Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Not All Wounds Bleed - A Brigid Guest Post

Thank you Borepatch for letting me post on her now and again.  This a link is to a promotion for my latest book which was a #1 Best Seller on Amazon.

The proceeds are going to - local non-profit run by a young woman at our church that I shoot with our local range.  Her group helps local Veterans with PTSD. She has a full-time job as a senior caregiver in addition to her hours with this group as their President so I greatly admire her efforts and wanted to help.  (not a direct link, cut and paste into your browser window).

Government is the things we choose to do together

Elderly women sentenced to jail for feeding stray cats:
CLEVELAND (KDKA) — An elderly woman in Ohio has been sentenced to jail time for feeding stray cats.
Nancy Segula, 79, lives in Garfield Heights, Ohio, which is near Cleveland.
It’s illegal to feed stray cats in Garfield Heights.
“I would always feed them and take care of them because I was worried about them and I’m a cat lover. And then, once my neighbors around here started being unhappy about it, then they called the animal warden,” Segula told WJW.
Police say after several warnings, Segula continues to feed the animals.
A judge has now sentenced her to 10 days in the Cuyahoga County jail.

Maybe someone should ask Bernie and the other Dems about this.

Government encryption backdoors are are a seriously bad idea

Attorney General Robert Barr has floated making government backdoors in encryption software mandatory.  I've posted about this before:
The choice for the Fed.Gov is this:  live with crypto that they can't (easily) break, or destroy encryption (and the Internet economy that depends on it).

I know that they want a backdoor that only they know about.  I want a unicorn that farts 93 octane into my gas tank.  And remember: they would ask us in the security community to trust them after the Snowden revelations showing how we can't trust them.
There is an excellent overview from Robert Graham that covers this in some detail:
Cryptographers don't know how slightly weak crypto that's only 99% secure instead of 100% secure, because any small weakness inevitably gets hacked into an enormous gaping hole.

Barr derides our concerns as being only "theory", but it's theory backed up my a lot of experience. It's like asking your doctor to prove that losing weight and exercising will improve your health. Our experience from cryptography is that there is no such things as a little bit weak. We know of no way to implement the government's backdoor in such a way that won't have grave impacts. I might not be able to immediately point out the holes in whatever scheme you have concocted, but that doesn't mean I believe your backdoor scheme doesn't have weaknesses. My decades of experience tells me it's only a matter of time before those weaknesses explode into gapping holes that hackers exploit.
I would add the note that Edward Snowden shows that a secret like this could not possibly remain secret.  What would the Chinese and Russians do with access to this?  Which leads to Graham's policy argument:
China and Russia show us the answer to this question. Both have cracked down on encrypted communications. China mandates devices have a backdoor whereby the government can access anything on a phone, encrypted or not. Russia has cracked down on Telegram, an encrypted messaging app popular in Russia. Both cases have been motivated by their desire to crack down on dissidents.


Thus, the debate isn't whether the U.S. government should have this power, but whether governments in general should have this power. If it were only the U.S., we might trust them with backdoors, because the U.S. is a free country and not a totalitarian state. But that's the same as saying that we trust our current government to regulate speech because they'd never restrict political speech the way they do in China and Russia.
Of course, there is a long list of where the US Government has violated many laws and Constitutional mandates.
So now let's go back and revisit what sounds like a reasonable argument that the Fourth Amendment balances privacy and security.

There is no evidence of an imbalance. Crime rates aren't increasing, clearance rates (of solving crimes) aren't decreasing [Note: Graham's post has data to back this up - Borepatch]. Far from "going dark", we live in a Golden Age of Surveillance, were police are able to grab our GPS records, credit card receipts, phone metadata, and other records, often without a warrant. It's impractical to travel anonymously in the United States, as the government gets a copy of plane and train records, and is increasingly blanketing the country with license plate readers to track our cars. If a rebalancing of the "privacy vs. security" equation is needed, it's in favor of privacy.

But we aren't talking about that balance. We are instead balancing "security vs. security". It has become obvious that privacy of security communications is a wholly separate concern from other privacy issues. Even though we rely upon government to provide for public safety, we are in danger from governments that abuse their power to repress citizens. It is every much as important for political dissidents that we protect private communications (with encryption) as we protect their right to public communications (free speech).
There are very few things that make me distrust our Law Enforcement community more than the persistent proposal that we destroy encryption.  The mathematics of cryptography is subtle and really easy to screw up in unpredictable ways.   It's impossible to predict, but it's entirely possible that a backdoor that lets the Government read your email could also let them write emails.  The Russians and the Chinese would have a field day with this once the secret inevitably leaks - allowing them to forge incriminating emails about politicians to undermine trust in our political system or forge bogus financial transactions to wreak havoc with the economy.  Among other things.

Quite frankly, this is a glaring example of why the Swamp needs to be drained.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

German Greens fighting new "green" power projects

Last week I posted about how wind farms are decimating wildlife, from insects to bats to birds to eagles, because environmentalists are ignoring the problem.  It seems that this is not true in Germany, of all places:
The expansion of wind power in the first half of this year collapsed to its lowest level since the introduction of the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) in 2000. All in all, just 35 wind turbines were build with an output of 231 megawatts. “This corresponds to a decline of 82 percent compared to the already weak period of the previous year”, according to the German Wind Energy Association (BWE) in Berlin.

“This makes one nearly speechless,” said Matthias Zelinger at the presentation of the data. The managing director of the Power Systems division of the German Engineering Federation (VDMA) spoke of a “blow to the guts of the energy turnaround”. This actual development doesn’t match “at all to the current climate protection debate”.


The most important cause lies in the legal resistance of wildlife and forest conservationists fighting new wind farms. The BWE President referred to an industry survey of the onshore wind agency. According to its findings, more than 70 percent of the legal objections are based on species conservation, especially the threat to endangered bird species and bats.
Well done to the German environmentalists for holding to their principles.  I've been very hard on the environmental movement in the past, mostly because the rampant hypocrisy so often on display.  But not here.  Anyone who loves the outdoors can applaud this victory, whether you believe in man made global warming or not.

And today is a twofer in non-hypocritical environmentalist news:
Greta Thunberg to sail Atlantic for climate conferences

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has accepted a ride across the Atlantic by boat to attend two key climate conferences.

The teenager will make the journey aboard the Malizia II, a high-speed 18-metre (60ft) yacht built to race around the globe.

“We’ll be sailing across the Atlantic Ocean from the UK to New York in mid August,” she tweeted.

Thunberg refuses to fly because of the environmental impact of air travel.
Miss Thunberg is a bit of a social media sensation in Scandinavia.  She and I clearly disagree on whether mankind is causing the heat death of the planet, but good for her sticking to her principles.  She has chosen a very inconvenient (and quite frankly pretty uncomfortable) alternative transportation mode to keep from being a hypocrite on the subject.  In this she is seemingly unique among all the world's climate activists - none of them have given up jet travel to climate conferences.  Thunberg is showing everyone that it really isn't easy being Green, but being Green is exactly what she is being.
And a little child shall lead them.
- Isaiah 11:6
Bravo to Miss Thunberg.  The kids are all right.  Maybe wrong, but all right.

Huh. I predicted the Republican landslide in 2010 a year before

A port from ten years ago, but evergreen today.  I guess that ten years of losing hasn't wised up the Democrats.


This man is a priest. He has faith, and makes personal sacrifices - financial and family, especially - in service to his calling. He gives of himself, for the benefit of others. The danger is compromising himself in service not of his faith, but of an establishment who looks to him to prop up a political and social structure.

Bad things have sometimes come from this, like the Albigensian Crusade, where maybe 100,000 people were put to the sword.  Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.  Kill them all. The Lord will know his own.

This man is, in a sense, also a priest. He also has faith, that the universe is intelligible to the human mind. He also often makes sacrifices - those scientists doing theoretical (as opposed to applied) research often make much less than their applied compatriots.

The danger to him is the same as to the other sort of priest - compromising his principles in support of an establishment looking to him to prop up the political establishment.

Bad things sometimes come from this, too. Like Eugenics. There's more than a casual sense that the theory of Man-made climate change is another.

What happens when you base your decisions on a shaky premise? More or less what you'd expect:
A recent industry study into the UK energy sector of 2030 - which according to government plans will use a hugely increased amount of wind power - suggests that massive electricity price rises will be required, and some form of additional government action in order to avoid power cuts. This could have a negative impact on plans for electrification of transport and domestic energy use.
Seems that wind power costs more - a lot more - than fossil fuels. This is why most electricity is generated by burning coal. Wind power will cost more, and that cost will be paid by someone. Ah, no matter, say the political establishment. After all, Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius:
... last Thursday, Anglesey Aluminium, the biggest consumer of electricity in Wales, announced that it would cease production, precisely because it could see no prospect of signing up to a long-term supply of electricity at a rate at which it could make a profit. And on the day of Miliband’s announcement, a group of Labour MPs presented a “Save Our Steel” petition, saying: “We need to make sure we act before the light goes out.” It may well be that the English steel mills will become unable to compete globally, even at current domestic energy prices; but deliberately to make them uncompetitive is industrial vandalism ...
This is a very interesting article, because of a particular juxtaposition made by the author, Dominic Lawson. He cites all sorts of numbers on the cost and (lack of) effectiveness of current green initiatives on one hand, and the moral posturing of the political establishment on the other:
Miliband’s citing of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech in support of his policy of subsidising the construction of many thousands of otherwise uneconomic wind turbines might appear grotesque, even comical; but not if you genuinely believe that Britain’s switching from coal to wind power for its electricity generation will save the lives of countless Africans. 
I have no idea whether Miliband truly believes that it will - but if he does, he is deluded. The UK is responsible for less than 2% of global carbon emissions - a figure set to fall sharply, regardless of what we do, as a result of the startlingly rapid industrial-isation of countries such as China and India: each year the increase in Chinese CO2 emissions alone is greater than those produced by the entire British economy. On the fashionable assumption that climate change is entirely driven by CO2 emissions, the effect on global temperatures of Britain closing every fossil fuel power station would be much smaller than the statistical margin of error: in effect, zero. 
Never mind that the numbers don't - and can't - work. Never mind that the data justifying action is suspicious. Action must be taken, and taken now, and never mind the consequences. They won't (much) fall on Oxford and Cambridge, but rather on Leeds and Wales (Detroit and West Virgina, to my American readers). And who really cares about them, any way?  Caedite eos.

Interestingly, this isn't new - we've seen what happens when this sort of Kulturkampf economic policy is done over the course of a couple or three decades:
Today two principles now drive the political economy of the blue states—and so shape the Obama administration today. The first one is the relentless expansion of public sector employment and political power. Although traditional progressives such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Fiorello La Guardia, and Pat Brown built up government employment, they never contemplated the growth of public employee unions that have emerged so powerfully since the 1960s.


The only way to pay for these expenditures rests on the second key blue economic principle—the notion of an ever expanding high-end “creative economy.” This conceit is based on the notion that tangible things matter little and that, as former Wired magazine editor Kevin Kelly put it, “communication is the economy.”


Since [the "creative"] class had less need than traditional industries for basic infrastructure, a confluence of interest has emerged between the post-industrial elites and the public employees. Money raised from the monied post-industrial elite would essentially buy social peace by funneling largess not into improving the roads, subways, or ports but into the pockets of the public employees.
What's the downside to the Intellectual elites if energy prices double? They can afford another $100 a month, and their jobs are safe. Joe the Blue Collar steelworker?  We'll have to do up a government skills training program for him, like Data Entry or something. And anyway, we really don't like all those grubby factories and smokestacks, anyway. Let China do that, a long, long way away. And we'll need more Chinese linguists then; every cloud has a silver lining and all that, what?

I've said many times that I think that the Republican Party is the Stupid Party. The poverty of intellect on display there is nothing short of astonishing. So to make the 2010 elections a little more interesting, here's the key to a massive win for them:

It's all about what the Democrats will do to the pocketbook of Blue Collar America, stupid.

The Democrats are in the pocket of the radical environmental movement, so this is a target-rich environment. Expect higher gas taxes? Tons of Democratic Party proposals. Higher electricity bills? Cap and Trade. Mileage standards that add hundreds of dollars to the price of a car? Cigarettes? Alcohol? Trans-fat? Take your pick of what's already been done to Blue Collar America.

There's no tax cut, no government program that the Democrats can promise that would add up anything close to the thousands of dollars a year that Joe Blue Collar pays right now.

Add up the number, and talk about it. And keep talking about it. And point out what the number will be when Health Care is run from the Department of Health and Human Services.
The Democratic Party coalition is massively mal-adapted to survive in that environment - all they know is how to mouth pious platitudes about the working man, while keeping the real message to themselves.  Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.

I'd say "you're welcome", but this is. after all, the Stupid Party.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Ten year Blogiversary

Dwight has been blogging for ten years and has an excellent retrospective.  You should go and leave a comment congratulating him, but you absolutely should read his thoughts on what it's like to blog regularly over a long time.  A lot don't, or try and drop out.  This is something that I agree strongly with:
I have discovered a few things:
  • The posts that I consider to be short throw-away ones get more attention than the longer ones I put thought into. I believe this is a general principle of blogging that doesn’t have a name. Yet.
  • I’m shocked at how much traffic the list of city council members gets.
  • I seem to have become the go-to guy for obituaries. This gets depressing sometimes, especially when the obituary is for a relatively young person, and most especially when they’ve committed suicide. But I like calling out the people who have meant something to me for some reason, or the people I’ve never heard of who led interesting lives, or the war heros…and, yes, even the criminals who finally went to their just reward.
There's a real art to writing obits, and while Dwight doesn't frequently author them, he has a real talent to finding the ones that are worth reading.  Sharp eyed readers will recognize him as my go-to guy for obits.

But there's a lot of deep thinking in his post, about what the blogosphere means and how it's changed in a decade.  It's a post that I kind of wished I wrote.

Yiannis Chryssomallis - Live from the Acropolis

Yiannis Chryssomallis - better known as Yanni - isn't quite a classical composer.  But he isn't not a classical composer, either.  He has shown that there's quite a market for classical-ish music, with 40 gold or platinum albums.  This is from his 1993 concert in the Herodes Atticus Theater in Athens' Acropolis.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

On Capital Punishment

I'm uncomfortable with Capital Punishment, because the Law is a blunt instrument and innocent people ride the lightening because of lazy, incompetent, or corrupt officials.  But the other side of that coin is that sometimes the Old Yeller solution is the only solution to a rabid animal:
Daniel Lewis Lee, a member of a white supremacist group, murdered a family of three, including an eight-year-old girl. After robbing and shooting the victims with a stun gun, Lee covered their heads with plastic bags, sealed the bags with duct tape, weighed down each victim with rocks, and threw the family of three into the Illinois bayou.  On May 4, 1999, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas found Lee guilty of numerous offenses, including three counts of murder in aid of racketeering, and he was sentenced to death.  Lee’s execution is scheduled to occur on Dec. 9, 2019.
The story of the five men now scheduled for Federal execution is at that link.  I'm not uncomfortable at all with their fate - it's hard to see how violent repeat offenders can ever be rehabilitated so that they reenter society safely.  There's actually some good evidence that they can't:
Sometimes the drugs have a more indirect effect:
I asked him if he ever tried to get off the heroin. He said: 
“No. I don’t want to get off of it. The drugs don’t even get me that high any more. I inject the heroin just to keep from getting sick. It doesn’t make me happy like it used to.” 
“What I like is the adrenaline high from stealing things. I also like the adrenaline high I get from buying the dope without getting caught by the police. Those are my motivations; the drugs just keep me from getting sick. I just really like the thrill I get when I’m stealing things and the heroin ensures that I keep stealing. You can put me in jail, but I’ll start stealing and using again the first day I get out. I’ll never stop. I don’t want to stop”
There are multiple examples at that link of suddenly violent, unpredictable behavior.

Quite frankly, I don't see a way to square this circle.  If the death penalty is allowed at all then the innocent will be executed.  If it's not allowed at all then some Old Yellers will get out of jail and continue where they left off.

Major Hochstetter - Flop-Eared Mule (Donkey Reel)

Image von der Wik
Achtung, y'all!

I know what you're thinking: this is Saturday morning at Borepatch.  There's supposed to be country music. So VAT IS DIS MAN DOINK HEEYH???!??

It turns out that it's a long way from Nashville to Stalag 13, but that was the journey that Howard Caine took.  Born Howard Cohen in Nashville his family moved to New York when he was 13.  Working to lose his southern accent, he realized that he could pick up other accents and dialects (he ended being able to do over 30).  He took up acting and after serving in the Navy in World War II he began a successful Broadway career.

He broke into film, most notably Judgement At Nuremberg.  But he is best known as Gestapo Major Hochstetter on Hogan's Heroes.  What I had never known is that he had always loved Bluegrass and worked at playing it, to the point that by the time he was on Hogan's Heroes he was quite good.  In the 1970s and 1980s he would go to Bluegrass festivals and contests, bringing back 29 trophies.  Here thanks to the magic of Al Gore's most excellent Information Superhighway is one of the old greats.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Urbit raises $200,000 in crowd sale

This seems like big news:
Urbit, the computing platform described as a “city in the cloud” by its inventors, raised more than $200,000 in four hours through a crowdsale last week. While the crypto-space has seen many spectacular crowd-sales, some more dodgy than others, Urbit has been able to excite leading venture capitalists and executives in the space, including BitGo's Ben Davenport, 21 Inc.'s Balaji Srinivasan and Chaincode Labs' Alex Morcos.


Urbit doesn’t get rid of the complexity of the decades-old Unix-Internet platform, which requires a professional sysadmin, by removing it. Rather, Urbit installs a new platform, redesigned from scratch, on top of the old platform.
What's interesting about this is it's a sign of the commercial viability of an extremely subversive new architecture.  I posted about this a while back and it's long and detailed (and you should RTWT) but this is the subversive part:
And now to the really subversive part.  Clark again:
Back in the early days of the internet when Usenet was cutting edge, there was a gent by the name of Timothy C May who formed the cypherpunk mailing list.
His signature block at the time read
Timothy C. May, Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money, anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero knowledge, reputations, information markets, black markets, collapse of government.
I bring up his sig block because in list form it functions like an avalanche. The first few nouns are obvious and unimportant – a few grains of snow sliding. The next few are derived from the first in a strict syllogism-like fashion, and then the train / avalanche / whatever gains speed, and finally we've got black markets, and soon after that we've got the collapse of government. And it all started with a single snowflake landing at the beginning of the sig block.


I suggest that Urbit may very well have a similar trajectory. Functional programming language. Small core. Decentralization.

First someone will rewrite Tor in it – a trivial exercise. Then some silly toy-like web browser and maybe a matching web server. They won't get much traction. Then someone will write something cool – a decentralized jukebox that leverages Urbit's privileges, delegation and neo-feudalist access control lists to give permissions to one's own friends and family and uses the built in cryptography to hide the files from the MPAA. Or maybe someone will code a MMORPG that does amazingly detailed rendering of algorithmically created dungeons by using spare cycles on the machines of game players (actually delegating the gaming firms core servers out onto customer hardware).

Probably it will be something I haven't imagined.
At the close of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, the crowd was desperate for news on what was going on.  Benjamin Franklin came out of the building and a woman asked him was was the outcome of the meeting.  He is said to have replied "A Republic, if you can keep it".  The Internet was founded on decentralization, but we are struggling (and losing) to keep that.  Urbit is - maybe - a path to restoring that.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Ten years ago on this blog

This cracked me up.

Give 'til it hurts

Ready to head out to the Goodwill store? Better go over the checklist of items to drop off:

Clothes the kids have outgrown? Check.

Ugly Father's Day neckties? Check.

Claymore landmine? Check.

A land mine recently left at a thrift store was authentic -- but luckily inert.


A Goodwill employee familiar with military explosive devices found the land mine. An area strip mall was evacuated and a bomb squad called in.
I blame the Gun Show Loophole. We clearly need some "Common Sense" Landmine Control laws.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Worst. Nazis. Ever.

Last month, the Border Patrol fished a 13 year old out of the Rio Grande.  The kid was non-responsive, but they revived him, saving his life.

It would be nice if the biased media published this.  Maybe it would shut up some of those commie bastards who are always running their traps about how we have concentration camps and all that malarky.

A family heirloom

Ten years ago I posted this.

Through the Looking Glass, and out the other side

Yesterday, I posted about what I was doing trying to replace the old cotton twine that was the strap for the old family powder horn. Well, tons of you (OK, four of you) left comments with links to sites historical, and to sites catering to re-enactors. Straps (excuse me: lanyards) galore!

And what did I find was the most popular? Rawhide - exactly the stuff I bought. And so, a braided strap lanyard for the powder horn.

I know that my daddy put the old cotton twine on it these sixty years ago, but even he said it looked bad. This has the feel for what a mid-nineteenth century hunter might have had. And now the horn proudly takes its place on the wall Chez Borepatch.

Thanks to everyone who left a comment. This was all much simpler than I feared it would be!

To new visitors, the story of the rifle is here.

"Green" energy is destroying the environment

Windmills kill far more wildlife than has been previously reported:
“There is strong evidence that many insect populations are under serious threat and are declining in many places across the globe,” notes Extinction Rebellion. “A 27-year long population monitoring study in Germany revealed a dramatic 76% decline in flying insect biomass.”
What Extinction Rebellion does not mention is that scientists in Germany say wind turbines appear to be contributing significantly to what it calls the “insect die-off.”
Germany’s leading technology assessment research institute published a study last October concluding that the rapid expansion of wind farms threatens insect populations.
Dr. Franz Trieb of the Institute of Engineering Thermodynamics concludes that a "rough but conservative estimate of the impact of wind farms on flying insects in Germany" is a “loss of about 1.2 trillion insects of different species per year” which “could be relevant for population stability.”
It seems that this hammer of Green Doom falls most strongly on migrating insect populations (i.e. kills breeding populations).  OK, but it's just insects, right?
“Wind energy facilities kill a significant number of bats far exceeding any documented natural or human-caused sources of mortality in the affected species,” writes Cryan.
Cryan is emphatic on this point. “There are no other well-documented threats to populations of migratory tree bats that cause mortality of similar magnitude to that observed at wind turbines.”  
Another leading bat expert, Patricia Brown, agrees. More than a decade ago she warned California energy regulators that wind turbines could be the “nail in the coffin” for some migratory bat species.
But bats are icky, right.  No biggie.
Wind turbines have also emerged as one of the greatest human threats to many species of large, threatened and high-conservation value birds, after habitat loss from agriculture. 
Wind energy threatens golden eagles, bald eagles, burrowing owls, red-tailed hawks, Swainson’s hawks, American kestrels, white-tailed kites, peregrine falcons, and prairie falcons, among many others. 
The expansion of wind turbines could result in the extinction of the golden eagle in the western United States, where its population is at an unsustainably low level
Any additional mortalities to the golden eagle threatens the species with extinction, scientists with US Fish and Wildlife warned 10 years ago, before the last decade’s massive expansion of wind farms.

Oh, damnitall.  How come we haven't been hearing this?
Aren’t bats protected from wind turbines by government agencies enforcing the Endangered Species Act and other conservation laws? They're not.
“None of the migratory bats known to be most affected by wind turbines are protected by conservation laws,” writes Cryan, “nor is there a legal mandate driving research into the problem or implementation of potential solutions.” 
No research funding?  Hmmmm.
Where government agencies routinely require permits for development near wetlands, in order to protect bird species, they rarely require the same for wind farms, even though the wildlife impacts can be far greater.   
Nor do governments require that wind developers disclose when they kill birds and bats, or count the dead. Wind developers have even sued to prevent the public from accessing data about bird kills.  
Incredibly, wind developers are allowed to self-report violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
The data are self-reported by interested parties, not by scientists?  Hmmmm.
Environmental journalists deserve a significant amount of blame for suggesting the problem is either small or has been solved. “Wind farm works to reduce eagle deaths from old turbines,” reads the headline of a PBS Newshour story that typifies journalistic bias.  
But greater responsibility for the threatened extinction of birds and bats lies with environmentalists who promote wind energy as good for the environment.  
Against the best-available science, Sierra Club claims that “the toll from turbines is far from a major cause of bird mortality.” 
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) recently endorsed a massive expansion of wind turbines on the Great Lakes against the opposition from local wildlife experts, birders, and conservationists, who note that the lakes are one of the world’s most important sanctuaries to many migratory bird species.
Environmentalists sweeping environmental impacts under the rug?  Hmmmm.

What gives with all this?  These people are acting in precisely the opposite manner than you would expect.  Why?

Remember this commercial?  It used to be on the Sunday talking heads shows in the 1990s.  That's T. Boone Pickens, modern industrial Robber Barron.  Why is he pushing wind power, which is a lot more expensive than goal or gas.  What's his deal?  Why was he pushing wind power so much?

It gets lots more complicated when you consider that the wind farms are being subsidized by the government with the Production Tax Credit (PTC). A tax credit should not be confused with a tax deduction. A deduction reduces the amount of income you pay taxes on. is paying taxes on. A credit is money back. And the PTC is a “Refundable Tax Credit” which means the company does not just get to pay fewer taxes but actually gets paid by the government even if it does not owe any taxes.
The PTC subsidy has been in effect now for 27 years. Congress has adjusted the PTC many times through the years but today the subsidy is about $.02/kWhr. So, the power company gets money back in the form of a subsidy for roughly 67% of what they produce – i.e., the company gets money back to the tune of $.02/kWhr after it sells the electricity for $.03/kWhr. If the company sells $3 million of electricity they get the $3 million plus a PTC subsidy of $2 million. That is a huge subsidy! In fact, I think it is the biggest subsidy ever given for anything.
T. Boone Pickens and Warren Buffett both have huge investments in these things and both have openly said that wind farms would not be economic without the PTC.
(There's a lot of information at that link and you should definitely RTWT.  It's actually much worse than this)

So the Robber Barons are driven by fithy lucre, in the form of sweet, sweet "green" subsidies which inflate the value of the investment by 2/3.  What are the chances that Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club get a lot of donations from corporate foundations?

Hmmmm.  At this point I'm thinking about how Lenin called liberal supporters "Useful Idiots" and thinking about the rank and file environmentalists.  Most of these folks seem like people, and not the sort to be used as tools by the likes of T. Boone Pickens.

Hmmmm.  It's not easy being green.

Note: the picture of the dead eagle is from  They have a lot more about this.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Why the United States should not adopt the metric standard

Thirty-six years ago on this day was the Gimli Glider incident, where an Air Canada Boeing 767 had to make an emergency, unpowered landing at what had formerly been the Gimli, Manitoba Royal Canadian Air Force Base.  The reason for the emergency?  Canada had recently gone on the metric standard, and rather than measuring the fuel in kilograms the ground crew measured it in pounds.  Since a pound is only about 40% of a kilogram, the plane ran out of fuel in mid flight.

Fortunately for all aboard that day, Captain Pearson was a glider pilot, and glided the plane to a safe landing.  Impressive flying.

The only injuries occurred when passengers deplaned.  The nose wheel collapsed leaving the aft escape slides unable to reach the ground.  Fortunately all the injuries were minor.

In this day of "Everything is an app" this SNAFU is much more likely to occur if we monkey around with basic measurements.  People are also less likely to be able to figure out what to do when the computer doesn't give them the answer.


I've been writing abut climate science for a long time.  This post is from ten years ago today, and yet remains as timely now as it did then.  It's one of what I believe is my best posts.


Generally to be considered "scientific", something has to be falsifiable - where anyone can try to duplicate your observations or results. If there's no way that this can be done, then the thing cannot be held to be scientific. Carl Sagan used a typically accessible parable that illustrated this critical part of the Scientific Method:
"A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage" 
Suppose (I'm following a group therapy approach by the psychologist Richard Franklin) I seriously make such an assertion to you. Surely you'd want to check it out, see for yourself. There have been innumerable stories of dragons over the centuries, but no real evidence. What an opportunity! 
"Show me," you say. I lead you to my garage. You look inside and see a ladder, empty paint cans, an old tricycle -- but no dragon. 
"Where's the dragon?" you ask. 
"Oh, she's right here," I reply, waving vaguely. "I neglected to mention that she's an invisible dragon." 
You propose spreading flour on the floor of the garage to capture the dragon's footprints. 
"Good idea," I say, "but this dragon floats in the air." 
[Lots of ingenious tests for the dragon's existence presented and explained away.]

Now, what's the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there's no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true. Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder.
So the primary - perhaps singular - requirement of science is data. Access to data (to see if someone made a mistake or to compare it to a different set of data) is simply a given, if something is to be considered scientific. Otherwise, how is the hypothesis falsifiable? The assertions would be immune to disproof.

An interesting thing is going on in the Global Warming debate - one group of scientists (the global warmers) is refusing to release their data. Steve McIntyre asked the UK Meteorologic Office to send him their data, so he could check it:
You stated that CRUTEM3 data that you held was the value added data. Pursuant to the Environmental Information Regulations Act 2004, please provide me with this data in the digital form, together with any documents that you hold describing the procedures under which the data has been quality controlled and where deemed appropriate, adjusted to account for apparent non-climatic influences
They said no. Their reasons were very, very interesting:
The Met Office received the data information from Professor Jones at the University of East Anglia on the strict understanding by the data providers that this station data must not be publicly released.
Well now. Leaving aside whether the University of East Anglia in general, and Professor Jones' projects in particular are publicly funded, doesn't this make it hard to analyze the public policy recommendations related to climate change? The Met Office heartily agrees:
We considered that if the public have information on environmental matters, they could hope to influence decisions from a position of knowledge rather than speculation. However, the effective conduct of international relations depends upon maintaining trust and confidence between states and international organisations. This relationship of trust allows for the free and frank exchange of information on the understanding that it will be treated in confidence. If the United Kingdom does not respect such confidences, its ability to protect and promote United Kingdom interests through international relations may be hampered.
Well, well, well.

So what can we say about any conclusions, recommendations, or reports issued by the UK Met Office, that are based on this data? They are unfalsifiable.

McIntyre is very unpopular indeed among the Global Warming set, because he focuses on their data. He's the reason that you never hear about the "Hockey Stick" any more - he found that the data was cooked and the computer model was buggy, in a way that produced the hockey stick shaped curve. How bad is the data? Some of it no longer exists:
In passing, I mention an important archiving problem. Pete Holzmann identified actual tags from the Graybill program. We found that 50% of the data had not been archived. Was this selective or not? No one knows. Graybill died quite young. His 21 notes were notoriously incomplete. Worse, when the Tree Ring Laboratory moved a few years ago, apparently they forgot to arrange for old samples to be protected. Their former quarters were destroyed. Some of the records were apparently recovered from the trash by one scientist but others are permanently lost.
This is what the IPCC's $50 Trillion recommendation is based on.  RTWT. The situation isn't just worse than you think. It's worse than you can possibly imagine. And some of you have quite good imaginations.

The science is settled, you see, but no, you can't have the data. You can't even see what was done to quality control the data, because it might damage a government's ability to protect it's national interests.

Oops, gotta go. It's those darn Deniers, back on my lawn again ...

UPDATE: More on the UK Met office here.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Global Warming Kooks

Ten years ago on this blog, Hammer left a comment in which he coined an outstanding term that I've sadly not used.  I'll fix that right away.  Man, I miss his blog.

Why I'm a Global Warming Skeptic, part II

It seems that yesterday I fed the trolls.

I followed an interesting Sitemeter hit back to a blog where people were discussing Global Warming. Fellow Northeast Gunblogger Weer'd Beard had left a comment there pointing to my original post about why I'm a Global Warming skeptic.

A comment there replying to Weer'd basically said that I was spouting nonsense, and ended:

This is all just the same bogus junk science and fake petitions and other nonsense I've seen pop up all across the blogosphere. And most of that stuff can be traced back to oil, coal and gas industry astroturf campaigns.

You've been had, and so has your friend in the Bore Patch.
Well, then. I left a comment in reply summarizing the primary cause of my skepticism, which is that we've just come out of a climatic period called the "Little Ice Age", where we have historical records showing warming over around 300 years. The Little Ice Age was preceded by the Medieval Warm Period which was warmer than things are now. Most pertinent to the current climate debate, none of the computer models explain the shift from Medieval Warm Period to Little Ice Age, or why we came out of it in the 1700s and 1800s.

And this is where I made my mistake. I assumed that folks on the left were interested in an exchange of views, with an opportunity to examine new evidence and debate facts. Instead, here is a sample of the "enlightened" responses:

Wow, Ted, you're a twit.

You may be reading books/reports, but you most certainly don't seem to be comprehending them. 
There is scientific fact, and then there's BS junk science peddled by flat-earthers like Ted. I'll stick with real science, thank you.
Oh, and some airbrushing to try to remove the Medieval Warm Period. Most interesting was this comment, though:
"None of the models explain why the Medieval Warm Period was warm. None of them explain why the Little Ice Age was cold. None of them explain the transition between them, which is around 3 times the magnitude of the worst case warming scenarios today, and around ten times the "consensus" estimates." [my comment - ed.]


Obviously, the trool has never bothered to take a science class, preferring instead to memorize and spout inane republic talking points.

Here's the deal, troolie -
The Greenhouse Effect is very simple science. I understood it in the 7th grade.

CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Burning hydrocarbons (i.e. fossil fuels - aka gasoline) yields CO2 and water. CO2 has been increasing in the atmosphere over the past several decades. The source is burning of gasoline.

The mean global temperature has been increasing over the last several decades. This tracks with the increase in CO2 and the increase in the burning of gasoline.

Real scientists say this. Not politicians, not paid oil company hacks. Real scientists.

That's all she wrote.
Translation: God said it, I believe it, that settles it. And I think you meant Republican talking points, Scooter.

Ironically, these folks all seem to absolutely believe that they represent the Defenders of Science, while dismissing inconvenient arguments and piling on Judenwissenschaft ad hominem attacks. Sadly, they're not by any means the only ones, as Bjorn Lomborg could tell you.

And this is why I'm very skeptical about the whole Mankind-is-causing-climate-change thing. Counter arguments are not met with scientific discussion, the arguers are trashed as enemies. This obviously isn't science coming from the pro- Global Warming side, and so I wonder what else isn't science. Adding in the sorry history of fraudulent data presented as evidence for their cause, and the brutal "remedies" proposed, my BS meter is pegged.

And this is a shame, actually. I'm quite ready to agree that the climate is changing. I'm even willing to be convinced that we're at the heart of it. I am not willing to be steamrollered.

Jim seems strangely out of place, but puts his sarcastic finger on things over in the comments:

Why bring history into this Ted? History has nothing to do with the current climate problems. It is obvious to anyone with a brain that humans are killing the earth and we have to put a stop to it. Who cares if a few million or even a billion people suffer and/or die to save the earth - there are too many humans as it is anyway. Get with the consensus and pony up your sacrifice to save mother earth.
Heh. And so let me say that I'm proud to be a leading Internet purveyor of flat-earth, tool-of-the-energy-industry, republic [sic] talking point, reading-but-not-comprehending, trooling [sic], paid-oil-company-hack BS! Sold more Rumors than Fleetwood Mac, I have ...

Hey you deniers trolls, get the heck off my lawn!

Apollo 11 retrospective

Lawrence has a great overview.  Recommended.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

The only reason to read the New York Times

It's so you know what the Other Side™ wants you to think.  As a palate cleanser, here's a picture that say the same.

Antonin Dvorak - Song To The Moon

In America there has been a huge retrospective on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.  I'm not sure whether it's getting the same commemoration around the world, but here it's a big source of national pride.  In 1901 Antonin Dvořák was a similar source of Czech national pride.  For years this opera was performed almost exclusively for Czech audiences, leading to a perception in the rest of the world that Dvořák didn't write operas.  Now it's one of his most famous pieces.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Why the Soviets never made it to the Moon

Yes, they sent probes.  They never sent a Cosmonaut.  Here's why. (Warning: the link has a photo of Vladimir Komarov’s open coffin funeral.

In the 1970s I heard rumors that the Soviet Space Program killed some of it's Cosmonauts but thought that we did, too (in Apollo 1, although that was on the ground rather than in space).  This is the story behind that rumor.  Komarov went to his death in a spacecraft that he knew to be a death trap.  He did it because Yuri Gagarin was the backup pilot and he wouldn't back out to allow Gagarin to die in his place.

They had guts and determination, but that wasn't enough to get them to the Moon.  Rest in peace, Vladimir Komarov.

The best reading on the Internet

It's over at Aesop's place.  And it's over at Aesop's place again.

Smart, funny, topical.  It's a trifecta of bloggy goodness.

Why we never went back to the Moon

Ten years ago I wrote about this, on the 40th anniversary of the first Moon landing.  The ten years since have seen the flowering of private space travel, which bodes well for the future.

Jack Kennedy's Treasure Fleet

I was 11 years old, and it was late. We simply weren't allowed to stay up that late - after 11:00. But this was no normal day. We all huddled around that old Black-and-White television set, watching a terrible picture that showed the first man on the moon. Dad was in Paris finishing his PhD research, and watched it projected on a huge screen at the Place de la Concorde. This was maybe the last time that an American's money was no good in Paris.

We haven't been back, since Gene Cernan climbed back aboard the LEM in December, 1972. Some folks think this is a crying shame. I used to be one of them. Now I recognize that there could not have been any other outcome. We've seen this before.

Between 1405 and 1433, the Chinese Ming dynasty sent a series of exploration voyages to southeast Asia, India, and even Africa. While the Portuguese under Prince Henry struggled down the western coast of Africa in their tiny caravels, huge Chinese treasure ships sailed to Calicut and Mogadishu.

And then they were gone, as if they had never existed. Why?

The historian David Landes spends considerable time on this question in his indispensable The Wealth And Poverty Of Nations. The Chinese voyages differed in one critical way from those of Diaz and Columbus: the Chinese voyages were motivated by a desire to glorify the Middle Kingdom, while the European ones were motivated by the desire for filthy lucre:
In the 1430s a new emperor reigned in Peking, one who "knew not Joseph." A new, Confucian crowd completed for influence, mandarins who scorned and distrusted commerce (for them, the only true source of wealth was agriculture) and detested the eunuchs who had planned and carried out the great voyages. For some decades, the two groups vied for influence, the balance shifting now one way, not the other. But fiscality and the higher Chinese morality were on the Confucian side. The maritime campaign had strained the empire's finances and weakened its authority over a population bled white by taxes and corvee levies.


So, after some decades of tugging and hauling, of alternating celebration and commemoration on the one hand, of contumely and repudiation on the other, the decision was taken not only to cease from maritime exploration but to erase the very memory of what had gone before lest later generations be tempted to renew the folly.


At the same time, [the Chinese] desire to overawe meant that costs far exceeded returns. These voyages reeked of extravagance. Whereas the first profits (the first whiff of pepper) and the promise of even greater ones to come were a powerful incentive to Western venturers, in China the pecuniary calculus said no.


The vulnerability of the program - here today, gone tomorrow - was reinforced by its official character. In Europe, the opportunity of private initiative that characterized even such royal projects as the search for a sea route to the Indies was a source of participatory funding and an assurance of rationality. Nothing like that in China, where the Confucian state abhorred merchantile success.
So why did we leave the Moon, never to return? Why is NASA wandering in the wilderness? Let's update Landes, shall we?  In Europe America, the opportunity of private initiative that characterized even such royal Government projects as the search for a sea route to the Indies low-cost way to orbit was a source of participatory funding and an assurance of rationality. OK, then.

The heroism of the Astronaut corps doesn't change the fact that NASA will not - and can not - ever do what Columbus did. If they want to make a difference, to make it possible for people to live in Space, they should declare that they will purchase X kilograms of orbital launch delivery at $Y per kilo, and get out of the way. Unlike the X-Prize and Spaceship-One, NASA's pecuniary calculus will always be a football game, played between the Johnson Center Eunuchs and the HHS Mandarins.

But hey, this is all crazy talk, right? I mean, NASA would never skew things because of politics, right?  Right?

Brad Paisley - American Flag on the Moon

My gravest secret is that I really did fake the moon landing. On Venus!
- Richard Nixon
Half a century ago, we landed on the moon.  Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took a plaque saying that we came in peace for all mankind, but the planted the US flag.  When the astronauts blasted off from the moon, Buzz Aldrin noted that the rocket exhaust knocked the flag over.  In 2012 NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter took photos confirming that while flags are still standing at the Apollo 12, 16, and 17 sites, there's no Apollo 11 flag still standing.  The flag and pole cast a shadow at the right time of day; no shadow, no flag.

The other three flags are likely in very bad shape by now, after five decades of massive temperature swings, micro meteorite bombardment, and unfiltered ultraviolet radiation.  But looking at it this way, while scientific, misses the point.  Going to the moon was a triumph of the spirit, and the flags are perhaps the most vivid symbol of this.

Yes, there's a country music song about this, one written five years ago for the 45th anniversary of the landing and first released to the astronauts on the International Space Station.

American Flag on the Moon (Songwriter: Brad Paisley)
How do we honor
Those who have fallen
And died for this dream
Im sure of one thing
Its not with gridlock
Or bickering

Were the children of explorers
We came here from every corner
The adventurers that settled this land
Lead the world, fought tyranny
Touched the stars, brought liberty
Lets do that again

Tonight I dare you to dream
Go on believe impossible things
Whenever anybody says
Theres anything we cant do
I mean after all
Theres an american flag on the moon

Outside the other night
You shouldve seen the moonlight
It was enough to make you squint your eyes
So my five year old had learned about
The lunar landing and he walked out
And started staring at the sky

Stood there for a while
Got a great big smile and said
"dad I think I can see it, can you
I bowed my head
Closed my eyes and said
Yeah, son, I think I do"

Tonight I dare you to dream
Go on believe impossible things
Whenever anybody says
Theres anything we cant do
Cause after all
Theres an american flag on the moon

Oh, in two hundred years
Think about all weve done so far
I dont see any reason why tomorrow cant be ours

Tonight I dare you to dream
Go on believe impossible things
Whenever anybody says
Theres anything we cant do
Cause after all, after all
Theres an american flag on the moon

Friday, July 19, 2019


I know I've posted this before, but it's the weekend so here's a cute puppy.

Ten years ago on this blog

There were still veterans from World War I.  Now they are all gone.  Rest in peace.

Cigarettes, whiskey and wild, wild women

That's what Henry Allingham said was the secret to his longevity. The oldest World War I veteran has passed on at age 113.

But rather than end on such a somber note, let me point this out about (via the Daily Telegraph):
His life has spanned three centuries and six monarchs, has five grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, 14 great-great grandchildren and one great-great-great grandchild.
And anyone who is a founding member of the Royal Airforce but can still quote Buck Owens correctly in context is all right with me. As you reach out and touch the face of God, let us give you a proper musical sendoff.

Carnival time

There are many things about Maryland political structures that annoy me, but the prevalence of local volunteer fire departments is one that I find charming.  It's summertime, which means it's time for the local VFD carnival.  They do this as a fund raiser each year, and it's a ton of fun.  We went last night.

It's a fund raiser, so everything costs more.  But it's for guys who will run into burning buildings to rescue us, so what's not to like?  I even won another stuffed thing (it was shooting corks from a Daisy air rifle at solo cups, not the full automatic assault BB gun like last time).  But some friends have a brand new grandson who will be needing that rainbow polka dot stuffed elephant.  Win!

After fried chicken, snow cones, and ice cream there was a band playing 80s music (Guys In Thin Ties, recommended) and then fireworks.  I didn't bring my camera, but it looked exactly like the pictures in the link.

It was a ton of fun, and how many times can you combine Date Night with libertarian local government structures?