of that is true."

Bloom has written a detailed piece at The American Conservative in which he attempts to connect the dots to discern what really happened here. The thing is, Dominion is not only pulling out of the Atlantic Pipeline, it is, as the Wall Street Journal reports, "selling the rest of its natural-gas transmission and storage network to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. for $9.7 billion," a deal which includes a 25 percent stake in its Cove Point liquefaction facility. As he investigated the "various interests that were publicly opposed to the construction of the pipeline," Bloom was struck "quite forcefully [by] how many of them were connected to Berkshire Hathaway."

One of those interested parties was Michael Bills, a Virginia billionaire and chairman of the board of environmental lobbying group Clean Virginia, who has waged a war against Dominion for the past several years, even offering to max out donations to any political candidate in the state who pledged not to accept any money from the company. Bloom points out that Bills is the former business partner of Berkshire Hathaway executive Ted Weschler, who is frequently mentioned as a potential replacement for Warren Buffet, as Berkshire's CEO. That doesn't prove anything, but it is a connection, and a high level one at that.

Bloom also details the political opposition to Dominion from the state's ascendant Democrats, a more important part of the story than the legal and regulatory hurdles to the project. (Indeed, the project had recently won big at the Supreme Court). Of course the state Democratic ascent has been funded in large part by Berkshire money too. Bloom notes that "the largest single donor to the Democratic Party of Virginia in 2015 was the son of Buffett partner Charles Munger, Jr, whose money supplied more than half of their funds for statehouse races that year."

And then there's the fact that, in Bloom's words,

Berkshire also owned most of the newspapers in western and central Virginia until March, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Free Lance-Star, the Culpeper Times-Exponent, the Daily Progress in Charlottesville, the News Virginian in Waynesboro, and the Roanoke Times, giving them almost complete control of the pipeline narrative in the parts of the state where it mattered.

Be sure to read the whole piece to get into the real nitty-gritty of the thing, but Bloom makes a compelling case that everything is not as it seems. As he makes clear in the interview cited above, there is something a little too convenient about the fact that Dominion was the focal point of so much environmental activism, which had the effect of depressing the stock price of the company, allowing a massive financial firm -- which had deep ties to the environmental activists -- to swoop in "and [scoop] up their assets on the cheap." Meanwhile the environmentalists are able to claim the scalp of a major pipeline project while ignoring Berkshire Hathaway, this despite the fact that the company's anti-union history makes it likely that the unionized workers in Dominion's natural gas sector might soon be out of a job. Unions are less important to the left these days than wealthy environmentalists.

False flag operations are difficult to prove, but Shaw and Bloom argue persuasively that alliances and the money trail constitute a preponderance of evidence in their respective cases pointing to real deception on the part of the interested parties. Read and judge for yourself.

How Feminism Distorts Environmental Science

Over the past few years, we’ve heard a great deal about women in environmental science, and about the need to get more women into environmental science, with the clear implication that women bring something to research and policy on the environment that men don’t bring. 

We’ve been informed of “5 Women Environmental Leaders You Should Know” and invited to “Meet 4 Inspirational Women Working in Environmental Science Today.” Articles that profile such scientists abound, almost always including a discussion of the (allegedly unique) “challenges” the women faced in a male-dominated field, with exhortations about how such challenges can be overcome, almost always through state and global initiatives that benefit women by providing them with money and opportunities not available to their male colleagues. 

The alleged distinctiveness of women’s scientific perspective is a never-challenged assumption in many policy documents and political proclamations. An article outlining why “[w]e need to build more networks of women in science” predictably informs readers that women are “far more nuanced in [their] approach to just about anything, including science,” which is why “environmental science can only become stronger if we have more women in research, because [women] often bring the human angle into the science.” The male angle, apparently, is somewhat less than human. Keystone Environmental, a Canadian company that helps businesses comply with environmental regulations, echoes the mantra, saying that “there is a need for more women and girls” in the field.

Getting the female perspective.

World agencies and organizations are responding to such unabashedly partisan (and evidence-lite) claims with initiatives to promote opportunities for women. The United Nations has declared February 11 to be International Day of Women and Girls in Science; and its 2019 theme made the point even sharper: “Investment in Women and Girls in Science for Inclusive Green Growth.” The website admits that despite committed effort in “inspiring and engaging women and girls in science,” they “continue to be excluded from participating fully.” They offer little to corroborate this claim, but we are assured that “long-standing biases and gender stereotypes are steering girls and women away from science-related fields.” The idea that women might be somewhat less interested than men in certain types of scientific study, including some areas of environmental science, is never considered.

Citing the principle that “[w]e cannot afford to deprive ourselves of the talents of half of humanity,” UNESCO funds lavish awards for female scientists around the world. Its webpage reveals that “Since its creation in 1998, the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Programme has distinguished 112 eminent women at the height of their scientific careers and supported more than 3,300 promising young women scientists from over 110 countries.” Participating nations have followed suit with state-funded programs, scholarship, and grants. Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council outlines a variety of monetary and other incentives designed to “increase the participation of women in science and engineering, and to provide role models.” 

Beyond the feel-good hoopla, these costly female-only programs are based on a set of untested assumptions about women and the environment that are as bigoted and misguided as they are widely accepted, if sometimes unconsciously. For decades, radical feminist ideologues have claimed that both women and nature are oppressed and have been made to serve men’s needs. Men’s sacrifices and good-faith efforts to build societies in which women and children could flourish are never acknowledged. Although not all female scientists are feminist ideologues, a great many have been influenced by feminist doctrine.

A specific branch of feminist theory called ecofeminism alleges that only the full liberation of women from male control can likewise liberate and “save” the environment. According to this theory, the idea of the natural world as a resource to be exploited for human benefit partakes of the same worldview that sees women as the property of men to be exploited for male pleasure. 

Ecofeminists such as Carolyn Merchant, Mary Daly, and Vandana Shiva observe that nature in western culture is frequently represented as an untamed female entity, requiring male control. They claim that western men have tended to impose hierarchical structures to bind the feminine in all its forms and deny the interconnections between human and non-human nature through actions, resulting in horrific environmental damage. 

Women, on the other hand, have a different (and, from their perspective, superior) appreciation of the intimate connections between all living things, partly because of their sensitive, nurturing natures and their role as child bearers. French feminist theorist Francoise d’Eaubonne, for one, insisted that women would create a much-needed ecological revolution to bring about justice for all marginalized and exploited beings.

Inherently male and rapacious?

Such feminist perspectives are at their root confessedly anti-male, anti-western, anti-industrial, and anti-capitalist. At their most radical, they reject all exploration, development, and utilization of the earth for the purposes of energy and wealth creation. Activities such as drilling, mining, extraction, and the construction of pipelines are seen as inherently male and rapacious. Some feminists even reject what they refer to as “western science,” which they claim is merely a projection of the flawed masculine way of perceiving nature. Though most feminist scientists and scientific agencies do not express such an extreme position, many of them actively seek to minimize the achievements of male scientists in favor of female, place women in visible positions of leadership mainly because of their sex, and transfer resources and authority to women on the assumption that women care more about children, and thus the future, and therefore make more compassionate stewards of the environment.  

In a recent example of such a female-centric view, CNN reported on an all-female crew that is “sailing the world” to research plastic pollution in sea water. The clear implication of the story was that women who exclude men from their research expeditions deserve public admiration and applause for their daring. I found it impossible to imagine men posturing and patting themselves on the back for doing anything as men, and expecting praise for it. “The days feel longer at sea. You really have an opportunity to connect with nature,” claims an enthusiastic female voice at the video clip’s opening. Soon we see the smiling face of a young woman, Emily Penn, the co-founder of Exxpedition (note the reference to women’s two X chromosomes), a series of all-women teams sailing the world to study plastics and toxins. Here we have a made-for-United Nations feminist fantasy. 

Why are men excluded from these crews, and how is such exclusion a laudable scientific development? It’s never made clear, but it is suggested that women have a deeper passion for the environment and, relatedly, that women are more seriously impacted by ocean pollution, especially by the micro-plastics under study. These plastics, we learn, break down in the ocean, bind with toxic chemicals, and are ultimately ingested by human beings, where they mimic the body’s hormones and interrupt its chemical messages. “I realized that being a woman, having those chemicals inside my body during pregnancy would be really bad news,” Penn asserts, explaining why she came to see ocean plastics as a “female-centered” issue.   

Are men not affected by the chemical-plastic stew? Are their bodies invulnerable to endocrine disruption and its implications for reproductive health? Penn doesn’t say, and doesn’t seem to care. In this case and elsewhere, the frequently heard claim that women are more empathetic and bring a human perspective to science seems to apply only to issues affecting women. Where men are concerned, feminist compassion quickly runs dry.

The story, furthermore, implies that Penn and her fellow female researchers are breaking new ground in analyzing this problem. No mention is made of the very significant work already being done by male scientists not only in highlighting the issue but actually seeking to solve it. We hear nothing, for instance, of Boyan Slat, the Dutch inventor who, at age 18 in 2013, founded The Ocean Cleanup, a non-profit foundation involving some 90 engineers, researchers, scientists and computational modelers who have developed systems to remove plastic from the world’s oceans before it breaks down into micro-plastics. 

It’s hard to imagine young Boyan making a self-satisfied show of his maleness, deliberately choosing an all-male crew, or claiming that he is interested in plastics because they disproportionately affect the male sex. It would be bizarre if he did. So why is the inverse claim—that women should and do care particularly about women—seen as admirable? In my opinion, it is evidence of a deplorable narcissism.  

There is nothing wrong with encouraging women, at least those with the necessary talent and dedication, to seek out careers in environmental science. But a preoccupation with women’s allegedly greater care for our world distorts our understanding of the real (and fake) environmental challenges we face; and the frequently-heard claim that we need to access all the world’s available talent is belied by the focus on women only (how many talented young men will thereby be neglected?).

Even more seriously, the idea that there is something wrong with male perspectives and “western” science is alarmingly regressive, grounded in female supremacist fantasies and long-standing anti-male resentment. These feminist biases are unscientific to the core, and their impact on environmental research and policy are likely to be wasteful and counter-productive, if not downright disastrous, in the long term.

Obama Judge Shuts Down Dakota Access Pipeline

This morning U.S. District Judge James Boasberg, an Obama appointee, ordered the shutdown of the Dakota Access pipeline.  He also ordered that it be emptied of oil by Aug. 5. Expect an almost immediate appeal.

Judge Boasberg wrote that he was “mindful of the disruption,” but he stood by his previously articulated position that the original environmental review, completed by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2015/16, wasn't thorough enough since it:

[D]id not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline’s effects are likely to be highly controversial.

At issue is the Missouri River which the pipeline crosses just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, which straddles North and South Dakota. The Sioux and various environmentalist groups argued that the pipeline could contaminate the river, and the Obama administration took their side against the Corps. Obama spent years slow walking the project because of the environmentalists' concerns.

In answer to those concerns, Kelcy Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, which owns the pipeline, stated:

[W]e're not on any Indian property at all... We're on private lands. That's number one. Number two, this pipeline is new steel pipe... It's going to go 90 feet to 150 feet below the lake's surface. It's thick wall pipe, extra thick, by the way, more so than just the normal pipe that we lay. Also, on each side of the lake, there's automated valves that, if in the very, very unlikely situation there were to be a leak, our control room shuts down the pipe, encapsulates that small section that could be in peril. So, that's just not going to happen.... there is no way there would be any crude to contaminate their water supply. They're 70 miles downstream.

Which is to say, this pipeline doesn't violate native property rights and it is as safe as it can reasonably expected to be. Consequently, after the 2016 election this was one of many stalled projects that Donald Trump greenlit on the strength of the existing environmental reviews.

But now, after the construction has been completed and crude has been pumping through the pipeline for three years, it is being shut down pending yet another environmental review -- if the ruling stands. Workers will be laid off and the company will take a serious financial hit, no easy burden in the present economic climate. As for the oil, somewhat less of it might be pumped -- the ultimate goal of the greens -- or else it will go into storage until it can be moved to the refinery some other way. Very likely by rail.

Seven years ago, on July 6, 2013, in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, a seventy-four car freight train carrying crude oil crashed and exploded. Forty seven people were killed in what was called possibly "the most devastating rail accident in Canadian history.”

It is important that we mourn for and with those effected by this tragedy, but we must also note that it is within our power to reduce the chances of such a thing happening again by making sure that more oil is carried across this continent via pipeline, which is significantly safer than rail.

Unfortunately attacking pipelines is a common tactic of the environmentalist left. This is precisely because they are able to safely move large amounts of oil over long distances, and for the Greenies, the safe transport of oil goes against their most fervently held beliefs.

Hopefully all of this is quickly sorted out such that the pipeline can get pumping again. Because as Lac-Mégantic reminds us, the human and environmental costs when something goes wrong with those trains is incalculable.

Who's Afraid of 'Climate Change'?

If you don't already keep tabs on Michael Shellenberger, you should. While you may not always agree with him -- Shellenberger is a self-described environmentalist and man of the left -- you will find him to be an honest, insightful, and even brave writer. Brave because he consistently uses facts to counter the hysterical narrative of the Green New Deal wing of the green movement, which as you might imagine doesn't win him a lot of friends.

One example of this: Forbes, where he is a regular contributor, pulled down his most recent piece, 'On Behalf Of Environmentalists, I Apologize For The Climate Scare,' within a few hours of publication.

In the piece, essentially a pitch for his book Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, Shellenberger reviews his environmentalist bona fides, working to save the California redwoods and lobbying the Obama administration to spend billions on so-called renewable energy, etc. Increasingly, however, he became disturbed by other environmentalists distorting the science to make a case for hysteria, and shutting down anyone who questioned their conclusions.

Shellenberger

They've been so successful that children routinely report having nightmares about climate change and people around the world are convinced the end is near. Eventually Shellenberger came to feel he had a responsibility to speak out and counter their propaganda.

Here are some facts few people know:

• Humans are not causing a “sixth mass extinction”
• The Amazon is not “the lungs of the world”
• Climate change is not making natural disasters worse
• Fires have declined 25% around the world since 2003
• The amount of land we use for meat — humankind’s biggest use of land — has declined by an area nearly as large as Alaska
• The build-up of wood fuel and more houses near forests, not climate change, explain why there are more, and more dangerous, fires in Australia and California
• Air pollution and carbon emissions have been declining in rich nations for 50 years
• Adapting to life below sea level made the Netherlands rich not poor
• We produce 25% more food than we need and food surpluses will continue to rise as the world gets hotter
• Habitat loss and the direct killing of wild animals are bigger threats to species than climate change
• Wood fuel is far worse for people and wildlife than fossil fuels
• Preventing future pandemics requires more not less “industrial” agriculture

I know that the above facts will sound like “climate denialism” to many people. But that just shows the power of climate alarmism.

(more…)

Prediction of Economic Recovery Terrifies Dems

It looks like we're getting to the other side of this pandemic, with lock-down orders easing up and restrictions on everyday activities being lifted, with and without masks. One sign that things are returning to normal is that people's minds are turning away from daily case numbers and towards the election in the fall. To that end, Jason Furman, a Harvard professor and one of Barack Obama's senior economic advisors, gave a presentation to the Democratic party's top strategists a few weeks ago, and what he had to say absolutely shocked them:

“We are about to see the best economic data we’ve seen in the history of this country," he said.... “Everyone looked puzzled and thought I had misspoken,” Furman said in an interview. Instead of forecasting a prolonged Depression-level economic catastrophe, Furman laid out a detailed case for why the months preceding the November election could offer Trump the chance to brag — truthfully — about the most explosive monthly employment numbers and gross domestic product growth ever....

Furman’s counterintuitive pitch has caused some Democrats, especially Obama alumni, around Washington to panic. “This is my big worry,” said a former Obama White House official who is still close to the former president. Asked about the level of concern among top party officials, he said, “It’s high — high, high, high, high.”

Maybe I've missed something, but the above sounds to me like.... good news. But I suppose that's because I'm not running for president with the hopes of hanging a new Great Depression on the incumbent.

Furman stressed that he was speaking “in gross terms, not in net terms,” which is to say that the "V shaped" recovery he was predicting wouldn't leave us better off than we were before the pandemic. The economy would look great compared to the depths of the April and May, but we would still be in rough shape. This, of course, is a difficult message to boil down into a campaign slogan or a meme, which is why the Dems are so anxious about it.

At the same time, it should serve as a rallying cry for the Right. Just a few months ago, when we were riding an incredible economic wave with low taxes and low unemployment, the Democrats were arguing that we should be willing to risk our prosperity on their ideological program. Here's Jim Geraghty on that point:

Back during one of the debates, Tim Alberta of Politico asked Biden, “As president, would you be willing to sacrifice some of that growth, even knowing potentially that it could displace thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of blue-collar workers in the interest of transitioning to that greener economy?” Biden responded, “The answer is yes. The answer is yes, because the opportunity — the opportunity for those workers to transition to high-paying jobs, as Tom said, is real.”

Biden pledged “no new fracking” during a debate, then walked it back; he wants to set a price on carbon to be used for either a carbon tax or cap-and-trade; Biden endorsed California’s AB5, the anti-“gig” law; he would raise the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent, and he insists he can raise taxes by $4 trillion over the next decade, without raising taxes on anyone making $400,000 per year or less.

If the economy is heading in the right direction in the fall -- if jobs are coming back and the stock market is up -- but hasn't quite recovered, should we really trust Joe Biden to prioritize getting us back where we need to be, rather than handing over his domestic policy to the Green Blob? His recent pledge to kill the Keystone XL pipeline if he's elected doesn't inspire confidence.

Spike This

If you haven't yet twigged to the British website Spiked, it's about time you did so. The online publication describes itself as "the magazine that wants to change the world as well as report on it. We are committed to fighting for humanism, democracy and freedom." It expresses that admirable commitment via articles by some of the best young British writers, who daily deconstruct modern shibboleths such as "climate change," the Greenie weenies, and, latterly, the hysteria over the coronavirus. Like us here at The Pipeline, the gang at Spiked clearly sees the link between the overreaction to the virus and the longer-term agenda of the "climate change" privateers, who seek to destroy the Western way of life in the guise of rescuing it. A sample:

Covid-19 is a frightening dress rehearsal of the climate agenda

Months into the pandemic and many unknowns still cloud our understanding of the virus. The basic parameters of its transmission rate are still contested by scientists. Rather than shedding light, experts from prestigious institutions descend into acrimonious, politically charged, point-scoring debates. Even the grim daily ritual of the body count is slated as either an overestimate or a grotesque underestimate. But the biggest unknown yet is the damage the virus and attempts to control it have done to society and the economy, and how we will recover. From this wreckage, the green blob has re-emerged from an all-too-brief period of obscurity with a list of demands that will destroy any hope of recovery.

From the outset, there has been a palpable sense of green jealousy of the virus as it stole attention from the climate fearmongers. For half a century, greens have been prognosticating the imminent collapse of society. Yet with each new generation, deadlines to stop the destruction of the planet pass without event. In reality, the world’s population has become healthier and wealthier, and we live longer lives than ever before. Panic about the virus achieved in days what greens have been demanding for years: grounded planes, empty roads, and a halt in economic growth.

Experience of coronavirus shows that the kind of fear, panic and mistrust ramped up by doom-laden forecasts has had severe consequences for humanity. Fear of the virus has threatened to dissolve the essential relationships of mutual dependence between human beings, almost in an instant – and on a greater scale than anything Gaia can throw at us in her angry revenge. Greta Thunberg’s maxim – ‘I want you to panic’ – should cause environmentalists to pause and consider what they actually want for society.

But such reflection is unlikely to be forthcoming. After all, lockdown gives greens what they have always wanted: the abolition of flight, and of travel deemed ‘unnecessary’ by technocrats; and the prohibition of goods which have been designated ‘non-essential’. Indeed, this is apparently what a green utopia looks like.

Read the whole thing, of course, if only for this line:

Green platitudes are nothing more than a veneer of bullshit for no-mark politicians to hide behind.

The key is that the "green economy" is a malignant fantasy of New Ludditism, a branch of cultural Marxism that openly seeks the destruction of the Western way of life. Its embrace by callow and mendacious politicians the world over is a triumph of stupidty and short-term thinking over reason, facts, and history.

So what if it comes disguised as "environmentalism"? The devil is the devil no matter what he's wearing, even if it's nothing at all.

 

Alberta's Petrochemicals Protecting Canada

The collapse in oil prices combined with the virus and the lockdowns are hitting the Canadian province of Alberta extremely hard. Some are even predicting the worst economic contraction in its history. But I was glad to read in the Financial Post about one bright spot in the province's economy at the moment, its petrochemical sector which produces a variety of plastic products that are in high demand at the moment:

In 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government would move to ban single-use plastics such as shopping bags, cutlery and straws to curb the proliferation of plastic waste in landfills and oceans. Now, in the middle of a public health crisis, the demand for plastic packaging has exploded. In Alberta’s oilpatch, ethane crackers used to make polyethylene film are among the only facilities that are busier today than before the pandemic knocked out global oil demand and led to hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil being shut in.

“The demand for plastic packaging has never been higher than it is right now,” said Bob Masterson, president and CEO of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, noting that the evidence of the huge demand for the industry’s products is plain at any grocery store in the country. Some grocery stores that had previously banned or started charging for plastic bags have eased those policies as workers are concerned about handling re-usable grocery bags. Acrylic plastic shields have been installed at tills to separate cashiers from shoppers, both of whom are wearing plastic gloves and masks in increasing numbers.... Masterson said the current crisis has led to “an absolute boom in the demand for packaging,” as grocery stores and consumers are wrapping food in plastic to prevent surface contamination of foods from the coronavirus.

Plastics, of course, aren't the only timely products produced by petrochemicals. Another is isopropyl alcohol:

I think it has shown some vulnerabilities in Canada’s supply chain,” Masterson said, noting that Shell Canada Ltd.’s Sarnia plant is the only producer of isopropyl alcohol in Canada, used to make alcohol-based cleaning products such as hand sanitizers. Shell president and CEO Michael Crothers said in a March 31 release the company would donate 125,000 litres of isopropyl alcohol, which is “approximately enough to create nearly one million 12-oz bottles of hand sanitizer for use in hospitals and medical facilities....

In Alberta, successive governments have implemented incentives designed to attract more petrochemical investment in an effort to diversify the province’s economy and build out the supply chain for hydrocarbon production. An incentive program introduced by former NDP premier Rachel Notley resulted in both Inter Pipeline Corp. and Pembina Pipeline Corp. spending $8.5 billion combined on under-construction polypropylene facilities, which will turn the province’s abundance of propane into plastic pellets used in a range of consumer goods.

The article notes that there is some question as to whether the industry will continue to boom once the pandemic and the lockdowns are over, and that is a real concern should the Greens return to form. The environmentalists are working hard to keep the "climate emergency" front and center, and even to link the two. But from where I sit, this pandemic definitively demonstrates the necessity of this industry, and the people talking about managing its decline are nuts.

Carbon Emissions Fell Months before Pandemic

One disturbing thing we've seen during the course of this pandemic is that there's a certain variety of Greenie -- not all of them mind you, but some -- who are almost gleeful about the state of things. John O'Sullivan pointed out one example back in March, when former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis tweeted the following:

Fun, eh? File that one under takes that didn't age well. But even so, it demonstrated an enthusiasm for large-scale, government mandated lifestyle change once the pandemic has come to an end. Another, perhaps more common source of environmentalist delight is the decline in CO2 emissions as a consequence of the the decrease of economic activity of every kind. Britain's left-leaning newspaper Guardian reported a few weeks ago:

Global carbon emissions from the fossil fuel industry could fall by a record 2.5bn tonnes this year, a reduction of 5%, as the coronavirus pandemic triggers the biggest drop in demand for fossil fuels on record. The unprecedented restrictions on travel, work and industry due to the coronavirus is expected to cut billions of barrels of oil, trillions of cubic metres of gas  millions of tonnes of coal from the global energy system in 2020 alone

And Jeff Gibbs, of Planet of the Humans fame, said in an interview just the other day:

[R]ight now we're learning that the three times when climate change and fossil fuel usage went down were during this pandemic, in the days after 9/11, and during the Great Recession.

There's something revelatory about this way of looking at things -- these horrible moments of tragedy, of poverty and loss of life, conform most perfectly with the vision of the environmentalist movement. Conservatives have been saying that misery would be the necessary outcome of environmentalists getting their way, and environmentalists seem to be in agreement.

But it is also oddly misleading. Their vision of graceless growth, of the gluttonous nature of modern capitalist life, leaves out the fact that the nations who have been most successful in employing technologies that decrease carbon emissions are market economies, generally in the West.

The United States, the country hated by environmentalists most of all, actually saw its carbon emissions decline by 2.8 percent last year, according to a new report released by the Energy Information Administration. A decline, it need hardly be stated, that occurred before the pandemic. Moreover, the U.S. has led the world in reducing carbon emissions over the past 20 years.

And it isn't just America -- worldwide carbon emissions were flat in 2019, even though the global economy grew.

The stall in emissions, as reported by the International Energy Agency on Tuesday, was mainly due to rich countries using less coal for electricity, replacing it with natural gas, wind, solar, and nuclear power. Coal generation in advanced economies fell by nearly 15%.

It is also worth noting that our transitions toward natural gas and nuclear (I'm less certain than the IEA about the contributions of wind and solar) helped keep worldwide emissions flat, even though the massive increase in coal usage throughout Asia meant that emissions in the rest of the world grew by nearly 400 million tons in the same time period.

All of which is to say, human misery and communist diktats won't lead to a cleaner environment, whatever the Greenies might tell you. Prosperity, rational development, stewardship, and freedom are the way forward.

'Extinction Rebellion': Rebels with a Cause

The poet and scholar of Soviet history, the late Robert Conquest, is the author of several commonly quoted -- and misquoted --  rules of politics, the second of which amusingly holds that "the behavior of any bureaucratic organization can best be understood by assuming that it is controlled by a secret cabal of its enemies." (Many sources list this as Conquest's Third Law, but the one they list as second -- "Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing" -- was actually coined by our own John O'Sullivan.) Anyone who has ever been to the DMV or had occasion to deal with, say, the Bureau of Land Management, will take his point, though it is perhaps slightly contradicted by the fact that the bad behavior of bureaucracies never seems to rein them in. Rather the opposite in fact.

In any event, it isn't only bureaucratic organizations that often seem to be run by cabals of their enemies. Hardly a week goes by these days without some group or other engaging in an officially sanctioned activity that seems to run so counter to its own interests that it really makes you wonder. A recent example of this comes from an outift that has made its name antagonizing the very people you'd think they'd be trying to persuade: Extinction Rebellion.

You might remember them from their various antics over the past few years, including gluing themselves to a DLR train in London so that everyone on the platform would be late for work, and digging up the famous lawn of Trinity College, Cambridge, for reasons which were difficult to follow. I myself happened to be giving my young niece and nephews a tour of Lower Manhattan on the day that they sprayed fake blood all around Wall Street, likely turning those horrified children into life-long anti-environmentalists.

Extinction Rebellion purportedly engage in these shenanigans -- what we used to call crimes -- in order to draw attention to the supposed "climate emergency" we're allegedly experiencing. In fact, they mainly succeed in pissing people off, so much so that even environmentalist onlookers were disturbed by the Trinity Lawn incident, and the train-gluing eventually led to frustrated commuters dragging the protesters from the tops of the trains.

As for their latest bright idea, The Mail on Sunday reports that XR are planning on aggravating the present COVID-19 related economic calamity by "staging rent strikes, halting tax payments and taking out bank loans they don't intend to repay":

Internal documents obtained by The Mail on Sunday set out plans for a ‘Money Rebellion’ involving acts of financial sabotage to ‘directly challenge the fundamental principles that govern our national and global economies’. Despite dire warnings that the coronavirus pandemic has plunged Britain into its worst recession for 300 years, the dossier details how the group – also known as XR – wants to launch a rent strike later this month....

XR hopes at least 5,000 supporters will refuse to pay their rent, adding: ‘Council tenants and private tenants alike can participate in the strike… on such a scale that it forces a society-wide conversation about our misguided economy.’ According to the documents, it will be followed by a tax strike involving 10,000 people who will sign a conditional commitment to withhold £100 of income tax. Such a move will, it adds, ‘present a dilemma to HMRC about whether to pursue 10,000 claims for £100’.

Other possible protests include a utilities strike, where activists refuse to pay their bills unless suppliers promise to switch to 100 per cent renewable energy, and plans for supporters to withhold VAT, student debt or mortgage payments.

In the United States, some 33 million people have filed for unemployment due to this pandemic and the attendant lockdowns. In Great Britain, almost a quarter of workers have been furloughed. It is likely that many more people are going to suffer from the economic effects of this crisis than know anyone who has contracted the virus. But this is good news, say Extinction Rebellion. This is the moment to bring civilization to its knees. While their previous acts of vandalism and disruption mostly fall into the category of nuisance, this proposal has more than a whiff of treason about it.

Now, I'm skeptical that they will actually succeed in bringing civilization down. Indeed, it would be surprising if they convinced enough people to engage in this scheme to have a discernible impact. More than likely they will succeed only in injuring their own credit scores (that is, if they don't get their wealthy parents to pay off their loans before there are any real consequences), while once again enraging regular Britons, who are putting up with a lot right now without having to watch spoiled children trying to tank the economy.

Hence my invocation of Conquest's law. After all, what have they to gain from all of this negative sentiment? Shouldn't they be trying to make a case for the rightness of their cause rather than disrupting the lives of regular hardworking people, all while lecturing them about their carbon footprints?

And yet, it seems significant that, most of the time, XR's disruptors get away with it. At Cambridge -- to the annoyance of locals -- the police simply stood by and looked on. At the London Underground, it was the commuters, not the cops, who dragged them off the train. Its hard to imagine that they would have acted with such passivity without a directive from above, and while I'd like to think that were they to seriously attempt to sabotage an already shaky economy during a national emergency they would be dealt with swiftly and severely, I have my doubts.

In any case,  it does seem like persuasion is the furthest thing from their minds. Rather than seeking and perhaps gaining broad support, leading to the election of politicians who agree to advance their aims, XR's tactics are aimed at giving headaches to the people in power, who fold rather than dealing with them, or else giving a pretense to the people in power who already agree with them to act according to their own inclinations.

Which is to say, perhaps they have a better sense of their interests than I do. Power, not popularity, is what matters to them. Maybe the goal of Extinction Rebellion is to become the cabal that controls the bureaucracy.

Who's to say that they haven't already succeeded?