Division

A couple of years ago I wrote a post which began as follows:

Pope Francis was greeted by crowds of hundreds of thousands as he made saints of two shepherd children at the Fatima shrine complex in Portugal.

Shepherd children?

It is 100 years since the two – and a third child – reported seeing the Virgin Mary while tending sheep.

The traditional skepticism of adults listening to tales of what children saw must have been set aside that day.

Two of the children – Jacinta and Francisco Marto – have been canonised for the miracles attributed to them. They died in the 1918-1919 European influenza pandemic.

I’m way outside my area of expertise here, but I thought saints had to perform miracles, not merely have visions.

The so-called three secrets of Fatima were written down by their cousin, Lucia dos Santos, who died in 2005 aged 97.

So we’re going off a secondhand account of what two kids say they saw?

They are prophecies written down by Lucia, years after the apparitions that the three said they had witnessed.

This is not helping.

This isn’t the only case like it. Reader Michael van der Riet emails me with the story of Bernadette Soubirous:

Soubirous was a sickly child and possibly due to this only measured 4 ft.7in. tall. She contracted cholera as a toddler and suffered severe asthma for the rest of her life.

Soubirous learned very little French, only studying French in school after age 13 due to being frequently ill and a poor learner. She could read and write very little due to her frequent illness.

So not the sharpest tool in the shed, then.

On 11 February 1858, Soubirous, then aged 14, was out gathering firewood with her sister Toinette and a friend near the grotto of Massabielle (Tuta de Massavielha) when she experienced her first vision. While the other girls crossed the little stream in front of the grotto and walked on, Soubirous stayed behind, looking for a place to cross where she wouldn’t get her stockings wet. She finally sat down to take her shoes off in order to cross the water and was lowering her stocking when she heard the sound of rushing wind, but nothing moved. A wild rose in a natural niche in the grotto, however, did move. From the niche, or rather the dark alcove behind it, “came a dazzling light, and a white figure”. This was the first of 18 visions of what she referred to as aquero (pronounced [aˈk(e)ɾɔ]), GasconOccitan for “that”. In later testimony, she called it “a small young lady” (uo petito damizelo). Her sister and her friend stated that they had seen nothing.

On 14 February, after Sunday Mass, Soubirous, with her sister Marie and some other girls, returned to the grotto. Soubirous knelt down immediately, saying she saw the apparition again and falling into a trance.[citation needed] When one of the girls threw holy water at the niche and another threw a rock from above that shattered on the ground, the apparition disappeared. On her next visit, 18 February, Soubirous said that “the vision” asked her to return to the grotto every day for a fortnight.

I expect many religions have children – always simple children and in many instances those who, if born in the modern era, would take the short bus to school – who claimed to experience visions and were venerated by adults and later sanctified by the prevailing holy order. I write about this now because:

According to her mother Malena Ernman (48), 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg can see CO2 with the naked eye. She writes that in the book ‘Scenes from the heart. Our life for the climate’, which she wrote with her family.
Greta was diagnosed as a child with obsessive-compulsive disorder and Asperger’s syndrome, just like her younger sister Beata. The activist also has a photographic memory. She knows all the capitals by heart and can list all the chemical elements of the periodic table within one minute. In addition, she has another gift according to her mother. “Greta is able to see what other people cannot see,” writes Malena Ernman in the book. “She can see carbon dioxide with the naked eye. She sees how it flows out of chimneys and changes the atmosphere in a landfill.”

I’ve said many times that environmentalism has replaced Christianity in the post-religious developed world. With its high priests, disciples, holy scriptures, heretics, and prophecies of doom it’s all there. Now it has its oddball children with holy visions. How long before it has its first saint?

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Sums of a Preacher Man

Yesterday I went to a startup hub – basically a building where budding entrepreneurs pay low rent to work and hang out – to watch about eight presentations by people looking for investment. Each entrepreneur had 6 minutes to make their pitch and a further 4 to answer questions, so it was a bit like Dragon’s Den only instead of multi-millionaire dragons they had a gaggle of students, professors, mates, and folk who came along for the free craft beer.

The first thing I noticed was out of the 70-odd people there, only two were in a suit and tie: me and one of my professors. The rest looked to have come from an office job where they don’t meet outsiders, or straight from the pub downstairs. Those pitching for investment – from between 100k-300k euros, so not trivial sums – dressed as though that’s where they were headed immediately afterwards. I watched a lot of episodes of Dragon’s Den, and one of the things which drove Peter Jones nuts was people wandering out in jeans and a t-shirt and asking him for a million quid. I raised this afterwards with a couple of people and was told young people just don’t dress up like that any more. Which I am sure is true, but do the young people get any investors to part with their cash? Last night they didn’t appear to have anyone reaching for their wallets, even to pay for drinks.

Their disheveled looks probably weren’t the main problem, though. That would be their general business sense and their ideas of how to make money. It took me two pitches to spot the problem. Climate change, environmentalism, and sustainability nowadays seemingly infests every area of business life, and nobody seems capable of shutting up about it. If someone is trying to sell you coffee, they speak for ten seconds about the quality of the coffee and for ten minutes on how much they care for the environment. Decades of incessant brainwashing has worked well, and environmentalism truly is the new religion. There are a couple of problems with this, however. Firstly, it assumes that their entire customer base consists of the western middle-classes who are rich and woke enough to run around fretting about a dolphin they saw on TV offshore Bora Bora with a biro stuck up its nostril. While the number of customers eagerly checking the fine print on the back of the packet to make sure there were no orangutans killed in the making of this particular batch of organic, freshly-squeezed kumquat juice is undoubtedly growing, most people still just want a cheap product that works and doesn’t contain arsenic. And there is a big difference between not wanting to turn pristine nature into Norilsk and worrying about whether a product’s carbon footprint is a little too large. Most customers are in the former category, whereas the latter are a wealthy niche.

Secondly, it assumes environmentalism is an end it itself, and not just another trade off between competing resources. Remember this post I wrote about reusable carrier bags, where I referenced a Danish study which showed they were worse for the environment that single-use bags? As I said at the time, very few people, particularly the dim middle classes who campaign for environmental legislation, understand that recycling is an industrial process like any other only with different inputs. So a lot of these business ideas I heard yesterday took an existing process:

Production  – Use – Landfill or Incineration

and turned it into:

Production – Use – Recycle – Production

And assumed that simply because it’s being recycled it must by definition be good for the environment. But this is only true if the resources consumed during the recycling are less than those consumed making the stuff using fresh inputs, and that the pollution generated during recycling is less than using a landfill or an incinerator. Otherwise, by definition, they’re making things worse. Did I see any such calculation and comparison? Did I hell. No, the assumption was that recycling must always by definition be better for the environment.

Several of the business ideas involved a recycling process which involved driving around collecting tens of thousands of objects, transporting them back to what can only be described as a large industrial facility guzzling power, water, and other raw materials. The objects are then processed using chemicals and a sizeable amount of human capital, with each person having to somehow get to work everyday. Nobody seemed to have understood the impact this will have on the environmental calculation, let alone the economics of the whole thing. It was just presented as “Recycling! Sustainable! Yay!”

So what we were dealing with wasn’t businessmen but ideologues. It looked more like a hippy commune than a startup incubator. At half-time a chap came on stage and said the world is headed for catastrophe if we don’t stop using resources at the current rate, because we’ll simply run out. That basic economics would tell us otherwise went unmentioned, as did the old trope that the stone age didn’t end because we ran out of stone. He said their task was to persuade everyone “we need to change our lives and our behaviours”, which sounded a lot more like the basis of an evangelical religion than a business. Maybe that explains the frequent appeal for angel investors? He then said the plan was to approach big business and persuade them of this need to change, and to embrace environmentalism and sustainability. At this point I wondered where he’d been living the past fifteen years. Since I have been working, big business has fully embraced environmentalism and sustainability, that’s all they go on about. They have whole departments devoted to haranguing their employees to turn off the lights, reduce emissions, cut down on waste, and spend millions on PR showing everyone how green they are. What does this chap think he’s going to find in a major corporation, top-hatted men opening oil wells into rivers for just for fun?

And that’s the problem. These lot were supposed to be startups promoting new business ideas, but instead they were selling old political ideology. The product was environmentalism, their business just the vehicle it was riding on. It probably wouldn’t surprise you that I later learned this startup hub received a chunk of its funding from the government. In other words, it’s another lefty middle class racket. Did I mention my wallet stayed in my pocket all evening?

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Burning Ban

Reader Fay sends me a link to this article:

A standoff with the federal government is putting the future of Burning Man at risk.

The problems started when the event’s organizer, Burning Man Project, applied for a permit from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to hold the event in northern Nevada’s Black Rock Desert for another 10 years.

Then the BLM responded.

The agency, which is part of the Interior Department and manages public lands, issued a draft of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) required for the permit on March 15.

BLM wants 10 miles of concrete barriers installed on the event’s perimeter for security, a requirement that organizers install dumpsters and hire companies to haul out the trash and authorities in place to conduct vehicle searches at the gate.

Okay, so:

The decision didn’t sit well with Burners.

“Many of the measures recommended by BLM are unreasonable, untenable, attempt to solve problems that don’t exist, and/or create new (and worse) problems,” Burning Man Project wrote in a fact-checking statement.

“Altogether, these requirements would fundamentally change the operational integrity and cultural fabric of Black Rock City, and would spell the end of the event as we know it,” the group added. “This is not an exaggeration.”

The irony is that attendees of Burning Man are overwhelmingly drawn from the faux artsy middle classes in Brooklyn and west coast weirdos. Both sets overwhelmingly vote for massive increases in government power, particularly in the name of protecting the environment via mass-regulation. If you want to do so much as fart in New York or California you need permission from the government. Did they think they’d be exempt because they’re holding a mass orgy in the desert? Heh.

It’s been around for nearly three decades, but the last few years have seen an influx of hipsters and tech moguls and their followers, which have made the event a cultural phenomenon or target, depending on who is opining.

Just the sort of people who want to ban fossil fuels, shut down factories, and block pipelines.

But central to the ethos of the week is sense of self-governance, which is why the new government proposals are particularly grating.

Yes, the people who demand massive government in everyone’s lives believe their own events should be self-governing.

The government also has concerns about lights being used at night, including large work lights, high-intensity lasers and search lights, which BLM said can disrupt birds and other wildlife, and contribute to light pollution. As a result, the potential to ban or curtail some of the lighting is on the table.

Expanding the unchecked powers of the environmental agencies during the Obama administration isn’t looking so great now is it, Swampy?

Burning Man Project isn’t having it.

We’ll see.

Back on Earth, Burning Man has a robust nightlife…

That’s one way to describe it, yes.

Organizers also call the idea of vehicle searches at the gate “unconstitional” and unnecessary.

New Yorkers and Californians are now fans of the constitution? I look forward to their wholehearted embrace of the Second Amendment.

“For many years, BRC has published and widely publicized a list of prohibited items that are not allowed into Black Rock City, including weapons, narcotics and fireworks. We enforce these restrictions when items are discovered in vehicles during entry,” Burning Man Project said.

Ah yes, the famously drug-free Burning Man experience, matched only by sober St. Patrick’s Day.

What’s amusing is the current generation of Burners are complaining this will fundamentally change the nature of Burning Man, which has already gone through at least two evolutions leaving it unrecognisable from the early years. In those days guns used to be a big part of the festival, and they even had a drive-by shooting range. As with Glastonbury, the spoiled middle classes who now attend Burning Man think they’re cut from the same cloth as the misfits who started the thing. Their whining about government regulations they’re happy to foist on everyone else is a strong sign that they’re not.

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Greta Morozov

Last week a bunch of posh kids held a demonstration in London under the banner of an organisation calling itself Extinction Rebellion. Their aims are drearily predictable: obtaining political power for themselves to enact sweeping, authoritarian economic and social policies under the pretence of environmental concern. In other words they’re just another unit off an ageing production line, about as unique as a Michelin tyre but not half as interesting.

The demonstration and other stunts caused severe disruption to people trying to go about their daily lives, which the participants justified by saying everyone needs to be made aware of climate change. Several people complained the police just stood idly by and allowed public roads to be blocked, and asked whether Brexit demonstrators would be afforded the same courtesy. The answer of course is no, because Extinction Rebellion demonstrates in support of the establishment viewpoint whereas a Brexit protest would run in precisely the opposite direction. The police are hardly going to be ordered to beat up a bunch of floppy-haired teenagers who want the government to have more power, no matter how annoying they are. Extinction Rebellion’s actions are about as subversive as the May Day parades in the former Soviet Union.

In case we hadn’t been patronised by spoiled teenagers quite enough, British parliamentarians invited an odd-looking sixteen year old Swedish schoolgirl dressed up to look about ten to lecture us on how bad we are:

Teenage activist Greta Thunberg has described the UK’s response to climate change as “beyond absurd”.

In a speech to MPs, the Swedish 16-year-old criticised the UK for supporting new exploitation of fossil fuels and exaggerating cuts to carbon emissions.

She was invited to Westminster after inspiring the school climate strikes movement.

There’s a lot to say here, and I’ll say it.

Firstly, there’s a good reason why political campaigners have chosen an autistic child as their front: it makes people reluctant to criticise her. As the past couple of days have shown, anyone challenging her scripted nonsense is shouted down for being mean to a child with mental problems. Whoever put her up to this – and it seems to be her parents – ought to be ashamed of themselves. It is bordering on child abuse.

Secondly, any adult who takes their political lead from a sixteen year old ought to quit whatever they’re doing and seek help. Similarly, adults who find a teenager manipulated into regurgitating boilerplate climate hysteria “inspiring” are probably those who think their own brat’s spelling test results are newsworthy. Politicians are a little different in that they like her for the same reason they support Extinction Rebellion: she is arguing in favour of their being given more powers. Just as young Pavel Morozov‘s narcissism served the interests of Soviet politicians, so this child’s serves the interests of ours.

Thirdly, what she’s actually saying is emotive, irrational nonsense. The UK, and the west in general, has not “done nothing” about climate change, and her predictions for the future ought to have interested a child psychologist long before now. Not a single person has challenged her on this. And if leaving a ticking time bomb for children is a concern, how come her focus is not on the national debt? Realistically, what is likely to be the larger handicap we’re passing down to future generations: a one and a half degree temperature rise or tens of thousands of dollars in debt hung around the neck of every newborn baby? We’re stealing children’s futures all right, but not by driving cars.

Fourthly, her supporters say she is doing valuable work in raising awareness of climate change. They’ve offered the same excuse on behalf of Extinction Rebellion, only I can’t think of a single issue given more prominence in my lifetime. Every aspect of our society and culture, every corporation, every government, every event and every activity comes with some reference or other to climate change. It even has its own UN agency. It’s as ubiquitous as a state religion, and we are constantly lectured on the subject from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep, seven days a week with no break even for Christmas. Saying British people need more awareness of climate change is like saying North Koreans need more awareness of the Kim family. We are plenty aware, we just don’t agree sweeping authoritarian socialism is the answer, and sticking teenagers in front of us who look as though they wandered off the set of Deliverance and got lost isn’t going to persuade us any.

Finally, this whole circus is merely a symptom of the political malaise which infests the UK and wider developed world. As with the treachery and incompetence over Brexit, I am reluctant to place the blame for Greta Thunberg’s being permitted to address parliament wholly on the politicians responsible for it; they are merely the representatives of a ruling class who are as incompetent as they are corrupt as they are immoral, backed by a section of the population born into circumstances which never required them to acquire self-awareness or make difficult decisions. This Swedish brat demanding we pay her attention and organise our nation’s affairs in a way which meets her approval is one thing. That our politicians, media, and substantial numbers of adults at large in our society see fit to accommodate her is something else. Serious countries would not involve teenagers in the setting of public policy, especially foreign ones. Serious countries would never find themselves even being asked to.

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Global Witness Tampering

This morning I received an email from an outfit called Global Witness. Let’s take a look:

All of the $4.9 trillion the oil and gas industry is forecast to spend on exploration and extraction from new fields over the next decade is incompatible with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C goal, according to new analysis by Global Witness.

All of it? I confess, when the signing of the Paris Agreement was being celebrated by world leaders, I didn’t realise it meant an immediate and total halt on global oil and gas exploration and production. You’d have thought someone might have mentioned it.

The report, Overexposed, published today, is the first to compare the latest 1.5°C climate scenarios used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change with industry forecasts for production and investment. It finds that any oil and gas production from fields not yet in production or development would exceed what climate scenarios indicate could be extracted and burned while still limiting warming to 1.5°C.

I’d love to see the equation they’ve used to derive global temperature changes from oil and gas production figures. Sadly, the link to their methodology (.pdf) doesn’t include it, or any explanation of how they’ve arrived at this conclusion.

ExxonMobil is forecast to spend the most in new fields over the next decade, followed by Shell. Together with Chevron, Total and BP these five oil and gas majors are set to spend over $550 billion on exploring and extracting oil and gas that is not aligned with the world’s climate goals.

Next up: Toyota stubbornly making cars while world demands jet packs.

“There is an alarming gap between the plans of oil and gas majors and what the latest science shows is needed to avoid the most catastrophic and unpredictable climate breakdown” said Murray Worthy, Senior Campaigner at Global Witness and author of the report.

Meaning, there is an alarming gap between oil and gas demand as expressed by its users and the quantity Murray Worthy thinks they should be using.

“Investors will rightly be concerned that despite industry rhetoric to the contrary, the oil and gas sector’s spending plans are so drastically incompatible with limiting climate change. This analysis should encourage the escalation of investor engagement efforts to challenge oil and gas majors to credibly align their business plans with the Paris goal. Blindly pushing ahead comes with huge financial risks for investors, either as a result of the transition to a low carbon economy, or as the devastating consequences of a changing climate stack up.”

That’s a matter for investors, is it not? I hardly think investors in the oil and gas industry are so dumb as to not be aware of two or three decades of climate hysteria. I expect a good few are piling in on the basis that if the likes of Global Witness get their way, there will be a severe shortage of oil and gas supplies in future allowing them to make hay. No, what Murray Worthy is saying is he disapproves politically of how investors are spending their money, but dresses his words up as concern for their welfare.

Global Witness’ report finds it is only possible to claim this investment is compatible with the Paris climate goals by using scenarios that assume massive carbon capture and removal will take place in the future. This is despite the fact that these technologies remain unproven at scale.

Which is pretty apt, given the technologies which will render oil and gas production unnecessary are also unproven at scale.

The industry is at a crucial turning point; capital investment has fallen by over a third since 2014, largely due to a slump in oil prices. Yet, investment is forecast to rise by over 85% over the next decade, reaching over $1 trillion a year. Two thirds of this is set to take place in new fields.

It’s almost as if investors don’t take you seriously, isn’t it? Now why could that be?

Major capex projects in new fields that are due to be approved over the next decade include US domestic shale expansion, the Vaca Muerta shale in Argentina, the Kashagan oil field in Kazakhstan and the Yamal megaproject in Russia.

The Kashagan field went into production in 2013; I expect he’s talking about the expansion project, which doesn’t make it a new field. Vaca Muerta has been in production since 2011, and I expect he’s also talking about expansion projects. He’s on slightly firmer ground regarding Yamal; production on the Yamal peninsula started in 2017, but the project I think he’s talking about – the development of the Kharasaveyskoye field – is yet to go ahead. However, that’s a Gazprom project, so nothing to do with the majors listed in the article. It’s therefore not surprising Global Witness and those with real money at stake are not on the same page here, is it?

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Dark Continent

Last summer, Cape Town suffered severe water shortages. While the global media ran interference blaming global warming, an article in Nature magazine – hardly a hotbed of climate change denialism – explained why:

Since the 1980s, South Africa’s major conurbations have used systems models to guide their water management. These models, run by the national government, are considered world-class. They map links between river basins, reservoirs and transmission channels and use historical hydrological data to predict probable stream flows. Those are then matched to projections of demand to assess how much storage is needed. The models support real-time operations of the water network as well as planning for development. Crucially, they allow planners to assess risks of supply failures to different categories of users and evaluate the effectiveness of responses such as restrictions.

For two decades, policymakers heeded the models. They guided managers, for example, on when and where to tap sources and build reservoirs to enable the Western Cape Water Supply System (WCWSS) to meet rising demand from urban and industrial growth.

But dam building stalled in the 2000s, when local environmentalists campaigned to switch the focus to water conservation and management of demand. Such opposition delayed the completion of the Berg River Dam by six years. Eventually finished in 2009, the dam helped to keep the taps running in Cape Town this summer.

South Africa is repeating what’s happened across much of the English-speaking world and mainland Europe: contemporary politicians inherit a perfectly adequate system which has worked for decades and, through the application of ignorance, fanaticism, and arrogance in equal measures, proceed to f*ck it up completely. Unfortunately for South Africa, they seem to be taking things to the next level:

Blackouts in South Africa intensified to a maximum level on Saturday after the state power utility said it lost additional generation, including electricity imports from Mozambique.

The power cuts, first implemented over the weekend to replenish water and diesel designed for surplus generation, were raised to so-called Stage 4, removing 4,000 megawatts from the grid, Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. said in a statement on Saturday. It marked a third consecutive day of outages rotated throughout Africa’s most industrialized nation.

Eskom’s operational and financial woes stem from years of mismanagement and massive cost overruns on two new coal-fired power stations that should have been completed in 2015. The utility is seen as one of the biggest risks to the country’s economy.

It is tempting to blame this on an African government that’s reverting to type; they can certainly ask their brothers up in Nigeria for advice on living in a place with unreliable, intermittent electricity.

However, if this has been brought about by affirmative action policies, general incompetence of the political class, and religious-like commitment to environmental dogma foisted on them by supranational bodies and Geneva-based NGOs, how is this different to what’s going on in the developed world? The governments of France, Germany, the UK, and Australia have all decided to throw their electricity generating capacity into serious jeopardy by embracing windmills and closing nuclear plants, all for the purpose of impressing their peers at jamborees in resort towns. How long before supposedly developed countries are suffering brown-outs, or watching other parts of their infrastructure collapse? Italy can’t even keep its bridges from falling down, and I don’t think there’s a government anywhere which is capable of building anything without years of delays and quadrupling of costs. HS2, anyone? And it’s not as if South Africa is the only country in the world where people are appointed to senior positions based on skin-colour or other characteristics unrelated to experience, skills, and competence. Western organisations not only do this, they openly brag about it on their websites and give each other trophies for their efforts.

It used to be said that South Africa was a third-world country with first-world infrastructure. If they can’t even manage to keep the lights on, I think it’s fair to say that label is now obsolete. But what’s more concerning is the number of first-world countries which seem determined to have third-world infrastructure.

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Deindustrial Revolution

Yesterday Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unveiled the Green New Deal, her plan to transform America by combining technologies not yet invented with those of Iron Age man, leaving out everything in the middle. If implemented it will make the USA look like the Soviet Union, only run by the sort of people who shop in organic food stores and collect their own stools to spread on the rhubarb.

The FAQ which accompanied the main document reads as though a child has written it:

Totally overhaul transportation by massively expanding electric vehicle manufacturing, build charging stations everywhere, build out highspeed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary, create affordable public transit available to all, with goal to replace every combustion-engine vehicle.

Charging stations everywhere, including on top of Mount Rainer. It also intends to:

transition off of nuclear and all fossil fuels as soon as possible.

A free handsaw will be issued to every household for the purpose of gathering firewood.

we think we can ramp up renewable manufacturing and power production, retrofit every building in America

Every building? That’s in the order of 120 million. Although to be fair it’s a 10-year plan, so that’s only 230,000 buildings a week. Where the materials for this will come from is anyone’s guess. And who will pay for it? Pfffffft:

At the end of the day, this is an investment in our economy that should grow our wealth as a nation, so the question isn’t how will we pay for it, but what will we do with our new shared prosperity.

Better order your yacht now folks, before the manufacturers get too busy. And you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy it because the plan provides:

Economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work.

Count me in!

This plan is probably what you’d expect from Ocasio-Cortez, who has burst onto the political scene with more energy and zeal than the rest of Congress put together but unburdened with intelligence or a sense of how the world functions outside of Queens. Some are saying this shifts the Overton window, but these ideas have been commonplace in the corridors of academia and in environmentalist manifestos for years; nobody’s reading anything new here. What’s happening is more akin to a lunatic Green party member suddenly becoming kingmaker in one of those dysfunctional coalition systems they use on the continent, and all the attention switches to them. AOC doesn’t hold a vital swing vote, but she’s holding everyone’s attention and many are eager to capitalise on her popularity:


This came hot on the heels of:


The Democrat party is out of control, lurching leftwards past the likes of Bernie Sanders to where the buses don’t run, stoked by hotheads like AOC. Once again, the parallels between what’s happening to them and what Momentum did to the British Labour party are obvious. I’ve said it several times recently, but AOC is turning into a real problem for the Democrats. She’s stealing all their airtime and using it to promote swivel-eyed lunacy which has the party name stamped right on it. When she pauses for breath the cameras switch to the scarcely more sane Kamala Harris, or Elizabeth Warren who is fast being chucked under the bus but still insists she did nothing wrong by calling herself a red Indian. What the Democrats are screaming out for is someone who is halfway smart and not nuts, and they’re coming up short. This is telling:

Nancy Pelosi isn’t all that impressed. Asked about the “Green New Deal” in an interview with Politico on Wednesday, Pelosi dropped this amazing bit of shade on it:
“It will be one of several or maybe many suggestions that we receive. The green dream, or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it, right?”

Nancy Pelosi may be several things, but she’s not stupid and she’s been around a long time. She knows exactly how this sort of plan will go down outside New York city and coastal California, not to mention those who underwrite American politics. You don’t get to be worth $29m on a $223k lawmaker’s salary by annoying corporate America and promoting insane socialist policies. But I have a feeling her biggest challenge is going to be putting a leash on the likes of AOC and Harris, and somehow finding somebody who isn’t a lunatic or an idiot to represent the party going forward. Any idea who that might be?

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Untermensch

Yesterday I attended my weekly lecture on Global Economics, which is a subject I quite enjoy. Towards the end we were shown a truncated version of this excellent video on the plight of Briggs & Stratton workers whose factory in Missouri had been closed and production moved to China. It was hard not to feel sorry for these Americans, many of whom were over 50, who’d suddenly found their jobs yanked from beneath them with no alternative. The sight of them walking around a jobs fair in a daze was pitiful.

When the video finished I raised my paw in the air (as I am fond of doing) to point out that there was a large elephant wandering around the room that nobody’s noticed. Whereas it is true that low wages are the main driving force for relocating a factory to China, US policies have made manufacturing artificially high, namely the ever-increasing environmental legislation. I said that the only western leader who acknowledges that environmental regulations impose a cost on developed-world industries is Trump. Nobody else even mentions it, and for most politicians they are an unalloyed good with no downsides, and the more of them the better.

This caused some umming and ahing to the effect that we need to “do something” about the environment and that Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement is not the solution. This may be true and it may be not, but it’s beside the point. It is one thing to bicker about solutions, but quite another to deny the problem exists. So I asked why it was only Trump who was prepared to even acknowledge that environmental regulations heap costs on developed-world industries and contribute the very unemployment we’re getting weepy about in the video. I didn’t get an answer, but I knew it already.

Everyone in an MBA class in a business school in Geneva is by definition white collar and rich. Nobody who enters that building except the cleaners has their livelihood threatened by environmental regulations, and almost 100% are willing to vote for them. Everyone wants to live around clean air and water, and most middle and upper middle classes these days are engaged in a weird post-Christianity Earth-worship cult, sort of like pagans only with designer handbags, smartphones, and a penchant for air travel. They say they’re willing to pay more for things, but this is a luxury rich folk can afford especially when the cost comes in the form of slightly higher prices rather than permanent unemployment.

The more the urban-dwelling elites vote for policies which clobber everyone else, the worse the situation is going to get. One would have thought Trump’s election, Brexit, and the gilets jaunes movement would have woken them up, but it appears they live in a wholly separate world. I’ve said for a long time Trump was a warning shot across the bows of western civilisation, and that the world is lucky that it was him who stumbled on the unguarded palace gates and sat on the throne. Alas, those gates remain wide open. It used to be that politicians would bicker over problems and sell different solutions to the population. Nowadays, massive, elephant-in-the-room problems affecting millions of people are being utterly ignored by the ruling elites who busy themselves selling solutions to problems which are either trivial or don’t exist.

The reason populism is on the rise is because it has become a trivially easy route to power; you don’t even have to offer solutions, just pointing a finger at the problem is enough. And if that problem – immigration, unemployment, crime – affects you and your family, you’ll vote for someone who acknowledges the problem exists over someone who doesn’t, regardless of the feasibility of his or her solutions and with scant concern for his character and broader manifesto. People like to issue stern warnings about how Hitler rose to power by inventing a problem and convincing the masses he was the one to fix it. Many of the same people believe to avoid a repeat of history we must ignore real problems, and call anyone who draws attention to them Hitler.

This won’t end well.

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I told you so, carrier bag edition

I can’t honestly say that this story surprises me:

Supermarkets are selling customers billions of 10p ‘bags for life’ which contain twice as much plastic as 5p single-use bags, it was reported last night.

British retailers handed out a total of 1.18billion of them last year – at a cost of around 10p a bag. In the 12 months to the end of June, Tesco distributed 430million bags for life – the highest number for a supermarket.

What did they think would happen when they banned single-use plastic bags? That people would cart groceries home in their pockets? 1.18 billion multi-use shopping bags is one hell of a lot of plastic. Back in August 2016 when I first got the carrier bag bee in my bonnet, I asked:

Why is it assumed that a reduction in plastic bag use makes the world a better place? … Does using stronger, reusable plastic bags offer an overall improvement?  If so, where are the studies to back it up?

A few months back, reader David Bishop alerted me to this Danish study (.pdf) into the environmental effects of different types of carrier bags. It looked into how some bags can be reused for a secondary purpose, e.g. for lining a bin, and at both the “climate change” impact and “other environmental impacts” of each type of bag. For ease of understanding, the traditional polythene carrier bag is called LDPE in this study, and the “bags for life” most supermarkets dish out are called PET (see pages 25-27). The killer info is in Table IV of the executive summary (pages 17-18) which shows how many times each type of bag must be reused to have an environmental benefit over the carrier bags our benighted governments banned:

What this tells us is that the PET “bags for life” – of which, let’s remember, 1.18 billion were sold in one year alone following the carrier bag ban – must be reused 35 times before they’re better overall for the environment. Amusingly, the recycled PET bags are worse for the environment, and need to be reused 84 times. Very few people, particularly the dim middle classes who campaign for environmental legislation, understand that recycling is an industrial process like any other only with different inputs. What the table above shows is we’re better off using PET bags made from fresh polyester than from recycled materials. (Incidentally, Tim Worstall has been banging on about how nobody considers the overall resource inputs when calling for everything to be recycled for years.)

So how many people use their PET bags 84 times? I’m not sure, but this table is interesting, no?

Look at the difference in CO2 emissions for the production of normal LDPE carrier bags and the PET bags so loved by greenies. Of course, someone will start going on about plastic in the ocean and a turtle offshore Bora Bora with a biro up its bum, but aren’t CO2 emissions supposed to be the greatest threat to mankind ever?

And look at the other types of bags. Paper bags, which have sprouted up in the vegetable sections in supermarkets all over France, need to be reused 43 times before they’re better for the environment than polythene bags. Who the hell reuses a paper bag once, let alone 43 times?  This is probably due to the fact that to make paper bags you first need a forest, and that takes up land. This is what makes the cotton bags which SJW’s adore so damaging: you’d need to use it 7,100 times before its environmental benefits are felt. If it’s made from organic cotton, it needs to be reused 20,000 times. That’s a lot of shopping. The report explains why (pages 69-70):

The environmental impacts connected to the production of the organic cotton bag (COTorg) were considerably higher than those of the conventional cotton bag (COT). This is due to the fact that organic cotton production does not involve the use of synthetic chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides, which lowers the yield of the cultivation. Eventually, more resources and land are required to produce the same amount of cotton than in conventional cotton cultivation processes.

Again, this is something informed people already knew. Not so the hippies who swan around with their cotton shopping bags wrecking the environment, and wrecking it even more if they’ve opted for an organic cotton shopping bag.

But we should remember, none of this legislation is rational. It is part of a quasi-religious culture whereby the wealthy middle classes (particularly women) need to signal their virtue having quit going to church a generation back. Therefore, the results don’t actually matter. Back in 2016 I wrote this:

For if we accept the use of plastic in itself is bad, why carrier bags?  Should we ban Bic biros and force everyone to use pencils?

And indeed, the EU has recently approved a ban on single-use plastics. This will have two effects. Firstly, substitutes will be found which, as we’ve seen with shopping bags, are worse for the environment than the thing they’ve banned. For instance, cotton buds will soon be made from wood, which means more forests, more land clearances, and more lumber mills. Is this better or worse than using plastic? Does anyone even care? Secondly, it will become apparent that there were very good reasons related to hygiene and health why single-use plastics have been adopted for certain applications. It is unlikely the EU mandarins have identified all these and excluded them from the legislation.

I started my one-man blogging campaign against the carrier bag ban by invoking Chesterton’s fence. I believe my doing so has was justified, but the arrogant fools who rule us and those who support them have yet to learn a damned thing.

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Incentives matter, part 23,567

This is a fascinating line from an academic paper I’m reading:

Stanwick (2001) found a strong association between CEO compensation and a firm’s reputation for being environmentally progressive.

This can be read several ways, but one interpretation is that CEOs sign up to green initiatives because it justifies their higher pay, or reduces criticism of it. Which would explain one hell of a lot, frankly.

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