2019-01-31

Yet more bollox from Oreskes

Via complete and utter Twatter, apparently an amicus brief for the United States Court Of Appeals FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT:
At least fifty years ago, Defendants-Appellants (hereinafter, “Defendants”) had information from their own internal research, as well as from the international scientific community, that the unabated extraction, production, promotion, and sale of their fossil fuel products would result in material dangers to the public. Defendants failed to disclose this information...
Can you see the problem with this? Just as a hint I've bolded some of it. Yes, that's right: these idiots are actually trying to claim in a court of law that the Evil Fossil Fuel companies failed to tell the world about published scientific research. FFS. They'll get ripped to shreds, if anyone even bothers read this drivel. Not that Monkers was dissuaded, so there's a fine exemplar for them to follow.

You cannot rescue this rubbish by claiming that "their own internal research" was the important factor, because it wasn't.

This is yet more of the deeply morally broken attempt to blame the world's problems on Someone Else; to pretend that the public and the politicians were mere innocent victims of the EFFCs. It is nonsense1.

Notes


1. Not that the EFFCs haven't done their share of lying. But "I did bad things because people lied to me" is pretty feeble; and definitely no excuse since the turn of the millennium, when (true) information has been so widely available.

2. It took me some time to work out which case this is, even. It's probably this one, if you care. Which enables me to tell you that Mario J. Molina, Michael Oppenheimer, Susanne C. Moser, Donald J. Wuebbles, Gary Griggs, Peter C. Frumhoff, and Kristina Dahl are idiots as well; the lesson from the Alsup tutorial was that the science isn't in doubt in court. But don't miss their shameless Foote fanbois stuff, although why anyone would want to yawn through their tedious rehearsal of well-known not-in-dispute stuff I don't know. Perhaps they had the slides pre-prepared and were reluctant not to use them.

Refs


Nierenberg, concluded: Oreskes is wrong.
I was a teenage Exxon-funded climate scientist?
Gongos and Bongos
Holy Alsup, Batman!
* And don't get me started on the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and 12 years to death meme.
CAN THE EULIPOTYPHICENE SURVIVE THE ANTHROPOCENE? - no issue is too trivial for govt to intervene.

2019-01-23

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.

Refs


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.

Refs


* 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
* Earned wealth or unearned wealth: we want it; TF; from Capitalists in the Twenty-First Century by Matthew Smith, Danny Yagan, Owen Zidar, and Eric Zwick.
Democrats More Positive About Socialism Than Capitalism; and 538 on Twatter.
Why I'm Optimistic About Venezuela by Bryan Caplan
* Kamala Harris’s Disappointing Economics - Proposals from the Democratic presidential candidate fail to account for some basic aspects of supply and demand - by Tyler Cowen
* Pride and Prejudice and Violence - by David Henderson

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 :-).

Refs


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

2019-01-19

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?

Notes


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.

Refs

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

2019-01-18

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.

Refs


* Dosbat also sees the light, from 2015.

2019-01-13

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.

Refs

* 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

2019-01-08

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-vote8.

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.

Update


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.

Notes


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.

8. By chance, I discover that I briefly talked about ODOV back in July 2018.


Refs


Men spake from God being moved by the Holy Ghost / Every man in his own language.
* My Problem With the Wall by DON BOUDREAUX
There’s something threatening about this unanimity of protest. They are so sure they are right - TF

2019-01-03

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.

Notes


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.

Refs


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
* More evidence that Elizabeth Warren is a shithead: Here’s how we can break up Big Tech.

2019-01-01

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.

Notes


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.