Friday, May 30, 2008

You're Banned!!!!

A while ago I made a promise to myself not to comment on anymore of Poneke's climate change threads. Doing so had clearly become pointless. Poneke maintains a certainty of opinion completely unjustified by his or her understanding of climate science. And he or she just gets offended when you point out the errors in the posts.

Foolishly, though yesterday I commented again, lured in by a discussion of William Nordhaus and discounting (something that is worth discussing). Of course I couldn't resist the usual error correcting and, lo and behold, there I was - banging my head against a rock again.

So that does it. I'm banned! Or, at least, I'm banning myself. I know it's meant to work the other way in the blogosphere. But I really need to learn to focus my time on things constructive. And arguing with climate change deniers (as opposed to genuine sceptics, who might actually be swayed by evidence) achieves nothing.

[Update: Oh, it looks like Poneke has beaten me to the draw. My last comment on that thread (from last night) never made it out of his/her moderation queue. Assuming it didn't get deleted by accident, it would appear that Poneke is about as keen on me commenting on his/her website as I am. Which is great in the sense that it provides me with help in observing my ban. Not so good perhaps in what it reveals about Poneke, who claims to be opposed to any attempt to silence debate on climate change but possibly isn't so willing to apply the same approach to their blog.

This is fair enough, up to a point: freedom of speech is a society wide principle and people's blogs are their own property. They needn't give a platform to those they don't agree with. Nevertheless, given that my comment was neither abusive nor trolling - it was merely a response to Poneke's response to me - to disappear it with out any comment or acknowledgment just seems rather dishonest. Creating the impression that I had no response to Poneke's Homer Simpsonesque comeback on the subject of statistics.]

[Update 2: Anyone seeking a detailed critique of the Great Global Warming Swindle should have a look at this. Hat tip and thanks to George Darroch]

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Tracks of my Tears

During my first bout of reactive arthritis I most probably came down with Iritis. I say most probably because, despite the fact that it is a common complication of Reactive Arthritis, and despite the fact that I had textbook symptoms, the Ophthalmologist decided - based on the results of a diagnostic test - that I had some sort of scratch or a problem with cold sores instead. In all likelihood I was misdiagnosed and I spent several very, very painful and anxious days until fortunately the problem started to clear up of its own accord*.

I was lucky that my eyesight wasn't severely damaged at the time. But it wasn't and I still have great vision. The only thing that seemed to change is that my eyes became much more sensitive to the cold. Now, whenever I'm walking in cold air, they stream tears. I know that most people's eyes do this a bit. But mine seem to go into overdrive.

So there I was, walking through manners mall after work today, crying a river...I wonder what it looked like to everyone else.

*WARNING: Iritis is not necessarily self limiting. And can do real damage. If you think you have it get medical attention.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

To very, very good posts...

...on the Hand Mirror. Read 'em.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Chavez again...

To and fro on the economic consequences of Mr Chavez. Just a bookmark for me really.

[Update: Oh man, Weisbrot blows Rodríguez out of the water! How did that nonsense get published in Foreign Affairs in the first place??????]

[Update 2: via Simon in comments we discover that Rodriguez has a rejoinder. Weekend reading hopefully].

[Update 3: thank you again to Simon - Weisbrot responds again too. See Simon's thoughts in comments. I'm still inclined to think Weisbrot wins hands down].

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Long May You Run (on three cylinders)

A couple of weeks ago our old car ended up at the wreckers. As a tree hugging greenie I'm surely not meant to care about a car. And as a rationalist, no doubt, I'm not supposed to hold the belief, like some sort of animist, that it had spirit. But the car had heart. And it loved empty gravel roads. It was slow (even my mother, who owned it before me, thought it gutless) but it fit my surfboards, and me when I needed to sleep in it. My wife and I are aiming for something much more fuel efficient in the next car (it wasn't a SUV but it was old). But none of this will change the fact that I miss the ol' car.

Anyhow, Neil Young does car eulogies much better than me.

Goodbye blue streak.

Blogs, Learning and the Minimum Wage

It always intrigues me to read print media pundits writing off blogs as shrill, derivative and poorly informed. It's true that a lot of blogs use articles from the print media as the basis for their posts (and so are, in a sense, derivative). But to me this seems to be a good thing; removing barriers to entry in the ongoing conversation that ought to be democracy and ensuring that large media outlets don't inevitably have the final word on that which matters.

As for being shrill and ill informed, this is very true - of some blogs (and New Zealand, alas, has more than its fair share of these). But, in the same way that the Sun is not the Financial Times, some does not mean all, and there are plenty of bogs out there which are incredibly well informed and also well mannered.

Crooked Timber is a case in point. To give but one example, this recent post on labour markets and the minimum wage by a guest blogger there is simply excellent. The author knows her stuff, as do most of the commenters. Which means that you'll read the post and learn more about the topic than you would in a year's worth of newspaper articles here; or a first year economics text book for that matter.

That does it! I'm leaving!!

Over at Public Address Danyl is contemplating a move across the ditch, tempted by the mountains of money he could be earning. For me the desire to emigrate is driven by something else entirely: the newspaper deficit. Ok, so the Age isn't the Guardian or even the New York Times, but it's

(a) well written
(b) somewhat socially aware
(c) not a pamphlet for the tax cut lobby

...which puts it in a league of its own compared to the Dom and the Herald.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Use these posts to write something on Pigouvian taxes (and learn how to spell that word while you're at it!):

Utilitarianism Again

Of the many lists of things to do currently piling up in my life, one of the longer ones is 'Reply to posts on the Visible Hand in Economics'. While I disagree with quite a lot of what I read there, the content is always well written and well argued. And interesting.

But, alas, I speak economics only a little better than Portuguese, which - combined with the substantive nature of much that is blogged there - means that my responses need time; a scarce commodity at present.

Anyhow, a little while ago Matt responded to my post on the problems with utilitarianism*.

It's an interesting post and in the comments below he makes the very worthwhile point that people may actually feel better knowing that they live in a juster world and as such - to some degree - justice can be incorporated in people's utility functions.

In the post itself he makes two points which I don't think are quite right, though**.

1. The first of these is that utilitarianism somehow differs from other political philosophies in that it doesn't involve value judgments (claims that can't be perfectly anchored to deeper claims) about right and wrong. The trouble is that utilitarianism does do this: arguing that we should do what leads to the greatest good is a value judgment just like saying that we should concern ourselves with fairness as it might be reasonably construed behind a veil of ignorance. One of the strengths of utilitarianism is that the value judgment involved seems more intuitively defensible than, say, claims on absolute property rights, but value judgment it remains.

2. Matt suggests that we can mix concerns for justice (equity) with concerns for outcomes (efficiency) in our grand designs. I'm no expert but I just can't think of this - mixing consequentialist and non-consequentialist political philosophy - leading to anything but a philosophical mess. In saying this I'm not making a dig at Matt: in my day to day thinking I do exactly the same; in his ubiquitous first year econ. text book N Gregory Mankiw does it; and, heck, it's throughout our daily political discourse. But I just can't see how the mixture could ever be coherent and consistent.

Maybe I'm wrong and maybe there is a way to soundly mix deontology and consequentialism though. If there is, I'd love to hear it.

* I'm still a utilitarian, remember - just a troubled one.
**And I'm neither an economist nor a philosopher so it may be me that is wrong here of course.

It's like raaaaiiiinnn on our wedding day

We got married last week.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I am a worrier - and the wedding was no exception. Although, to be fair, my partner coming down with a stomach-bug the night before and a forecast straight from the fantasies of people who believe in global cooling, actually, I think, offered some real reasons for concern.

So there I was, at midnight, listening to rain stampede across the roof and the sound of intermittent vomiting when I started thinking: why do we fret about rain on our wedding day? Presumably not just because Alanis Morrisette thinks it's ironic. Obviously, it's a logistical pain but I decided our wedding weather anxieties stem from something else:

Life has its challenges, with those unexpected often being the worst. So it's only natural, when you make a commitment to try and spend the rest of your days together, to start wondering what might or might not come to pass, and to - all of a sudden - feel very much in the hands of fate. Which, in turn, makes good luck seem awfully important.

And so, perhaps, we worry about rain on our wedding day, for the most part, because it feels like a test case - an example of the luck we may or may not experience through the rest of our married lives.

Now, obviously, this line of thinking was hardly helping my nerves (was that a clap of thunder?!) so I changed tack a bit:

Realistically, rationally, the things that matter most are those that we can affect - right? Not the coalitions of chance we call luck. And I figured that even if my partner was ill, and even if it started to hail, the really important thing - and the precedent that mattered most - was that we'd find a way of making the day work regardless. And, in turn, hopefully, our lives together. While there's no certainty, it was, I discovered, much easier to feel confident of our ability to overcome bad things than to hope they never happened.

Anyhow, as it came to pass, I never really needed to convince myself of all this. On the day, her stomach held and the weather broke. And we got married outside under cloudy but dry skies, while up the end of the valley the Tararuas were painted white by freshly fallen snow.

Oh my Gored

As temperatures rise, denier tactics plunge. They're now doctoring Al Gore interviews so they can claim he is being misleading about science.

Gore's law plus active dishonesty - these people can not be called sceptics in any reasonable sense of the term.

Via comments at Deltoid.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

How many...

Inspired by Gareth, I couldn't resist:

Q: How many climate sceptics does it take not to change a light bulb?

A: Approximately 100. 1 to say that the current absence of light is the result of natural solar cycles and the other 99 to disseminate this finding through their 'science organisations' and oil industry funded think tanks.

[Update: This is cool. Robert Butler, the author of the original climate change light bulb joke has blogged about the spread of the meme, very kindly stating that my own humble attempt above is his favourite derivative thus far. Thanks Robert!]

More Great Climate Change Humour... Gareth's place.