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.

'So Where Are the Deaths?'

In their continuing efforts to destroy President Trump's re-election prospects, the American and international news media have once again turned to their Great Green Hope, Covid-19, to continue wreaking unnecessary havoc with the world's economies and thus take down Orange Man Bad and replace him with the semi-animated hologram of the soon-to-be late Joe Biden, with Kamala Harris or Michelle Obama (or Barack Obama, for that matter) as the power behind the Resolute desk.

Having failed with Russian collusion, Ukrainian impeachment and, latterly, the twin thuggery of Black Lives Matter and Antifa, they're back again with Infection = Death. Problem is, very few are dying of the Wuhan Flu any more, as Heather Mac Donald notes:

The coronavirus doomsayers could not even wait until the fall for the apocalyptic announcements of the dreaded second wave. Because the red states recklessly loosened their lockdowns, we are now told, the US is seeing a dangerous spike in coronavirus cases. ‘EXPERTS SKETCH GLOOMY PICTURE OF VIRUS SPREAD: FAUCI TELLS OF “DISTURBING” WAVE, WITH A VACCINE MONTHS AWAY,’ read the front-page lead headline in the New York Times on Wednesday. ‘VIRUS SPREAD AKIN TO “FOREST FIRE”’ read another front page headline in the Los Angeles Times on Monday, quoting Michael Osterholm, one of the media’s favorite public health experts. Osterholm had told NBC’s Meet the Press: ‘I’m actually of the mind right now — I think this is more like a forest fire. I don’t think that this is going to slow down.’

The ‘this’ is an uptick in daily new cases from 19,002 on June 9 to 38,386 on June 24. The high to date in new daily cases was on April 24 — 39,072. Since April 24, the daily case count started declining, then began rising again after around June 9. What virtually every fear-mongering story on America’s allegedly precarious situation leaves out, however, is the steadily dropping daily death numbers — from a high of 2,693 on April 21 to 808 on June 24. That April high was driven by New York City and its environs; those New York death numbers have declined, but they have not been replaced by deaths in the rest of the country. This should be good news. Instead, it is no news.

Of course it's not news. A rapidly declining death rate is of zero interest to the news divisions, because it doesn't further the narrative that the world is coming to an end (not that we don't deserve it!). They'd rather toss around dubious and misleading statistics such as this Business Insider report:

While about 0.1% of people who got the flu died in the US last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the coronavirus' death rate is currently about 5.2%, based on the reported totals of cases and deaths. That makes the coronavirus' average death rate 52 times higher than that of the flu.

That figure is certainly incorrect, and by several orders of magnitude. As testing for antibodies increases, the rate will continue to fall, as it's already doing in Britain:

While both the number of people in hospital and the number of hospitalised people dying are falling, deaths are falling at a faster rate. The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 is halving every 29 days, while deaths are halving every 16 days. Prof Carl Heneghan, who carried out the analysis, said the pattern of falling death rates in hospitals was also being seen in other countries, including Italy.

"We should be investigating what's changed," he said. "It's a radically different disease we're looking at if the death rate is 1% rather than 6%".

No kidding. It's a numerator/denominator problem, but in plain English: the more people who've had it (even if asymptomatic, as many were and are), the lower the fatality rate. I know math is hard, but try to keep up:

When calculating the mortality rate, we need:

  1. The number of actual cases. We need to know the number of actual cases (not merely the reported ones, which are typically only a small portion of the actual ones) that have already had an outcome (positive or negative: recovery or death), not the current cases that still have to resolve (the case sample shall contain zero active cases and include only "closed" cases).
  2. The number of actual deaths related to the closed cases examined above.

Considering that a large number of cases are asymptomatic (or present with very mild symptoms) and that testing has not been performed on the entire population, only a fraction of the SARS-CoV-2 infected population is detected, confirmed through a laboratory test, and officially reported as a COVID-19 case. The number of actual cases is therefore estimated to be at several multiples above the number of reported cases. The number of deaths also tends to be underestimated, as some patients are not hospitalized and not tested.

If we base our calculation (deaths / cases) on the number of reported cases (rather than on the actual ones), we will greatly overestimate the fatality rate.

The higher the count, the lower the fatality rate.

This study considered New York City, the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States, and the metro area responsible for most of the American cases and deaths. Keep in mind that the vast majority of deaths have occurred in people over 65 with comorbidities, including obesity -- which may also account for the racial and ethnic disparities: in New York City, the breakdown is White 7 percent, Asian 11.1 percent, multi/none/other 14.4 percent, Black 17.4 percent, Latino/Hispanic 25.4 percent.

Something else of interest:

19.9 percent of the population of New York City had COVID-19 antibodies. With a population of 8,398,748 people in NYC, this percentage would indicate that 1,671,351 people had been infected with SARS-CoV-2 and had recovered as of May 1 in New York City. The number of confirmed cases reported as of May 1 by New York City was 166,883 [source], more than 10 times less.

Therefore:

Mortality Rate (23k / 8.4M = 0.28% CMR to date) and Probability of Dying

As of May 1, 23,430 people are estimated to have died out of a total population of 8,398,748 in New York City. This corresponds to a 0.28% crude mortality rate to date, or 279 deaths per 100,000 population, or 1 death every 358 people.

And yet the hysteria is once again rising. The media is using increased testing and reporting as a scare tactic, especially if the "positive" tests have occurred in a red state such as Texas and Florida; everything is political, including life and death. Forget about "flattening the curve," which was meant to distribute the same number of infections over a longer period of time, so as not to overwhelm the hospitals. Now, nothing but the complete eradication of Covid-19 via a totally safe vaccine will satisfy the Left in its rabid desire to demand that the impossibly perfect always be the moral enemy of the good enough to muddle through.

Ms. Mac Donald concludes:

There are no crises in hospital capacity anywhere in the country. Nursing homes, meat-packing plants, and prisons remain the main sources of new infections. Half the states are seeing cases decline or hold steady. Case counts are affected by more testing; the positive infection rate captured by testing is declining. The current caseload is younger, which is a good thing. The more people who have been infected and who recover, the more herd immunity is created. Meanwhile, daily deaths from heart disease and cancer — about 3,400 a day combined — go ignored in the press.

But the drum beat to halt the still far too tentative reopenings gets louder by the day. It should be resisted. The lockdowns were a mistake the first time around; to reimpose them would be disastrous for any remaining hope of restoring our economy. The damage that has been done to people’s livelihoods and future prosperity will continue to outweigh the damage done by the coronavirus. The only vaccine against poverty and resulting despair is a robust economy.

Get it. Get over it. Get on with it.

When 'Social Justice' Comes to Investing

Trillions of dollars sit in private trusts, pension and retirement accounts, and charitable endowments, and they are targets of those who wish to reshape domestic investments, corporate governance and means of energy production. I recall years earlier when people and outfits who wished to accomplish such things bought stock and made pests of themselves at shareholders meetings, or ran well-funded public relations campaigns against investment in South African companies or nuclear energy, to take two historical examples of “active shareholding.” In recent years they’ve devised another means: pressuring trustees of these funds and fiduciary investment managers to consider Environmental, Social and corporate Governance (ESG) analyses in their investment buys. A quick Google search shows a number of providers vying to assist (for fees ) trustees in making such investments.

The most detailed explanation of the history and pitfalls of this strategy—economic and legal—is in this Stanford Law Review article:  The authors, Max M. Schanzenbach and Robert H. Sitkoff, are writing for a very specific audience and you are encouraged to read it all if you want a more complete analysis, but here’s a short take on it as it involved institutional investors, index funds , endowments and trust companies. Such investing may well place trustees at risk of violating their fiduciary duty of loyalty under which they must consider only the interests of the beneficiary.

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Fiduciaries motivated, even in part, by any other thing—sense of ethics, benefit to third parties, for example -- violate their duty of loyalty. While trustees of a charitable endowment whose settlor or beneficiaries okay such considerations, might do this without violating the rule of loyalty, trustees of institutional investors, trust companies and even index funds run a risk if they do.
In the first place, the very concept ESG investing lacks precise definition.

All told, the fluidity of the ESG rubric means that assessment and application of ESG factors will be highly subjective. Like any form of active investing, risk-return ESG investing necessarily involves subjective judgments in the identification of relevant factors, assessing whether they are good or bad from an investor’s perspective, and how much weight to give each factor. However, this subjectivity makes both application and empirical evaluation of ESG investing challenging and highly contextual. As some astute commentators recently noted, “the breadth and vagueness of the factors as a whole, and the likelihood that different factors bear on different investments, present barriers to their widespread use as investment guides.

What are the social and environmental impacts of a firm’s products or practices? Is a gas pipeline better for the wildlife in the area it runs through than a solar or wind farm? (No one’s surveying the views of the caribou in Alaska who seem to love the pipeline, or the avian communities fried or turned to pate by solar and wind farms.)What are the environmental costs to producing the glass and aluminum to create solar panels or the cost of disposing of no longer useful wind turbines ?

The favorable empirical results regarding environmental and social factors, however, are not uniform. A significant concern is that managers may invoke ESG factors to enact their own policy preferences at the expense of shareholders—an agency problem for which there is also some empirical evidence. Another concern is that the extent of a firm’s regulatory and political risks may not be reflected in its ESG scoring. For example, companies pursuing alternative energy sources may score high on ESG factors but still face significant political and regulatory risk owing to heavy reliance on current government policy. Indeed, one of the Commissioners on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has suggested that the SEC has not yet taken a position on ESG disclosure in part because defining ESG factors is value laden and would involve confronting contentious political issues.

And then there’s corporate governance. Some corporate governance issues are obvious—lack of a sound auditing and accounting operation or frequent litigation losses for bad labor practices or unhealthy products. The social factors are even more subjective and not well validated by empirical evidence. The effect of sex and race diversity on the corporate board doesn’t seem measurable or even relevant to how prudent an investment might be in a company. The number of factors one might consider under this category seems inexhaustible.

The fluidity of the ESG parameters and the obvious subjectivity involved in weighing them should concern trustees. Aside from subjecting them to litigation for losses due to erroneous assessments on ESG investments, trustees can be removed, enjoined, forced to repay the trust for losses and so forth for breaching their duty of loyalty to the trust. To defend against such claims, the trustee who picks and chooses among investments on the basis of ESG strategies, must have documented analyses showing he’s made a realistic risk-loss return estimate and must also reevaluate these analyses regularly, a costly undertaking. So, to take an example near at hand, if President Obama made the cost of fracking higher through regulatory constraints on it and the trustee eschewed investing in such companies under his analysis of risk-reward, President Trump’s support for fracking certainly changes the equation. So does the I hope temporary dislocation of that market due to the Wuhan virus shutdowns. The trustee has to reconsider original action and readjust the portfolio. The risk-reward equation has shifted.

If independent analysis shows the ESG models the trustee relied upon resulted in statistically significant under-performance, the fiduciaries who relied upon those models may well have breached their duty of loyalty and be subject to litigation by the beneficiaries of the trust. And any claims that ESG investment strategies provide superior returns are far from certain. Even more troublesome in the authors’ view is this: if corporations draw a lot of ESG investment on the grounds that they are undervalued from a risk-reward standard by their lights, they may soon become overvalued. Contrarian strategies seem then to be attractive.

Going belly-up for climate change.

A few months ago, concerns were highlighted in a dispute involving the trustees of the California State Pension Fund (Calpers) and other major pension funds.

In the last two years, its directors have opposed proposals to sell stocks in private prisons, gun retailers and companies tied to Turkey because of the potential for lost revenue and skepticism about whether divestment forces social change. One of these directors is now urging the system, also known as Calpers, to end its ban on stocks tied to tobacco, a policy in place since 2000. “I do see a change,” said that director, California police sergeant Jason Perez, in an interview. “I think our default is to not divest.”

Calpers isn’t the only system wrestling with these new doubts. Rising funding deficits are prompting public officials and unions across the U.S. to reconsider the financial implications of investment decisions that reflect certain social concerns.

The total shortfall for public-pension funds across the U.S. is $4.2 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve. New York state’s Democratic comptroller and unions representing civil service workers oppose a bill in the Legislature to ban fossil fuel investments by the state pension fund. In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, vetoed legislation last year that would have forced divestment of state pension dollars from companies that avoid cleaning up Superfund sites by declaring bankruptcy...

The board now plans a comprehensive review, scheduled for 2021, of all of Calpers’ existing divestment policies, which include bans on investments in companies that mine thermal coal, manufacturers that make guns illegal in California and businesses operating in Sudan and Iran. 

And then there are outfits like Black Rock which seemingly to court millennial investors are weighing such factors. Is it, in danger of violating its duty of loyalty? Bernard Scharfman thinks they may be.  He hints that this virtue-signaling may be an effort to draw in Millennial investors, and discusses the practical limitations of Black Rock’s stated plan to weigh companies’ stakeholder relationships in weighing investments. He says this sort of shareholder activism may breach the duty it owes to its own investors:

So while Black Rock’s shareholder activism may be a good marketing strategy, helping it to differentiate itself from its competitors, as well as a means to stave off the disruptive effects of shareholder activism at its own annual meetings, it seriously puts into doubt Black Rock’s sincerity and ability to look out only for its beneficial investors and therefore may violate the duty of loyalty that it owes to its current, and still very much alive, baby-boomer and Gen-X investors. In sum, if I were running the Department of Labor or the Securities and Exchange Commission, I would seriously consider reviewing Black Rock’s strategy for potential breaches of its fiduciary duties.

If people really want to put their money into virtue-signaling instead of reasonable returns, why doesn’t someone just create a Virtue Fund? Investors would agree not to hold the managers of it accountable for losses as long as the investments tickle their fancy. That would leave those of us such as the Calpers beneficiaries who rely on secure returns to use more traditional measures of risk and reward (like debt-equity, dividends and price-earnings ratio) which have an historical measure of efficacy.

Covid Hysteria: Worse Than a Crime, a Blunder

With parts of America and Europe still in lockdown, was the massive overreaction to the Wuhan Flu, aka Nursing Home Disease a crime or a blunder? As a French official during the time of Napoleon said of the execution of Louis Antoine du Bourbon, "C'est pire qu'un crime, c'est une faute." Which is to say, were the loss of civil liberties and the massive economic destruction of the unconstitutional lockdowns simply malicious and punitive, or is the damage irrecoverable, with all the attendant political consequences whose effects will be felt at the ballot box this November?

Some folks at the Foundation for Economic Education are beginning to smell a rat:

The 'experts' may have subjected us to a blunder greater than any since the Iraq War.

The Iraq War WMD debacle is arguably the greatest expert “fail” in generations. The holy triumvirate—lawmakers, bureaucrats, and media—all failed to sniff out the truth. If any of them had, a war that cost trillions of dollars and claimed the lives of 100,000-200,000 people likely could have been avoided.

It would be difficult to surpass the Iraq blunder, but emerging evidence on COVID-19 suggests the experts—again: lawmakers, bureaucrats, and media—may have subjected us to a blunder of equally disastrous proportions.

The evidence? How's this for a dispatch from the Dept. of Now They Tell Us?

Antibody Tests Point To Lower Death Rate For The Coronavirus Than First Thought

Mounting evidence suggests the coronavirus is more common and less deadly than it first appeared. The evidence comes from tests that detect antibodies to the coronavirus in a person's blood rather than the virus itself. The tests are finding large numbers of people in the U.S. who were infected but never became seriously ill. And when these mild infections are included in coronavirus statistics, the virus appears less dangerous.

"The current best estimates for the infection fatality risk are between 0.5% and 1%," says Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. That's in contrast with death rates of 5% or more based on calculations that included only people who got sick enough to be diagnosed with tests that detect the presence of virus in a person's body.

And the revised estimates support an early prediction by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a leading member of the White House coronavirus task force. In an editorial published in late March in The New England Journal of Medicine, Fauci and colleagues wrote that the case fatality rate for COVID-19 "may be considerably less than 1%."

Mon Dieu!

Wait -- what?

The new evidence is coming from places such as Indiana, which completed the first phase of a massive testing effort early in May. Indiana's program began soon after coronavirus cases began appearing in the state. The governor's office contacted Nir Menachemi, who chairs the health policy and management department at Indiana University's Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health.

The governor wanted basic information, such as how many people had been infected, and how many would die. At the time, "it was really difficult to know for sure," Menachemi says. "And frankly, not just in our state, but in any state." That was because health officials only knew about people who had been sick enough to get tested for the virus. And that number can be misleading, Menachemi says.

In other words, based on the faulty premise that infection=death -- aided and abetted as usual by a hysterical media that always runs with the worst-case scenario first -- the major economies of the West put a loaded gun to their heads and pulled the trigger.

For Menachemi and his team, it was like finally getting a glimpse of the entire coronavirus iceberg, instead of just the part above the water. And the data allowed them to calculate something called the infection fatality rate — the odds that an infected person will die. Previously, scientists had relied on what's known as the case fatality rate, which calculates the odds that someone who develops symptoms will die.

Indiana's infection fatality rate turned out to be about 0.58%, or roughly one death for every 172 people who got infected. And the results in Indiana are similar to those suggested by antibody studies in several other areas. In New York, for example, an antibody study indicated the state has an infection fatality rate around 0.5%.

Studies suggest a healthy young person's chance of dying from an infection is less than 1 in 1,000. But for someone in poor health in their 90s, it can be greater than 1 in 10.

To translate that into plain English: the very elderly are more likely to die of something than healthy young people. But will this stop people like Fauci from continuing to insist that the destruction of civilization the price we pay for allowing him and other doctors to continue to exercise an undue influence over the public policies of the U.S., Britain, and elsewhere? Of course not:

Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the U.S., said Sunday that the ban on British travelers entering the U.S. is likely to last months. Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, told The Telegraph that the U.K. travel ban is expected to be lifted in “more likely months than weeks.” The infectious disease expert said the travel restrictions could last until a vaccine is ready, adding that it’s possible they are lifted sooner.

The other travel bans from the European Union, China and Brazil are also expected to last for “months” based on “what’s going with the infection rate,” Fauci said. The expert predicts the virus could “go on for a couple of cycles, coming back and forth... I would hope to get to some degree of real normality within a year or so, but I don’t think it’s this winter or fall.”

“This will end,” Fauci said, according to the newspaper. “As stressful and devastating as it is, it will end.”

Good to know. Now please go away, take Scarf Lady with you, and let the rest of us enjoy life.

When Science is the Servant of Politics

Last week I embarked on a piece about how some scientists were making science the servant of their political opinions. Servant is perhaps too kind and vague a term; a better one might be ventriloquist’s dummy. When I started writing it, my expectation was that I would be making this argument about a range of scientific topics. Only the first would be medical science.

But some doctors forced medical science into so many political contortions in that week’s news that I never really managed to get onto other scientific disciplines. The money quote from a statement of 1200 medical professionals connected with the University of Washington’s Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was as follows:

[W]e wanted to present a narrative that prioritizes opposition to racism as vital to the public health, including the epidemic response. We believe that the way forward is not to suppress protests in the name of public health but to respond to protesters demands in the name of public health, thereby addressing multiple public health crises.

And in the last seven days, this argument—that Black Lives Matter protests are uniquely aimed at improving public health, damaged as it is by racism-- has spread to Britain where large crowds turned out for BLM rallies accommodated by the police who were otherwise fining people for meeting in “crowds” of more than six—and to partisan politics in the U.S. where public health professionals were critical of the GOP for pushing ahead with plans for a Republican Convention while tamely hoping that BLM protesters will wear marks.

The public reaction to these medical self-contradictions has been stronger in Britain than in America, partly because the lockdown regulations have been more stringent and more toughly enforced (with police handing out thousands of fines) than in the U.S. Allowing some people to protest and (not incidentally) to indulge in violent rioting in a self-righteous frame of mind, but fining others for attending a parent’s funeral has created a lot of free-floating anger. And one side-effect is a rise in skepticism towards other claims of both medical scientists and their brethren in other disciplines.

Take the Covid-19 claims first.

Britain’s media and opposition have been strongly critical of the handling of the Covid-19 crisis by the Boris Johnson government, suggesting that Ministers had ignored the advice of its SAGE committee of scientists and demanding that the minutes of SAGE now be published. Well, the minutes have now been published, and they show that Ministers followed the advice of SAGE more or less to the letter. If mistakes were made, they were scientists’ mistakes more than ministerial ones (though Ministers have to take responsibility for them on the proper constitutional grounds that “advisors advise, ministers decide.”) Well and good.

One example of this advice was particularly spicy, however. ICI’s Professor Neil Ferguson earlier in the week suggested that the lockdown had been imposed one week too late with the possible result that as many as 20,000 people had died needlessly. But when the SAGE records were released, they showed that the committee, including Ferguson, had voted unanimously for the previous policy because a lockdown would guarantee a second spike of the disease in the Fall.

When that policy changed, it did so in response to Ferguson’s own computer projections showing that Covid-19 was likely to spread very quickly and overwhelm the National Health Service. And as Dan Hodges in the Daily Mail points out, at the time he had pronounced the timing of the lockdown imposition to be about right. Ferguson’s computer projections, however, have since been subjected to savage criticism by information scientists who claim that it is worse than useless. Ferguson himself has changed his informal guesstimates of the course of the virus more than once. Other groups of scientists specializing in the field of infectious diseases have reached very different conclusions. And it’s in the nature of science that they can’t all be right.

We should all admit our own ignorance in these matters, of course. My own judgment—based on previous pandemics but shared apparently by many epidemiologists—is that we won’t know the full destructiveness of Covid-19 for another year at least. Today’s news from Beijing that a serious new outbreak of the disease has occurred and all the local food markets have been closed warn us that some of the early apparent treatments may prove temporary All the scientists’ projections are interesting, and some may prove accurate. But it is the progress of the actual virus in the world that will tell us which ones are right and which wrong.

That’s a highly significant conclusion because some areas of science are highly speculative and others over-reliant on computer projections. That’s true in particular for climate science where almost all of the claims of climate “emergencies” and the need for “urgency” to “combat” them come to us from computer projections that we must now treat skeptically.

The Global Warming Policy Foundation exists to test forecasts against reality on the ground. The IPCC is usually at the soft end of climate alarmism but it has been part of the skeptic camp on the question of weather extremes and if they are caused by global warming. This last week the GWPF published a study by the phyicist Ralph Alexander: which reached the following conclusion:

If there is any trend at all in extreme weather, it’s downward rather than upward. Our most extreme weather, be it heat wave, drought, flood, hurricane or tornado, occurred many years ago, long before the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere began to climb at its present rate. The recent atmospheric heat waves in western Europe pale in comparison with the soaring temperatures of the 1930s, a period when three of the seven continents and 32 of the 50 US states set all-time high temperature records, which still stand today.

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Professor Alexander lays out the evidence for the good news. We can examine it. It happened in the real world not in a virtual reality of guesstimates piled on guesstimates. Nor in a world of utopian politics and well-intentioned authoritarianism.

We have to get back to doing that more of the time.

Why the Wuhan Flu Turned Violent

After a week of violent rioting -- aka, "largely peaceful protests" -- over the death of a man nobody had ever heard of a fortnight ago, the rationale behind the continuing home imprisonment of law-abiding citizens over the phantom menace of the Wuhan Flu no longer make any sense, if it ever did. Trading the economic and social health of nations indefinitely for a variant of the seasonal flu was always a bad bargain, but now that the doctors' scheme has been revealed as purely political, it's time to stop.

The great Covid-19 pandemic was always a #NursingHomeDisease. It disproportionately struck the elderly who also had underlying health problems (comorbidities) that were exacerbated by the opportunistic Chinese bug. Let the facts be submitted to a candid world:

The Most Important Coronavirus Statistic: 42% Of U.S. Deaths Are From 0.6% Of The Population

According to an analysis that Gregg Girvan and I [Avik Roy] conducted for the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, as of May 22, in the 43 states that currently report such figures, an astounding 42% of all COVID-19 deaths have taken place in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Let that sink in: 42% of all COVID-19 deaths are taking place in facilities that house 0.62% of the U.S. population.

And 42% could be an undercount. States like New York exclude from their nursing home death tallies those who die in a hospital, even if they were originally infected in a long-term care facility. Outside of New York, more than half of all deaths from COVID-19 are of residents in long-term care facilities.

This is astounding. The Forbes piece goes on to note that in Ohio, a full 70 percent of the deaths attributed to the virus occured in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities; in Minnesota, the figure is 81 percent. Most of the damage, however, has been in the New York City metropolitan area, with tentacles as far south as Virginia and reaching north up into New England.

Another way to cut the data is to look at nursing home and assisted living facility deaths as a share of the population that lives in those facilities. On that basis, three states stand out in the negative direction: New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.

In Massachusetts and Connecticut, COVID deaths per 10,000 nursing home and assisted living facility residents were 703 and 827, respectively. In New Jersey, nearly 10 percent of all long-term care facility residents—954 in 10,000—have died from the novel coronavirus.

The tragedy is that it didn’t have to be this way. On March 17, as the pandemic was just beginning to accelerate, Stanford epidemiologist John Ioannidis warned that “even some so-called mild or common-cold-type coronaviruses have been known for decades [to] have case fatality rates as high as 8% when they infect people in nursing homes.” Ioannidis was ignored.

Instead, of course, states such as New York deliberately forced the disease-incubating nursing homes to accept Covid-19 patients, with results we now all can see. Combine this with the deliberate cruelty of restricting access to the dying, and you have a hell on earth that only a Democrat could have created.

The bogus excuse for the lockdowns, now strikingly apparent in retrospect, was that we didn't want hospitals overwhelmed with the millions of patients and half a million deaths in Britain alone that "experts" like Professor Pantsdown of the Imperial College in London had predicted.  Nor did we see the deaths linked to "climate change" and air pollution that Harvard experts were forced to walk back. No wonder Dr. Fauci barely shows his face any more.

In short, nearly everything they told us about the second coming of the Black Death turned out to be wrong. And for this, our betters ravaged the economies of the West, bullied the honest citizenry, and suspended the Bill of Rights -- and then when the riots came, excused them on the non-medical grounds that "racism" (a neologism in common usage only since about 1970) is a worse health threat than, well, Covid-19. [What follows is not a parody.]

Public Health Experts Say the Pandemic Is Exactly Why Protests Must Continue

There has been a lot of concern on how the protests over the past several days may produce a wave of coronavirus cases. This discussion is often framed as though the pandemic and protests in support of black lives are wholly separate issues, and tackling one requires neglecting the other. But some public health experts are pushing people to understand the deep connection between the two.

Facing a slew of media requests asking about how protests might be a risk for COVID-19 transmission, a group of infectious disease experts at the University of Washington, with input from other colleagues, drafted a collective response. In an open letter published Sunday, they write that “protests against systemic racism, which fosters the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on Black communities and also perpetuates police violence, must be supported.”

This is pure neo-Marxist bunkum, of course, a collectivist bit of agitprop that might have come from the Soviet Union in the 1970s. Indeed, the hive mind behind this tripe argue that the protesters are actually performing a public service by their selfless willingness to act as guinea pigs who can test the limits of the unconstitutional lockdowns for the greater good.

The letter and the experts who signed it make a case for viewing the protests not primarily as something that could add to cases of coronavirus (though they might) but as a tool to promote public health in and of themselves. Protests address “the paramount public health problem of pervasive racism,” the letter notes. “We express solidarity and gratitude toward demonstrators who have already taken on enormous personal risk to advocate for their own health, the health of their communities, and the public health of the United States.”

The real reason, though, is propaganda, as this Slate story eventually gets around to admitting:

By Tuesday afternoon, more than 1,000 epidemiologists, doctors, social workers, medical students, and other health experts had signed the letter. The creators had to close a Google Sheet with signatures to the public after alt-right messages popped up, but they plan to publish a final list soon, says Rachel Bender Ignacio, an infectious disease specialist and one of the letter’s creators. The hopes for the letter are twofold. The first goal is to help public health workers formulate anti-racist responses to media questions about the health implications. The second is to generate press to address a general public that may be concerned about protests spreading the virus.

There is a linkage between the coronavirus hoax and the riots -- it's just not what they say it is. From the moment Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election, the Left has been determined to destroy not only the Trump presidency but also the very country that allowed such an enormity to occur. They -- the DNC, the big media, academe -- have thrown everything they have into the fight, and that they have now turned to outright violence in its late stages ought to tell you something, both about the "resistance's" history, and the future it has planned for you.

The Revolution Will Be Delayed

We can thank the Wuhan virus for small favors:

International negotiations designed to address the sweeping global threat of climate change will quite likely be delayed by a full year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Britain, the host of the talks, which were initially scheduled to be held at the end of this year in Glasgow, proposed on Tuesday that they be postponed until November 2021. A decision is to be made Thursday by countries that make up the rotating governing board of the United Nations agency that sponsors the talks.

“Given the uneven spread of Covid-19, this date would present the lowest risk of further postponement and the best chance of delivering an inclusive and ambitious COP,” British officials said in a letter to countries in the accord, using shorthand for Conference of the Parties, the formal name of the meeting. The conference is meant to rally world leaders to chart ways to avert the worst effects of climate change, including fatal heat waves and flooded coastal cities.

The next round of talks, the 26th annual COP, is the most important session since then. Countries are expected to announce revised climate targets in order to reach that global target, which remains elusive.

That's funny -- I thought climate seer and international scold Greta Thunberg told us in January that we only have eight years left to prevent global catastrophe:

Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg called on Tuesday for far tougher action to limit climate change, telling the World Economic Forum in Davos the world has just eight years left to avert severe warming. Thunberg, 17, speaking on a Davos panel with three other youth delegates from around the world, also expressed doubts that the world could develop technologies in coming decades to suck carbon dioxide from thin air to limit rising temperatures.

“A lot,” she said, when asked what she wanted in the coming year or so. “Especially that we start listening to the science and that we treat this crisis as the crisis it is.” Governments are due to meet in Glasgow, Scotland, in November, seeking to ratchet up the ambition of the 2015 Paris Agreement. The deal aims to limit warming to “well below” two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times, while pursuing efforts for a tougher ceiling of 1.5°C.

So now it's only seven years. What are we going to do? Luckily for the world, by that time St. Greta will be in her mid-twenties, no longer a "Swedish teenager." Her numinous nature will by then have worn off, the media will have lost interest, the demon Trump will be out of office one way or another, the world will still be spinning on its axis, and we'll have found something new to worry about.

The Coming Struggle for Power with China

In the 1930s John Strachey, later a sober moderate cabinet minister in Clem Attlee’s postwar U.K. Labour government, wrote a book with the ominous title, The Coming Struggle for Power. As anyone familiar either with the politics of the day or with Orwell’s writings about that time could have guessed, Strachey called himself a Marxist but was in fact a comfortable bourgeois journalist, the son of the then-editor of the Spectator, who had never come closer to a genuine struggle than when he disputed with a friend over who should pay the bill for lunch.

But his book was one of many in those times which weakened the moral self-confidence of the Western democracies in their own free societies with the result that they would enter the Second World War and later the Cold War hesitant, badly-prepared, and uncertain of purpose. If a book named The Coming Struggle for Power were to be published today, its title would carry an ominous double entendre because the West today is locked in a struggle with China over both geopolitics and world energy resources.

We have been understandably reluctant to acknowledge this conflict (which like an iceberg is only one-eighth visible above the surface) because no one wants to repeat the failure of Franco-British policy in dealing with the rise of the Kaiser’s Germany prior to 1914. The horrors of the Great War explain our fears well enough. But that war also undermined the illusion cultivated by some of the best minds of that time that trade and economic cooperation between the great powers—aka the “power of facts”—had made war between them illogical, pointless, almost impossible.

In August 1914, however, as one historian wrote, the power of facts took a terrible hammering from the facts of power.

One relevant fact is that industrial development, prosperity, and mutually beneficial trade do not automatically convert a country to political liberalism at home and commercial pacifism abroad. Wilhelmine Germany had enjoyed its own great economic rise in the 19th century, but it saw the rapid industrialization of Czarist Russia as a reason to wage war before its emerging rival became too powerful and a threat. The Kaiser’s Machtpolitik demonstrated that a nation’s interests and intentions, evidenced in its political culture, may dictate war on the grounds that security is more important than prosperity. And every now and then an event occurs that, whether large or small, inadvertently throws a spotlight on what is really driving a country’s overall “grand strategy.”

The Wuhan virus, as we’re not supposed to call it, has just thrown such a spotlight on Beijing’s drive for a more powerful role in world politics. Such a drive is itself legitimate. And if it’s accompanied by a willingness to work cooperatively with other countries and to abide by agreed international rules, other nations should strive to accommodate the rising power in collective global arrangements.

But the Chinese government’s handling of the Wuhan virus combined brutality in its suppression of ordinary citizens in its attempt to suppress the virus, an obsession with secrecy as it sought to protect its own image, a failure to inform other governments that a dangerous epidemic was spreading in and over its borders, pressure on the World Health Organization to delay warning the world of what was coming its way, outrageously dishonest propaganda blaming the virus on  the US, and forbidding air flights from Wuhan to other Chinese cities while allowing them to other countries as the epidemic was still raging there. All of this represented irresponsible national egoism on a global scale.

Big Trouble in Big China.

It also reminded other countries of how China under its present regime has behaved on other matters in recent years: its imprisonment of vast numbers of its Uighur minority in a new gulag; its creation of a virtual panopticon that keeps watch on dissidents via the internet, even to the point of being able to instruct airlines not to allow them to board flights; its widespread theft of intellectual property; its purchase of political influence in other countries by hiring senior political and civil service figures for Chinese companies, as well as by outright bribery; its attempt to control Chinese minorities abroad; and at home the restoration of a quasi-Maoism by Xi Jimping who also proclaimed himself President for Life (an absurd but revealing title.) As a result of Wuhan all these factors now seem to demonstrate the naivete of the idea that bringing communist China into the structure of global governance, in particular the World Trade Organization, would make the country a liberal democracy over time.

Or, as I quoted Rupert Darwall as writing last week: “Xi’s historic accomplishment is falsifying the globalists’ liberalization thesis.” That means not that we are heading for a war between the world’s two major nuclear powers, which would be a disaster for all mankind, but that the West, above all the United States, should be sufficiently strong to deter China from any foolish military provocations and, more broadly, to contain China as we contained the Soviet Union until its political system evolves or its political leadership changes course.

Right on cue, the same important story appeared last week in the London Times, the Daily Mail, and The Australian. Here is the Mail’s opening salvo:

The US would lose a war with China fought in the Pacific, is unable to defend Taiwan from an invasion and fears the Guam military base is at risk now, US defense sources have warned. ‘Eye-opening' Pentagon war games have revealed growing fears the US is vulnerable to threats from China and that any attack would lead to the US 'suffering capital losses', the sources said. The worrying analysis is expected to come to light in the Pentagon's 2020 China military power report this summer.

This is alarming, of course, but far from despair-inducing. Most of the studies of a US-China military clash are based on what the military balance between the two nations will be like in 2030. The Pentagon is now planning a larger military commitment to East Asia; the U.S. economy is still more technologically advanced than the Chinese (and will now be more watchful towards technical espionage); and though both economies are likely to suffer some damage from the Covid-19 and lockdown crises, historians will recall that the prospect of war was what pulled the U.S. economy out of its New Deal doldrums and into a massive expansion both industrially and militarily.

For the one requires the other. It’s not possible to build up strong modern military forces except on the basis of a strong modern advanced economy which in turn must rest on the most efficient energy-producing industries. China recognizes that fact and acts upon it. Despite his brief flirtation with President Obama when they  shook hands and agreed to pursue the carbon reduction targets under the Paris accords, President Xi Jimping has adopted a very different practical agenda. As Darwall points out:

Despite being feted as a climate saviour, China’s drive for coal continued unabated. A 2018 plant-by-plant survey by CoalSwarm found that 259 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity are under development in China, comparable to the entire US coal fleet (266 GW). If completed, the new plants 29 will increase China’s current coal fleet of 993 GW by 25%. Abroad, China is involved in 240 coalfired power projects in 25 countries as part of its Belt and Road Initiative.

China’s military strength thus rests upon cheap abundant reliable energy. And its rivals?

Before the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, the U.S. had a successful and expanding economy based in part upon the fracking revolution that gave it low-cost, high-productivity, reliable energy without subsidies. That was a solid foundation for a stronger American military. Europe was a sadly different proposition: continental Europe has embarked on a quixotic crusade to reduce the rise in world temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius since the advent of industrialization by reducing its use of fossil fuels to net zero-carbon emissions by 2050. Not surprisingly its economies are stalled. Britain has adopted the same self-destructive target and, in doing so, has abandoned the fair prospect of its own fracking revolution. And almost all predictions of the effects of this net-zero ambition, if it is seriously attempted and sustained, are that the countries concerned—all Western countries—would suffer a prolonged depression.

And all that was before the virus and the lockdowns.

Now, it is becoming the conventional wisdom in Western Europe, Britain, and Canada that the hoped-for post-Convid-19 economic recovery will be rooted in a Green New Deal that will direct resources not to recovery as such but to ensuring that any recovery will favour “Green” industries and deny investment to industries dependent on fossil fuels. And if Joe Biden were to win the November election, this same policy approach would be adopted in the United States too.

In his new study of the likely effects of such a policy, John Constable of the Global Warming Policy Foundation points out these results would be extremely damaging.:

[I]t is the adoption of high-productivity energy sources that is responsible for modern growth. Turning our backs on those energy sources would have been unwise even in a state of continuing global growth fundamentally driven by Asian use of coal and oil, as well as a resurgent North American use of gas. To do so in time of suppressed global trade and growth has the potential to be genuinely dangerous in the longer term, and perhaps even in the short term.

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Dr. Constable thinks this would be a “counterproductive disaster,” and he does not take account of the West’s military competition with China in his calculation. Nonetheless, he thinks that the civil service [in Britain] will press the policy, and that the politicians will not resist. One might add that in the U.S. and throughout the West the media, academia, most cultural institutions, and large numbers of the voters will be eager partisans of the same counterproductive disaster. And if the Chinese communists win the battle for power as energy, they will be hard to beat in the struggle for power as geopolitical hegemony.

John Strachey abandoned Marxism in 1940, left the Communist Party, joined the Labour party, and volunteered for the Royal Air Force in which he served until 1945 when he was elected as a Labour MP and appointed Minister of Food in the Attlee government. For the remainder of his career, he was a forceful voice for moderate social democracy and common sense in British politics.

Almost certainly, there will be decent people who similarly realize the terrible consequences of this New Green Disaster when they see the poverty it visits upon their fellow-citizens, and who make the same political U-turn as Strachey did. But will that realization dawn before the Chinese Communist Party has achieved an economic and military world hegemony?

'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.