Chaos!; Farewell to Sturgeon; & ESG and East Palestine.
In his Editor’s Column this week, Michael Walsh wrote about the chaos which has become so familiar in our country that we hardly give it a second thought.
State of Fear
Consider the events just since the fall of 2020. An aged, senescent, longtime party hack and lifelong corruptocrat named Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., (look up how many Democrat presidents since Carter have been either "Junior" or "the II" or even "the III." Answer: all of them.) somehow won the presidency by drooling at his opponent while "election reform" did the rest.
At the behest of a World Health Organization corruptocrat/terrorist-adjacent operative named Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Biden immediately ramped up the induced panic over the Chinese bioweapon called Covid-19—typically Chinese in the ineptitude of its weaponization, but enough to frighten the children—and then unleashed yet another corruptocrat/homunculus named Anthony Fauci to oversee a reign of terror that effectively destroyed the private economies of the West along with the American Constitution. In fact, three years after the greatest hoax in human history first showed its ugly face, the Biden administration still won't lift its "state of emergency" until May 11: the death grip of an 80-year-old man who knows his time on this earth is shortening rapidly.
Continuing on the medical front, doctors and formerly respectable hospitals and universities have gone full Dr. Mengele on several issues, including their fascistic partnership with government and the mainstream media to continue to push an ineffective and dangerous "vaccine" to combat an illness with a survival rate of 99+%, even as evidence mounts of the tremendous damage the ill-conceived experimental gene therapy masquerading as a "cure" does to once-healthy people. Not to mention the recent study that showed that you'd have done just as well not to do anything all about Covid (a claim which would have gotten you banned from social media just a year ago), and let natural immunity takes its course.
In addition to that, of course, they're all in on the sexual mutilation of children as the movement that began with gay marriage has now morphed into "gender identity" and "gender-affirming care," spawned a host of new "pronouns" along with exotic piercings, drag-queen story hours in schools, and lectures about its needs on TikTok, itself demoralizing Chinese spyware from the cabinet of Dr. Caligari. All the social changes being rung by the Left at first went the collective name of "Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity"—fittingly, DIE. —until they figured out that some folks might get the right idea, and so an easy fix turned it into DEI.
And don't even get me started about another insane consensus: that the U.S. should do "whatever it takes" to preserve the reign of the midget dictator of the Ukraine, corruptocrat/Biden paymaster Vladimir Zelensky, so that he might continue to pressure America and other real countries into war with Russia. The spectacle of Robinette Junior cavorting in Kiev while the residents of East Palestine, Ohio, bear the brunt of a government decision to deliberately poison their air and water should get him impeached in the House tomorrow. Or, as National Propaganda Radio daintily put it: "Crews in Ohio successfully release toxic chemicals from derailed tankers."
Hey, wait a minute—I thought we were against that sort of air, ground, and water pollution! If we are "contributing to climate change" simply by exhaling, isn't this a little much? Shouldn't we just do as Greta does, and hold our breath until we turn blue? With time running out for the third rock from the sun, the oceans rising, the glaciers melting, and little children crying themselves to sleep at night over the certain prospect of their imminent demise, what else can we do but kill ourselves?
In short, we are in the middle of an engineered State of Fear, to use Michael Crichton's term as well as the title of his 2004 techno-thriller, which was the first major expose of the malignant charlatans behind the "climate change" movement. (It is of course purely coincidental that, almost alone among his thrillers, this book has never been made into a movie. The author died at the young age of 66 of cancer in 2008.)
Our Founding Editor, John O’Sullivan, bade farewell to Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s uber-leftist First Minister, who has left her country far worse off than she found it.
Too Woke for Her Own Good
The fall of Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister in the U.K.’s system of “devolved” government, after an unbroken succession of election victories since 2007, is a highly consequential one. It postpones the Scottish National Party’s (and her) driving purpose of independence for Scotland, maybe indefinitely. Yet at the same time it’s an oddly anti-climactic event too.
One moment Sturgeon was the dominant figure in Scottish politics, the noisy center of a storm of massive scandals, controversies, and looming battles; the next moment, hey presto, she had gone, retired because of "exhaustion," and the expected grand fireworks display of fizzing crises fizzled out without even a bang.
This sense of anti-climax is explained in part by the fact that under the leadership of Sturgeon and her patron and predecessor, Alex Salmond, who first took the S.N.P. into office as First Minister in 2007, Scottish politics has been a high-voltage, high-energy activity, a crusade to break up the U.K. and to restore the Scottish sovereignty lost at the start of the modern age.
Not only that, but Scottish nationalism differed from most other separatist movements in Europe by virtue of being very left-wing. That leftist profile protected the S.N.P. from the usual slurs and suspicions (racism, etc.) directed at other nationalisms, made it attractive to “liberal” opinion in the metropolitan media in London, and helped it to replace the Scottish Labour Party as the main opponent of Tory governments at Westminster.
Salmond and Sturgeon, both energetic campaigners, formed a political partnership that, eight years after the Scottish Parliament was born, enabled their party to enter a series of minority, majority, and coalition governments lasting from 2007 to the present day.
That partisan identity smoothed over several problems that otherwise might have crippled the S.N.P. As a nationalist party, it naturally wanted to break away from the control of the Westminster parliament; as a left-wing party, however, it also wanted to remain in the anti-nationalist European Union. That led directly to another difficulty: the E.U. was intent on centralizing power in the Brussels institutions while the Westminster Parliament was willing to cede powers to the Scottish Parliament. Going from Westminster to Brussels would have been jumping from the frying pan into the fire. It’s hard to see how an independent Scotland within the E.U. would have easily accepted the gradual loss of its bright new sovereignty to the creeping ambitions of Brussels—see Hungary and Poland passim.
Even while Britain was in the E.U., the financial and economic risks for Scotland of leaving the U.K. were formidable. They couldn't be explained away, and largely account for why the S.N.P. lost the 2014 referendum on independence by 55 to 45 percent. But when the entire U.K. voted to leave the E.U. only a year later, the S.N.P.’s problems became even more severe. Scotland was now outside the E.U.—against its will, argued the Scot-Nats, because most Scots had voted Remain, but outside nonetheless. Moreover, the E.U. was not prepared to let Scotland remain (or re-enter) when the U.K. left because other E.U. member-states like Spain had separatist provinces they wished to discourage by making Scotland an example of the folly of separatism. An independent Scotland would be out in the cold, without the protection of any financial sugar-daddy, let alone one as indulgent as London.
Sturgeon at this point might have decided to postpone her ambitions for an independent Scotland, concentrate on establishing a record of successful government for her party, seek to widen the areas of independent Scottish authority within the devolution settlement, and wait for better days. Instead, she decided on two other very different political strategies. First, she would maneuver to hold a second referendum on independence as soon as possible even if she had to do so unconstitutionally, maybe illegally, and against the sovereign authority of the U.K. Parliament. Second, she would widen the differences between the political cultures of Scotland and the rest of the U.K., above all the political culture of England (which in Scottish mythology is irredeemably Tory).
Clarice Feldman contributed a piece on the SEC’s recent obsession with policing the environmental commitments of major corporations, to the detriment of their ability to perform their actual assigned tasks.
The Gensler SEC Two-Step
You may wonder with the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) having failed to catch the most obvious and significant fraudsters—Madoff and, allegedly, FTX—how well it is performing the duties for which it was created. If you harbor any such concerns, its proposal last year –with over 100 footnotes—to require disclosure of "climate change" effects on companies’ business operations will not diminish the perception that it has gone off the rails.
The commission is currently reported to be backstroking away from this misbegotten idea. But should scrap the notion entirely as unworkable and get back to its main job for which it was created: protecting investors and the economy from fraud and manipulation of the sort that led to the Great Depression. Some background:
All publicly listed U.S. companies must file financial disclosure statements with the SEC. The purpose of an SEC disclosure statement is to provide useful information for investors about the profitability of their investments. Normally, companies are required to disclose things like debt and litigation vulnerabilities, expenses, liquidity and capital resources. Filings are reviewed by a branch of the agency, the Division of Corporate Finance:
In its filing reviews, the Division concentrates its resources on critical disclosures that appear to conflict with Commission rules or applicable accounting standards and on disclosure that appears to be materially deficient in explanation or clarity. The Division does not evaluate the merits of any transaction or determine whether an investment is appropriate for any investor. The Division’s review process is not a guarantee that the disclosure is complete and accurate — responsibility for complete and accurate disclosure lies with the company and others involved in the preparation of a company’s filings.
While the SEC lacks the power to criminally deal with false disclosure statements there are penalties for inaccurate disclosures. Among them is the power to impose substantial fines for such conduct, the penalties assessed depend on whether the misstatements were the result of negligence, fraud or failure to exercise due diligence in the issuance. It does have the power to investigate and refer cases of suspected false disclosure filings to the Department of Justice for prosecution.
SEC chairman Gary Gensler made climate-change rules a priority. Perhaps the SEC was just trying to increase jobs for professionals as it did when the government required environmental impact statements: such nonsense would also spawn a new industry of navel gazers. Unlike the rest of the normal disclosure reports, under the proposed regulations, that portion of the disclosure statement relating to the impact of climate change need not be attested to by certified accountants. Ergo, a new market for feather merchants. (And probably for law firms who will claim client losses because of inadequate disclosures.)
Joan Sammon wrote about BlackRock’s not-exactly-unexpected financial struggles, which has followed its conscious decision to become one of the faces of ESG and Woke Capital.
BlackRock: Asset Manager or Political Operative?
Last month BlackRock announced plans to lay off 500 workers as the asset management giant and environmental, social and governance (ESG) acolyte contends with unprecedented 2022 losses. The losses are the worst in nominal terms for a 60/40 portfolio since the financial crisis of 2008-9 and the worst in real terms in a calendar year since the Great Depression in late 1929. According to the firm’s most recent earnings report, the company’s assets under management declined from $9.5 trillion in the third quarter of 2021 to $8.0 trillion in the third quarter of 2022 and delivered more than a twelve percent drop in net income.
But what precipitated such losses? Could it be old fashioned market volatility? Or was it the result of flawed strategic analysis, poor policy, or as BlackRock asserts, a problem intrinsic to its portfolio structure (60/40) that they now insist is outdated? Many in the industry, including icons like Goldman Sachs reject the assertion and acknowledge that at some point, every strategy bumps up against non-ideal market conditions through which firms must necessarily navigate.
Industry experts are breaking on both sides of the portfolio-structure argument, teeing up great debates in the months ahead. In the meantime, however, there is a compelling bit of information already known about what underpinned at least some of BlackRock’s historic losses. Rather than an outdated portfolio structure, perhaps a simple rejection of BlackRock’s evangelical approach to ESG contributed to the abysmal outcome in 2022.
Feldman also looked into the woke corporations who have some culpability for the East Palestine train derailment and attendant environmental disaster.
ESG investors and the East Palestine Disaster
The derailed train in East Palestine, Ohio, has created significant environmental hazards, not only to the residents of that town but also to countless other communities along the Ohio River. The derailment led to an enormous chemical fire, with hundred-foot flames and a plume of black smoke exposing local communities to a variety of chemicals, including the carcinogen vinyl chloride and phosgene, the latter of which was used as a chemical weapon in World War I.
These highly toxic chemicals were spread into the air, water, and ground, and are threatening public health and displacing residents. The Ohio River is a source of drinking water for multiple states, and the E.P.A. is concerned that it has been seriously compromised. It is estimated that some 3,500 fish have been killed by the pollution thus far. Meanwhile, residents of East Palestine who have been assured that it is safe for them to return home have been complaining of nausea and severe headaches.
So it is a supreme irony that substantial shareholders in the railway involved, Norfolk Southern, include two of the biggest promoters of ESG investing: BlackRock and Vanguard.
Steven Hayward examined the Left’s recent foray into urban planning:
The '15-Minute City' Is a Thing Devoutly to Be Unwished
For decades liberals assailed “white flight” when the middle class fled Detroit and other central cities in large numbers. More recently, liberals turned on a dime and assailed “gentrification” when professional class younger whites moved back to central cities and displaced minority residents and transformed entire neighborhoods. This trend abruptly stopped with Covid and the recent spike in crime in urban areas.
The obliviousness about the reasons why people choose to leave—or return to—urban cores brings us back to the “the 15-minute city.” The concept is simple: cities should be designed and built such that every urban dweller can meet all or nearly all of his or her basic needs within a 15-minute radius on foot. The idea for the 15-minute city is said to have originated less than a decade ago, but the ideal of “walkable” cities has been around for decades. Twenty years ago it went by “the new urbanism.” Ten years before that it was called “smart growth.” Probably the equivalent idea was expressed when the pyramids—the skyscrapers of antiquity—were built in Egypt and Guatemala. All that's new is the label.
When each successive label is scrapped off one finds not a thoughtful appreciation of form and function in urban design, or even a nostalgia for small-town America of a bygone era. Before long you discover a hatred of the automobile, a fixation for mass transit, and disdain for middle class life and especially the large-scale enterprises (think WalMart or Costco) that have improved the material lives of the middle class. The fetish for expanding mass transit, even as ridership on current systems continues to fall everywhere, and removing lanes on existing roadways to make way for barely-used bike lanes while making car traffic worse, are examples of this coercive utopianism at work.
All of these urban visions, under whatever label, invariably involve one thing above all other: more money and power for centralized planners to impose their vision on everyone. It should not surprise us that the enthusiasts for the idea are the very same people who think we should eat bugs, abolish private property, and submit to endless mandatory Covid shots, all to reduce our "carbon footprint."
Tom Finnerty blogged about the Justin Trudeau’s disastrous “Just Transition” plan.
Trudeau's 'Just Transition' is All Hot Air
Thanks for reading, and keep a look out for upcoming pieces by Tom Finnerty, David Cavena, and Clarice Feldman. All this and more this week at The Pipeline!
Great read! Thanks!