If At First You Don't Secede... Wexit

The idea of secession seems almost inevitably to surface in times of national turmoil, political disarray, ideological and ethnic pillarization and economic resentment. In the wake of the Great Fraud, aka the 2020 American election, there is a whiff of secession in the air.

Rush Limbaugh worries that America is “trending toward secession.” Texas GOP chairman Alan West suggested that law-abiding states should “bond together and form a union of states that will abide by the constitution.” Though he asserted “I never say anything about secession,” the implication was certainly present. Texit is in the wind. Rep. Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredericksburg) said “I am committing to file legislation this session that will allow a referendum to give Texans a vote for the State of Texas to reassert its status as an independent nation.”

Canada has undergone two secession movements originating in the province of Quebec, based on a founding schism between two distinct peoples—which novelist Hugh MacLennan called the “two solitudes” in his book of  that title—culminating in a clash between two legal traditions, Quebec’s Napoleonic civil code and the ROC’s (rest of Canada) common law, and two languages, French and English.

Two referenda were held, in 1980 and 1995, the second defeated by the narrowest of margins, 50.58 percent to 49.42 percent. It is hard to say if separation would have been a “good thing,” whether Quebec would have prospered and Canada grown more coherent. I would hazard that the first prospect would have been enormously improbable, the second at least remotely possible.

Sunrise in Calgary? Or sundown?

The independence movement is alive today, but in another province. Alberta, which is Canada’s energy breadbasket, has suffered egregiously under the rule of Eastern Canada’s Laurentian Elite, beginning in modern times with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s low-pricing, high taxing National Energy Program (NEP) in 1980, which devastated Alberta’s oil industry.

According to the BOE report, “Economic disaster quickly followed. Alberta’s unemployment rate shot from 4% to more than 10%. Bankruptcies soared 150%.” Home values collapsed by 40 percent and the province plunged into debt. The debacle has climaxed with son Justin’s Green-inspired economic destruction and effective shutdown of the province’s energy sector. Unemployment has risen to more than 11 percent, thousands of residents are leaving the province, debt is soaring and cutbacks have severely impacted daily life.

As a result, a potent secession movement, known as "Wexit," has gathered momentum and solidified into a new political party. In addition, the Wildrose Independence Party of Alberta registered as a political party on June 29. Its platform includes asserting the independence of the province, redefining the relationship with Canada, developing natural resources, and creating a Constitution of Alberta.

After having increased the job-killing carbon tax during—of all times!—the COVID pandemic and lockdown that had already pulverized the nation’s economy, prime minister Justin Trudeau has announced he will raise the tax almost sixfold to $170 per tonne by 2030, thus breaking the Liberal government’s promise “not to increase the (carbon) price post-2022.” According to the Toronto Sun, “That will increase the cost of gasoline by about 38 cents per litre, plus the cost of home heating fuels such as natural gas and oil.”

And according to Kris Sims at the Sun, “Based on the average annual use of natural gas in new Canadian homes, it would cost homeowners more than $885 extra in the carbon tax.” Filling up a light duty pickup truck will cost a surplus $45 per tank, and an extra $204 for the big rigs that deliver dry goods and comestibles. But that “won’t be the end of the increased cost the Canadians will face, starting with a $15 billion government investment in other climate change initiatives.” 

All Canadians will be hard hit, but Albertans, who once fueled the engine of Canadian prosperity and who have the resources to do so again, will feel the provocation and injury even more profoundly. As Rex Murphy writes in the National Post, it is “the province that carries most of the weight, bears the most pain and has the least say in this mad enterprise.” The tax, he continues, will “injure the very farmers who have been stocking the supermarket shelves during COVID, put oil workers (at least those who still have jobs) out of work, increase the cost of living for everyone, place additional strain on the most needy and antagonize a large swath of the Canadian public.”  

Kyle Biedermann is on the money when he says that “The federal government is out of control.” This is as true of Canada as it is of the United States, at least with respect to the major agencies of government. For this reason, I support the secession movement in Alberta. The province has no alternative if it is to survive a faltering and repressive Confederation saddled with an out-and-out Marxist prime minister, a de facto alliance with Communist China, an infatuation with an unworkable and unaffordable tax-subsidized Green technological program, a $400 billion deficit, a national debt exploding past the $1 trillion mark, and, in short, nameplate disasters like Trudeau’s A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy cabaret. 

Alberta’s survival depends on restoring its energy sector to full capacity and shucking off the federal burden of over-regulation, crushing taxation, Green fantasy-thinking and unpayable debt. Murphy again:

This new carbon tax will throw a spike in the heart of the oil and gas industry. Keep in mind that it is but the most recent in a long string of policies designed to hamstring the industry, block its exports and drive investment out of the province.

For Alberta, it’s leave or die. Other provinces may eventually have to follow the same route as Canada disintegrates under the brazen incompetence and global-socialist doctrines of the current administration, with no relief in sight.

As oil executive Joan Sammon writes, Inexpensive energy is imperative for a thriving economy, manufacturing excellence, economic mobility, job creation and a future of prosperity.” Clearly, there must be citizen pushback against the economy-killing decrees of a myopic and virtue-signaling government. People must put pressure on their elected representatives to resist the deliberate dismantling of the free market that will cost them the life of material abundance and comfort they take for granted. They must rid themselves of their infatuation with leftist memes, policies and hypocrisies.

I have a neighbor, a staunch adherent of our high-taxing, socialist administrations, who drives across the border to the U.S. to fill up her car at around one third the domestic price of fuel. She remains oblivious of the cognitive dissonance that governs her practice. Such thinking and behavior are what qualify as ultimately “unsustainable.” 

It's now or never.

The industry, too, Sammon writes, “needs to take back control from the preaching class and remind them that their lifestyles have been brought to them by the men and woman of the oil and gas industry.” The “green zealotry” that drives their anti-market efforts will destroy Alberta and lead eventually to the economic collapse of the entire country. Alberta, however, is at present the only province with a robust secession movement and, given its resource-rich milieu and the independent character of a large segment of its inhabitants, the only province in a position to save itself.

In any event, the message to Alberta is simple and straightforward. If at first you don’t secede, try and try again. The Overton Window is closing fast.

Canadian Ecopoets' Dream Is Albertan Nightmare

 Seamus O’Regan, Newfoundland pseudo-nonce-poet, Canada’s natural resources minister and all-round “weightless politician” (as Rex Murphy dubs him), has turned to poetry, offering a homiletic assessment of Canada’s bright Green future once Canada’s oil-and gas giant, the province of Alberta, has been economically destroyed. In a poem, or rather, a piece of anaphoric doggerel, entitled ALBERTA Is, the poet- minister informs us

Obviously, Alberta is, and can be, none of these. Hydrogen, batteries, geothermal, and electric vehicles are all dead letters. They are unworkable. The evidence is incontrovertible. Moreover, in a cramp of logical thinking, if Alberta is everything O’Regan says it is, then capture technology has no place in his catalogue. The Twitter post capping this feeble attempt at poetic afflatus, Alberta is vital to [Canada's] clean energy future, is an emblem of perilous inanity. As Michael Shellenberger has shown in article and book, clean energy is remarkably dirty. A functioning Alberta is vital not to a non-existent “clean energy future” but to Canada’s energy independence, industrial survival and national prosperity. O’Regan’s Alberta is a radical environmentalist’s baleful fantasy.

O’Regan may not be a poet in any meaningful sense of the word, anymore than he is an effective minister, but he has the backing of Canada’s poetic community. Acclaimed Canadian versifiers like Dionne Brand, Michael Ondaatje and George Elliott Clarke have signed on to an ecological movement known as The Leap Manifesto: A Call for a Canada Based on Caring for the Earth and One Another, which has targeted Alberta for destruction by transitioning Canada away from fossil fuels.

A poetically influential school known as ecopoets or wilderness poets have added their collective voice to the call for deep-sixing the energy sector and replacing it with abortive renewables like wind and solar, which are known to be unaffordable, inadequate and environmentally disastrous.

For example, in “At the Center, A Woman” from Tourist to Ecstasy, voluminously published ecopoet Tim Lilburn revives an indigenous fable enjoining us to return to the feminine source of unspoiled existence and the spirit of nature— 

Her voice is black water under wheat’s erect earth.
Uh.    Uh.
Her teeth are armies.   Uh.
Her throat’s flex, tree, flowing mass. Cottonwood, beech.
She songs the forest. Energy mezzos.
Mmho  Mmho  Mmho  Ho Ho Ho Ho

Apparently, the time for a new understanding has arrived. We have come to “the edge of the known world,” he informs us, “and the beginning of philosophy.” The beginning of philosophy entails the end of the energy sector and the apotheosis of water, wheat and forest. O brave new world that has such poets in it. 

Ecopoetry’s most famous Canadian practitioner, award-winning Don McKay, argues in an essay for Making the Geologic Now, "[T]he intention of culture… has been all too richly realized, that there is little hope for an other that remains other, for wilderness that remains wild.” In order to assure a revivified nature, we must cease “digging up fossilized organisms and burning them, effectively turning earthbound carbon into atmospheric carbon, drastically altering the climate.

Rather we must affirm “the visionary experience of wilderness as undomesticated presence”—though domesticated, it turns out, by much scarred terrain where “rare earths” are mined and featuring landscape-devouring and soil-poisoning solar panels, 285 feet high wind turbines, unrecyclable blades and masts, bird hecatombs and, as Jean-Louis Butré writes in Figarovox/Tribune, lamenting the despoliation of the French countryside, “new concrete blockhouses to maintain these monsters.” The result is “le déversement de tonnes de bétons dans nos campagnes.”

O nature, pleine de grace.

The costs of eventual land reclamation will be, as he says, “pharaminous” and an insupportable burden on municipalities. How this fact consorts with McKay’s environmentally-conscious urging to “amend our lives, to live less exploitatively and consumptively,” and to honor spirit of place remains an open question.

Indifferent poets have also contributed to the wilderness-inspired trashing of reliable energy production. To take one example, in Regreen: New Canadian Ecological Poetry, Mari-Lou Rowley presents us with “Tar Sands, Going down”:

Look up! look way up-
nothing but haze and holes.
Look down!
bitumen bite in the
neck arms thighs of Earth
a boreal blistering,
boiling soil and smoke-slathered sky.

Environmental Catharism is now the name of the game. As Abraham Miller explains, lamenting the deterioration of California’s infrastructure, the Green mandate has shifted state expenditures to providing renewable energy rather than maintaining power lines. Rolling blackouts are the result. In addition, the environmental lobby has prevented prudent clear cutting in order to ensure “nutrients for the soil,” creating forests of highly combustible underbrush and dead trees. The trouble is, Miller warns, “What happens in California never stays in California.”

Very true. Once Alberta is decommissioned, California Dreamin’ is Canada’s future. So much for wilderness, the virgin bride of Canada’s poetic suitors. Unfortunately, Mmho  Mmho will not take us very far.

Just ask a real poet.

In his celebrated essay, A Defence of Poetry, Percy Bysshe Shelley, among the great Romantic poets of the early 19th century, claimed that “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Shelley was determined to refute the thesis of his friend Thomas Love Peacock, who in The Four Ages of Poetry had argued that poetry had become useless in the era of the Enlightenment. Rather, Shelley asserted, poets are innovators, revolutionaries, visionaries of the “highest order,” and the source of “those social sympathies [and] elementary laws from which society develops.” The true poet runs counter to the shibboleths of the time, rejecting the modish fancies and social trends that imbue the culture. His mandate is skepticism and critique.

Regrettably, our poets no longer challenge the fads and superstitions of the day. Like the politicians, journalists, and academics who have plunged headlong into Green, they have become supine followers of the climate mandarins, lobbying for renewable energy and the abolition of the oil and gas industry. Alberta bad. Energy disaster good. They have become Seamus O’Regan.

There may yet be hope. W.H. Auden, one of the best and most intelligent poets of the modern era, wrote that “Poetry makes nothing happen.” Alberta has a mighty struggle on its hands but, if Peacock and Auden are right, it need not worry about its poetic adversaries—except when, like O’Regan, they happen to be politicians.

As Canada Goes Green, Canada Goes Broke

It’s no longer news that the Liberal government of Canada under Justin Trudeau and his “social justice” cronies Gerald Butts and Chrystia Freeland have pulled out the stops in an effort to destroy the major source of Canada’s energy sector, the oil-gas-pipeline industry in the province of Alberta.

The oil sands have effectively become a dead letter. Every pipeline project has been quashed and energy companies have decamped for sunnier climes. The decline in Alberta’s GDP is pegged at 11.3 per cent. Unemployment and under-employment are rampant. The Alberta secession movement has acquired momentum and a political party, Wexit Canada, rebadged as the Maverick Party, has been formed—although the province’s Conservative premier Jason Kenney remains a staunch federalist and majority sentiment remains “loyalist.”

What Canadians do not seem to understand is that as Alberta goes, so goes Canada. For more than 50 years Alberta, Canada’s energy producing breadbasket, has been a major net contributor to the rest of the nation via the Equalization Formula in which “have” provinces subsidize their “have not” counterparts.

As Canada under the Liberal administration has now become a heavily indebted “have not” country, Alberta was its last remaining mainstay—until Alberta itself imploded thanks to the energy crushing policies of the federal government. It is now a “have not” province. 

Indeed, as Canada goes Green, Canada goes broke, forcing it to increase its debt load and enact burdensome domestic programs that will impoverish its citizens and devastate the productive classes. At a steadily approaching inflexion point, Canada will face the spectre of default—a time-honored South American prospect.

In an article for the National Post, former Conservative leadership candidate Leslyn Lewis shows why she would have been a far better choice for the Conservative nomination than the waffly, Andrew Scheer-like Erin O’Toole. Lewis reveals how the new creeping socialism operates, confiscating not our property but our wealth via various levies like a home equity tax, a ubiquitous carbon tax, a new tax on the private sale of homes costing home owners a portion of their retirement savings, and a “perpetual debt scheme reminiscent of Argentina.”

What is taking place, she warns, is “a quiet and bloodless revolution that seeks to control our lives through economic dependency.” Conrad Black believes “the government… has lost its mind”—though more likely it is acting quite deliberately, in full knowledge and intent, cleverly pursuing a soft totalitarian agenda. Meanwhile, most Canadians linger in a condition of blissful oblivion as the country they believe is theirs and continue to be proud of is being insidiously stolen from them before their very eyes.

Regardless, Canadians on the whole believe in big government and continue to vote left, ensuring that Trudeau’s Liberals and the New Democratic Party (NDP) helmed by Jagmeet Singh will likely retain control of parliamentary business and national policy. A recent Angus Reid poll indicates that nearly 60 percent of Canadian women would vote today for either the Liberals or the NDP under these two leaders. Such are the wages of feminism.

Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime provinces—aka the “Laurentian Elite”—trend massively socialist, as do the major conurbations like Halifax, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. There can be no doubt that socialism is the name of the game. Trudeau has boasted that China’s “basic dictatorship” is his favorite political system and, as Spencer Fernando writes, is far too week to stand up to Chinese Communist pressure.

Trudeau, we recall, lamented the passing of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, “join[ing] the people of Cuba in mourning the loss of this remarkable leader.” Similarly, Jagmeet Singh had this to say: “He saw a country wracked by poverty, illiteracy & disease. So he lead [sic] a revolution that uplifted the lives of millions. RIP #Fidel Castro.

Trudeau’s approval rating has taken a hit of late but carrots count in moving the dray electorate forward. A new Angus Reid poll indicates where his strength lies province by province. Many Canadians are happy to allow the government to borrow hundreds of millions to subsidize their idleness with a monetary COVID response package, dubbed CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit), recently increased by 20 percent, rendering it difficult for many entrepreneurs and businesses to hire service personnel who relish living off the government dole.

Nevertheless, despite his many false promises, numerous scandals, proroguing of parliament for several months on the pretext of mitigating COVID, fiscal incontinence, 600 million dollar media bribe (sugar-coated as a “bailout”), and overall economic witlessness (“the budget will balance itself”), Trudeau’s carrots to select beneficiaries enable him to retain a considerable voting constituency and markedly improve his chances of re-election.

Indeed, The Liberal Party can count on an ample war chest. A recent special report here at The Pipeline demonstrated that, of the top ten third-party spenders that influenced the previous election, eight of them were leftist groups, outspending their rivals on the right by a factor of over 15 to 1. The CBC poll tracker indicates that the Conservatives are currently trailing the Liberals by 5 percentage points but, as the propaganda arm of the Liberals and favorite son Trudeau, its results should be met with a degree of skepticism.

Nonetheless, the Conservatives are likely no match for the combined electoral clout of the Left in this country. The cash-strapped, media bête noire, the People’s Party of Canada, is the best option for Canada’s (and Alberta’s) future, but it may not garner a single parliamentary seat—as was the case in the last election. This is to be expected. The Liberals may form a minority government once again, but with the NDP hitching a ride it would in any case be tantamount to a majority. Canada’s premier columnist Rex Murphy speculates, with considerable evidence, that Trudeau and Singh have formed “a (silent) concordat.”

Alberta had better get its act together before the Overton window closes. Alea iacta est.

Defending Rex Murphy

We are now living in the era of the great purge, otherwise known as “cancel culture,” in which anyone who offends the tender and inflammable sensitivities of the political left is dispatched to the “gulag” of public opprobrium. Reputations are smeared, jobs are lost, friends grow scarce and families break down. Public institutions and corporate employers backed by raging Twitter mobs may be counted on to do what they regard as the “right thing”—destroy the person who dares speak the truth. No one is immune. Not even a cultural icon is to be spared.

One recalls the sanctimonious tumult surrounding Canada’s legendary and flamboyant hockey guru Don Cherry. A longtime commentator for Hockey Night in Canada and co-host of a between-periods segment called Coach’s Corner, Cherry was fired in early November 2019 for insensitive remarks regarding immigrants whom he felt were not interested in honoring Canada’s war vets. Cherry was duly targeted by his timorous and politically correct employers at Sportsnet and the CBC for what has been called a “rant” supporting the tradition of wearing poppies on Remembrance Day, to memorialize the lives of those who died serving the nation.

You people love—they come here, whatever it is, you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey. The least you could pay a couple of bucks for a poppy or something like that. These guys pay for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada. These guys pay the biggest price.

Cherry was not apologetic. “I speak the truth and I walk the walk,” he said. “I have visited the bases of the troops, been to Afghanistan with our brave soldiers at Christmas, been to cemeteries of our fallen around the world and honoured our fallen troops on Coach’s Corner.” His bona fides and passionate love for his country were not enough to save him, but he did not back down. I can understand Cherry’s intemperate remarks. I recall attending a Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa, an event marred by a group of Muslims heckling the marchers and shouting anti-Canadian slogans. Such dishonorable episodes occurred in other cities as well. So Cherry may have had a point, if less than prudently expressed.

Now it is Rex Murphy’s turn to be raked over the coals. Like Cherry but far more articulate, Murphy is a revered national figure. He is a downhome Newfie boy, an arbiter of common sense who is arguably the best political columnist writing in this country. Honest to a fault, clear-minded, and devoted to old-school journalistic principles, he is a truth-teller par excellence. In today’s political and cultural climate, however, truth-telling is the kiss of death. If one does not adhere to the cultural shibboleths of the day, if one does not endorse the self-righteous lies and mantras that dominate the airwaves and the mainstream press, if one is not a purveyor of “fake news” and a partisan of “social justice” causes du jour, then one is a candidate for the Jacobin blade. 

In a National Post article for June 1 of this year, Murphy took exception to the “official” narrative that Canada is tarnished by a history of racism, a legacy that continues to linger. He objected to Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna’s “Twitter bulletins” to the effect that “We need to acknowledge that racism and discrimination are part of our reality here in Canada…We have to do better.”

Murphy acknowledges an obvious fact: “No country is without bigotry—none. But how big a problem is it here in Canada?” The racism meme has certainly been inflated by the media and the digital platforms, and is “yet another example of a Liberal leveraging of a situation happening somewhere else to create an opportunity to lecture Canadians.” But the truth is that “we are not a racist country, though to say so may shock some.” Indeed. “In fact,” he continues, “to give Canada credit, it has for decades now worked in every venue…to eliminate pernicious bigotries.” Canada may not be perfect, but, he concludes, “To any fair mind, Canada is a mature, welcoming, open-minded and generous country.”

For this defense of his country, Murphy has had to endure the wrath of multitudes. The Twitter volcano erupted and the Post’s “conversation” section was closed following more than 1000 comments, most predictably vulgar and denunciatory. The editors felt obliged to append a disclaimer:

This column by Rex Murphy provoked a strong reaction from readers. Upon review, it was determined that there was a failure in the normal editing oversight that columns should be subjected to. This issue has been identified and policies changed to prevent a repeat. We apologize for the failure. Please see these articles that offered a different perspective.

Of course, there was no “failure of the normal editing oversight.” Murphy wrote a well-reasoned column putting forward a legitimate and utterly sensible point of view, which the editors must have initially considered unexceptionable. But there was a subsequent failure of moral principle and editorial fortitude which is really inexcusable, a lack of manhood and conviction. The National Post was at one time Canada’s only conservative newspaper, priding itself on responsible journalism; it has become just another politically correct rag.

Personally, I agree with Rex. Canada is not a racist country, though as he says bigotry is a fact in any human population. But bigotry has many faces that have nothing to do with melanin. I grew up in a small town in Quebec where anti-Semitism was rife. As a Jew, I was prohibited from entering certain public places and I still bear the scar from an attack that almost killed me. McGill University in Montreal practiced numerus clausus for Jews—the opposite of affirmative action. In today’s incendiary milieu, it is Whites who are made to feel guilty for the color of their skin, and in the feminist takeover of our institutions and public square, it is men who are socially and professionally at risk regardless of creed.

So yes, bigotry in one form or another is perennial, but Canada is by no means a nation in which Blacks need fear the scourge of systemic oppression. The real problem is that Canada’s comparative freedom from racial animosity does not fit the fabricated narrative underwritten by a coalition of preening elites, apologetic nincompoops and social media vigilantes. It is not surprising that the Don Cherrys and Rex Murphys, the outspoken among us, will be made to pay the price for their honesty and courage.

Cherry famously referred to hockey ex-enforcers who lobbied to take fighting out of the game as “pukes and hypocrites.” The epithet applies equally to Murphy’s pharisaical detractors.

There's Something About Models...

Not, uh, those kind of models. We know what it is about them.

I'm talking about predictive models, whose object is to use whatever data is available to map the statistical likelihood of particular future events. These days such models are roughly as numerous as air molecules, since businesses and governments are obsessed with mitigating risk. As man's ability to travel through time has been unfortunately slow to develop and the traditional ways of obtaining knowledge of the future -- visiting fortune tellers or examining the entrails of animals sacrificed to the gods -- are currently out of fashion, predictive models are pretty much all we're left with.

I don't mean to suggest that these models are completely worthless, only to emphasize that they are by definition based on incomplete data and must always be taken with a grain of salt. Sometimes, depending on the amount of data lacking, with a whole salt mine.

Even so, we are continually seeing them cited without qualification as if they were actual intel reports from the future. Just last week the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation caused a minor panic when it released its model's then-new projection of the progression of COVID-19 (to which the White House's modelling is heavily indebted). That projection was fairly dire, predicting a death toll between 100,000 and 240,000 in the U.S. by the end of this thing, even with our present social-distancing measures in place. Well, fast-forward just a single week and, after it was widely noted that the number of deaths in New York City was leveling off and hospitalizations were declining even though IHME's model held that both would increase for five more days, the institute announced that they had significantly revised their projections, reducing the total death number by 12 percent and the total number of necessary hospital beds by 58 percent. Which is great, but it also makes you a little suspicious of their new numbers.

Benny Peiser and Andrew Montford of the indispensable Global Warming Policy Forum have a piece in the Wall Street Journal about this same issue. They begin with a discussion of the two principal British models of the pandemic's progression, which present wildly different conclusions, and upon which the British government is making its decisions:

Several researchers have apparently asked to see Imperial [College]’s calculations, but Prof. Neil Ferguson, the man leading the team, has said that the computer code is 13 years old and thousands of lines of it “undocumented,” making it hard for anyone to work with, let alone take it apart to identify potential errors. He has promised that it will be published in a week or so, but in the meantime reasonable people might wonder whether something made with 13-year-old, undocumented computer code should be used to justify shutting down the economy.

I'll say!

Peiser and Montford's work at the GWPF make them uniquely qualified to comment on the unreliability of predictive models, because long before that fateful bowl of bat stew changed the world, climate scientists were dramatically announcing the headline-grabbing conclusions of opaque processes and fuzzy math. For one extremely significant example of this, check out this interview with Ross McKitrick, a Canadian economist who began applying his expertise in statistical analysis to climate change studies and was surprised by what he uncovered. Rex Murphy is the host:

At the 40:40 mark, Dr. McKitrick tells the story of how he and a Toronto mining executive named Stephen McIntyre began looking into the data used by American climatologist Michael Mann in developing his Hockey Stick Graph. That graph had displaced the general climate consensus of the time, which held that climate had always moved in waves of alternating warm and cold periods, and purported to show, through the examination of tree rings, "that at least for the past thousand years it was really just a straight cooling line and then you get to the 20th century and the temperature begins to soar very rapidly. We're riding up the blade of the stick."

In the clip above, McKitrick discusses the origins of his skepticism concerning Mann's theories, which had revolutionized the field of climatology and given rise to mountains of carbon regulations. After finally accessing what appeared to be the underlying data set and trying to replicate Mann's conclusions, says McKitrick, the hockey stick graph "really wasn't robust, that you could get all kinds of different shapes with the same data set based on minor variations in processing. We also identified some specific technical errors in the statistical analysis. Really, our conclusion was, they can't conclude anything about how our current era compares to the medieval period. The data and their methods just aren't precise enough and they're overstating the certainty of their analysis... The methods were wrong, the data is unreliable for the purpose, and I would just say that that graph is really uninformative about historical climate."

[Not everyone agrees with McKitrick's analysis, as you can read here.]

Earlier in the interview, McKitrick gives an apt summation of what predictive models are good for, and what they're not good for:

I think there are going to be some reckonings, especially for the climate modelling industry. They've got some big failures to deal with. And that wouldn't be a problem if people understood that models of any kind, including climate models, are really study tools. They're ways of trying to understand the system, because the system is too complicated to figure out, so you build a simplified climate model of it and you try to figure out how that works and you hope that you learn something. But when it's set up as, this is a forecasting tool that we can make precise calculations with and base policy decisions on, then we're entitled to ask 'Well, how good of a forecasting tool is this?" And they don't work very well for that.

In the case of the Wuhan coronavirus, you would be quite right in arguing that, as data is lacking -- because this is a novel virus and it spread so quickly -- or unreliable -- because the nation which has had the longest time to study it also has a vested interest in making it seem like they managed it better than they did -- our governments needed to act hastily on the ominous predictions of their faulty models. Whether they should refuse to revise the steps they have taken as increased, accurate data affects the models is another question entirely.

On the climate question, however, the models have been around for quite some time, and their weakness are apparent. As the late theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson famously put it, upon examining them closely, "They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in."

Predictive models are comforting, because they make us feel like we know what is going to happen, and we can act accordingly. But sometimes the real world, in all of its messy unpredictability, intrudes. Here's hoping that our adventure with the WuFlu teaches us to be a little more cautious about throwing everything away on an incomplete data set.