Christ Carrying the Cross (Bosch, Ghent)

Christ Carrying the Cross (Bosch, Ghent). Although, apparently, not.

Well, what can you say? But I should try to say something. It is immeadiately striking, yet another of those paintings that reminds me of eternity and the triviality of one's own existence. It's a sort of inverse of Landscape with the Fall of Icarus. Again - though I am no art historian - it seems so original. But I don't find the comment As a study of human facial expressions this work is unparalleled helpful.


Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I
* The Fall of the Rebel Angels
Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

The IPCC are idiots

tf The IPCC are idiots. With a New Leader they decided their website was the wrong colour, and so set about a vandalism spree, breaking all the old links. So for example the succinctly titled Global Warming of 1.5°C, an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty linked to http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/session48/pr_181008_P48_spm_en.pdf, which is no longer there. Well I'm buggered if I'm going to painfully trawl through all my old posts correcting them link-by-link, since I don't have the patience of a Gavin.

I'm surprised there isn't more outrage across the wub. Perhaps no-one reads old posts.


* On Being an Arsehole: A defense - h/t ATTP
* New Ocean Heat Content Histories - Zanna and Gebbie
* Not my Best Side - U. A. Fanthorpe
File:Paolo Uccello - St George slaying the dragon - Google Art Project.jpg
It speaks clearly to truth

UK has biggest fossil fuel subsidies in the EU, finds commission?

44833099_2052946934770229_3277484643019915264_o Sez the Graun. Anyone with any experience of these matters will be unsurprised to discover that the calculated size of the subsidies depends on what exactly you consider a subsidy. In this case, you have to go a few paragraphs down before you come to A significant part of the UK fossil fuel subsidies identified by the commission is the 5% rate of VAT on domestic gas and electricity, cut from the standard 20%. This is the Graun; quantification is not their thing; they do not trouble themselves with how large a share "significant" might be.

Now "cut from the standard 20%" is an interesting phrase, implying - to my mind - something recent. And definitely implying that it once was at 20%. But no, this is not true at all, not even a tiny bit. As VAT on fuel & power, Research Paper 97/87, 9 July 1997 will tell you,
When VAT was first introduced in 1973 supplies of fuel & power were charged the zero rate. On 1 July 1990 'non-domestic' supplies to industry and commerce became liable to VAT at the standard-rate, leaving the zero rate covering supplies to final consumers only: ie, supplies used in houses, flats, dwellings, etc, as well as supplies used by a charity for its non-business activities. On 1 April 1994 domestic supplies of fuel & power became liable to value added tax (VAT) at the reduced rate of 8%. It had been the Conservative Government's intention that these supplies would be charged the standard rate of VAT - currently 17.5% - the following year. However in December 1994 the Government was defeated on a Budget Resolution vote on this question, and was required to introduce amending legislation so that these supplies continued to be charged VAT at 8%. In October 1995 the Labour party announced its intention to cut the rate of VAT on domestic supplies of fuel & power from 8% to 5%, a commitment included in their election manifesto. On 2 July 1997 in his Budget speech the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, announced that the new 5% rate would come into effect on 1 September 1997.
So the question becomes, is charging VAT on domestic G+E at 5% rather than 20% a subsidy to fossil fuels? Maybe, but not obviously.

And so we have The UK government did not dispute the data but denied that it provided any subsidies for fossil fuels under its own definition and that of the International Energy Agency. “We do not subsidise fossil fuels,” a government spokeswoman said. Whether that is true of not depends on your defns. So what are we to make of the unparliamentary language of Shelagh Whitley, also at ODI, was dismissive of the UK government’s claim to provide no fossil fuel subsidies. “They are lying,” she said. “It’s absurd..."? SW is lying in asserting that the UK govt is definitely lying. You may, if you wish, dispute the UK govts interpretation of the definitions.

What of the report?

The Graun, of course, is only picking snippets out of a long report which is mostly about other things. I, of course, am not going to read the whole thing, I'm just going to ctrl-f for "subsid". The first interesting quote is It is important to note in any discussion of subsidies that there are multiple legitimate reasons for intervening in the energy sector with financial or regulatory support, to correct imperfect markets and to give long-term strategic direction not provided otherwise. I should have expected that; this is the EU; they are always going to provide themselves a let-out for subsidising things that they like for reasons that please them. Notice what they don't have to say, though: that what is a subsidy depends criticially on your defn. This is definitely not an aspect they wish to consider. Figure 10 shows that whilst UK "subsidies" are higher than France's, ours have fallen from 2008 to 2016, whereas theirs have risen.

Unfortunately the report provides no detail of the break down of the subsidies, only Subsidies to petroleum products (mainly tax reductions) account for the largest share within fossil fuels, so just for once I can't fault the Graun for providing an irritating lack of detail: that's the EUs fault.

Other reactions

Craig Bennett, the Friends of the Earth CEO, said: “Spiralling climate change is going to cost people and our economy huge sums of money, through the damage, disruption and instability it causes. So it’s astonishing that the UK government is still throwing taxpayers’ money at... Which makes it clear that people are going to "misinterpret" this stuff. Because whatever charging a VAT rate of 5% rather than something higher is, it certainly isn't throwing taxpayers money at anything. Quite the reverse: increasing the tax rate would be flinging the money at the govt :-).


The emergence of modern astronomy – a complex mosaic: Part I


Climate change could kill over 500,000 people per year by 2030?

50337670_1078953748967611_7249466790588186624_o Via Twatter (re-tweeted by Da Mann, no less) we learn that climate change could kill over 500,000 people per year by 2030. The link is to a site called "weird things" which presumably explains the lack of an initial capital on "climate". There's little substance to the article, about all is a new report published in the New England Journal of Medicine tried to estimate an annual death toll which could be attributed to climate change. That number? At least 250,000 by 2030; but that report link, fetchingly titled The Imperative for Climate Action to Protect Health, begins The WHO predicts that 250,000 deaths yearly from 2030 to 2050 will be attributable to climate change, so it seems that this is just more lazy "journalism", and there's nothing especially new.

500k is a lot of stiffs but the world population is large: about 7kkk. Supposing everyone lives to the nice round number of 70 years, then, 100kk people die each year if we're in a steady state which we aren't but it's probably not too far off - actually, I've just looked it up, it's closer to 50kk, fine, I'll use that - so an extra 500k is an extra 1% on the death rate. Not something that you'd do by design, but (all together now) if you had a large amount of money, where might you spend it to reduce deaths? I'd put it into improving governance in the many regions of the world where the govt is shit1, if I had any brilliant schemes for actually helping. But I'm a big ideas man; I'd have people to deal with the details.

If we now turn to the WMO report itself, which I think is here, we find climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050; 38 000 due to heat exposure in elderly people, 48 000 due to diarrhoea, 60 000 due to malaria, and 95 000 due to childhood undernutrition. The point about "mostly the elderly" came up in 4th National Climate Assessment report: Extreme Temperature Mortality - see the comments. But I'm afraid I find much to doubt in those numbers; my suspicion is that the absolute not just percentage number of malnourished children will continue to fall (and the rather smaller number of overweight children will continue to rise). So instead of 500k we seem to have 250k; and of those less than 50k are directly heat related - so we're down to 0.1% instead of 1% - and so on.

I still think that, apart from just being a bad idea, Global Warming damages aren't going to show up clearly in this kind of simplistic analysis; see-also Mass starvation is humanity’s fate if we keep flogging the land to death?


1. Yes I know that neither the UK or the USA are currently setting especially good examples of govt competency at the moment, but compared to Venezuela, Zimbabwe and the like we're paragons of virtue. BTW, before you call me a Statist of enthusiast for Big Govt, I should point out that "governance" doesn't just apply to govt; indeed, one could argue that the UK and the USA are showing fine examples of why you'd want as much of the country not run by govt as possible.


Flight to Sky-Blu - from Ramblings to and from Antarctica by Mike Rose


Rapid decline of Arctic sea ice volume: Causes and consequences

seaice Rapid decline of Arctic sea ice volume: Causes and consequences by Jean-Claude Gascard, Jinlun Zhang and Mehrad Rafizadeh in The Cryosphere Discussions, https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-2. Doubtless containing much fascinating science, but the only bit anyone cares about is “it should take no more than 12 to 15 years to melt away the remaining 25% of sea ice still resisting the summer melt”. But where does this prediction come from? From Based on a steady loss of -300km3 of sea ice per year and a Pan Arctic sea ice volume minimum estimated to be about 4000 km3 at the end of the summer by now, it should take no more than 12 to 15 years to melt away the remaining 25% of sea ice still resisting the summer melt. Thus, just curve - on in this case, straight-line - fitting; no physics. So this is just a re-run of the Maslowski stuff, though the last time we discussed that, I found I hadn't a clue about what Big M had actually "predicted".

In case you've forgotten, I inline what they think the volume trends look like. I'm doubtful their prediction will come true. Why would I think that, other than to be curmudgeonly? I'm not expressing any great faith in the CMIP5 models, which predict something later. No, it's more of a feeling that volume doesn't respond linearly, especially when the ice gets thin (see-also their figure 8, though that's for May; it's a shame they don't show it for September too). I could be wrong, of course. Sadly 12-15 years is too far away for any kind of useful bet.


* Dosbat also sees the light, from 2015.


Tucker Carlson has sparked the most interesting debate in conservative politics?

49739198_2167080283356893_8140536757771829248_n I almost decided to pass this one up. But it touches on so much that I'm interested in that I can't. Starting on Twatter via the obligatory I-disagree-with-David-Roberts I find my titular post, by someone called Jane Coaston. TC I know nothing of and care less, but he appears to be manifesting the familiar kind of right-wing populism: that god-fearing honest white folks just can't get along nowadays what with all the evil global elite bankers at the top and the evil mexicans doing all the hard work at the bottom. After lots of wurble the article finally links you to the correct answer: libertarians have critiqued Carlson’s monologue as well, so that's nice, and spares me from having to write a whole pile of stuff. But you don't get off totally unscathed:

The article ends with a question, which is presumably intended to be tricky: But what to do about those dying little towns, and which dying towns we care about and which we don’t, and, most importantly, whose fault it is that those towns are dying in the first place. But the answer is easy: let them die. The structure of our landscape and the distribution of population has been shaped by various historical forces, if those forces no longer apply there is no point in propping up the corpses. Why "whose fault is it" is the most important question is a mystery to me; the desire to blame someone for every problem is stupid, and in this case there is no one person or thing that is to blame, just the march of progress.

Which points to the solution to the overall problem. The problem, of course, being that things aren't like they were in the old days. The solution, of course, is that things aren't like they were in the old days. Or, in their own words Capitalism/liberalism destroys the extended family by requiring people to move apart for work and destroying any sense of unchosen obligations one might have towards one’s kin. Which I take to be typical of the usual sort of claims. But of course it isn't true. Changes - liberalisations - in society give people more choices; they no longer need to remain in the same place as their parents; and taking advantage of that freedom is popular, and comes with some disadvantages. Perhaps, over time, we'll come to feel that it wasn't such a good choice. But to blame the freedom you've been given for your own choices is childish.


* A reasonably decent article on Hobbes in TLS.
The Myth of Capitalism: Monopolies and the Death of Competition. Jonathan Tepper and Denise Hearn. A review... - Bronte Capital
Oft-quoted paper on spread of fake news turns out to be…fake news
* The Spontaneous Evolution of Commercial Law - BRUCE L. BENSON
* The Right Should Reject Tucker Carlson’s Victimhood Populism - DAVID FRENCH
* A Failure to Adjust. We can't blame all of the struggles of the working class on "China Shock" -  SCOTT LINCICOME
* Standing Still is Not an Option by DON BOUDREAUX in CREATIVE DESTRUCTION


Aristotle's politics

We have owned a copy of Aristotle's politics for countless years, featuring a funny old chap on the cover apparently wearing a tea cosy6, and I have not read it up until now. I suspect I've bounced off it a few times, and only finished this time after a few months. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy2 tells me it is his lecture notes3, and it reads like that rather often: not properly systematised, incomplete and repetitive. Although starting perhaps from Plato's views A is differently directed: rather than building a theoretical edifice5 he is more interested in practical observation; indeed part of the tedium is him attempting to categorise everything and failing. Hobbes's "there are only three forms of govt" is I now realise a response to A's six1. I ignore the aspects of slavery and treatment of women as being irrelevant here. A's context - a city-state amongst others - is different from today. I'm not at all convinced that the "A has been influential down to modern times" meme is of any utility; he's just another dead white male.

But mostly, and mostly interesting to me, A is interested in trying to balance different power blocks within a city, or rather - since I don't think he has much useful advice to offer, other than "think about it" - he observes various different efforts. In the end, shorn of detail but retaining the bit that interests me, it comes down to trying to balance one-man-one-vote, and one-dollar-one-vote.

Nowadays we fetishise democracy and find it hard to believe that anything other than OMOV makes sense or can be justified, whilst living in a system that we know doesn't actually operate this way except on the crudest and most superficial level. People tend to denounce ODOV7 as an obvious evil, though without any obvious thought; and things done without thought are not always good. A, who is generally in favour of compromise and avoiding extremes, advocates a compromise between the systems; and I think that's about right4.


CIP is unhappy about me suggesting [giving] power to the rich. He doesn't use the G-word but I think it is implied. My reply on reflection is incomplete, because what I forgot to say there is that this is about recognising where power lies; not about shuffling it around, still less about "giving" it to people or entities. Having a political theory that doesn't match reality leads to much unproductive discourse.

Another update

From the quotable Constitution of Liberty (via Twatter):

Closely connected with this is the usual attitude of the conservative to democracy. I have made it clear earlier that I do not regard majority rule as an end but merely as a means, or perhaps even as the least evil of those forms of government from which we have to choose. But I believe that the conservatives deceive themselves when they blame the evils of our time on democracy. The chief evil is unlimited government, and nobody is qualified to wield unlimited power. The powers which modern democracy possesses would be even more intolerable in the hands of some small elite.
It is not democracy but unlimited government that is objectionable, and I do not see why the people should not learn to limit the scope of majority rule as well as that of any other form of government. At any rate, the advantages of democracy as a method of peaceful change and of political education seem to be so great compared with those of any other system that I can have no sympathy with the antidemocratic strain of conservatism. It is not who governs but what government is entitled to do that seems to me the essential problem.


1. For H, they are democracy, aristocracy and monarchy; being rule by all, some or one. A has these, plus their "bad" (or "perverted") versions for a total of six, where the difference is whether they are run for the common good, or the good of only a few. This is a typically A-type attempt at classification that probably means little in the real world.

2. The wiki article is poor.

3. As does the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

4. Foes of inequality will be delighted to know that he regards inequality as a source of division and revolution, and therefore wishes to minimise it. They may be less pleased that he doesn't regard it as bad in and of itself.

5. I was skimming by the time I got to book 7.

6. I now realise it's the bloke on the left in this picture. See-also here.

7. As should be clear from the preceding, and from the update, one-dollar-one-vote isn't a replacement for OMOV, but is to be understood as alongside it.


Men spake from God being moved by the Holy Ghost / Every man in his own language.
* My Problem With the Wall by DON BOUDREAUX


ethos anthropoi daimon

Bernat_Martorell_-_Saint_George_Killing_the_Dragon_-_Google_Art_Project I seem to be having a proverb-heavy start to the new year. ethos anthropoi daimon or, for those of you with Greek no better than mine "character is fate", comes via Why the Trump presidency will end poorly in the LA Times, which comes via CafeHayek. That character is destiny is related to Aristotle's3 excellence is a habit, not a virtue1. In Trump's case the theory seems to apply. And perhaps, as the LA Times notes, it explains some of the passion of his supporters: they have bought into him; they don't greatly care about the policies in any detail what matters is the idea, or the man; and so they are obliged to buy into his character; so the attacks on Trump look like an attack on their own character?

See-also: keep your identity small, by Paul Graham.


1. Note that "quote" isn't in quotes because it isn't a quote. See-also wiki or this blog post. When I say it, I mean that it is no good relying on your excellence alone. If you try to do things - solve puzzles, do real work, athletics - and repeatedly fall short of what you were aiming for, but tell yourself each time that was only a trial, you could do better but didn't actually try your best that time, then when it comes to the "real thing" you will fail as well. The converse, of course, is that you can observe people's "excellence" from their everyday lives, you don't need to wait until they try some difficult test.

2. That wiki page also contains the nice "Those who can, do. Those who understand, teach" which is a paraphrase of A's "We regard master-craftsmen as superior not merely because they have a grasp of theory and know the reasons for acting as they do. Broadly speaking, what distinguishes the man who knows from the ignorant man is an ability to teach, and this is why we hold that art and not experience has the character of genuine knowledge (episteme)--namely, that artists can teach and others (i.e., those who have not acquired an art by study but have merely picked up some skill empirically) cannot."

3. That his physics was crap doesn't mean I have to diss all his stuff.

4. The picture is irrelevant. I'm not slaying any great dragon here. I just liked it. See Bernat Martorell for the full image. h/t Bibliothèque Infernale.


Climate change: LED lights making dent in UK energy demand
Rationality and Knavery - David Hume
* No man can climb out beyond the limitations of his own character - John Morley


Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set

Googling, as folk are wont to do, the humble phrase "For out of olde feldes, as men seyth" I stumbled across Faithful Magistrates and Republican Lawyers: Creators of Virginia's Legal Culture, 1680-18102 and my heart beat faster - yes really it did - for I had found the elusive connection between the Common Law of Olde Englande and Chaucer, and it is Coke. From Institutes of the Lawes of England (Widely recognized as a foundational document of the common law, they have been cited in over 70 cases decided by the Supreme Court of the United States), probably volume four, we find: Let us now peruse our ancient authors, for out of the old fields must come the new corne. Which runs on, via some obscure connections I've now lost track of1, to the Rule in Shelley's Case, which you don't want to know about. Even better, from the title page I find Proverbs 22 28Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.


1. One is a file on the history of the law of due process, which only belatedly do I notice is from electjudgeduggan.wordpress.com, who (Ballotopedia tells me) was a candidate for Supreme Court 3rd Judicial District in 2013. But he got stoated, receiving only 5% of the vote, despite his fine scholarship.

2. Or perhaps more usefully, William Fitzhugh.


The lyf so short, the craft so longe to lerne

DSC_7616 Aka "the year in Stoats, 2018". This year, in honour of DA's comment about comments, I present my "top" posts of 2018, as measured by the number of comments they got.

* Jan: WATN: Trump  (39).
* Feb: Rocket science! (36).
* Mar: Who knew what when? (33)
* Apr: Who was that masked man? (36)
* May: What to DO about big problems? (43)
* Jun: L'affaire Peter Ridd (31)
* Jul: Unlike deniers, climate alarmists are not influential? (16)
* Aug: In the decade that ran from 1979 to 1989, we had an excellent opportunity to solve the climate crisis? (21)
* Sep: The left has no theory of the behaviour of the government? (85)
* Oct: A large part of the planet will become unlivable: either too hot or too dry? (68)
* Nov: New technologies, not Paris climate agreement, will do the job? (25)
* Dec: Brexit, again (29)

So the winner is September's post about public choice, a fitting winner for this year when my interest shifted ever more obviously towards some intersection of law, philosophy, politics, and economics.

People I insulted in 2018

(warning: may not be a complete list)

Jordan Peterson is a tosser
Is Bruno Latour a useless ponce?
L'affaire Schneiderman
Oedipus Tex, and other Choral Calamities
Scientific evidence is indispensable for effective policymaking?

That's pretty thin. I must try harder next year.


* ATTP: 2018: A year in review.
The year in stoats: 2016 (there was no 2017); 2015; 2014; 2013; 2012; 2010; 2009.
* A New Year’s Resolution for Statocrats - Pierre Lemieux


The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity

pitiless The Second Coming, of course: A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun; as noted recently by CIP. But I wanted to consider my title phrase. It is often used to bemoan the problem that while my side my be right, the other guys are much better at expressing themselves, or capturing public attention, probably by lying; the devil has all the best tunes. I find it again via MacShane, who despairs of finding someone capable of arguing for the EU, and quotes Lyndon B. Johnson: What convinces is conviction. Believe in the argument you're advancing. If you don't you're as good as dead.

Yeats is of course a poet and the skill of such is to be ambiguous; nonetheless, I shall try to interpret his words: that it should be taken as a observation, rather than a complaint. It is not a despairing complaint that he can find no-one to put forward his cause; rather, it is an observation rather common in politics that those most full of passion are generally rabble rousers, populists and demagogues. Faced with the complexity of the modern world the correct answer is, well, not quite to lack all conviction; but certainly not to provide simplistic answers.

It seems to be easy to admire those of passionate intensity. MacShane does, or at least he admires their intensity, whilst decrying their position: they are in favour of Brexit, he is not. And one often hears similar in the context of global warming: scientists warn, but cannot help themselves from mentioning all the caveats, thereby destroying the purity of their message. I, in my usual drifting-off-to-the-theoretical-perfection kind of way, am more inclined to argue that the passion is simply wrong, and "all" you need to do is teach people to distrust it.

Fundamental rights: car insurance companies no longer discriminate on the basis of gender

By a fairly tortuous route (Denis MacShane's old book on Brexit, which I'll come back to, to the UK govt's damp-squib but enormous review of EU competences, to the review of fundamental rights, to Chapter 1. Fundamental Rights in Context, introduction, point 1.2, "For example, fundamental rights have been found to mean that the sex of a driver cannot be a factor used to determine car insurance premiums".

What I'm looking for is a way to make more concrete my unease at the way the EU, and perhaps other similar institutions, define human rights1. This tends to be hard to see in the definitions themselves, which often look like motherhood-and-apple-pie, who-could-disagree-with-that, so one has to look at the consequences2. The "madness" of forbidding insurers to include sex-of-driver in insurance premiums is an obvious consequence to start working back from6.

Context: [Graun, 2012] Car insurance: why women face £300 rise in premiums. An EU ruling means insurance commpanies must end gender discrimination, and female drivers under 40 will be hit hardest. As it happened, it didn't work out quite like that: [Graun, 2017] How an EU gender equality ruling widened inequality. The author of the piece guesses, reasonably, that Before, insurers bluntly charged you a bit more if you were male, a bit less if you were female. Now they have to price it according to rather more concise data reflecting your individual driving behaviour. Car insurance may have become less equal. But it is more fair.

So in practical terms this looks like one of those instances where people did the obvious thing, and since it was obvious everyone did the same obvious thing, and continued doing it until it was no longer possible to do the obvious thing, at which point they switched - with some associated pain - to doing something less obvious, but better. In more theoretical terms, this starts to look like one of those instances where govt / court intervention can prompt biznis to remove inefficiency. That's disappointing, because it's exactly the answer I didn't want7.

The ABI has a doc from 2008 on the benefit of risk pricing in insurance: Insurers want to be
competitive. They can be most competitive if the premium they charge is appropriate to cover the risk posed, but no higher than necessary. Insurance companies have an incentive to ‘risk price’ as much as possible - using more, and increasingly sophisticated, rating factors so that they can accurately predict the probability of a claim, and the likely cost of that claim. So far so dull; but it does also say that "Risk pricing incentivises safer behaviour". This is true, and good, but obviously you can't incentivise people to change sex3. There's also a looks-similar-but-much-longer report from 2010.

At this point - where, obviously, I'm looking to read the actual EU court judgement - I need to rant viciously at the shit-for-brains ECJ and EU, which are incapable of maintaining links to old dox. After some effort, I find this, which I think is the text I'm looking for. The useful bit, after stripping out goo and dribble about fairness, seems to be para 18: The use of actuarial factors related to sex is widespread in the provision of insurance and other related financial services. In order to ensure equal treatment between men and women, the use of sex as an actuarial factor should not result in differences in individuals’ premiums and benefits. Now I look closer, that is "legal context" not the actual judgement, and comes from section 1 of Article 5 of Directive 2004/113:  ...the use of sex as a factor in the calculation of premiums and benefits for the purposes of insurance and related financial services shall not result in differences in individuals' premiums... This is disappointing again, because it begins to look as though this isn't a question of "human rights" at all, it is simply a question of law (ah, and there is early-2008 language in that directive, which probably explains the existence of the ABI's doc from 2008). But no! Because there's section 2, which offers a derogation for those states that want it, together with a commitment to review their decision five years after, that is, in 2012. That particular bit turns out to be badly written (no! You astonish me) because although clearly hopeful that it would stop after 5 years, it actually provides no definite termination time. And thus the actual issue before the court was whether Article 5(2) [the derogation - WMC] of Directive 2004/113 is valid in the light of the principle of equal treatment for men and women.

And the decision is an exemption from the rule of unisex premiums and benefits, works against the achievement of the objective of equal treatment between men and women, which is the purpose of Directive 2004/113, and is incompatible with Articles 21 and 23 of the Charter. So the court has returned to the Charter, and has decided the issue on the basis of human rights, although apparently strongly guided by the text of the Directive 2004/113. To anyone mathematically literate it seems obvious that the text of the directive is defective, and the meaning of "equal treatment" dubious: there are, obviously, two possible meanings: (A) one that the sexes should be charged equal premiums, and (B) another that the sexes should not be discriminated against; that they should pay proportionate to their risk. A is the stupid version; B the more intelligent one; the EU and the court seem to have decided on A, without even considering B, which is puzzling. But I should not be surprised to discover the EU and the court to be mathematically illiterate.

But now I'm back at where I wanted to be, which is reading the charter of rights in the context of a decision. Article 21, non-discrimination, is mostly Any discrimination based on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation shall be prohibited. Whereas article 23 is Equality between women and men must be ensured in all areas, including employment, work and pay4. Taken literally, these articles are of course drivel: because they are binding on everyone. This is an interesting difference from, say, the US constitution. The US constitution guarantees freedom of religion not by giving you a personal "right" to same, but by banning the govt from making laws about religion. This very neatly avoids using the word "right", which has no clear meaning5. The US constitution binds the US govt, which is it's purpose, so that is all logically coherent. The EU charter of rights by contrast "grants" people "rights" of unclear meaning, and thereby binds everyone. And hence read literally forbids me from preferring women to men; or vice versa; which is drivel. At which point you're obliged to go "oh no that's not what we meant by discrimination", which of course you haven't defined either. And so it is all a mess.

Conclusion: the court, based only on the charter, could have decided the issue either way, and should have decided on the basis of sanity rather than insanity. But the language of Directive 2004/113 made that difficult. But insofar as this illuminates the charter of rights, it shows it in a bad light.

Note: piecing all this together was tedious, and perhaps error prone. If anyone can point me to a clear exposition of these issues that I should have read, please do so.


1. The report actually uses "fundamental rights" but the distinction between this and the more commonly understood "human rights" is thin: as para 1.1 says, Human rights are often described as basic rights inherent to every person. They can take the form of protections for individuals, organisations and business, such as freedom of expression. ‘Fundamental rights’ is the term used to describe human rights as they are recognised in EU law. However, EU fundamental rights do not necessarily afford the same guarantees as human rights in other contexts.

2. Note that I started writing this post before looking very far, so that's sort-of unbiased, but if I find anything too contradictory to what I want to say, this post will never see the light of day.

3. You can incentivise them to drive more safely so their entire sex's risk premium is lowered, but this is too diffuse an effect.

4.Article 23 continues The principle of equality shall not prevent the maintenance or adoption of measures providing for specific advantages in favour of the under-represented sex, which is obviously shit, because it admits grubby compromise into your fundamental principles. But let's not go there now.

5. Alas, they totally stuffed this up for the Second Amendment8.

6. Also actuarial stuff, but I came across the insurance premiums first.

7. But I'm not downcast, because this is a theoretical not practical post. FWIW, my answer to "but if it had a good outcome why complain" is that forcing people to be good is bad, and only permissible when the contrary would be terrible.

8. Miriam questions whether "human rights" was even considered at the time of the US constitution. Wiki's History of human rights says otherwise, and of course the Declaration of Independence asserts that that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights... Whether that is quite the same meaning as we give the word can be questioned.


* Why We Need Ideology - Ilya Somin; Volokh.
* Whatever the cost may be..." Really??? - Alberto Mingardi; EconLib.
Centre for European Reform.


Transparency in taxation heap good

Andrew Dessler tweets:
Economists love a carbon tax because it is transparent. But it turns out that people don’t actually want transparency. They would much rather pay a high price they can’t see rather than a low price that they can.
I'm a touch dubious abut the truth of this proposition - it reads more like someone finding an argument that they like, and agreeing with it - but no matter. For the purposes of this post, let's assume the assertion is true: that people don’t actually want transparency. They would much rather pay a high price they can’t see rather than a low price that they can. One answer is to simply accept that we're a democracy, and the people should get what they want1. But if I believed that I'd be one of the plebs, not a member of the liberal commentariat, so I need to do better. And I can, without even mentioning Brexit or Hanging or Immigration.

And that is to observe that the laws, and policy making in general, should be framed in general terms first and only applied to specific cases later. Laws, or policies, made specially for individual cases are in general a bad idea.

So the first question you ask people is, do you want your laws and your taxes to be transparent, or would you rather be taxed in subtle ways that you will find it easy to miss? The answer to this question will of course be, "we want taxes to be transparent". Because it is not true that what people want is to have money taxed from them invisibly. The observation is different: that people complain about overt taxation, and don't complain about, errm, things they don't notice. That doesn't mean they're any happier about losing money that way, though.

Only having established the general principle do you move onto the specifics of individual taxes.


1. Dignified with the name of "majoritarianism" perhaps; see-also Gunz: constitutionalism and majoritarianism.


* Milton Friedman Helped Invent Income Tax Withholding.

IAMs heap bad

DSC_7504 Bob Ward is back, and he's not happy (h/t ATTP):
economists and finance ministries must stop relying on models that are simply not fit for purpose when making investment decisions. The potential impacts of climate change caused by fossil fuel use are grossly underestimated by the current generation of economic models, which cannot quantify the cost of, and therefore omit, tipping points in the climate system, such as the destabilisation of the land-based ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica, and apply inappropriate discounting such that huge damages to future generations are trivialised.
Meh. I thought I'd seen it not long ago, and it's really Recommendations for Improving the Treatment of Risk and Uncertainty in Economic Estimates of Climate Impacts in the Sixth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report? (or even Climate Change Policy: What Do the Models Tell Us?), or in broader terms it's it is very hard to get a high cost for GW damage into the future, when measured against anything numerical. BW continues “optimal climate policy” would result in global warming of 3C by the end of this century and 4C by 2150. Such a result is simply not credible when compared with the scientific evidence collated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change earlier this year, showing how devastating a global temperature rise of more than 1.5C would be, which is all very well, but he hasn't explained exactly where the incredibility lies. So either he is lazy, or the disparity is harder to express than he's pretending.

Andrew Dessler appears to get this totally confused by saying Economic models all agree on one thing: reducing emissions is good for the economy. But it's ridiculous, as Bob points out in his letter, to get quantitative information from them (i.e., optimal amount of warming is 3°C).  Too many value judgments embedded in those estimates. BW's point, as I take it, is quite the opposite: that the models say you can keep emitting quite a lot and the economy keeps growing. And AD is still not getting it. Later on he clarifies: if you apply a carbon tax equal to whatever SCC you pick, then emissions will go down because SOME emissions are associated with very low benefits... This I think is true, but is rather different to his original assertion, which appears to be a blanket claim that simply reducing emissions is good. Now, only some emissions should be reduced, except by ADs rules we can't get any quantitative info from the models, so we'll never know which emissions are to be reduced. Unless we simply apply a carbon tax. The conversation continues, and morphs into "So to the question at hand: Reducing emissions is fundamentally political and can't be reduced to pure economic utility maximization". I reply No; putting it that way is just an excuse for doing it badly. Reducing emissions is many problems, not all pure pol or econ. But econ shows you how to do it well; doing it by pure pol is a way of disguising prejudice and pet solutions. By which I mean that not liking the Econ viewpoint, and instead trying to frame it as pure Pol, is nothing but an excuse for substituting your prejudices for reasoned argument; and in terms of costs and benefits of GW, "reasoned" has to include arithmetic; which has to involve economics. If you discard the Econ, and go for your "gut feel", then you're Trump. At which point AD seems to agree, so we're all happy.


Paris Pow Wow Heap Good.


Happy Christmas, world

Earthrise is a photograph of Earth and some of the Moon's surface that was taken from lunar orbit by astronaut Bill Anders on December 24, 1968, during the Apollo 8 mission.


The Green New Deal, explained

It's stupid. Hopefully it will die in a ditch, and take the proponents down with it.

That's my view, which I write in response to Dave Robert's exposition of the GND. As expected with DR, we disagree. You can also read the thing direct.

I was going to explain all the ways in which it is wrong, but they are all obvious.

Update: oh go on then

I find myself unable to resist the obvious. The "deal" is defective in a number of broad ways.

It isn't a deal, it's a political platform

There isn't really a deal on offer; there's no detail. What exists is a litmus test, or a political platform, or a propaganda exercise: describe it as you will. Technically, it is a proposal to establish a Select Committee For A Green New Deal.

It is hopelessly partisan

The new committee is to draw up a detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan... for the transition of the United States economy to become greenhouse gas emissions neutral and to significantly draw down greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and oceans and to promote economic and environmental justice and equality. There is no hope of the Repubs going for this; and probably little hope of a majority of Dems, either. The GNDers know this, of course, and glory in it: not for them the messy attempts at political compromise, for them ideological purity is the way! This is in part frustration at the lack of bipartisanship from the Repubs recently.

Is is the wrong way to do anything

The govt can't and shouldn't do any of this shit. I appreciate that many of my readers will disagree at this point, but you're here to read my informed analysis so I shall not spare you. One way you can tell it is all wrong is that significantly draw down greenhouse gases from the atmosphere is a central part of the plan. Drawdown is a pet idea that someone has had and so has stuffed it into the plan, but this is no way to make policy. Is carbon capture cheaper or more expensive than reducing emissions in the first place? If cheaper it should be done; if not, not. But there is no room for economics in this nakedly political plan.

It is full of pork

As with anything like this - the recent I-1631 is a good example - the plan is inevitably a vehicle for pork. For example we have a policy (incidentally notice that although the proposed committee is to draw up the plan, it doesn't get much say in what the plan will have to cover) of upgrading every residential and industrial building for state-of-the-art energy efficiency, comfort and safety. I'm all in favour of every citizen of the US of A having the finest state-of-the-art comfy cushions to sit on, but I don't think it is any business of the govt to deliver comfy cushions. Another example is eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from... agricultural... including by investing in local-scale agriculture in communities across the country. This is the traditional happy-peasants school of Leftism, and it is stupid. Everywhere, farms grow larger and more mechanised and employ fewer people, and this does not happen by chance, it happens for very good reasons. It's fine having a few out-of-touch people pushing local-scale ag (hey, I'm a member of the Soil Association myself) but you don't want people like that in power.

Carbon tax now

The govt should do none of the things in this "deal". Instead, they should impose a revenue-neutral carbon tax, taking the chance to delete a few of the more hated taxes and regulations along the way, and step back.


Carbon tax now.
* Other bad ideas are available: Climate action must now focus on the global rich and their corporations, Nicholas Beuret, University of Essex.
* Peter Woit of not-even-wrong fame has an interesting thought re string theorists denying the failure of their endeavour with the reputation of science overall.
* Surfer Dan
* Meanwhile back in Blighty, Labour are idiots too.
* Michael Mann is on board, for a World War II-scale Climate Mobilization.
* Pelosi Announces Appointment of Congresswoman Kathy Castor to Chair Select Committee on the Climate CrisisPelosi has not yet described exactly what the committee will do...
@AOC on millennials and social media: "We’re, like, the world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change"


Exxon Mobil secured U.S. hardship waiver from biofuels laws

InsideClimateNews is sad because Reuters reports that "Exxon Mobil secured U.S. hardship waiver from biofuels laws". ICN are, I presume, unthinkingly sad because it is Exxon getting something; but I am happy because the USAnian's bioethanol rules are one of the more fuckwitted things on this planet, not excluding the Mango Mussolini himself, so the more entities with exemptions the better. Tellingly, at one point the article notes that the EPA has to balance the competing interests of refiners and ethanol producers, taking it for granted that the consumers don't get a look in.


America Is Not the Fifth Most Dangerous Country for Journalists, You Idiots
America Is Not the Tenth Most Dangerous Country for Women, You Idiots

Cage fight: The Pause

pause I largely ignored The Pause (aka a somewhat shameful episode in the history of climatology, distinguished by short-termism, panic, and grubby chasing of cheap papers in Nature). I celebrated it's death in June 2015 (and it made WATN for that year); in November 2013 I noted Cowtan and Way with the “pause” stuff is hard to take seriously in scientific terms; but the nutters were still believing it in 2016.

Anyway, for reasons unclear to me and I'm certainly not interested enough to discover, people have started scratching each other's eyes out about it. More popcorn, anyone?


* Link to the bloody Tweets
* I did edit the wiki page, starting in 2014, but not seriously. I took out some drivel and some bollocks (they can be distinguished, you know). And so on.
Justices rebuff government on asylum ban - ScotusBlog.
* ATTP, ATTP #2 (commenting on Kennedy)


France Would Save $44.5 Billion by Betting on Renewable Energy, Agency Says

fr-solar So Twits Jerry Taylor. He is channelling Bloomberg:
France will save 39 billion euros ($44.5 billion) if it refrains from building 15 new nuclear plants by 2060, and bets instead on renewable energy sources to replace its all its aging atomic facilities, a government agency said. France should spend 1.28 trillion euros over the next four decades, mostly on clean power production and storage capacities, networks, and imports, according to a report from the country’s environment ministry. If it does this, France would progressively shut down its 58 atomic plants and renewable energy would comprise 95 percent of its electricity output by 2060, up from 17 percent last year.
The report itself is in Frog, but I am up to the task, unlike the report's authors, who will doubtless soon be receiving a short and brutal visit from the Academie Francaise for use of vulgar Anglo-Saxonisms like LCOE ("levelized cost of electricity") instead of CdEE. As you see, they predict various versions of solar PV getting ever cheaper, although rather suspiciously flattening out towards the end, almost as though they'd kinda given up making half-arsed guesses. Let's say we end up around E50/MWhr.

Compared to this, "Nucléaire historique", if supposed prolonged to 2060, seems to be 42 €/MWh, though as they note not all existing plants could be kept going that long. "Nucléaire de nouvelle génération (EPR)" comes in at 85 €/MWh or perhaps 70 €/MWh‏, depending on some assumptions I didn't bother read too carefully, since as everyone knows the costs of nukes is generally higher than you think. As for thermal power, they suggest prix de la tonne de CO2 sur le marché européen est supposé égal à 30 € en 2030 et 57 € en 2050. I think that 1 MWhr requires about 600 kg of coal,  which if correct means that even if thermal plants were entirely free to operate other than the carbon permits, they wouldn't be viable in 2050 compared to solar.

At that point we're only 8 pages into a 36 page report, but we seem to have got to the result, so there's no point reading on.


Results showed that self-report means generally did not differ from informant-report means


GDP impartially consider'd

We start off in the usual home of bad ideas these days, Twatter. Wherein we find promulgated the thought that Nordhaus may be revered among economists, but ecologists have a very different opinion of his legacy. Many believe that the world's failure to pursue aggressive climate action over the past decades is in large part due to arguments Nordhaus has advanced. This is, of course, drivel. To be fair, as so often with bad ideas on Twatter, the "thought" isn't even novel; it's just a cut-n-paste from some nutter elsewhere. Why is this obvious drivel from nutters that no-one of any degree of sense would take seriously? Because this so massively over-states the degree to which theory, and theory of economics, has affected GW policy. A number of people, some of them very influential, have or had or thought they had excellent self-interested reasons for doing nothing about GW, and this really doesn't require any complex explanations.

Anyway, that's all largely beside the point, because the next stage is mt musing
As I think @jamesannan pointed out some years ago, why should I care whether my descendants are nine times or ten times as rich as I am today? 
Reducing climate impact to GDP is economics answering the wrong question, as well as answering it wrong.
This is the familiar issue2: can we reduce the impacts of GW down to something as crass, crude, distasteful - frankly, my dear, it smacks of trade - as money, when everyone knows that Gentlefolk don't deal with money themselves; they have people to do that for them. This is all familiar stuff, and in Economics and Climatology? from 2012 I was reacting to mt again, that time his:
economics... claims for itself a unique position among the sciences, as the crux, the central weighing mechanism, for all public decision-making.
To clarify (see the comments), mt wasn't objecting to there being a "central weighing mechanism"1, his was objecting to it being economics; I think that he wanted to use the shared morality of civilization as his mechanism instead (and still does); when I tried to probe that (do we have one? How would you know? Do all countries have the same one?) the discussion got bogged down. My objection is that we likely don't have (globally) shared morality, no matter how easy agreement may be around dining tables, and that trying to use such a concept is a recipe for the current mess, not an escape from it. The point about the economics is that it does tell a lot of people that their pet solution is wrong.

Aaanyway, having gone through that and failed to agree yet again, we come to James "tricksy" Annan:
Have also been thinking a little about this recently. One issue is that GDP is a measure of annual turnover, it does not attempt to measure wealth in any way shape or form.
Of course, noting that GDP is not a measure of wealth or income is hardly new. Nonetheless my "Meh; yes, but of course no. Feel free to substitute some other measure; you'd get much the same answers" didn't go down well. If JA is critiquing the problem that GDP is a measure of income rather than wealth, then the answers are (a) yes that's true but uninteresting (if you think otherwise, please provide an interesting consequence); and (b) on the large scale of centuries, GDP growth is exponential, so they're proportional anyway. If he's critiquing the problem that it "only includes monetised transactions, includes government at what it costs rather than the value it adds, doesn't discuss the distribution of income or consumption, only the gross amount and so on and on" (which I think it rather closer to mt's point) then yes, OK, that's a known thing. But like many other known problems that nonetheless survive, it survives because it isn't easy to see a better alternative. Also, although the measure is imperfect, on the large scale there aren't any obvious consequences. Even if you use a rather elastic definition of the word subsidy, the present-day costs of GW aren't large so the stuff we're "missing" from GW related to FF use isn't large, so correcting it would only have a small impact.


Some find this post hard to scute. Naturally, I'm delighted: I didn't spend long years getting an expensive education just so that any old bloke on the wub can understand my deep thoughts. As to what this post is about: read it. Like many of my posts, it doesn't have One True Theme; I'm more reacting the to-me-strange things other people say. It was kicked off, as you can tell by implication, by JA's tweet.

But if it has one theme, it is that nit-picking an idea is cheap; that many nits do not make a nat; that observing that GDP does not describe internal disparity is about as useful as noting the Climate Sensitivity doesn't either; nor does a Mean; yet all remain useful concepts widely used for lack of a better.

I don't think effects on GDP are the best, or at least a good, way of quantifying the effects of human induced climate change is a good summary of this post. I am forced into using GDP for quantifying impacts, but only if this is necessary; for example, for comparing present-day costs of emission reduction versus the future costs of the damage of those emissions aka SCC stuff. At the moment, GDP or some related measure is the only game in town if you want to do that. Throwing up your hands, abandoning the effort, and picking an arbitrary temperature threshold is probably worse; unless the SCC calculations are so uncertain as to be clearly dangerous, and we're forced to say nothing more than "it looks dangerous, we are unable to quantify the risk". I don't think that's true; and if it was true, I think it would be ineffective.

CIP also raises the "catastrophe" point. In answer I don't really have an answer. Of their nature, they are hard to predict or factor in; they add, in a very hard to quantify way, to risk, or if you prefer to "expected" cost.


1. As I said then, the only alternative to a central mechanism is a decentralised mechanism, where everyone uses their own prejudices. Which is the bad bits of the current political mess.

2. Or indeed two issues, because the "nine times or ten times as rich as I am today" leads off into yet another discussion, which I don't think we need to go into for the moment.


Ship of fools.
* The 2008 Financial Crisis - Arnold Kling

How Large Are Global Fossil Fuel Subsidies?

48368088_1020000814873394_704471771524366336_n By David Coady, Ian Parry, Louis Sears and Baoping Shang; World Development, 2017, vol. 91, issue C, 11-27. To anyone thinking "lumme guv I've 'eard this one before", the answer is yes you have, but for some reason I didn't include the keyword "Coady" in that, and for another that nice SR has just fb'd the thing again.

So the "headline" claim is something like fossil fuel subsidies are $5T/yr, or about 6% of GDP. Good grief, that's an outrage. But it's also an awfully large amount of money; do govts really have that much spare dosh to splash around on unprofitable subsidies? The answer, of course, is no, they don't. From the abstract:
Estimated subsidies are $4.9 trillion worldwide in 2013 and $5.3 trillion in 2015 (6.5% of global GDP in both years). Undercharging for global warming accounts for 22% of the subsidy in 2013, air pollution 46%, broader vehicle externalities 13%, supply costs 11%, and general consumer taxes 8%. China was the biggest subsidizer in 2013 ($1.8 trillion), followed by the United States ($0.6 trillion), and Russia, the European Union, and India (each with about $0.3 trillion). Eliminating subsidies would have reduced global carbon emissions in 2013 by 21% and fossil fuel air pollution deaths 55%, while raising revenue of 4%, and social welfare by 2.2%, of global GDP.
So this all rather tediously depends on what your definition of "subsidy" is. You could define it their way - in which case they're right, of course - or you could more restrictively define it as actual cash handed over in order to encourage people to do things. In which case they're wrong; and the largest subsidisers are FF producers like Iran or Venezuela1, as you'd expect. And the numbers come down by more than a factor of 10, when I last looked.

But when someone fb's such a thing, under the heading "While this continues, nobody can claim that we have seriously tried to get out of fossil fuels!", do you think people will understand these distinctions?

Also, note that believing these numbers means believing some version of a SCC number and thus reducing climate impact to GDP, which not everyone is keen to do; and another for air pollution, though since that doesn't involve nearly so much future damage it can perhaps be better quantified.


1. Consider the obvious ritual flings about the incompetent V govt to have been inserted at this point. But not the Iranian one? Hmm, interesting.


L'affaire Cliff Mass

Following my acclaimed defence of Cory Gardner, and my detailed investigation into Peter Ridd and Katherine Hayhoe, it would appear that I also need to consider Cliff Mass, via WUWT (sorry) and la Curry (also sorry, but don't worry, they are ideologically clean archives, not bare links).

First some basics: it would appear that CM is in favour of the (sadly defeated) proposition I-732, and against I-1631. Since that's exactly my position, I find it hard to believe he is too far off track. But, la Curry would have us believe he is being labelled a denialist. On what evidence?

I think it starts The most recent ‘denier’ claims are associated with Cliff’s statements about the causes of the recent California fires: Cliff Mass: Climate change is real but . . . Since that article begins Is Cliff Mass, something of a Seattle celebrity weather guru, a climate change denier? No ... Mass, a University of Washington atmospheric sciences professor, believes that human-caused climate change is real and is influencing the world we live in today I think JC is on pretty thin ice there. But! That's not all the evidence she's got: Sarah Myhre tweeted "This. Is. Propaganda" at CM. ZOMG, no human being should be expected to cope with  that; show some decency.

But things get more amusing at If You Worry About Climate Change and Care About the Environment, Vote No on I-1631, wherein CM wrote: The initiative hardwires money to certain special interest groups–the left-leaning supporters of the measure... (see the picture below). La Curry tactfully notes [The picture was pigs at a trough.]. Perhaps that wasn't the wisest thing to say - I speak as a man well versed in wisdom and the dispensing thereof - and my link is to an archive; the up-to-date version has been whitewashed with a picture of money changing hands instead. As it happens I didn't strongly emphasise this element in my review of 1631, but I entirely agree with CM on his point.

So, meh, you write stuff like that you're going to get some rough-n-tumble; but la Curry is deeply upset: A number of University of Washington graduate students have taken a vocal stance against Cliff Mass, particularly on twitter. These same activist students that were so upset about the pig picture participated in online character assassination, calling Mass every name in the book... accused him of deception, being on the payroll of oil companies, purposely obfuscating with multiple twitter accounts, racism, misogyny, tokenism, Trumpism. And so on. Though oddly she provides not one example; and I for one am not taking Curry's word for this kind of stuff. Off Twatter, she finds one graduate student in particular gets a ‘dishonorable’ mention here: Alex Lenferna1... wrote a blog post that is basically a ‘hit-job’. Meh; read it; it isn't very exciting. I've had worse.

Conclusion: man up, nutters2.


1. Alex Lenferna: Aspiring climate justice advocate & practical philosopher.
2. I should perhaps clarify that this comment is not addressed to CM. And this is probably a place to repeat what I've said before but can't be bothered to find: becoming so sectarian that everyone who disagrees with you and you Great Justice on any point is a "denier" is to become so narrow that you can't succeed.


New Carbon Fee Initiative Drafted with More Color and Less White Supremacy - one for RS perhaps; I didn't get past the headline (he took the bait).
Academics Should Not Be Activists - Thomas R. Wells


Brexit, again

As we get closer to the endgame, Brexit looks more and more like a disaster area. I voted Remain, and would again, but think that the best - and squinting a bit a moderately likely - option is for MPs to vote to rescind article 50, rather than for another referendum.

Which is why the pound went down today when May postponed the vote. Her ostensible reason - to go talk to the EU and get better terms - is delusional. The EU has no interest in helping her, especially at this stage. They, like everyone else, wants her to f*ck off. There was a fair chance that today's vote would have been so disastrous that she would have been forced to f*ck off, in which case other more pleasant options come into play. All she has done is delay those better options.

The path forwards

There are many scenarios from now. Here's my most hopeful one: the vote occurs and goes badly for May. She is forced to resign, and either some vaguely sane leader takes over or perhaps with the leadership weakened the MPs reassert themselves- unlikely I know, they are spineless disorganised and useless, but I can hope. And since we can just rescind article 50, we do so.

Given the cowardice of our MPs, I think my "hopeful" scenario somewhat unlikely; which makes the next-best another referendum, with all the perils of what-should-be-the-question(s); but it would probably work.

The Brexiteers impartially consider'd

Although I voted remain, I have some sympathy for some of the Brexiteers programme: the portion that is Free Trade and freedom from over-regulation. But it has become clear that they are incompetent to achieve these aims. The "hard Brexiteer" faction is now shutting it's eyes, wishing very hard, and hoping to get a Brexit at any cost, in order to renegotiate the deal - or simply break it - when the political climate becomes more favourable to them. Or at least that's their plan, but it is hopeless (the only kind of Brexit that makes any sense and that I could support is a Hard one, and the country will never have the political courage for that). And just as Hobbes teaches us that rebellion is only permissible if you can win, so Brexiting in that manner is only permissible if you can achieve your aims; and they can't.

To be fair, the incompetence is not limited to their side: the Remainers and the Soft Brexiteers and (IMO) the EU are also incompetent; but that's rather the point: there's no-one around competent to negotiate a change of this magnitude.

Another referendum?

I'd rather not. It is slow and error prone. We run a parliamentary democracy, the referendum is advisory, the only thing preventing us from saying "it was a giant mistake, let's not do it again" is the cowardice of MPs.

Theresa May

Is rubbish. But what mystifies me is why she is so dedicated to Leave. Before the referendum she was remain, albeit weakly; she is not a person of any great principle. I can only attribute it to blind stubbornness, which rather fits her image from the Home Office. She still looks to me like a politician - and a person - of no vision, substance, or quality. Her only ability, much touted, is surviving, for which I give her no credit.

Update: 2018/12/12: Brexit in chaos as Tory MPs trigger vote of no confidence in Theresa May.
Update: 2018/12/13: Theresa May survives confidence vote of Tory MPs although "survives" only in May-land.
Update: 2019/01/15: May's shit deal is thrown out by a vast majority. At least one MP - Cambridge's Daniel Zeichner - comes out for just-revoke-A50.
Update: 2019/01/16: That fuckwit Corbyn tries a vote of no confidence and inevitably loses, thereby if anything strengthening "cockroach" May.


James Annan has been predicting Brexit-will-not-happen for a while, and now has a post up with more detail (note: I wrote this post, except for this section, before reading his). Although I think will-not-happen is quite likely, I still fear that our idiots pols could yet by blind stubbornness and cowardice end up leading us over the cliff anyway. But he's been right about a number of things so I'm cheered that he may be right about this too. He's probably right about the value of academics and journos too.


Boris Johnson is a tosser.
* Boris in the bunker.
Brits Could Have a Brexit Cake and Eat It Too - not realistic, but the direction of my thinking.
Devastating Review of Nancy MacLean’s Fictional Work “Democracy in Chains” - CH
* Just blow it all up? - by Scott Sumner, EconLib
One Year Ago Today, the FCC Killed the Internet