The ‘Canadian’ Solution

Two nations in one state? Yes, Biden’s proposal is not quite that, but it does suggest a path to that end. The way I would extend it is for Israel to take full control of North Gaza, quickly set up safe areas and hospitals, and after expurgating Hamas, invite those who have fled South to return to a region under Israeli control with full citizenship rights in a new state whose constitution provides for two “provinces”, one speaking Hebrew (and probably mostly of the Jewish religion), and one speaking Arabic (and probably mostly Muslim), with a polyglot ‘district’ (like the USA’s capital region) around Jerusalem which would remain forever under (and might become the new centre of) UN administration. The boundaries I would suggest are somewhere between the 1947 plan and the current reality, but some kind of local option would determine the actual boundaries.

Source: U.S. Presses Israel to Set Up Safe Areas During Coming Pause in Gaza War – The New York Times

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What might NuScale’s cancellation mean for Ghana and other nuclear aspirants?

Source: What might NuScale’s cancellation mean for Ghana and other nuclear aspirants?

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John Clauser won a Nobel Prize. Then he started denying climate change. – The Washington Post

Source: John Clauser won a Nobel Prize. Then he started denying climate change. – The Washington Post

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Can Solar and Wind Suffice? 

This update of David MacKay’s numbers suggests that it may be possible to eliminate CO2 emissions (at least in the UK) without relying on an extended period of nuclear power use.

But on the other side of the coin we have a more pessimistic view of wind power prospects.


Can solar and wind power Britain? An update of David MacKay’s numbers

BP’s renewables boss calls U.S. offshore wind industry ‘fundamentally broken’

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Secularism in Iran 

I agree that Secularism in Iran is not just a form of Western ‘imperialism’, but was surprised to see no mention in that Aeon Essay of what I would consider to be the indigenous Iranian analogues (and precursors!) of “Western” secularism.

Far from being an import from “the West”, I was under the impression that the idea of religious tolerance and substantial separation of church and state has deep roots in Iran – dating back to the Achaemenid empire of Cyrus the Great and having significant effect on the relative openness of Persian Islam at various stages in its history. Many people I met in Iran, as well as expats in North America, have expressed pride in this tradition and resentment of the current regime (without needing to quote Westerners like Locke in support of their views).

Source: Secularism in Iran is not just a form of Western ‘imperialism’ | Aeon Essays

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Those Damned Chinese!

When we get tired of complaining about their coal-fired electric plants we can always turn to the fact that China’s Spending on Green Energy Is Causing a Global Glut – WSJ

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Misunderstanding Concentration of Wealth

In How Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Fame, the editors of The Economist  (of all people!) display a complete misunderstanding of the economics of wealth concentration. In particular, they allege that “. . the famous folk complaining the loudest about the new technology are the ones who stand to benefit the most. Far from diluting star power, AI will make the biggest celebrities bigger than ever . . .”

I am not taking any position on whether or not the use of AI will actually lead to this concentration of audience interest but if it does then I would say that the current crop of media stars actually do have a lot to worry about.

In fact, just as in any other case of a technological or social change leading to more concentrated ownership of limited resources (in this case attentive audience members – aka eyeballs), those who are currently at the top of the heap actually have the most to lose as only a small fraction of the current “stars” will become the next round of “superstars” – with the rest actually losing rather than gaining and falling back closer to those they just pulled ahead of in the previous round.

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What is a ‘fair’ carbon-price approach?

The principle of a universal Carbon tax should never have been violated and any weakening of its application invites others to follow.

The debacle caused by the Liberal government’s bizarre introduction of a partial exemption could have easily been avoided by thinking first about what goal it was supposed to achieve.

If the goal was to provide some relief for Canadians who have experienced higher home heating cost inflation than the rest of us, then the solution should just have been to provide such relief by direct payments on that basis directly without any reference to the Carbon tax.

The rebate could be calculated as some function of the difference between per btu home heating cost increase over the previous year and the national average for that increase.

This would have had the benefit of applying fairly to all of us on a basis other than mere geography or specific fuel type and with clarity as to why those who benefit deserve special treatment.

It may end up having the same geographically distributed effect this year but the justification for such inequality would be apparent in its method of calculation and the universality of the Carbon price would not have been compromised.

Is there any chance of persuading the government to roll back its current misguided tax exemption and replace it with such a fair and principled approach?


Source: Premiers unite to appeal for ‘fair’ carbon-price approach – The Globe and Mail

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A Nasty Thought

I don’t know whether or not AOC really accused the US of testing chemical weapons for Israel, or whether such an accusation would be anti-semitic, or whether or not it’s true. But it did occur to me that when dealing with an enemy who is hiding in tunnels under a civilian population, perhaps a heavier-than-air gas might be the most “humane” weapon to use.

Source: AOC Finally Wins The Anti-Semitism First Prize! – Seth Mandel, Commentary Magazine

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Anti-Jewish Bias in University Culture?

The claim in this recent Globe&Mail article that “EDI administrators do not categorize Jews as a racialized minority” does need to be investigated. And if it’s true, then that situation should be corrected. And if “a deeply engrained culture of campus antisemitism extending well beyond students” is discovered then in-depth investigations of causes and manifestation will need to be carried out, and curriculum change, similar to those carried out to confront anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, will indeed be necessary.

But the linked article provides no evidence for either claim, and goes way overboard in its characterization of various positions as “Anti-Jewish Bias”.

It is indeed obscene to characterize the massacres perpetrated by Hamas against Israeli civilians on October 7 as “legitimate resistance”, but quite reasonable to identify such horrible excesses as an almost inevitable outcome of a failing “decolonization struggle.”  And the claim that pointing this out amounts to “insinuating that the victims were to blame for the atrocities committed against them” makes no more sense than saying the same about the victims of Nat Turner’s slave rebellion (or for that matter those of Ted Bundy). Regardless of the existence or extent of any alleged provocation, innocent victims are never to blame, and pointing out the existence of a possible explanation is not equivalent to an extenuation – and much less so to blaming the victims.

In fact, the characterization of Israel as a settler-colonial enterprise despite the “deep historical ties Jews have to the territory of present-day Israel” is no more outlandish than denying that descendants of those Anglo-Saxon nobility who fled from the Norman Conquest in 1066 to join the Byzantine emperor’s Varangian Guard would now have the right to come back and reclaim their place in England – if only they had kept on claiming that right for the last one thousand years of absence.

But where the article really jumped the shark for me was in its take on the “debates around integrating the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism into university anti-racism policies”.

“The issue here is not the merit of the definition itself – something that Jews have debated amongst themselves – but rather that, in an era of EDI, Jews are not afforded the same privileges as other vulnerable minorities to define their experience with oppression. Jewish EDI exceptionalism is premised on the unconscious bias that Jews are more susceptible to make complaints in bad faith.”

The fact that the proposed definition is “something that Jews have debated amongst themselves” (and are continuing to debate quite vociferously) means that accepting it would allow the proponents of that Zionist definition to claim that their view amounts to the collective consensus of Jews to “define their experience with oppression” – and thereby denies the right of other Jews to do so differently.

To note that that particular definition invites complaints in bad faith, and as such may (or may not) actually have been proposed in bad faith, does not in any way suggest that Jews are more susceptible than anyone else to acting in bad faith. Everyone does it, and we all need to guard against it – both in our selves and in the communities that we identify with.

Source: Opinion: Anti-Jewish bias has deeply permeated university culture – The Globe and Mail

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Where’s the line?

The extent to which lab-grown models of embryos increasingly resemble the real thing confirms my expectation that we’ll eventually discover how any human cell has the potential for becoming, with the appropriate stimulus and environment, first a stem cell, then a blastocyst, an embryo, a fetus, and finally a fully independent human being – which raises some challenges for the “right to life” thesis that all such things should be entitled to the same level of protection.


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The Economist

Source: The Economist

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Perspective on Moving

A Quora question asks:
From your own perspective, frame of reference, if you are not accelerating, are you not moving at all?

Perhaps the reason people find this difficult to grasp is because of the ambiguous and unnecessary words “at all” at the end – which lend support to the idea that the word “moving” without mention of a context has any meaning at all. It does not.

And it never has. The claim that something is “moving” has never had any meaning without identification of relative to what, and it is perhaps unfortunate that by convention we often take the word without modification as meaning relative to the Earth without explaining that convention to small children (who then grow up thinking that there must be some kind of absolute property of “moving”).

From my own perspective, while sitting still in a bus I am not moving relative to the bus, but I know damn well that I am moving relative to the world outside. And it’s not just from my own perspective. Everyone else agrees with both of those relative motion statements.

So although it is just a tautology that from every perspective I am never moving relative to myself, it is false (or rather meaningless) that there exists any perspective from which I am ever not moving at all.

Source: (1000) Alan Cooper’s answer to From your own perspective, frame of reference, if you are not accelerating, are you not moving at all? – Quora

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SuperMisleading Graph

I’ve got nothing against home schooling and in fact seriously considered it for our own children, but the Washington Post is presenting what may be good news in a very misleading manner.

Source: How many kids are homeschooled in the U.S.? Growth by school district. – Washington Post

OK, So perhaps no-one would read this as saying that 51% of US kids are now home-schooled and would see that we are talking about %change. But is that year over year or in total since 2017? The labels don’t say, and many readers are used to seeing %change presented in the former sense which might lead to the unthinking impression (once one has absorbed that we are looking at growth rather than absolute numbers) that there continued to be more parents starting to take their kids out of school after the end of the COVID closures than were going back to the public classrooms. But if it’s total change then the number of home schoolers decreased in the last two years (which is more like what one would expect, and is indeed what is described later in the article where it is admitted that “In most states examined by The Post, home schooling has fallen slightly from its peak, while remaining at highs unmatched before the 2020-2021 school year”). Sure, anyone who stops to think (or reads on) may not end up permanently misled, but the false emotional impressions, first of dramatic increase and then of continued growth, may continue to be felt even after being corrected.

Also, when we see the graph shoot up in 2019-20 it looks dramatic because it starts at “0” in 2017-18 when that was the original 100% and having that at the bottom makes the peak height in 2020-21 look like much more than a mere 62% increase. So in fact, even at the height of COVID, the (actually quite small) absolute number of home schoolers never even doubled from what it was before COVID.

If we project the pre-COVID trend though, then it does look as if the number of home schoolers might have increased at a rate more like 5% per year or by about a third between 2017 and 2023. This is indeed respectable growth, but not at the dramatic scale suggested by that graph. And of course when a quantity is small then a large %growth rate is still a small absolute number and only becomes really impressive if sustained for an extended period. So I don’t really think it can fairly be said that growing (during an extended school-closing pandemic) from around 1% to a bit under 2% of the overall school population “demonstrates home schooling’s arrival as a mainstay of the American educational system”.

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Another Silly “Pro-Life” Question

Source: (1000) Alan Cooper’s answer to Those of you who are “pro-choice” when it comes to abortion: Are you also pro-choice when it comes to allowing pro-life people to vote their conscience at the ballot box? – Quora

I was going to give a sarcastic answer about the “well known phenomenon” of pro-choice goons demanding to check everyone’s ballot at the voting booth.

But seriously, so long as those votes are either on constitutionally permitted items or subject to whatever process your country has for amending its constitution, then in a proper democracy I have absolutely no way of not “allowing” people to cast their secret ballot however they wish.

On the other hand, no, I am not in favour of including measures which restrict a woman’s right to terminate her own unwanted pregnancy as constitutionally permitted. So wherever such laws are permitted, I favour amendments that make them unconstitutional.

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The Honest(?) Broker

Roger Pielke Jr. belies his blog title with his claim in this recent post that

the IPCC has concluded that connections of carbon dioxide emissions and most types of extreme weather are “in a state of high uncertainty, doubt, or incompleteness.”

The quoted section is not from IPCC’s own conclusions but from an expression of concern about how a certain way of expressing them might be misinterpreted, and the link provided to support that claim is not to IPCC directly but to Pielke’s own piece alleging that IPCC results do lead to that conclusion. It would have been more honest to rephrase the claim as “I have suggested that IPCC results do lead to the conclusion that most types of extreme weather are ‘in a state of high uncertainty, doubt, or incompleteness’”. And it would even not be actually dishonest to replace “suggested” with “shown” (though I am still withholding judgement on whether or not that claim is factually correct)

Source: Russell’s Teapot and the Climate Unicorn

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Cleverly Dishonest Reporting

I was going to upvote this, but then I read the actual statement from Marit Stiles (which was posted but cleverly NOT read out in the video) and it turns out that there is nothing in it that expresses any objection to the content of what Sara Jama said, and the part that was carefully NOT read out in this report suggests that the expulsion from caucus was just for violation of an agreement about the procedure for keeping the leadership informed before making such statements rather than for what was actually said.

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The Inequity that Matters is not Income but Wealth 

In the Oct 20 issue of The Economist, global business correspondent Tom Lee-Devlin wonders at ‘The eye-watering pay of American bosses‘, but it’s not the disproportionately high compensation of some workers (whether they be CEOs, actors, or athletes) that bothers me so much as the disproportionately low share of inherited capital at the other end of the spectrum. The high earners all have to convince someone with wealth of their worth and, whether or not I agree with their decisions, those ultimately agreeing to the payments have sufficient resources to look after their own interests.

The inequity that really matters is not that of nominally earned income but that of unearned wealth, and what we need to deal with that is to ensure that every child gets a Universal Fair Inheritance to be paid for by taxing all large gifts and inheritances as income in the year received at a rate at least as high as that applied to earned income.

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 Canadian Publishers’ “Shamelessly Orwellian” Claims Exposed

It’s good to find that Andrew Coyne has been paying attention to my rants at the screen (and whoever else is in the room) whenever this issue comes up in the news. The stupid claims underlying Bill C-18 are indeed “as if sending millions of readers our way every day, for free, was somehow a form of theft”.

My own frustration with such claims extends back to the earliest days of the web when some academic institutions seriously considered requiring those of us trying to collect and evaluate resources to comply with prohibitions against linking without permission.

(Embedding ripped content, especially without attribution, is of course quite a different matter, but that needs to be dealt with separately – perhaps even with some restrictions on what constitutes a “fair use” excerpt.)

Source: Opinion: The government dug a deep hole for itself with Bills C-11 and C-18. And it’s only digging deeper – The Globe and Mail

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There IS a ‘Market Solution’

…but it’s not ‘Cap&Trade’ or any other kind of payment for ‘Carbon Offsets’.

Source: Carbon offsets don’t work, and that’s not news | Climate & Capitalism

The only real way to stop CO2 emissions (or any other environmental damage) is to charge polluters the full cost of remediation of all such “externalities” by way of a recovery fee or tax based on whatever it would cost, using currently available technology, to reverse whatever environmental effects they have created.

One thing that bothers me about the nuclear industry is their constant whining about how the the onerous cost of regulations is what makes their product uneconomic, with the implication that such regulations should be relaxed for them rather than just being made similarly strict for all human enterprises.

Much (though by no means all) of what is wrong with “capitalism” as currently implemented is due to the gifting to industrialists of the right to benefit from having the externalities of their activities leading to a reduction of common wealth; and if the value so extracted were restored to all of us by way of a universal compensation payment, it would go a long way towards reducing the extremes of inequity at the low end of the income scale.


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