23 September, 2015

Brendan O'Neill Nail's It

Lesson for Tony Abbott: think like an elite or quit public life

Whenever a party topples its leader, our first instinct is to go looking for the knife-wielders.
Who plotted this? Who landed the first blow? Who played the Brutus role, siding with the ousters despite being mates with the doomed leader?
We look behind the scenes. We wonder what was said in corridors at the dead of night. We try to piece together how the new factions were formed and the old ones were elbowed aside.
But we mustn’t lose sight of the other key ingredient of all polite, bloodless coups: how they come to be talked about in public; how they get mythologised.
It’s never enough only to look at who said what to whom in a smokeless committee room at midnight. No, to fully understand a party’s removal of its own head we must also look at what is happening in front of the scenes, in public discussion.
A coup has two parts: the hidden skulduggery and the public justifications for such skulduggery. It’s only by considering both that we may arrive at a clear-eyed understanding of what happened, and why. If we do this for the Malcolm Turnbull-Tony Abbott scrap, then something very interesting — and worrying — starts to emerge: a feeling that Abbott was dumped not because he was an ineffective leader but because his world view failed to conform with what political and media insiders consider to be proper and progressive.
There’s more to this than Liberal infighting; it also feels like a chattering-class coup, the exiling of a leader for daring to think things that opinion-shapers consider heretical.
If we look in front of the scenes of the Turnbull-Abbott drama, one consistent message takes shape: a key problem with Abbott was that he was “out of touch” on certain issues, most notably climate change and gay marriage.
This has shaped the coverage of the coup around the world. Virtually every news piece on the drama Down Under prominently tells us that Turnbull supports gay marriage (though he seems keen to stick with Abbott’s idea of having a plebiscite) and that he is “far better” on climate change.
London’s Daily Mail made a list of the battling leaders’ attitude to issues. Turnbull, the Mail said, was a “firm believer in climate change” and a “vocal supporter of gay marriage”, while Abbott “once said ‘climate change is crap’ ” and would not allow a “free vote on same-sex marriage”. The two men’s thinking on the economy and international affairs came much further down the article.
That the Mail referred to Turnbull as a “firm believer” in climate change confirms the pseudo-religiosity swirling around that issue.
In recent years, belief in climate change and support for gay marriage have become chattering-class litmus tests. These are secular gospel truths you must embrace to gain entrance to polite society. Fail to embrace them and you’re a “denier” and a “homophobe”, to be cast out.
The judgment of Turnbull and Abbott via the green-gay gospel was repeated across the media, from CNN to The Sydney Morning Herald. CNN ran a piece headlined “Five things to know about Australia’s new PM”. No 1 was that he had challenged Abbott before. Guess what No 2 and No 3 were? Yep, “He’s strong on climate change” and “He supports same-sex marriage”.
The implicit message of this global obsession with how Turnbull differs from Abbott on those two issues is that he’s someone we can do business with; he has embraced modern, PC orthodoxies.
The mantra of “He supports same-sex marriage” — uttered everywhere — is the new way of saying: “He goes to church every Sunday.” It marks him out as “one of us”, unlike Abbott.
Pink News, Britain’s most widely read gay magazine, went so far as to celebrate the “toppling” of Australia’s “anti-gay marriage leader”. Well, if he doesn’t support gay marriage he doesn’t deserve to run a country, right? Hound the heretic.
Whatever the internal Liberal machinations that led to the ousting of Abbott, the public mythologisation of his removal is revealing and terrifying.
It speaks to the new intolerance, where anyone who refuses to buy into chattering-class orthodoxies can expect ridicule, and maybe even the termination of their careers.
And the small matter that two years ago the Coalition got five million votes with Abbott as their leader, and with his views on climate change and same-sex marriage known? Never mind that. What does democracy matter in comparison with doing what the media and political elites consider to be right?
And so have the parameters of public debate shrunk even further. It isn’t only Abbott who has been given his marching orders. Through this coup we’re all warned that if we hold views that the elite considers foul, or old-fashioned, we’ll be marked “unfit for public life”.

18 September, 2015

The Renewable Energy Dilemma

Renewable energy claims are unsustainable

Renewables also hurt the poor through higher prices

September 9, 2015 by Larry Bell

Whereas “renewable energy” conjures up visions of wind, solar, and tidal power, “clean” energy sources that will last forever to power the world into a “green,” sustainable future, it won’t happen without an Orwellian restructuring of the world’s social and economic fabric as envisioned by the UN’s Commission on Environment and Development more commonly known as the Bruntland Commission.
Chaired in the late 1980s by Gro Harlem Brundtland, a former prime minister of Norway, the commission set about to advance what appeared to be a noble and desirable cause.
Its foundational report, titled Our Common Future, stated: “Humanity has the ability to make development sustainable in order to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations.” So far, it seems pretty hard to argue with a goal like that.
Unfortunately, while it would be great if wind and solar power could accomplish this, their potential capacities and reliabilities just aren’t there.
As for tidal power, applications for utility scale power generation are both unproven and doubtful. Ditto for geothermal, which is another geographically and capacity-limited source.
In other words, none of these “renewables” offer anything remotely close to a sustainability panacea . . . either now or likely ever. Nuclear power, breeder reactors in particular, come much nearer to making a real difference, yet never seem to get the same credit.
As Roger Andrews observes in his August 26 Energy Matters: Environment and Policy blog, the Brundtland Commission went on to link sustainable development objectives to eradicating world poverty . . . again something that sounds really good. Its report stated: “Poverty is not only an evil in itself, but sustainable development requires meeting basic needs of all and extending to all the opportunity to fulfill their aspirations for a better life. A world in which poverty is endemic will always be prone to ecological and other catastrophes.”
Sure, let’s all agree that poverty is a truly tragic condition.
The big rub here is that eradicating poverty won’t be accomplished by depriving desperate world populations of access to affordable and reliable energy — those who now depend upon animal dung fuel for heating, cooking, and water purification — people who lack electricity essential for refrigeration to keep perishable food safe or provide periodic lighting.
And that’s exactly what is happening through international lending programs that emphasize costly and anemic “renewables” while denying vital funds needed to develop abundant local fossil fuel resources.
So the Bruntland Commission offered another condition. In order to raise underdeveloped countries out of poverty, “Sustainable global development requires that those who are more affluent adopt lifestyles within the planet’s ecological means — in their use of energy, for example.” In other words, the solution is for rich countries to send money and become subordinate to a U.N.-run world government which will ensure equal distribution of financial and natural resources.
Needless to say, that world government would also decide what common lifestyle levels and ecological means are acceptable.

Such decisions must include social engineering to control optimum population size. As Our Common Future admonishes: “Sustainable development can only be pursued if population size and growth are in harmony with the changing productive potential of the ecosystem.”

Hey, it’s merely a guess, but perhaps limiting access to affordable energy might be a very effective means to accomplish that desired population reduction.
If any of this sounds familiar, you might understand that the Brightland Commission’s sustainable development mantra provided the foundation for the UN’s Agenda 21 program, which calls for reorienting lifestyles away from consumption, encouraging citizens to pursue free time over wealth, resource-sharing through co-ownership, and global wealth redistribution — beginning with ours.
A 1993 UN report, titled Agenda 21: The Earth Summit Strategy to Save Our Planet, proposes “a profound reorientation of all human society, unlike anything the world has ever experienced — a major shift in the priorities of both governments and individuals and an unprecedented redeployment of human and financial resources.”
The report emphasizes that “this shift will demand a concern for the environmental consequences of every human action be integrated into individual and collective decision-making at every level.”
Last year President Obama’s Council on Sustainable Development was organized to develop recommendations for incorporating sustainability into the U.S. federal government. Predictably, grant programs issued through HUD, the EPA, and nearly every other alphabet agency will spread their Kool-Aid policies throughout the nation.
As Tom DeWeese forewarns in a “Reality News Media” blog, while such grants will be represented as voluntary, expect ongoing restrictions on energy use, development, building material, plumbing and electric codes, land use and water controls, public transportation, and light rail subsidies, and pressures for communities to impose politically correct and economically disastrous and socially unsustainable Agenda 21 development plans.
Welcome to life in the ant colony they have in mind.

07 September, 2015

Cheer Up: The True Mother Of Invention Is Optimism

Cheer Up: The True Mother Of Invention Is Optimism
The Sunday Times, 6 September 2015

Luke Johnson

Always remember that throughout history the pioneers have been exalted, while the doomsayers are forgotten.

IT IS easy to fall into a slump at this time of year. Returning to rain, darker evenings and the daily grind after a summer holiday in sunnier climes — there are plenty of excuses to feel gloomy. Such seasonal dips in mood are entirely forgivable. But in the long run, for both your health and wealth, research shows it pays to be an optimist. Positive thinkers live longer and enjoy higher incomes.

In general, despite the pessimism of the media, academics and socialists, things are getting better. Andrew Haldane of the Bank of England gave an excellent speech in February about growth. He discussed the challenges society faces — inequality, short-termism, poor infrastructure, high levels of debt, worsening demographics and so forth — but overall he argued that each generation has been about a third better off than its predecessor — and there are no fundamental reasons why this progression should not continue.

One of my favourite optimists is Matt Ridley, who has written a new book called The Evolution of Everything: How Ideas Emerge. He argues that the key ingredient for higher standards of living is innovation, and that this is a bottom-up phenomenon, an emergent property of human nature — and will therefore always be with us.

It covers some of the same territory as Mass Flourishing, by the Nobel prize winner Edmund Phelps. His book suggests that individuals matter much less than overall culture and social values. The subtitle of Phelps’s text is How Grassroots Innovation Created Jobs, Challenge and Change.

His thesis is that most industrial discoveries were not pioneered by a few isolated visionaries. Instead, progress has been driven by huge numbers of citizens empowered to create and sell thousands of incremental improvements — from craftsmen and farmers to traders and factory workers.

Similarly, Ridley argues: “The growth of technology, the sanitation-driven health revolution, the quadrupling of farm yields so that more land could be released for nature — these were largely emergent phenomena. So was the internet, the mobile phone revolution and the rise of Asia.”

In many other aspects of life, the world is improving. According to the Office for National Statistics, Britain’s violent crime rate is less than half what it was in the mid-1990s, while life expectancy in wealthier nations has risen by six years over the past 25.

Steven Pinker argues in The Better Angels of Our Nature that war and homicide have been in decline for thousands of years. The world is a much safer place.
Another new book to lift the spirits is Ronald Bailey’s The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the Twenty-First Century. He tackles overpopulation, GM food, peak oil, climate change and other apocalyptic visions. He claims that free enterprise and technology can solve mankind’s problems, just as they have in the past. He also attacks the “precautionary principle”, which distorts so much institutional behaviour and leads to fatuous overregulation and organisational timidity.

The forerunner of all these authors was Julian Simon, who wrote The Ultimate Resource in 1981, puncturing myths of scarcity and despair. It remains essential reading.

I have come to the conclusion that the worst almost never happens — the vast majority of dire predictions by negative commentators and supposed experts are simply nonsense.

Mankind developed a capacity to imagine terrible outcomes as an insurance policy so we could avoid threats and disasters. But being constantly in dread of fresh catastrophes is impractical and taints our judgment. Those who expect to be unhappy or ill or a failure are more likely to succumb to their anxieties.

Indeed, the neuroscientist Tali Sharot in her book The Optimism Bias: Why We’re Wired to Look on the Bright Side, shows how people taking irrational risks can benefit humanity as a whole.

Many entrepreneurs I know say they would never have embarked on the slog of building a business from scratch had they known at the beginning how difficult the journey would be. But thank God they did: that is how invention happens, how new machines and drugs come about, how material advances are made.

The world is full of opportunity, and its resources remain abundant. Improvements take place incrementally and rarely form headlines. By contrast, calamities capture our attention but they can also distort our perspective in harmful ways.

Some might say: “Aren’t you worried about the market collapse in China?” Or, indeed, whatever is this month’s big panic.

But the answer is not to dwell on matters over which you have no control, and instead focus on the limitless possibilities that lie ahead, seizing your personal chances as they arise.

Always remember that throughout history the pioneers have been exalted, while the doomsayers are forgotten.

Luke Johnson is chairman of Risk Capital Partners and the Centre for Entrepreneurs.