Coronavirus days: SCOTUS

PXL_20201112_103007048 What with Trump giving up, things were in danger of becoming dull, but happily the SCOTUS has come along to liven up our lives, by upholding the constitution1, in particular the "free exercise" clause of the first amendment. Which I think is beautifully crafted, so I'll quote the whole thing: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Bold for the FE clause, obvs, is not in the original.

You might thing that the "Congress" in that limits the clause to the Feds, but this is not so, by the incorporation doctrine; for "Congress", read "any layer of govt". 

People make the most basic of errors in reporting on this2. The NYT, which really should know better, asserts that "In an unsigned opinion, the majority said Mr. Cuomo’s restrictions violated the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion". But that's not true. Instead, it has said that the applicants "have shown that their First Amendment claims are likely to prevail". This is, after all, but an injunction, not a judgement. It merely prevents NY from "enforcing Executive Order 202.68’s 10- and 25-person occupancy limits on applicant pending disposition of the appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and disposition of the petition for a writ of certiorari, if such writ is timely sought". This is the court doing the bare minimum it can, whilst having regard to the constitution; and reserving the right to change it's mind later. Doubtless they hope that the lower courts will decide, and it won't come back to them, now they've fired this warning shot.

The facts of the case are generally agreed, except for how restricted the religious were, in comparison to comparable secular institutions. Here the concept of "essential" businesses comes in, and NY (and the dissents) rely rather heavily on the literal use of the word essential. If this word could be clearly used and had a clear meaning that might work; but it can't and it doesn't: businesses are things that sell things or services, and one persons essential is another's frippery; as Gorsuch notes, "acupuncturists, and liquor stores" are on the essential list. The religious also note, and I don't see NY denying, that large stores had no attendance limits imposed on them. The imposed limits made no concessions to the size of the building, and this seems like a simple error on NY's part, as the ruling makes clear: "Among other things, the maximum attendance at a religious service could be tied to the size of the church or synagogue". If NY offers any explanation for why it refuses to do this, I missed it. And I really really hate it when da govt behaves unreasonably and refuses to explain itself.

Although the case turns on FE, I'd also take more seriously "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion"; ideally laws should simply not mention religion; they should be written in a general way ("any building may only have x people per y square meters of floor area...").

The dissent leans on the religious being treated no more harshly than, say, lecture theatres or cinemas. And there's a question there: do you compare the treatment of the religious to those you're treating most harshly, or those you're treating least harshly, or those you think are most comparable, in some sense. G deals with this by asserting that if you create a "favoured" class - the so-called essential - then you must compare the religious to that. This is, incidentally, admitting that the FE clause isn't absolute; that the state may override it if essential; and that deference is due to the executive; but this is nothing new.

Roberts says that the case is moot - as it technically is at this point - because the religious are not currently afflicted by the zones; and therefore would deny relief, whilst admitting that if things change, they could come back. That seems like a combination of an attempt to keep the peace of his polarised court, and a laudable attempt to avoiding ruling where no ruling is needed. Although "keeping lawyers out of USAnian life" is a ship that has sailed.

Overall, I think this represents the court giving a rap over the knuckles to arbitrary govt, and I approve of that. If your response is "but this will lead to super-spreading" then you've failed to notice that all agree that it is currently moot.

Other people's opinions

Brian: I'm shocked at how conservative judges have manipulated the law but shouldn't be. Power to quarantine is a fundamental power of govt dating centuries. Right not to be quarantined is an unenumerated right wholly invented by conservatives, in the last year. My reply: That seems mad. You may not like the decision but it could be reasonably argued either way.

So, the main point: Brian errs, I am certain, by regarding the judgement as outside the bounds of reason. I happen to think it was right, but had it gone the other way, it would have been merely a different and not unreasonable interpretation. Secondary: Brian is here trying to win the argument by "stealing" words. There is no "Right not to be quarantined" and no-one has suggested there is any such right; instead, there is a right to liberty and freedom from unreasonable govt interference, and the quarantine is just an aspect of that. "Power to quarantine" is somewhat dubious; this rests less on anything explicit and mostly on people-have-done-that-before; like, for example, interning Japanese-ancestry folk during WWI.

Cuomo speaks

There's been a fair amount of complaints in the UK about the govt not showing proper respect for court judgements, and I think complaints about Trump, too; so what about Cuomo. I think he fails: the NYT quotes him saying "You have a different court, and I think that was the statement that the court was making... We know who [Trump] appointed to the court. We know their ideology".


1. Yes yes I know, I'm being provocative, this is the broad-brush intro, read on for the details.

2. A hostage to fortune if there ever was one. Go on, do your worst.



* The Pivotal Justice in the Supreme Court Decision? by  Pierre Lemieux. The "The" point is one I thought about then decided to ignore, as uninteresting. But the last para is worth copying: An observation of a different sort is that all three Justices nominated by outgoing president Donald Trump voted to defend freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment, which is a good point in his favor—although he himself, to say the least, did not demonstrate strong preferences for the free-speech protections in the same amendment. The Supreme Court decision also suggests that conservative judges are often more likely to protect individual liberties than “liberal” ones, even if caveats are in order, including regarding Justice Roberts in this case. We are told that Trump consulted the Federalist Society on judicial nominations instead of relying on his empty and dangerous intuitions. One wishes he had done the same on trade and other economic matters.

Hire people who give a shit


Coronavirus days: does science help?

covid-again I can't answer that, but the Economist has a recent article Are governments following the science on covid-19? Which has a chart of how much a country's scientists think that policymakers have followed scientific advice. Scraping the numbers for the "agree or strongly agree" line (using "disagree or strongly disagree" produces much the same), I can compare that to deaths-per-million. The Economist itself doesn't attempt any quantification, contenting itself with The countries hit hardest by the pandemic have been those where policymakers have strayed furthest from scientific recommendations. In Brazil, for example, most researchers believe expert advice has been disregarded. In America, which appears at the bottom of the Frontiers ranking, Donald Trump has dismissed his public-health advisers as “idiots”, mocked face masks and suggested that the disease might be treated with injections of disinfectant.

So there is a relationship, and it even goes in the right direction: more scienceyness gets you fewer deaths. But the scatter is large and the relationship looks weak (I threw in an Excel regression line).


* Speaking of science, the Graun's relentless negativity is notable: "For all its bluster, the UK will continue to be a customer of others’ innovations, not an inventor of its own". What, we're going to invent and innovate nothing? FFS. Of course we're not got to invent everything whatever our idiot gov says, but going to the opposite extreme is cretinous.

Climate change doesn’t work like that?

IMG_20201104_223215_500 ATTP, in Climate change doesn’t work like that, makes the conventional "the streets will be yards deep in horse shit" mistake: "On our current trajectory1, atmospheric CO2 will remain above 400ppm for thousands of years, and won’t return to pre-industrial levels for 100s of thousands of years". 

Of course, this is only true if nature takes it's course, which (assuming our industrial civilisation survives the next 100 years, which in itself seems very likely) is very unlikely. If we get that far, pulling CO2 out of the air is very likely to be possible in 100 years, and almost undoubtedly possible in 1000 years; so speculations as to CO2 levels thousands of years into the future that ignore human influence are pointless.


1. Of course he doesn't mean "current trajectory"; if we follow that, CO2 will continue increasing from our emissions; he means, "even if we stop emitting in ~2050 and then allow levels to naturally decline" I think.


The dim and distant history of Global Warming on Wiki: the GW wars

50540415507_74b10d7c15_o After the intro, the next step really ought to be the development from there. But, perhaps the wars of ~2010 are of more interest; they are for at least one other person, hence this post; and they also seem to be of more interest to me, in that I can be bothered to write about them a bit. From my viewpoint, of course; if you're expecting self-criticism, look elsewhere. There is very little to say that is new; but the material is getting hard to find.

If you look at my talk page, you'll find the case of 2010, Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case/Climate change, which ran June to October. If you're wondering what I thought about it, you can read my talk page, trawl through my responses at the case, or read what I wrote at the time, They make a wasteland and call it peace; having just re-read that, I haven't changed my mind.

Preceeding, and somewhat overlapping with that, was Wikipedia:General sanctions/Climate change probation/RFC. This was a sort-of attempt to handle the problem within the community, rather than via Arbcomm. It didn't work - we ended up with an Arbcomm case - for a variety of reasons, mostly the entrenched disagreements, but also because of Admin fuckwittery. It is perhaps unfair to single out anyone in particular since the problem was widespread; The Wordsmith and I think Lar spring to mind; but it was a long time ago and I'm afraid I haven't kept the burning flame of animosity as bright as I might have hoped.

Not directly relevant to GW, but affecting my wiki-reputation and so indirectly relevant, was 2009's Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case/Cold fusion 2, which is the one that got me de-sysopped. I wrote something about that in Up before the beak again; that, too, demonstrated Arbcomm's stupidity, in failing to realise that Abd was a useless twat. Preceeding that was another case, which is hard to interpret unless you know that Giano has a lot of influential friends.

Before that, so long ago that I found it hard to find, was Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Climate change dispute. That was a much smaller issue mostly caused by two denialists; it featured the Great Edit War over the Greenhouse Effect article. That case was also poorly handled, though it improved in Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Climate change dispute 2 when the revert parole on me was declared a mistake and removed; thnx Stephan. See-also Connolley has done such amazing work...

Returning back to 2010 post Arbcomm, what was the result? Apart from the regrettable scorched-earth stuff, it was a Victory for Science, in that the articles remained sane. There's a long-standing question of why the denialists and nutters fared so badly; not really understanding the science didn't help them, of course; but the exact mechanism or process by which this works out is obscure.


Wikipedia as soap opera - 2005

No-one understands wiki, part n+1

A child’s garden of wikipedia, part II

Wikipedia: the dim and distant history of NPOV


Me on USAnian politics

PXL_20201026_101945221 Well, there's an election coming up - you may have noticed - so it is Time to Opine, thereby fixing my words in stone for posterity to hold against me. Just like last time the presidential choice is unappealling. Trump is, obviously, horrible: personally, and in many but not all policies. By contrast Biden is a nice enough std.pol, or at least projects that as an image, but it is hard to get enthused over his policies. Given his opponent I hope he wins; and given a choice I'd hold my nose and vote for him2; and in the remainder I'll assume he wins, as that seems quite likely3.

Perhaps a place to start is The Economist's The pragmatist: Joe Biden would not remake America’s economy: He would improve its fortunes, though. It isn't anything very complimentary, mostly a discussion of a list of special cases, because Biden - as far as I can tell - doesn't have much in the way of principlesthat you could derive general policies from, and so would govern by a series of ad-hoc decisions. Not as badly as Trump, though, since Trump often seems to be either genuinely malicious or shamelessly self-centered. A quote: having rejected its signature policies and outmanoeuvred its star figures, Mr Biden might try to placate the left of his party by giving it lots of jobs in the regulatory apparatus where they would emit a cacophony of left-sounding signals.

Another place might be my WATN: Trump from 2018, wherein I defend my assessment of him overall as "minor"5. Given all the outrage that might seem perverse, but - as the Economist notes - while Biden might be nicer than Trump there are quite a few dumb Trump policies, most obviously tariffs on China, that Biden isn't in any hurry to revoke, at least judging him by public utterances. And yet, conversely, if those hadn't been in place I doubt he'd have added them. So he seems rather a let-things-be kinda guy. While this is an improvement on Trumps do-random-dumb-things, it doesn't seem terribly glorious or inspiring or principled.

What would I like to see him say that he hasn't? That he'd drop the protectionism (he won't say this, but might slowly edge that way, quietly); that he'd push for voting reform such as prohibiting gerrymandering; that he'd continue Trump's people's deregulationary intent (obviously, no hope there); that he'd like a carbon tax. That's he'd back away from the Google-bashing Trump has started so strangely. And so on.


The Evil Repubs have pushed through Amy Coney Barrett, thereby demonstrating conclusively that they are not gentlemen; the Dems, alas, had no real principle with which to oppose this: their pathetically weak argument was that the Repubs had said, four years ago, that they wouldn't do this kind of thing. Suppose the Dems are in any position to do anything about this (which I take to mean controlling the presidency and the senate) what should they do? Astonishingly, Biden's plan - a special commission to suggest supreme court reforms - makes sense to me. Despite all the angst, ACB will probably turn out much less exciting than feared4; and the threat of court-packing will probably constrain the court. And if you did want to "rebalance" as Brian does, adding two seats to a 6-3 split isn't really going to help; you'd need to be bold and add 4, which would probably be regarded as Well Over The Top.

Repubs post Trump

Shirley it is not too much to hope that, if Trump is defeated, the Repubs will come to their senses? I like Steve Landsburg's My fantasy outcome for next week’s election is for Trump to lose every state by a wide margin while mainstream Republicans take over both houses of Congress and revert to their better selves.


* America’s election: Why it has to be Biden: Donald Trump has desecrated the values that make America a beacon to the world - the Economist:  THE COUNTRY that elected Donald Trump in 2016 was unhappy and divided. The country he is asking to re-elect him is more unhappy and more divided. After almost four years of his leadership, politics is even angrier than it was and partisanship even less constrained. Daily life is consumed by a pandemic that has registered almost 230,000 deaths amid bickering, buck-passing and lies. Much of that is Mr Trump’s doing, and his victory on November 3rd would endorse it all. Joe Biden is not a miracle cure for what ails America. But he is a good man who would restore steadiness and civility to the White House. He is equipped to begin the long, difficult task of putting a fractured country back together again. That is why, if we had a vote, it would go to Joe. And then quite interestingly Mr Trump has fallen short less in his role as the head of America’s government than as the head of state. He and his administration can claim their share of political wins and losses, just like administrations before them. But as the guardian of America’s values, the conscience of the nation and America’s voice in the world, he has dismally failed to measure up to the task.

The moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the Republican Party?

The Volokh Conspiracy: Why Biden is a Lesser Evil than Trump by ILYA SOMIN.

Trump no more: Joe Biden is set to capture the White House: After a hard electoral battle the Democrats have almost certainly won the presidency, but they have done less well than they had hoped - the Economist.

Why a Vast Election Fraud is Highly Implausible by Pierre Lemieux 
America changes course, while remaining very much the same - the Economist: in other words, this race ended up looking very much like what would occur if a generic Republican ran against a generic Democrat in a year when not much of note took place.

Elections Are Neither a Ruler's Toy Nor a Sacred Panacea

* Theses on Trump (SSC, from before). Also SSC: plebs like Trump because although wealthy, he is clearly a pleb himself.


1. Distinguish "doesn't have much in the way of principles" as in not really having anything that would guide your political course from "is unprincipled" meaning "a bad person; untrustworthy".

2. For anyone uncertain, I'm in the UK, so I don't have a vote. Elections like this, with candidates like these, are a great advert for the idea of "negative voting"; I'd vote "not Trump", if I could, in preference to "for Biden".

3. With the appropriate genuflections to the gods for the impiety of being hopeful out loud.

4. This is my SCOTUS prediction. That, and to note that Gorsuch and Kavanaugh haven't done anything outrageous yet.

5. Clear evidence of this is found in Counterfactuals: What If Clinton Had Won in 2016? by Pierre Lemieux.


Exclusive: GM, Ford knew about climate change 50 years ago?

tempt The latest installment in a long line of bollox. E&E News breathlessly tells us that Scientists at two of America's biggest automakers knew as early as the 1960s that car emissions caused climate change, a monthslong investigation by E&E News has found.

Can they really prove this? Of course: In a 1975 paper in Science, she asserted that aerosols caused "heating of the atmosphere near the poles... published in the Journal of Applied Meteorology in 1979. It focused on albedo, or the measure of how well a surface reflects sunlight. Their second paper, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research in 1981, explored "increases in the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide." Or perhaps you prefer: Before arriving at Ford, Plass had published a series of eye-grabbing pieces on the climate, including a 1956 article in the magazine American Scientist titled "Carbon Dioxide and the Climate" and a 1956 paper in the journal Tellus titled "The Carbon Dioxide Theory of Climatic Change." And so on. In case you should think that these papers were ignored - and therefore the auto-makers, who, errm, sponsored them before they employed these people, errrm, had some kind of inside track, E&E helpfully destroys its own case by noting that Plass' findings reached the highest levels of the U.S. scientific community.

Yup, you read that right: their evidence was that they published public research papers. In other words, the "GM, Ford knew", with its implication (actually, more than an implication: E&E lies directly: More than two decades after GM and Ford privately confirmed the dangers of climate change...) of sekrit knowledge, is utter drivel: whatever they knew was public. This is the fruit of a months long investigation? 

All of this stuff is stupid. It is done by idiots trying to plump up their public profile, and with a future eye on lawsuits, which judging by Alsup will fall over horribly because they will learn nothing from that case. The idea that people really knew with any confidence about GW in the 1960s is obvious drivel; see previous posts; at best, you could claim that the first IPCC report in 1990 is a good date, but even that is doubtful, if you've ever read the thing. The idea that the oil companies, or anyone else, knew anything sekrit is also drivel: #everyoneknew.



* More drivel, this time a Twat from Alexandria Ocasio-CortezI’m willing to hold you accountable for lying about climate change for 30 years when you secretly knew the entire time that fossil fuels emissions would destroy our planet. Fuckwit.


Mistah Morner – he dead

Another Hollow Man shuffles off, though I don't have an RS for that, only the Potty Peer. Oh, the shame. Does no one else notice, let alone care? Morner made it into Myths of the Near Future all the way back in 2005, though he was only #10 on the list. That seems to be about it, though I did also glancingly diss him in 2018.


Nils-Axel Mörner har gått bort - he's also dead in Swedish.
* Another one bites the dust (Fred Singer, 2020).
Science advances one funeral at a time (Robert Carter, 2016).


Coronavirus days: the only way is up

Not so long ago, when I last wrote - the first of October - the Beeb was reporting "Covid-19: Growth in cases may be slowing in England". That was stupid, even at the time4, and has not aged well. Now a more typical headline is Coronavirus: Northern Ireland set to announce partial lockdown: Stormont thrashes out plan including closure of businesses and schools, as well as new limits on gatherings. Our own idiot populace bears much responsibility for this, with stuff like Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson says partying crowds have 'shamed' the city being all too common1. And lest we somehow think our glorious British govt uniquely incompetent2, I include this nice pic from the FT, showing the Spanish doing about twice as badly as us right now, and the French roughly as rubbish as us. And even the nice Krauts are suffering something of an uptick, though doubtless they will crush it.

But now let us turn our thoughts towards the future, helpfully projected - note, projected, not predicted - by JA. We see a peak of perhaps 5k stiffs/day5, about 5x the initial peak, and surely that would not be tolerable; our medical services would be overwhelmed, not to mention the sadness of so many premature deaths.

But we have left it rather late to turn the ship around. As JA thoughtfully notes today, we have "baked in" a significant increase already, and unless the govt does something soon other than rename things, we'll soon be baking even more.

In retrospect, the relaxation in July instead of continuing to drive the numbers down, looks to be an error. But I'm pretty sure the natives were getting restless at that point - see comment above about our poor-quality population - and the relaxation was definitely popular. So overall I'd say we're getting the epidemic we deserve, and I feel somewhat pessimistic about the future3.

Leaving aside the prospects of a higher quality citizenry, the other obvious failing is anything vaguely competent in the nature of test, or trace. The latter I think I have something of a hard time believing in, but the test element could be done so much better, and should be. It also looks like I am to some extent getting what I wished for in "Regionalism", but in the confused atmosphere of a state occupied by morons, I see how hard this concept is to explain. Can we perhaps be more Swedish? I wanted to say something sympathetic about The Great Barrington Declaration, too. So I have.

Update: circuit-breaker

People - including Labour - have called for a "circuit-breaker" of a couple of weeks. I think this is an example of people giving a name to an idea, and then taking the name for the thing, an imagining that because the thing has a given name, it will work as the name implies. But reality isn't like that.

Update: GDP

Cruel though it is to say it from my comfortable position, I don't think the impact on GDP is as large or as important as it looks. To an extent, we're losing "fluff". Of course I regret losing my weekly coffee-in-Waterstone's, and this loss reduces GDP, and someone is no longer being paid to serve it to me; but this loss in the service economy isn't as serious as losing food production or imports; and so on. It also implies, to my mind, in a rather half-formed thought, that the country can "afford" to continue paying wages for those so laid off; though in this experiment, to maintain balance, the money would have to come from the likes of me, which is to say higher taxes.


1. Good liberal commentators like the Graun struggle personfully to blame it all on the Govt, or Boris; but this is a pathetic abdication of responsibility: people are responsible for themselves, if they are adults.

2. That nice SR seems rather prone to this particular error.

3. I say that from the comfort of my home, and my desk job that has if anything got more comfortable in lock-down. I miss my Saturday coffee-n-book in Waterstone's, and of course the bumps were cancelled, but that's about as bad as it gets for me personally.

4. It now appears that while this drivel was appearing in public, behind the scenes by Sept 21st SAGE was arguing Cases are increasing across the country in all age groups... the doubling time might be as low as 7-8 days... not acting now to reduce cases will result in a very large epidemic with catastrophic consequences... If schools are to remain open, then a wide range of other measures will be required... [including] A circuit-breaker (short period of lockdown) to return incidence to low levels and so on. It is now 3+ weeks later with only the token changes.

5. Somewhere on Twatter I think he qualified that somewhat; with different parameters you could plausibly halve the peak perhaps; but even 2.5 k would be a lot.


* COVID-19: nowcast and forecast; Paul Birrell, Joshua Blake, Edwin van Leeuwen, MRC Biostatistics Unit COVID-19 Working Group, Daniela De Angelis - turns out to be optimistic
Quotation of the Day… "Donald Trump, Peter Navarro, Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer, Bernie Sanders, Oren Cass – the list is long of people who continue proudly to peddle the economic equivalent of Ptolemy’s “theory” of celestial spheres".


Coronavirus days: fog of war

Things are getting somewhat confusing. In our own parochial UK... no wait, in our own parochial East, things aren't too bad; we're one of the lower regions. But in the UK as a whole, there's uncertainty. There are so many clamouring voices saying so many things, it's no wonder people don't really know what is going on. Some of the voices are genuinely trying to help, some are just looking for the oxygen of publicity, but the end result is unclarity.

I think the prime example of this is Covid-19: Growth in cases may be slowing in England:

The growth in cases of coronavirus may be slowing down, the largest study of the infection in England suggests. A team at Imperial College London analysed samples from 84,000 people chosen at random from across the country. They said the R number, the virus's reproduction number, appears to have fallen since measures including the "rule of six" were introduced. However, they warn cases are high, with one in every 200 people infected. The React study is highly influential, both due to its size and because it gives an up-to-date picture of how the virus is spreading. The last samples used in the analysis were collected as recently as Saturday. It was the previous React report that found infections were doubling every seven to eight days in late August and early September... Then the research group estimated the R number for their study - the average number of people each infected person is passing the virus on to - was 1.7. The latest analysis, of swab samples collected between 19 and 26 September, suggests the R number has fallen to about 1.1 - although the precise figure is uncertain.

EjOIRCqXsAIGdSH This is from Dear Aunty Beeb, you can trust her even in times of war, and all that gumpf. However is it true? Probably not. Consider the pic, stolen from Oliver Johnson's Twat. It-was-1.7-it-is-now-1.1 is based on interpretation B. Whereas interpretation A seems more natural.  Apart from anything else, B is discontinuous, which is unphysical. Also I just don't trust their underlying "explanation" for the slowdown: that the Glorious Leader's "rule of six" has pulled down R. That may have made some difference, but not a lot; and the return-to-school and return-to-university has certainly pulled the numbers in the opposite direction; finger-in-the-air, I'd say those latter two will have made more difference. JA is barely able to believe that people are still falling for this stuff, and yet they do. People want the Bad Thing to go away.

[Update: alerted by Twatter, I bothered to read further down the article, and find However, Prof Oliver Johnson, from the University of Bristol, said the conclusion that cases were slowing down was "wrong and dangerous". And he doubts both the old and the new estimates of the R value. He said: "I suspect they were both wrong, and it was actually more like R=1.4 each time.". So not finding that the first time was a bit crap of me. But burying it so far down was even crapper of the Beeb.

More people not being dead impressed can be found at [E]xpert reaction to preprint with the latest interim data from the REACT-1 study on COVID-19 spread across England, but even there they lead with someone liking it.]

Also, version A is consistent with James Annan's daily-updated modelling, which looks vastly more sane than anything Imperial have been able to do. I admit that I did lose faith a little when deaths clearly fell below the curve towards the end of August, but happily the corpses have started stacking up since then, and my trust is restored.

The govt of course has not helped the aura of confusion by being a pack of incompetent clowns; but there's more blame to go round. The media have been irresponsible too, and not a few of my fellow citizens have been dumb enough to go out partying, the tossers1.

It is conventional to compare Science in Covid and Global Warming. When Science delivers us a vaccine, all will be well let us hope, but at the moment Science isn't doing a brilliant job on Covid, except in a rather confused, muddling-along, ants-moving-a-leaf kind of way. Certainly in the UK we haven't managed to get any competent unified voice speaking sense. SAGE is too tied to the govt; and anyway doesn't seem to manage to be particularly sensible, and doesn't really speak in public. Unlike, say, the IPCC. Though the IPCC has the luxury of much longer timescales; and doesn't I think say much that is influential on the economics, instead grinding over long-solved problems in ever greater detail2

Indeed the competence of (local?) govt seems to be more important than Science; though the latest FT Covid pix blow the idea of some Socialist Miracle; France and Spain now have deaths well over the UK; only the Squareheads are looking good.

Away from whingeing, via PaulThis Overlooked Variable Is the Key to the Pandemic from The Atlantic. Oversold, of course, but perhaps correct in that looking at the average too much hides important information.


Today's random restrictions, by region - DailyMash
* Self-Help Is Like a Vaccine by Bryan Caplan
* Ridiculous Widespread Beliefs by DON BOUDREAUX and Expert Failure to Know
Jeez People, Get This Right - Timmy
* Adding to my JA Twit collection; shame he is so restrained.

* The Dunning-Kruger effect: Misunderstood, misrepresented, overused and … non-existent? Just stop using it!

* Opinion: The case for voting against presidential candidates by GEORGE LEEF. But, why only for presidential voting? I've advocated similar, but can't now find where. Related: Why Can't They Both Lose?


1. Anecdote: a friend of my daughter's is at St Andrews, now isolating in his household, because another member of the household has got Covid, due to going out and screwing around. This is irresponsible, but on a statistical level that's going to happen when young folk go away from home.

2. I exaggerate for effect, you understand.


Russell on Rouseau and the Romantics

119194030_1580768688786112_4489331878176668598_o The chapter on Rousseau begins with the witty Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712–78), though a philosophe in the eighteenth-century French sense, was not what would now be called a 'philosopher'. Nevertheless he had a powerful influence on philosophy, as on literature and taste and manners and politics. Whatever may be our opinion of his merits as a thinker, we must recognize his immense importance as a social force. This importance came mainly from his appeal to the heart, and to what, in his day, was called 'sensibility'. He is the father of the romantic movement, the initiator of systems of thought which infer non-human facts from human emotions, and the inventor of the political philosophy of pseudo-democratic dictatorships as opposed to traditional absolute monarchies. Ever since his time, those who considered themselves reformers have been divided into two groups, those who followed him and those who followed Locke. Sometimes they co-operated, and many individuals saw no incompatibility. But gradually the incompatibility has become increasingly evident. At the present time, Hitler is an outcome of Rousseau; Roosevelt and Churchill, of Locke. I skip over the matter of his personal morals.

Closer to my particular point is the chapter preceding, on the Romantic movement:

It is not the psychology of the romantics that is at fault: it is their standard of values. They admire strong passions, of no matter what kind, and whatever may be their social consequences. Romantic love, especially when unfortunate, is strong enough to win their approval, but most of the strongest passions are destructive—hate and resentment and jealousy, remorse and despair, outraged pride and the fury of the unjustly oppressed, martial ardour and contempt for slaves and cowards. Hence the type of man encouraged by romanticism, especially of the Byronic variety, is violent and anti-social, an anarchic rebel or a conquering tyrant.

This outlook makes an appeal for which the reasons lie very deep in human nature and human circumstances. By self-interest Man has become gregarious, but in instinct he has remained to a great extent solitary; hence the need of religion and morality to reinforce self-interest. But the habit of forgoing present satisfactions for the sake of future advantages is irksome, and when passions are roused the prudent restraints of social behaviour become difficult to endure. Those who, at such times, throw them off, acquire a new energy and sense of power from the cessation of inner conflict, and, though they may come to disaster in the end, enjoy meanwhile a sense of godlike exaltation which, though known to the great mystics, can never be experienced by a merely pedestrian virtue. The solitary part of their nature reasserts itself, but if the intellect survives the reassertion must clothe itself in myth. The mystic becomes one with God, and in the contemplation of the Infinite feels himself absolved from duty to his neighbour. The anarchic rebel does even better: he feels himself not one with God, but God. Truth and duty, which represent our subjection to matter and to our neighbours, exist no longer for the man who has become God; for others, truth is what he posits, duty what he commands. If we could all live solitary and without labour, we could all enjoy this ecstasy of independence; since we cannot, its delights are only available to madmen and dictators...

The romantic movement, in its essence, aimed at liberating human personality from the fetters of social convention and social morality. In part, these fetters were a mere useless hindrance to desirable forms of activity, for every ancient community has developed rules of behaviour for which there is nothing to be said except that they are traditional. But egoistic passions, when once let loose, are not easily brought again into subjection to the needs of society. Christianity has succeeded, to some extent, in taming the Ego, but economic, political, and intellectual causes stimulated revolt against the Churches, and the romantic movement brought the revolt into the sphere of morals. By encouraging a new lawless Ego it made social co-operation impossible, and left its disciples faced with the alternative of anarchy or despotism. Egoism, at first, made men expect from others a parental tenderness; but when they discovered, with indignation, that others had their own Ego, the disappointed desire for tenderness turned to hatred and violence. Man is not a solitary animal, and so long as social life survives, self-realization cannot be the supreme principle of ethics.

It looks like he agrees with Popper - or perhaps vice versa  - over Hegel (both Fichte and Hegel were philosophic mouthpieces of Prussia). All this may become clearer when I write my long-delayed review of TOSAIE. But I stopped too soon; back directly to Rousseau:

In theology he made an innovation which has now been accepted by the great majority of Protestant theologians. Before him, every philosopher from Plato onwards, if he believed in God, offered intellectual arguments in favour of his belief. The arguments may not, to us, seem very convincing, and we may feel that they would not have seemed cogent to anyone who did not already feel sure of the truth of the conclusion. But the philosopher who advanced the arguments certainly believed them to be logically valid, and such as should cause certainty of God's existence in any unprejudiced person of sufficient philosophical capacity. Modern Protestants who urge us to believe in God, for the most part, despise the old 'proofs', and base their faith upon some aspect of human nature—emotions of awe or mystery, the sense of right and wrong, the feeling of aspiration, and so on. This way of defending religious belief was invented by Rousseau. It has become so familiar that his originality may easily not be appreciated by a modern reader, unless he will take the trouble to compare Rousseau with (say) Descartes or Leibniz... 

The rejection of reason in favour of the heart was not, to my mind, an advance. In fact, no one thought of this device so long as reason appeared to be on the side of religious belief. In Rousseau's environment, reason, as represented by Voltaire, was opposed to religion, therefore away with reason! Moreover reason was abstruse and difficult; the savage, even when he has dined, cannot understand the ontological argument, and yet the savage is the repository of all necessary wisdom. Rousseau's savage—who was not the savage known to anthropologists—was a good husband and a kind father; he was destitute of greed, and had a religion of natural kindliness. He was a convenient person, but if he could follow the good Vicar's reasons for believing in God he must have had more philosophy than his innocent naïveté would lead one to expect.

Apart from the fictitious character of Rousseau's 'natural man', there are two objections to the practice of basing beliefs as to objective fact upon the emotions of the heart. One is that there is no reason whatever to suppose that such beliefs will be true; the other is, that the resulting beliefs will be private, since the heart says different things to different people.


There's a bit more worth adding, for my future reference if nothing else. The end of the chapter: The Social Contract became the Bible of most of the leaders in the French Revolution, but no doubt, as is the fate of Bibles, it was not carefully read and was still less understood by many of its disciples. It reintroduced the habit of metaphysical abstractions among the theorists of democracy, and by its doctrine of the general will it made possible the mystic identification of a leader with his people, which has no need of confirmation by so mundane an apparatus as the ballot-box. Much of its philosophy could be appropriated by Hegel5 in his defence of the Prussian autocracy. Its first-fruits in practice were the reign of Robespierre; the dictatorships of Russia and Germany (especially the latter) are in part an outcome of Rousseau's teaching. What further triumphs the future has to offer to his ghost I do not venture to predict.

And then there's Kant, who doesn't really belong here, but at the moment I don't want to give him a page to himself, and Russell has him in the "Romantic" tradition. See-also Kant's Cats where Popper tries to make sense of him. Kant is held to be "difficult" and obscure, and I've not read him; and of course I'd be reading a translation, which will inevitably filter in the translators ideas, because Kant is so obscure as to be hard to translate, unlike Popper. Anyway.

One of Kant's proofs of the existence of God is given as The argument is that the moral law demands justice, i.e. happiness proportional to virtue. Only Providence can insure this, and has evidently not insured it in this life. Therefore there is a God and a future life; and there must be freedom, since otherwise there would be no such thing as virtue. This is an interesting thought, but obviously also bollox.

There's also Kant's apparent belief in what I think are called synthetic a priori, which is things not of pure logic that can be deduced outside of actual experience. Of which - I think; but it is obscure, and his defenders obscure it more - the Euclidean nature of Space is one. As Russell puts it: The transcendental (or epistemological) argument, which is best stated in the Prolegomena, is more definite than the metaphysical arguments, and is also more definitely refutable. 'Geometry', as we now know, is a name covering two different studies. On the one hand, there is pure geometry, which deduces consequences from axioms, without inquiring whether the axioms are 'true'; this contains nothing that does not follow from logic, and is not 'synthetic', and has no need of figures such as are used in geometrical textbooks. On the other hand, there is geometry as a branch of physics, as it appears, for example, in the general theory of relativity; this is an empirical science, in which the axioms are inferred from measurements, and are found to differ from Euclid's. Thus of the two kinds of geometry one is a priori but not synthetic, while the other is synthetic but not a priori. This disposes of the transcendental argument. Or in other words, Science 1, Philosphy 0. Again.


SAGE versus reality - James; not forgetting the Weekly RRRRRRReport.
* It's Complicated: Grasping the Syllogism by Bryan Caplan: interesting, but not one of his best.
* An Unpersuasive Book with Some Encouraging Insights - Henderson on Raghuram Rajan's "the Third Pillar".


Bad beekeeping Autumnm 2020

After Bad beekeeping 2020 we come to the autumn edition. Here's the "before" picture, though I admit that, almost unbelievably, this is after some tidy up. The huge green leaves to the left are a horse raddish, or so I was assured. I've not tried to dig up the roots.


A bit more hackery got me access to both, and now it's time to open up. Notice the smoker is more gaffer tape than anything else.


"Old Faithful" on the left. I only opened up the top super, which is mostly full. On the right, a filled frame from the middle; on the left, a largely empty frame from the edge. Needs emptying really to give them some space come springtime. Note hive tool: also excellent for weeding between paving slabs.


On the right, "Coppertop" with three supers. The top one is somewhat less full than OF...


...and the middle super was completely empty, the bees having ignored it in preference to the heights. Well, they're like that sometimes.


So I've ordered some Apistan to treat them, and when that turns up will set to and take off some of their excess before winter sets in.


A few days later - the 12th - was a sunny Saturday with little wind, perfect for taking off some honey, and putting in my Apistan. The pix below are largely for my mythical records. Let's start with OF; here we are at the brrod box, with the comb looking mighty dark, time for some refresh come spring I think.


I took out five frames - here they are - from the top. I can't recall looking at the lower super much; but from the recalling lift, it was maybe half or two thirds full.


Oh yes I recall now: fairly busy, but mostly uncapped; here's an example. So I left it.


Here's CopperTop's brood box, with the tabs of the Apistan showing where I've inserted them. I'm a bit late doing this, so finding time to take them out will be tricky. The new queen excluder here has too much space underneath hence the blobs of comb / honey; and also the mesh is falling away from the frame, must find some time to repair that.


And here's CT just before reassembly, with OF in the background.


I took four frames out of CT, for nine in all, span them that afternoon, getting about 16 lbs, which is decent for ~one super, effectively. Tracking mark: WMC-2020-A(utumn); and -W(arm) for that which I heated.

Update: 2020 / 11 / 08: I took the Apistan out today. It is very late in the year, but it was a warm still and faintly sunny day. Olde Faithfulle took it well; Coppertop was distinctly annoyed. Note for future: put them in over the queen excluder, it is one less thing to remove when taking them out.


* Two Cheers for Small Business by Alberto Mingardi
* Misinformation and foreign policy by Scott Sumner


Russell on Aristotle's Politics

IMG_20200825_143407_207 I'm (re)reading, for various purposes, Russell's A History of Western Philosophy. As with so many things outside my field, the problem is to find reliable opinions. I like Russell's text. Unlike many books discussing other philosophers, Russell is not afraid to speak his mind and has meaningful opinions1. Far too many others are so in awe of their subjects that they say nothing useful about them. Looking at the wiki article I can see he has wound up the usual suspects, which is a good sign. Who can forget the immortal The critic George Steiner, writing in Heidegger, described A History of Western Philosophy as "vulgar", noting that Russell omits any mention of Martin Heidegger.

However, I think he gets Aristotle's Politics wrong. Firstly he misses its practical nature, in comparison the the idealism of Plato. There is far more discussion of what actually happened; and different constitutions. And secondly, he misses - I think due to his egalitarianism, or equalitarianism - what I was pushing before: that simple majoritarianism isn't a good idea.


* The text is available here.

* What Is Populism? The People V. the People by Pierre Lemieux


1. Example: I conclude that the Aristotelian doctrines with which we have been concerned in this chapter are wholly false, with the exception of the formal theory of the syllogism, which is unimportant. Any person in the present day who wishes to learn logic will be wasting his time if he reads Aristotle or any of his disciples. None the less, Aristotle's logical writings show great ability, and would have been useful to mankind if they had appeared at a time when intellectual originality was still active. Unfortunately, they appeared at the very end of the creative period of Greek thought, and therefore came to be accepted as authoritative. By the time that logical originality revived, a reign of two thousand years had made Aristotle very difficult to dethrone. Throughout modern times, practically every advance in science, in logic, or in philosophy has had to be made in the teeth of opposition from Aristotle's disciples. Compare The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy or Wiki.


Coronavirus days: France

IMG_20200725_080843 We went on holiday to France at the end of July / beginning of August. This isn't about the holiday, but about the Covid aspects. Nothing dramatic, but it may be of interest.

We drove, via Eurotunnel. That probably involves the least human contact. For fans of CO2 accounting, it was about three tanks of diesel, about 240 litres or a little less. For Covid reasons, Eurotunnel doesn't let you out of your car on the trip, and for bonus points someone wanders around during the transit cleaning the sides of the carriage that you can't touch cos you can't get out... Before you go, Eurotunnel solemnly tells you on the website that you need to fill out a form for the French govt solemnly swearing that you haven't got Covid, and so on. We solemnly did this, and it was a total waste of time, as absolutely no-one looked at them. 

The French mountain huts website told us to fill out a similar form, and it too was a total waste of time. Somewhat more annoyingly, the sites told us that due to Covid there would be no blankets and we needed to bring up our own sleeping bag. That turned out to be nonsense too but cos us 1 kg each. As it happened, it was a fairly warm period, and I just slept in my sheet liner anyway.

IMG_20200802_074936 Within the refuges, the sense was of having rules, but not really caring about them. Here are the Glacier Blanc's. They carefully have a "circulation system" that makes no sense at all, because there is only one staircase, and only one entrance. People tended to wear a mask when they first went in, realise no-one else was, and then stop. They did make some attempt to enforce "only 10 people in the lobby" but although it is a fairly expansive boot-room, you can barely fit more than 10 even if you try.

In practice, we were outdoors by ourselves almost all day most days; or in the valley in our own apartment (which I chose slightly at random but was better for lack of human contact than a hotel). In the evening the huts did group meals as usual and as usual made no attempt to use all of the tables.

Supermarkets tended to have hand-san. Restaurants, supermarkets, cathedrals, buildings in general were mask-obligatoire indoors, and everyone did that. Since it was mostly rather warm, eating outdoors was hardly a restriction. On the drive back it was so hot in Dijon that it would have been quite nice to go inside into the air-conned restos, but we decided not to. Here's a pic of Vallouise's weekly outdoor market.

We may have got out just in time. The papers tell me that the govt is considering adding France to the quarantine list; not that it is clear that the UK quarantine means anything. But, we can all sleep better knowing that "Matt Hancock [is] closely monitoring [the] situation". Update: it's happened.

I think that's it. I leave you with a pic: walking up to Les Bans.



* What’s Destroying Our Culture?
* You Will Not Stampede Me by Bryan Caplan
* A blurb too far - Kerry Emanuel on Schellenburger.
* The new McCarthyism by Scott Sumner


Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Hockey stick controversy

IMG_20200725_082845_240 Alas poor HSC, I knew it well. Too well perhaps. You can still view its magnificent bloated final state at archive.is, but if you visit the original wiki URL you'll now get redirected to Hockey stick graph. The delete discussion is at Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Hockey stick controversy. I think the decision itself is arguably wrong, and indeed I argued against it; certainly some of the arguments for delete were weird.

My keep rational was
I think the controversy is notable. Arguably the article is too long, but that can be fixed by shortening, not deleting it. Also I don't think its a fork; it is its own subject. Saying it gives undue weight to the political debate is somewhat odd, because the political debate is the main point of the controversy.
G replied but the political debate was not in good faith, that's the point. The "controversy" was engineered and sustained by the climate change denial industry which to my mind is just wrong, because, as I said That the controversy was not in good faith is irrelevant to the deletion debate; that's a discussion about the page content. FWIW, though, I do not believe that the debate was entirely or originally "engineered"; it would be better to say that the flames of what could have been a valid scientific discussion were fanned out of all proportion. And of course the degree of plausibility of debate has changed over time; nowadays, with multiple independent repros, there's nothing left, scientifically, but this article isn't (shouldn't be) about the science. You are I think right that the page is too huge and doubtless duplicates much that is in the HS page.

But maybe this is a sign o' the times: all these controversies we so lovingly participated in, in the olde dayes, are of no interest to yoof today: the HS is just accepted, unless you're a nutter.


* Pic: cat of Troyes.


Did you miss me yeah, while I was away?


I'm back. Did you miss me? Well no probably not. We were back in the Ecrins, I shall bore you with more pix later, but for now this is a placeholder to excuse my failure to respond to comments and posts.

This pic largely summarises our holiday, if you know where to look.  Taken from the Montagne des Agneaux which I have finally got up. It is a good route, but long. Center: Glacier Blanc, and high point slightly L is the Barre des Ecrins. Sadly, bits of serac had fallen off not long ago and so it was strongly deconseillee. Instead we did the Pic du Glacier D'Arsine - on the spine to the R of the Gl Blanc - and Point Louise - again on the spine but further back. Before the Agneaux we did the Dome du Monetier, well sort of, actually the Pic du Rif, which is above the snowy glacier to the L, from the Lac d'Eychauda, which is off the pic and too low to see L. Peaking out off R are just visible two milky blue lakes at the Col d'Arsine, where we walked up to camp for our last night up. Looming darkly mid-L are the dents of the Pelvoux, which we once again didn't even attempt.


Into the distance disappear the mounds of human heads

covid Mandlestam, of course. But it isn't quite working out like that. My graph shows a puzzle: in orange, right axis, the USA new cases. In blue, right axis, new stiffs. Both with Excel's finest 7-point smoothing applied, without which you see a distinct weekly cycle.

When the case numbers started going up - quite a while ago now - you could fairly hear the slavering in some quarters. But the deaths - whilst higher than we'd like - are resolutely refusing to skyrocket1. And even the new cases seems to be slowing somewhat. Before you splutter with outrage into your cornflakes, I'm not claiming this is a glorious success.

Explanations for the odd failure of deaths to increase vary. If you're Trump, you'll laud the increase in testing. There was some weak evidence I saw suggesting more Yoof were getting it, and they don't tend to die. And maybe the sawbones have worked out how to keep it from killing people.

The Russia Report

Meanwhile in the UK the Russia Report turned out to be rather dull. In other news, the US maintains a chain of radio stations intended to influence behaviour. The best they could do was The British government and intelligence agencies failed to conduct any proper assessment of Kremlin attempts to interfere with the 2016 Brexit referendum, which does seem rather careless. OTOH, comparisons with the Dem leaks seems foolish: we didn't find out about those due to the spooks, we found out because they were published. And all this is the product of 18 months’ work involving evidence taken from the UK’s spy agencies and independent experts - how you can take that long to draw such negligible conclusions is hard to understand, unless you're on per diem. Disclaimer: I haven't read the actual report. Has anyone else bothered to, and if so, does it say anything interesting? James has his own conclusions.

Jem Bendell is an idiot

ATTP has belatedly discovered that Jem Bendell is an idiot.


1. I do hope this post doesn't jinx them.

Reading the report

I found the report (thx Graun) and am obliged to say that they get the Commies spot-on in their intro:

The security threat posed by Russia is difficult for the West to manage as, in our view and that of many others, it appears fundamentally nihilistic. Russia seems to see foreign policy as a zero-sum game: any actions it can take which damage the West are fundamentally good for Russia. It is also seemingly fed by paranoia, believing that Western institutions such as NATO and the EU have a far more aggressive posture towards it than they do in reality. There is also a sense that Russia believes that an undemocratic ‘might is right’ world order plays to its strengths, which leads it to seek to undermine the Rules Based International Order – whilst nonetheless benefitting from its membership of international political and economic institutions. Russia’s substantive aims, however, are relatively limited: it wishes to be seen as a resurgent ‘great power’ – in particular, dominating the countries of the former USSR – and to ensure that the privileged position of its leadership clique is not damaged.
I don't care for The clearest requirement for immediate action is for new legislation, because yet more bloody legislation is always the answer any of the cttees always produce, and the govt happily jumps on it. And in this case they are vague as to what it might be; the usual "throw some more words at the problem" approach.

Although the reports asserts that GCHQ assesses that Russia is a highly capable cyber actor with a proven capabilityto carry out operations, all the examples it then gives are either abroad, or mere attempts. There's nothing about actual success in the UK. This seems rather a large gap. Are we forced to assume that Ivan's successes against the UK are so brilliant (and well hidden?) that we'd better not mention them? There is a link to Reckless campaign of cyber attacks by Russian military intelligence service exposed which do appear to be reckless and rather badly targetted, unless they really intended to damage their own central bank.

Continuing, Russia’s promotion of disinformation and its attempts at broader political influence overseas have been widely reported, which is nice, but this is all publicly available stuff and so also rather dull. They do have the grace to say We note that Russia’s disinformation efforts against the West are dwarfed by those which the Russian statec onducts against its own population.

By para 31 we're onto The UK is clearly a target for Russia’s disinformation campaigns and political influence operations and must therefore equip itself to counter such efforts. Unfortunately, being the sort of people they are, their ideas for doing this are all fun sekrit stuff, rather than the dull but necessary business of building civil society. For example, we could have a govt that people trust to provide statistics on Covid deaths, thereby helping to remove FUD. And then predictably enough they go in for another round of fb bashing; clowns.

I think that's enough great analysis for now. Oops no just one little extra gem: The impact of any such attempts [Russia sought to influence the2016 referendum] would be difficult – if not impossible – to assess, and we have not sought to do so looks like a cop-out.


BlueSkiesResearch.org.uk: Back to the future; ATTP: Climate sensitivity – narrowing the range (and links therein);


Biden Announces $2 Trillion Climate Plan

74324786_1511965192333129_1503775106073515566_o Or so says the NYT. Which appears to be having a spot of bother just recently. Not to mention SlateStarCodex. Never mind, we'll press on. If you're at all familiar with my thinking, you'll guess with no trouble that I think his plan is stupid. Without even having to read it! How can I know this? Because his principal aim is to spend $2T. Instead, implement a carbon tax, sit back in your golfisnoozemobile and bask in the warm glow of a job well done.

There are two articles: first, July 9th, In ‘Buy American’ Speech, Biden Challenges Trump on the Economy; then July 14th, Biden to Release $2 Trillion Climate Plan which refs the first. The first is obviously stupid: economic nationalism is dumb, and attempting to out-orange the Mango is even dumber. Why can't Biden make a principled stand for free trade, lower barriers between nations, international friendship and cooperation, instead of trying to outdo idiot protectionism? There must be a constituency in the USA that is economically literate and probably includes many Conservatives who are sick of Trump's vandalism in this regard and would like the chance to vote for someone who isn't an economic vandal. So let's move on to the second.

The NYT worries the plan will also test whether Mr. Biden has found a way to win over environmental activists and other progressives who have long been skeptical about the scope of his ambitions on climate. But anyone like that is already a not-Trump-therefore-Biden voter - unless they're mad - so doesn't need appeasing. I react very badly to The plan also calls for establishing an office of environmental and climate justice at the Department of Justice. And The plan also will call for investing in carbon capture and storage technology is doubtful: CCS wasn't ready for the big time a year ago and I don't think it is now.

The Graun offers The new proposal outlines $2tn for clean energy infrastructure and other climate solutions, to be spent as quickly as possible in the next four years, what would be the Democrat’s first term in office. Last year, he proposed $1.7tn in spending over 10 years (my bold) and that just looks like a recipe for disaster.

Enough second hand stuff. Why not just read his own words. First para: create millions of good-paying jobs blah blah motherhood-n-apple-pie, and a bad idea. Second para: he's talking about Trump. FFS. This is supposed to be his plan! Has he really got so little to say? Third para: he's still talking about Trump! Skips a bit: Create millions of good, union jobs rebuilding... No, I can't read any more. What's the most important thing to do to curb police brutality in the USA? Curb the police unions. what's the most important thing to improve public-school teaching? Curb the teaching unions.

I can't raise any enthusiasm for Biden. He's better than Trump, he's better than Sanders, he's more likely to get elected than Clinton, but that's about it.

Meanwhile, speaking of stupidity, Huawei 5G kit must be removed from UK by 2027. Although, we've mostly caving in to pressure from the Mango Mussolini. Perhaps if Biden gets in we'll just change our mind again.


The world’s wealth is looking increasingly unnatural - Economist

Wikipedia: the dim and distant history of NPOV

blog-grant2 Someone asked me by email about the shifting history of NPOV on wiki; as is my wont, I'll answer by blog. For those not part of the in-crowd, that's Wikipedia:Neutral point of view:
All encyclopedic content on Wikipedia must be written from a neutral point of view (NPOV), which means representing fairly, proportionately, and, as far as possible, without editorial bias, all the significant views that have been published by reliable sources on a topic. NPOV is a fundamental principle of Wikipedia and of other Wikimedia projects. It is also one of Wikipedia's three core content policies; the other two are "Verifiability" and "No original research". These policies jointly determine the type and quality of material that is acceptable in Wikipedia articles, and, because they work in harmony, they should not be interpreted in isolation from one another. Editors are strongly encouraged to familiarize themselves with all three. This policy is non-negotiable, and the principles upon which it is based cannot be superseded by other policies or guidelines, nor by editor consensus.
So that's all very nice. How does it actually work?

Describe the controversy?

One way of "dealing" with a difference of views is to simply write down the two opposing sides, perhaps in some sense doing so at length proportional to the weight (in vociferousness or reliability) of either side. There's a strong tendency for articles to veer in this direction, sometimes as a result of editorial compromise: you want this bit of text, I want that bit, let's put both in. But this he-said-she-said type of text doesn't work for the reader, and this has been policy for ages: Segregation of text or other content into different regions or subsections, based solely on the apparent POV of the content itself, may result in an unencyclopedic structure, such as a back-and-forth dialogue between proponents and opponents. It may also create an apparent hierarchy of fact where details in the main passage appear "true" and "undisputed", whereas other, segregated material is deemed "controversial", and therefore more likely to be false. Try to achieve a more neutral text by folding debates into the narrative, rather than isolating them into sections that ignore or fight against each other. So the answer is that ever since I've been aware of this, the idea is to have one unified text. The ultimate unversion of this is the POV-fork, where people attempt to have two independent articles presenting different viewpoints. This is forbidden, correctly.

Due and undue weight, balance, false balance

The good book tells us that Neutrality requires that each article or other page in the mainspace fairly represent all significant viewpoints that have been published by reliable sources, in proportion to the prominence of each viewpoint in the published, reliable sources. In the case of global warming, this presents a problem for the nutters, because their views are almost invariably published in unreliable sources like blog posts (pttiiiing!!!) or drivel on the Heartland site or similar. So - and I'm going by memory here rather than tedious trawling back through diffs and long-archived talk pages - the "compromise" by the Forces of Good was to actually allow more "septic" content than was really warranted; since even a decade or more ago the scientific balance was at least 95% "pro" GW, the "anti" sections would have been very short indeed had we followed the "prominence" guideline, from a scientific point of view. There's a get-out, of course, in that we can also include political prominence, but then the septics tended to get sad when we write things like "of course it was politically controversial but they had no science to back up their politics".


All of this used to be dead exciting and it was a constant - chooses word carefully, who knows, people might quote me - struggle to keep content scientifically sane against the forces of unreason. I am not, of course, speaking only of my own efforts. But nowadays the Forces of Evil seem to have pretty well given up the fight; the height of their ambition appears to be to remove the dreaded D-word from  articles of no importance, and when their feeble efforts come to naught they simply slink away. This has had mostly good effects: people can get on with improving articles without worrying that some idiots will hack them up. Sometimes though the lack of stimulus leads to articles stagnating somewhat; I think that Attribution of recent climate change isn't as up to date as it could be, for example.


And how has this all evolved over time? This alas is a difficult question as I kept no notes and my memory is fallible. Per The dim and distant history of Global Warming on Wiki: Introduction, when I first arrived in 2003, things were very much Wild West and almost anything went, there wasn't even any 3RR, can you believe that? And when 3RR did turn up, it was very strictly 3R in 24h, which you could keep up for days; nowadays you'd get blocked for that.

I don't think the policies themselves evolved much (other than WP:BLP) but people's awareness of them did, and how much people used them in argument. Example: I was an active climatologist back then and Knew Stuff so quite often I'd simply write things into articles with no sources. Naughty me. But recall back in those days there were far fewer online sources. Over time, we attached sources to the words. My point of view was that truth was more important than exact sourcing, and in this I differed from policy. But I was always happy with the NPOV policy.

During the initial Wild West there was a tendency for articles to end up somewhat he-said-she-said, but this was always against policy; it's just we didn't know it, or know how to reach an acceptable compromise. Over time, this got flattened out; partly as newer editors came on board. And the gradual shift in tone of, say, the GW article reflects the change in science over the last ~2 decades: naturally, the "voice" has firmed up as things once tentative became clear. This you would expect. The appearance of successive IPCC reports were I think milestones in this process; they were exactly the kind of synthesis that wiki asks for (it prefers secondary sources to primary ones).

The Great Big Arbcomm Case

See here on my talk page for full - ahem - details; or see my blog post of the time, They make a wasteland and call it peace. As you'll notice, I wasn't happy with that: unthinking and stupid is a fair brief summary. But by then I already knew that Arbcomm collectively were idiots, like most committees, however intelligent they might be individually. But note that in terms of content it had little effect.

Water vapour

Not vapor, Yankee scum. The role of water vapour in GW is an interesting case in point. Septics like to say it is far more important than CO2. Sane people have been pointing out for ages that Water vapour is not the dominant greenhouse gas. But the problem was that (since tis was f*ck*ng obvious to people of the meanest intelligence) no-one had bothered write it down in a scientific paper or other RS. Eventually (if I recall this right) Gavin actually did some work to quantify things; and now there are perfectly decent sources.


* NPOV Blues - 2004; promising title, but alas not informative.
* Firing and the Left by Bryan Caplan