The Coming Covid Curveball

It seems like every morning we wake up to the news that some entity, public or private, is unveiling a "bold new initiative" in response to "the unique challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic," which everyone who has been paying attention knows they've wanted to do already.

Take baseball. I'm a big baseball fan, but not of current MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, a man who doesn't seem particularly fond of the game he presides over. Others have noticed this -- here's an article from a few months back entitled Does Rob Manfred Hate Baseball? and another called Rob Manfred Is Ruining Baseball. The gist of them is that Manfred, worried that baseball is less exciting than the other major sports, has spent his five years as commissioner whittling away at the things that make the game unique. For the most part his rule changes have been aimed at making the games shorter, but his efforts have been for naught -- the average game is now three minutes longer than it was when he took over, and viewership is down.

This, of course, hasn't deterred Manfred. He's pushed ahead with plans to, for instance, institute a new, Reality TV informed playoff format whereby,

The team with the best record in each league would get a first-round bye, and then the other two division winners and the wild-card club with the best record could end up picking their opponents in a televised seeding showdown.

This is, to put it mildly, gimmicky as hell.

For the most part Manfred's tinkering has been confined to the edges of the game, and he would probably tell you that that's why it hasn't had the desired effect. That, unfortunately, he has been cursed with conservative, history obsessed fans who are resistant to alterations which make today's game less like the one played by Joe DiMaggio and Hank Aaron. Which is to say, he'd probably dislike me as much as I dislike him.

But a man can dream, and for years we've heard whispers that Manfred's great aspirations included increasing offense by imposing the Designated Hitter on the National League, which has resisted this innovation since the 1970s; starting extra-innings with a runner on second base to speed things up (or, a fan might say, limit the amount of baseball fans were getting for free); and contracting the Minor Leagues, so that MLB resources could be directed away from entertaining yokels in, say, Dayton, OH or Montgomery, AL, and towards virtue signalling social justice initiatives which get lots of applause from the great and the good.

And then came the miracle Rob Manfred had been been praying for: the Wuhan novel coronavirus, which, thanks to the incompetence of politicians like Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio, spread like "a fire through dry grass” throughout the nursing homes of the northeastern United States (as healthcare analyst Avik Roy has pointed out, 42 percent of U.S. deaths from Covid-19 have occurred in the 0.6 percent of the population who reside in nursing homes and assisted living facilities).

But, more to the point, it gave him an excuse to make big changes to the game purportedly for the sake of player safety. And what changes did he implement? Imposing the DH on the National League; beginning extra innings with a runner on second; and the elimination of up to forty-two minor league teams.

I think that this is a pretty good (and comparatively innocent) illustration of what is going on across America right now.

California, for instance, raised its gasoline tax again this month, so that it now sits at 50.5 cents per gallon. Why would California's politicians be so foolish as go ahead with this hike during an economy-destroying pandemic (what you might call Pulling a Trudeau)? Well,

“Driving is way down, so in theory this is a great time to catch up on highway investment,” observed Ronald Fisher, an economics professor at Michigan State University. While less driving temporarily means less revenue from a gas tax, it also means less disruption from road work. Fisher also pointed out that the state typically contracts with private companies to perform such infrastructure repairs, which means proceeds from the higher gas tax could actually serve as a stimulus for the California economy in the form of job creation.

Right...

In another example from the Golden State, Gov. Gavin Newsom has formed a Recovery Task Force to address California's dire financial situation in the wake of the pandemic. It is co-chaired by uber-environmentalist and failed Democratic Presidential candidate Tom Steyer (a bad sign), and, shockingly, it has concluded that green energy has the potential to be a “huge job creator," according to Steyer. As if this were something which had just occurred to him. Environmentalist Hal Harvey concurs,

[Steyer's] right. Clean energy can be the economic engine for California.... The path is clear: Decarbonize the electric grid, then electrify everything—creating good jobs and thriving clean tech industries along the way.

Which is to say that the powers that be are using this moment of disruption to enact their preexisting agendas. They're taking advantage of your exhaustion, your inclination to give in, in the hope that sometime soon everything will go back to normal. And that's why we need to be especially vigilant right now.

At the center of baseball is a psychological game between pitchers and batters, where the former works to make the latter think that one pitch is coming his way, and then throws him another. Fastball inside, fastball outside, fastball inside, fastball outside. And then comes the curve, and the batter who isn't looking out for it finds himself walking slowly back to the dugout.

Keep yours eyes open. Don't let them sneak the curve past you.

The GOP's Green New Deal?

There's an old joke to the effect that Republicans are just Democrats who want their policies implemented slowly. This has certainly been the case throughout most of my life, though I'm starting to wonder if it's still accurate. That is, it increasingly seems to me that Republicans have closed the gap, and desire all sorts of revolutions on the same timeline as Democrats.

You get a sense of this from the outcomes of and reactions to the recent slate of Supreme Court decisions coming out these past few weeks. Not just the fact that the suddenly-reliable-liberal John Roberts pulled a novel constitutional principle out of his hat, namely that an executive order cannot be undone by another executive order ( at least if it deals with illegal immigration) unless he satisfies the Supreme Court that his motives are pure, and that -- under the largely imaginary doctrine of "stare decisis" -- a case that he dissented from just four years ago, established a strong enough precedent that it can never be overturned. Nor just the precedent-setting decision in Bostock authored by Trump's prized Scalia replacement, Neil Gorsuch, which legally redefined the word "sex" to include meanings which would never have occurred to the authors of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. (It isn't for nothing that Justice Alito said, in his dissent, “There is only one word for what the Court has done today: legislation.”)

More than those examples is the relief they seemed to have occasioned among the Republican elites like Senators Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley, the latter of whom responded to Bostock by saying "It's the law of the land. And it.... probably negates Congress's necessity for acting." Oh good.

Another counter-example: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has announced his support for a new conservative climate plan. Though it claims to be an attempt to move the climate conversation beyond Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal, its proposals read like the GND for squares. It eschews "debilitating taxes or punitive mandates," but calls for investment in new technologies which will reduce carbon emissions, including currently not-super-effective carbon-capture technology. Most notably, it calls for the U.S. to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, putting the GOP leadership on exactly the same timeline as the Democrats.

This is clearly designed to win millennials over to the GOP, but something tells me that even the Harry Potter generation aren't gullible enough to fall for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 without mandating anyone to do anything. "Bring on the cow-fart bans," they'll say.

So maybe that joke has outlived its usefulness. Then again, the left are currently tearing down statues and ex post facto cancelling people for decades-old politically incorrect statements, which seems to indicate that Democrats desire for change has sped up from "Right Now" to "Yesterday," so perhaps it still stands.

Fitch Downgrades Canada's Credit Rating

Fitch Ratings, one of the big three global credit rating agencies, has announced it's downgrading Canada's credit rating from AAA to AA+. This is due to the tremendous debt -- roughly a quarter of a trillion dollars -- the Canadian government took on to prop up the economy during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Though the Trudeau government was quick to argue that Canada's economy remains strong and that the country in an ideal position to turn things around, this does have the potential to significantly increase the cost of government borrowing and of doing business. That danger, moreover, will be amplified if, as some think, there are further downgrades to come:

David Rosenberg... has been predicting a downgrade on Canada’s sovereign debt since late April and thinks this won’t be the last. “The real question is: What took so long?’ .... Canada’s excessively leveraged national balance sheet has looked a lot like China, Italy and Greece for quite a while.” While Ottawa may appear to be in “solid” financial shape to some, this has “masked bloated debt ratios” in households, business sectors, and most of the provinces, he said. “This won’t be the last ratings cut, I can assure you,” said Rosenberg.

Now, it is true that governments worldwide have responded to the pandemic by racking up what would normally be unthinkable amounts of debt. Consequently, it is likely that Canada won't be the only country to have its rating downgraded.

But one thing that makes Canada unique is the shame that its governing elite feels about one of the pillars of its economy. As Dan McTeague of Canadians for Affordable Energy said the other day in an excellent piece on Erin O'Toole's environmentalist pitch in the CPC leadership contest,

Rather than championing Canada's hydrocarbon industry and creating economic growth with our country’s wealth of natural resources, O’Toole’s policies seem most focused on maintaining the what-seems-to-be-required, green-is-god image of so many politicians.... Our natural resources are an asset to this country, not a liability. They keep energy affordable, and give us one of the highest standards of living. O’Toole and other political candidates seem determined to remain blind to that fact.

You would hope that this turn of events would cause Canada's governing class to thank its lucky stars for the energy sector, a potential launchpad for recovery. But unfortunately they'll probably keep just hoping for pats on the head from similarly green-obsessed organizations like the UN  -- and how's that been working out for them?

Eventually someone is going to have to grow up and start taking things seriously.

Seriously Kids, Stay in School

A quick follow up on yesterday's post about how Greta Thunberg really needs to chill, Matthew Lynn had a good piece at Britain's The Telegraph entitled Not Now Greta, We Are Trying to Save the Global Economy, in which he comments on this bizarre and misguided Greta tweet:

Here's Lynn:

The impeccably politically correct president of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, was probably a little taken aback to find her institution targeted on Twitter last week by the ferocious teenage activist Miss Thunberg.... [Her] complaint? According to an analysis by Greenpeace, from mid-March to mid-May the ECB bought more than €30bn (£27bn) of corporate bonds, of which €7.6bn were issued by oil and energy companies" ....

The Bank of England is in just as much trouble. It turns out that its Covid Corporate Financing Facility, has – surprise, surprise – been accessed by companies that climate change activists don’t exactly approve of. According to Greenpeace UK “airlines have been given … billions in cheap and easy loans to keep them polluting, without any commitments to reduce emissions or even keep workers on the payroll”. Even worse, “cruise lines, pesticides and car companies have received similar largesse”. The Bank is “bailing out climate wreckers,” according to the Green MP Caroline Lucas.

As Lynn points out, these criticisms are just dumb. "The ECB is not giving money to fossil fuel companies. It launched an emergency blast of quantitative easing as the eurozone went into lockdown." Which is to say, it injected cash into a teetering economy by (indiscriminately) purchasing corporate bonds. What's more, those bonds were purchased on the secondary market, so they weren't even bought from oil companies directly. They were attempting to bail out the economy, not particular companies. The same goes for the Bank of England. There are worthwhile criticisms of quantitative easing, but the Greta/Greenpeace suggestion here, that in a time of emergency, these banks should have stopped everything to make sure they weren't buying bonds with the names of oil companies on them, that is nuts.

Honestly, we'd all be much better off if this girl had stayed in school. Maybe she would have learned something.

'Chill Greta, Chill!'

Last December, the 45th president of the United States offered Greta Thunberg some solid, practical advice:

I don't have any insight into her anger issues, but Trump's second and third points are spot on. Catching an old movie with a friend is always a good idea, and there must have been several floating around at the time, just before Christmas -- Christmas in Connecticut starring Barbara Stanwyck is a personal favorite, or perhaps Alastair Sim in A Christmas Carol (the only version worth your time). And hey, there's always Gone with the Wind, right? Oh, wait...

But point three is really key: "Chill." It's something that Greta's parents should have said to her long ago, instead of, you know, using her. While most of us were mastering baking or catching up on our reading, Greta has devoted herself to -- what else -- hectoring various and sundry nations about their carbon footprints.

Here's one example which I found particularly galling -- Greta & Co. have been indirectly pressuring Canada and Norway to "commit to no new oil and gas exploration or production, and phase out their existing production." How? Well, Norway and Canada are (along with Ireland) vying for a spot on the UN Security Council. As the European votes are likely to go to the European contenders, Justin Trudeau decided to woo other parts of the world, particularly African countries, such as Ethiopia and Sengal

Greta, however, signed a letter to UN ambassadors of small island states, leaning on Trudeau's targets to turn up the heat, particularly on Canada:

Thunberg and the others say Canada is nowhere close to hitting its Paris climate agreement targets. They also say Canada is the second-biggest supplier of fossil-fuel subsidies among the world's wealthiest 20 countries and has opened up billions of dollars in loans to fossil-fuel companies as part of its COVID-19 economic aid.... The letter-writers said if Canada was serious about implementing the Paris agreement it would make permanent its temporary ban on extracting oil and gas in the Arctic, cancel both the Trans Mountain and Keystone XL pipeline projects, and end all subsidies to the oil and gas industry.

So if Canada were really serious about the Paris agreement, it would immediately shut down 10% of its economy -- and since an economy isn't a machine, but an interconnected, organic thing, that would really mean contracting by at least 25 or 30 percent --  eliminating countless jobs and immiserating numerous Canadians? Makes sense to me...

Seriously, get a hobby Greta. One that doesn't include robbing people of their livelihood. And, more important: "Chill!"

Gov. Blackface and the Greening of Virginia

You're forgiven for still thinking of Virginia as a conservative state. If you went to school before the Leftists leveled our educational system, you'll know that securing the buy-in of steady, aristocratic Virginians like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson helped convince the colonists that the dispute those rowdy New Englanders were having with Britain wasn't just a regional affair. But as a matter of more recent history, between the elections of Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and Barrack Obama in 2008, Virginia was only won by one Democrat in a presidential contest. This isn't to say that the Old Dominion has been governed exclusively by the GOP -- when Linwood Holton was elected governor in 1970 he was the first Republican to hold that position in a century -- but no matter the party power in Richmond, they had to conform to the small 'c' conservative culture of the state.

In a relatively short time, however, that Virginia has been fundamentally transformed. After the most recent gubernatorial contest, which saw the election of the fourth Democrat in the last five cycles, journalist Matthew Continetti wrote a piece about his home state entitled 'How States Like Virginia Go Blue.' In it he paints a picture of modern day Virginia as "a hub of highly educated professionals, immigrants, and liberals," with an exploding population comprised of both the wealthy and educated and the comparatively poor, both key Democratic constituents:

Over the last 29 years, Virginia has become wealthier, more diverse, and more crowded. The population has grown by 42 percent, from 6 million in 1990 to 8.5 million. Population density has increased by 38 percent, from 156 people per square mile to 215. Mean travel time to work has increased from 24 minutes to 28 minutes. The median home price (in 2018 dollars) has gone from $169,000 to $256,000. Density equals Democrats.

The number of Virginians born overseas has skyrocketed from 5 percent to 12 percent. The Hispanic population has gone from 3 percent to 10 percent. The Asian community has grown from 2 percent to 7 percent. In 1990, 7 percent of people 5 years and older spoke a language other than English at home. In 2018 the number was 16 percent.

If educational attainment is a proxy for class, Virginia has undergone bourgeoisification. The number of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher has shot up from 25 percent of the state to 38 percent. As baccalaureates multiplied, they swapped partisan affiliation. Many of the Yuppies of the ’80s, Bobos of the ’90s, and Security Moms of the ’00s now march in the Resistance.

Which is to say that, in that time, Virginia has been culturally and demographically tugged away from the rural, southern states and towards the urban, mid-Atlantic states. As one might expect, these trends are significantly more pronounced in the DC suburbs of Northern Va., especially Fairfax and Loudoun Counties. The populations of these counties have exploded in that time. Fairfax gets more press, but Continetti points out that the population of Loudoun has more than quadrupled since the early '90s. Immigration is an important factor, but the expansion of the federal government during the Bush and Obama administrations might be more significant. Bureaucrats and defense contractors have to live somewhere, and they vote according to their interests.

Transformations like the one Continetti describes have consequences. In 2017, Virginians elected Democrat Ralph Northam, a pediatric neurologist, as its governor. A lot of ink has been spilt on Northam's expanding abortion access in Virginia (including his controversial comments related to post-birth abortion) and his war on guns (as well as the extremely civil protests against his anti-2nd Amendment initiatives, which were nevertheless vilified by the mainstream media), as these have particularly enraged the Old Virginians. And who could forget his racist yearbook photo, which he originally claimed did not depict him until he eventually apologized, though without clarifying whether he's the Klansman or the guy in black face. Somehow Democrats are always able to survive these things, while Republicans have their careers ended over more ambiguous incidents.

As Politico noted at the time:

In a bid to salvage his job, the Democratic governor of Virginia denied he was one of the men dressed up as a Klansman or in blackface in a picture on his medical school yearbook page — after admitting the night before he was, in fact, in the photo.

In a different yearbook at Virginia Military Institute, Northam was nicknamed “Coonman.” Why? He wasn’t quite sure, he said. “My main nickname in high school and in college was ‘Goose’ because when my voice was changing, I would change an octave. There were two individuals, as best as I can recollect, at VMI — they were a year ahead of me. They called me ‘Coonman’. I don’t know their motives or intent. I know who they are. That was the extent of that. And it ended up in the yearbook. And I regret that.”

Right.

A less publicized aspect of Northam's agenda has been his environmental extremism. Last September he signed an executive order setting a goal that the state produce 100 percent of its energy via "carbon-free" sources by 2050, and 30% within the next 10 years.

Chris Bast... of the [Department of Environmental Quality] told The Center Square that he did not have an estimate on how much the executive order will cost consumers or taxpayers, but said that investments to fight climate change are necessary. “The cost of inaction outweighs the cost of action,” Bast said.

Of course.

After the state elections in November flipped both legislative houses to the Democrats, they set about turning that goal into a mandate, and this spring -- in the midst of the pandemic and Virginia's lengthy and onerous lockdowns -- Northam signed the Green New Deal-inspired Virginia Clean Economy Act, which did exactly that. He also approved the Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act which puts Virginia on the path to joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. This multi-state compact imposes new regulatory burdens on Virginia's oil, natural gas, and coal power plants, and introduces a cap-and-trade scheme on the 30 largest of them.

As Bonner Cohen, a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, told The Daily Signal, “Virginia could hardly have picked a worse time to join RGGI,”

Everywhere RGGI has gone, higher electricity prices have followed. In Virginia’s case, however, membership will coincide with trying to recover from the self-imposed economic collapse of the statewide lockdown. At a time when millions have lost their jobs, many of them from small businesses that may never reopen, Gov. Northam and his supporters in the General Assembly are knowingly adding to the burdens of families trying to recover from the COVID-19 lockdown. It is a direct assault on the disposable incomes of the state’s most vulnerable residents by an out-of-touch political elite. Absurdly, with natural gas abundant, reliable, and cheap, the governor chooses this moment to hitch Virginia’s fortunes to taxpayer-subsidized wind and solar power, which are intermittent, unreliable, and expensive.

Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, adds that this push will ultimately be harmful to the environment and ignores the fact that the fracking revolution has led to a significant decrease in America's carbon emissions.

“If you’re going to require all of the state’s power to come from 100% carbon-free sources by 2050, this will require a lot of [the] state’s land, which probably means impacting the state’s agricultural lands or cutting down some forests and probably both... So much for the environment.”

“It’s also completely unnecessary,” he said. “If the goal is to stop climate change, the U.S. is already the global leader in carbon dioxide emission reductions. Between 2005 and 2018, CO2 declined 12%. The free market is already taking care of the environment.”

Unfortunately these trends seem unlikely to turn around any time soon. The Virginia Republican party is made up of factions which seem to despise each other more than they hate the Democrats, but it just might be the case that the numbers to change course just aren't there. Northam's opponent in 2017 was the GOP establishmentarian Ed Gillespie, a two-time loser in state elections, who attempted to appeal to nationalists by focusing on issues like crime and immigration. He received only 45% of the vote.

Perhaps the only solution might be a proposal which started gaining steam during the Second Amendment battles earlier this year -- secession. Specifically secession for those counties in western and southern Virginia disturbed by the direction of their state and interested in joining the more conservatively inclined West Virginia. And the free state of West Virginia, which itself seceded from the slave state of Virginia in 1863, seems ready to welcome their separated brethren with open arms. Should that transpire, and the size and relative importance of Virginia decrease on Northam's watch, his face will no longer be black or even green. It will be red.

Canada: Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste

Last week I wrote about the fear among Democrats that the U.S. might be heading for a significant economic recovery before the election in November, such that the Trump campaign would be able to point to "the most explosive monthly employment numbers and gross domestic product growth ever" (in the words of Obama Administration senior advisor Jason Furman), and ride that good news to reelection. Well, yesterday morning we all woke up to news which suggests that that upward trajectory might be beginning. After months of catastrophe, with Great Depression-like unemployment figures, the May jobs report showed that the economy added 2.5 million jobs in that period, the most ever in a single month.

The news was so surprising that left-wing rags like the Washington Post had to frantically delete their pre-written tweets about how terrible the report was:

Of course, we aren't out of the woods yet. An unemployment rate of 13 percent is still pretty bad, even if things are heading in the right direction. And, as I argued last week, Joe Biden's willingness to squander our gains on his ideological program (or that of his advisors while he naps in the Lincoln Bedroom), including his announcement that he would definitively kill Keystone XL  pipeline upon entering the White House, should make us all wary about trusting him to save the economy.

Well, up in Canada we can see what it looks like to have people already in power whose instincts are invariably ordered toward ideology over job creation or the cost of living. We've already covered Trudeau's doubling the nation's carbon tax during the pandemic, a decision which ran counter to what basically every other nation in the world was doing. We also discussed his oil and gas aid package, which seemed ordered towards the end of an industry which accounts for roughly 10 percent of Canada's GDP.

This is the path Trudeau has committed his nation to, and it doesn't seem like it is going to slow down anytime soon. Dan McTeague, president of the indispensable Canadians for Affordable Energy, has been writing recently about the return of Justin Trudeau's college drinking buddy, Gerald Butts, who grew up to be an environmental activist, director of policy for then-Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty, and eventually Trudeau's chief adviser. Butts, you may recall, was forced to resign in the run up to the 2019 election for his role in the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

Now that that election is over, McTeague reports that Butts is back in Ottawa serving on a new task force called Resilient Recovery. "The task force," explains McTeague, is "made up of green industry and environmental leaders [and] says its goal is to help seize a "once-in-a-generation" opportunity to build things in a “better” way post the COVID-19 pandemic." If you guessed that that means taking advantage of a crisis to get Canada even more entangled in the Green Energy industry than it already is and make it harder for oil and gas companies to operate, you win.

Butts: I'm ba-ack.

In the course of two articles, McTeague argues that Canadians should be aware of, and concerned by, this "green energy at any and all costs" task force, and especially by Butts' inclusion in it. Butts has the ear of the prime minister and a history of making life harder for Canadians. McTeague has taken the time to remind us of that history. In his first piece, he examines Butts' work in the McGuinty government in Ontario:

Gerry Butts is known as one of the architects of Dalton McGuinty’s disastrous Green Energy Act. The GEA hurt Ontarians (and is still hurting them), resulting in energy bills increasing by 70% from 2008 to 2016. Ontario’s claim to fame became its high energy rates - the highest in all of North America. Big manufacturers across the province began to flee for friendlier economic climates. Even former premier Kathleen Wynne said in her 2018 campaign that because of the Green Energy Act many families were having to choose between paying their energy bills and feeding their families.

The GEA originally promised the creation of 50,000 green energy jobs. The government later admitted that that number was not based on any formal analysis, that many of the jobs would be temporary, and that it did not account for the lost manufacturing jobs due to the increased energy prices. Wind and solar were incredibly expensive to produce... and the consumer was the one who had to make up the difference. How? Through a hidden tax euphemistically called the Global Adjustment Fee which suddenly started to appear on Ontario energy bills. A Global News article from 2016 stated that for every $100 in usage that appeared on your bill, $23 was actual electricity cost, while the other $77 was from the “Global Adjustment Fee”.

After a few years out of government, Butts jumped onboard the Trudeau train after the Liberals won their majority in 2015, and brought his wealth of experience making everyday life more expensive for Ontarians to Canadians more generally. That part of his career is covered in McTeague's second piece:

The costs of Butts’ climate agenda are apparent in the policies that the Trudeau government put in place during its first term, the most important (and destructive) of these being the carbon tax. It is no surprise that the mastermind behind the Ontario green energy debacle would help create expensive and ineffective policies at the federal level. The carbon tax adds at least 7 cents per litre of gas at the pump for Canadians. Because it applies to all energy sources, the hidden costs – on food and services and our competitiveness – will be even greater, and the carbon tax will increase annually by large increments.

Other expensive and anti-industry policies that were launched during Butts’ time in Ottawa include Bill C-69 (an overhaul of Canada's regulatory and resource project approval system) and C-48 (the oil tanker moratorium act). These have meant significant new and unnecessary regulatory burdens that restrict resource development, drive away investment, and have the effect of making energy more expensive.

Though Canada's May jobs numbers crept up somewhat, just like America's, Canada is still experiencing record unemployment. Bombardier just announced that they'ree laying off 2,500 workers. This is still a time of crisis, and for any recovery to be really resilient, it needs a laser focus on getting people back to work and getting the economy back on track. Gerald Butts' resumé speaks to the fact that he is more than willing to prioritize environmentalist virtue signalling over the benefit of ordinary Canadians.

'GOP Out of Touch on Climate Change'

Former Pennsylvania governor, Homeland Security secretary, and current enviro-lobbyist Tom Ridge has published an article at The Atlantic arguing that his fellow Republicans are behind the curve on environmentalism. After opening the piece with a maudlin reflection on the fact that we all should have been celebrating Earth Day on April 22nd, but that the COVID-19 pandemic kept us from doing so (for the first time I was able to connect with the Libs who've been rooting for the virus), Ridge states:

The Republican Party has largely abandoned environmental issues—to its great detriment politically. Majorities of Americans say the federal government is doing too little for key aspects of the environment, such as protecting water and air quality and reducing the effects of climate change. A recent survey from the Pew Research Center finds that Democrats mostly agree that the U.S. government should do more on climate. Republicans are divided by ideology, age, and gender; moderates, Millennials, and women within the party are far more likely than conservatives, older Republicans, and men to favor more federal action. More and more, the GOP as a whole seems out of touch on this crucial issue.

This assertion is questionable. Gallup has actually just released a new poll attempting to document how Americans priorities the challenges facing our country, and the data for April, respondents put Climate Change at the bottom of the list, tied for dead last in importance. Now, of course, April is a bit of a skewed month, with the pandemic understandably taking first place and sucking up all the oxygen. Even so, it is worth noting that in the previous months surveyed, "climate change" only barely misses last place.

Heartland Institute president James Taylor, commenting on this data, rightly points out that "People have a vague, general desire for policymakers to pay attention to climate change," but when there's any question of the bill coming due -- he also mentions polling which suggests that support for Green initiatives collapses when respondents are asked if they'd be willing to pay an extra $100 per month for them -- they completely change their tune.

To Ridge's credit, he makes a few points which might make his new friends at The Atlantic uncomfortable, saying "I continue to support policies that embrace all sources of energy, including natural gas, which has lowered our dependence on coal. I also support nuclear power, the largest around-the-clock provider of carbon-free energy." But he follows that up with a lament that his "conservative friends have been reluctant to join me in supporting renewable technologies such as wind and solar." Perhaps because his conservative friends are aware that wind and solar are boondoggles which might help gullible Liberals sleep better at night, but they certainly don't benefit the environment. Then again, maybe his friends would come around if they were paid lobbyists for the renewable energy industry, like Ridge.

All of which is to say, if anyone is out of touch with American voters, its Tom Ridge.

'Climate Change' -- Minorities Hardest Hit

Like the coronavirus, which seems to disproportionately injure African-Americans and other minorities, "climate change" appears to be fundamentally racist. Regarding the Wuhan bug, don't take my word for it -- Al Jazeera, NPR, and the BBC all sing ecumenically from the same hymnal:

This is pure racialist bilge, of course, deriving directly and selectively from the cultural Marxist notion of "proportionality" that has come to infect almost every aspect of our public policy thinking, from "disparate impact" in housing and labor issues (a tendentious derivative of the Civil Rights Act of 1964), to Title IX sex discrimination (from the 1972 Education Amendments Act) to the current shibboleths of "diversity" and affirmation action. It ignores, for example, the very real differences among ethnic groups regarding susceptibility to certain diseases -- Tay-Sachs disease among Ashkenazic Jews, skin cancer among the Anglo-Irish, sickle cell anemia and hypertension among blacks. On the Left, however, the only possible explanation for any racial disparities in any field whatsoever is racism -- except of course, when it comes to sports. A predominantly black NBA or an overwhelmingly white NHL are, at least for now, perfectly fine.

As has become clear, the collectivist Left has decided to conflate the Wuhan virus with their overall fascist fantasy of "climate change," and now regard the unconstitutional lockdowns and other restrictions on personal autonomy and freedom as a dry run for what's to come next. "Progressives" regard the de facto outlawing of communal religious services, for example, as an unalloyed good -- not because it "flattens the curve" or saves lives, but because the abolition of religion has been a mainstay of their political philosophy since at least Rousseau and, latterly, Marx. So it's no surprise they've racialized something as impersonal as the Wuhan virus in order to continue their ur-Narrative of Western social racism and economic exploitation, and are now connecting it to "climate change" via the Rousseauvian myth of the noble savage:

When the wildfires hit Australia last year, Bee Cruse was horrified at the sight of the red sky, the black ash falling like snow, and the smoke choking the whole East Coast. The fires were a direct reminder of the British genocide against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people like her, and the tearing of them from country and their traditional ways of land management.

In an article for Vox, Cruse, a Wiradjuri, Gomeroi, and Monaroo-Yuin storyteller, told me, “We see and feel the spirit of our animals and our land; they are our ancestor spirits. We don’t own country, country owns us; we come from her to protect her. When country hurts, we hurt. When our animals, our spirit cousins, cry, we cry.”

What Cruse was describing was climate grief, a psychological phenomenon that affects Black and Indigenous peoples, and other people of color, in uniquely devastating ways.

This sort of thing used to be called superstition, but we're too sensitive for such blunt talk these days.  The whole corpus of Western civilization, from its art to its faith, to its sciences, is now being called into question by an alien philosophy of nihilism imported from central Europe, which elevates relativism and a bogus egalitarianism above all else. If all cultures are equally good (objectively impossible), then why shouldn't we heed the animal spirits?

WHO, hoo.

What's new today is not connecting primitivism to moral virtue but to take the principle of egalitarianism to the next level, and argue that true egalitarianism means that not only are some people simply more equal than others (Orwell roasted that concept in Animal Farm) but are, in fact, superior. As British historian Tom Holland illustrates so convincingly in his recent book on Christianity, Dominion, much of the atheist Left's credo is derived directly from Christianity ("the last shall be first"); my addition to his refreshingly apolitical argument is that it's now being used as a club against the genuine article.

Those paying attention have long seen this coming: it's the notorious Rule No. 4 of the Marxist agitator Saul Alinksy, mentor to both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama: "Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules. If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules." La Rochefoucauld's famous observation that "hypocrisy is a tribute vice pays to virtue," becomes clear when viewed in a religious context, since otherwise there would be no need for hypocrisy were it not traveling under the cloak of Christian virtue.

Just as we are seeing with the COVID-19 outbreak, environmental racism forces people of color, especially Black and Indigenous peoples, to bear the brunt of global disaster. We are not only disproportionately affected by the climate crisis—breathing in more pollution, living in communities with higher temperatures, suffering from more medical conditions, experiencing more natural disasters, and being displaced at much higher rates—but we carry the pain of the climate crisis deep inside us.

Since the earth's population is disproportionately "non-white," and most people live in what we used to call Third World countries with the attendant substandard levels of hygiene, waste disposal, and medical technology, this is exactly what one might expect; it's not a plot, it's a result. Now throw in hand-me-down notions of Freudian psychology exported from Vienna to the Outback, you have a concatenation of neo-Marxist resentment:

In its 2014 report, Beyond Storms & Droughts: The Psychological Impacts of Climate Change, the American Psychological Association (APA) found that the climate crisis was affecting human mental health across the globe. Anyone can experience climate grief, regardless of their identity. But for us, our grief—and our anger—is rooted in centuries of painful history, and the current ecological violence hurled at our communities.

“Just like other stressors that people of color experience, ecological grief is often magnified,” said Dr. Tyffani Dent, a licensed psychologist and author, in an interview. “People of color know…society is going to make sure we’re impacted first, and impacted the hardest,” Dent said.

You can see where this argument is heading: the world would be much better off without the Age of Exploration, the Industrial Revolution, fossil fuels, and electricity, and the medical breakthroughs in the treatment of infectious diseases; in short, the Third World would prefer to live without the ministrations of the Renaissance and its cultural successors in the West, minus Marxism. And thus in savagery, in the sense of "primitivism." So out with the lot of it:

Xiye Bastida, a youth climate activist, a member of the Indigenous Mexican Otomi-Toltec nation, and an organizer of Fridays for Future, says that her climate grief is deeply tied to her Indigenous identity. “For Indigenous people, climate grief comes from when they’re first displaced by fossil fuel companies, by drilling, by fracking infrastructure that makes Indigenous communities be moved from their place of origin, their place that they have a relationship with. (Our) relationship with the land is the first thing that we care about,” Bastida said.

For Black and Indigenous peoples, you could argue that the history of our oppression is the story of the Anthropocene itself—the current geological age defined by the dominant influence that human activity has had on mass extinction, climate, and the environment. Without colonization, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and the genocide and oppression of Indigenous peoples around the world, we likely would be living in a different reality.

That's for sure. But the current trend in historical "scholarship" -- as evidence by the absurd "1619 project" of racial grievance and historical revisionism recently published by the New York Times -- is not enlightenment but revenge:

Research has bolstered the idea that white supremacy has led to the climate crisis. Scientists from University College London found that the mass genocide that accompanied the colonization of the Americas in the 15th century permanently altered Earth’s climate, due to “a huge swathe of abandoned agricultural land” that “pulled down enough carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to eventually chill the planet.”

Ravenous for the mass production of lucrative commodities such as salt, cotton, and sugar, the slavemasters and colonists stripped the land in what’s now known as Canada and the United States, the Caribbean, and South America, murdering countless Africans and Indigenous peoples along the way. Worldwide, the memory of indescribable racial terror informs the climate grief of our people.

Of the brutal savagery of "indigenous peoples" like the Aztecs pre-colonization -- which included human sacrifice and cannibalism -- nothing, of course, is said. And when such peoples got their hands on the conquistadors, the violence was horrific. But that is human nature, as red in tooth and claw as Nature herself.

There's much more to this absurd essay, but it does illustrate just how deeply cultural Marxism has penetrated Western thinking, and how open we are now to prima facie ridiculous notions of our own villainous complicity in a plot that must have started very, very long ago indeed. The history of civilizations indicates that all things must pass, from the Roman Empire, to the Incas of the Americas, to the the Islamic Mughals in India, to the U.S.S.R. All the Third World has to do is wait, and all will be well again.

 

Is the Air Cleaner?

Earlier this week I had a post about the ridiculous 'The Earth is Healing Itself' meme going around, which is an outgrowth of the idea that we are currently living through an environmentalist fever dream. Americans are losing their jobs, people are driving less, even fewer people are boarding airplanes, and, as a consequence of those things, less energy is being used and fewer fossil fuels are being burned. Can't you just feel how much cleaner the air is? And after only two months of lockdown! The Earth is healing itself! All it took was a little economic devastation, a huge death toll at our mismanaged nursing homes, and the empowering of a bunch of sanctimonious scolds named 'Karen.'

Except, well, it turns out that by any scientific measurement, the air doesn't appear to be noticeably cleaner than a few months ago:

According to the EPA’s air-quality monitors, levels of particulate matter — known as PM 2.5 — are not lower now and have, in fact, been higher recently than the median level of the last five years. Consisting of particles smaller than 2.5 microns, PM 2.5 includes natural sources such as smoke or sea salt, as well as human-caused pollution from combustion.

In Philadelphia, a city health commissioner said, “I would expect our air pollution levels will probably go down because the number of vehicles in the streets are less.” Recent particulate-matter levels, however, have been close to the five-year average. In Dallas, the levels of PM 2.5 are higher than average. In Boston, they are slightly lower.

Todd Myers, environmental director of the Washington Policy Center, wrote the above in an NRO piece examining a claim that  is backed up by very little scientific evidence, but a lot of environmentalist hope and hot air. Why is that?

Opposition to cars is a major theme in left-wing environmental politics, and it is simply assumed, without looking at the data, that less driving equals cleaner air. The large gap between the political rhetoric and scientific reality is a reminder that costly environmental regulations should be based in real-world data, not ideologically driven assumptions.

What that data tells us is that the vast majority of air pollution is naturally occurring, such that "[e]ven a significant reduction in the human contribution makes only a small difference." There are exceptions to this, including cities like Delhi, which actually have seen noticeable improvement in air quality. This, Myers says, highlights the fact that "that pollution often goes hand in hand with poverty." It doesn't, however, tell us very much about which environmental policies the United States should pursue.

Myers closes with the observation that various pollution-related regulations over the past half century have improved America's air quality quite a lot, and we should be grateful for that. It doesn't follow from this, however, that more regulations -- particularly ones that try to prevent people from driving or flying -- will reduce pollution even more, as our present experience is demonstrating. At some point, the law of diminishing returns kicks in.

It'd be nice if the Greenies would give the data a nice long look and just accept this fact. But I'm not gonna hold my breath.