We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Nico Metten on the Electric Vehicle Revolution

Is The Electric Vehicle Revolution Real? That is the question that Nico Metten asks, over at Libertarian Home. Metten’s answer, surprise surprise: no. His English could do with a little cleaning up by a native of these islands, but that quibble aside, and on the basis of far less technical knowledge than him, I share his doubts, although in my case the proper word would probably be: suspicions. I suspect everything tinged with Green to be … suspect.

Ken Ferguson, commenting at Libertarian Home on the matter of electric vehicles, argues, in contrast, that this “revolution” is real, and is driven by the need to cut down on air pollution. He supplies this link.

And indeed, you do now see electric vehicles all over the place. Here is one I photoed a while back, just a walk away from where I live, getting an electro-refill from a special roadside charger:

But are electric engines n vehicles the only way to cut down on harmful vehicle engine emissions, or could regular or not-so-regular petrol engines be part of similar reductions, perhaps by having something bolted onto the end of them to take care of those emissions? Or, could vehicle emissions be somehow cleaned up by other means, with devices not attached directly to any vehicles? Do such things already happen? And: How harmful are those emissions, actually? (See above: “suspicions”.)

Since concocting the bulk of this posting, I notice that another Libertarian Home commenter, Jordan Lee, echoes many of my doubts, and one in particular of my questions:

Is there a way to make fuel burning cars more efficient in cutting emissions?

Cars are now being sold on this exact basis. But how far will they get in doing this, and how efficiently will such cars continue doing their number one job, of being cars?

The Samizdata commentariat contains some notably well-informed techies. I’ll be interested to read whatever anyone may feel inclined to say about this.

One giant leap for womynkind

“How does it feel,” asks Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, while arguing that the first human on Mars should be a woman, “to watch a person of your gender set foot on a faraway celestial body for the first time? Could you write to me, men, and let me know?”

I was only a child on the one and only occasion that a man has set foot on another celestial body for the first time, but I can answer her question. It felt amazing. Though I didn’t watch the moon landing live (my parents were not the sort to let their young children stay up until three in the morning even to watch history being made), along with much of humanity I watched the footage avidly the next day. I looked up at the moon and thought, there are people there. It sparked a lifelong interest in space. For years I had a perfectly serious ambition to be an astronaut. Who knows, in this era of renewed progress in spaceflight technology, maybe I’ll live long enough to do it simply by buying a ticket. And if I do, it will be the fulfilment of a dream that started with that one small step for a man.

At this point the alert reader might object that as I am female and Neil Armstrong was male I have never watched a person of my gender setting foot on a celestial body for the first time. But that does not stop me answering the question. You see, the splendour of that moment had nothing whatsoever to do with Armstrong being male and everything to do with him being human.

So, what do we think about Syria?

Some questions:

Was there a chemical attack?

If so, who was the perpetrator?

More to the point, do we care? Yes, I know there is a treaty and all that but is chemicalling someone so much worse than shooting them? And is it worth fighting a war over?

Samizdata quote of the day

From this laborious work, and from all my other efforts in this field, I have drawn the conclusion that the evidence for social constructionism is a mirage in the desert. It does not exist. Most people in the humanities – including those who are able to express their opinions freely without fear of being fired – presuppose that gender roles are social constructs, and that the results obtained by natural scientists are determined by their social and political environment. Thousands of pages of academic ‘research’ express such notions, and thousands of university students are taught that this is how things are. But it is all hot air. The whole scenario is reminiscent of The Emperor’s New Clothes – nobody listens to the little boy who alone has the courage to point out that the Emperor is naked.

Much of this material – and Judith Butler’s obscurantism, in particular – functions like a Latin liturgy. It is not meant to be understood. About 600 years ago, the clergy in England supposedly existed to combat evil and make the world a better place. The sermons were in Latin, and the Bible was only available in Latin, so laypeople had no means of verifying what the clergy told them about religious doctrine. When a number of idealists translated the Bible into English so that common people could read and understand it, the idea – in principle, anyway – was that this would give more people direct access to God’s word. But instead of embracing this opportunity, the clergy fought all attempts at translation. And when the Bible became available in a language that people understood, the clergy burned the English translations, and those who distributed them were caught and executed. Given the choice of either supporting the wider dissemination of God’s word or preserving their own power and authority, they chose the latter.

A similar pattern of motivated self-interest is in evidence today (although opponents are no longer executed). Social constructionism has transformed the humanities departments of many universities into a kind of postmodern clerisy. In its own understanding, this clerical class strives to improve the world by insisting that all differences between groups of people are social constructs that testify to the unfairness of society. Society, therefore, can and must be reconstructed to dismantle these iniquities. But if wide-ranging social change is being demanded, then the basis for those demands needs to be firmly established first. Scholars ought to be labouring to prove the extent to which such differences are indeed social constructs and the extent to which disparities can be mitigated or dispelled by the radical reorganisation of social policy and even society itself. But this step in the process is simply absent. Instead, theorists make claims without bothering to substantiate them. Confronted with a choice between the disinterested pursuit of truth and understanding, or preserving their ideologies and positions of influence, they consistently opt for the latter.

And so, large swathes of the humanities and social sciences have been corrupted by ideology. Pockets of integrity remain but they are the minority, and they are only tolerated so long as they do not contradict the central planks of the accepted narrative. The unhappy result is that our universities are corroding, and our students will graduate with nothing more than the ability to further corrode the rest of society.

– The concluding paragraphs of Kåre Fog’s essay for Quillette, entitled Lost Down Social Constructionism’s Epistemic Rabbit-Hole

Samizdata quote of the day

In a recent interview, PayPal founder Peter Thiel spoke of a ‘totalitarian’ streak that exists in many of the tech titans. Evidence suggests he might be right. If so, are we closer to China’s ‘Social Credit System‘ than we realize?

Jonathan Miltimore

Is this what a man hired to communicate climate science calls evidence?

As I have said before, I retain a belief in CAGW two-and-a-half letters to the left of most commenters on this blog. But Bob Ward – Policy and Communications Director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics – is not the first believer in the imminent peril of climate change to have a damn good go at pushing my scepticism-marker to the right. On the LSE British Politics and Policy blog, he writes:

Do male climate change ‘sceptics’ have a problem with women?

Betteridge’s Law of Headlines applies for a reason. If someone knows a thing for sure, they don’t ask the air. They state it, good and hard.

Although clearly not all climate change ‘sceptics’ are male, writes Bob Ward,

Get-out clause.

it does appear that those who most intensely promote climate change denial are usually male, and routinely refer to female climate scientists in a dismissive way. He provides some evidence for his argument.

The standard of what he thinks is evidence is what prompted me to write this post.

On 20 February, the Global Warming Policy Foundation launched a new pamphlet at the House of Lords, attacking the mainstream media for not giving more coverage to climate change ‘sceptics’. The author, Christopher Booker, is a veteran columnist for The Sunday Telegraph. This will be the 65th pamphlet published by the Foundation, since it was registered as an educational charity by Lord Lawson of Blaby in 2009, 57 of which have been written by men only.

So 8 out of the 65 were not. That is 12.3%. According to a Guardian article asking how well women are represented in UK science in the light of the forced resignation of Tim Hunt (an affair which itself demonstrated the incompatibility of modern feminism with science), women make up just 12.8% of the STEM workforce. So the GWPF’s pamphlet output is, as we scientists say, only short by a whisker. Yeah, that 12.8% is a factoid I plucked out of the air of questionable relevance to anything, but so is Bob Ward’s figure of 57/65 GWPF pamphlets not having a woman’s name at the end. Incidentally I am shocked that the Guardian, unlike Mr Ward, ignores scientists of non-binary gender. No, wait! I have suddenly seen that Mr Ward’s rather strange phrasing “written by men only” might not after all be a progressive acknowledgement that some authors presenting as male or female might actually consider themselves as part of the Two Spirit community. It could just be about papers with more than one author. Oh, poot. That’s a paragraph of snark wasted. Not to worry, though. All I have to do is put a question mark at the end and I can use it after all: Does Bob Ward have a problem with the Two Spirit Community?

However, male dominance of the Foundation’s other activities is even stronger. Of its 10 Trustees, all but one are men. All of the 25 members of its “Academic Advisory Council” are men.

Those square quotes are men. I can tell by the way they are so aggressive and in yer face. Female punctuation marks are much nicer.

Its Chair, Director, Deputy Director, Science Editor, Energy Editor, Director of Development and Researcher are all men. And all seven of its annual lectures have been delivered by men.

So that’s the Global Warming Policy Foundation shown to be almost as sexist as liberal Hollywood luvvies or Oxfam directors. Are we going to reach the bit where we prove – or even attempt to prove – the sexism of climate sceptics in general rather than this one think-tank soon?

The Foundation does not disclose any details about the identities of its members, thought to number about 100, or its donors who last year gave more than £284,000. It is not obvious why the Foundation should be able to benefit from charity status while appearing to operate as an old boys’ club. It is not, for instance, raising awareness of men’s issues, such as the risks of prostate cancer.

Huh? I can vaguely see how he gets from “does not disclose any details about the identities of its members” to “appearing to operate as an old boys’ club”, but where did the bit about prostate cancer come from? The term “old boys’ club” or “old boy network” is usually taken to mean a group that operates by the principle of “it’s not what you know but who you know”. But the mention of “boys” is a historical hangover from the days when the days when practically all professionals were male. There was never any suggestion that old boys’ clubs became more acceptable if they dealt with old boys’ issues.

I asked the Charity Commission to investigate whether the under-representation of women within the governance and activities of the Foundation was the result of discrimination. The Commission had previously carried out an inquiry into the Foundation and concluded that it had violated the rules for education charities because it was solely promoting climate change denial.

However, it refused to make any enquiries about the under-representation of women on the grounds that “there are no legal requirements around gender balance in governance and that under s20(2) of the Charities Act, the Commission is precluded from interfering in the administration of a charity”.

Good to see the Charity Commission staying within its legal remit. Gambling Commission, please note.

The Foundation may be dominated by older men because climate change denial is simply not popular among women and young people.

Science of the sort that Bob Ward approves of is also disproportionately old and male. Old because it takes time to learn this stuff, male because… well, that is not a question into which modern science cares to delve.

Numerous studies have suggested that climate change ‘sceptics’ are usually older and male, with political views that place less value on the environment. However, recent polls of the UK public suggest that there is little gender difference among the small proportion of the population who are hardcore ‘sceptics’.

The fact that Mr Ward put in this nugget that undermines the rest of his article made me think a lot better of him. But it still undermines the rest of his article.

A tracking survey commissioned by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy showed that, in March 2017, 7.6% answered “I don’t think there is such a thing as climate change” or “Climate change is caused entirely caused by natural processes”, when asked for their views. Among men the figure was 8.1%, while for women it was 7.1%.

As above.

Anyone who has engaged with ‘sceptics’ will have learned that it is the men who are most vocal about their views.

Anyone who has engaged with ‘human beings’ will have learned that it is the men who are most vocal about their views.

They tend to lack any training or qualifications in climate science, but still appear to believe that they know better than the experts. And there is also a degree of male chauvinism that often underlies the arguments put forward by ‘sceptics’ during public discussions. For instance, when Lord Lawson was asked to comment on a statement by Professor Dame Julia Slingo, the chief scientist at the Met Office, about the link between flooding and climate change, he did not refer to her by her professional title but as “this Julia Slingo woman”.

The degree of male chauvinism in that is close to zero. I am female but if I do not think too highly of a person I might easily refer to them as “this X Y man” if they happen to be male and “this A B woman” if they happen to be female. To omit her professional title does fall short of the highest standards of courtesy but before we specifically condemn Nigel Lawson for sexism perhaps we ought to establish that he is more insulting to women than to men. Paradoxically he could defend himself from the charge by pointing to his frequent waspishness to his male political allies, his male political enemies, and to the male chat show host Clive Anderson. I am sure Lord Lawson would not have dreamed of making disparaging reference to the appearance of a lady.

Other climate change ‘sceptics’ routinely refer to female climate scientists in a dismissive way. For instance, Professor Joanna Haigh of Imperial College London was called a “puffed-up missy” in a trademark rant by James Delingpole for the extremist website Breitbart. Mr Delingpole also referred on his website to Dr Emily Shuckburgh, an experienced climate scientist who specialises on impacts in polar regions, not by her name or job title but as “some foxy chick from the British Antarctic Survey”.

What an adorably old-fashioned chappie Delingpole is. As indeed is Mr Ward. A chick can go Oxford and have a science degree and still be pretty damn foxy, you know. This is a point upon which I feel strongly.

Female scientists outside the UK are also exposed to sexist invective from climate change ‘sceptics’, with Scientific American reporting that, in the United States, “more than 90 percent of the harassing emails they receive are from men and often include gender-specific abuse”.

Of course not all climate change ‘sceptics’ are male chauvinists, but it is clear that those who most obsessively promote climate change denial are usually male, arrogant, and unable to accept that the experts are right, particularly if they are female.

No, it is not clear. Insufficient evidence has been provided to support the assertion.

Edit: Oh, and one further thing. A point so fundamental that I didn’t think of putting it in until later, like the Zeroth Law. Lord Lawson, James Delingpole, the entire complement of the Global Warming Policy Foundation irrespective of gender, and every climate sceptic on the planet could all be misogynist space Nazis who wear Free Cuckistan socks in bed and it still would not make their opinions on climate change wrong.

Puritans IN SPACE!

H.L. Mencken defined “puritanism” as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy”. Meet Nathan Robinson, editor of a journal called Current Affairs, Guardian contributor, and a man who has almost certainly named his kids “Fly-extravagance”, “Sorry-for-misgendering” and “If-carbon-had-not-been-offset-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned”. He writes,

Why Elon Musk’s SpaceX launch is utterly depressing

There is, perhaps, no better way to appreciate the tragedy of 21st-century global inequality than by watching a billionaire spend $90m launching a $100,000 car into the far reaches of the solar system.

Musk said he wanted to participate in a space race because “races are exciting” and that while strapping his car to a rocket may be “silly and fun … silly and fun things are important”. Thus, anyone who mentions the colossal waste the project involves, or the various social uses to which these resources could be put, can be dismissed as a killjoy.

But one doesn’t have to hate fun to question the justification for pursuing a costly new space race at exactly this moment. If we examine the situation honestly, and get past our natural (and accurate) feeling that rockets are really cool, it becomes hard to defend a project like this.

A mission to Mars does indeed sound exciting, but it’s important to have our priorities straight. First, perhaps we could make it so that a child no longer dies of malaria every two minutes. Or we could try to address the level of poverty in Alabama that has become so extreme the UN investigator did not believe it could still occur in a first-world country. Perhaps once violence, poverty and disease are solved, then we can head for the stars.

Many might think that what Elon Musk chooses to do with his billions is Elon Musk’s business alone. If he wanted to spend all his money on medicine for children, that would be nice, but if he’d like to spend it making big explosions and sending his convertible on a million-mile space voyage, that’s his prerogative.

But Musk is only rich enough to afford these indulgent pet projects because we have allowed gross social inequalities to arise in the first place. If wealth were actually distributed fairly in this country, nobody would be in a position to fund his own private space program.

The efficiency of state space development

Last night, Elon Musk mentioned that the development cost of Falcon Heavy was about $500M, an astonishing sum, until you remember that NASA’s new Space Launch System has consumed about $20B to date and isn’t finished yet. Full development costs for SLS are said to be $35B.

Also, while Falcon Heavy re-uses most of its hardware and costs about $90M a flight, the current quoted SLS flight cost is $500M, and more realistically might reach $1B per flight.

However, while Falcon Heavy can only carry 63 tons to low earth orbit, SLS Block 1 will be able to carry 70 tons.

Eventually, SLS Block 2 will be available, with a payload of 130 tons to LEO. By that time, SpaceX’s BFR, which will be fully reusable, may be in flight. BFR will be able to carry 150 tons to LEO, and is intended to be fully reusable, so a flight may cost as little as a few million dollars — likely under 1/100th of the cost of a flight of SLS Block 2.

Pretty much the coolest thing ever

Pretty much the coolest thing ever… 😎

What is to be done about this blatant sexism?

“I found their disrespect for women very disheartening, perhaps because their overall behavior seems so similar to our own, yet no amount of telling them I’m a professional, responsible, independent adult would change their views.”

What, might you ask, has troubled this person? Let me adumbrate that the writer is (afaik) a woman, remarking on a lack of respect for women, which is not shown to men.

But do not be too concerned, it is not a lack of respect for the particular woman’s professional abilities that drives this, the writer goes on, I parse, for what will be obvious reasons.

…But when the one father in our group approached, they would slink away without putting up a fight. Every time he sat down, they would come bounding back…

So clearly there is sexism going on here. So why isn’t reason working? I have some bad ‘news’ for this disheartened professional.

The disrespectful ones are, it turns out, not going to listen to reason, as they are… baboons (4th answer).

Which gives me an wonderful opportunity to stretch the evolutionary tree and crowbar in Jordan Peterson and Lobsters, watch and treasure, standing up straight with your shoulders back.

All together now: if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear

Sorry for the unoriginal choice of title. This is about the fourth Samizdata post with a title related to that slogan, and the umpteenth to mention it. Don’t blame us. If the authorities would stop repeatedly proving that slogan to be a cruel travesty, we would be happy to stop going on about it.

Until that day arrives, the Guardian has a good report on the latest example of what innocent people have to fear:

Police made ‘appalling’ errors in using internet data to target suspects

Police have made serious errors getting search warrants for suspected sex offenders, leading to the targeting of innocent people and children being wrongly separated from their parents, an official report has revealed.

The errors – highlighted by the interception of communications commissioner, Sir Stanley Burnton, in his annual report to the prime minister – had “appalling” consequences and related to some of the most intrusive powers the state can use against its citizens.

In one example, two children were separated from their parents for a weekend while the parents were questioned as suspects in a child sexual exploitation case. It later emerged that police had raided the wrong address due to an error on the documentation and the parents were innocent.

Digital devices belonging to innocent people were also forensically examined by police, Burnton said.

The errors identified were mainly because details were wrongly entered into software that helps police work out the location where a specific IP (internet protocol) address has been used.

But IP addresses are routinely reassigned by internet providers. Burnton warned investigators not to rely on them when trying to work out who is hiding behind the anonymity of the internet to commit crimes.

He wrote: “These [errors] are far more common than is acceptable, especially in cases relating to child sex exploitation. The impact on some victims of these errors has been appalling.”

So what should we do about North Korea?

By “we” I mean the American government of course.

Let’s try some Q and A:

Does North Korea currently possess the means to destroy cities in South Korea, Japan and even the United States?
I’m guessing that’s a “no”. My understanding is that building a missile is one thing, building an atomic bomb another thing and combining the two really difficult.

If not, are they likely to acquire those means any time soon?
Well, they seem to have spent a hell of a long time just getting to this stage. So, it could be a while yet.

Were they to acquire them how likely would they be to use them?
I suppose the question here is whether or not the threat of instant nuclear annihilation would deter them. The point is that the Norks are atheists. They do not have a heaven to go to. They want to receive their rewards in this world. There is no upside to being nuked. So, they can be deterred.

Of course, I say they are atheists but their system of government is clearly a hereditary monarchy. Monarchies tend to have gods attached. But as yet (to the best of my knowledge) the Norks haven’t come up with a heaven. But when they do… watch out.

So, the best approach is probably to do nothing and let deterrence do its thing?
Probably. Of course, it doesn’t have to be the US doing the deterring. Japan and South Korea could do much the same, after they had developed nuclear weapons of course.

Getting back to this god stuff, the Iranians aren’t atheists are they?
No they’re not. And they believe in heaven. And they believe they would go to heaven if they nuked Israel. And rumour has it that the Norks are helping them with the tech. But my guess is that the Israelis have the means to deal with this threat before it becomes serious.

So, what you’re saying is that the US’s best approach is to do nothing?
Yes, I guess I am.

I would just add that it is remarkable how difficult smaller tyrannies find it to replicate 60-year old technology.