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Abolish the monarchy!

Thursday marks the 70th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and a bunch of other nations who for various reasons didn't become republics after decolonization.

I have nothing against Liz personally—she's performed the monarch's duties diligently for 70 years—but she's 95 and probably doesn't have many more years to run in office.

I submit that when she dies, it will be past time to end the monarchy and held a constitutional convention for the UK to decide what sort of place it wants to be in future.

The British monarchy is a constitutional living fossil, with theoretically vast powers that nevertheless only exist as long as they are never used. And it has a distorting effect on the politics and culture of these islands.

By existing in its current form it establishes a state religion, the Church of England—one of EIIR's titles is "protector of the faith", the monarch is the head of the church, and thereby there is no complete freedom of religion in the UK. (You or I are not restricted in our beliefs, but the monarch? If Charles were to suddenly announce he's an atheist, it'd cause a religious constitutional crisis.)

It also establishes a second class of citizenship—everyone who isn't in the line of succession, that is, a member of the royal family in the line of descent. Royals can't vote in parliamentary elections or hold elected office. On the other hand, nobody except members of the royal family are eligible to be head of state. There may well be other rights we gain or lose through this constitutional difference in legal standing, but it's the most obvious one. Every child growing up in the USA or Germany is told, "you could become President"—but in the UK, that's simply not true.

On the other hand ... the Queen appears to have complete legal immunity. The notional source of legal authority in the UK is an abstraction known as "The Crown". It's not an actual fancy hat—you could steal the crown jewels but it'd still exist, penumbrally clinging to the reigning monarch. And the problem is, laws have force because the Crown makes them (or rather, signs Acts of Parliament that create laws). A side-effect is that laws apply to everyone and everything below the Crown, not including the Crown itself—or, presumably, its 95 year old wearer. So far we've lucked out because EIIR seems to be nothing if not law-abiding, and the only probable law breaker in the family is several steps removed from the Crown (Prince Andrew). But I've seen lawyers argue that if EIIR picked up a gun and shot someone at random on Regents Street (as Donald Trump boasted he could do on Fifth Avenue in New York) she'd have complete immunity. Crown Immunity: it's a thing.

There's the patronage issue to consider. The monarchy can appoint people, unaccountably, to the upper house of Parliament, the misleadingly-named House of Lords—since 2003 or so it's been an 80%-appointed revising chamber. Due to the aforementioned state religion the monarchy already appoints Bishops who sit in the HoL and contribute to draft legislation. The monarch can in principle create unlimited new life peers, to shove a legislative agenda through (this is how the Liberal government in 1911 broke a constitutional deadlock with the Tory peers, with the assistance of the King, and passed the Parliament Act (1911)). Its scope for causing havoc today is somewhat reduced, but not completely gone.

The Crown can also grant lesser honours, knighthoods and medals, as rewards for services rendered. Usually it doesn't, and is instead guided by a government committee. But again: a power unused is not a power non-existent.

I'm not even going to touch the thorny subject of the Crown Estates, the palaces and paintings and fancy jewellery the monarchy has collected like magpies over the past three or four centuries. That's trivial in comparison with the constitutional mess of exceptions caused by the existence of the monarchy itself.

But we also have the final point: that the monarchy is a very dangerous glue to rely on for holding a fissiparous bunch of nations together in one state. It's an elderly glue and it's crumbling, and Prince Charles (or King Henry IX as he's widely rumoured to be in future) is not remotely charismatic, or a unifying figure. EIIR managed to spread herself across the whole of the UK, but Charles is very visibly a posh boy from the Home Counties with a foot in Cornwall and no obvious ties to Scotland, Northern Ireland, or Wales. However, he's unaccountably popular with the red-faced Brexit-voting Gammons in Deep England. Expect any post-coronation monarchist flag-shagging to rapidly turn into a centralizing exercise in English nationalism (which always runs at the expense of the periphery, even though they don't say the verse in the national anthem about "rebellious Scots to crush" aloud these days). An insecure establishment is one that clings to power all the more harshly.

As for what we should switch to?

Frankly, we shouldn't copy the US model. Its failures should be blindingly obvious by now. Nor do we need a strong executive presidency (the US POTUS' powers are an enumerated and term-limited version of those of a late 18th century British monarch: we'd be turning the clock back two centuries if we copied it).

A constitutional presidence along the Irish model might work satisfactorily: the Irish president is a placeholder for head-of-state at international meetings and treaty signings, and a ribbon-cutter and ceremonial leader who is not a member of any political party: they are notionally above politics and serve as a unifying figure. But that's the theory. In the UK, it's hard not to see a presidency being hijacked for partisan purposes by the most radical faction, which today is the self-identified "Conservative" Party (who are absolutely not conservative except possibly in some nebulous xenophobic English Nationalist cultural sense).

We might do rather better selecting a president by national lottery, for a 1 year term: ribbon cutting, attending galas, declaring parliamentary sessions open, and meeting foreign dignitaries. (Combine it with the national lottery and, say, a £10M jackpot, and it'd still be a lot cheaper than paying EIIR's bills.) Disqualifying traits would be, solely, terminal illness with a prognosis of less than 18 months to live, ever holding elected office (past or present), or not wanting the job. (You'd have to have be pretty adamantly opposed to turn down £10M tax-free.)

Or finally, just bear with me ... why bother with a head of state at all?

The head of state has no practical job in the UK today that can't be delegated to other office-holders. Diplomatic stuff is the job of the Foreign Secretary or the Prime Minister. The State Opening of Parliament is pompous 19th century historic fluff, good for tourism but not business—the opening speech could be read by the Speaker of the House or the leader of the government. Actual government is a committee process, and a complicated one at that. Why pretend the state is led by a single decision-making person when really, it isn't? (Even the US President isn't a solo operator—they lead an executive team of around 400-500 staffers who divide up the job, and the actual President merely receives briefings, chairs meetings, sets policy, and then represents it to the rest of government and the nation.)

Modern states are too big to be ruled by one person. So maybe we should stop pretending.

PS: Recovering from Omicron. May be a bit terse in comments and moderation.

PPS: Absolutely no discussion of US politics is permitted on this thread before comment 300. Automatic red card time.

1210 Comments

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1:

PPPS: I forgot the other obvious option -- at least, obvious in the current political climate: Privatize the Monarchy. Sell the right to call yourself king or queen each year to the highest bidder, with a 10% rake-off to fund the Conservative Party!

I for one welcome our new Tsar King, Evgeny Lebedev the First!

2:

The Queen can and regularly does appoint members of her family to various peerages, though I don't think they come with a legislative role (could Harry stand in the next hereditary peers by election?).

3:

Don't abolish the monarchy, send her on tour like any nostalgic reunited Boomer rock and roll band (I'd pay a lot to see Pink Floyd again) or the treasures of King Tut.

Dismantling, shipping and reassembling Buckingham palace at various major cities around the globe may involve some serious overhead but given the fascination everyone outside of Britain has with the Royals you would make that up in America alone.

Merchandizing opportunities are staggering, but the big money would be her own reality TV show. Watch as on Royal after another would be "Sent to the Tower" (the show's equivalent of being voted off the island or "you're fired!").

A Naked and Afraid knock off, however, may be a step too far.

4:

We had that in America, a TV show called "Queen for a Day"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_for_a_Day

5:

I like the idea of something that elevates the profile of the Cabinet. In Canada, people can get too tied up with the Prime Minister and the rest of the government loses visibility. It'd help diminish the personal cult side of the executive (either for or against the PM).

One of our responses to your doing away with the monarchy would be to insist that Governor General is still the Queen's representative even after QE2 has passed. It makes no real difference if there's a monarch behind the GG or not. It would save so much wrangling over this Head of State business.

6:

This is just starting to heat up as an issue in Australia, now over 20 years since the last referendum on a republic was conducted, and the Australian Republic Movement released their model late last year. Essentially, the state and territory governments nominate a few non-partisan figures and the population votes on the president. The first step is to prevent populists and the second is to prevent the government of the day installing a partisan hack.

Note that we're already halfway there with governors/governor generals usually being, for the most part, well respected, non-partisan, non-royal figures (although the idea was floated of William taking the reigns as GG for a stint).

Of course, republic talk has been delayed while implemention the Uluru Statement of the Heart goes to a referendum, namely over constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sovereignty and an Indigenous Voice in Parliament (which potentially is a role that isn't too different from a presidency).

7:

I'm biased but I'd follow the Irish model (which I believe is also used by a bunch of other European and other countries, like Germany, etc). For a start it was designed as a drop-in placeholder for the UK monarch.

I'd ensure it was a ranked-voting system like Ireland or Australia to ensure a good compromise candidate rather than FPTP capture.

But i'd caution confusing the trappings of office (cutting ribbons, welcoming Ambassadors, etc) with the purpose. The office is ultimately the constitutional tie-breaker in a crisis: there is exactly one head of state, their choice, with whatever council of state advises, rules.

The main constitutional power they have is deciding whether to call an election, when the parliament is deadlocked and PM resigns. Also, refer legislation to the Supreme Court for adjudication before signing. But more significantly they decide if the country surrenders or fights on if invaded. One head, one decision. Similarly for any random crisis we haven't thought of yet.

All the other acts (Presidents medals to youth, Ambasadors, reviewing army and football matches, etc) are there to burnish their standing so when the big decision is made it will be accepted.

8:

I've seen some discussion of severing Canada from the Crown. (Short version of most of what I've read: "Yeah, it's the right thing to do. But honestly, it would be SUCH a pain in the ass, and would make so little difference -- do we really care that much?") The ethical, moral, and legal issues are of course mostly different from those of the UK. Yet there is this: if the UK abolishes the monarchy, surely Canada will, too.

9:

I submit that when she dies, it will be past time to end the monarchy and held a constitutional convention for the UK to decide what sort of place it wants to be in future.

Given the current state of our politics, a constitutional convention in America would be a total cluster f**K.

Having watched a few raucous sessions of Parliament I can only assume that A British version would be a bigger cluster.

P.S. Having watch my share of Masterpiece Theater over the years I always assumed you Brits were more civil, polished and polite than us Yanks. How shocked I was to learn that I was wrong.

10:
P.S. Having watch my share of Masterpiece Theater over the years I always assumed you Brits were more civil, polished and polite than us Yanks. How shocked I was to learn that I was wrong.

I have sometimes had in my mind the image of the bluff, honest, red-faced Englishman. Surely he exists. However, I just finished Simon Singh's /The Code Book/. And I learned that the English can be the most devious snakes on the planet.

11:

Modern states are too big to be ruled by one person. So maybe we should stop pretending.

Then you would want a committee presidency on the Swiss model, with a spokesperson for a 7 member council with no more actual power compared to his/her collogues than the Chief Justice of the US SC.

12:

I've seen some discussion of severing Canada from the Crown.

What if Quebec finally goes its own way, Albert becomes a US state or other scenario for Canadian dissolution?

13:

For that model to work the UK would need a written constitution as currently it's not codified and runs on the "ood chap" principle. Makes it so easy for current incumbent PM to push the boundaries.

14:

I have nothing against Liz personally—she's performed the monarch's duties diligently for 70 years—but she's 95 and probably doesn't have many more years to run in office.

3 more years to beat the French?

15:

I had cause to visit the crown estates for work. At the time I was puzzled as to why their security made that of GCHQ look a bit lax (to be clear- both are pretty intense but crown estates was more serious). Then I looked at what they are actually managing.....

I think the biggest blocker is going to be untangling the "crown" as a legal concept from the laws of three separate countries (and the fact our current government doesn't have any skill set beyond issuing a click bait press release won't really help there but hopefully one day a better government will come along)

We certainly aren't going to be able to move beyond the class system which gives chaotic chancers like Johnson some kind of magic powers without getting rid of the monarchy

16:

How about a one-year monarchy to be decided by some kind of Eurovision style talent contest? Recognize the pomp and silliness for what it is.

17:
Charles is very visibly a posh boy from the Home Counties with a foot in Cornwall and no obvious ties to Scotland, Northern Ireland, or Wales.

To be fair to the man (which is not something I am often wont to do), he did at least bother learning some Welsh ahead of his investiture in the colonial castle at Caernarfon.

(And did you mean George VII, rather than George IX?)

No objections to the rest, though, obviously. One of the few things I will still credit to Johann Hari is his book “God Save the Queen?”, which also argues how the continued existence of the monarchy is harmful to them, as well as to us.

18:
What if Quebec finally goes its own way, Albert becomes a US state or other scenario for Canadian dissolution?

No Canadian province would seriously consider joining those wackos to the south.

As for Quebec, my impression is that they are treated as a special case to such an extent in law and custom that they would have little to gain from formal independence.

19:

Let's have an lottery-winner constitutional monarch. The lucky winner gets to be Queen (or King) for a year, plus the £10m, and their family get all the associated royal titles. That way we get a plug-and-play replacement for the current reality show, lots of candidates for opening things and kissing babies, and a whole pile of clotheshorses shaped like normal human beings for UK designers and ateliers to show off with.

We'll get the occasional guano merchant or frothing racist, but it's still going to be an improvement on the current system, with the crucial addition that everyone will know a) they aren't chosen or trained, and b) they'll be gone within a year to be replaced with someone else.

20:

Speaking or merchandizing (and revenue derived thereof) is the Royal family considered a business entity (Windsor Inc. or Her Majesty, Ltd.)?

Is there a particular business that manages the production, distribution and sale of commemorative plates and jubilee trinkets?

Or is it farmed out to subcontractors?

Or is the Royal Family a non-profit?

21:

Simon Cowell would be king maker?

22:

I don't know.

Granted the current system is a genetic lottery, but at least they have been given a lifetime of training preparing them for the role.

23:

I'll just leave this here from the Irish Times because it deserves to be run out anytime this topic comes up:

Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls in each window and has an insatiable desire to hear about and discuss clown-related news stories. More specifically, for the Irish, it’s like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown.

Beyond this, it’s the stuff of children’s stories. Having a queen as head of state is like having a pirate or a mermaid or Ewok as head of state. What’s the logic? Bees have queens, but the queen bee lays all of the eggs in the hive. The queen of the Britons has laid just four British eggs, and one of those is the sweatless creep Prince Andrew, so it’s hardly deserving of applause.

The contemporary royals have no real power. They serve entirely to enshrine classism in the British nonconstitution. They live in high luxury and low autonomy, cosplaying as their ancestors, and are the subject of constant psychosocial projection from people mourning the loss of empire. They’re basically a Rorschach test that the tabloids hold up in order to gauge what level of hysterical batshittery their readers are capable of at any moment in time.

24:

the British nonconstitution

I prefer "noncetitution".

Note for USAns: this is what Brits mean when they say nonce. (From prison service: UK prison classification for prisoners deemed at risk from attack from other 'regular' prisoners because of the sexual nature of their crimes NONCE = N ot - O n - N ormal - C ourtyard - E xercise.)

25:

I've heard that Charles could style himself George VII, but Henry isn't one of his names.

Choices seem to be: Charles III Philip II (or I, depending. Felipe II, Mary I's husband, was crowned King Philip. However, I'm not sure that they'd count him) Arthur George VII.

Or he could take a page from Jorge Mario Bergoglio or Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli and pick a completely new name for his (short) term as king. Such as Henry IX.

26:

He already thinks he is.

27:

Aargh. Above should be Charles III; Philip II (or I, depending. Felipe II, Mary I's husband, was crowned King Philip. However, I'm not sure that they'd count him); Arthur; George VII.

As for Canada becoming a republic: I think that we'll have the monarchy long after it's abolished in the UK (UR = United Republic?). Changing the constitution on something that fundamental would require:

Federal Parliament saying "yes"

ALL provincial & territorial legislatures saying "yes"

National Referendum saying "yes"

... to the EXACT SAME question. Which would include "what do you replace the monarch with?"

28:

Is continuity important? That’s one of the behind the scenes things Queen Elizabeth II does. She talks to almost all the heads of state of the world at various diplomatic functions, and is privy to at least the British side of history (all those daily “Despatch” boxes). That office on the royal yacht isn’t just for show; she’s busy communicating with a tremendous number of people.

So, is that historical perspective and related advice to the prime minister useful? It wouldn’t exist with term appointed politicians.

29:

Yes that institutional knowledge is important, but it's all going to go away when she dies (or gets Alzheimers). At which point they effectively have to hit reset. Well, not completely -- Charles has some experience in the field -- but the FO loses about 80% of it.

This is why governments run on bureaucracy: it's less efficient, but individual leaders are a critical single point of failure.

30:

Yes, I dearly love the idea of Boris Johnson and/or Priti Patel issuing a call to have a constitutional convention and throw out the monarchy. What a grand spectacle to watch from our side of the pond. We can have betting pools on whether other states will hive off and rejoin the EU, or whether they'll get into the cage match of determining what the United States of England's Constitution will look like.

I want to surface an idea Graeber proposed in Debt, which was that the Bank of England and the pound are backed by royal debt. Specifically, the Bank of England is the descendant of a consortium of bankers who offered William III a 1.2 million pound loan to fight France, in return for a monopoly on the issuance of banknotes, "which were, in effect, promissory noes for the money the king now owed them." (p. 339 ff if you want to see the whole argument) Graeber's premise is that this debt has never been repaid, and it is what creates the value of the pound. The Crown could, in his theory, repay Willie 3's and subsequent debts and put the Bank of England out of business by making its promissory notes (the Pound) worthless once the debt is repaid.

Presumably a bunch of people who won't touch the "what is money" question are already flexing their fingers to write about two paragraphs of "Pshaw," but I think it's a real question. The Crown has been interwoven into English finances for centuries. If the royal estates are liquidated to cover all debts, does the Bank of England go out of business too?

Equally important: Are there similar, silent, financial and real estate problems with dismantling the Crown? For instance, could China buy up all the royal seabed estates around England and cut off internet access on them? Will the wealthy and powerful fight to keep the monarchy, not because they care about the Windsors, but because they don't want a mechanism for nationalization and wealth stripping on that scale to be set up, for fear it will be turned on them next?

Finally, don't casually mock unused powers. That's all that has kept the world safe from nuclear war, for instance. They're part of the balance of power too. While it would be pleasant to think about a world without nukes, asking yourself whether you want to take part in the Invasion of the US and Russia to stop climate change is one of those ugly follow-ons that will have to be answered fairly swiftly thereafter. Daniel Keys Moran published a number of stories based on this premise, incidentally, so it's not unthinkable, any more than fighting German technical superiority was unthinkable a century ago.

Interesting times.

31:

Lavery @10 "I have sometimes had in my mind the image of the bluff, honest, red-faced Englishman. Surely he exists. However, I just finished Simon Singh's /The Code Book/. And I learned that the English can be the most devious snakes on the planet."

The first rule for being a devious snake is not to appear to be a devious snake. Those that do are amateurs.

Apparently, you never heard the phrase perfidious Albion.

32:

I'd love to see Canada abolish our links to the monarchy. I can't be arsed to spend any of my time or energy advocating for such a thing. I guess if some crown wearer actually tried to use some power against the interests of the country I'd get a bit more excited about it.

That said, I'm quite happy if we get zero monarchical visits, and would like my eyeballs to be exposed to zero information about that family. Generally speaking, a conversation that begins or continues with someone expressing an opinion about the personal lives of various royals is a sign that I need to find a better conversation.

33:

Shouldn't that be Arthur II? Historicity is not a requirement for being counted in this context. :-P

34:

Really? I think Alberta already considers itself Texas North, and I certainly wouldn’t object to shifting the border to stop them “liberating” the island.

I rather object to hereditary monarchy because it is essentially slavery. Very gilded slavery, sure, but still. It’s a terrible job that you really can’t escape from.

35:

I think Alberta already considers itself Texas North

Taxes North, but without the mass murders. That is an important qualification.

36:

The monarchy never used to bother me, but the conversion of England (at least) into happy peasants throwing street parties for the 70th anniversary of a ridiculous act of pseudoscience - believing that a particular strand of DNA and a ceremony makes you sent by God to govern a nation - is making me dyspeptic on the subject.

wg

37:

We've seen that particular piece in several places in the last 2 - 3 days, and feel it is the best description of the Brit monarchy -- also, plain and succinct, right to the point, of its actual function is to keep class distinction and privilege and power alive and well in Britain, no matter what.

38:

I don't think your account of the legal immunity of the monarch can be quite right. This is discussed in Kantorowicz's classic work of legal history and culture The King's Two Bodies, which examines, among other things, the episode where Charles I was put to death for treason against the king. It might seem strange to say that Charles betrayed Charles (though in an everyday sense, people do betray themselves); but as I understand Kantorowicz, the point was that the flesh and blood person Charles Stewart was convicted of having betrayed the juridicial person of the King. Is there some reason that Charles III (assuming he assumes the throne, of course) could not be viewed separately from the juridical position of the King?

39:

I agree that the monarchy should be abolished, because it is fundamentally against all principles of basic human rights, that any person be born into servitude, even if the job is gilded.

But there is something to be said for having a head of state as focus for the imagined community, both in moments of triumph and sorrow, to express those feelings in a way the community can identify with.

When people are good at that job, we get the Gettysburg address and "not even the beginning of the end" that go down in history.

Of course the critical skill for that job is being in tune with the imagined community and being a fundamentally decent human being.

Being born into the job is almost counter-predictive of that skill.

"Poet in residence" is probably too bargain-basement, but an upscale version of something like that would do fine.

The other valid role of head-of-state is that of "Government-of-last-resort", so that things do not go Totally Belgium if the democratically elected politicians become unclear about what their job entails.

Any good artist can do that at least as well as an aristocrat born into the 0th circle.

40:

So what if the queen suddenly decided to throw the book at the brexiteers and their frauds (and then reverting it)... or some other wildly popular thing amongst people who are not so much friends of the monarchy. I wonder if that would increase their popularity by enough to keep the monarchy?

41:

Well yeah, except that Charles I's execution was a political singularity for England (and the rest of the UK) -- nothing since then has been the same, it was a revolutionary act, followed by a Commonwealth (essentially a military dictatorship) then another monarchy then another revolution and constitutional settlement, all in the space of roughly 50 years.

While bits of the pre-1649 legal system persist I'm not sure the constitutional framework was ever remotely the same again -- certainly James II royally messed things up.

42:

So what if the queen ...

Firstly she's a 95 year old great-grandmother who has dedicated her entire life to stabilizing a thousand year old institution that went through a rocky patch in the 1930s. Sudden quasi-revolutionary action is not in her wheelhouse.

Secondly, she's conservative by disposition -- not a Tory party member, but they're the party of the Establishment and the Establishment works for her, she's almost certainly more comfortable with a Tory leader than a Labour one (unless the Tory is Boris Johnson who I cannot imagine her having a soft spot for).

Thirdly, Brexit is a short-term hiccup and EIIR doesn't really deal with issues of less than a decade's duration. If she'd foreseen how badly it would go in 2014, would she have acted? Sure -- but she didn't, and even if she had, her most probable courst of action would have been to have a quiet word with David Cameron about making sure the fix was in before running any more referenda. (The Scottish independence referendum in 2014? Not her problem: if Scotland had voted to leave the UK, well, she's also Queen of Scotland. Problems for the proles are not problems for the owner.)

Fourthly, intervening in politics would be one of those use-it-or-lose-it moments for those powers that exist in theory only because she never uses them. She could probably get away with dissolving parliament and calling a snap general election if the PM died suddenly and some sort of constitutional gridlock ensued, and she might get away with requesting the PM's resignation directly if he managed to get arrested for a serious (in US terms, felonious) crime, eg. PM goes mad and orders a strategic nuclear attack on Washington DC. Stuff that's uncontroversial, in other words. But otherwise she's very constrained. If she goes off the script they're more likely to have her doctors decide she's a bit exhausted and needs to spend some time in the countryside than to let her out in public.

43:

I'm going to be seriously contrarian IT AIN'T BROKE - DON'T FIX IT

We have Much more serious problems - like Bo Jon-Sun, whom, it's fair to guess, Queenie loathes, but she cannot get rid of him , because of our fucked-over electoral system - which is the first thing that needs fixing ( Even before ameliorating Brexit ) It is to be hoped that, when (If?) a General Election comes, Labour is the largest party, but to govern, they require the Lem-0-Crats & a guarantee of electoral reform. We must actually do something about GW - which means Nuclear Power, this far North. And so on. Abolishing the Monarchy is a WASTE OF TIME & EFFORT & a distraction from what we need to do.

Congratulations, Charlie, you have just thrown a Dead Cat on the table .....

44:

Just to be inject a useful bit of contrarianism, I'll argue that not only should the monarchy not be abolished, that peculiar institution should be expanded to include a certain kind of nobility.

What I have in mind is the precedent a certain country made by declaring that expenditure of money is equivalent to free speech, and equally protected. Granted that's not a principle of British law as it stands. However, if Johnson or Patel calls a constitutional convention, how will you insure that it's not written into the new constitution?

So here's the counter-proposal: en-noble the super-rich. Take away their franchise, so that neither they nor their money (critically) have any place in UK politics. Entangle their wealth into the Crown, to discourage them from playing games hiding their fortunes from taxes and oversight, while guaranteeing a certain level of legal protection of said fortunes (the legal bits, of course). Then transfer them to the job of nobility: running huge estates (they could sequester carbon for you!), putting on endless rounds of public appearances, and so forth. Their juridicial personae (the ennobled super-rich) and their real persons would be separable, so that, if they break the law, they still have to face penalties, while their heirs inherit their titles. They can do a Harry and Meghan and abdicate, but only at the cost of leaving wealth and privilege behind and becoming commoners again.

While I'm sensitive to arguments that all people should be treated equally, I'm more sensitive to arguments that any system can be corrupted by the wealthy and powerful. In this case, I'm proposing a way to remove those people from politics by elevating them above the fray, rather than just stripping them. They get the glitz and glamor, at the expense of losing real power. Or they can choose not to play by not becoming super-rich in the first place.

45:

I agree with JReynolds, Dave Moore, timrowledge amd Greg Tingey. This prosposal is insanely naive and your assumption of an improvement is unbelievably implausible. Yes, abolishing the monarchy may happen, but what will we get?

The Prime Minister already controls most of the power of the Crown, directly or indirectly and, as you have said before, the monarch could override that ONCE, and then only if the country backs her overwhelmingly enough to scare Parliament. What's more, Johnson has already grabbed powers he didn't have previously (the Electoral Commission), has stated that he wants to do the same for the Courts, various investigatory bodies and some others. So far, the armed forces have escaped, so the monarch's one-off weapon still has teeth. Do you SERIOUSLY believe that TPTB will willingly give that absolute power up?

Again, TPTB have massive experience with rigging public inquiries (can you remember the last one that actually took their failures to account?), and it is damn certain that they would do the same for any constitutional convention.

One likely possibility is that we get a ceremonial head of state, with all the crown powers controlled by the Prime Minister, nominally with some things needing the consent of Parliament. With FPTP and the current system, consider what Blair and Johnson would have done with it.

Another is that there is a balance of powers between a President, Prime Minister and Parliament, again with FPTP. What sort of checks and balances do you think that will have we have a result like the last one? The answer 'none' is sufficient.

Yes, I agree with you that the system is badly and fundamentally broken (and have been saying so since the 1960s), but changing it for something worse is NOT clever, and I would bet that's what would happen.

There ARE solutions, but this is not one of them.

46:

If anyone has touched on this in the comments so far, I missed it.

How much of the national income of the U.K. is from tourists visiting because of the Monarchy? The ceremonies and all that ...

If y'all abolish the Monarchy what revenue stream do you have to fall back on? Is it going to be sufficient? With the U.K. isolating itself from the E.U. what other industrial base do you have?

Are y'all getting ready to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs?

47:

the Irish model (which I believe is also used by a bunch of other European and other countries, like Germany, etc).

Yes. The thing that Charlie calls the Irish model has become pretty much standard in countries that envision themselves as liberal democracies since 1945. There is ample empirical evidence today that liberal democracy is more stable and less likely to decay into authoritarianism if you have separation of powers between head of state and head of government.

On the one hand, a modern administrative state needs a chief executive able and willing to drive legislative agenda. This chief executive needs a certain ideological vision and a certain raw will to power to be effective. People running for chief executive also need to be free to openly communicate their agenda, i.e. to be brazenly partisan, so the electorate will have a clear idea of what its choices are.

On the other hand, a modern administrative state needs more than just an effectively directed legislature to be stable. There are judges and military officers to be appointed; there are formal diplomatic ties to be maintained; there needs to be someone who accepts ultimate responsibility for whatever it is the army does; there needs to be someone who can force the legislature to convene, or dissolve it and force general elections in the event of a constitutional crisis. These powers need to be exercised in a visibly and credibly non-partisan manner. They should not be held by the unusually-ambitious-by-definition person who just got themselves elected on the promise of moving fast and breaking things.

There is a pretty substantial number of current and historical governments, not all of which we can name here until after comment 300, that suggests you're probably headed for trouble if (1) the chief executive who campaigns on ideological agenda gets to appoint all the judges; (2) removing him or her is significantly harder than passing a simple-majority motion of no confidence in the first chamber.

48:

I think Alberta already considers itself Texas North

They do, but they aren't.

I think they are much happier being big frogs in a small pond, than small frogs in a much larger (and more crowded) pond. If Alberta became American they would lose a huge amount of influence: only 2% of the senate, and less influence in the house than they currently have in parliament.

Dragging this back to the monarchy, it was the Conservatives (in many ways Alberta's national party) who are the royalist party in Canada.

49:

Perhaps it wouldn't work for the UK, but for the Commonwealth countries still basing their authority in the Crown -- why not formalize the virtualization of that authority?

On EIIR's death, declare that Canada recognizes and mourns the death of her physical body, and now welcomes Queen Elizabeth II as The Crown in Perpetuity.

No onerous legal changes needed, no chance of unexpected royal criticality excursions, and they don't ever have to move the Royal Birthday or whatever.

There's an SFnal version where various branches of her upload are in dire competition with each other, but let's drop that as being too silly.

50:

How much of the national income of the U.K. is from tourists visiting because of the Monarchy?

How much of the national income of the USA is derived from tourists visiting to gawp at the White House?

It's probably about the same proportion, frankly.

(The UK -- Brexit mismanagement notwithstanding -- is still the world's 6th largest economy measured in GDP and fifth largest exporter (also by GDP). Tourism helps, but it's still only a drop in the bucket of the $3.3Tn annual GDP.)

51:

Canada is actually less likely to become a republic than the UK itself is, because since 1982 any changes to the office of the monarch require a constitutional amendment with unanimous consent from the federal parliament and provincial legislatures. We've never been able to get an amendment passed under the "general" amending formula that "only" requires 7 provinces to agree, so unanimous consent seems very unlikely - unless Charles becomes incredibly disliked. Add to that the tendency for provinces to bring in their own gripes into amendment discussions and the inevitable difficulty in deciding what our new head of state will look like.

No, my bet is that we'll be a monarchy-in-name-only at some point. We'll stop referring to things as Royal, and stop inviting the Royal family for visits. The Crown will remain as a concept, but it will no longer have any real-world physical representation in the country. It's already much less visible than it was 50 years ago, and that trend will likely slowly continue, even with the occasional hiccup like the former Harper government renaming the Navy and Air Force back to their old Royal names.

None of that will change if the UK becomes a republic, because the Queen of Canada is not the Queen of the United Kingdom, even if both jobs are currently held by the same person. If the UK becomes a republic, the Canadian monarchy will continue barring that unlikely constitutional amendment. Someone will inherit the job and will be proceed to be ignored by Canada. Muddling through is the Canadian way, after all.

52:

This piece does a fairly good job of arguing that the "rebellious Scots" bit was never actually an official part of the anthem. The thing which has been entertaining my sick mind over the last few weeks is what would happen if Brenda fell off the perch before the festivities get started. She's cutting it close now though.

53:

I'd be very uneasy that we'd wind up with something worse. I'd rather put effort into electoral reform and a written constitution.

54:

Okay, I'm against Charlie on this one.

I think the most important role that the monarch has is they are the head of the armed forces. When you serve, the oath/promise/affirmation of loyalty and obedience is to the monarch, not to the PM or anything else. Do we really want a system where politicians have the right to give any order they want? At present it's clear that HM won't issue an immoral order (because they never issue any non-trivial orders anyway) and any such order from lower in the chain of command can - in principle - be appealed upwards. Would you really want Boris to be at the top of that pyramid? That's the main reason I'm a monarchist (though "it ain't broke, don't fix it" comes second).

Just two other points:

(A) The UK does have a constitution. It's just not all written in a single document. The Bill of Rights is the single clearest part of it, but there's plenty more.

(B) Being the reigning monarch is an absolute defence against a criminal prosecution.

(Both of these came up when I was studying for my LL.M.)

55:

I understand that the Queen of England is legally an entirely separate entity from the Queen of England. Yet everyone here seems to be assuming that, when QEIIR heads off into the great beyond, Charles becomes King of Canada.

Why are we assuming that? What does the Canadian constitution say about succession? Is Canadian succession slaved to the UK? As in, when the person who embodies the Queen of Canada passes away, whoever the UK determines to be her successor there automatically becomes her successor in the monarchy of Canada as well? If that is the case, it is doubleplus naive to assume that abolishing the monarchy of the UK would have no effect on the monarchy of Canada.

Or does Canada have its own succession rules, which just happen to be identical to those of the UK?

56:

*I understand that the Queen of CANADA is legally an entirely separate entity from the Queen of England...

57:

LAvery, this actually hit the Supreme Court a decade ago tied into the changes to allow firstborn women to become Queen, and while I don’t follow all of the details, we follow the UK succession law. I believe this could be changed but it would involve an amendment in itself.

So you might be right - that a UK abolition might directly impact Canada. My guess it would be a messy situation, though.

58:

When you say, "we follow the UK succession law", do you mean, "our law is exactly the same as the UK law", or "our law is 'do whatever the UK does'"?

Because those are entirely different if the UK changes its laws in any way that impacts the succession.

59:

"(From prison service: UK prison classification for prisoners deemed at risk from attack from other 'regular' prisoners because of the sexual nature of their crimes NONCE = N ot - O n - N ormal - C ourtyard - E xercise.)"

Rule number 1 of folk etymologies: if the explanation is that a word originated as an acronym, it's almost certainly fictitious. (With the surprising exception of "OK", which is now generally thought to have originated as a facetious abbreviation of "Oll Korrect".)

Sadly, etymonline (the best source of reliable etymologies) has only the sense of "for a special occasion, for a particular purpose", which is apparently corrupted from an old form of "for the once", and which leads to the lexicographical term "nonce word", and the software use of "single-use token". World Wide Words also has an entry on that sense, but finishes with this:

There’s almost certainly no connection by the way, with the British criminals’ slang use of the word for a sexual offender, whose origin is uncertain, though it may be connected with nancy.

As for the monarchy, how about we declare that Queen Elizabeth II is immortal, and if she ceases to appear in public, that's simply because she is taking an indefinite break on health grounds, and it is nonetheless vitally important that her right to veto legislation be considered by the government of the day...

60:

By all means, automate The Queen In Perpetuity. Open Source the code, though. Don't want King Bender Rodriguez.

61:

Charlie Stross @ 50:

How much of the national income of the U.K. is from tourists visiting because of the Monarchy?

How much of the national income of the USA is derived from tourists visiting to gawp at the White House?

I'm not sure the two are comparable. It's probably NOT proportional.

For one thing, no one is suggesting doing away with the Office of President. For another, the White House is open for public tours1, and third most of the tourists who come to see the White House are domestic, i.e. come from the U.S. - and the White House is just one stop on the Washington, DC circuit. The Smithsonian museums & the various memorials (Washington, Lincoln, Vietnam wall) are a bigger part of DC tourism than the White House.

Plus, there's a lot more tourism in the U.S. that is NOT related to the White House or the U.S. Government - the World Trade Center 9/11 memorial & Statue of Liberty in New York City, The Grand Canyon of the Colorado in Arizona, Great Smokey Mountain National Park (still the MOST VISITED park in the U.S.) in North Carolina & Tennessee (with the Blue Ridge Parkway extending out to the north-east and Ober Gatlinburg & Dollywood to the west) ...

If you chopped off all of those, closed the rest of the National Park System and bombed Orlando, FL back into the stone age, THAT might give tourism in the U.S. as big a hit to the U.S. Economy as I think abolishing the monarchy might do the the U.K. economy.

62:

1 After 15 Apr 2022, 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, excluding federal holidays; scheduled on a first come, first served basis and must be submitted through a Member of Congress and their Congressional Tour Coordinator at least 21 days in advance. It's actually easier to get into the Capitol Building or the Supreme Court.

63:

Uncle Stinky @ 52:

Maybe have her stuffed & mounted and put on display like the Soviets did with Lenin?

64:

Plus, there's a lot more tourism in the U.S. that is NOT related to the White House or the U.S. Government

You seem to think tourists only visit the UK to gawp at the royals? Weird!

65:

While I can see that a Monarchy is daft in the 21st century and the government needs to be purged of any religious affiliation (Bishops in the Lords and EIIR as Head of the CoE), I would be horrified to see an elected President post appear.

Had that happened 30 years ago we would have had 20 years of President Thatcher after she was overthrown by Major et al. 20 more years of that sad and deluded old woman would have been horrific.

So, while I can see the joy in an elected head honcho, I only see it as acceptable if it is required that all the candidates have NEVER been a member of any political party. As politicians are not self aware enough to understand why that is needed, I would advocate sticking with the current tourist attraction and merely reforming the Lords as a first starting point - with same constraint there, no members who have ever been part of a party. We need experts not more craven, unemployed SPADS, russians and disgraced MPs in the Lords.

66:

Whether or not the monarchy should exist, the death of Brenda is probably not the time for abolishment. The task of working out what replaces it will fall to the government, and I shudder to think what the current lot will come up with. Personally, I quite like having them about. Like the national pets. Not too many though. Bit like that time my sister ended up with 11 guinea pigs.

Brian will no doubt invoke some entertaining crises when he tries interfering in politics, sadly he doesn't seem to have the competence to make it work. Perhaps we will be surprised...

Meanwhile, William and Harry are probably the UK's biggest closet republicans. By all accounts they thoroughly enjoyed, and were reasonably competent at, their time in the military, it being the closest to a normal life they'll ever see. Not surprised Harry buggered off at the first opportunity, though he could have been less whiney about it.

I could see William being a pretty decent king. If he has any sense, he'll trim the monarchy to the bone, both in terms of people and property. If we're really lucky, the shock of finally becoming King will be what does Charles in (the royal one, not our beloved author).

67:

Or does Canada have its own succession rules, which just happen to be identical to those of the UK?

See the Perth Agreement. TL;DR in 2013 the 16 countries for whom the British Monarchy technically provides the head of state (although in practice local vice regal representatives usually take on the physical requirements of the role) agreed to harmonise succession and this was subsequently enacted with local legislation, most of which has been in effect since 2015. This includes Canada. As with Australia, Canada's federalism presented some challenges which made debate more complex than it might have been, but that's all water under the (Westminster) bridge I guess.

68:

The biggest problem with HRH in my opinion is the ease with which she and her horrible family are trotted out as distractions whenever the government needs one. The public obsession with them repeatedly distracts attention from more important issues. Not to mention generating things like conspiracy theories (why would the lizards want to be royalty when there are politicians out there to replace?) and so forth.

Trouble is, whatever alternative is used is likely to be gameable in the same way, especially anything like a lottery or celeb contest to choose the next sucker office-holder. Given that, we might as well stick with them since it gives a lot of the real nutters something useless to obsess about, and is slightly less annoying than the average boy band.

69:

THAT might give tourism in the U.S. as big a hit to the U.S. Economy as I think abolishing the monarchy might do the the U.K. economy

Well this is a bit weird. First I think you're being way too modest about tourism attractions in the USA and you're heavily downplaying US culture and its widespread impact. Hollywood, Broadway, Nashville and Austin, Chicago and Memphis, the SF and LA of Hammett and Chandler, the road of Kerouac and Steinbeck, the list just goes on and on.

A bit like the Globe Theatre, the Lake District of Wordsworth and Coleridge, the London of Dickens and Conan-Doyle and ... just a few others. Edinburgh just in itself as a world heritage site. Taking a ferry across the Mersey to see the Liverpool and Manchester of the Beatles and all the happy travellers of the 80s and 90s, Abbey Road and Air Studios for that matter, the BBC and Battersea Power Station. Greenwich observatory, Kew Gardens, heck maybe you'd organise the sites by century and decades, leaving the really long-running interests till last. And that's without even getting into the "This village is where my ancestor came from? It looks very bleak no wonder they left."

I suppose people are not interested in Rome anymore because there are no more emperors?

70:

"If we're really lucky, the shock of finally becoming King will be what does Charles in (the royal one, not our beloved author)."

In fairness, it might be something of a shock for OGH if a bunch of men in suits knocked on his door with some documents explaining and proving a wildly improbably chain of events that mean he is formally the new sovereign. If nothing else he'd probably want a bit of a lie down.

71:

Adding to my #43 ...
This is not only irrelevant it's a deliberate distraction.
Look at the vast amount of futile & rancid "protest" about an evil that was abolished in 1833 ....
Rather than protesting against modern SLAVERY.
It's easy & free & amazingly feelgood to protest about people now 150 years dead, whilst conveniently ignoring slavery today!
RIGHT NOW!
Much safer to protest against the country that was the first to actually get rid of it, than risking the security thugs outside various "gulf" embassies, or, ghu-forbid it the embassies of the PRC!
You might actually get hurt!
The hypocrisy & displacement-activity is even worse that this fake attack on our, or anyone else's monarchy.
In the meantime, the real slavers & dictators are continuing to get away with it.

I note that EC ( # 45 ) regards this as a DEAD CAT distraction, as well - why am I not surprised?

waldo
I'd be very uneasy that we'd wind up with something worse. - exactly!

Phil
Brian has already intimated that he wants to downsize the monarchy & also "live of their own" - i.e. Get rid of the Civil List, declare "The Firm" a company of some sort, pay taxes, but NOT be dependant upon guvmint handouts ....

72:

You might actually get hurt!

Decades ago I noticed that animal rights activists were willing to throw paint on women wearing fur, but not bikers wearing leather…

73:

Some of us, like my wife, want to gawp at Downtown Abbey.

Me, I want to do the Beatles tour in Liverpool.

Maybe go fishing in Scotland.

However, I herd that Stonehenge (like the Blarney Stone in Ireland) is kind of a tourist trap.

So where should we go, what should we avoid, what are wastes of time?

74:

Congratulations, Charlie, you have just thrown a Dead Cat on the table .....

Doesn't do any good there; you want to over the mic to improve sound quality :-)

https://newmusicworld.org/what-is-a-dead-cat-and-why-is-an-outdoor-mic-furry/

75:

We both know that Bojo's dead cats aren't on the mikes.

However, I agree with you. I don't think that discussing abolishing the UK monarchy is a Johnsonian dead cat. I do think it's a useful discussion to engage in, even though I think it's a bad idea. The key point to me is that it's not an abstract discussion, but a deeply contingent one. This isn't about whether ceremonial monarchies are worse than straight up republics or parliamentary democracies. Rather, it's about whether ridding the Windsors' "Firm" of all its current works, good and bad, is a good idea in the near future, with politics are as they are. One can easily agree that monarchies are bad in the abstract, but the UK Crown is less bad than the probable alternatives, given current politics.

In a more abstract vein, I'd rank the UK crown as a better system for controlling absolute monarchs than, say, the Chinese Mandate of Heaven, which I'm beginning to believe was implemented as a very imperfect way of constraining some fairly bloody-handed conquerors. Is it ht the best solution? Probably not, but that's for further discussion.

76:

Put me in Camp "No pointless, symbolic Head of State is necessary". You can just have a Constitution that is narrowly focused on procedural grounds, such as something like "Elections shall be held at a minimum every X years, electoral districts must be fairly drawn and elections fair, parties can form a government if they win 50+% support or form a coalition representing that with other parties, parties get a shot to form a government starting from biggest to smallest if none get a majority", etc. The Prime Minister would then be the Head of State as well as the Head of Government, like they functionally already are. You'd still more or less preserve 99% of the parliamentary supremacy that defines the current system.

I don't buy into the idea that we need an actual person to be a symbolic Head of State who is "above the fray" supposedly despite everyone knowing they have no power. It smacks of monarchism - the idea that people need a face to put on government and if not given a purely symbolic one, they'll redirect their "groveling instincts" to whoever is in charge.

77:
a shock for OGH if a bunch of men in suits knocked on his door with some documents explaining and proving a wildly improbably chain of events that mean he is formally the new sovereign.

Made me laugh.

~oOo~

"Your Majesty, you must come with us."

Charlie looked around.

"YOU, your Majesty!"

"Can't I have a lie down?"

"You can have a lie down on your royal yacht, Your Majesty."

78:

I've always fancied Nevil Shute Norway's 1953 book In the Wet. Relocating the Queen permanently to Australia sounds like a great idea. I'm sure Moz would approve... :-)

79:

I once read a suggestion that the Monarchy might provide one useful service to the UK by harmlessly grounding some god-king-worship tendencies of humans. Does the UK have the equivalent of all those creepy paintings of trump for johnson?

Seems plausible.

However, even accepting that the position could surely be made even more ceremonial and even further stripped of any real power.

80:

I haven't read all the responses yet, so forgive me if I'm repeating things said.

I've actually been on the receiving end of a referendum asking this.

You'd think from the republican literature that it's "steady as she goes, but we're going to change the name of the ceremonial head, nothing to see here"

The reality is that it's a pretty naked grab for unlimited power and control by one arm of the government. The kind of unlimited control that the founders were very careful to avoid giving to anyone.

Constitutional Monarchy is the worst possible form of government other than all the rest.

Changing the name of the circuit breaker doesn't eliminate classism. Doesn't eliminate toffee nosed dicks, doesn't remove the need to pay for heritage properties, doesn't mean that the government's stash of paintings will feed the poor or construct social housing. All it does is remove the "break glass in case of looming civil war as the government is out of control".

The fact that the "governer general" and the device fitted to engines to stop them from exploding have the same word is not pure coincidence.

81:

Relocating the Queen permanently to Australia sounds like a great idea.

HELL NOES.

We ship our unwanted political figures off to the Thatcher Memorial Home for Incurable Tyrants and Kings. And we're happy with that arrangement.

I vote for another semi-anonymous post-modern worker or something instead. It worked for the Danes and it could work for us. What we need is some kind of system for picking the lucky winner. Maybe throw a dart at a map, go there and pick someone aged 20-30 from the people in the area? Same offer as OGH suggested when he was trying to evade his responsibilities... a large sum of money and exemption from further obligations once one retires.

82:

The other obvious way to derive supreme executive power is through the watery tart system. We could maybe update it by using a drones and airbourne delivery of a more modern weapon, but I think the principle is sound.

"here are the ashes of Queen Shervorn who ascended to the throne on the 3rd of May 2021 and will rule uncontested until {throws D12+4D20} 18th of October 2041"

83:

"The reality is that it's a pretty naked grab for unlimited power and control by one arm of the government."

That was certainly true of what you were offered back then. Whether that would always be the case is another question. One suspects that the referendum was intended to elicit a "Hell, no!" response, for one reason or another. Possibly to shut down discussion, so that a more reasonable proposal could not then be floated.

JHomes

84:

Hi Charlie, a small correction to your original post:

Thursday marks the 69th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and so forth.

While she ascended to the throne after her father's death on February 6th, 1952 (and therefore her 70th anniversary as Queen is already almost four months behind us), her coronation only took place on June 2nd, 1953.

Other than that, I have no particular opinion about abolishing the monarchy. Do it, don't do it, I don't really care either way.

85:

I'll weigh in on the Monarchist side here.

  • President Boris Johnson. Its bad enough having an incompetent clown as head of the executive. Having him preside over the dignified bits of the government would be just too much. We're enough of a laughing stock over Brexit as it is.

  • A common complaint about much of our society is that it is too short-sighted; company bosses who don't think beyond the next quarterly report, politicians who don't think past the next election. The monarchy puts people with a perspective measured in decades and centuries at the heart of the British establishment. The monarch gets a weekly 1:1 with the PM, and all the royal family get to talk to VIPs from this and other countries on a regular basis, so they are in a position to have an impact. E.g. Prince Charles lecturing Trump on climate change. The only other institution I can think of with a perspective that long is the Catholic Church, but they are religious extremists, so not exactly beneficial to the rest of us.

That said, I'm not entirely sanguine about the whole thing. But for an accident of birth we would be facing the prospect of Andrew inheriting the throne, which would definitely be a Bad Thing (the man is an idiot as well as a hebephile). And I also feel uneasy about the human rights aspect. Condemning someone to life in a gilded zoo enclosure merely because of who their parents were does not sit well with me.

86:

From an Australian perspective, we absolutely need to remove an inherited head of state for one very simple reason - my sons will never have the opportunity to be the head of state of their home. Some other man, close in age to them and named George will one day be their king for no other reason than who his family is. I'm afraid that doesn't work for me.

87:

Re guilded cage we have modern proof this isn't true as the last monarch but one literally abdicated, and the Peerage Act 1963 (thanks to Tony Benn) allows giving up titles to sit in house of commons and vote etc.

88:

Prince Charles lecturing Trump on climate change.

If that had an impact, I'd be surprised if it was anything but negative. Trump doesn't have a record for learning from lectures (or really at all).

89:

Rbt Prior
Thanks for that, I'll remember that one (!)
But yes, the displacement/hypocrisy would be astounding, if it wasn't so depressingly common.
Hence my Monarchy / Slavery comparison, of course.

Duffy
I was fortunate to visit Stonehenge, when I was about 10, on the way to a holiday in Cornwall.
It was a cold, grey day, with perhaps one other family visible. I could & did walk up to & round the Megaliths, touching them, with the sound of the cold wind whispering over the grass & stones, conjuring an image of deep time.
Different megaliths - Google for them: "The Rollright Stones" & "Castlerigg Stone circle" & Avebury, of course.

The Brett
The ways of gaming your proposed system are rather obvious, I'm afraid.

JReynolds Already been done - recently - "A Servant of the People" as a TV show, with one V. Zelensky in the hilarious lead role.
Now being replayed for real in much more unpleasant circumstances, of course.

gasdive
Can I repeat the critical phrase of your last, just for emphasis & to show why I think this is a relly BAD idea? The reality is that it's a pretty naked grab for unlimited power and control by one arm of the government. The kind of unlimited control that the founders were very careful to avoid giving to anyone

HISTORICAL NOTE
The film "the King's Decision" shows why & how the current system is a "good idea" ....
Haakon & his advisors & cabinet are fleeing the Nazis, & a proposal is made, with a surprising number assenting to get down & grovel nicely to Vidkun Quisling, in the hope of mitigating the trouble.
Haakon says "NOT having with that - if you do that we are now a Republic"
It brought the crawlers up short .....

90:

At one point I rather liked the idea of an elected head of state, if we could use the opportunity to elect some one who was fun. My go to example was the late Oliver Read. Some one who could be relied on to get obnoxiously drunk at state banquets and start picking fights with foreign dignitaries.

Having now seen what an elected clown is like in the UK, I've changed my mind.

I'm now more inclined to Charlie's lottery head of state for a year idea. I'd extend that to the House of Lords too. Replace say 10% of the house each year with new Lords, selected from the population on the same basis as jury duty. If selected you get to pick your title (Baroness Jen of Snail!) and serve for ten years. The current daily attendance allowance is a pretty darn good income for most people, plus expenses. After ten years, you lose your position, but can keep the title and the (cruelty free faux fur) ermine robes for life. It keeps a second house that is selected by a different method from the commons, but removes the packing problem and the class and establishment friendly concentration problem the current one has. Not a chance of happening for those very reasons.

91:

First I think you're being way too modest about tourism attractions in the USA and you're heavily downplaying US culture and its widespread impact.

I think that most folks not living in the US (and maybe Canada) have no idea how fascinated the "typical" (definition is loose) US media consumer is drawn to anything about the UK monarchy. Almost any drek cheap movie on one of our dozens of cable channels will pay back it's costs and make money for the bakers. It has to be a real dead skunk to loose money. We get a new bio of Diana every 4 or 5 years (and a times more often) and the vacuous media gets all in a lather about it every time.

I suspect the #1 tourist destination metro area in the UK is London. In the US the stats who that the top 3 are New York, Las Vegas, and Orlando. Not sure where Washington DC fits into this.

Of course as I write then a Germany 20 YO and his GF (from a family we know well) are here on a 1 month visit. Just spent the first week in the DC area. Then off to Niagara Falls and out west for Las Vegas. LV mainly as a place to explore the Grand Canyon and nearby things.

I just realized this weekend that my daughter, the trip organizer, put them in DC on Memorial Day weekend. I have to ask if she considered this. It is one of the few times when getting around DC can be difficult due to the crowds.

92:
President Boris Johnson

The defence against this is three-fold: (1) explicitly limited, enumerated powers. No scope to interfere with the government in normal practice - eg. the President's speeches have to be vetted by the government, etc. (2) minimalist pay and benefits. Compared to what Thatcher, Blair, etc would make from various board memberships and speeches, the President's salary is pretty modest, and under government control. They can't even leave the country without government permission. (3) Backup: its an elected post, with nomination rules that are tough, but not hackable by gov't - eg in Ireland you need 20+ members of the Oireactas (out of 218) or 4+ local councils (out of 31). Not just the nomination of the government, by constitution.

These mean that the post mostly goes to 2nd rank politicians (or 1st rank activists, in the cases of Mary Robinson, etc). Its by design a serious step-back for a Prime Minister - cutting ribbons is not what they went into politics for.

But it does need to be a politician or politically-skilled person: when it matters, it really matters. They need to understand what they're doing with the role.

93:

"Stonehenge [...] is kind of a tourist trap."

Worse, it's a Heritage Experience.

However, its visitor centre cafe serves as a handy refreshment stop if you're travelling on the A303 for other reasons.

94:

A lot of people take pleasure in knocking Prince Charles. His brain may be partially out to lunch, but his heart is in the right place and he has a spine. That puts him two organs ahead of any of our current politicians. We would probably be better off if he dismissed the government, and started ruling directly (and via appointees). That is a pretty damning indictment of the mess we are in.

We could do a LOT better, but one key fact most people are missing is that you need independent mechanisms with teeth to be a check on abuses of power. And that DOESN'T mean 'independent' as abused by TPTB in the UK, where it merely means arms-length lackeys. The USA sort-of has them, but the UK doesn't. What does this to do with whether we have a monarchy or not? Nothing, except that a monarchy is a convenient hook to hang such mechanisms on (see the remarks about the armed forces above by Clive Feather and me).

I would strengthen (and prune, drastically) the Privy Council, and exclude the government from its selection; no, it would NOT be elected. The courts, police, prison system, armed forces, Electoral Commission, data/statistical organisations and investigatory authorities would be answerable to the Sovereign through the Council and NOT (theoretically) the Sovereign through the Prime Minister. But there ain't no hope of TPTB relinquishing that much power.

95:

17 - Chuck III or George VII you mean?

20 - That prompted a wondering, followed by a Wikipedia , which suggests that the answer to "are they a non-profit?" may be "once but not any more".

31 - "Perfidious Albacon!?" Yes I have heard it. So has Nojay for sure. Charlie maybe has too.

33 - That could work. I don't think there's ever been an "Arthur of Ireland", but Englandshire, Scotland and Wales all make claims to "Arthur of Camelot" (Arthur 1).

34 - Belgium (and I think the Netherlands) expect the monarch to retire at the relevant state retirement age.

52 - The "UK National anthem" is legally folk music so you can't just "wish a regionally unpopular verse out of existence".

61 - So are various of the UK's royal palaces, including Buck House itself, the Palace of Holyrood House in Embra...

65 - Para 3 would, for example, disbar me from standing for the role.

66 - Will someone please explain to Meghan and Harry that "not being a public figure" means "not being a public figure", not "only being a public figure when and for as long as it suits you"?

84 - At which point (6 Feb 1952) she also demonstrated that monarchy moves faster than the speed of light!

91 - I'm more interested in DC (specifically the Smithsonian and the Mall of the Americas) than in Noo Yoik or Lost Vegas!

96:

One suspects that the referendum was intended to elicit a "Hell, no!" response, for one reason or another. Possibly to shut down discussion, so that a more reasonable proposal could not then be floated.

So you've heard of John Howard then...

97:

Re: "nonce". The OED has two different words spelled like that.

1: (earliest citation around 1175) "For the particular purpose; on purpose; expressly. Frequently with infinitive or clause expressing the object or purpose." and various derivative meanings.

Origin: A variant or alteration of another lexical item. Etymon: English anes. Etymology: Variant (with metanalysis: see N n.) of early Middle English anes (in the phrases to þan anes , for þen anes ), alteration (with adverbial suffix -s : see -s suffix1) of ane (in e.g. to þan ane) < Old English anum (in e.g. to þam anum for that one thing).

The word is thus not a form (with metanalysis) of the genitive of one adj., n., and pron., nor of once adv.: its spelling in the Ormulum, for example, corresponds to the form in that text of the genitive of one (which is aness) but not to that of the adverb once (which is æness).

2: (first citation 1971) "A sexual deviant; a person convicted of a sexual offence, esp. child abuse."

Origin: Of unknown origin. Etymology: Origin unknown. Perhaps related to nance n. (see quot. 1984), or perhaps compare English regional nonse good-for-nothing fellow, recorded in Eng. Dial. Dict. Suppl. from Lincolnshire.

Re: Arthur I versus Arthur II.

Numbering of monarchs begins or restarts at the Norman Conquest; note that there were three Edwards before Edward I. The Harold that lost at Hastings is Harold II.

I read somewhere many years ago that there is an agreement to use the highest number of the two UK monarchies from now on, so if we ever have another James he will be James IX. This makes Elizabeth II an acceptable abbreviation for Elizabeth II & I.

98:

@97 Re James IX - I doubt that any monarch would be James, as it would raise the question as to whether James III/VIII should be recognised as in the list given he wasn't an undisputed monarch. I expect the royal family carefully avoid anyone being called James to avoid the issue.

99:

Yes, agree on Harry and Meghan, hence my comment about their whinging. But then, that's Americans for you. I reckon when he divorces her he'll fake his own death, and become a brickie in Tyneside called Dave.

100:

It would make for some entertaining blog posts.

"Latest book is delayed again, had to go open a swimming pool and wave at some peasants. On the bright side, punched Johnson on the nose and there's bugger all he can do about it."

Be awesome for doing research though.

101:

My idea (which is mine) is that the people of the First Nations decide whom the incoming Monarch is to be, and that she will reign for only one decade.

102:

This is for Canadians only, obviously. Wouldn't work for the U.K.

103:

This is for Canadians only, obviously. Wouldn't work for the U.K.

Why not? The First Nations have had over a century of the Brits picking their monarch — seems like turnabout is fair play :-)

Why not decolonialize by making the monarchy a rotating office between all the nations in the Commonwealth? Give every nation their decade…

Alternately, if genetics are still considered important, institute a breeding program to ensure that the monarchy represents the full panoply of the Commonwealth. Decree that all future royal spouses must come from a Commonwealth country other than England. Hybrid vigour and all that! Would some Maori blood stiffen the Royal Spine? :-)

104:

Re James IX - I doubt that any monarch would be James, as it would raise the question as to whether > James III/VIII should be recognised as in the list given he wasn't an undisputed monarch.

Oops, I miscounted. It was I & VI then II & VII, wasn't it?

As for the next James, the Bill of Rights in England and the Claim of Right Act in Scotland passed the Monarchy to William III and Mary II. But it's an interesting question as to whether the monarchy deliberately avoid certain names.

105:

Clive Feather
Yes, they do. "John" for one - once was enough! Similarly, the Dukedom of "Clarence" will not be revived - too many bad apples.

106:

I'm more interested in DC (specifically the Smithsonian and the Mall of the Americas) than in Noo Yoik or Lost Vegas!

What no mouse?

The Smithsonian is neat. But they have a very very full attic so what you see from year to year changes. I was able to got through the "history" one when they had models of all the warships before steam on display. I think they used to build a model before the ship which would make sense. Also the Centennial building had all kinds of steam things. Both of these on one visit when my kids were around 10 years old which they really liked.

And if you are any kind of tech nerd you must go out next to Dulles airport and visit the Air and Space Annex. They seem to have one of everything. A collection of WWI planes hanging from the ceilings with catwalks around them, an SR-71, a Concord, a shuttle, an Me 163 Komet, and more. And you get to be close. I liked the row of 20 or more engines from the first days of flight and covering the next 100 years. Total snooze for my wife.

As to Noo Yoik (Brooklyn accent?) we did a walking of much of Manhattan 3 years ago on a perfect weather weekend. Free music in the park, Stature of Liberty and Ellis Island, Intrepid, Museum of Natural History, and the Empire State Building when no one else was interested. So the 3000 or so people wander maze to queue people up was empty.

Las Vegas (I get to go to the area on personal business every now and then) is where my daughter learned what "over the top" means. I also can pass.

107:

*Re guilded cage we have modern proof this isn't true as the last monarch but one literally abdicated, and the Peerage Act 1963 (thanks to Tony Benn) allows giving up titles to sit in house of commons and vote etc. *

The gilded cage is not because the royal family can't vote, its because they can't step outside their properties without first arranging (at the very least) a police escort. You or I can go window-shopping down our local high street, or take a day at a theme park, any time the mood takes us. They can't. If anyone else was restricted to a limited set of addresses unless monitored by the police we would assume they were, at the least, awaiting trial for a serious crime.

Yes, their properties are large, well appointed, and well staffed. But they are still a cage.

That said, I've heard that the Queen sometimes takes a walk around the woods in Windsor with just one bodyguard. On one occasion she was accosted by some American tourists who didn't recognise her, but just wanted to chat. "Do you live round here?" they asked. "Yes". "Have you ever met the Queen?". "No, but he has." Thereby ensuring that the tourists attention turned to the bodyguard and away from her.

108:

104 - NO; it was James the Vi and i then James Vii and ii. And yes, it was WilliamAndMary.

106 - No Mousevitz or Duckau! I did Disneyworld at my employer's expense back in 1997 and am all moused out.
Totally agree about Dulles and the Air and Space Annex; I'm just about as much of a tech nerd as OGH; which reminds me about Boeing!

109:

There was a series by Jerry Seinfeld on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. One of his picks was Barrack Obama, while Obama was president.

POTUSes are in a guilded cage too. Obama was driving the car, approached the gate, greeted the guard by name and said "I'll just be taking this car out for a spin around Washington."

"That's not happening, sir."

(All staged ahead of time for the cameras, of course, but that's what would happen.)

110:

Along the lies of "What would the monarchy be replaced by?"
And seeing the many awful-to-utterly-ghastly alternatives presently on offer, I'm reminded of Hilaire Belloc ...

His Father, who was self-controlled, Bade all the children round attend To James's miserable end, And always keep a-hold of Nurse For fear of finding something worse.

111:

I'd be surprised if POTUS could even find the keys to a car much less get behind the wheel and start one. Unless a staffer gave them to him. But then he'd have to leave via a path where way too many SS folks would "ah" dissuade him.

112:

If you are in England and want stones, then Stonehenge is nice but they are a bit distant unless you book for the expensive "Circle Experience" where you wander among them (as you were permitted to do 40 years ago).

Cost free is Avebury - a bit to the north of Stonehenge where you get a wonderful circle, you can touch them and sit on them, its a lovely walk round them AND theres a pub in the circle (it surrounds a small village). But, book a table if you want to eat there.

But, if you are in Scotland already, its impossible to beat The Ring of Brodghar and Stenness on the Orkney mainland. Absolutely superb - a spectacular ring in a lovely setting with the sea birds calling from the adjacent loch. Plus theres Skara Brae and a whole bunch of other stuff - its a beautiful place. Scapa whisky is well worth a bash too...

113:

Yes, and I like your story!

114:

You missed Calanish, with its 227 (IIRC) stones, or Calanish on North Uist (drive 1km South from the Free Church, then locate the stones using "ouch archaeology".

115:

I'd be surprised if POTUS could even find the keys to a car much less get behind the wheel and start one. Unless a staffer gave them to him. But then he'd have to leave via a path where way too many SS folks would "ah" dissuade him.

The Obama and Seinfeld shtick happened, IIRC because Seinfeld gave him the keys. Purportedly Obama had trouble getting his license again after he returned to civilian life, too.

Otherwise, I agree that the President is not free to move as he wishes. That's the problem with stochastic terrorism and the whole nuclear deterrence thing. The White House has been called the world's most expensive prison by at least one denizen, probably more.

116:

Purportedly Obama had trouble getting his license again after he returned to civilian life, too.

I saw him tell a story where not too long after he left the office he was in a car stopped at a light. He said it took him a minute to realize that he had just spent 8 years never waiting for traffic signals.

117:

I was booked to go there April 2019 but my wife ended up in hospital and then booked again for April 2020...

Have heard its nice but I have no first hand experience...

118:

Charlie Stross @ 64:

From the outside looking in, it looks like it may be an axis around which the rest of tourism in the U.K. revolves.

119:

Damian @ 69: I suppose people are not interested in Rome anymore because there are no more emperors?

They still got the Pope ... what do you think would happen to Italy's tourism & hospitality industry if the City Council decided to demolish the Colosseum?

I know the U.K. has other things going on besides Royal tourism, and it's not my decision to make anyway, but that's the first thing that occurs to me when y'all start talking about abolishing the monarchy. Next thing you know, you'll want to be removing the Beatles statue from Penny Lane.

120:

Duffy @ 73:

I went to Scotland to ride the Harry Potter train, which unfortunately had made its last run of the season a couple of weeks before I got there ... due to my R&R being swapped with someone who needed to get home for a family emergency. I missed the train, but he got home in time to see his dad, so fair exchange as far as I'm concerned.

I did get to see Edinburgh Castle while I was there & I'm pretty sure that has something to do with U.K. royalty ... also got to see where Greyfriars Bobby once lived.

Got to photograph a castle on a hill after trudging all the way around the Town of Sterling in the rain ... and as it happened the clouds broke for just a few minutes, so I got a castle on a hill WITH A DOUBLE RAINBOW. Probably wouldn't have gotten the rainbow if the guy I asked for directions hadn't sent me the long way round.

Also got a rainbow when I photographed the ruins of Urquhart Castle.

121:

paws4thot @ 108:

Grew up here on the east coast of North America. I've been to DisneyLAND twice (age 10 & 14), but never been to DisneyWORLD.

I have been to Florida a few times - to see an Apollo launch, a Space Shuttle launch and to visit Everglades National Park when it still had the pink hotel.

I had a friend moved to Pensacola while I was in college and I hitch-hiked down to see her a couple of times.

122:

They still got the Pope

You mean A pope, the orthodox churches also have popes. These days they even talk to each other, not like in ancient times when multiple popes in the same place was a recipe for disaster.

Just like the UK has A queen. She's only the queen to people ruled by her gracious majesty. Which I vaguely recall the US doesn't qualify for any more? Perhaps if you asked nicely?

What would be cool would be a G20 style summit where they collected all the ruling royalty from around the globe. The USA needn't be entirely left out, you have the Hawai'iian Royal Family and could promote one of them to king, queen or emperor if you really needed to.

123:

Just like the UK has A queen. She's only the queen to people ruled by her gracious majesty. Which I vaguely recall the US doesn't qualify for any more? Perhaps if you asked nicely?>/i>

I'd take her over the orange one any day...

124:

Not just the royals. We visit the UK to gawp at all the remains of feudalism!

125:

I disagree completely. We should use the moist bint system instead!

126:

121 - Only obvious difference I see is California vs Florida accents. I still got the feeling of "being processed", that I didn't get from Efteling (Nl) or Busch Gardens (also Florida).

123 - You prefer the House of Battenburg to the House of Orange (Nl)!?

125 - Wet tarts distributing swords is not a basis for a system of government. Supreme executive authority derives from a mandate from the people!

127:

Two tangents: an anthology of first nations speculative fiction has been released in Australia. That's perilously close to on topic for this blog so I'm mentioning it now rather than in 170-ish comments time. Amazon have a kindle edition to rent, or you can buy the paperback.

https://theconversation.com/the-first-ever-first-nations-anthology-of-speculative-fiction-is-playful-bitter-loud-and-proud-182228

And completely off the topic, wall, vicinity of sanity and all that. I have decided that C is a vaguely typed language. Meaning it is strongly typed, but that type is (void *), or "pointer to whatever you want it to be". Or in the case of code that I just spent an hour staring at... pointer to an element of the structure, not the structure itself. sigh.

128:

mandate from the people!

Not in Australia!

I want a mandate
to abuse my authority
a mandate
to impose my will
on the majority
who didn't vote for me

Eye "Mandate" from "Politics can be fun" back in the 1990's.

https://eyemusicgroup.bandcamp.com/track/mandate-with-the-prime-minister-on-guest-vocals

129:

When I lived in Aberdeen in the late 80s a group of us would often go to Lochnagar. Three of our group were paddling in a burn and they said suddenly there were lots of corgis and then the queen. I went the other way and was warned not to go down in that direction from some guy so there was a bit of security, but not that much.

130:

Supreme executive authority derives from a mandate from the people!

I am sure The People's Mandate (AKA Fabian Everyman, AKA The Black Pharaoh AKA The New Management) would agree completely. :-)

131:

DavidL @ 91: Think you're mixing domestic and foreign tourist interest here, and like all tourist revenue the vast bulk is generated from domestic tourism - UK 2020 tourism revenue from overseas visitors was £6b vs £35b from domestic tourists going on day trips or weekends away somewhere else in the country alone.

Re the Irish Presidential model, seeing it as divorced from political horse-trading isn't really accurate, the 2011 winning candidate is a long standing Labour TD, fighting off strong competition from a former Dragon's Den judge with strong Fianna Fail links, and of course Martin McGuinness, who I understand had some history in Sinn Fein. That said, it has managed to pull the pin on at least one dodgy government in the past forty years...

132:

Given that the Irish Government had convicted McGuinness of membership of the IRA, it would have been pretty wry to then have a him as president.

The GFA and Sinn Fein participation gave him a thin veneer of respectability, though it must have been challenging having a near illiterate as NI Education Minister.

133:

There's no point to the monarchy right now.

As a long term appointed, politically immune office, the Crown could work as an insurance against a petty tyrannical PM with absolutely no respect for the law, the process of government or the office he holds, but given that Liz has made it quite clear by action in the last century that she does not believe it is the role of the modern crown to overrule democracy, the position is entirely redundant.

The current government has proven that the current system relies on a sense of honour that it doesn't possess, the thread of abolishment has neutered the Lords, and without the Crown we have a system with no remaining checks or balances at all.

Until quite recently I was neutral on republicanism - The family are a net gain to the economy in most definitions, being born into the royal family is less likely to get you political power than having parents who can send you to Eton. But since we're at the point where the entire system needs to be razed to the ground, I think Liz's exit would be a good point to kill it all off.

134:

Given that the Irish Government had convicted McGuinness of membership of the IRA, it would have been pretty wry to then have a him as president.

There's a long history of terrorists national liberation movement leaders becoming heads of state or prime ministers: to name but three, consider Robert Mugabe, Menachem Begin, and Nelson Mandela. (Then throw in Mahatma Ghandi for a unicorn chaser.)

After the GFA Martin McGuinness turned statesmanlike -- at least enough for Ian Paisley to do business with him which probably nobody could have anticipated in the bad days of the 1970s and '80s.

135:

There's a long history of terrorists national liberation movement leaders becoming heads of state or prime ministers: to name but three, consider Robert Mugabe, Menachem Begin, and Nelson Mandela.

Please also add George Washington and Fidel Castro to the list.

136:

Ah, so that's where Charlie got The Mandate's name from!

(I'm one of today's 10,000, I guess).

137:

an anthology of first nations speculative fiction has been released in Australia

I'll have to check it out, but I take issue with the review you posted. Specifically: "This is not “just” an anthology of First Nations speculative fiction, but also the first anthology of First Nations speculative fiction."

This isn't the first such anthology. For example, Walking the Clouds was published a decade ago: "In this first-ever anthology of Indigenous science fiction Grace Dillon collects some of the finest examples of the craft with contributions by Native American, First Nations, Aboriginal Australian, and New Zealand Maori authors."

https://www.cbc.ca/books/walking-the-clouds-1.4170829

The published claims This All Come Back Now as "world’s first anthology of blackfella speculative fiction", which it may well be, but it isn't the first anthology of First Nations science fiction, or even the first science fiction anthology to contain works by Aboriginal Australian writers. Possibly sloppy language on the part of the reviewer — but I'd expect a senior lecturer and department head to be a bit more precise in their phrasing.

138:

it must have been challenging having a near illiterate as NI Education Minister

Back in the days of the Harris government Ontario had a dropout as Minister of Education.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Snobelen

139:

I am sorry, but that is demonstrably wrong. The IRA's terrorism did NOT stop immediately after the GFA (neither in practice nor as policy), which is the reason there were several concessions to it afterwards, and Martin McGuinness suported IRA policy throughout. Yes, the shooting of the armed forces (including police) and atrocities against civilians stopped after the GFA, but things like kneecapping continued until a further agreement.

For the record, at least the same is true of the 'other side', and they continued to wage low-level (and, thank heavens, largely ineffective) terrorism, and still do, but they always were a loose-knit bunch of gangs of thugs. Their excuse of 'defence' is and always was total crap.

It is fair to say he started to turn statesmanlike then.

140:

There's a long history of terrorists national liberation movement leaders becoming heads of state or prime ministers

George Washington and company, come to that. Aguinaldo in the Philippines. Would Cromwell fall into that category?

141:

And Henry II, son of the Empress Maud, one of the vying "candidates" for the English throne during The Anarchy .

142:

I would suggest that you are only a freedom fighter (and the thuggery even potentially justifiable) where the people struggling have no vote and where civilians are not deliberately targeted.

And yes, I believe the unionists were/are every bit as immoral and vile. They seem a particularly dumb, arrogant and nasty bunch - but without a steady stream of money and guns from the US, their military wings were less successful.

The Irish situation is also unusual, as the state NI would merge with, and be accommodated within, were the ones who convicted McGuinness - not the Brits.

143:

Charlie @ 134
McGuiness was an "Honourable Enemy" - when the war was over, it was OVER.
Can't say the same for Adams .....

Aquarion
Probably, very probably, you would kill of a lot of other things & people as well, so not a good idea.

144:

Without furthering the digression into Mr McGuinness's legacy, it might be better to classify him as having been ruthlessly pragmatic, with occasional twitches betraying the inner reality, like the point in the campaign when he labelled a critic a West Brit, not part of the usual cut and thrust of Dublin politics. Like all good revolutionaries he had faith that in the end his side would win and be writing the history in the long run. Based on the current state of political play in Ireland (Sinn Fein now the biggest party, still too small to win outright majority but doing well because of a pivot to a social justice platform), it may be working. But the whole North/South political situation past and present is enough to fill several blogs worth.

Presidents or monarchs, the principle of executive power residing separately to the legislature (and Boris is as yet still part of the latter, despite ongoing attempts to create a ‘pseudo-executive’) is surely entirely dependent on the rule of law applying, and being applied? We don’t have to look to colonial examples to see that failure state, we can start with Hindenburg and go from there. Real question is how do you strengthen that rule of law, however applied, surely? Not sure how to answer that one!

145:

I agree, and I agree with Grant about the unionist thugs. They were (and are) gangsters, almost pure and simple.

146:

Moz @ 122:

He's the only Pope in Rome.

147:

paws4thot @ 126:

Disneyland/Disneyworld is for children. If you're not a child you need to have children along so you can see the place through their eyes.

I visited California with my family when I was a child and we visited Disneyland.

Disneyworld wasn't built until after I came of age. I have no children of my own, so I have no reason to visit Disneyworld.

148:

There's a long history of terrorists national liberation movement leaders becoming heads of state

As I think Bernard Wolley said, its one of those irregular verbs: I'm a freedom fighter, you're a guerilla, he's a terrorist.

149:

Disneyland/Disneyworld is for children.

Not really. But well over 1/2 of it is. Some adults enjoy the big rides.

But it is not for everyone.

And the parents who eagerly go back once or twice a year for a week... I just don't get them at all.

150:

Single leaders being a critical point of failure... well, yes, but you do need someone to make decisions if two under them can't agree.

Actually, I have a perfect laboratory experiment to test this out: run an sf con, preferably large, without a Chair, or with two co-equal Chairs.

Of course, this is on my mind, having just completed Balticon this past weekend (Memorial Day weekend in the US). I hear that including virtual members (if was a hybrid con), we had over 1600 folks... and I assure you there were a lot of folks there in person.

151:

Except that, in all likelihood, Arthur was never a King, but a Dux Bellorum. I mean, really, would all the petty kings have chosen/allowed another King above them?

152:

But could they vote, once ennobled? And would they have the expectation of free political speech?

And, for fun, if they or their heirs fell below the $1B, would they then lost their nobility?

153:

I have an alternative suggestion: Liz wades into Tiffany Fountain, and hands a sword to whoever she's chosen.... This way we get abdication and ceremonies with a watery tart!

154:

Never saw Buckingham Palace when we were there, for the one and only time, in '14. Now, the British Museum....

155:

Somtow Sucharitkul, back in the day, used to say he was 223rd in line for the Thai royal throne.

156:

Paintings? You mean like all the pics of The Former Guy in front of the Great Seal of the US, making it look like a halo?

157:

I've seen a report or two that Putin would get annoyed with the Former Guy, because he had to keep explaining things to him (the FG).

158:

I saw you typed "perfidious Albacon", which I wondered was a local sf con, but then my mind drifted to "perfidious albacore", and wondered what the tuna had done.

Oh, and it's "Lost Wages".

159:

I'd second going to the Air and Space Museum in downtown DC. I went to the Udvar-Hazy annex once. I hadn't known the Enola Gay was there, and I don't ever want to see it again.

160:

The Former Guy and his wife were both upset by this - suddenly, they're in a bubble, with no way out. No way to just go to a store, or a restaurant, or....

161:

On the other hand, they were (and are) making a profit off the Secret Service guards…

162:

The pretext of reviewing Tina Brown's The Palace Papers, allows the London Review of Books to do a take-down of the Windsors specifically, and the monarchy generally, with the cuttingist damning via language w/o ever once resorting to obscenity or vulgarism -- other than references/quotes from the royal inner circle, which does so resort, quoting the coarsest, most sexist, of vulgariity and vulgarism, words, actions and things, which are never spoken of, or in, public. The most nasty are employed for discussing women -- of course. This LRB slicing and dicing is accomplished in a manner and mode of malice that only the English can summon.

https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v44/n11/jonathan-meades/hatpin-through-the-brain

163:

I saw that, it was quite impressively done. They managed a decent go at Harry as well, but yeah, most of the ire was about things women do rather than what Harry is (thick).

164:

My thought was, "yes, nicely done. I wonder how much the Firm paid them to write this?" After all, a book about how boring and honest they were wouldn't sell as well, now, would it?

Actually, one could do quite a vicious satire where the Royals all have their personae that they adopt as reality performers, and behind the scenes they're as normal a bunch of actors as you'd expect for any 24/7 reality show. But since much of their revenue comes from licensing fees, their show must go on.

Slightly more seriously, one could speculate that if the British Royals were normal, hardworking, and only did the boring ceremonial stuff, they'd get pitched out in favor of someone more gossip-worthy. Perhaps being gossiped about is part of the job?

165:

I get the impression from reading about the fallout of reality TV shows, and occasional whining from famous people, that being in the public eye isn't as much fun as credulous morons think it is. That sort of pressure inevitably leads to more inter-personal issues than would be the case without it, even leaving aside the born to rule inbred stuff that the british royal family suffer from.

I'm quite serious when I suggest they would be better of looking outside Europe for breeding stock. There's lots of spare royalty in Polynesia, for example, and a traditional bride exchange or two would no doubt help both sides. genetically, if not in the eyes of the Daily Heil.

166:

148 - You like Bernard's irregular verbs too then. :-)

149 - That was at least "sort of" my point. Visiting a theme park can be fun, but it depends on the feelings you have on the way home.

150 - Well, Charlie and I have attended an Eastercon run by the Sofa (self-renamed) and her husband (sometimes addressed as the Layzee-Boy). I can't remember if Nojay was at that one or not.

154 - The British Museum is way more worthwhile than the state rooms in Buck House.

158 - Albacon - Local SF con in that it was always Easter or Glasgow Fair weekend, in the same (Glasgow Central hotel) venue. Not so local in that the membership tended to be a similar head count to Eastercon.

167:

Never mind the monarchy, they are "mostly harmless" ... What about Abolishing Elon Musk? - whatever his firms technical achievements, he appears to be 120% arsehole.

168:

I agree with Greg at 43. We have much more pressing issues to deal with. No issue is more likely to make “progressives” deeply unpopular than threatening to upend the our national identity. Clearly, fuck the monarchy and the have to go, but I’m not getting worked up about it now. Especially when we can take the Norway option, keep them around as a much cheaper and less intrusive heirloom, and do something about the matters of substance.

Were one to argue that getting rid of the royals is a prerequisite for real change, then one is abandoning Hope of actually effecting such change.

169:

There is, or at least was in the past, an Albacon held in the United States somewhere. Albany perhaps?

170:

Maybe the solution is along the suggestion in a short story “Philosopher’s Stone” by Christopher Anvil,

1) Nobility and social rank are pushed as worthy of attainment.

2) Rank in nobility is not passed on directly to the male heir, but is instead dropped two ranks. “The son of a duke becomes an earl.”

3) And the way to bump your rank up is to “bring a useful invention to prominence.” This is not to say to invent something… but to be the guy who brought Invention X to the world stage and made it go.

This system means that social climbing is done by advancing the state of the art. Families that don’t do well at that fall out of the nobility; families that do well at that keep their station, or advance upwards. But one need not be an inventor… only have the wisdom to see the value in an invention, and have the wherewithal to bring the technology not only to market, but to make it a world-beater.

I have borrowed this description from a blog on up-ship.com p=8496 as it said exactly what I wanted to say.

And the story is in the collection Analog Two edited by John W, Campbell.

171:

What about Abolishing Elon Musk? - whatever his firms technical achievements, he appears to be 120% arsehole.

No question about it. He's now requiring Tesla and SpaceX employees to work at least 40 hours a week in an office or be fired. Even though U.S. Covid cases are higher now than they were a year ago...

172:

Problem: that system would promote Elon Musk. Or even Donald Trump. Are you sure that's what you want to achieve?

173:

I'm not sure what inventions Donald Trump has pushed forward, but consider the source - a John W. Campbell anthology. (He was the racist editor who approved of "psychic" as a category in science fiction. You probably know that, but other readers may not. He was also the editor for whom Heinlein wrote the books/stories which resulted in him being called "racist," in which he was either catering to Campbell's racism or even writing to a plot from Campbell.*)

Maybe instead we can ennoble the people who contributed somehow to creating more freedom and dignity for Joe Average.

* Farnham's Freehold may be the exception to this. By all accounts it was Swiftian Satire gong wrong.

174:

I'm quite serious when I suggest they would be better of looking outside Europe for breeding stock. There's lots of spare royalty in Polynesia, for example, and a traditional bride exchange or two would no doubt help both sides. genetically, if not in the eyes of the Daily Heil.

We've already got Meghan Markle, who's African American. As you can see, it's working out quite well.

As for being celebrities, yes, it's less fun than it looks to be from the outside. I think that's true of most jobs?

Anyway, for fun, let's contemplate some other possibilities for getting scandal out of government.

Would, say, scrapping the UK monarchy entirely rid the British government of scandals? Erm, do we have to talk about 10 Downing Street again?

How about a meritocracy, where the leader is chosen Roman style, raised from among a senate of senior officials as the best one available to deal with current crises. Would that system be free of...Oh wait, we'd better check the Vatican before I finish that sentence.

How about flipping it, and letting the leader have as many relationships as he wants? Maybe that'll prevent scandal. Unfortunately, this page is under UK law, so just google FLDS Church to keep Charlie out of trouble. Don't share what you find here

Okay, so maybe we couple the meritocracy with decades of training in meditation. No, I better not google "Buddhist sex scandal." Oh no...

Maybe it's something we inherit? What happens when we search on Chimpanzee sexual politics?....I was afraid of that.

I think what this shows is that Buddhism's First Noble Truth, that life is unsatisfactory, isn't just some rando trying to sound profound.

175:

Back up-thread, someone was disappointed with a tour of Buck House ... What you SHOULD go & see, if there's a good one on, is an exhibition in "The Queen's Gallery" - Where (usually) objets d'art from the Royal Collections are put on public display. And other items, of course if they are in tune with the theme of the exhibition.
Someone I know has just been to this one
IIRC something like 80% of the exhibits ( In this particualr show ) have not been displayed in living memory - I'm told it's well worth it.
I've been to a couple & they were good. But then London has a lot of good Art Galleries & Exhibitions & the "Queens" is well up to the standard expected ....

176:

I am in awe of the author. Slicing, dicing, cubing, and chiffonading the subjects.... Their knife must have a monofiliment blade an atom thick to be that sharp.

177:

Sorry, no. That gets down on its knees and begs for someone who's downrated to defraud, steal, or outright murder someone who's done or found something useful, and present it as their own.

178:

whitroth
Like Edison, did, you mean?

179:

As frustrating as it is, some form of democratic feedback system is so far the best option we have for a functioning societal leadership process.

Flawed and awful, but better than all the other options so far. That said, if the Culture were to make contact I'd be an enthusiastic joiner.

180:

Presumably someone's already doing this, but I don't know the search terms.

Anyway, it would be interesting to set up a machine learning simulation to figure out which form(s) of government best weather which types of stresses.

For example, in an emergency or war, a hierarchical command structure, with decision making abilities up and down the chain of command, seems to work best. It's fast but unstable, because the results depend on the initiative and appropriate genius of those making the decisions. This is generalizing off the successes of maneuver warfare, combined arms, and incident command.

But this type of authoritarian structure isn't universally good. In the military, it generally fails against insurgencies, and if anyone knows how to do counterinsurgencies, they're keeping it under wraps. In non-emergency situations, the people in charge become the foci of corruption efforts as others seek power and wealth, with utterly predictable results. Worse, children generally don't inherit genius, so the transition of authority from one powerful person to another, unrelated, powerful person is always going to be fraught and possibly lethal (see succession wars). Holding a Game of Thrones among potential candidates pretty much guarantees a civil war every time the apex ruler dies.

Democracy is good in that it can provide a powerful, but nonlethal, form of feedback between the ruled and the rulers. It can, of course, be hacked in all sorts of ways. It's also slower than authoritarian rule, and it's vulnerable to public opinions that may have little to do with reality.

Heterarchies try to set up checks and balances to keep any one power group from taking over and messing things up. These aren't limited to court, executive, and legislative, but may also include military powers, financial magnates, merchants, religions, large landowners, etc. My suspicion is that making a working heterarchy takes a lot of work, and like any complex structure confronted by the fact that reality constantly changes, it requires more or less continual readjustment to maintain the balance of power and eventually fails when it can't cope with some problem.

Anyway, it's probably possible to for an AI start gaming out systems to figure out which ones work better, evolving the winners of each round to see if some system will tend to work better, especially when confronted with the challenges we now face. My guess is that the best system is some sort of heterarchy more checked and balanced than we have in the US (we need to accommodate financial and information systems much better), that can afford to train first responders, and that can rapidly unleash them in emergencies of all sorts without having any emergency industrial complex take over the heterarchy. Tailoring this sort of handwaving to a couple of hundred different countries is, of course, non-trivial.

181:

H
and if anyone knows how to do counterinsurgencies, they're keeping it under wraps
Or rather the USA & the French are simply ignoring it, because it's too embarrassing?
Malaysian Emergency is the phrase to use.

Meanwhile, it has been pointed out that HM's Coronation was 69 years ago - today.
I remember it, if only because my mother insisted we got a TV to watch it.
{ Interesting social history thought there - we were the first household in our street to get a TV - & the first to give it up as a waste of time. }

182:

"IT AIN'T BROKE - DON'T FIX IT"

I agree. The objections to it are all failures of sense of proportion and/or false assumptions of uniqueness.

So kids in other countries can be told "you could grow up to be president" whereas kids in this country can't be told "you could grow up to be monarch"... so who gives a shit? Kids in this country can still be told "you could grow up to be prime minister", which in practical terms is the same thing as "president" (and "monarch" is not), and it's a bloody silly thing to say in any case since nobody ever follows it with "...but the chances are millions to one against it and you're a lot more likely to win the lottery, so you might as well forget about it", which is required to convey a realistic appreciation of the situation. As an objection to... well, to anything really, it's ridiculously trivial, and as a justification for extreme upheaval on a national scale it's nowhere in sight.

As for the idea that eliminating the monarchy would be beneficial regarding corruption in politics, it's simply a bad joke. It would naturally eliminate corruption by the monarchy, but it would equally naturally introduce corruption by whatever replaced it. (It is also extremely likely that whoever replaced it would have far more reasons to be far more corrupt than someone who is inherently isolated from all the competitive shite that comes with a political position not being hereditary and lifelong.)

I could carry on for ages, but I would both be repeating the same arguments in slightly different forms for each point and also be repeating opinions I have previously stated on here when the subject has come up before, so I won't bother.

I am not remotely any kind of monarchy enthusiast in the tabloid sense. If I was going to hang a picture of any ruler at all on my wall I'd think first of Lenin and then of Lincoln before I thought of Liz. I don't give a fuck about the junketings planned for this weekend and intend to avoid them entirely.

But I do object to the idea of throwing away centuries of historical tradition for a mere whim. I live in a city which has a good 800 years or so of relics associated with defanging the monarchy, and people who would look at the political setup we have now and say "so what's your problem with the monarchy then? It's the clown with the hair who wants his head chopping off."

I don't care that Britain doesn't meet some theoretical definition of a "democratic country" because although everyone has the vote it still has a monarch. I do care that it's shit as a "democratic country" because it has a fucking useless electoral system under which most people's votes don't count. It's not another Oliver Cromwell that we're missing, it's closer to needing another Guido Fawkes.

183:

"they can't step outside their properties without first arranging (at the very least) a police escort."

Phil the Greek used to evade them on purpose and sneak out on his own, which I thought was rather neat.

184:

"Las Vegas (I get to go to the area on personal business every now and then) is where my daughter learned what "over the top" means."

You have WW1 re-enactments in Las Vegas? I didn't think there was enough mud.

There is a nuke museum there, which as far as I'm concerned is the only thing that removes it from the list of "absolutely no reason to want to go there ever" places.

We have an SR-71 at Duxford, and you can actually reach up and stroke its tummy. Titanium is a very strange feeling substance.

185:

Kids in this country can still be told "you could grow up to be prime minister", which in practical terms is the same thing as "president" (and "monarch" is not), and it's a bloody silly thing to say in any case since nobody ever follows it with "...but the chances are millions to one against it and you're a lot more likely to win the lottery, so you might as well forget about it", Unless they are being sent to Eton, in which case the odds improve by several orders of magnitude.

186:

Quite. Which is not a problem that would be affected by abolishing the monarchy, but could at least be somewhat mitigated by abolishing Eton.

187:

WWI reenactments? No. Over the top... I've seen bits and pieces of videos of shows at Lost Wages, and "over the top" is not an exaggeration.

188:

Maybe it's something we inherit? What happens when we search on Chimpanzee sexual politics?....I was afraid of that.

I'd prefer the sexual politics of bonobos, myself...

189:

I grew up with a TV. But we had 2 then 3 channels. Which is different from the UK 50s/60s AIUI. We were rural so no independents. (I remember when the ABC affiliate came online.) Big B&W died just before we sold our house and moved to a temp tiny house while building new one. Got a 13" B&W. (1967 I think.) It had a part go bad which made it blank out a times. And part was apparently made in small home shop in Japan somewhere and they only made a batch once a year or similar. (Supply chain issues anyone?) Anyway we moved into new big house but still with 13" B&W that would blank out more and more often. Then it got to be July 1969. We told our parents we were going to go stay with friends/neighbors for the duration if we didn't get a TV that worked. Dad got a 20" color (portable) a week before and so we stayed home.

190:

"Las Vegas (I get to go to the area on personal business every now and then) is where my daughter learned what "over the top" means."

You have WW1 re-enactments in Las Vegas? I didn't think there was enough mud.

In Merican slang "over the top" means way past what is needed.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/over-the-top

191:

In Merican slang "over the top" means way past what is needed.

Same in the UK. Origin is putatively from trench warfare human wave attacks with soldiers going "over the top" of the trench parapets in their thousands.

192:

To a bit more detail she was about 9 or 10 at the time. She asked me as we were leaving the airport (first thing you see is the Hard Rock 50' tall guitar) what is the big deal about Las Vegas. I had trouble explaining it.

Later when we were killing time before a red-eye flight out I drove down the strip after dark. Volcano going off, pirates attacking a ship, a Pyramid lighting up the sky, a gazillion people in the streets, Eiffel tower up ahead, ....

Suddenly she pipes up "Daddy I know what over the top means".

193:

I spent 4 days in Las Vegas at a hockey tournament my son was playing in. It was about 3.5 days too many (I am allowing 0.5 days for the hockey, the Cirque du Soleil, and an excellent meal).

I left the place feeling nauseated at the soul crushing sadness of exiting your hotel room at 6 am for a (sport) game and passing hundreds of punters sitting at slot machines with blank expressions. No joy, no fun, just pushing the button over and over.

I will never return unless a close family member moves there for some presently unimaginable reason.

194:

184 - Sadly the Duxford Habu is engineless, but it still gives me a stronger "hair on my neck" reaction than either the BUFF (in the same building) or the Vulcan.

187 - I don't see the issue; "over the top" and WW1 Western Front reenactments seen very related to me.

192 - But they're not real (well except maybe the people).

195:

I will never return unless a close family member moves there for some presently unimaginable reason.

There is a collection of very high aptitude very smart people with very high security clearances who live in that area. They are a strange mix of folk.

196:

Saw that in the hotel my recent ex and I stayed in during the Reno Worldcon in '10. You had to walk through it to get in or out. Horrid.

And then there was the "taste". I think we were in the Peppermill. Walking up to it, there are painted faux-Roman statues on the marquis. Inside, if you walked down a hall long enough, you saw the same half a dozen or so 50's imitation of Napoleonic imitation Roman paintings.

And my then-14 stepson thought it was unbelievably tacky to have a large frame on the wall, faux=Louis XIV... with a flat screen TV in it, with about a 6cm gap around the TV inside the frame.

197:

So, I have some family that lives in Vegas, and I have never stayed there. We stay at a little motel outside Boulder City that has a nice view of Lake Mead, only about 30-40 minutes from the strip (and the airport) if you feel a need to go there.

Fun things that are nearby: Hoover Dam, Lake Mead (for now), Death Valley is only an hour or two away, as is the Valley of Fire (because of the color of the rocks). We also walk a trail (and old train bed with tunnels) from a nearby casino/hotel down to Hover Dam (I think it is about 3 miles). (Boulder City was built when they were building the Dam). Neat stores in BC: "Goat Feathers" (thrift store), and "Dead Cows for Sale" (Leather goods). There is also a train museum and (short) historical train ride. The same area has a very long zipline if you are into that sort of thing. You can also see the wild ram horn sheep and coyotes hanging around if that interests you.

(It was interesting to me that Lake Mead to Death Valley is basically old volcano country, lots of cinder cones around)

The only things I've gone to in Vegas are the Monterey Bay Aquarium (yes, in the middle of the desert) and the Zoo in (I think) the MGM.

Now, if they had built the Enterprise, I would have been there, but the head of Paramount nixed that....

198:

I think my kids would both fit two of those qualifications. However they are Canadian and probably wouldn't fit the third. Worst case they go live in Ottawa (which is a very fine city).

199:

I went to Las Vegas in the 80's. Accompanied my mum who was going to a conference. Collected some great memories. Really amazing approach and landing. I swear they applied reverse pitch while we were 5000 up. I've never had to hold myself up with the seat in front before. I was hanging off the belt. Absolutely the steepest approach I've ever had in any aircraft. The landing was just as spectacular with a cross wind that I'm also sure exceeded the demonstrated. Came in hot and sideways and just hammered that rudder at the last second. Nearly blown off the stairs when I got off. Had to go back and complement the pilots. I hadn't realised how strong the cross was.

We saw tumble weeds on the drive in from the airport. I couldn't have been more amazed if they'd had stage trees. Tumble weeds are something from fiction. Seeing a real plant that evolved into a sphere to distribute seeds... Mind blown.

The actual town was shit.

200:

Vegas is fine (and a little boring) once you get off the strip - the people there are very nice.

201:

We saw tumble weeds on the drive in from the airport. I couldn't have been more amazed if they'd had stage trees. Tumble weeds are something from fiction. Seeing a real plant that evolved into a sphere to distribute seeds... Mind blown.

A cousin used to live in So Cal and would talk about the collective action of those. They would pile up against your yard fence till they made a ramp for the next group to arrive and roll up and over your fence. The goal being to fill your pool with a soggy mess that was a royal PITA to clean out.

He thought that maybe the chlorine was a "strange attractor".

202:

197 - ? I live in old volcanic country. 2 Basalt plugs from extinct caldrera, and a lamilar basaltic flow within less than 2 miles of the front door.

199 - I see your point; I've been in some high crosswind landings before, and ones where the total landing run was about 2_000 feet of a 4_000 foot runway.

200 - "Off Strip" Lost Vegas is basically tract suburbia built in a desert.

203:

RE: Vegas. Being the snotty environmentalist I am, I've been known to get gas in California and/or Utah so that I can drive straight through Vegas without stopping. I suspect Cirque du Soleil and Penn and Teller are worth stopping for, but Vegas is such a monument to civilization as the all-devouring flame that I really don't want to give it any money. As with most of the cities that depend on the Colorado River, I think anyone who's planning on settling in Vegas long term needs to be realistic about what "long term" might mean.

So far as tumbleweeds go: aren't they cool? Now that you've met them, you can learn more. Tumbleweeds aren't a species, they're a life form, with about 10 different plant families having evolved tumbleweed species independently, and something like 50 different tumble-species.

204:

Think you're mixing domestic and foreign tourist interest here, and like all tourist revenue the vast bulk is generated from domestic tourism

JBS and I are just commenting on the crazy fascination in the US with the British monarchy. I'd say 1/2 of the tourists from the US might not go without the monarchy.

205:

A side-effect is that laws apply to everyone and everything below the Crown, not including the Crown itself—or, presumably, its 95 year old wearer. So far we've lucked out because EIIR seems to be nothing if not law-abiding

Except that’s not particularly true, is it. The Queen, and Charles as heir, have the right to demand consultation and a power of amendment on any law which would impinge on the Monarchy. This is done in secret, without reference to Parliament, and they use it exceedingly often, over 1,000 times since the beginning of her reign.

Now a lot of it is pretty standard stuff, consultation on the right of council inspectors to enter crown lands and such, but some of it is deeply worrying. Such as the exemption herself and Charles carved out for Royal employees from the provisions of the Parental Rights Act. Or the fact that clean water and land management regulations don’t apply to crown lands. Or that the Monarchy isn’t bound by the provisions of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, or the Equality Act 2010.

And those aren’t just exemptions because of the unique way the head of the organisation is selected, by the way, those refer to the Monarchy as employers, so none of their staff are protected from discrimination.

Brenda and Keith interfere in political matters all the time, when it suits them or their interests, and the current system can’t come to an end quickly enough.

206:

It appears that they're the crab of the plant world!

207:

Anvil had some fun with science-fictional monarchies. In "The Troublemaker" a planet's ruled by an absolute monarchy (with the King and the nobility being volunteers who serve for a fixed term). All the people have implants in their nervous system that transmit pain from the ruled to the rulers. It gives the rulers a certain motivation to attend to their subjects' needs. (Oh, and if the rulers even think about finding a way to bypass the system, the pain transmitters activate at full power).

208:

It appears that they're the crab of the plant world!

Yes and no. The thing underlying the whole crab meme is this really cool phenomenon called convergent evolution. A bunch of unrelated crustaceans develop body plans that humans read as "crab." Birds, bats, pterosaurs, and insects independently evolve functioning wings. Fish, ichthyosaurs, dolphins, and seals figure out how to swim by waggling the ends of their spines.

Plants....do convergence so much better than animals do.

There are annual plants, all of which evolved from perennial ancestors, because sometimes it's better for your tiny babies to reproduce as fast as possible, rather than trying to survive for even a year.

There are trees, because height is the way you battle for light is by growing over the top of your competitors.

There are vines, because one of the best ways to win the battle for light against a tree is to climb the tree and grow on top of it.

There are aquatic plants, because going back to the water isn't just for platypuses and seals.

And then it gets fun. A bamboo is what happens when a perennial, terrestrial herb that evolved from a tree (how we got angiosperms from conifers) goes into the water (primitive monocots are mostly marsh and pond plants), re-evolves new leaves and piping to grow on land again as a perennial herb (grass), then evolves a new way to grow huge to become a tree. That might sound weird, but palm trees (also monocots) did the same thing, only better.

And then you get cases where a shrub becomes an annual becomes a perennial becomes a shrub. That's how the silversword alliance in Hawai'i happened. Their ancestors were tarweeds from California. That may sound weird, but it's not the only one. There's a tree thistle in the Canary Islands, for example.

So far as tumbleweeds being the crabs of the plant world goes, that's about right. There appear to be around seven separate lineages of crustaceans that evolved crab-like forms, and there are about ten separate plant lineages that evolved tumbleweeds. But most/all tumbleweeds are annual plants, and the annual lifestyle seems to have evolved in many (most?) major groups of plants. There's even an annual conifer, known as a fossil from the Triassic. I'm not sure whether annuals evolved dozens or hundreds of times, because there are large chunks of the world where "live fast and die young after a crazed orgy" is a viable strategy. If you're a plant.

This is why people like me get sucked into the plant world. Some thing really are better with plants.

209:

Since we're not at 300, I'll tie my paean to plants back to politics, by comparing Roman leaders to, well, shrubbery.

Ancient Rome had seven or eight kings. Then in 509 BCE or so, the Romans had had enough, and AFAIK did a general strike, threw out the king (Rex) and implemented a monarchy. They did appoint dictators to deal with emergencies, but these were sort of like annual kings, given king-like powers for a short time to fight a war or whatever. This worked really well until the last century BCE, when unscrupulous politicians began corrupting the power of the dictatorship (and fighting civil wars over it), until Julius Caesar stuck the landing, and then Augustus Caesar, as "princeps" made it work as an authoritarian dictatorship again. But they were Caesars or Imperators, not Rex. The western empire is generally regarded to have fallen when a "barbarian" (probably actually a Romanized immigrant from somewhere who capitalized on his military service to take over) is called "Rex" in a letter that survived to our day.

Politics doesn't really evolve, but the formation of similar political systems under different names over time has some interesting similarities to the way plants evolve. Plants, structurally, are more like human corporations than like animals, in that for many perennial plants, losing a branch is like a corporation closing up a location, rather than a human losing an arm. So this similarity might not be entirely spurious.

210:

I live in old volcanic country. 2 Basalt plugs from extinct caldrera,

An old vulcanologist joke goes "What's the difference between extinct and dormant? Wishful thinking."

211:

My one landing in Las Vegas was summertime, a bright sunny early afternoon in the mid-1990s. We came in, normal approach, crossed the outer threshold and I waited for the Thump! as the wheels touched down. And waited. And waited... and then THUMP!!! and the reversers screamed and the plane juddered as (I presume) the front office staff were standing on the brake pedals as hard as they could and then we took the last turnoff on the runway with, I swear, the inner wing lifting from centripetal forces.

Reverse-engineering the experience I figured the heated air lifting off the runway tarmac was keeping the plane in ground-effect for half the strip and unable to actually touch down in good time. Fun experience, not.

Las Vegas itself, meh. I stayed off-strip, went walking out around the State University area in a vain attempt to find a sidewalk and got followed by a police car as a Suspicious Pedestrian. The town was typified by an exhibit in the airport, a big stainless steel dish with four million quarters in it right next to the one-armed bandits in the baggage collection area.

212:

The distinctions you refer to are pretty vague, anyway. Lots of plants vary between annual and perennial, shrub and tree, and even herbaceous and woody, depending on conditions. Also, in climates like the humid tropics, annual is pretty meaningless.

213:

Well, they last erupted in the Carboniferous, so I doubt I shall see a repetition :-)

214:

Read Limbo, by Wolfe. The higher you go in the government, the more limbs you lose. At the top, you're helpless, utterly dependent on others.

215:

Rome had stopped using dictators for quite awhile when Sulla adopted the term. The Republic had evolved beyond the need for dictators, probably because emergencies moved away from Rome and Italy as they expanded so there was time for the normal political process. Sulla was trying to cash in on the legitimacy of a defunct institution.

216:

I'm unsure why Charlie has such a miserablist position over the Jubilee; there's so much to enjoy about this Platinum Jubilee!

For a reply to Jonathon Meades' article[1], we have Marina Hyde in the Guardian: here. The Kardashian's failing to crash the party: priceless.

Then, following up on some of the comments below Marina's article, we discover that the patriotic crowd outside Westminster Abbey booing the Priime Minister: here. Note they didn't do this to any other politicians. Wonderful!

Then, we can point out Mr Putin's reaction to having his military display over -shadowed: here. He didn't mention that 275 British Army horses appeared -- rather more than the number of Challenger tanks!

Then we have the local entertainment here in Manchester: a street party with three bands (all living in the street of about 50 houses -- some student lets). I'd pay good money to see two of them.

What's not to like?

[1] Jonathon Meades: a posh and literate British shock jock. Enjoyable in small doses.

217:

I adore Marinna Hyde. Around the time I first discovered her, I wrote her a non-mash note, and she thanked me for it.

218:

I'd say 1/2 of the tourists from the US might not go without the monarchy.

In the several times we USians have been in the UK as tourists and semi-tourists(*), we've never, ever, given any consideration to scoping out the Monarchy. British Museum, Tate Gallery, various other museums, bookstores, shops, restaurants and suchlike yes. The Monarchy from our viewpoint is amusing, but not worth a visit.(**)

(*) There for other reasons, but had/took some time to tour around.
(**) But I have to admit that those red military tunics are very cool.

219:

210 - Are you seriously trying to tell me that the volcanic plug of Dumbuckhill Quarry is anything other than extinct as a volcano?

213 - I'm pretty sure that's correct yes. Certainly it's long enough ago for the cone to have eroded away leaving a basalt core that is also eroded (quite aside from Dumbuckhill having been quarried for the last 60-odd years and still being 150 feet AMSL at its lowest points on the working area).

216 - I watched about 1.5 hours of the English Broadcasting Corporation's morning "news" on Thursday, during which I learnt that Naga Munchetty[1] possesses at least one good Winter coat, got to play with an explosives sniffer dog outside Buck House, and one of the "reporters" had not had his fingers eaten whilst feeding a carrot to a horse. You start to understand our objections now?

[1] Real journalist and news anchor, who is very good at holding politicians' feet to the fire during interviews.

220:

In the several times we USians have been in the UK as tourists and semi-tourists(*), we've never, ever, given any consideration to scoping out the Monarchy. British Museum, Tate Gallery, various other museums, bookstores, shops, restaurants and suchlike yes. The Monarchy from our viewpoint is amusing, but not worth a visit.

Also me. My wife and I starting trying to visit 3 years ago. But weather (long story) and the pandemic stopped us. We will likely go in the next year or two. The various monarchy bits are well down our list of things to see. But you and I are not typical Merican's in that regard. I know a lot of folks who've been and their primary reason was to see bits of the monarchy.

Me, I want to wander around London, visit the museums, see if my father WWII airbase is a field or nail salon or whatnot, etc...

And the facination with Princess D is unreal. Still to this day. Michael Lewis just told a Princess D story on C-Span the other day. [eye roll]

221:
I watched about 1.5 hours of the English Broadcasting Corporation's morning "news" on Thursday, during which I learnt that Naga Munchetty[...]

Well, that's an hour and a half you'll not get back again. Couldn't you have found something better to do? I put in a couple of hours in the allotment, and certainly don't intend to actually watch any of the coverage.

222:

Princess Di. Marilyn.

They're dead, get over it, is my response.

223:

Oh, and the ship sank.

On the other hand, I read there's a new claimant for the throne... https://beta.ctvnews.ca/local/kitchener/2022/6/2/1_5929806.html

224:

Took me awhile to figure out what the "watery tart system" for creating supreme executive power was. Reason is that I'd just read about a rather different watery tart.

Ah well.

My favorite version of the sword of heaven is rather different.

225:

"I watched about 1.5 hours of the English Broadcasting Corporation's morning "news" on Thursday, during which I learnt that Naga Munchetty[1] possesses at least one good Winter coat, got to play with an explosives sniffer dog outside Buck House, and one of the "reporters" had not had his fingers eaten whilst feeding a carrot to a horse. You start to understand our objections now?"

No, not really. Sounds like typical BBC TV news all the bloody time. If they'd bring back John Craven's Newsround it would be more informative than the "adult" news is these days.

226:

Heteromeles @ 180:

I do like the way the U.S. is set up vis-a-vis the military with a hierarchical command structure that does what it does best, but the government that wields the military is semi-democratically elected. The decision whether to go to war or not is best left in the hands of an elected government and the elected government sets over-all strategic objectives, while the military is tasked with finding the best way to achieve those objectives.

I'm also pleased the U.S. military chose to opt-out of our most recent but one government's flirtation with totalitarianism. I'm encouraged they found a way to discourage someone from issuing unlawful orders, so they didn't have to confront the government by refusing to violate the Constitution.

I hope if the U.K. does abolish the monarchy, whatever takes its place will have a vigorous mechanism for thwarting would-be totalitarians.

227:

Greg Tingey @ 181:

The Wire is Hungry! [YouTube] Doctor Who.

228:

Starch-thickened water tarts lasted in the UK until well into my adulthood - mostly commercial ones! To people in the UK, the oldest of whom remember serious shortages, the idea of butter being plentiful and apples unavailable is simply mind-boggling.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/croome/recipes/wartime-carrot-cake

Thr watery tart reference is OGH's - I am surprised that you haven't seen it before. It's amusing, but not actually relevant to our current monarchy, where the English component derives from the right of conquest by William the Bastard. Arthur was probably a myth.

229:

Pigeon @ 183:

"they can't step outside their properties without first arranging (at the very least) a police escort.""they can't step outside their properties without first arranging (at the very least) a police escort."

Phil the Greek used to evade them on purpose and sneak out on his own, which I thought was rather neat.

Oddly enough, so did the Bush twins.

230:
Oddly enough, so did the Bush twins.

But did they drive a taxi around town, like Phil did?

That would have been a great tale if they drove around Manhattan cursing and swearing like the local cabbies!

231:

Charlie Stross @ 191:

In Merican slang "over the top" means way past what is needed.

Same in the UK. Origin is putatively from trench warfare human wave attacks with soldiers going "over the top" of the trench parapets in their thousands.

I believe in this instance the appropriate response to Pigeon's comment would have been:

"Pull the other one, it's got bells on."

232:

David L replied @ 201:

Tumbleweeds are iconic in the American West, but they're not a native plant. They're an extremely invasive & damaging species.

The Trouble With Tumbleweed [YouTube] CGP Grey

AKA "Russian Thistle"

233:

If your father’s airbase was in East Anglia take the time to visit Norwich, Britain’s most complete medieval city.

234:

220 - If you have an airfield name, there's a good chance that someone here will either know, or at least know where to look.

221 - True; that said I did multi-task with having breakfast and reading a magazine. My complaint was that there was stuff other than Lillibet's "official birthday" happening in places other than Larndarnshire. So far, the closest I've come to "Jubilee Sillybrations" (sic) is watching a documentary on Moly and the 2022 TT preview show during dialysis karaoke (dialysis essential to life, and karaoke sort of unavoidable as a result).

226 - I've read way too many Vietnam War histories and biographies (including things like "Giap" and "The Tunnels of Cu Chi", not just stuff by US military who served there) to think that politicritters should be allowed to task military forces on any level lower than "defeat North Vietnam".

228 - Actually, references to "watery tarts" and "moistened bints" are taken from the comedy (film and book) "Monty Python and the Holy Grail". (strongly recommended to anyone who is even intermittently amused by this here blog)

233 - See Norwich, and raise York.

235:

David L @ 220:

I don't really care about the Royal Family that much one way or the other, but if you don't have the "Queen's Birthday" (or eventually the King's birthday) would there still be a reason for this? ... which I do enjoy & would like to see in person:

Updated Trooping the Colour 2022 | March to and from Horse Guards Parade [YouTube] ... especially at 13:40, that would be a thrill of a lifetime.

Also on my bucket list: How you gonna' have a Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo if you do away with the royals?

Without the monarchy would they still have the Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle? The pageantry and the ceremony are what I'm thinking about when I mention "royal" tourism.

236:

Heteromeles @ 224:

I recognized it immediately. I was kind of surprised you missed it.

237:

Dave Lester @ 230:

AFAIK, they just went out honky-tonkin; doing the same things most under-age drinkers did then and now.

238:

David L
It is extremely likely that your dad's WWII airbase is now ploughed fields .... - see also Paws @ 234

239:

I recognized it immediately. I was kind of surprised you missed it.

As noted, I'd just read the Atlas Obscura article on water tarts, so that's what I thought of, not naiadonoxiphocracies.

240:

235 - The "Changing the Guard" ceremony happens "wherever the monarch is residing" if at all. It moved from Buck House to Windsor Castle with the Queen's decision to change her principle residence following Philip the Greek's death.

238 - Hence why I asked. I know of "WW2 Airfields" which are now civilian airports, are still military airfields, are motor racing circuits, have been returned to agriculture, are housing developments or business developments...

241:

There’s a reasonable chance that the airbase is now an industrial estate.

242:

Place I used to work was a WWII airfield with the runways turned into roads and car parks or built over. It's still in existence but plane landings are highly contra-indicated and indeed flyovers by, say, gliders and light aviation are also frowned upon.

AWRE Aldermaston.

243:

You don't need mud — electrons will do:

https://www.warmuseum.ca/overthetop/

Outside of history, I've most often encountered "over the top" describing going past the point of no return, where one has no choice but to keep going forward. Like "crossing the Rubicon" without the classical allusions.

Come to think of it, that use of "over the top" may well allude to WWI — you might survive an attack, but not attacking meant a court martial and firing squad, so you went forward…

244:

Whereas here in Aotearoa, I've pretty much only seen it as "to excess", frequently with an implication of "and that's the main, or even only, thing wrong with it."

JHomes

245:

I was trying to not mention "The Leaky Establishment".

246:

The problem with Marina Hyde is that IIRC she's a TERF. (It's endemic in The Guardian's editorial team.)

Kind of spoils it, like discovering your favourite satirist enjoys dressing up in white robes with a pointy hood and burning artisanal woodwork on other folks' lawns at the weekend.

247:

I did a quick google, and I'm not finding the evidence on Marina Hyde. I'm not going to defend her or call for more evidence, but it's your blog, and you know the UK libel law better than I do. Presumably there is evidence, not just rumor or guilt by association?

Remember also that people operating under the KKK name have done things that would get them labeled as terrorists in most parts of the world. Accusing someone of being embracing that level of hate is a non-trivial accusation, if you don't have a 1st amendment shield.

248:

Marina Hyde?
TERF?
Seriously, I'm not familiar with the name or the acronym.

249:

I'm going by the content of one of her columns, from memory. Caveat: my memory is shit and I might have confused her with another columnist ... but The Guardian is 80% TERFs by volume these days, so I fear not.

250:

A cursory search reveals nothing online which would indicate she is a terf, with one exception, which is on reddit, and seems to conclude she's probably not.

https://www.reddit.com/r/asktransgender/comments/4kq4qy/is_marina_diamondis_a_terf/

251:

And in the UK. I have seen the other metaphorical meaning, but not in anything written since before WW II.

252:

TERF?

Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist. It means someone who thinks that womens' rights are only for people who were born with female bodies, and not for those who were born with male bodies but believe that inside they are really female but with the wrong body.

Charlie has said in the past that this issue is a trigger thing for him, so I recommend not getting any further into it here.

253:

on the various gilded cages around the world: the difference between Buckingham Palace and e.g. the White House, is that the inmates of the White House all volunteered for it. The inmates of Buckingham Palace were condemned to it as a result of their parentage.

254:

Charlie has said in the past that this issue is a trigger thing for him, so I recommend not getting any further into it here.

I want to point out that I flagged it, not because I care whether or not she's a TERF, but because there might be legal repercussions for connecting a purported TERF to the KKK, especially if there's not great evidence that the person is a TERF. It's not about extremist positions, it's about the fact that the KKK is well known for violence and killings, in addition to extremist positions. I'm not familiar enough with UK libel law to know whether this is safe territory or not for a post, so I brought it up.

I really don't want this to be about triggers.

255:

Off-topic, yet talking about "triggers" ...
This carefully-written analysis of a revolting aspect of US culture - is well worth the time.
Basically: US cops are deliberately taught to be arrogant bullying cowards & encouraged to continue in that mould.

256:

US cops are deliberately taught to be arrogant bullying cowards & encouraged to continue in that mould.

Not exactly a big surprise. U.S. police have, for the most part, been like this since the founding of our country. I suspect this is true of police in a lot of other countries too.

Power corrupts, etc.

257:

I found Marina's Wikipedia, and now think she's a columnist I wouldn't read even if I took the Grauniad regularly (which I don't).

258:

Thank you for that.

The default version appears to use flash, doesn't know that typeof null === 'object', and then manages to get most of itself blocked. But the low-graphics version works.

Not exactly realistic to be sitting here in the warm with a cup of tea and a fag on the go, with all the time in the world to make decisions. But interestingly it manages to become more realistic as you go on nevertheless. I don't know how much it helps that I'm coming to it with a reasonable idea of what the expectation of results from each decision is, as opposed to coming to it "raw". Didn't stop me getting coal-boxed, in a realistically depressing random fashion.

259:

Ahem: musician Marina Diamandis is not the same person as Guardian columnist Marina Hyde.

260:

Ooops! Missed that. The piece was found in a search for "Marina Hyde terf," so obviously not much out there to indict Marina Hyde.

261:

Changing the subject slightly, if the Royals get turfed out of the UK, which do you think would be a better new home for them: Vegas or Dubai?

262:

H
NEITHER
They become like the Comte de Paris

263:

This isn't the first such anthology

Yeah, I tend to ignore stuff like that as "true, in the eyes of the writer" because so often those comments are either sales blurbs or based on whatever the author happened to remember on the day.

(let me tell you about bicycle speed records... :P)

264:

My favorite version of the sword of heaven

Is a long and weird read, from where I sit. But interesting, so thank you for that.

265:

paws4thot @ 240: 235 - The "Changing the Guard" ceremony happens "wherever the monarch is residing" if at all. It moved from Buck House to Windsor Castle with the Queen's decision to change her principle residence following Philip the Greek's death.

Doesn't really matter WHERE the ceremony happens, if y'all abolish the Monarchy there won't be a "monarch residing" anywhere, so what happens to the ceremonies then?

266:

De nada. Burton Watson's translation "Chuang Tzu" is more fun to read, if less accurate. It's my favorite sacred book, actually. Along with the Tao Te Ching and the I Ching, it's one of the foundational books of Taoism, and the oldest.

A fun little factoid: Lao Tzu, writer of the Tao Te Ching, appears as a character in the Chuang Tzu. However, the oldest known copy of the Chuang Tzu is a couple of centuries older than the oldest known copy of the Tao Te Ching. Think this through for a second...

267:

Robert Prior @ 243:

In U.S. slang, "over the top" doesn't have that dire a meaning ... it just means excessive excess.

Think "The Kardashians" or "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" ... reality TV has devalued the meaning.

268:

Pigeon @ 258:

"Coal-boxed"?

269:

Re: 'The Queen, and Charles as heir, have the right to demand consultation and a power of amendment on any law which would impinge on the Monarchy. This is done in secret, without reference to Parliament, and they use it exceedingly often, over 1,000 times since the beginning of her reign.'

This phrasing makes the Queen & Charles sound like pushy arrogant monsters - I thought that under British Law, no law is officially passed until/unless the monarch signed off on it. If the Queen & Charles - designated heir/understudy - didn't read/question anything that was put under their noses then I suppose the headlines would read that they're too lazy/stupid/uncaring to be bothered to learn what it is that they're signing. Unless/until every question they asked about every document is revealed, I'm going to assume that the Queen at least is just doing her due diligence. I'm not assigning her any supernormal intelligence or ethics but my impression is that she - unlike some 'elected' heads of gov't DT, BoJo - has a strong and entrenched sense of 'duty'.

I'm not a monarchist as in 'one ring/crown to rule them all' but do feel that, overall, this Queen has done a pretty good job of stewardship/conservatorship of the family property/assets - some/many of which are open to the public. Basically, I feel that this family and their estates are a living museum and I most definitely wouldn't want their job-for-life.

No idea whether any previous British monarchs were involved in charity work but am aware that quite a bit of the current monarch's (and her family's) time/energy is spent as a patron for various charities. And I'm guessing that her/their patronage probably builds more awareness, support and donations than a million$ ad/PR campaign ever could.

I read a couple of the articles re: Queen that some commenters linked to, i.e., the book and the reporter. Both articles come across like Murdoch rag/scandal sheet stuff. Interestingly, when I looked up that reporter on Wikipedia it said that she made her name working for a Murdoch rag.

@Heteromeles:

About leaving finding a head of state/gov't to an AI:

Who's selecting the data and the desirable/undesirable endpoints that you're going to feed the AI? At a minimum, I'd want at least the variables identified in the World Happiness Report - sappy name for worthwhile substantive objectives/metrics.

@Greg Tingey:

You might like to read this sci peer-reviewed paper on 'assholes'. (Hope it gets nominated for an IgNobel.)

https://online.ucpress.edu/collabra/article/8/1/32552/120248/They-Are-Such-an-Asshole-Describing-the-Targets-of

Nice to know that we can now use this term as a scientifically defined/validated assessment of a personality type.

270:

This isn't the first such anthology

Yeah, I tend to ignore stuff like that as "true, in the eyes of the writer" because so often those comments are either sales blurbs or based on whatever the author happened to remember on the day.

I wrote to the author. Wouldn't have bothered, except that the bio said she was a professor (head of department, actually) so I figured maybe she had been more careful and an editor had butchered her piece.

Apparently science fiction is not speculative fiction in her eyes*, so science fiction anthologies don't count. Also, this is the first Australian anthology which should have been obvious to me, despite the story appearing in the Canadian edition of The Conversation.

I do hope that she brings more rigour to her academic writing…

*Silly me — I'd always assumed that science fiction was a subset of speculative fiction.

271:

So, this is clear proof that Lao Tzu lived for many hundreds of years.

272:

A coal-box was a name for a shell with a charge of TNT, from the large amount of black smoke it produced.

I knew the expression "coal-boxed" as being basically a politer version of "fucked" a very long time before I found out where it came from.

273:

So, this is clear proof that Lao Tzu lived for many hundreds of years.

That's one of at least four possibilities I can think of. One definitely needs a certain sense of humor to enjoy it. As with the Sword of the Son of Heaven, there are multiple ways to read these. So a parable about some sort of mystical sword can also be read as a rebuke to an emperor to stop getting off on blood sports, to develop a good officer corps and get back to work ruling (read the sections backwards). It might also be a mnemonic for some spiritual practice which is transmitted orally.

Taoism seems to be the original counter culture, and it's always co-existed with one of the more corrupt political systems on the planet (Imperial China). Its goal is "long life, no harm," and so it's a mix of empirical science (aka Chinese medicine), psychonautics (quest for immortality, which isn't what you think it is), and a critique of wealth and power, as part of the process of trying to let people live long and peaceful lives. This may be why Taoist masters got good at living very humbly and quietly in the most remote mountains they could find.

274:

which do you think would be a better new home for them: Vegas or Dubai?

Naw. Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

After all it has the London Bridge as a starting point.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Bridge_(Lake_Havasu_City)

275:

live long and peaceful lives. This may be why Taoist masters got good at living very humbly and quietly in the most remote mountains they could find.

I wonder if climate change will eventually produce a flow of very old hermits back out of said remote mountains? Old, cranky hermits...

276:

261 - Pitcairn Island?

265 - Better yet, at least according to OGH and myself. No monarch -> no CotG sillymony.

277:

if y'all abolish the Monarchy there won't be a "monarch residing" anywhere, so what happens to the ceremonies then?

They're also the royal family of a bunch of other countries (eg. Canada, Australia ...) it's quite possible someone will make an offer for them, if only for the tourist revenue or to provide top cover for some really nasty corruption.

278:

paws You aren't normally that daft! Look at the "guarding" ceremonies in most republics ( Like FRANCE par example, non? )

279:

Exactly why do you feel it is reasonable to scapegoat the royal family for the defects of our political system?

280:

Paws,

Let's not be silly about this: there will always be a Changing of the Guard ceremony, even if it is only notionally defending the Head of State.

Now, to answer Charlie's question about who should be that Head of State, let's consider how the decision will be reached. Barring a revolution -- which is not as far-fetched as it was a decade ago -- the decision on how the HoS will be selected will be down to the Prime Minister, or, if you prefer, Scotland's First Minister. Yes, yes, I know they'll probably set up a Committee or two, but the composition of those committees will be down to the leader, and he or she will not want any surprises.

And Rule 1 will be: "Do not set up another democratically validated power base". Thus it pretty much has to be the Prime Minister (or First Minister) appointing a President, or deciding that they are prepared to open innumerable sewage works (to use Stephen Fry's words from yesterday) in addition to their other duties. I reckon that could go either way. In England we'd have the choice of Prime Minister (+HoS) Boris Johnson tottering towards his inevitable doom, or we'd have President Liz Truss -- since she represents the most visible political opponent to be neutralised with a pretty bauble of a position.

The choice in Scotland will be between First Minister(+HoS) Nichola Sturgeon, may she go on and on, and President , where represents her most daunting political opponent. Earlier in her career, I'd have guessed she'd select Alec Salmond, but you appear to have dodged that particular bullet.

And, in case you think this is an unlikely way for things to proceed, I suggest you look into how Disraeli almost managed to persuade Lord Derby (Conservative PM) to dispatch Gladstone to the post of "Extraordinary Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands", to get him out of the way. It's a masterstroke of political chicanery, which almost worked. Though of course nothing compared to the lengths Walpole (better known as "Cock Robin") was prepared to go to.

281:

I would say, if there is no easily achievable be consensus to fix it, it will continue to wobble on like a supermarket trolley. Unless it ends up in the canal of course.

The current festivities illustrate that a large minority are monarchists when scratched, a smaller minority are indifferent, and an even smaller minority are out and out small-r republicans. Maybe not in Scotland, which is one more centrifugal impulse for the UK.

All Charles, or whatever he styles himself, has to do is not very much. He should be able to manage that.

282:

Meanwhile, I see one Scottish pol-party has outdone itself in a public display of petty spite, worthy of a 5-yr old, & stupidity, to add to their previous monumental idiocies.
ISTM that, the more environmentally-friendly & forward-looking you want to be, the further away you should stay from ANY pol-party that labels itself "green" (!)
I mean the Snot-Greens are against nuclear power & want to withdraw from NATO - how very sensible ....
{Mind you the general principle applies: In Britain: "Conservative" - conserve nothing, & only interested in continued power, whilst wrecking everything In the USA: "Republican" - whilst driving hard for an autocracy & so on & on & on ... }
P.S. Yes, I know Charlie is or was sympathetic to them.

peterajet
You are aware that Charles is of the opinion that the "Firm" should NOT receive state monies via the Civil List, but should "live of their own" - i.e. register as a Company or Corporation & pay taxes?
Thus depriving the government of a lot of money - all the complaints about the "cost of the Monarchy" being entirely bogus, of course, once you actually look at it.
And remember that a Republic would still have to pay the expenses & accommodation of whoever the appointed/elected HoS would be?
Again, look at what other states' do & their associated costs.

283:

Greg:

I am a member of the Scottish Green Party

I suggest you reconsider what you're doing here, and whether you should stop digging.

284:

I wonder whether, in light of what's happening in Ukraine, the Scottish Greens still want to withdraw from NATO?

285:

Maybe it is a basic psychological/emotional human need to have the ruler of their community, nation, kingdom, whatever be led (though not necessarily ruled) by Daddy and/or Mommy surrogates.

It's essentially no different than the alphas of a troop of chimps or baboons. Just basic primate behavior, doesn't have to be rational (something our species is not).

Even in America, having no legal Monarch (and whose president combines the ceremonial duties of Head of State and the legal duties as Ruler) we create our own royalty to meet this basic psychological need.

They're called celebrities.

286:

I suspect that's getting a rethink at the next party conference.

287:

Charlie
See what Troutwaxer has said, yes?
I sincerely hope they do change, though. So, what, in your 'umble opinion, is the likelihood of them regaining sanity is?
Oh yes, what's your take on their fanatical opposition to Nuclear Power, given Scotland's Latitude, or do they "think" that wind+tidal+batteries will be enough?

288:

The United Kingdom gets by just fine without a written Constitution. It could have a Crown without a royal family.

I'm surprised nobody has posted this idea yet: With modern technology, the royal duties could be performed by citizens who are randomly selected and receive directions through an app on their phones. It is similar to being called for jury duty. Serving as a "Legally Acceptable Royal Placeholder" and being able to show Her Virtual Highness on your screen would be an honour.

I seem to recall reading a near future science fiction Scottish police procedural with similar ideas. It came out several years ago, so the big question is why it hasn't happened already.

Some people might object that the UK will not go for this sci-fi LARP silliness. But it can also be presented as rationalization. Why spend millions to keep permanent staff on call when they can be replaced by a rack of servers and part-time gig workers?

289:

Am still recovering from COVID. Don't ask complicated questions.

290:

NATO and such:

Since far in the past, this was a blog discussing SFnal things, I wonder if NATO + EU + friends might be seen as a proto-Culture in the making.

But back to reality, alas.

291:

Years ago I read Parkinson's Law, a series of essays by Northcote C. Parkinson collected in book form. In it there was one about properly using advertising to select the ideal candidate for the job, the goal being to word the ad in such a way that only one person applies, and they are the ideal candidate. (This being an old book, it was phrased as "the best man for the job", but we can be more enlightened.)

Oddly, one of the examples was selecting the leader of a country:

Suppose that we deem the following qualities essential: energy, courage, patriotism, experience, popularity, and eloquence. We want the most energetic, courageous, patriotic, experience, popular, and eloquent person in the country. The trick is to phrase the advertisement so as to exclude everyone else, but attract our ideal leader.

Wanted — Monarch of the United Kingdom. Hours of work: 4 AM to 11:59 PM. Candidates must be prepared to fight three rounds with the current heavyweight champion (regulation gloves will be worn). Candidates will die for their country, by painless means, on reaching the age of retirement (65). They will have to pass an examination on constitutional procedures and will be liquidated should they fail to obtain 95% marks. They will also be liquidated if they fail to gain 75% votes in a popularity poll held under the Gallup Rules. They will be invited to try their eloquence on a Baptist Congress, the object being to induce those present to rock and roll. Those who fail will be liquidated. All candidates should present themselves at the Sporting Club (side entrance) at 11:15 AM on the morning of September 19. Gloves will be provided, but they should bring their own shoes, singlet, and shorts.

292:

I changed my mind about the desirability of a republic when, as someone else already wrote I realised that Margaret Thatcher would probably have been elected president. Bur if we do have a republic I don’t want a president. We should elect a Lord Protector with a purely ceremonial role. Or Lady Protector if you prefer.

293:

So a section of my street was closed off today for a street party, there having been signs up all week warning of this.

And then nothing happened.

No sign of any kind of party either happening or having happened. About one house had flags up, and not on that bit of the street. Contrast the roughly 30% incidence of St George flags when Ingerlund is doing football somewhere.

294:

Since it came up earlier, and to demonstrate quite how odious they are, Laurie Penny brings to your attention a couple of leading TERFS edging pretty damn close to eliminationist talk. The comments get pretty vile too.

295:

Charlie @ 289
😘

296:

If Colleen McCullough is to be believed, Sulla was made Dictator after that nice Marius fellow occupied Rome, the city, and slaughtered a fair number of the population. Sulla was seen as the rational alternative, which tells you how off the beam Marius was at that point.

297:

For Scotland

Wind+tidal+batteries+HYDRO can definitely be enough. Is it enough to keep sending power over the border to the South? Well that is Englands problem.

298:

How many people did Marius slaughter? I thought it was mostly a faction fight rather than targeting ordinary citizens. (And before that, Sulla had marched on Rome with his legions, which was unprecedented as well as against Roman law.)

299:

Hydroelectric generating power in Scotland is a miniscule part of the total capacity needed to keep the lights on and heat homes through winter. Despite appearances it doesn't rain THAT much in the Highlands where nearly all of the hydroelectric schemes are located and the dataplate generating total is about 1GW. Much of the time most of this capacity is not used as the operators use the dams and reservoirs to work as storage, selling electricity into the grid when the price is right. There's a complex balance of current water levels, predicted rainfall or lack of it over the next week or so and "use it or lose it" cost-price minmaxing if lots of rain is forecast going on at any given time. As I type this we're generating 240MW from hydro (from the Gridwatch real-time website). It is often zero.

In contrast Norway has over 30GW dataplate hydroelectric generating capacity plus abundant rainfall and even they burn gas on occasion to cover temporary supply deficits. Excess/surplus electricity is sold abroad (a 1.4GW undersea HVDC link between Norway and the UK means they can sell some of that hydroelectric surplus to us or use our expanding fleet of gas-fired generators to help meet any shortfalls) or the energy is converted into refined aluminium which is exported to make money.

Tidal doesn't appear to be going anywhere in Scotland. I've seen a lot of press puff-pieces about one-off experimental undersea turbines meant to harvest tidal energy and/or sea currents. What I've not seen is anyone bending metal to build large arrays of these turbines anywhere, and the press doesn't usually report when the subsidised experiment ends and (hopefully) the seabed turbine is recovered and scrapped.

The other tidal possibility is to barrage off an estuary such as the Firth of Forth or maybe the Tay estuary (the Moray Firth has also been suggested by a certain crazy person). Barrages like this do not produce that much power (apart from the Moray Firth proposal but, like I said, crazy person) and it would devastate the ecology of the barraged area. One of the best sites for a barrage tidal energy generating system on the planet is the Severn estuary and for the past century and more every attempt to start the process to build one has gone crashing down in flames due to cost, difficulty, predicted utility and again the environmental impact.

Wind and batteries, great idea and thank you for adding in the cost of storage to a renewable energy proposal (not something most renewables True Believers ever bother to do). Of course batteries don't generate any electricity themselves, they just store it and waste some in the storage/return cycle. The other issue is "how much battery storage do we need to provide five-nines electricity to consumers using mostly renewables such as wind and solar"? There's no definitive answers, really but my SWAG is 5 terawatt-hours of storage at least just for Scotland -- 6 million people, 35GW energy needed for lights, heating, clean water, transportation etc. during winter, a week-long lull with maybe 1GW of wind average and piss-all solar would be 5000 GWh of filled storage required to cover the lack of generation. Of course if the batteries aren't full when the lull starts or the lull continues for two weeks a lot of people will have to do without electricity, heating etc. in winter but them's the breaks.

The variability of wind generation is the biggest issue that means we will continue to burn shitloads of gas into the future, whatever happens (absent a shitload of nuclear power plants being built which isn't going to happen because of Godzilla movies).

300:

On topic, I lean towards "Don't fix it if it ain't broke" as reactionaries demonstrate new, exciting ways to break government. I haven't noticed anyone mentioning this film: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Ralph

301:

An idle thought, would there be a useful thermal differential between an offshore drilling platform and the sea floor below it? Given our energy future looks to be scraping up whatever we can find to keep the radiophobes happy.

302:

"Don't fix it if it ain't broke"

It's the revolutionaries pointing out the very real problems that would bother me if I wanted to monarchy to keep overriding democratic decisions in the UK. At least us filthy colonials have less of that to put up with, although it is one of the more secretive parts of a secretive government.

Cliche "if you've done nothing wrong you've got no reason to keep it secret"... except that what's been released recently has made Australians more inclined towards the French treatment of royalty. All this "one thinks the Prime Minister should be dismissed" stuff doesn't really fit with the modern understanding of a figurehead of state.

303:

You might enjoy Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition (Australian Division) appointing a nucular fanboi as spokes on engery etc. He's quotes as saying:

“Rather than being perpetually divisive, I believe nuclear technology has the capacity to unite Australians. It is a proposition that brings together progressives and conservatives within the Coalition.”

Even that makes it clear that "Australians" is a group making up both sides of the Coalition, rather than including the peasantry. That lot have a long and proud tradition of being surprised and angry when said peasantry disagrees with them (as now, BTW, they are bemoaning the traitorous stupidity of those who stole votes from them in the recent electoral loss, and especially the stupid women who allowed their votes to be stolen).

304:

[Tim H.] Re #300: Have been resisting the mention of King Ralph with gritted teeth.

[Nojay] Re: #299: Hydro's also dependent on reliable rain. California ain't getting what they used to and is predicting hydro shortfalls. No surprise there, given the record CO2 levels ever since H. sap has been around.

305:

I remembered the line I was thinking of ... "we got both kinds of music, country and western".

O'Brien caters to both kinds of Australians... Liberals and Nationals.

306:

293 - I am not aware of any "street parties" within walking distance of this address all sillybration weekend.

297 - tidal + batteries (even treating actual use of hydro as a form of battery) is at best, unproven and/or under development technologies.

300 - It's John Goodman film; accordingly, not one I've ever watched.

307:

An interesting insight on OGH's biz, 'Content Creation': “Cultural producers who, in the past, may have focused on writing books or producing films or making art must now also spend considerable time producing (or paying someone else to produce) content about themselves and their work” https://www.newyorker.com/culture/infinite-scroll/how-the-internet-turned-us-into-content-machines

308:

Well, now SOMETHING needs abolishing anyway ...
I see they are rushing the vote, so that ( I predict ) Bo Jon-Sun will win, i.e. less than 180 vote against him. It's fairly obvious that the "Out" group will not get that majority, so BJ-S will carry on, destroying everything in sight for another 12 months.
When a General Election does, finally, come along the tory party will be even more smashed than the country/countries, but the damage will have been done.
Indeed, I suspect that the deliberate wrecking & buggering-up "programme" will accelerate?

309:

I wonder if NATO + EU + friends might be seen as a proto-Culture in the making.

probably by themselves, but without oversight by the minds i doubt much will come of it

310:

Of the 15 countries that have Elizabeth as monarch, currenlty six are in the process of becoming republics:

https://www.opindia.com/2022/04/six-caribbean-countries-to-become-republics-by-leaving-british-monarchy/

Barbados set a trend. Canada, turn out the lights when you leave, please.

311:

just finished reading 'Brexit uncovered' I don't think the UK is going to survive. We're going to get Balkanized .

312:

I just hope there will be less war and genocide.

Maybe you just get United Kingdomed. Or Great Britained.

313:

Offshore oil and gas platforms[1] are very expensive to build, maintain and operate and cost lives -- just off the top of my head, the accidents involving the Alexander Kielland, Brent Alpha and Deepwater Horizon platforms killed over three hundred people. They also have quite a short life before being expensively decommissioned, twenty or thirty years. The fossil fuel they make available for us to burn in atmosphere makes them a bargain, financially speaking.

The small amount of electricity any kind of offshore thermal gradient harvesting system might produce is not going to make much of a difference to keeping the lights on. In other news the UK government has just given the Jackdaw offshore gas project the go-ahead because they do have a vested interest in keeping the lights on and fuck that "Carbon neutral by 2050" garbage.

[1]There are two types of offshore platform, a drilling/exploration rig and a production platform. There are a lot more of the latter compared to the former but "drilling" is what people think of first and foremost. The body count from accidents comes from the production platforms, mostly -- getting fossil fuel out of the ground isn't that dangerous comparatively speaking, processing it through the production platforms for decades is.

314:

andyf
I am horribly afraid you are correct.
Bo Jon-Sun should be in jail for life for TREASON
All thrown away for personal gain

315:

Nojay @ 299: Wind and batteries, great idea and thank you for adding in the cost of storage to a renewable energy proposal [...] The other issue is "how much battery storage do we need to provide five-nines electricity to consumers using mostly renewables such as wind and solar"?

I read one article (which I can't now find, darn it) which estimated the cost of 99.9% renewable power as being the kind of silly numbers you mention, but going for 95% plus some gas generator plants kept on standby for the remaining 5% was quite sane. And eliminating something like 90% of our remaining electrical CO2 is a worthwhile goal.

So its a question of not letting the best become the enemy of the merely good.

316:

Kardashev @ 290: I wonder if NATO + EU + friends might be seen as a proto-Culture in the making.

That, roughly, is a one-sentence summary of the thesis of Francis Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man. Briefly, after the end of the Cold War Fukuyama suggested that liberal democracy had triumphed, and henceforth nobody would even bother trying to suggest an alternative, since all the other available alternatives (viz, Communism and Fascism) had so manifestly failed.

I recall a cartoon in The Economist a few years later which featured The End of History (Updated Edition).

317:

So its a question of not letting the best become the enemy of the merely good.

Sort of like those assumptions that grid storage via batteries needs to be Li-ion. They don't need to be mobile or be carried in a pocket so other battery tech that's 20% bigger by volume, isn't as efficient at re-charge, but costs 50% as much as Li-ion makes more sense. Especially if it can handle the heat and cold of much of the planets seasons.

318:

How much dataplate wind generating capacity is needed for 95% supply of the MAXIMUM demand for energy, with electricity replacing heating, transport and other fossil fuel energy demands? For Scotland alone I put that demand in mid-winter at about 35GW, less in summer but we absolutely need that 35GW of supply to meet heating and other essential needs otherwise people will suffer and die.

On average wind produces about 30% of dataplate over a year so ON AVERAGE we'd need 120GW minimum dataplate of wind turbines for Scotland's energy supply. It would be good to double that number to cope with wind lulls when we're only getting 15% of dataplate, so over twenty thousand 10MW wind turbines, pretty much the biggest currently being built today, are needed for Scotland's future electricity requirements. The entire UK has maybe five hundred such wind turbines installed today, ten years after renewables became the Big Thing in energy as far as the general population believes. In reality we're getting most of our electricity from gas with a solid lump of nuclear (about 5-6GW) but that nuclear capacity is ageing out and going away in the next five or six years and it's a race to get the two EPR reactors at Hinckley Point up and running before the last AGR is decommissioned. In reality we're not building enough wind turbines to replace even that lost nuclear capacity and the older wind turbines are ageing and will need replacing soon, beginning a Red Queen's Race of building several new wind turbines every week to keep up.

Gas is cheap and it delivers electricity when we need it. Wind is cheap but it's fickle and stops delivering electricity even if we do need it. Gas it is then, with lots of MinTruth pictures in the press of wind turbines and no mention of those anonymous grey buildings with a pipeline gas connection and a transformer yard outside connected to the grid which actually keep the lights on.

As I type this, Gridwatch reports, for the UK -- 33.5GW demand, wind 4GW (ca. 9% of installed wind capacity), CCGT gas 15GW (ca. 40% of CCGT capacity), nuclear 6GW with 2.3GW of feel-good wood pellets and some imports and solar making up the difference. Double the wind turbine fleet to 70GW capacity and that would only displace 4GW of gas today, when it's not particularly cold or dark. A few days ago our 35GW fleet of wind turbines was generating less than 1GW and it's not the first time this year that's happened.

319:

Nojay
It therefore HAS TO BVE NUCLEAR ... How does one deal with the specious shrieks from the fake greenies, who would rather we all died, then?

320:

260: "Since far in the past, this was a blog discussing SFnal things, I wonder if NATO + EU + friends might be seen as a proto-Culture in the making."

More accurately this is the blog of an SF writer who occasionally fires a starting gun on a particular topic. The rest of us will usually gamely engage the topic for a period of time before the discussion inevitably devolves into one of the following: 'Bike helmets/No helmets', 'Renewable energy doesn't work/does work', 'Heat pumps/no heat pumps', 'Nuclear/no nuclear', 'Do guns protect you from bears' and occasionally military capacity of various pieces of tech.

All very fascinating, I see that we are only just past 300 and rapidly spiraling into the renewable energy ouroboros discussion again. To sum up - some people think renewables are a good idea, others think they are not. Occasionally a fragment of evidence is brought in, which is either suspect or compelling depending on one's cognitive biases. And whatever solutions might be presented to global problems, they cannot and will not work because they might not apply to highly specific situations in regions of the UK.

321:

For Scotland alone I put that demand in mid-winter at about 35GW, less in summer but we absolutely need that 35GW of supply to meet heating and other essential needs otherwise people will suffer and die.

Suffer? Yes. Die? Unlikely. People have lived in Scotland without electricity, gas, and oil for thousands of years. Living without heat in the winter is quite possible, and sacrificing some comfort to save civilization (and possibly our species) seems reasonable.

Personally, I have lived without any heating or air conditioning for over 15 years now (max high in my apartment 100° F., max low 40° F.). Uncomfortable at times? Yes. But close to dying? No.

322:

Perhaps it appears the monarchy itself has resolved the question of dissolution and substitution for this archaic English (as, others that might be involved say, Ireland, Wales and Scotland, may have other thoughts on the ancient status of the English monarchy) institution.

God Save Our Hologram!

As was done yesterday, or was it Saturday, just drag out ye olde golde coach and project the hologram on the ceremonial and ritual occasions that traditionally call for a royal presence. The same can certainly be done seamlessly for opening of Parliament, and so on, surely?

323:

In other "government" news from around the world ...

Vladimir Putin’s Red Mercury Scam

Guess who gets a shout out in the comments.

324:

This or the Dr Who cloning program used on Spaceship UK seems a viable solution. Our more reactionary politicians, I’m looking at you JRM could be swayed by not only a permaqueen but also perpetually about teatime in 1954 in the UK. Which is where it appears he and some others want to exist. The rest of us can do our own thing in a selection of new nations.

325:

David L @ 317:

So its a question of not letting the best become the enemy of the merely good.

Sort of like those assumptions that grid storage via batteries needs to be Li-ion. They don't need to be mobile or be carried in a pocket so other battery tech that's 20% bigger by volume, isn't as efficient at re-charge, but costs 50% as much as Li-ion makes more sense. Especially if it can handle the heat and cold of much of the planets seasons.

This segment aired on the NPR program Science Friday last Friday (03 Jun 2022)

Building A Better Battery… Using Plastic?

326:

Start by creating a world-wide power grid, making it possible to send excess capacity anywhere. Build lots of batteries. Build lots of solar/wind in the appropriate areas. Work on geothermal. Close the coal plants... and so on. There's a ton of stuff which can be done, but someone's going to have to supply the leadership.

While nuclear has some advantages, it has four major disadvantages; expense, long lead times for building, waste disposal and the potential for catastrophic breakdowns. On the other hand, if you have a worldwide grid, solar is fast and cheap and the wind is always blowing someplace.

THIS IS NOT FUCKING ROCKET SCIENCE!! It is doable immediately - if enough people pull their heads out.

327:

No it is not doable now. Unless you remove most of the human population. Most people will not come close to cooperating in such a setup. Much less the political leadership. Tribalism rules from top to bottom. And any plan that doesn't deal with this issue is just talk around the pub table.

Charlie has talked about humans not being perfect spherical clones of each other at various times. This plays into your solution now.

328:

Greg Tingey @ 319:

We're all going to die anyway. The question is whether any "technology" causes it to occur sooner than it has to. Three score and ten. Everything else is a bonus.

And THAT often depends on how people implement and handle that "technology". No technology is safe unless the people implementing that technology have an ongoing commitment to keeping it safe.

That applies to nuclear as much as it does to fossil fuels and "alternative" energy ... I don't believe concern over the safety of nuclear power makes anyone a "fake greenie".

329:

I feel the need to rant here. There are lots of possible solutions to global warming. Nuclear has some advantages, so do solar, wind, geothermal, etc. All these technologies also have disadvantages. However, the big problem is not nuclear vs. solar, or whatever matchup the fanbois might propose. The problem is the removal of heads from arses, nothing more or less.

So before you make the weighty pronouncement that your favorite technology is the way to go, understand this: Nothing will happen until the great butt/head removal has taken place. (Once that happens things will move very quickly.) The problem does not require a particular technology. The problem requires the use of crowbars (and maybe a little lube) on our politicians, for the specific purpose of disconnecting brains from lower intestines.

The problem is not "Greens being opposed to nuclear," (or vice-versa) but all the Democrats and Republicans, or Tories and Liberals, who keep their heads in their assholes on behalf of big oil and/or big coal.

Assuming the removal of heads from rectums, there will be some kind of cost/benefit/speed analysis done, and it will tell us pretty clearly that nuclear will take too long, or solar won't work, or wind is unreliable, or whatever, and we should do X instead. If you like living on a planet which supports life, you will do a little math to make sure the proposed solution makes sense, then you'll figure out the best way you can contribute to X, and you'll work it until your heart breaks for the rest of your life, and if you've very lucky your children won't starve to death!

So shut the fuck up about your favorite solutions and work out how to pull the local potentate's head out of his/her fundament, because very little useful progress will be made until we have leadership.

330:

rocketjps
What about those of us who think "renewables" are a brilliant idea, we need as much of them as we can get ... but ... they will not be enough on their own? { As backed-up by the numbers, may I say }
So we still need back-up/base-load power?

331:

Completely OT, and probably meaningless for most here, but the 50th Anniversary of Watergate begins Friday a week from now (17 June 2022).

I expect many comparisons with how Nixon ultimately recognized that being the President DID NOT put him above the law and our ongoing experience with CHEATO-lini iL Douchebag

Have we learned the lessons of Watergate?

Or perhaps, what lessons did some people learn from Watergate?

332:
'Nuclear/no nuclear', 'Do guns protect you from bears'

I'm still waiting for the "can you train bears to operate nuclear power plants" discussion to kick off.

Obviously, grizzly (brown) bears would be a superior option. Their large size and peaceful disposition would make them ideal candidates for the job.

333:

Wishful thinking, to the point of bloody idiocy. A hell of a lot of 'liberal democracies' are neither liberal nor democratic, largely because the bigots and oligarchs have learnt how to game the system ('representative democracy').

While you COULD make a case for the EU being a sort of rudimentary Culture, doing so for NATO is nonsense, at best. Consider Turkey - why does it get such kid glove treatment on its undemocracy and illiberalism? Because 'they' don't want it to leave NATO and risk opening up NATO's eastern flank to the enemy.

334:

Gee, and here I thought Harlan and several others invented "speculative fiction" to try to get out of the sf ghetto (which lit-fic types consign us, because "science is hard", and "can't we write stuff from the 1920's?"

One also wonders what how this dean defines the word "speculative".

335:

What, he can't time travel?

336:

Won't work. The people writing the ad will write if for someone they already have in house and want. Back around '04 or '05, I applied for a job that literally looked like it was written for me. Didn't get it.

337:

Insert my usual "Biggest Battery Breakthrough Since Breakfast" tagline here. At least the NPR tease didn't mention carbon nanotubes or graphene.

Sigh. It's not the batteries, it's not the nuclear, it's not the wind and solar and wood-pellets and hamsters on wheels, it's ENERGY. Human beings suffer and die if there isn't enough energy, if it's too hot or too cold or there's no clean water or no food transport to urban areas, no hospitals and drug manufacturing, no agricultural production etc. Without copious amounts of energy a small fraction of the 7.5 billion people alive today could survive digging at the ground with pointed sticks to grow food and maybe sacrificing the occasional virgin where there's a drought. And that's it.

We've given up on coal, mostly (Green Germany hasn't, neither has the US or China but the countries that dug up all their allotted amounts of coal already and burned it, like Britain, have done so). The new go-to energy source is gas which can be turned into electricity to be used to drive motors, compress gas to cool and heat, operate lifts and escalators for those with mobility problems, be chemically converted into fertiliser etc. It all ends up as CO2 in the atmosphere eventually and that's a bad thing.

Wind and solar work as energy sources but they can't outcompete an 800MW fast-start CCGT plant for cost, reliability and dependability, and they require immense amounts of hardware per GW of intermittent generating capacity. Hydro is geologically limited to the Good Places, geothermal is even more limited to quite specific underground conditions. Nuclear is very expensive to build to super-safe requirements that no other energy source is held to and it's always too late to start building nuclear because it takes too long to complete. It's likely that folks will be saying the same thing twenty years from now in the next energy crisis because we didn't start building lots of reactors today because, of course, it takes too long to build...

338:

One of my daughters, one who's had one short published so far, has 10k followers, I think, and does blog, vlog, and tik-tok, I think, to try to get attention so that she can get published. https://morganhazlewood.com Among other things, she'll do con reports (and she's started being on panels).

339:

Speaking of nuclear, CNBC, which tends CAPITALIST first, and white wing second, had an article pushing fast nukes. It even mentioned that it generates plutonium... and not once did it mention why it was not looked upon kindly by nuclear powers.

340:

work out how to pull the local potentate's head out of his/her fundament,

You keep making the problem one of leaders. It's not. The problem is that entire people groups don't want to work with others. Or think that the "others" might get ahead of them. Some on the other side of the globe. Others across the street. As long as we have tribes working this way nothing will change. The leadership just reflects (exploits?) this situation.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pogo_(comic_strip)#%22We_have_met_the_enemy_and_he_is_us.%22

341:

"Obviously, grizzly (brown) bears would be a superior option. Their large size and peaceful disposition would make them ideal candidates for the job."

I'd favour a carefully modified supercolony of ants to run a power plant. Tireless workers, endlessly diligent. Able to lift and move large multiples of their own bodyweight, and also willing to sacrifice individuals on a regular basis for the good of the colony. There is a strong argument for ant colonies as distributed intelligence forms.

A small science fictional hazard that constant exposure to radiation might make them mutate into a too intelligent version that then kills or enslaves us all.!

! - There are, astoundingly, ant colonies that practice slavery of other ant species in the wild. They raid and capture ants from other colonies and force them to work in their own, or sometimes invade other species colonies and take them over.

!! - Ants are amazing. There are also species that practice permaculture, in that they kill all the plants in an area that don't feed them, and sustain those that do.

342:

"It's not the batteries, it's not the nuclear, it's not the wind and solar and wood-pellets and hamsters on wheels, it's ENERGY."

Yes, but it's also the POWER. True, E = &int P dt, but there's important detail hidden in that.

If you use the demand and wind + solar power statistics available at Gridwatch for the UK and ERCOT for Texas and scale the W+S number up to meet, say, the yearly energy demand, in both cases the power still drops way below demand for days at a time, like a week or more a couple of times a year. Telling the populace to suck it up and live with it might not be a strategy that would appeal to politicians.

343:

I'm sorry, but ERCOT in TX has been telling the populace to suck it up for years.

344:

With regard to leadership... READ A BLOODY DICTIONARY!

345:

"I'm sorry, but ERCOT in TX has been telling the populace to suck it up for years."

No, it's just been pretending that everything was going po-normal'nu. The events of February 2021 may or may not have changed that.

346:

Johnson wins the confidence motion 216-148. Those are pretty terrible numbers. If the byelections go as badly as they should, I don't think the 12 month procedural rule will save his worthless skin.

347:

If you knock the 148 rebels off his parliamentary majority, it means he's running a minority government. He certainly can't afford to withdraw the party whip from them.

So he's now a lame duck, but one who can't be levered out of office directly before June 2023, by which time everything is likely to be on fire, sinking, and waving its legs in the air.

348:

Apparently I hadn't commented in so long I had to make a new account.

In any case, the final option (no head of state) is very close to the way Japan currently works.

https://japan.kantei.go.jp/constitution_and_government_of_japan/constitution_e.html

Yes, Japan has an "emperor" but the current constitution does not give him any powers whatsoever and he is emphatically NOT the head of state. In fact, there is no head of state!

While the emperor does have a ritualistic role in some government proceedings, such as appointing the PM, he has absolutely no discretion and arguably no personal freedom of any kind, because he is not legally a citizen and his actions are massively constrained by the Constitution. In fact, the emperor has so little freedom that when the previous one wanted to abdicate there was no consensus that he had any inherent right to do so, and parliament passed a bill giving him permission to do so!

While the emperor, as "the symbol of the State and of the unity of the People" does engage in some of the same tasks as a proper Head of State, he really is just the ultimate version of a cosplay dynasty: all pomp and no power.

349:

Quiz of the day: is Bloody Stupid Johnson a character in discworld or the current PM of the UK?

None of the pundits think he will survive until 2023 as leader, but he has confounded them before. He may resign under pressure, but it is possible it would take a vote of no confidence (in the government) or assassination to dislodge him before June 2023. I have given up trying to guess what he will do next.

350:

... ERCOT in TX has been telling the populace to suck it up for years.

Over 130 Texans did suck it up and die in the winter of 2021, thanks to ERCOT. :-(

351:

It therefore HAS TO BVE NUCLEAR

So, Greg, what are you doing to make this happen?

Going on about it in a random writers blog comments hasn't worked. I suggest you need to get out there and do a whole lot more than that if you're going to get any nuclear electricity happening.

To me that's the key difference: I think solar and wind are the way to go, so I have solar on my roof, I pay for solar/wind electricity from my supplier, and I invest some of my money in community wind and solar projects. I also put time into the political side.

As far as I can tell your approach is indistinguishable from someone who wants to keep burning fossil fuels. Nothing you actually do is different in any way from that "fossil Greg".

352:

Most people will not come close to cooperating in such a setup. Much less the political leadership.

The idea of a world government imposing this colonial dream by force is nonsense, I agree with you there. But we seem to have a whole lot of global infrastructure despite the impossibility of a unified global government.

So there's solid evidence that you're wrong, in the form of electrical interconnectors between countries. There's ~700MW across the straits of Gibraltar, for example, with more under construction even as you say it's impossible. If you search for "electrical interconnector" or similar you'll find all sorts of existing, under construction and planned projects.

https://www.in.gr/2022/06/06/english-edition/electric-interconnection-greece-israel-egypt-charging-ahead/

On the other side the cable from Oz to Singapore seems to be under construction, and that's going to be three impossible things before breakfast - many GW of solar, several GWh of battery, and a 3000km cable.

353:

Meanwhile nuclear means very expensive electricity in a world where wholesale prices keep dropping. The regulator in Australia is apparently telling generators to get ready for zero prices to become a regular thing and they should plan accordingly.

The "problem" is that the marginal cost of generation for solar and wind is indistinguishable from zero, so they have no incentive to stop generating just because the wholesale price is zero. In practice they balance the cost of turning off against the risk of the price going negative.

One solution being proposed is to make electricity free to battery owners, and encourage them to feed the grid during peak times. There's moves in that direction already with the "Red Energy EV Saver Plan".

But I'm sure that the UK will be happy to keep paying 1000 pounds per MWh if that's what it takes to keep the lights on. And your government will happily regulate to prevent renewable electricity suppliers from competing to supply electricity at that price.

354:

Nojay @ 337:

What I got from that program segment is that Wind & Solar are not constant, that battery storage is an essential component of any wind/solar system because storage makes it possible to store the energy when it's created and use the energy later when it's needed. They're not claiming it's the "Biggest Battery Breakthrough Since Breakfast", nor are they claiming it's a panacea solution ...

What they are claiming is to have developed a commercially viable product that does NOT have some of the draw-backs of Li-Ion or Lead-acid batteries. It's already on the market and they're ready to start scaling up.

Maybe not perfect, but good enough.

We're going to need solar, wind, hydro, tidal ... AND nuclear - all the other alternatives - if we're going to reduce the use of fossil fuels to the point where we can begin to get CO2 emissions under control.

If we don't get CO2 under control, we're - as Greg points out - ALL GONNA' DIE! [sooner rather than later].

And batteries for storage are going to be a component of all of those alternative energy systems. If the company can produce something that works and doesn't have some of the drawbacks of Li-Ion technology, I like it.

It may not be THE solution, but it appears to me to be A solution, one of the many solutions we're going to need.

355:

David L @ 340:

"We is surrounded by a vast sea of insurmountable opportunities!"

356:

Colonial world government... yup. That's why, in my universe, we get a Terran Confederation (and how it comes about is in the novel I'm currently trying to find an agent for). As folks here have noted, the EU isn't a confederation, but was moving that way. I can't see what, over 200 countries giving up control to a world-wide federal government, which is why I made it a confederation.

Even though, as time goes by (scores of years), it really does become a federation.

357:

The idea of a world government imposing this colonial dream by force is nonsense, I agree with you there. But we seem to have a whole lot of global infrastructure despite the impossibility of a unified global government.

I agree with both halves of this statement. But my point is about infrastructure like that to delivery oil and gas to Europe from Russia. Would it change the current situation if Russia was delivering electrons instead of oil and gas? And before you say it, yes, all of those countries in Europe could multi source their electrons. But that costs big bucks. And governments, leaders, populations are almost loath to spend money on WASTEFUL (snark emphasis here) redundant supply lines.

Until they need it.

358:

Uncle Stinky
Agree wholeheartedly ...

See below:
Who will land in Torbay to relieve us of this Catholic monstrosity?
1688 reference, for those of you who don't get it!
James II & VII lasted 3+ years & wrecked the country ... Boris?

  • Charlie:
    NOT LONG TO WAIT ... two bye-elections at the end of this month - most particulalry if they both crash, then it's FUN TIME!

EC:
YES - to B.S Johsnon as in Bo Jon-Sun (!)

Moz
HOW MANY TIMES - what's your Latitude? What's ours?
- { However - agree about our blatantly-rigged "market" }

359:

Greg, I'm not saying my solution works for you, I'm asking what you are doing to solve your problem.

We've established at some length that you are brilliant at whining, awesome at picking holes in other people's ideas, and ... that seems to be it for you. Nothing can be done, nothing will be done, you and yours are all going to die a cold pathetic death. Sucks to be you.

360:

Well, there's a uranium ore deposit a few miles down the road from me. It's a pretty crappy one but I could, I suppose, go and dig several tons of it up and extract the goodness from it - tedious but not particularly difficult. The same description applies to processing a huge amount of water to get the deuterium oxide out. I could then dig a hole in my back garden and down at the bottom of it construct a natural-uranium/heavy-water reactor, which for reasons of constructional practicality would operate below 100°C and have enough fuel load to put out several kW at least until I could expect to be dead. This would comfortably cover my domestic heating needs even in the direst of winters, and also enable me to generate (albeit at ruinously low efficiency, but it wouldn't matter) enough electricity to run lights and computer and charge a battery to handle those occasional short-term heavy loads like welding.

Unfortunately it would take long enough to set up that some bastard would probably realise what I was doing and send lots of people with uniforms and possibly even guns to fuck on me.

If I did it as a community project and made one big enough to heat the whole street, it would be a lot quicker, since some people have access to things like trucks and diggers, most people can put forth ten seconds of extreme effort without needing ten minutes to get their breath back afterwards, and some people are very large. But it would also mean that the bastard mentioned in the previous paragraph would find out a lot quicker, and indeed might turn out to be one of the people I was aiming to help.

As for Greg, he doesn't even have the advantage of a handy local ore deposit. So it's even less practical for him.

361:

Would it change the current situation if Russia was delivering electrons instead of oil and gas?

No, it would probably be worse because it's harder to manage demand on an electricity grid. With gas and oil they can just turn off random bits of the system and all that happens is people whine about queues. Browning or blacking out grid segments can be done, but not easily on a very fine grain. That's one reason smart grids are popular with geeky types, BTW.

But it would be even more stupid to build all new EU electricity generation in Russia than to rely on fossil fuels from Russia. At least with the latter you can argue that it's hard to move gas fields and difficult to build new ones.

It would be like the US deciding that it would be cheaper to build all your new nuclear and solar generation in Mexico. Sure, you can easily build transmission lines to move 50GW or whatever from Mexico to the US. But next time Trump is elected he will cut those cables, and then you'll be fucked. So maybe don't do that?

In reality EU is more likely to find an African country or five that they can deal with and build solar plants there, while building wind and solar in Europe as well. Probably more nuclear, but that's way more complicated politically than fixing French relations with their former colonies. Then 90% of the problem becomes shipping electricity around within Europe... and that's mostly just scaling up the existing systems for doing that, rather than anything completely new.

One advantage of renewables, and we keep saying this, is that they scale easily. It's possible for me to put up solar panels and sell power to my neighbour. That's also true if "me" is a company, a county, a province, state, territory, country or political bloc. Hence the Forrest thing of putting up some solar panels and selling power to Singapore.

But that also means that you don't have to come up with a big plan, find a big pile of money, then spend a big amount of time to find out whether what you want can be done at all. The "minimum viable product" might be bigger than I can personally afford, but it's not of the same order as a civilian nuclear plant. There's probably fewer than 100 individuals who can afford a nuke plant, but billions who can afford a solar one.

Hence my comment before about several cables across the strait of Gibraltar that between them carry less than a GW. You really can buy a small, comparatively cheap cable and just see if the idea is viable. Then buy some bigger ones to put next to it as you scale up. Everything else is even easier - you can scale solar farms based more on the labour cost of calling someone out than the minimum possible solar generating unit. Ditto storage. If you were really intent you could literally add 500W to a 10MW solar farm, or one module (probably ~5kWh) to a 10MWh battery.

362:

Pigeon, that really sucks. Maybe nuclear isn't the answer after all.

Or maybe, and I know this is hard, you and Greg and some others could get together and make some kind of collective effort. You could call it the UK Soviet Citizen's Nuclear Power Co-Operative or something, and raise a bunch of money, push a bunch of politicians, maybe even form a subsidiary political party or something, then as a group build a power plant or persuade your government to build one for you. If the alternative is, as so many people insist, freezing in the dark, surely that's worth doing?

363:

As a mild distraction from all the usual circular arguments about power, Eric Serra tells the secrets of the diva song in The Fifth Element. Short but quite cool.

364:

Difference in perspective, I think. Your country is handily self-sufficient in energy (I assume, since with all that sunlight and uranium and coal it bloody well ought to be), so it's entirely up to yourselves whether the air-conditioners stay on or not. Our country on the other hand gets craploads of gas from Russia, and for some reason or other everyone's bills are doubling and the government is freaking out (giving 400 quid to every household to distract people from twigging that it's the half-arsed solutions engendered by their obsession with privatisation that allowed the situation to arise in the first place, and try and buy themselves some popularity instead). So you have no reason to worry about what happens if some other bugger decides to turn our lights off, whereas we have an urgent and current concern with the prospect.

In the past we have addressed similar concerns by means of guns-and-weaselry-based political fuckery with the countries where the oil wells are. I for one count the consequences of that procedure as a very obvious reason for getting off fossil fuels that has been both obvious and unarguable for a lot longer than the less obvious and more arguable climate-based reasons have.

But the nearest good sites for massive solar farms on the end of a very long wire are in the same countries, or in those next door, so even if we don't do the same thing again we still have to deal with them expecting us to. And the concern is more urgent, since with suppliers of stuff we can generate electricity from there is at least some inherent buffering, whereas with suppliers of actual electricity we get the hit the instant they flick the switch. So that method of getting off fossil fuels involves perpetuating imperialism and wars and causes of war, instead of reducing them. This makes it a bad idea to begin with, and also makes it a more dubious means of ensuring energy supply than things like nuclear plants backing indigenous resources.

365:

It's an interesting example of two (sets of) people with partly-overlapping but mostly distinct fields of expertise relevant to a common aim having distorted and insufficient ideas of what the other can actually do, quite symmetrically. But it's perhaps not much of a distraction, since my immediate thought is to wonder what would have happened if Inva Mula and Eric Senna had tried to fix it up by arguing on Charlie's blog.

366:

I once tried to create an entry for http://nuclearpoweryesplease.org/about.html on wikipedia, to try and even up the heavy "anti" bias in their coverage of matters of nuclear power. It lasted a few days before some bunch of more senior wikipedia wankers decided the subject was "not important enough to be worth mentioning" and deleted it, ignoring my efforts to cite their supposed policy of covering both sides of an argument.

Political activism is one of those innumerable things that are widely considered to be equally possible for all when in fact they require their own specific talents and abilities just as much as things not so considered do. In particular, from my point of view, it is an intensely social activity, whereas I am pretty intensely not social and more likely to be unusually bad at it...

367:

So Hactar designed the Ultimate Weapon.

368:

Re: 'There's probably fewer than 100 individuals who can afford a nuke plant, but billions who can afford a solar one.'

Agree.

A lot of arguments against smaller steps re: energy esp. steps that can be taken by individuals, small and large businesses, etc. make me wonder if anyone in the past tried to apply this same logic to internal combustion engines sometime after railroads became a thing:

'Nah - this ain't ever gonna work for getting people to and from work/church/wherever cuz you'd have to build a super humongous car to fit everyone inside. It'd take centuries to build!'

And then we got all sorts of varieties of vehicles, i.e., semi's, trucks, vans, RVs, sedans, motorbikes, etc.

Ditto for eateries - high priced sit-down, cafe, fast food, deli, pizza home delivery, etc. And everyone I know also has at least one food prep area in their house/apartment. (Saw a '40's movie set in NYC where the script suggested that centralized super-sized cafeterias were the way of the future: everybody would eat all their meals that way - one centralized food service. Nope!)

This ties in with Greg's 'contrariness' about some of the suggestions -- it's a reminder of a valid point and recurring issue: people are likely to continue to want to do their own thing in their own way. To me, this means we need a variety of options not just in energy source but also in scale. And we need to present these options (via mass media esp. films and TV) as already being used in the real world by 'folks like me' - across all age and socioeconomic demographics. The key reason for using these particular media is that they're the easiest and best way to show these options as part of an everyday 'real people, real life' background - you need to build familiarity, knowledge, interest, want! (The sci-tech is important but that's not what's going to sell this.)

Change of topic - back to the Queen:

I watched a couple of Jubilee-related videos on YT mostly to catch some of the entertainment. Really liked the intro with the Queen and Paddy and their musical segue to one of my favorite bands. Good sense of humor. Wonder who decided which artists to invite.

Charlie mentioned that the Queen has a lot of knowledge that probably won't be passed on when she shuffles off her mortal coil and during the celebrations I've been wondering why she hasn't been awarded an honorary doctorate. (Damned, she's probably got sufficient knowledge and mastery of certain parts of English history to have earned a real doctorate. And one doc I saw years ago mentioned that she's always kept good records for history's sake so she's got plenty of data on hand that can be summarized into a dissertation. Yeah, I know she didn't go to college - private tutors only - so she doesn't have any official degrees to leverage toward a PhD.)

369:

the discussion inevitably devolves into one of the following

You omitted arguing about the identity of the One True Programming Language… ;-)

370:

Personally, I have lived without any heating or air conditioning for over 15 years now (max high in my apartment 100° F., max low 40° F.).

In Scotland?

Here in Ontario, I have a friend who stayed in his house during the ice storm for a week without power. Inside temperature was below freezing (about -10, I think) so he left a couple of times during the day to wash/eat somewhere warm before returning to keep an eye on things. It was not a fun week, and he had access to heated spaces. Long-term it might well have killed him (he's in his 70s).

I lived without air conditioning for a couple of decades, and it didn't kill me. Now, I'm much more vulnerable to excessive heat (or cold) especially when I'm ill.

Suffer? Yes. Die? Unlikely.

Die? Quite possibly if they are vulnerable. The average healthy adult will be uncomfortable, the elderly and sick will experience increased mortality.

It may well be a sacrifice worth making, but as one of the potential sacrificees I'd like to know that what I'm doing is helping my grandniece survive, rather than helping a crypto-bro get rich 'mining' bitcoin or Bezos et al buy more yachts. Or even help suburban commuters drive their SUVs 3 hours a day…

371:

Yup. Exactly the scene I was thinking of.

372:

what lessons did some people learn from Watergate?

Don't record conversations. In fact, don't have records.

(And if you do have records, tear them up and flush them down the toilet.)

373:

I'm still waiting for the "can you train bears to operate nuclear power plants" discussion to kick off.

Obviously, grizzly (brown) bears would be a superior option. Their large size and peaceful disposition would make them ideal candidates for the job.

More to the point, anti-nuke protesters will be less likely to hassle ursine power plant operators — just as PETA-type are much less likely to throw paint on leather-clad bikers than they are on elderly fur-wearing women.

374:

Thinking about batteries and storage sites... we have actually got quite a few good sites for that sort of thing already - defunct coal power stations. The sites are huge, so the volume you could enclose in battery sheds that cover the whole site except the inverter hall and switchyard is massive. Only a tiny fraction of that volume was occupied by the few days/weeks buffer of coal the plants used to keep, so you're more than compensated for the lower energy storage density of batteries.

I agree about the obsession with making such facilities using either lithium batteries or some fabulous new technology that doesn't exist yet. It latches on to properties which are important for portable devices and insists on thinking those features are necessary for functions with quite an opposite set of requirements. Weight doesn't matter because the thing is static. Efficiency doesn't matter as long as it's not too awful, because all you have to do is build more solar panels or windmills or whatever to feed it. Storage density doesn't matter as long as it's not too awful, because you're basically replicating the storage capability of sites that used to put aside a tiny part of the available volume for high-density storage whereas now you've got the whole of that volume available to compensate for a lower density. Rapid charging capability doesn't matter because the maximum possible rate of charge you'll have to cope with is still only small compared to the total capacity.

What does matter is that because you do need a huge volume of batteries no matter what you make them out of, you need to be able to make them out of things which are common as muck. And we know quite a few ways to do that already.

The other obsession we need to get rid of is of course the idea that anything built needs to be optimised for making money with electricity supply taking second place. Accountants who whine and moan about building lots and lots of things which hardly ever run at more than a small fraction of their potential capacity are essentially fossil fuel advocates in terms of results.

375:

You omitted arguing about the identity of the One True Programming Language… ;-)

I'd be happy to discuss Smalltalk, Robert... :-)

376:

"'Nah - this ain't ever gonna work for getting people to and from work/church/wherever cuz you'd have to build a super humongous car to fit everyone inside. It'd take centuries to build!'"

Hehe... thing is railways are basically a means of concentrating road vehicles so as to make better use of them. Instead of having separate carts with one ordinary-sized horse each you can tie a load of them together and have a great big horse to pull them all at once. This gets around the problem that an ordinary-sized horse is a bit crap and also a pain in the arse to look after. Only once someone manages to breed a titchy little horse that is as good as a great big one and needs no more looking after than feeding it a bit of petrol now and then, the balance of what makes different things easier is changed back again.

"Ditto for eateries - high priced sit-down, cafe, fast food, deli, pizza home delivery, etc. And everyone I know also has at least one food prep area in their house/apartment."

I've got half an idea that in China a lot of people actually haven't. Instead there are loads of people cooking stuff at stalls in the street and people buy all their eats from them.

"(Saw a '40's movie set in NYC where the script suggested that centralized super-sized cafeterias were the way of the future: everybody would eat all their meals that way - one centralized food service. Nope!)"

I reckon they pinched that idea off the Germans. Did they also include having the meals delivered from the central cookhouse via a network of pneumatic tubes?

377:

"Personally, I have lived without any heating or air conditioning for over 15 years now (max high in my apartment 100° F., max low 40° F.)."

In Scotland?

In Portland, Oregon. Admittedly a milder winter climate than Scotland and even most of England. But I doubt either country has managed the 116° F we had here in the summer of 2021 - nor would they want to...

378:

(And if you do have records, tear them up and flush them down the toilet.)

IQ45 managed the "tear them up" part, but he forgot the rest of your advice. I understand Scotch Tape did well during his administration... :-)

379:

I'm trying to stay out of this because I'm totally sick of it, but Moz said: No, it would probably be worse because it's harder to manage demand on an electricity grid. With gas and oil they can just turn off random bits of the system and all that happens is people whine about queues. Browning or blacking out grid segments can be done, but not easily on a very fine grain.

That statement is wrong on so many levels it's almost impossible to parse out.

It's not only easy to manage a network to deal with sudden loss of supply, networks manage them all the time. You've lived through gigantic cluster fucks of multiple things going wrong all at once many many times and you were completely unaware of them.

Turning off bits of the system is the last resort and we haven't had to do that for decades. However it can be done, done quickly and done at a granularity that keeps hospitals going while the suburb they're embedded in loses supply. Things like aluminium smelters (Tomago smelter uses 10% of all the electricity in NSW) can be asked to shut down, and if they refuse they can be switched off. My water heater gets switched on and off every night. In Victoria switching can be done remotely to the granularity of individual consumers. Switching gets done at the level of individual consumers, street, and suburb every day for maintenance and repair for periods of minutes to weeks absolutely routinely.

If Russia was supplying electrons in the same proportion as they currently supply gas and they shut it off with no warning you wouldn't know. Unless you had the right website open and we're hitting refresh you'd have no idea it had happened. That doesn't mean that their supply wouldn't be useful. Losing that much without warning would mean the spot price would go up and you might even get to a state of lack of reserve if some more generators failed, which would mean questions would be asked and reports written and people would need to explain things, but you still wouldn't be switching off customers.

380:

"The other obsession we need to get rid of is of course the idea that anything built needs to be optimised for making money with electricity supply taking second place. "

COMMUNIST!!!!

But seriously, this is the notion that ensures that privatisation and the "free" market hardly ever work as well as claimed, for the purposes claimed. If you want to suggest that maybe the real purposes are something different, like enriching the already wealthy at the expense of the rest of us, I won't argue.

JHomes.

381:

RE: The Bojo's competency hearing in Parliament.

I'm guessing that reports in the Transpondian media of Bojo's imminent political demise are tales told by idiots, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing? Presumably he can do a dead cat bounce at the end of this freefall and rebound into the next crisis?

382:

Pigeon said: I've got half an idea that in China a lot of people actually haven't. Instead there are loads of people cooking stuff at stalls in the street and people buy all their eats from them.

https://www.sixthtone.com/news/1010094/for-the-takeout-hungry%2C-shanghais-lockdown-is-a-pressure-cooker

You're more than half right. A lot of Shanghaiese were caught flat footed by the lockdown. They literally can't boil an egg. If you follow Naomi Wu 机械妖姬 @RealSexyCyborg you'll have seen her rundown on the situation, and she's not happy.

383:

It's not only easy to manage a network to deal with sudden loss of supply, networks manage them all the time.

So when South Australia lost some its generation and a couple of power lines a while ago nothing happened and no-one noticed?

If Russia was supplying electrons in the same proportion as they currently supply gas and they shut it off with no warning you wouldn't know.

Australian Energy Statistics 2021 Energy Update Report [PDF] says "> Fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) accounted for 93 per cent of Australia’s primary energy mix in 2019–20.

Losing a third of that without warning would be dramatic. And involve aliens stealing our coal and oil production facilities. It would likely mean the 80% of electricity supply that is fossil based would stop. All of it. Suddenly. Unless it was those pesky anti-nuclear folk turning off the sun, in which case we'd have other problems. But that's not "primary energy" according to the regulator so it doesn't count.

But you know way more about this than I do, so I'm happy to take your word that no-one would notice an 80% drop in electricity supply for a few months.

384:

I omitted the programming language strange attractor because I tend to glaze over and scroll past that discussion in all the threads. I'm glad people are really, really into programming languages, but my brain goes into white noise whenever I try to pay attention to them in any detail. I've learned a bit of programming here and there, but once I stop using it I forget it quickly.

Now, give me a 6 hour podcast about shared weights and measures in the Indus Valley civilization 2000 BCE and for some reason I pay attention to all the details.

Human brains are weird and diverse I guess.

385:

You omitted arguing about the identity of the One True Programming Language

Why argue about a settled matter?

386:

I said: If Russia was supplying electrons in the same proportion as they currently supply gas and they shut it off with no warning you wouldn't know.

Moz said: But you know way more about this than I do, so I'm happy to take your word that no-one would notice an 80% drop in electricity supply for a few months.

Russia supplies 40% of Europe's gas, and gas is 24% of their energy needs.

So just under 10% of Europe's energy comes from Russian gas.

The total generation capacity of Liddell is 2 GW. That represents about 12% of the 16.7 GW total generation capacity. Some years Liddell has operated less than 50% of the time. Did you notice?

Did you notice the day that Liddell went down, the gas backup couldn't be started and the Tomago smelter refused to shut down? Combined with record temperatures and the highest consumer load on record? The same day that one of the Newcastle generators reached its temperature limit and had to throttle?

The network operator was having kittens, but the consumers never knew.

387:

Moz @ 359
Our incompetent misgovernment are doing absolutely fuck all to solve the problem(s)
Plenty can & should be done, but that's down to the politicians, isn't it?
We have two (?) unbelievably-expensive large "nuke" power stations under build, nothing about the "RR" SMR's and absolutely bugger-all else - as far as I can see.

Rbt Prior
"Protestors" - I will repeat my anger at the stupidity & ignorance & selfish cowardice of the "anti-slavery" protestors who topple statues & hassle people whose ancestors, over 200 years ago, who might have made money from slavery .......
.... Whilst carefully NOT protesting outside the nearest PRC Embassy or any of the "Gulf" states, who are practicing slavery today, right now (!)

gasdive
Turning off bits of the system is the last resort and we haven't had to do that for decades. - tell that to the Texans?

H
Bo Jon-Sun is a Dead man walking
When the bye-elections later this month happen, the shit will really be in the air-con.
James II & VII lasted more than 3, less than 4 years - B J-S will be the same.
Here's hoping for another "Glorious Revolution"

  • Insert modern version of the famous "Protestant" loyal toast here (!)
388:

Lithium batteries are ideal for transport because they are relatively light, as inherently heavy things go.

I read somewhere* last week that some car battery manufacturers are looking at mixing in a few sodium cells with the lithium as a cost saving exercise, with the tech expected to be mature enough that they can start pretty much straight away.

Vanadium redox batteries have been seen in the wild as a town level backup supply but they really are immense. The ability to scale up storage by adding tanks of liquid looks appealing though.

If you want energy density and the ability to make your kit from sea water then researchers at Stanford have created a working "sodium metal-chlorine" cell that doesn't sound like a horrifying accident waiting to happen at all**.

I don't believe that it's possible to build out enough storage to completely smooth our renewable supply but it looks a lot more feasible to handle short blips as soon as you forget about lithium.

can't find the article. *For extra points: Why not try a liquid sodium or NaK - chlorine flow battery?

389:

Broken formatting. Should have previewed that.

390:

Greg said: tell that to the Texans?

Moz and I are in NSW, so I was talking about that network. It's the one I'm most familiar with because I've lived most of my life in NSW, I've worked either as a contractor or employee for the network for 20 years, my partner since she was 15. She's now 58. I had brunch with the manager of planned outages on Sunday. I get invited to kids birthday parties by people who are actual network controllers.

It's slightly annoying to be told that I don't know anything about it.

Electricity networks can be resilient, but nothing is immune to the effects of politics, hubris, kleptocracy and stupidity in equal measure. Texas made a conscious decision to make their network delicate. Its not inherent in networks.

391:

dpb said: cell that doesn't sound like a horrifying accident waiting to happen at all

I'm constantly amused by the idea that electrochemical = unstoppable horror, while oil based fires are a gentle marshmallow toasting opportunity that can be put out with a harsh look and a stern word.

This popped up in my feed. An oil spill that caught fire. (sound on)

https://twitter.com/i/status/1533574532169990145

392:

Oh I agree that hydrocarbon fires are pretty horrible too. Don't particularly want either sited next to residential areas. That makes the "old power station site" idea valid.

I have a number of friends in the water treatment industry, and more than one of them has had a near miss with chlorine storage. The problem is that it's fairly mundane, boring stuff and nobody takes it seriously. Throw in privatised industry maintenance standards and a mildly (but not frighteningly) corrosive nature and you will have problems 15 years down the line.

It's not a deal breaker, as such things never are but you have to assume that the technology will be implemented in a half assed manner and site accordingly.

393:

Oil-based fires, indeed nearly all carbon-fuel fires (absent explosives and solid-fuel rocket mixes) can be put out by depriving them of oxygen and cooling the as-yet unburnt parts so they don't light off in turn. Electric battery fires are self-sustaining, the energy in the cells wants to be free and atmospheric oxygen is not a factor. At best the battery pack designs slow down or stop the spread of fire damage to other cells if a fire starts in one cluster of cells. There isn't anything practical firefighters can do on site at an electrical car fire other than try and prevent the fire setting something adjacent alight - the new toy in the firefighters arsenal is a car-sized fire blanket they throw over the burning car (hopefully after getting the passengers out, and their little dog too).

394:

The "nearest good sites for massive solar farms on the end of a very long wire" are in fact in Spain.

395:

It's slightly annoying to be told that I don't know anything about it.

I hope you're not suggesting I did that to you. You said something that I know isn't true, so I gave you an example of it not being true. You don't have to like that, but it's different from me telling you that you don't know anything.

396:

since all the other available alternatives (viz, Communism and Fascism) had so manifestly failed.

Insert bitter laugh here, having watched countries led by GW Bush, Berlusconi, Putin, Orban, Trump, Johnson, and so on. Fascism always wins for the leader and their clan. It might not win long-term for the country, but Fascists these days tend not to be hung from lamp posts when they're deposed, so there's no obvious downside for a sociopath.

And the history of the last century proves beyond doubt that liberal democracy is at best an unstable equilibrium. All it needs is one rabble-rouser and one media outlet prepared to give them credibility to restore Business As Usual. Which is either Fascism or at best an oligarchy.

397:

"It's not only easy to manage a network to deal with sudden loss of supply, networks manage them all the time. You've lived through gigantic cluster fucks of multiple things going wrong all at once many many times and you were completely unaware of them."

Unfortunately we don't all have perfect electricity supply networks

https://www.hulldailymail.co.uk/news/hull-east-yorkshire-news/uk-power-cut-hornsea-wind-3196187

398:

I said you wouldn't notice a disruption of that scale.

You wouldn't, you haven't. Disruptions of that scale happen all the time. Half the time in NSW exists under that sort of interruption to generation. Did you notice the lack of reserve level 2 that was forecast for today? Are you worried that we are forecast to have a LOR1 from 0730 to 0800 tomorrow? Think there will be rolling blackouts? Think about it at all?

Now should there be a wholesale destruction of infrastructure due to a gigantic storm, as happened in SA, then, maybe yeah, but that wasn't what was under discussion. The premise was that if you buy electricity from Johnny Foreigner then they can flick a switch and destroy your country in an instant. It's simply not true because such switch flicking happens all the time under normal operation.

399:

Not the same thing at all. That's a lack of inertia and or incorrectly set trip settings, and or incorrectly designed feeders. It didn't do what we're talking about, ie, put the whole network into an unstable state, or require load shedding. It was 2% of the network. It's not acceptable, and shouldn't happen, but it's really a very different thing.

400:

Local disruptions to grid connections can be fixed locally by armies of engineers repairing the switches and cables in a day or two, a week at most. When Johnny Foreigner flicks some switches and cuts us off from OUR cheap electricity supply the armies sent out to fix the problem are not engineers, they're soldiers and it will take more than a few weeks for the lights to come back on after Johnny Foreigner is taught a lesson.

There's a dollar cost to energy reliability and self-sufficiency of generating capacity within stable regional borders, but if imports of gas and electricity are cheap enough for long enough that dollar cost can be ignored at least until the Black Swan flies over and poops in everyone's teacup.

401:

You have statues of Chinese political entrepreneurs and Oil-state Emirs in your town squares now? I mean, I know they, along with Russian billionaires, are buying the place these days but I didn't think it had gotten that far...

402:

Sure, armies. Or, by paying a fair market price. Whichever floats your paranoia.

Because we send armies when we need to buy cars, or a new transformer, or a nuclear containment vessel, a shipment of mobile phones, or electricity. That's how it works. Apparently.

403:

Watched the news recently? Screwing with other countries energy supplies for fun & profit is very much a live issue.

404:

Actually, there's some evidence that that's exactly what he did. Staff repeatedly found wads of printed paper clogging White House residence toilets, and Trump himself kept complaining about how modern toilets keep clogging.

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2022/02/donald-trump-clogged-toilets

405:

Now, give me a 6 hour podcast about shared weights and measures in the Indus Valley civilization 2000 BCE and for some reason I pay attention to all the details.

Come now, where's the link? You can't just tease us with neat stuff like that and not give a link!

406:

Nojay's premise is that if Scotland was buying electricity from Russia, Norway, Sweden, Germany, France, Spain, and unnamed North African countries, that if any of them flicks a switch, Scotland would send armies to take our rightful electricity.

Therefore, Scotland must be completely free of any imports. Otherwise war or death from cold are the only two possible outcomes.

I've pointed out that no one supplier cutting off supply would cause the instant collapse that everyone here seems to think. So unlike the current situation with Russia, the consumer wouldn't notice.

Additionally, if they did cut supply, then they'd get no back flow of electricity when they need it most (very much cutting their own nose off).

Beyond that, I've previously pointed out that picking on electricity makes no sense. Noone worried about depending on Russian gas, (for which it seems there aren't easy alternatives) as no one worries about chips, food, oil (both cooking and driving), reactor parts, aircraft parts, car parts, clothing and a million other things that modern life in Scotland depends on and which all come from overseas, much of it from only one country. No one cares about that, but apparently buying electricity, unique amongst commodities, must all be made in Scotland (not even imported from England). We won't mention that the preferred option is to build lots of reactors, which depend on parts from China for their continued operation.

407:

There is no "fair market price", there is the price your monopoly supplier of electricity says you must pay or no power, in the case of a generation system far away and thousands of kilometres of HVDC lines connecting you to your source of renewable electricity.

You could, of course, build two or more such generating arrays in different nations and even more HVDC lines, "just in case" but eventually having the generating capacity in-house within your own borders and an assured fuel supply[1] available from many, many places starts to look a better and better option.

[1]Uranium can be extracted from seawater, at a cost greater than the current minehead price of yellowcake from various places around the world. The price of uranium does not affect the cost of nuclear-generated electricity much -- doubling the price of yellowcake would increase the cost of nuclear electricity by about 1 cent US per kWh.

408:

PS, I pointed out in 2020 that a diverse supply is not only needed for reasons of security, but simply to deal with fluctuations in supply and demand, and eliminate the need for storage. Also that the supply would be far more diverse than many essential commodities, including (prophetically) Russian gas.

http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2020/12/holding.html#comment-2111065

It's important to also remember that like trade of food, you wouldn't trade only with one country. You'd trade with Australia, Canada, Morocco, the USA, South Africa and others. Yes, you'd be dependent on trade to survive, but that's already the case. Russian gas, European food, Middle Eastern oil, Australian Uranium. So though you might be using 180 GW, it need not all come from Australia. Indeed it couldn't unless you add storage.

409:

tell that to the Texans?

Yes. That one sounded strange to me also. I guess where he is they haven't done that.

Here in NC the power company will pay you $25 or $50 one time to allow them to put a cutoff on your whole house AC. If you go with it they might turn off your AC for up to 2 hours once a day to deal with generation shortages.

410:

If I did it as a community project and made one big enough to heat the whole street, it would be a lot quicker

Don't anybody, for the love of Cthulhu, give Pigeon a copy of The Leaky Establishment by Dave Langford!

411:

There's no monopoly. This exists only in your imagination.

You have a bidding table. The demand is forecast for the next 5 minutes. It's open to generators to bid into that table. Bids are accepted in order of price up to the point where enough generation is committed to cover the next 5 minute interval. At that point everyone under that price generates and is paid the highest accepted bid price. If I am running a solar farm in Morocco, I might bid zero as I have no marginal cost. My little 12 GW solar farm can't fill the needs. Say wind is down, so it's nuclear. The nuclear bids 1000 pounds per MWH. They are the highest accepted bid. I sell 12 GW for 1/12th of an hour, that's 1000 MWh, I make a million pounds in 5 minutes. Then the wind blows, the wind farms bid 10 pounds per MWh and are the highest accepted bid, I get paid 10,000 pounds in 5 minutes.

413:

"Oil-based fires, indeed nearly all carbon-fuel fires (absent explosives and solid-fuel rocket mixes) can be put out by depriving them of oxygen and cooling the as-yet unburnt parts so they don't light off in turn"

Car fires often trap drivers or passengers inside the burning vehicle and can do a whole lot of damage before the water arrives.

You can't just hop out and connect to a nearby hydrant with the fire hose you just happen to have in the trunk. Hydrants are few and far between on inter city highways.

We had two gasoline (petrol) powered vehicles catch fire on southern Vancouver Island just yesterday. Both vehicles were totaled and one driver was trapped and only saved because a heroic off duty fire fighter was nearby and risked his life to make the rescue. Amazingly police suspect alcohol might just possibly have been involved.

Bottom line is that concentrating energy in any form has risks. Battery fires are fairly new to fire fighters in my part of the world, as are all-electric vehicles. Give them a bit of time and they will figure out the best approach.

414:

They HAVE worked out the best approach, and that's simply to get out the people you can, make a firebreak if possible, and let the damn thing burn out. Indeed, elementary physics indicates that is ALL that is possible, unless you have a supply of enough coolant (usually water) to cool the thing down to room temperature and keep it there. That requires an order of magnitude more water than for oil fires which, as Nojay says, can often be extinguished with the amount of water held in a fire engine or few.

One reason that there has not been more trouble is that there are so few electric cars on the road, and most of them use batteries that go overboard on safety. The former is intended to change, and the latter will if they become a commodity vehicle without draconian legislation (of which I see no signs in the UK).

415:

You mean like the V\@*xh\@ll ~~firelighter~~ Z\@f1r\@ which can catch light without anyone being in it (I've not seen one go on fire, but I've gone into a store, and come out 15 minutes later to find an unsavable and fortunately unoccupied blase.

416:

Wow. Three recalls in 4 years, for fire problems? Eek!

417:

In Scotland?

Low: 40f / High: 100f

That's not Scotland, at least as I know it.

In quainte olde worlde temperature units called fahrenheits, you'd be looking for annual variation from roughly 10-20f (low, on a cold winter's night) up to maybe 90f (all-time high on a midsummer afternoon in a heat wave).

Mostly in winter you'd be looking at daytime highs of 30-40f, and nighttimes somewhere below that.

Oh, and nights up to 18 hours long.

The takeaway is that aircon is mostly unnecessary -- I have a portable a/c unit for the 1-2 weeks a year when my office is unpleasantly muggy (over 20 celsius) -- but heating is an absolute necessity in winter unless you enjoy frozen pipes and the resulting leaks.

418:

Greg: recent reports suggest SMRs are really bad in terms of nuclear waste management -- here's an IAEA paper discussing the SMR waste problem. Turns out they may produce up to 30x as much high level waste as conventional larger reactors per TWh of power output.

(It's not just fission products from spent fuel, but waste from secondary irradiation of reactor structural components like the pressure vessels.)

This doesn't mean SMRs are impossible or should be forgotten (we're going to need them to keep bulk freight container shipping going once it's no longer possible to burn bunker oil in shops) but it does put an extra obstacle in the way.

419:

I don't think you ever bid zero. The energy might be flowing for free, but you still have to cover payroll, land taxes, equipment upkeep, whatever part of your transmission network you're responsible for, and the investors' expected profit.

That said, I think that the auction of power is an important function, and I'm glad you brought it up.

I'd also note that battery peaker systems (store energy when it's cheap, dole it out when you can make a profit) can also work on an auction. However, I think those tend to be owned and operated by the power companies, who are trying to balance the supply against the demand.

One huge category of solutions should actually come out of the Orthodox Jewish community. For decades, they've had all sorts of interesting timers on things, so that they can observe the "no work on the sabbath" rule while still having the lights on and their coffee brewed (it's not work if you set it up before sundown on Friday and clean it up after sundown on Saturday).

We really should mainstream such systems, so that clothes get washed when the home solar's generating a lot of energy, smart slow cookers time their efforts to the power available, and so forth, even when the residents aren't home. This avoids the current problem of demand skyrocketing in the evening when people come home and turn on all their appliances. This is also where home batteries become extremely useful.

Yes, the elements already exist, and if I was stupid enough to go for a fully enabled IoT house, it would be easy, almost as easy as someone hacking such a system. I'd rather keep such automation as simple and durable as possible, not hook it up to an internet-connected chipset running Windows 3 with no way to upgrade or change the password.

Finally, as you might guess, this is why I'm doing my little environmentalist lobbying effort to try to persuade municipalities to work with major employers to install more electric vehicle chargers in their parking lots. I've even suggest valet parking for e-cars as an amenity. It's not to be cushy, it's so that they can charge more cars with fewer chargers by leaving the keys with a couple of guys who manage charging operations for the day. We'll see if it works. Transportation locally is about half our energy budget, so figuring out ways to get cars sucking sunshine without installing massive battery systems to do it at home is kind of important.

420:

With temperatures approaching zero Fahreheit not being unknown in some places, even if not frequent.

421:

30x the waste of a big reactor still isn't very much per capita.

422:

»still isn't very much per capita.«

...where the footnote is that more than quarter of those people were too mentally deranged to use masks during a pandemic ?

Not a good argument.

423:

the discussion inevitably devolves into one of the following

Well, we've also had discussions about things like FTL, time travel, colonizing other planets, and building starships.

Turns out, having an advanced technological system successfully colonize Earth is embarrassingly hard, never mind space travel or colonizing Mars. It's embarrassing because our less technological ancestors pulled off the trick for the last 300,000-odd years (mostly during an ice age!). Now we come arrogantly along like any tech bro, bragging how we'll do it right for a change after everyone did it wrong previously, and...(looks around)...when that doesn't work, we spread toxic memes about how humans are all innately evil and deserve to die to cover up how absolutely, monumentally, and predictably we've screwed up by thinking progress will let us ignore all the problems our ancestors dealt with.

Anyway, you could, if you felt charitable, cast the current discussions about food, power, and water, as discussions about how to run Earth as a generation ship. It might even be possible too, unlike establishing a Muskite dynasty on Mars. Fortunately, unlike the older discussions about generation ships, we no longer have the enthusiastic lads arguing that the only way to make it work is to establish a vicious and absolute authoritarian system with the right to kill anybody whose needs are more than one standard deviation from the norm. So that's progress, at least. I guess seeing the beta versions of these systems scared some people off?

Actually, the only reason not to bring up FTL is because the cosmologists have been sadly unproductive for the last couple of years, so there's no new chiropterofecal psychoses out there to point to, snark, and wonder if this one will let us get around the light speed limit.*

*Oops, spoke too soon, it looks like His Holiness Elon I has deigned to talk about warp drives. Wonder what pearls of wisdom he's dropping? Oh, and it looks like some people at NASA are toking from the same stash. So we can pull the warp drive strange attractor out, if anyone gets bored with energy. That might amuse.

424:

Well, exactly; I'm all-in on the "Smalltalk is the best programming system and the only actually object oriented one" but let's be realistic here.

The One True Programming Language is profanity. Always has been, always will be.

425:

Low: 40f / High: 100f

Those were temperatures inside my apartment. The outside temperatures were quite different...

426:

Eateries - now you're either being facetious, or ignorant. Marx talked about large apartment buildings with a building kitchen, so that the women could share the work. Please note, this was the mid-19th century, and we are talking wood or coal stoves, period. And no refrigerators, so daily shopping, etc.

Now, eaten out, or had takeout, or had it delivered lately? How many people do that a lot? How many people hit the fast food joint EVERY WEEKDAY for breakfast, or dinner?

427:

Why? The OTPL is C. (And the computer you're posting from is running an o/s mostly in C....)

428:

Basic needs utilities (in the 21st century) - electricity, water, sewer, gas (for some of us), phone and 'net access, SHOULD NEVER BE PRIVATE CORPORATIONS. Government run, own, and operated ONLY.

Disagree? Quick, how much is the CEO of the companies that run any of that for you making... and is it more than the official salary of the President of the US, $440k/yr? What was the company's profits last year?

429:

Would you stop snarking as an automatic response, and actually consider before posting?

No monopoly? In '68, during the occupation of Columbia U by the students, going through the U president's files, what they found was not a "conspiracy", but one dirty hand washing the other.

Think I'm wrong? Argue with FACTS: https://www.cnbc.com/2015/01/13/oil-traders-to-store-millions-of-barrels-at-sea-as-prices-slump.html

430:

A partial exception to the battery fire issue is electrolyte flow cells, where a replaceable electrolyte generates the PD as it flows past a membrane: you can in principle keep the giant-ass vats of electrolytes away from the membrane and provide spillways/diluent reservoirs/diverter valves so that if something does go "bang" in the cell you can deprive it of access to 99% of the available chemical energy.

431:

Humans have no sense of scale. I honestly do think a lot of people have images of enormous radioactive spoil heaps like the giant piles of fly ash left over from coal plants.

Relatively small amounts of really nasty waste aren't that difficult to deal with if you can afford the infrastructure to make it in the first place.

It also applies to the car attractor - I am convinced that most people have no idea how much fuel they really burn.

Holding a nozzle for 5 minutes for every few hours of driving fills an opaque tank hidden somewhere in the car and the exhaust is mostly invisible. At that point the quantity is just numbers.

432:

Well, the giant piles of fly ash are radioactive spoil heaps, but nobody cares.

433:

And the computer you're posting from is running an o/s mostly in C....

Which is doubtless one of the many reasons it has so many bugs... :-/

434:

"Here in NC the power company will pay you $25 or $50 one time to allow them to put a cutoff on your whole house AC. If you go with it they might turn off your AC for up to 2 hours once a day to deal with generation shortages."

I think that sort of thing is reasonably common in the US. In San Antonio, TX about ten years ago we got a "smart" thermostat from the power company that would do that. It was never very obtrusive because, being thermophiles, we don't use AC much and, for whatever reason, it didn't kick in in the winter. Would have been interesting to see what it did in Feb 2021, but we were long gone by then.

435:

The problems with nuclear power are not technical, but political. For example, the UK hid its incompetence and negligence behind the Official Secrets Act, and made little effort to fix the problems, which is the main reason that people distrust it. Yes, coal is MUCH worse, but you need to understand statistics to realise that.

To a great extent, that is true for the car debate, too. Going electric reduces the urban atmospheric pollution problem, but is an evasion of most other problems rather than a solution. But people won't face up to the fact that we need to reduce our transport use rather than just replace our currently disastrous use by something rather less so.

436:

I am still recovering from COVID so work is on hiatus, but once I finish this goddamn novella I have to dust off the long overdue space opera (started in 2015, paused in 2017 due to my father dying, steamrollered by other projects in the meantime).

Setting it 650K years hence means not worrying about terraforming -- it's a trivial detail compared to "hey, what kind of speciation will have happened to the hominidae across 0.65MYa and ten million terrestrial biosphere derived terraformed planets" -- although the FTL model I'm going with is a variant wormhole mechanism, otherwise it'd be limited to a much smaller number of colonized worlds.

But still, I see plenty of interesting and ugly aspects of hominin socialization to explore in such a deep time context. Including religion: where'd it come from (I favour Daniel Dennett's line of argument) and how will it be manipulated by billions of Musk-alikes over nearly a megayear of CRISPR (and better tech) assisted attempts to design a better servant caste?

437:

I note that one way to "reduce transport use" is to switch to smaller or lighter vehicles.

Even for those of us who can't really ride a bike, lightweight electrically assisted quadricycles ought to be able to replace a goodly chunk of local car journeys, i.e. most of them, by replacing a 1000-2000kg vehicle with a 50-100kg vehicle. The energy savings of which should be bleeding obvious.

AIUI a typically "family car" these days is a crossover or SUV, whereas 40-50 years ago it was something like a VW Polo. The Polo was relatively inefficient in terms of fuel economy compared to the modern engines in the Crossover/SUV class ... but the latter weigh twice as much and go about the same distance per litre as a result, while creating a much greater hazard for other road users (pedestrians, cyclists, smaller vehicles).

438:

> In San Antonio, TX about ten years ago we got a "smart" thermostat from the power company...

Still there, it seems.

https://www.cpsenergy.com/en/my-home/savenow/efficiency-programs/smart-thermostat.html

Through a Smart Thermostat, you agree to allow us to make adjustments to your thermostat during “conservation events.” This is when our system reaches peak demand. This will likely happen several times during the summer months and typically occurs between the hours of 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. During conservation events, you can opt out through your thermostat or smart phone app at any time and return to your normal settings. Conservation events don’t occur very often, but they are crucial in managing the energy needs of our community.

439:

How would you keep a dog or a cat on Arrakis in Frank Herbert's Dune series?

440:

Pigeon @ 365:

Who's Eric Senna?

441:

EC
And/or CHANGE our transport use?
I still have the Great Green Beast, but ....
The problem is that when I really need a "car" I need an "estate" of some sort, but I'm doing an awful lot of electric cycling, now.
Living in outer London, public transport is available - the rest of the countryside, not so much, thank you fucking Marples & all his successors.

442:

No, that's because they hired kids right out of school to do most of the coding, who have zero idea of error handling or input verification. Oh, and who think while loops are better than for/next.

443:

I've even suggest valet parking for e-cars as an amenity. It's not to be cushy, it's so that they can charge more cars with fewer chargers by leaving the keys with a couple of guys who manage charging operations for the day.

Locally there's a Tesla charging setup for a dozen or so cars (they can also charge a few non Tesla cars) in the nearby Target. (A US department store.) There is an unpublished policy that if you park next to a car being charged and leave your charging port open most folks will move the plug to your car when they leave.

A friend who lives nearby (retired) will park his Chevy Volt (?) there over night and walk home. Then walk back in the am to pick up his fully charged car. He may not keep it up when he has to start paying. :)

444:

Well, we've also had discussions about things like FTL, time travel, colonizing other planets, and building starships.

Space cadet thinking. Which the rest of your comment is mostly about. Indirectly.

445:

Holding a nozzle for 5 minutes for every few hours of driving fills an opaque tank hidden somewhere in the car and the exhaust is mostly invisible. At that point the quantity is just numbers.

Everyone who drives should have to at least once siphon some gasoline via a tube and their mouth sucking on it to get it started. Almost a lock they will get some in their mouth. Then burp it every few minutes for a few hours. Accompanied by a great feeling in their stomach.

You REMEMBER such a thing.

You're in a field, gas cans are empty, tractor is empty, so you get some from the truck tank. Burp.

446:

Yes, coal is MUCH worse, but you need to understand statistics to realise that.

Actually statistics doesn't matter to many of those folks. Immediate possible little harm they pay attention to. Possible big harm way out in the future, they ignore. Or can't comprehend. I think it is in how are brains are wired or socialized.

447:

A couple of notes on this.

First off, if you're experimenting with human genomics and cultural inheritance, you're experimenting with systems where the experiments last longer than the experimenters do. Coincidentally (not!), that's the kind of thing I learned a bit about working with as an ecologist. If you want to email or chat, you know how to get in touch. Multigenerational experiments, in themselves, has a fairly unholy ability to spawn subplots if you're in need of them. And remember that we're talking about multiple generations of experimenters and of subjects.

Second, you are entitled to you preferred explanation for religion, but I think that any writer who believes that the JCI spectrum of practice is normal for humans has a bad case of CRIS and deserves to be read exceptionally skeptically. To give a trivial example, other cultures with writing-based religions came up with extremely different ideas about what it's all about (cf Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, for three alternatives).

If you want to see a broader picture, I strongly recommend Lynne Kelly's Memory Craft and its predecessors. She's an out atheist too, but her point is that "religion" in the broadest sense is entirely about storing essential information without writing*. Since the tools of religion are based on human biology, they won't go away. These include memory palaces like the Garden of Eden or various visions of heaven that explain what a proper world is supposed to be like, songs and rituals that are more memorable than dense texts, rituals and dances that more efficiently encode nonverbal information than text does, holy sites that are part of songlines, etc. The critical point is that the tools of religion can be manipulated to store the essential cultural information that combines with genetic information and setting to make people who they are.

When you have writing to store information, then that frees up the tools of religion to be used for other purposes, which is where we are now. And if the tools of religion and cultural creation can be deliberately designed in concert with someone tweaking genomes, you've got a very powerful story engine to play with.

Have fun.

*One thing to realize is that in many "primitive religions," the loremasters knew full well that stuff was made up. But they took it seriously, not because they were stupid, but because the systems worked to transmit information. That contrasted very strongly with the missionaries who often superstitiously believed in the stuff in the book without understanding it very well. But they had guns backing them up, which once again demonstrates that idiots backed up by superior technology just become more powerful idiots, not necessarily intelligent or wise people.

448:

Even for those of us who can't really ride a bike, lightweight electrically assisted quadricycles ought to be able to replace a goodly chunk of local car journeys, i.e. most of them, by replacing a 1000-2000kg vehicle with a 50-100kg vehicle.

In my limited experience in Europe I saw what seemed to me a lot of small cars. Some one person car. I got to wondering why none seem to exist in the US. I now think it has to do with crash and passenger survival requirements in the US crash testing standards. Lots of small cars is good. A few small cars surrounded by larger cars is maybe not so good for the small car owners.

40-50 years ago

I suspect that in the US while the average car size is about the same it is split between smaller sedans and larger SUVs. Way back then nearly all cars where large. And many passenger cars got, maybe 20mpg, compared to 30 today. But the large SUVs now bring down the average.

449:

»I got to wondering why none seem to exist in the US.«

There are entire towns in Florida where almost everybody drives one-person small (electrical!) cars.

For reasons which will confuse the shit out of future archaeologists, they call these vehicles "Golf-carts".

450:

Charlie @ 437, I've been thinking along those lines observing the use of bike lanes in Los Angeles whose main purpose is virtue signaling. A typical bike lane consists of a 80 cm wide strip painted between the parking lane and the traffic lane with a posted speed limit of 60-70 km/hr. You have cars whizzing by you on one side and some idiot who can open his door in your path in the other. (I'm surprised they haven't thought of introducing bike lanes onto freeways.)

Needless to say, the most common feature of bike lanes in Los Angeles is that they are empty.

However, with a bit of effort they could be turned into a useful transportation system. I would broaden out the concept of bike lanes, both literally and figuratively, to handle a variety of vehicles whose top speed is 40 km/hr. These would include bicycles, powered bikes, low-powered scooters, tricycles, and golf buggies.

If you look at Los Angeles layout, in a general theoretical sense, it resembles graph paper with every 10th line bold. The intermediate lines are suburban streets with a max. speed limit of 40 km/hr, and the traffic flows out of these streets to the main multilane roads with speed limits of up to 85 km/hr.

If you now think in terms of the graph paper with an intermediate thickness line every 5 squares, then these streets would be converted into "narrow-fares" specifically designed to handle light-class through traffic. Lane width would less than with ordinary traffic lanes. Clearance would be in the order of two meter 20cm so building an underpass under a major road would be a lot cheaper and easier. (Note: these streets would still have to take cars and trucks to service the roadside property, but they could be discouraged from treating it as a thoroughfare.)

Now Los Angeles is a lot different from a city build around a medieval center, but those narrow winding streets are a good match for this class of traffic.

Many cities in Europe have slowed traffic right down in there city centers to encourage bike use, but the problem with this approach is that it still mixes bikes and cars together, whereas as the system I'm proposing separates them as much as possible. Also, this system would be suitable for lightweight automated delivery vehicles.

451:

Kardashev @ 434:

Around here it started with a remote shut-off for hot water heaters. The idea was they would cut off the water heater in the afternoon when there was peak demand for A/C.

I would have signed up for it if I'd had an electric water heater.

Don't have central air, so I'm not eligible for that program either.

452:

Bonus points for doing this with leaded gas or diesel!

453:

First off, if you're experimenting with human genomics and cultural inheritance, you're experimenting with systems where the experiments last longer than the experimenters do.

Yup, I'm aware of that. (I also have a sneaking suspicion that the sort of folks who would want to create a genetically distinct servant caste are likely to end up in an extinction trap long before their servants, although quantifying that intuition gets me into a maze of twisty little assumptions, recomplicating endlessly.)

I note this study suggests the posterior medial frontal cortex modulates adherence to ideological beliefs (such as religious ones) and can be tweaked by transcranial magnetic stimulation. It's a bit hand-wavey but if it turns out there are gross neuroanatomical features that function in this way, then a sufficiently advanced genetic science might be used to fiddle with it, for example to increase susceptibility to such beliefs. Which could be convenient for a self-appointed "master race" seeking to live off the labour of their worshippers. Ahem. (The precise shape of the belief systems in question is possibly less important than the whole "worship people who look like this, they are your gods" hackery.)

455:

Systematically inducing Stockholm Syndrome might be easier, especially if one knows the genomes of the victims in advance, and what ritualized set of actions will best induce subordinance and compliance. Ritualized, in this case, is a synonym for experimental protocol.

From what I was reading recently, it looks like the North American system of captive treatment (capture, kill the resistant adults, brutalize the rest, make them "other" to their culture, and train them up as subordinates in the society) certainly looks like Stockholm Syndrome. And yes, it wasn't limited to the Iroquois and Plains Societies either. Is it slavery, adoption, peonage, or all three?

Another interesting issue is that some cultures may see experimentation on self as ethical, experimentation on others as unethical, while other cultures will completely flip these ethics. Both sides will likely regard each other with loathing. It might not be cladogenesis, but instead schismogenesis: those who have been caught up in others' experiments may regard the freedom to experiment on oneself alone as essential, possibly with mentors or teachers helping to ameliorate risk. This seems to be the Taoist position (under the rubric of avoiding karma by avoiding coercing others, merely suggesting). One could probably make a fairly decent argument for reshaping others on an objective basis as ethical too, without invoking slavery.

456:

Still, there are numerous obscure ways in the C programming language to accidentally do horrible things...

457:

Re: 'Instead of having separate carts with one ordinary-sized horse each you can tie a load of them together ...'

Forgot to list 'ride-share' as one of the increasingly common options. Also know of one corp (MSFT) that had (maybe still has) some buses so that their employees can commute from different parts around the Seattle area. Their campuses also have interesting/varied lunchrooms - several different cuisines (private chefs/eateries) plus vending machines filled with assortments of snacks and sandwiches (mostly for-free). I'm guessing that like a lot of younger Shanghai workers - who also put in a lot of hours at work/the office - the MSFT folks I knew also rarely cooked 'at home' or brown-bagged their lunches/snacks. Also - their main campuses are in the middle of nowhere - therefore limited access to off-campus fast food joints/restaurants unless you're willing to waste a lot of time driving. I've mostly worked at/with multinationals and it seems that the ambitious or high-profile dept types mostly ate out. Even the few 'foodies' seldom did their own cooking at home - they owned all the gadgets but seldom had the time to use the gadgets.

Re: 'Did they also include having the meals delivered from the central cookhouse via a network of pneumatic tubes?'

Nope - I saw this movie on TV when I was a kid and remember only that particular scene because it looked so weird. (Don't remember the name of the movie or actors.)

Whitroth @426:

'How many people do that a lot? How many people hit the fast food joint EVERY WEEKDAY for breakfast, or dinner?'

I personally know several - colleagues, friends and mostly male. One female colleague told me at the retirement luncheon we had for her that she has never cooked a meal in her life - she and her husband of 40+ years always ate out. They're both well-educated, live in a posh area, well-traveled, etc. Oh yeah - neither 'came' from money, that's just how they've always preferred to live their lives.

Rocketpjs @ 384:

Re: 'Now, give me a 6 hour podcast about shared weights and measures in the Indus Valley civilization 2000 BCE ...'

How about this?

Unless it's already part of his list of resources, maybe Robert might also find this worth sharing with his teacher colleagues.

Background: This guy (Khan) started his website a few years ago to tutor his nephew. He did a good job and other kids joined in. It quickly grew to the point that he quit his real job (engineer) and registered it as a 501(c)(3) non-profit. It's still growing and has even attracted funding from some high profile foundations. Their purpose/mantra: education is a universal right. (I'm hoping this site is accessible in places like Afghan where girls are have been denied access to education.)

Includes materials/resources for students and teachers. The history videos are approx. 10 minutes long.

https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/world-history/world-history-beginnings#ancient-india

Here's the founder:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sal_Khan

Greg @ 387:

Re: 'When the bye-elections later this month happen, the shit will really be in the air-con ...'

You hope!

There seems to be a pandemic of political fatalism and apathy: voter turnouts continue to drop in a bunch of 'democratic' countries. (Not sure what the trend is in the UK.) Do not assume that being pissed off with a pol automatically translates into getting him/her voted out. Do your bit and get the vote out!

The polls aren't helping either becuz when people hear/read that dissatisfaction is growing many just assume that all those like-/right-minded people will do their bit, i.e., go the polling station and cast the right vote. Nope! If YOU want a pol in/out, it's on YOU to cast that ballot.

Nick Barnes @ 394:

Re: 'The "nearest good sites for massive solar farms ...'

Or maybe some moderate sized farms near hydroelectric dams - scattered everywhere on the planet that already has such.

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-01525-1

'Floating solar power could help fight climate change — let’s get it right

Covering 10% of the world’s hydropower reservoirs with ‘floatovoltaics’ would install as much electrical capacity as is currently available for fossil-fuel power plants. But the environmental and social impacts must be assessed.'

Charlie @436:

'But still, I see plenty of interesting and ugly aspects of hominin socialization to explore in such a deep time context. Including religion: where'd it come from ...'

First off - wishing you a complete recovery! Take your time, get your rest, etc.

So - are you going to post a blog on socialization-religion or can you already guess what the opinions are likely to be? Maybe we can have a contest on the weirdest pairings of socio-econ & religion traits and outcomes.

458:

A typical bike lane consists of a 80 cm wide strip painted between the parking lane and the traffic lane with a posted speed limit of 60-70 km/hr. You have cars whizzing by you on one side and some idiot who can open his door in your path in the other.

Portland has recently started putting bike lanes between the sidewalk and the car parking lane. Much safer, as there is little exposure to traffic on the street. And passenger doors are less likely to open than driver doors.

459:

David L @ 445:

You really just need a long enough tube. You slide the open tube all the way down into the tank and cap it with your thumb. The tube remains filled with gasoline until you uncap it. When you withdraw the tube you pull the capped end down far enough that the fuel level in the tube is below the level of the tank. When you take your thumb off, fuel flows because of air pressure, gravity or Bernoulli's principle ... I dunno, but NO SUCKING IS INVOLVED (so no mouthful of gasoline).

AKA "the Georgia credit card".

460:

Just down the road recently a bike rider died after hitting a door being opened. The town then passed an ordinance making such actions by people in cars illegal. Of course that only applied to the town.

461:

Also know of one corp (MSFT) that had (maybe still has) some buses so that their employees can commute from different parts around the Seattle area.

Here in Hillsboro, Oregon, Intel has private buses that ferry workers between their many plants and our regional light rail stations for commuters.

462:

Bonus points for doing this with leaded gas or diesel!

I suspect that even "regular" gas in the US back in the 60s had some lead added.

Does this mean I have enough points to win?

463:

Storage batteries near the grid nexus of an old coal plant. Sounds like a wizard idea, wot?

Well, Oregon's largest public futility just brought 40MW of battery onto the grid, near our old coal power site, adjacent to wind and solar, and bills it as the 'nation's largest'.

Yawn.

The Portland Metro (excluding Clark County WA just across the Columbia River since, well, Washington has their own nuclear power plant) uses 22,648,283 megawatts of electricity daily, according the per-county stats at http://findenergy.com/or/ - that means this 30 megawatt battery complex can keep the area's lights on for, how long after dark? 30 divided by 22,648,283 = not very long at all. For a few seconds of load, maybe.

But didn't I just mention the mighty Columbia River and its extensive hydropower system? Well, our power hungry neighbor to the south is running dry... and they have 55 votes in Congress, including the Speaker of the House. We have nine, and Washington has 12. Oops, there goes our remaining power...

God bless the child who can stand up and say, I Got My Own.

464:

Just down the road recently a bike rider died after hitting a door being opened. The town then passed an ordinance making such actions by people in cars illegal.

Makes for an interesting enforcement issue, doesn't it?

465:

Typo alert: Typed 40MW in the second graf, should be 30MW. Apologies.

466:

Hmmm, transcranial magnetic stimulation. How much of a magnetic field does a smartphone generate?

More interesting: how much could an app cause it to generate?

467:

As I said, right out of school, with the longest program they've ever worked on... let's see, for me in school that would have been the pseudo-compiler in the compiler design course. Most of the class was running 1800-2000 punch cards of Pascal. (Mine, since I'd already been programming for a living for over five years, was about 1200).

468:

But didn't I just mention the mighty Columbia River and its extensive hydropower system? Well, our power hungry neighbor to the south is running dry... and they have 55 votes in Congress, including the Speaker of the House. We have nine, and Washington has 12. Oops, there goes our remaining power...

Speaking as one of your southern neighbors, the general problem is that Washington+Oregon's population is 12.1 million, about two-thirds of which are in Washington.

California has 39.6 million people, and there are 10 million people in LA County alone.

I've spent a little time in Oregon, and I don't think there's room for Oregon's population to triple. Ditto Washington.

So the question is, as California becomes less inhabitable, what's it worth for others to keep a mass migration of Californians from heading wherever?

Unfortunately, I'm not joking. I'm unlikely to migrate, but people are already trickling out, due to high costs. Toss in a disaster or two, and it's not going to be a trickle.

469:

"The idea was they would cut off the water heater in the afternoon when there was peak demand for A/C."

Speaking of which, do tankless (aka "on demand") water heaters have any advantages or disadvantages over the traditional tanked variety as far as grid-scale energy/power considerations go? I'm currently something of a fan of tankless, but seeing numbers would be nice.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tankless_water_heating