No such thing as a carbon-free ride

Never in the history of human folly has so much been squandered by so many on so little evidence.

Volcanoes produce CO2. Can we please ban them?

One day Churchill’s famous oratory will be thus bowdlerised to describe our obsession with reducing anthropogenic carbon emissions. Meanwhile, this insane ideology is gathering momentum.

That’s what ideologies do: they are like snowballs rolling down a hill slope into an abyss. As they go, they gather speed and bulk – until they hit the bottom and disintegrate. But while still in motion, they could add up to a deadly avalanche.

Like any other ideology, this one is sustained by mendacious propaganda. For example, one of the current Volvo ads pontificates on climate change, claiming that the Earth has been cool until now.

There exists a code of practice that doesn’t let advertisers lie about their products. Evidently, lying about anything else is fine. In this case, the Earth has been warmer than it is now during about 85 per cent of its existence – but never mind the hard facts, it’s the woke feeling that counts.

Car manufacturers are committed to replacing all their IC cars with electric vehicles. The impression conveyed is that, when everyone drives a Go-Kart, mankind will breathe clean air free of carbon dioxide.

Now we can sleep peacefully at night, rather than being pursued by the nightmares of either burning alive or suffocating, whichever comes first. In fact, 42 per cent of Britons list climate change as their main concern. Say what you will about propaganda, but one thing is for sure: it works.

True enough, transportation produces some 28 per cent of all anthropogenic carbon emissions. Aren’t you glad that in a decade or two cars will no longer be spewing out the stuff?

If you are, consider a few more numbers. Carbon dioxide makes up only 0.04 per cent of the atmosphere. Of that minuscule proportion, 95 per cent comes from natural sources that have nothing to do with human activity. Thus anthropogenic CO2 accounts for 0.0016 per cent of the air we breathe. Puts that 28 per cent in perspective, doesn’t it?

But forget the perspective. Let’s agree with the ecofanatics that reducing 0.0016 per cent by a quarter is a worthy goal. However, we won’t reach it even if we drive every IC vehicle off the road.

Electric cars are powered by batteries, and their production requires lithium, cobalt and manganese. Alas, the mining and refining of those metals releases an awful lot of CO2.

How much is an awful lot? According to a new study, producing a single Tesla battery will emit between 23,000 and 32,000 pounds of extra carbon. Multiply that by the total number of cars in Britain, currently standing at 40 million, and… well, I can’t count that high.

An ecofanatic will argue that this will still produce a net reduction compared to IC cars. Perhaps. But when buying a car, are you prepared to pay an extra £10-20 thousand for a possible marginal reduction in the 28 per cent of 0.0016 per cent?

Add to this the cost, both financial and environmental, of producing the extra electricity required to charge tens of millions of batteries, and we are beginning to bite into those tiny percentages even more. But no expense is too high for the fanatics to claim moral ascendancy.

However, on closer examination their moral ground appears quite a bit lower. For, in addition to producing harmless CO2, the mining of battery minerals causes real environmental damage, not to mention the harm to the miners’ health.

When we consider where these metals are produced, the ecofanatics’ smugness begins to look not only factually unfounded, but also morally defunct. Most of the world’s cobalt is produced in the Congo, South America delivers most of the lithium, and between them South Africa and China account for about half of all manganese.

Therefore most miners are… how shall I put it without risking censure?… not exactly white (it’s not South American or South African whites who go down the mines). How does this tally with the woke commitment to pan-planetary racial equality?

I detect a clash of pieties there, which is always nice to observe. The European and North American ecofanatics, who are predominantly left-wing, don’t mind cobalt and lithium miners getting cancers produced by radioactive particles. As long as their own virtue is properly signalled, they feel self-satisfied.

Everyone can see exhausts coming out of tailpipes, but those dying miners are safely tucked away out of sight in faraway lands. This trompe l’oeil creates the illusion of a carbon-free ride, which I for one find repugnant. Don’t you?

Leslie-Ann Down argues against democracy

When she was young, Miss Down was gorgeous but, by her own admission, stupid. Now, at 66, she’s just gorgeous.

Back then Miss Down put impure thoughts into the minds of many young men (me included). Now she comes up with pure thoughts of her own.

One of those she vented when asked about her role as Margaret Thatcher in the film Reagan. The interviewer was probably expecting a heart-wrenching admission of a tragic inner conflict involved in trying to get under the skin of a known monster.

True enough, Miss Down admitted she disliked Mrs Thatcher in the 1980s. But then she disappointed the interviewer by stressing the past tense of that admission: “I was a stupid Leftie with my vapid brain twisted by ridiculousness which affects so many young people even today… But in retrospect, I think the woman was wonderful and a genius.”

What’s the matter with her? Doesn’t she know that a conservative can be neither wonderful nor a genius – nor indeed a woman?

Leftie feminists refuse to acknowledge that Margaret Thatcher’s success struck a blow for womankind. American conservatives Phyllis Schlafly and Jeane Kirkpatrick suffered the same fate: they lacked the political dimension of womanhood, and it’s really the most important one. Sex, like race, has become a political statement, not a biological fact.

I’m happy to welcome Miss Down into the conservative fold, which isn’t blessed with a surfeit of film stars. Yet I don’t wish to besmirch her reputation by ascribing to her my own misgiving about our unchecked democracy run riot.

She said nothing amounting to an explicit argument against democracy. However, what she did say can be logically extrapolated into that area. Allow me to repeat: “I was a stupid Leftie with my vapid brain twisted by ridiculousness which affects so many young people even today.”

Replace ‘even’ with ‘especially’, and one can see that Miss Down described not just her own youthful failings, but a prevalent condition. For her evolution up from Leftie stupidity was rooted in the physiology of the human brain.

In my rather long life I’ve met only two people who started out as conservatives and then evolved leftwards over a lifetime – and hundreds whose evolution had the opposite vector.

This stands to reason on any number of levels. Physiologically, we become smarter as we grow older. It takes 20-odd years for an average brain to wire all the synapses properly and to start functioning at a reasonable level – and then perhaps as long again to acquire wisdom.

The thought process of the young isn’t so much cerebral as gonadic, and the gonads are better at producing emotions and appetites than reason. Hence the young are more susceptible to propaganda, which is a predominantly left-wing pastime reliant on easily digestible slogans.

Conservatism doesn’t lend itself to sloganeering. For example, when a Leftie says we must take from the rich and give to the poor, I can’t think of a spiffy phrase to counter that slogan. I could think of a longish sequential argument, but young people seldom stay still long enough to listen, and now less than ever.

Their brains seek not reason but stimuli, of the kind that can activate hormonal outpourings. When the gonadic output slows down with age, reason moves in to claim an ever-increasing role. This tends to coincide with the person acquiring experience, responsibilities, social status and a greater stake in society.

Thus the notion of redistributive justice  may begin to look more subversive than just. Wisdom sets in, and a conservative outlook may follow.

No political democracy can produce social virtue unless the electorate votes in a responsible, informed and thoughtful fashion. Since people under, say, 25 can’t do so, they shouldn’t vote, it’s as simple as that.

I am generalising here. We’ve all met intelligent youngsters amply qualified to pass judgement on governance. But democracy of universal suffrage is a game of large numbers and statistics. That, for example, Trump won eight per cent of the black vote in 2020 doesn’t invalidate the generality that blacks vote Democrat.

Extrapolating from the extrapolation, we can now acknowledge that it’s not all about age. Adulthood is a necessary but not sufficient condition for responsible voting.

Also critical is education. Youngsters must be taught the basic concepts of political science, economics, philosophy, morality, history and contemporary geopolitical realities to give them a proper grounding for future adulthood – and voting.

That democracy is dysfunctional in the absence of proper education was clear to both Plato and Aristotle at the time when democracy was inchoate. Yet one doesn’t have to possess their genius to figure this out.

None of us would consider getting into a car driven by someone who doesn’t know how to drive. Yet most of us see nothing wrong in having our lives affected by incompetent ignoramuses who unerringly elevate to government those made in their own image.

An electorate dominated by cannibals won’t vote in anyone who considers cannibalism morally repugnant. Similarly, an electorate of ignorant, immature, irresponsible voters will easily fall prey to unprincipled demagogues with loud voices but modest intellectual abilities.

Our voting age is 18, and the Lefties understandably wish to get it down even lower. They know that the younger the voting age, the better their electoral chances – as Miss Downs explained, perhaps unwittingly.

We today are fetishistically obsessed with method of government, rather than its essence. Most of us won’t agree that truth will emerge out of a head count. Yet we worship at the altar of indiscriminate, unchecked democracy as the best possible way of governing a country.

We happily accept statutory competence requirements for such simple activities as plumbing, driving or shooting, but throw up our hands in horror whenever someone suggests that only competent people should take part in the infinitely more complex business of government.

Yet our only requirements for voting are citizenship and the risibly low age of 18. Anyone advocating greater limits on suffrage, those of age, mental competence, education, property ownership or whatnot, is seen as an enemy in need of re-education.

All I can say is, chaps, listen to Leslie-Ann Down and draw the logical conclusions. The lady is talking sense.

A week is a long time in protests

It’s good to see that Russians remain quick learners. One can see that, compared to a week ago, both sides have honed their skills.

Oh to be young again

Yesterday’s protesters showed even better coordination, using social media to great effect. They have also learned to stay on the move, rapidly shifting the action from one part of town to another.

When attacked by the police and the National Guard, they resisted even more strongly than a week ago. This time they didn’t just rely on bare fists – there were instances of paint being thrown in the cops’ visors. That shows both courage and planning.

Also, the old Scythian tactics of hit and run saw the light of day. Faced with an overwhelming force, the protesters would quickly disperse, hiding in doorways and courtyards – only to come back when the cops moved on.

Still, Putin’s stormtroopers have much better resources and they weren’t bashful about using them. Both tear gas and tasers came into play, with some protesters tasered multiple times. If a week ago it was mostly cops who saw action, this time they were reinforced by the National Guard, a military force created strictly for internal use.

This may explain a much greater number of both arrests (5,000 compared to 4,000 a week ago) and injuries inflicted on the protesters. This time around 82 reporters also got arrested for reporting, which activity is becoming ever more dangerous in Russia. Some detainees were beaten up after being arrested.

In another interesting development, cops in Petersburg and elsewhere were brandishing firearms. This bodes well for the future: following Chekhov’s dictum, if a gun appears in Act 1, it must fire in Act 3. It’s possible, nay likely, that the next act will see the stormtroopers opening up not with tear gas and tasers but with live rounds.

Russian history shows that, when an army stains its uniforms with the blood of its own people, the regime totters. Whether or when it falls depends on a confluence of factors. Here we must learn from the best, and, while history knows many theoreticians of revolutions, one mechanic stands above the rest: Vladimir Lenin.

In my classification, Vlad Putin’s namesake narrowly beats Stalin, Hitler and Mao to the title of the most diabolical monster of modernity. But credit where it’s due: Lenin knew how to foment havoc.

As a precondition for a successful power-grab, he identified what he called “a revolutionary situation”, when the rulers no longer can, and the ruled no longer will, live the old way. A successful subversive must work tirelessly to create a revolutionary situation, spot its arrival unerringly and then act decisively.

To that end, Lenin eschewed all attempts to create a large revolutionary party uniting all and sundry in a common cause. In his 1902 book What Is to Be Done, he opted instead for a small cadre of “professional revolutionaries” coalescing around a strong leader.

I can’t predict how things will develop in Russia, nor whether, how and in what direction the protests will escalate. However, applying Lenin’s lessons to current events, I’m not sure the preconditions for an impending regime change are in evidence.

The first sign of a “revolutionary situation”, the rulers no longer able to rule the old way, isn’t immediately discernible. Putin remains in control of the siloviki (muscle men): the army, police and internal troops. All successful revolts in Russia have involved large swathes of siloviki switching sides, which so far hasn’t happened.

I don’t know if Putin continues to enjoy the loyalty of his political power base, the coterie of KGB/FSB types (about 85 per cent of the ruling elite) fused with the godfathers of organised crime. If he doesn’t, they may use the protests to depose him, but that would mean replacing Putin Mark I with Putin Mark II – a distinction without a difference.

The second requirement stipulated by the currently mummified expert was the people’s refusal to live the old way. That too lacks any compelling evidence.

So far the protests have featured somewhere between 150,000 to 250,000 participants, most of them under 35. How many have fundamental problems with the government and how many simply come out for the ride remains to be seen.

Young people’s gonads produce an inordinate amount of bubbling hormones demanding an outlet for pent-up energy. By confining so many youngsters to quarters, the Covid pandemic has reduced their options, making a chance to grapple with the cops while screaming bien pensant slogans seem like a welcome diversion.

This is a factor, though I don’t know how significant. Perhaps more important is the huge economic downturn caused by the pandemic. This isn’t unique to Russia, but there the slide started from a lower plateau than in the West.

The Russian economy lives in a permanent twilight, sporadically punctuated by false dawns caused by spikes in oil prices. Since young people can’t see a reasonable future for themselves in Russia, many of them seek it elsewhere.

Over two million of them have left since Putin’s ascent to power in 2000. Moreover, some 20 per cent of all Russians, and a higher percentage of young ones, say they’d like to leave.

However, the remaining 80 per cent still haven’t abandoned hope, and their discontent could perhaps be channelled into the conduit of a “revolutionary situation”. This brings me to Lenin’s third sine qua non: the existence of a disciplined, dedicated core of “professional revolutionaries” led by a charismatic, skilful and ruthless figure.

Now, if the existence of the other preconditions is open to debate, this one isn’t: neither such a cadre nor such a leader exists. At the moment, Navalny provides the focal point of mass opposition, but – and I may live to regret making hasty predictions – a Lenin he isn’t.

His quiver of anti-Putin weapons holds one arrow only: a drive against corruption. Now, as any reader of Gogol, Chekhov or Saltykov-Shchedrin will confirm, the Russians regard thieving officials not as a correctable outrage, but as a permanent, if undesirable feature: a bit like a blizzard or a hurricane. The tsars also showed remarkable equanimity in that respect.

Under Catherine II, government officials in the provinces were often unsalaried: it was assumed they could live off the fat of the land, a bit like the Mongol invaders of old.

Alexander I and Nicholas I extended that principle to the army, anticipating by a century Brecht’s line: “You only have to feed a soldier without a gun. A soldier with a gun will feed himself.”

The two brothers created so-called military settlements, where soldiers combined service with small-scale agriculture and large-scale looting. Effectively, the Russian army was an army of occupation in its own land. “I don’t think even the Mongols behaved worse,” wrote the great historian Vasily Klyuchevsky.

This fine tradition has largely immunised the broad Russian masses to government corruption. In any case, thieving officials are symptoms, not the disease – and certainly not the aetiology of the disease.

A revolution, as opposed to a series of jacqueries, requires an opposition that can first whip up systemic, rather than merely symptomatic, resentment and then use it as an irresistible battering ram. I can discern no signs of such a group in Russia.

The so-called liberal opposition is frankly pathetic. Far from being capable of leading a successful revolt, the liberals don’t even understand the roots of Western polity, the saplings of which they wish to transplant into their native soil.

All they can do is mouth wokish slogans borrowed uncritically from what they call THE WEST, meaning publications like The Guardian, Le Monde and The New York Times. They don’t realise that these represent only one strain of Western opinion, and it took some six centuries for such ideas to germinate to the detriment of Western society.

History shows exactly what happens in Russia when Western ideas are forced down the people’s throats. The first liberal republic lasted some eight months in 1917. The second, about as many years in the ‘90s.

The first one proved impotent to keep Lenin’s gang from plunging the country into decades of blood-stained despotism. The second one quickly converted freedom into anarchy, free enterprise into organised crime and democracy into a kleptofascist dictatorship.

Yet, as Paul Valéry remarked, “history teaches precisely nothing”. Russian liberals are still guided by The Guardian ideals and by their own apophatic self-identification from the negative: they are a resounding ‘no’ to every ‘yes’ of Putin. If Vlad said tomorrow that Bach was a genius (admittedly a slim chance), they’d start screaming “Down with Bach!”

To sum up, I doubt that, if Lenin’s mummy came alive, it would diagnose a revolutionary situation. At best, it might express a slight worry.

Hence, even if Putin may be on the way out, I suspect Putinism isn’t. But this is one instance where I’d be ecstatic to be proved wrong.