More politics-via-fb I’m afraid. I wouldn’t trouble you with this except people I know not only post it, but defend it. My headline could instead have been “a plea for toleration”. Some… oh dear, I’m pleading for toleration, aren’t I? So I’d better be nice and choose my words with care. Some website, “politicususa.com” wrote:

President-elect Trump delivered a bizarre New Year’s message where he claimed that the majority of voters who voted against him are his enemies and losers.

Trump is indeed something of a loose cannon and I wouldn’t have been especially surprised to see that he had done this; but it’s always a good idea to check what was actually said; almost invariably paraphrases turn out to be inaccurate, especially when done by people who don’t like the paraphrasee. What Trump actually said was

Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!

Now I’d be happy to argue this is unpresidential and tasteless but does it claim that “the majority of voters who voted against him are his enemies”? No, of course not. It is directed against “enemies” and “those who have fought me” – clearly something far more active in terms of opposition is meant; simply voting against him doesn’t make you his “enemy” nor is it sufficiently significant to count as fighting. Quite apart from that, the basic logic of the claim is also wrong: even if you were to accept the (in my view implausible) claim that “those who have fought me and lost” include those that voted against him, it still doesn’t call those people his enemies; the conjunctive “and” just doesn’t work like that; if it were a ” – ” instead that might be different1

As if to demonstrate a pattern of falsehood the article continues The reality is that the people who voted against Trump know exactly what to do… which is manifestly false. The opposition to Trump exists but it is scattered and confused and is (in my opinion) wildly running around like headless chickens trying to work out a coherent strategy2.

So what is this stuff for? It is there to polarise debate. To convince those that voted against Trump that he is actively their enemy. And therefore to rally them around <someone’s> banner. And these are just the same people who will complain bitterly about how polarised the political debate is (yes, I know. In terms of the GW debate I’m not exactly a shining example of non-polarisation. Perhaps I should think about that a bit).

Notes

1. There are, of course, two theories about Trump’s tweets. The first – probably correct, since simplest – is that they are exactly what they appear to be: rather hastily constructed, not always well thought about, and certainly not checked by third parties before publication. The second is that it is all a cunning trick [updated: that is to say, the shonky subject matter and bad structure are all carefully constructed, thereby enabling him] to say carefully pre-meditated outrageous things in public and get away with it. But if the first theory is correct then a careful exact parsing of the tweet is inappropriate.

2. Even that exaggerates the degree of co-ordination of course. There is no one centre of strategy, even within the imited compass of the Democratic party, so the idea that “Trump’s opponents” even exist as a coherent group is wrong. Perhaps this is a good point to link to Partisanship is no substitute for values by Rich Puchalsky who some of the old-timers from sci.env may remember. FWIW, I find his posts interesting and thought-provoking but I often disagree significantly in detail.

Comments

  1. #1 Anynymoose
    USA
    2017/01/01

    There is a third option, which seems obvious to me. Trump is mentally unstable and paranoid. As many have noted already, he seems to have the temperament of a spoiled little brat; hastily lashing out whenever he feels like it, with no concern for the consequences.

    [That’s certainly possible, and I wouldn’t discount it, though as it happens I think it is often overplayed. We will, likely, find out in time. In a sense this is merely option one again -W]

  2. #2 Raymond Arritt
    2017/01/01
  3. #3 David Jones
    2017/01/01

    He is my enemy and the enemy of everything this country has ever stood for. I read his tweet for exactly what it was and needed no interpretation or reading comprehension course. Trumpf is by far the worst president-in-waiting this country has ever had – a disaster just waiting to happen.

  4. #4 Phil Hays
    Not in the Early Eocene. Yet,
    2017/01/01

    An interesting paper.

    http://escholarship.org/uc/item/85c019pr

    Also at (paywall)

    https://doi.org/10.1038/nature17423

    “At 5–7× the pre-industrial value, our reconstructed EECO CO 2 value can provide tighter constraints on models than those that have been previously available. ”

    The “equable climate” problem seems to be persisting. Climate with 5 to 7 times preindustral atmospheric CO2 gets us alligators and palm trees in Greenland, based on the Early Eocene climate? The minimum resource estimates for fossil fuels are larger than this.

    Of course, we could talk about reading tea leaves or 3AM tweets. So much more useful…And interesting.

    Well, maybe not.

    [Science is hard, as Barbie said. But politics is hard, too -W]

  5. #5 Me and Me
    somewheres
    2017/01/01

    Criticizing a click-bait-y headline from a website that is parlaying hurt political feelings is a bit precious, I think. Sure, you could argue that we should only engage in only highfalutin discourse and unassailable rhetoric, but it is that kind of cerebral approach which brought us an election won by Trump. Responding in kind may appear unseemly, but measured reason did not win Clinton her election.

    So analysis: Is it fair to presume that Trump thinks everyone who votes against him is an enemy? Who exactly do we think Trump is referring to when he mentions “my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly”? I judge from my exposure to his rhetoric and his labeling that his supporters for one include the readership of “politicususa.com” in their lists. We should be cognizant of Trump’s signaling.

    Is every person who voted against Trump included in this category? Hard to say, but it is a form of political triangulation to frame it this way, and his supporters are likely to see it that way. The identity markers in Trump’s 140 character effluvia reify tribal identities. Sometimes it is the right time to rise above that divisiveness, but other times swinging at it with the same blunt rhetoric is necessary to push back.

  6. #6 Hank Roberts
    at the reference desk, again
    2017/01/01

    http://www.snopes.com/business/hidden/tombihn.asp

    “NOUS SOMMES DESOLES QUE NOTRE PRESIDENT SOIT UN IDIOT. NOUS N’AVONS PAS VOTE POUR LUI.”

    [What fun; perhaps print it in Mexican this time -W]

  7. #7 See Noevo
    2017/01/01

    [Spammed; please see the comment there -W]

  8. #8 Russell the Stout
    Lectern
    2017/01/01

    The writer of the referenced article errs in stating his opinion as fact, and the headline commits the same error. It’s an interpretation.
    The evaluation of that interpretation is a different issue than the clear journalistic dishonesty of its presentation. What if the writer is a stopped clock but right?
    Not to mention, yes, Facebook “news” is for losers.

  9. #9 Susan Anderson
    2017/01/01

    We in the US have had our noses rubbed daily in Trump and his followers and don’t need somebody who has little direct experience of it to explain to us that we are exaggerating. If anything, he’s worse. For example, our news includes a steady increase in hate crimes. As you say, time will tell. Here’s an extract:

    while we are told that patriotism demands that we accept Trump and “give him a chance,” the President-elect acts in ways that leave even dystopian satire behind. His behavior has little to do with conservatism or libertarianism or populism; his mode is recklessness, a self-admiring belief that unpredictability is the path to national salvation.

    And so every day brings at least one fresh outrage: the appointment of a national-security adviser whose temperament resembles those of the unhinged generals in “Dr. Strangelove”; a keeper of the environment who denies the science of climate change; a chief strategist and senior counselor who ran a Web site laced with racist poison and bogus “news”; an Attorney General who regards the Voting Rights Act as “intrusive” and once referred to a subordinate as “boy.”

    It seems almost sadistic to go on. It’s the holiday season, after all. Suffice it to say that the appointments, contrary to Trump’s vow to “drain the swamp,” comprise a reinvention of the swamp, a new, improved version of the swamp, in which the super-wealthy and the oil and gas industries are vested with singular authority. All of this is set against a background of brewing scandals, myriad conflicts of interest, the gleeful humiliation of longstanding foes, and a President-elect who refuses to show even a measure of curiosity about the possibility that Russian intelligence agencies meddled in a national election.

    http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/trump_daily_bankruptcy_israel_ambassador_david_friedman

    Sessions, the Attorney General nominee, is recorded in Congress as being “offended” by climate science which usurps the prerogative of the creator.

  10. #10 Susan Anderson
    2017/01/01

    You did notice that he wants to resume nuclear testing and have a new arms race?

    [No I missed that. Are you confident that you didn’t just make it up? Anyway, the obvious thing to do is to provide a source for your statement; you’ve been at this game for a while, you know that sources are required. And, obviously, it must be a source of Trump saying it, not one of Trump’s enemies saying he said it. Just like the same rules for the GW debate -W]

  11. #11 Bob Loblaw
    Location, location...
    2017/01/02

    When I saw Trump’s message reported in the media, all I could think is, that man has no class. No matter how much gold-plated stuff he owns, he’s still just trailer trash.

    My sister thinks I’m being derogatory to trailer trash.

    [I remember Rich Puchalsky from the old sci.env days, too. Different times, but so much of the “debate” is the same…]

  12. #12 izen
    2017/01/02

    @-“even if you were to accept the (in my view implausible) claim that “those who have fought me and lost” include those that voted against him…”

    Could you explain why you think it is implausible?
    The inclusion of “and lost so badly” might be taken as a direct reference to all those who voted against him. And as pointed out up-thread, it is certainly the import taken by many who did vote against him. And I suspected by many who voted for him.

    You may be over-relying on coherent grammer in denying ‘and’ is equivalent to ‘-‘ in this tweet, I doubt they are dictated, or transcribed with such attention to logical sentence construction.
    izen

    [For the logical coherence, see the footnote, which was there from the start. I agree it is not possible to tell with exactitude; but by the same token, neither can the headline writer tell with exactitude, so the headline still fails, unqualified.

    I don’t think all those who voted against him can be said to have lost. That would be a (to me) strange view of the world in which your vote ties you to a particular side. In reality, a great many of those who voted would do so weakly rather than fervently, and could easily vote differently if another vote were held -W]

  13. #13 David B. Benson
    United States
    2017/01/02

    Couldn’t we please just ignore The Donald, as much as possible, for the next 4 years.

    [I don’t plan to make a habit of this, but I doubt ignoring DT is going to be effective -W]

  14. #14 Pierce R. Butler
    2017/01/02
  15. #15 Phil Hays
    Wishing for a no trump hand
    2017/01/02

    #13. If I want to hear about The Donald, I know where to go.

    Politics is seasonal. The season is over.

  16. #16 Susan Anderson
    2017/01/02

    It’s not a game. You’re in the UK. Theresa May is your business, and what I’m hearing about the UK government’s actions is not good. I am likely quite safe for the time being in two havens of sanity, Boston and Princeton. It gets worse on January 20.

    Many of Trump’s voters are nice people, just not very knowledgeable about reality and angry, with some justification. In the US heartland, there is nothing but Fox and fake news. They have chosen a man who bears some similarities to budding dictators of history.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/27/us/politics/trump-rick-perry-nuclear-weapons.html
    “Rick Perry, as Energy Secretary, May Be Pressed to Resume Nuclear Tests”

    This includes some other atmospherics:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/23/us/politics/trump-nuclear-arms-race-russia-united-states.html

    Trump Says US Would ‘Outmatch’ Rivals in a New Nuclear Arms Race

    Florida — President-elect Donald J. Trump on Friday intensified his threat to “expand” America’s nuclear arsenal, saying he was willing to restart a nuclear arms race even as he released a letter from President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia that pointed toward the possibility of a “pragmatic” set of understandings between Washington and Moscow.

    Echoing the conciliatory approach toward Mr. Putin that he exhibited throughout the campaign, Mr. Trump praised the Russian leader for sending a private holiday greeting that called for the two men to act in a “constructive and pragmatic manner.” In a statement as he made Mr. Putin’s letter public, Mr. Trump said the Russian leader’s “thoughts are so correct.”

    But earlier in the day, the president-elect also made clear that he meant what he said in a Twitter post on Thursday when he bluntly threatened to expand America’s nuclear arsenal after more than three decades in which the number of American and Russian weapons has shrunk.

    Sweeping aside efforts by his aides to temper his comments, or to suggest that he was merely talking about curbing the spread of nuclear technology, especially to terrorists, Mr. Trump told a talk-show host, Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC: “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.

    You could have left this alone. I resisted the temptation earlier, but here goes: you’ve got a nerve telling us how to think.

    [Your claim was he wants to resume nuclear testing. I challenged you for a ref for that, and you can’t provide one. Your link – http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/27/us/politics/trump-rick-perry-nuclear-weapons.html – certainly doesn’t support it. So I think you made it up. I think you should be honest and withdraw the claim. What you’ve done – not withdraw it, but supply a ref that doesn’t support it – is dishonest -W]

  17. #17 Raymond Arritt
    2017/01/02

    #13 (David): Withdrawing and trying to ignore all the bad stuff is tempting — but it plays right into Trump’s hands. So no, we can’t do that.

    Just the opposite: we need you and everyone else to be more engaged and active than ever.

    [(like) -W]

  18. #18 izen
    2017/01/02

    @-“For the logical coherence, see the footnote, which was there from the start.”

    Unfortunately I did not think the footnote was logically coherent. The 2 options – that they are careless spouts, or cunning ploys are not mutually exclusive. Perhaps your thesis-antithesis can be resolved this way;-

    Trump’s tweets are exactly what they appear to be: rather hastily constructed, not always well thought about, and certainly not checked by third parties before publication – AND – it is all a cunning trick to say intuitively perceived popularist memes that are expedient for his purposes in the moment and get away with it.

    The ambiguity is a feature, not a flaw. Observe how often the ambiguity allows a plausibly denial dogwhistle. Ambiguity that is so unilateral in its effects is unlikely to be entirely accidental.

    [It is possible or likely that the ambiguity is a feature; it is probable that we’ll never know. I’ve updated my footnote slightly. But given my experience in writing and yours in reading what was certainly intended to be unambiguous, I think DT’s ambiguity can also plausibly be explained by the extreme difficulty of writing anything unambiguous in English -W]

  19. #19 Phil Hays
    Over the pond and far away.
    2017/01/02

    “Science is hard, as Barbie said. But politics is hard, too -W”

    No, politics is easy.

    Repealing the Affordable Care Act 60+ times is cheap headlines, when you know that the Senate isn’t going to take up the bill, and the President will veto if it makes it that far. No worries about getting people upset by leaving them sick or injured with no chance of getting care. Which will happen, if you mess up the repeal and replace.

    Promising to cut taxes, increase spending and reduce the deficit seems appealing when out of power. Out of power, math doesn’t matter. In power, math happens.

    Bringing back coal jobs appeals to communities that made a living from coal mining for generations. Automation means that far fewer miners are needed to produce the same amount of coal. The jobs are gone, are never coming back, and you promised to bring them back. Politics is so easy when you don’t have to deliver on promises. So what will you do?

    The Trump factor makes the job of Congress much easier. They can pick twitter fights with a spoiled brat, make headlines, and stall on doing hard work for at least weeks. Maybe months or years.

    Politics is out of season until January 20th. I’d be happiest if I never every heard about the spoiled brat ever again.

  20. #20 Joseph O'Sullivan
    2017/01/02

    The heated rhetoric about Trump reminds me of the public discussion about climate change.

    We can conclude that Trump is bad. We can do that just by looking the things he has actually said and done. If we exaggerate, it allows Trump’s defenders to cast doubt on our factual claims.

    We can make a compelling case for action on climate change just by taking a conservative assessment of the science. If we go beyond what if factually accurate, the people who oppose action can say “if you were wrong about that, what else are you wrong about?”. It weakens our case when there is no need to do so.

    As Raymund (#17) writes inaction plays into Trump’s hands. So does straying from the facts. Opposing Trump will be an easy fight. Let’s not shoot ourselves in the foot.

  21. #21 Joseph O'Sullivan
    2017/01/02

    Opposing Trump will not be an easy fight I meant to type

  22. #22 crandles
    2017/01/02

    “not always well thought about”

    Sentence seems to be saying ‘not always well thought out’ but I can’t tell whether this is grammatically correct and as intended, a simple error, or perhaps a deliberate or freudian slip towards an appropriate epitaph – “Trump: not always well thought about”

    [I could possibly make a case for “about” but I think it is just a typo, and more natural as “out”, so I’ve corrected it. Note to self: there’s an archive of the just-before state here which is not very useful in this case but I might make a habit of doing that before updates in future -W]

  23. #23 jane
    2017/01/02

    So the conclusion to be drawn now is that Drumpf wants to build a lot of new bombs, enter into a new arms race, but not test any of the shiny new models to make sure they actually work? Seems like a slipshod way of going about global terrorism to me, but what do I know?

  24. #24 izen
    2017/01/02

    @-“But if the first theory is correct then a careful exact parsing of the tweet is inappropriate.”

    Why?
    It requires careful and exact parsing to delineate its incoherence.

    [Because if it has not been carefully constructed, then there is no point examining each word for it’s significance, since – if theory 1 is correct – all that is there is general intent. It is the difference between examining a chess (or, better, go) game record from a master as compared to an amateur. For the master, every move makes sense and can be analysed. For the amateur, many moves have simply been flung down -W]

    I would accept that predicting the future from a Trump Tweet is about as effective as examining cracks in tortoise shells.

    Do you think the final word in the Trump Tweet can be dismissed as just badly thought out?
    Despite Franklin Graham endorsing Trump as the ‘Hand of God’ I doubt it was an expression of Christian ethos and more likely an example of what Trump calls ‘sarcasm’.
    izen

    [I find the final word problematic. As you say, it can – and probably should – be interpreted as a contraction of “I love the way these losers are angry” or somesuch. Or it could less plausibly be an expression of goodwill to all mankind. The tweet as written has only 3 spare characters so ambiguity-through-compression is possible -W]

  25. #25 In Hell's Kitchen (NYC)
    2017/01/02

    you would have a point if Trump differentiated between the 53.9% of voters who voted against him and his “many enemies and those who have fought” him “and lost.” He doesn’t differentiate thusly.

    [How do you know? What signs and portents do you obtain this information from? You provide no references. Remember, you must provide his words – or his advisers, perhaps – not those who oppose him -W]

  26. #27 Joseph O'Sullivan
    2017/01/03

    From the CPR’s blog on Trump’s personality vs his policy:

    “But keep in mind that not everybody sees him this way; and even among the many that do, Trump’s personality is not a deal-breaker. What could become the deal-breaker is his implementation of policies that clearly contradict what most Americans want”
    http://www.progressivereform.org/CPRBlog.cfm?idBlog=38DF0721-F2D7-215F-EFD636A79F75EA00

  27. #28 Susan Anderson
    2017/01/03

    Donald J. Trump
    @realDonaldTrump
    The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes

    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/donald-trump-tweets-nuclear-weapons-expanding-capabilities/

    I’m not sure how this is ambiguous, since the original includes links to Trump’s own statements: “President-elect Donald J. Trump’s Twitter post last week that the United States must “greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability” provoked confusion and anxiety that intensified the next day when he added, in a television interview, “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.””

    I haven’t the slightest intention of calling myself a liar – as you have done – but I will withdraw, since you seem to want me out of here.

    [I want you to realise that Trump has said nothing about testing. And that what you quote above says nothing about testing. Perhaps, in your mind “an arms race” is equivalent to “testing” but it isn’t in the real world (actually, I now realise that your original “resume nuclear testing” is ambiguous. I took it to mean actual nuclear explosions, and renouncing the test ban treaty. If all you meant was the kind of non-explosive “testing” that is allowed and happening anyway, then I’m confused). And, no, I don’t want you out of here -W]

    You have a brass nerve rubbing people living in the US in your opinion, from a distance, of what is going on. We, not you, have to live with the man. His awfulness has been on daily parade for almost two years, and you have no clue what it’s like to live with it on a daily basis. I’ve done plenty of factchecking. I saw you know how to use Snopes.

    [You seem to be arguing for the – to me quite bizarre – idea that only can comment on US politics. I reject that. And you’re wrong that only you have to live with him, the actions of the US have global consequences -W]

    “Tyranny does not begin with violence; it begins with the first gesture of collaboration. Its most enduring crime is drawing decent men and women into its siege of the truth.”
    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/12/19/when-tyranny-takes-hold

    https://twitter.com/search?q=trump+on+nuclear+war

  28. #29 Phil Hays
    Americanistan
    2017/01/03

    “One thing is for sure: It’s destructive as well as foolish to ignore the uncomfortable risk, and simply assume that it will all be O.K. It won’t.”

    We are a stan now.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/02/opinion/america-becomes-a-stan.html

    Corruption and contempt of ethics rules, cult of personality, calls for imprisonment of opposition politicians…

  29. #30 Etaoin Shrdlu
    2017/01/03

    The “spin” is in. Care to explain how you KNOW what Lying Trumps’ deliberately vague message about “enemies ” means? It’s a fair comment to say he means anyone who doesn’t support him is an “enemy”, especially since he’s been following that tactic his entire life! Instead of downplaying this, how about some concern over having a President who equates opposition with being an “enemy”? THATS WHAT TYRANTS DO!

  30. #31 Phil Hays
    Americanistan
    2017/01/03

    Ethics? Who needs ethics oversight? And announcing that change the day before the vote? Priceless.

    http://www.politico.com/story/2017/01/house-republicans-gut-their-own-oversight-233111

  31. #32 gator
    2017/01/03

    @Susan A
    Stoat has always been a wank. That’s his thing. He thinks he’s a great independent contrarian thinker.

    You are right on track in trying to explain to Stoat that the occasional reading of the news in the UK does not capture the totality of the Trump. We in the US have been dealing with him for the entire election season. Bringing a cranky Brit up to speed would take a lot of effort. Trump will be a disaster; Stoat will admit this five years from now, but will temper his judgement with something about taxes that happened. He is always willing to see the other side.

  32. #33 Paul Kelly
    2017/01/03

    Trump is wishing everyone, even those against him, a happy New Year. He then extends his love for all. It’s a New York wise ass version of an olive branch.

  33. #34 Tuomo Niemelä
    Finland
    2017/01/03

    Dr. Connolley. I happily leave aside this left-right political fight, that is mostly about everything else than the challenge facing us.

    I would be interested if your have any thoughts concerning ways we could reverse the effects of GHSs.

    As I see, humankind accidentaly learned how to prevent the Earth entering a new Ice Age. It is, we found a heater. Only we turned the thermostat too egerly and if you like, it has detahed from the heater to our hands.

    [That’s a very positive-thinking way of looking at it, and is easily overblown into silliness, but as long as you don’t overdo the metaphor then we continue to…]

    Now we certainly have to seek ways to slow down the heating. But, also seek the way to turn the thermostat to other direction. Cooler.

    That would need, not degrowth ot passive energy starving, but the opposite.

    [This is where your metaphor breaks down. We have already added enough CO2 to cause heating. And there is warming, committed, above what we already have. But the committed warming is not so far large – perhaps 0.5 oC. The warming that people worry about – another 1 or 1.5 oC – comes from anticipated future increases in GHG levels. Changing the energy system to reduce CO2 emissions will not be easy, but that’s the big argument -W]

  34. #35 Fergus Brown
    The left hand of darkness
    2017/01/03

    @Gator
    I disagree. The Mustelid can sometimes be pedantic and occasionally naive, but the intention is broadly honest, if you assume that he isn’t keen (at least superficially) on traditional Liberalism or various excessive perspectives of other colours.

    [Actually, I regard myself – like Hayek – as being very keen on traditional Liberalism. It’s the rest of teh world that has left it behind for the glorious regulatory paradise you’re all so keen on. Cue a big fight about what exactly you or I meant by “traditional Liberalism”. How about https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_liberalism ? Or did you mean something else? If so, what? -W]

    There’s a voice for reason and rationality here which can piss lots of folks off whatever the colour of their flag, but also the occasional brain fart or misunderstanding; so, imperfection.
    As far as the post goes, it’s all a bit silly. It shouldn’t be any surprise to hear that someone has added a touch of spin to try to make DT look even worse than he already seems to be, hardly worth commenting about.

    [Agreed, in principle, but then try looking at people’s reactions. There are plenty of people who *are* defending the headline -W]

    He must have been at a loose end at the time.
    I do agree with you and others though that there are times, re USAnia, when he just doesn’t get it. But then neither do I, a lot of the time.

  35. #36 Eli Rabett
    http://rabett.blogspot.com
    2017/01/03

    The Kool Kidz act has become dangerous Fergus

  36. #37 Susan Anderson
    2017/01/03

    This is Stoat’s table to set, and he can say whatever he dam’ pleases. I don’t know why he feels the need to roil our waters in the 17 days of relative peace left to us, but I don’t have to participate, so that’s on me.

    I dislike being accused of bad faith, and appear to have been unable to establish my credentials/history for objectivity with Stoat, and since it’s time consuming and a waste of energy plan to “go elsewhere” (never made it past 4 kyu). I’ve been ignoring Trump’s New Year tweet because there’s enough else awful and I rather agree with WMC about it. On nuclear, it’s doubtful that Trump will be able to shoot from the hip on that, so it’s just dangerous bluster. But claiming it didn’t happen is arguing for the sake of argument (or putdown).

    We do not call ourselves USAnians.

    [Of course you don’t. Just as the Chinese don’t call themselves Chinks, and the Krauts don’t call themselves Squareheads -W]

    When I was young in England I was advised that it was incorrect to call ourselves Americans (2 continents), but that has passed into common usage, and anyone willing to give Trump the benefit of the doubt should embrace that: “Make America Great Again”

    Some good advice:

    Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so. Here are twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today:

    1. Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.

    2. Defend an institution. Defend an institution. Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don’t protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning.

    3. Recall professional ethics. When the leaders of state set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much more important. It is hard to break a rule-of-law state without lawyers, and it is hard to have show trials without judges.

    4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words. Look out for the expansive use of “terrorism” and “extremism.” Be alive to the fatal notions of “exception” and “emergency.” Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.

    5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power. Think of the Reichstag fire. The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Don’t fall for it.

    6. Be kind to our language. Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying. (Don’t use the internet before bed. Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.) What to read? Perhaps The Power of the Powerless by Václav Havel, 1984 by George Orwell, The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz, The Rebel by Albert Camus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev.

    7. Stand out. Someone has to. It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.

    8. Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.

    9. Investigate. Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to harm you. Learn about sites that investigate foreign propaganda pushes.

    10. Practice corporeal politics. Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.

    11. Make eye contact and small talk. This is not just polite. It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.

    12. Take responsibility for the face of the world. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.

    13. Hinder the one-party state. The parties that took over states were once something else. They exploited a historical moment to make political life impossible for their rivals. Vote in local and state elections while you can.

    14. Give regularly to good causes, if you can. Pick a charity and set up autopay. Then you will know that you have made a free choice that is supporting civil society helping others doing something good.

    15. Establish a private life. Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks.

    16. Learn from others in other countries. Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends abroad. The present difficulties here are an element of a general trend. And no country is going to find a solution by itself. Make sure you and your family have passports.

    17. Watch out for the paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.

    18. Be reflective if you must be armed. If you carry a weapon in public service, God bless you and keep you. But know that evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things. Be ready to say no. (If you do not know what this means, contact the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and ask about training in professional ethics.)

    19. Be as courageous as you can. If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die in unfreedom.

    20. Be a patriot. The incoming president is not. Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.

    Timothy Snyder, Housum Professor of History at Yale University and author of Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning.

    [It is easy to cut-n-paste words, but hard to live up to them. Take “#8, Believe in truth”. I have been trying to point out to you that your “he wants to resume nuclear testing” (which as I said, in response at #28, I interpret as you claiming that he wants to “actual nuclear explosions, and renouncing the test ban treaty”) appears to have no basis in fact. I’ve failed to do that, even though (to me) it seems a simple matter of being careful with words, and careful with the truth. I see you being reckless with your words, and hence with the truth -W]

  37. #38 Susan Anderson
    2017/01/03

    On the nuclear testing, he did say it but I don’t have the time and energy to find it. Given his habit of shallow thinking and resistance to learning history (or anything else), he probably wasn’t giving it much thought. You may be right that nothing will come of it. It was the demand for my apology that reminded me there are better things to spend time on.

    [I don’t think I did demand an apology. I said I think you should be honest and withdraw the claim. If you can’t substantiate it, I still think you should -W]

    Our two aides are both Black, one is Muslim, and they will lose their health insurance along with already being targeted by the new acceptance of hate. I may be old enough to not lose my Social Security and Medicare. But the daily humiliations and struggles for survival of the working poor have to be seen to be believed, and they will get a lot worse. It is a puzzle to me that many of them were so starved of honest information about him that they thought Trump might help.

  38. #39 Phil Hays
    Americanistan
    2017/01/03

    “Poor way to begin draining the swamp,” Tom Fitton, president of the conservative group Judicial Watch.

    http://www.politicususa.com/2017/01/03/house-republicans-gut-ethics-watchdog.html

    Matthew Gertz, Research Director at Media Matters for America, quipped, “They warned us that if a majority of Americans voted for Hillary Clinton we’d get historic corruption in Washington. They were right.”

  39. #40 Kevin O'Neill
    United States
    2017/01/03

    WC – I think it is you that are being disingenuous on nuclear testing. First, expecting Trump to say anything consistent (and intelligible) is asking a bit much.

    [Of course. But that doesn’t justify making up things he didn’t say. It is the Dark Side that do that kind of thing, remember? -W]

    Second, if one is going to embark on a new arms race testing becomes a fait accompli, does it not?

    [Who knows. Maybe, maybe not. If SA had said “I deduce from Trumps words that he is intends to resume testing”, I would have reacted differently (I would of asked her which words, and how she was making the deduction) -W]

    Many *already* question the non-testing stance we have taken, believing computer simulation and physics models are not a reliable indicator existing bombs will actually work if needed. New bomb designs would almost certainly require testing for the designs to be deemed reliable.

    [AFAIK Trump has said nothing about new bomb designs; it would certainly be possible to have an arms race without them -W]

    So, while Trump has not specifically addressed testing, it is very reasonable – I’d say likely – that he would include testing as part of a renewed arms race. His choice for Energy Secretary also does not add confidence. Putting a demolitions man in charge of the home remodeling effort leads one to suspect certain outcomes — or at least greatly increase the probability of certain outcomes.

    [You are welcome to say “likely”. I disagree, but at least you’ve clearly labelled your own opinion as such -W]

  40. #41 Fergus Brown
    T'Darque side
    2017/01/03

    @Rabett 36

    Much as I am used to your style. Eli, you lost me a bit on this one. Are you concerned about the Mustelid or the Frog (Old English TV cultural reference)? Please enlighten .

    [Surely Eli is adopting the Trump Trick of ambiguity-through-brevity. In this case, I believe his words to be parsed as “[The Kool Kidz act] has become [dangerous Fergus]”, although what that might actually mean is unclear -W]

  41. #42 Fergus Brown
    The Slaughtered Lamb
    2017/01/03

    @35 WMC – I was thinking more of ‘Social Liberalism’, at least, that was the intention, I think. For me, a Liberal Society is something to aspire to and which is, like classical Liberalism, being lost to ‘unregulated exploitation’.
    Note, the terms often mean something different across the pond.

    [Ah, you mean https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_liberalism. OK. From that, I see it is (roughly, crudely) CL + “social justice” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_justice). This is where you and Hayek part company: his opinion is that SJ is at best a mirage and at worst a cover for Naughty Things (https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/friedrich-hayek/ puzzles over this; many people dislike it). I have not gone far enough into my reading-Hayek to ahve a confirmed opinion yet -W]

    As a side point, I think you can sometimes be too harsh on people whose ‘voices’ don’t meet your tough criteria of exactitude. This is a good way to silence them, if that’s what you want. Suggest you allow at least a little bit of ‘give’ at times.

    [You are correct, as many people have told me one way or another -W]

  42. #43 Fergus Brown
    Time displaced back to latin lessons
    2017/01/03

    Never was good at parsing, unless I was standing still in the West Country.
    Given the persistent repetition of the familiar names here and elsewhere, I do wonder sometimes if (collectively) we’re in danger of vanishing up our own Khyber.

  43. #44 crandles
    2017/01/03

    >”So, while Trump has not specifically addressed testing, it is very reasonable – I’d say likely – that he would include testing as part of a renewed arms race.

    [You are welcome to say “likely”. I disagree, but at least you’ve clearly labelled your own opinion as such -W]

    [AFAIK Trump has said nothing about new bomb designs; it would certainly be possible to have an arms race without them -W]”

    http://time.com/4437089/donald-trump-nuclear-weapons-nukes/
    “We have a military that’s severely depleted. We have nuclear arsenals which are in very terrible shape. They don’t even know if they work.”

    It would seem extremely odd for Trump to say this and then have a nuclear arms race without any improvements. However, it does seem quite likely that the testing and improvements could all be without any nuclear tests. i.e. the nuclear detonation parts of the bombs are fine but there are so many other parts of the systems prior to nuclear detonation that need to be improved and/or tested. Clearly such ‘testing’ does not require test ban treaty to be revoked.

    Ref:
    “Nuclear testing that is banned is the explosion of a nuclear device,” he added. “That part is relatively unnecessary when you know how that is going to work. What is more important is the electronics, the digitisation, the computer controls – everything that actually goes around making a weapon modern.”
    http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/746738/Donald-Trump-will-test-US-nuclear-weapons

  44. #45 Tuomo Niemelä
    2017/01/03

    @34
    >>WC: That’s a very positive-thinking way of looking at it

    If anything we need positive thinking, not pessimism or blaming of ourselves as a human race. Sinful, pitiful.. (It’s very hard indeed not to critisice left wing politics here. If anything I have learned in my life, one shoulnd’t promise to give wrong-doers a rest. ) Here exaggerations or white lies exitus acta probat won’t work into eternity as a best policy per climate. We simply have to find some active alternatives to offer to get the rest of the people along. To me it’s nuclear power.

    >>WC:This is where your metaphor breaks down. We have already added enough CO2 to cause heating. And there is warming, committed, above what we already have. But the committed warming is not so far large – perhaps 0.5 oC. The warming that people worry about – another 1 or 1.5 oC – comes from anticipated future increases in GHG levels. Changing the energy system to reduce CO2 emissions will not be easy, but that’s the big argument -W

    Hmm. I am not an expert on global climate like you. And don’t know if you included the arctic methane into your numbers. I guess you did.

    [At the broad-brush level you are working at, you can forget methane and think only in terms of CO2. Only when you become much more precise do you need to worry about methane -W]

    But I have told myself (scepticalscience.com, I think) that this amount of GHG were not even enough to prevent ice age in the long run. But that it would need up to 5-fold emissions – only at a much slower rate (please, roughly speaking).

    [Preventing the next ice age is a red herring. The next ice age wasn’t due for 50,000 years or so anyway (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milankovitch_cycles#Present_and_future_conditions) -W]

    Again, this makes it important to have more precise models of our climate. We as humans are for the 1st time in history a capability to control our long range climate. And, we should be happy not to be forced straight down to an ice age.

    [I don’t think we do need more precise models for the broad-brush level you’re using. The current ones are fine. We do need people to understand them, though -W]

    Yeah, for me it’d mean something like 1 km of ice here. Inhabitable land, completely.

    Be positive whatever happens.

  45. #46 gator
    2017/01/03

    Being picky about words would make sense if we were discussing someone who spoke carefully. We are not. That is why it is [incivilility redacted -W] to berate Susan Anderson about pedantic exactitude about “testing”. Trump is proposing to put a person in charge of the the US nuclear arsenal who once almost failed a college class called “Meat”. None of them know what it means to have a nuclear arms race. That’s the worrying point.

    [Err, yes. So asserting without qualification that Trump *does* intend to restarting testing is clearly wrong. Note that certain naughty words are on the moderation list, because experience has taught me that naughty people use them; if you want your comments to go through unmoderated, be more careful -W]

  46. #47 Phil Hays
    Americanistan
    2017/01/03

    “We have already added enough CO2 to cause heating. And there is warming, committed, above what we already have. But the committed warming is not so far large – perhaps 0.5 oC. The warming that people worry about – another 1 or 1.5 oC – comes from anticipated future increases in GHG levels. Changing the energy system to reduce CO2 emissions will not be easy, but that’s the big argument -W”

    A lot depends on the system definition. If we include just the climate system, the committed warming is not large. If we include the economic system, and the realistic expectation it will take decades to reduce CO2 emissions to the point of stabilizing the atmospheric concentration of CO2, then it depends on what that level that stabilization is at, and how long we stay there.

    [I agree. This is a point that I almost made, but didn’t; thank you for making it for me -W]

    Doubling CO2 or something close to it seems likely to me, which would imply at least another 2C of warming (~3C per doubling, as per JAnnan). If we include the political system, where doing anything that even inconveniences anyone isn’t likely anytime soon, especially anyone with the funds to lobby, we might have to wait until half or more of the fossil fuels have been burnt, and the committed warming is about 10C.

    I don’t understand how we can have only 1 to 1.5 C additional warming. Looks like more than 2C, even if Donald Trump wasn’t soon to be President of the United States of America.

    [Well the exact degree depends on how we act, and how technology developes -W]

  47. #48 rconnor
    2017/01/03

    WC, regarding you in-line comments @42:

    “This is where you and Hayek part company: his opinion is that SJ is at best a mirage and at worst a cover for Naughty Things”

    I think it’s important to contextualize the “social justice” that Hayek had a problem with and the “social justice” that modern “social liberals” talk about (my use of modern “social liberals” in this case is meant to mean something close to Rawlsian egalitarianism); they aren’t always the same. But by confusing the two, it makes Hayek look more anti-left than he may be, which plays perfectly into what both the sides of the political spectrum want him to be (an enemy of the left and a friend of the right). But I think it’s more nuanced than that.

    In my opinion, Hayek’s views on “social justice” were driven largely by the post-WWII style socialism and communism, where there was complete market and social distributive control by quasi/almost-totalitarian central planners. This flavour of “social justice” was indeed damaging (and many would argue not a real attempt at “social justice” at all). However, modern “social liberalism” has never supported such views. Rawl’s did not believe in a state controlled market nor did he advocate for some notion of a utilitarian “greater good”. His ideas were centered around ensuring equal opportunity for all, regardless of starting position. To me, it is unclear if Hayek would have a problem with this flavour of “social justice”.

    Hayek’s own words seem to suggest he is, at the least, more sympathetic to it than both the left and right want to believe. Hayek said, “there is no reason why the state should not help to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance” (Constitution of Liberty). He even went as far to say, “There is no reason why in a free society government should not assure to all, protection against severe deprivation in the form of an assured minimum income, or a floor below which nobody need descend” (LLL). In fact, Hayek has said that the differences between Rawls and himself are “more verbal than substantial” (LLL). (…but then to balance things off, he also did say he “is against all attempts to impress upon society a deliberately chosen pattern of distribution, whether it be an order of equality or of inequality” (Constitution of Liberty). He’s a hard guy to figure out sometimes! Also, when he gave social welfare a pass, he usually did so with lots of caveats and qualifications.)

    The difference appears in to be in how the term “social justice” is used. And Rawls, I believe, offers the proper distinction – procedural justice versus allocative justice (Theory of Justice). Hayek is against the latter and seems to deem the former permissible. The latter appears to be the flavour of “social justice” popular in post-WWII socialism and communism. The former is what Rawls and modern “social liberals” advocate for.

    So, I don’t believe it’s fair to say that “social liberalism” = CL + “social justice” and that’s where Fergus Brown and Hayek part company. The “social justice” in modern “social liberalism” is procedural justice and Hayek appeared to be ok with that. The “social justice” he fought against was allocative justice that was popular amongst post-WWII socialists.

    (But his is not meant to say I think Hayek was a social liberalist in libertarian clothing. He certainly gets enough wrong at the end of the day to properly be called a libertarian/classical liberal :-P)

    [There are probably flavours of “social justice”. I think that most people who would regard themselves of “in favour” of such an “obviously” good concept of “social” (obviously good and “justice” (obviously good) combined (don’t ask too closely about the details) into an unclear concept like “social justice”; so just like you can’t really parse Trump’s comments too closely, I doubt you can parse most people’s support or opposition to SJ too closely. Hayek is usually careful to begin by defining things, and fairly often you discover problems merely by attempting to write a non-woolly discussion (which can be said to go all the way back to Plato’s clear failure to define “justice”; the only problem there was that he tried to cover up his failure). Anyway, there’s a post on Hayek and SJ to appear at some point -W]

  48. #49 Phil Hays
    Americanistan
    2017/01/04

    “Well the exact degree depends on how we act, and how technology developes -W”

    Yes, but I still don’t see how we have only 1 to 1.5C additional warming. Care to explain?

    IPCC AR5 for the realistic RCP8.5 gives 100% chance of exceeding 3C warming, or more than 2C more than today. And 65% chance of exceeding 4C, and that is limited to before 2100.

    Sure, some breakthrough in cheap fusion energy might happen. More likely not. I wouldn’t count on a technological miracle to save us from our folly.

    How we act? Brexit and Trump?? That’s not a reason to hope. More the reverse.

    [Brexit is trivial and Trump only temporary, on the kind of scale you’re talking about. If we just put in place a carbon tax (unlikely I know) and if the claims you routinely see about solar are true, then there is hope -W]

  49. #50 crandles
    United Kingdom
    2017/01/04

    >” If we just put in place a carbon tax (unlikely I know) and .. claims .. solar .. true ”

    If solar (and wind and batteries) is cheaper than ff, is a carbon tax the right way to go? Yes, a bigger price differential should speed up the transition. However, if the hold up becomes more about smartening the grid to cope with higher levels of renewables and energy companies don’t particularly want to invest in that because it means writing off investments in ff plants…. might it be better to save all the admin costs of the tax and instead provide incentives and penalties to force energy companies to smarten up the grid?

    I know you don’t like regulations and there are some big ifs in the above, but do you think this situation or similar causing regulation to be better than tax in some circumstances is possible?

    [A carbon tax is the right way to go regardless; it is correct no matter what. Is it politically best? That depends on your politics. I think your idea that there would be less admin / waste in forcing energy companies to do stuff is wrong, but I admit I can’t prove that. I also admit that I have an idealogical bias towards less regulation: we have far too much already, I want less, and I want politicians and the government in general doing less -W]

  50. #51 Phil Hays
    Americanistan
    2017/01/04

    Brexit is a symptom of a disease, as is Trump. It is easier to solve a Commons issue with fewer large users, so the breakup of the EU is a step backwards.

    I don’t believe some of the claims about solar.

    [Me neither. But I don’t want to start a fight about it just now :-) -W]

    Solar is limited to about a third to a half of electric power generation without cheap storage of electric power. Electric power is about a third of total energy use. So solar is perhaps 10% to 20% of a solution when fully implemented. Nothing to sneer at, worth doing, even if slightly more costly (and a carbon tax, even a small one would help). Currently growing mostly because of subsidies and regulations. Economics are becoming more favorable as volumes ramp up. Would never have happened without subsidies and regulations to get enough volume to lower the cost to the point where the economics became favorable.

    Likewise, we could make a similar sized dent in transportation. Electric cars (growing rapidly), move freight back onto railroads, and electrify the rail system. Or perhaps electrify road freight. Cargo ships use very little fossil fuel. Aircraft have no current practical replacement for fossil fuel for most uses, but rail can displace shorter routes if subsidized. Note here that subsidies and/or regulations might be necessary in the future to start up things like fuel cell powered aviation. And again, a carbon tax, even a small one, would help.

    Efficiency improvements (LED lights and more) and so on. But this is all depending on a government that is at least not hostile, as Trump is.

    Many new technologies depend on subsidies to get to the volume point to compete. Solar cells, electric cars and LED lights, for examples. Economics of production will keep potentially useful technologies from development without subsidies or regulation to start them up. Or government granted monopolies of some sort, if you would prefer long term “rent” payments to rich over short term subsidies funded by taxes.

  51. #52 crandles
    2017/01/04

    >”I think your idea that there would be less admin / waste in forcing energy companies to do stuff is wrong, but I admit I can’t prove that.”

    There already is free market and pricing regulation. If the power companies get their way they will charge a penalty fee if you don’t take electricity when solar energy is cheap and plentiful. They will try to justify a high penalty fee based on grid improvements being costly. Such penalty fees and/or fear of them becoming higher in future might overwhelm effect of a small carbon tax. Regulation to ban such penalty fees is cheap and easy. Regulation to severely limit such fees has some costs but there already is price regulation. The way I see it, banning such penalty fees and allowing a slightly higher price per KWHr would hardly cost anything extra above existing price regulation. It tends to reward people who have installed solar at expense of those who haven’t so also has a carbon tax like incentive. This is much cheaper than introducing a new tax.

    Both carbon tax and appropriate regulation seems better than either alone. It seems to me that there could be circumstances where regulation can address a conflict of interest problem like discussed where a carbon tax doesn’t really address it.

    [Adding yet another layer of regulation to support <your pet idea> is always cheap and easy, and who cares because the costs are either invisible to you or fall on <someone else>. Which is why you need idealogical commitment to less regulation, not merely a choice in individual cases (which is something the left totally fails to understand about the right, not surprisingly, as much of the right doesn’t understand it either). It is equivalent to the familiar pork problem: those who gain, gain a lot, and so lobby hard. Those broad diffuse constituencies that lose, lose only a little each time, so don’t campaign against -W]

  52. #53 crandles
    2017/01/04

    I accept regulation slippage is an issue. Just because costs fall on someone else does not mean they should be ignored when trying to work out what is best for everyone and I don’t think I was ignoring them, though I have to admit to being in the population that would benefit and therefore might be subject to a rose tinted view.

    I am sure there is a lot of regulation which we would be better off without, but with this specific case sweeping away the pricing and competition regulation would seem highly likely to increase energy prices and company dividends and fat cat pay rather than what we want: increasing prices and investment in infrastructure to allow higher renewables percentage and increased capacity for electric vehicles.

    So in this case, do you think scrapping the price limit regulations would be a good idea? That seems to me to require justifying that fat cats deserve a better deal. Perhaps they get such a raw deal that if we don’t improve the pay there would be sufficient takers of adequate quality to take up the positions?

    [We are in danger of descending into the pro/anti regulation argument that belongs on a political post… no,wait, I mean a political post about Hayek… but anyway: why do you think highly likely to increase energy prices and company dividends? We have market competition, this should happen by itself. If it doesn’t, then we should fix that, which is the real problem. What makes you think it doesn’t happen by itself? -W]

  53. #54 crandles
    2017/01/05

    It is a natural monopoly. Setting up systems to minimise cost of dealing with each additional customer is well worth it and doesn’t matter if set up cost is high if you have lots of customers to spread set up cost between. Once set up a good business case can be made for taking over rival with less good systems. If unregulated you end up with one winner. The utility market is littered with takeovers and very few new start ups.

    [Then why are there 6+ energy companies including some incomers? You are far too quick to call it a natural monopoly without good evidence -W]

    Government regulates to try to keep some competition but it is bad to prevent all takeovers when a good business case can be made so we end up with a big six electric suppliers – an oligopoly. Making a price fixing agreement would be against competition regulations but even without a price fixing agreement or any communication what do you think would happen without price regulation? One of the big six would put prices up how do you expect others to react? One strategy would be to keep prices low and try to win customers. That could be profitable but you just know the situation would not last, competition would react. Therefore the alternative of putting up prices and wait and expect the rest of big six to put up their prices.

    [This is the standard “we must regulate everything” argument; it is wrong. The govt needs to do cartel-busting, but not the regulation bit -W]

    You think we should fix the high economic barriers to entry into the market rather than have price regulation???? How? Subsidise new entrants seems to me like a big waste of taxpayer money.

    [With 6+ companies you have no evidence for high barriers to entry. it seems to be commonplace to speak of the UK energy market as “lacking competition” but that seems just silly to me -W]

  54. #55 crandles
    2017/01/05

    When I search on electric supplier start up, I find things like
    https://gigaom.com/2012/03/28/a-startups-dream-to-become-a-clean-power-retailer/
    saying ” The delivery of the clean power itself, and the task of billing customers, will fall on the utilities”
    To my mind that makes it a marketing company for a utility not a utility itself. This sort of situation makes it hard to say there aren’t any start ups without opening myself up to being accused of lying.

    Finding lots of takeovers in utility companies is not at all difficult.

    I think you are far too quick to say that I am far to quick to call it a natural monopoly.

    “no evidence for high barriers to entry”. Well obviously a bit of business sense that comes with being a Chartered Accountant doesn’t cut it for you.

  55. #56 Kevin O'Neill
    United States
    2017/01/05

    WC writes: “[… I have an ideological bias towards less regulation: we have far too much already, I want less, and I want politicians and the government in general doing less -W]

    Roy Spencer :”I view my job a little like a legislator, supported by the taxpayer, to protect the interests of the taxpayer and to minimize the role of government.”

    I consider these two stances to be ideologically driven and in close alignment. They are, in my view, the crux of the problem; they place the cart before the horse. The proper role of government is neither to minimize its role nor maximize its role. As Paul Wellstone wrote, “Politics is about the improvement of people’s lives.”

    [I disagree. The proper role of government is to provide the framework, no more -W]

    The question before us in any given situation then becomes, will this action improve our (collective) lives? Not, does this action meet my ideological biases? Even if one believes that in most situations the proper response tends to be reducing government’s role it is *not* sufficient to claim this is then the correct answer to the current question.

    [You can never know the answer to that question in times of interest -W]

    What too often gets forgotten is that inaction is itself an action. What also gets overlooked is that *knowing we have a bias* means we should work especially hard to ensure that our view is objectively correct and not simply a result of that bias. I..e., if my proposed action is in opposition to my ideological bias it is unlikely to have been born out of my biases. Whereas if my proposed action is aligned with my biases it may simply flow out of all the prejudicial effects of said bias.

    For example: BEST provides a more definitive answer to the surface temperature record not because it used better science (which it may have), but specifically because the answer it provides is directly opposite the prejudicial biases of Muller. They reached the same conclusion *despite* Muller’s biases.

    So, when WC goes on to comment later, “The govt needs to do cartel-busting, but not the regulation bit -W” the immediate response is almost surely going to be, WTF? WC’s ideological bias is behind the statement – not an analysis of the actual situation. It neglects perhaps one of the first things taught in any ECON 101 course: opportunity costs.

    Social opportunity costs and the possibility of free lunches fall almost exclusively to holders of capital. This, by itself, skews income distributions. WC’s “but not the regulation bit” is an endorsement of this market failure/distortion.

    We may be IN A MAZE OF TWISTING LITTLE PASSAGES, but they’re not all alike. Assuming the answer to every problem is the same won’t get you very far.

  56. #57 Kevin O'Neill
    Being David Stockman
    2017/01/05

    Josh Marshall at the liberal, progressive, cesspool that calls itself TalkingPointsMemo:

    The AMA, which has been rather comically pro-Trump to date, came out today and told Republicans that they shouldn’t repeal Obamacare without a clear replacement. Notably, even two of the most conservative health care economists at AEI, came out yesterday and said that ‘repeal and delay’ would be a disaster. The truth is that “repeal and delay” is the policy equivalent of taking off from JFK to Heathrow with 2,000 miles worth of gas and saying you’re going to figure it out en route. No one who knows anything about health care economics, even people who are staunch free marketeers and hate Obamacare, think that makes any sense.

    What? Thousands of pages of regulations and rules and even the AEI is saying ‘hold on just a cotton pickin’ minute’? But, but, but ….. free markets!

    [You are making your usual mistake, which is to read people you like, not the people actually saying stuff you don’t like. The AEI people say (http://healthaffairs.org/blog/2017/01/03/the-problems-with-repeal-and-delay/) We do not support this approach to repealing and replacing the ACA because it carries too much risk of unnecessary disruption to the existing insurance arrangements… “repeal and delay” would be less secure insurance for many Americans, procrastination by political leaders who will delay taking any proactive steps as long as possible, and ultimately no discernible movement toward a real marketplace for either insurance or medical services. Congress should instead roll back elements of the ACA in the same legislation that moves U.S. health care more deliberately toward a functioning marketplace (my bold). So the AEI remains as free-market as ever -W]

  57. #58 Kevin O'Neill
    weatherless
    2017/01/05

    WC writes: [I disagree. The proper role of government is to provide the framework, no more -W]

    The framework allows rules and regulations. It would seem disingenuous then to not want them.

    [That effectively amounts to saying “whatever is law, is law. It is vacuous -W]

    And WC writes: [You can never know the answer to that question in times of interest -W]

    Oh c’mon. Then every action is a roll of the dice cuz we can never know anything. Curry’s uncertainty monster has infected you. That answer is merely weasel words and not a proper response at all.

  58. #59 Phil Hays
    Americanistan
    2017/01/05

    “I disagree. The proper role of government is to provide the framework, no more -W”

    This is one answer. It is not the best answer.

    [It is one answer. it is in your opinion not the best answer -W]

    Consider a new application of technology. If widely adopted, it might provide a lot of benefit to users, and almost everyone will be a user, and would be a very competitive business with little profit to business. In order to get to wide adaption, investments need to be made in developing, designing and tooling to produce the machines to make this technology in volume, cheaply. Initial costs would be high, but would fall rapidly as production comes on line. Prices can’t be high initially, as there is a competing older, energy wasting technology, and prices will likely fall rapidly as more producers get into the market. The cost of entry for the first manufacturer can be much higher than the cost of entry for more manufacturers. No one wants to go first.

    A profit making business would never spend the money to develop this technology, as the future profits are tiny, and the start up cost would never be repaid by business profits as competing suppliers will rapidly drive down selling prices to near manufacturing cost. Oh yes, the answer might be different if there was some part of this that could be protected by patent law. Then there would be a legal monopoly that would allow prices to stay high for some period of years, and would allow for the recovery of start up costs by profits. In this case, and many other cases, there is no new idea, only application of existing ideas. Note that society as a whole gains a lot from this new technology, as it is cheaper and uses less energy than the incumbent technology.

    Hard to do the first one, or the first thousand, but easy to copy once is in production. Great benefit to buyers, but not to business.

    The cost of production of a single widget is millions of dollars. Design, making the tooling and machines, training, fixing design problems, and so on..
    Make a million, manufacturing cost can be a few dollars or less.

    Free markets are a way of finding the local minimum cost. This might be the best answer if the system was simple.

    The system is not simple.

    [Congratulations for that last brilliant insight. That is what Hayek has also been trying to tell you. It is why your “explanation” for why <adding regulation makes things better> cannot be conclusive -W]

    Patent and copyright laws are a traditional ways to partly solve this problem. Patent and copyright laws are only a partial solution, and cause other problems. See “patent trolls”.

  59. #60 Phil Hays
    Americanistan
    2017/01/05

    I wasn’t explaining how “adding regulation makes things better”, but pointing out an example of how a short term subsidy can make the economy better.

    At least do me the politeness of replying to what I wrote, not what I didn’t write.

    [Oh, is that what you were arguing for? Using the word “subsidy” would have been helpful, then -W]

  60. #61 crandles
    2017/01/05

    Politicians often like to claim they are going to have a massive bonfire of regulation. Selling the idea of companies drowning in regulations and if only they were scrapped the companies would be freer and this would lead to a prosperous new world.

    William seems so ideologically sold on this idea, that he doesn’t seem to want to hear counter arguments.

    When such politicians gain power, what happens? They set up committees to look at what regulations they can scrap and when they look at the details they find there are good reasons for many of the regulations. They do find some that can be scrapped but the government ends up creating more regulations than are scrapped.

    Yes some more should be found to be scrapped, but most have good reasons for their existence. Sadly the world is complex and lots of regulations are needed.

    That is mainly just my opinion but it seems like an opinion that William does not want to hear.

    [In the sense that I’m already fully aware of it as an opinion, so not interested in hearing it again, yes -W]

  61. #62 Phil Hays
    Americanistan
    2017/01/05

    TLDR, eh? Too bad, so sad.

    The system isn’t simple. You need to understand some of the complexities to understand why simple answers don’t work. Even your simple answer.

    I agree with Hayek that the simple answer that “government controls everything” doesn’t work.

    Free markets are a way of finding the local minimum cost. This might be the best answer if the system was simple, and the global minimum cost was always exactly the same as the local minimum cost. That would be simple.

    The system is not simple.

    There are lots of other simple answers. As far as I can see, they also are not optimal. Your opinion is different. So?

  62. #63 Phil Hays
    Americanistan
    2017/01/05

    Oh, and using the word “subsidy” would allow you to react, not require you to think. I know, thinking is hard.

  63. #64 angech
    2017/01/07

    crandles United Kingdom 2017/01/04
    “If solar (and wind and batteries) is cheaper than ff, is a carbon tax the right way to go?”
    If solar (and wind and batteries) is cheaper than ff, who would care or be bothered about a carbon tax?
    We would all mainline on the new energies. I would.

  64. #65 crandles
    2017/01/07

    angech wrote >”If solar (and wind and batteries) is cheaper than ff, who would care or be bothered about a carbon tax?
    We would all mainline on the new energies. I would.”

    Well maybe you would. However note that a slightly cheaper price is not necessarily enough to overcome transition costs prior to the end of life of the existing system. A bigger price differential would be expected to reduce the time to transition as there would be more people who would transition at times when there is more life left in their existing system. I think this does provide support to William saying “A carbon tax is the right way to go regardless”.

    However, if the problem is a conflict of interest where energy companies do not want to write off investments in ff plants which investing in grid improvements would cause and consequently overwhelm any price and carbon tax advantage for renewables by some penalty charge for using renewables justified by estimating high costs to upgrade grid …. is a carbon tax then fighting the right problem?

  65. #66 Phil Hays
    Americanistan
    2017/01/07

    Also note that NRE and start up costs can prevent a cheaper technology from displacing a more expensive incumbent technology. A limited time subsidy can push the better technology into production, starting the displacement of the more expensive incumbent technology.

    The global minimum isn’t the same as the local minimum.

    [I agree; but would also add that none of the minima are static. And indeed I would support some well-directed intervention towards “global minima”. However, I still think the argument is too quickly and too indiscriminately advanced -W]

  66. #67 crandles
    2017/01/08

    https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-01-05/tiny-group-of-tesla-skeptics-emerges-as-trump-energy-powerhouse

    “An obscure Washington policy group that opposes almost any government aid for renewable energy has emerged as an influential force in shaping Donald Trump’s plans to dismantle Obama administration climate initiatives.”

    [The hatred of Musk is weird. Dislike of subsidies is easy enough to understand, though it is easier to just oppose them than to do so consistently, and by starting with the most important -W]

  67. #68 crandles
    2017/01/08

    >”[The hatred of Musk is weird. -W]

    As in weird because it gives the game away that they are anti renewables and pro ff regardless of whether it makes sense? or just weird not to like tesla, solar city, spaceX?

    [Its kinda weird because he’s the sort of go-getting engineering entrepreneur that they normally love. I didn’t really think it past that. Of course the obvious answer is that the denialists love or hatred of a person follows no pattern other than pro/anti ff -W]

    ” “There’s not a material energy or environmental policy on which they are not involved — and most of them, they own,” said Michael McKenna, a lobbyist who advises the alliance. ”

    also sounds weird. Why is a lobbyist who advising them admitting this?

    [I did rather wonder if that bit was reliable -W]

  68. #69 crandles
    2017/01/09

    http://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2017/01/06/science.aam6284.full

    Obama now published in Science!

    .

    Is trump’s strategy to play up chances of him acting unpredictably, in order to make people who have to deal with him so concerned with possible awful outcomes that he can get to negotiate a reasonable deal?

    When might this be a good strategy and when is more certainty about what is going to happen more important?

    [Strangely, enough, that’s relevant to the end of the Parfit thread -W]

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.