Thursday, September 30, 2021

The Right-Wing Data Breach Keeps Widening

The data breach at web hosting company Epik, which infamously tried to keep internet cesspool 8Chan afloat after the Christchurch shooter posted his manifesto there, keeps getting worse, with a second round of leaks to the public being announced:

Three hundred gigabytes of data released, including passwords, addresses, names, and even credit card numbers associated with right-wing operators and organizations. Entire disk images have been obtained: 

“Files are one thing, but a virtual machine disk image allows you to boot up the company’s entire server on your own, We usually see breaches with database dumps, documents, configuration files, etc. In this case, we are talking about the entire server image, with all the programs and files required to host the application it is serving.” 

This pretty much lays bare huge swathes of the online right-wing presence, exposing connections between organizers and the astroturf groups they funnel money to. This series of data breaches will be paying dividends to extremism researchers for years to come. Nothing like a proverbial solar flare to illuminate dark money!

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The Grift Is Paramount

If you've been wondering why right-wingers are so invested in the use of hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, neither of which has been proven to have any clinical use against COVID-19, the simple truth is that right-wing anti-vaxxers are making millions through online sales of these medications. Hackers provided information about America's Frontline Doctors, a group helmed by 1/6 insurrectionist Simone Gold

Besides being a classic example of affinity fraud, this is also an example of the 'hidden cures' conspiracy theory, the idea that all diseases could be cured if Big Pharma, the Illuminati, the Cabal, etc. weren't hiding them. Predictably, these 'cures' tend to be bleach, or black salve or ivermectin or turpentine

A vaccine paid for by the taxpayers and distributed without direct cost to the recipients? Can't have that, there's no cash to skim off the top!

Tuesday, September 28, 2021


Sometimes, I think that the DOJ just isn't doing a great job in prosecuting the 1/6 insurrection. I mean, what part of 'we want to shoot her in the brain' directed at a specific individual not constitute a threat? I get the whole concept of prosecuting these hundreds of individuals for crimes and misdemeanors that can easily be proven, such as trespass, but there really needs to be follow-up prosecutions for more serious crimes. If the insurrectionists aren't punished severely, their failed coup is merely a practice run.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Predictable but Horrifying

I have been saying for a while that the anti-vaccine/anti-mask/anti-social distancing crowd is going to get violent, and that there would eventually be a mass shooting or bombing at a hospital. That hasn't happened yet, but this item (sure it's just a tweet, but I'll look for confirmation) marks a worrisome escalation if true, and I have no reason to doubt it: This incident occurred in a state which is overburdening its healthcare facilities, a state which is running out of morgue space. The right-wing in this country has devolved into a full-blown death cult, and I really don't think that the push towards mass violence is going to slow down, much less stop.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Corvids Are Comrades

There are pros and cons to the use of drones to deliver goods.  There are analysts who believe that automating delivery services for online retailers will hurt transportation workers, and online retail titan Amazon has a particularly bad reputation for mistreatment of workers.

In Australia, that drouthy Antipodean land that inhabitants of the Northern Hemisphere characterize as the haunt of particularly venomous critters, there has been pushback against delivery drones- in Canberra, ravens have been attacking drones used by the Wing delivery service, resulting in a suspension of deliveries.


As someone who regularly observes birds, I would venture to guess that this represents mobbing behavior- birds band together to harass larger birds.  I have seen crows mob hawks, and then in turn get mobbed by grackles.  

There might be another explanation though... ravens are corvids, the most intelligent of birds, and corvids are workers, capable of building fairly complex tools.  As workers, these ravens are countering drone deliveries in solidarity with human transportation workers whose livelihoods may be threatened by automation.  Corvids are comrades!

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Harsh Critic

Have you ever had a critic who was so harsh they actually told you to stop writing? Well, that's how I interpret this:
It's that glance of disapproval which really drives the point home, really makes this criticism sting. Et tu, Ginger? Do I now have to evaluate all of my life choices? Luckily, I was able to buy her off with a saucer of milk. She's a harsh critic, but she is bribeable.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Audit A-Z

From the, as Tengrain puts it, Terrible Sand Kingdom of Arizonastan, we have the tale of the release of the Maricopa County election audit. An initial first draft did not look promising for the MAGA crowd: Yeah, the first draft of the 'audit' actually increased Joe Biden's margin of victory. If you can't trust an outfit named Cyber Ninjas, who can you trust? My suspicion is that the Cyber Ninjas decided not to claim that the election was fraudulent because they didn't want to go to Big Boy Prison for Big Boy Voter Fraud. They made their pile of money, why push their luck? Wonkette's Liz Dye noted that everying about the 'audit' is bullshit, and urged us not to take the bait, but I confess to having a masochistic streak. I've been following this shitshow, through official channels, and through the work of cybersecurity analysts: On the outside, coverage of the MAGA response is the bailiwick of AZ Right-Wing Watch. A bunch of armed whackos showed up to the proceedings, including some of the 1/6 rioters. One particular insurrectionist was spotted, and hopefully someone will identify his ass. Meanwhile, in the online fever swamps, the denizens are howling for blood: The more passive QAnon weenies are tempering expectations, by downgrading the Big Boom they have been anticipating for months. All told, today was a shitshow, but an inconclusive one. The real action is taking place in state capitals, where GOP legislators are enacting voter suppression bills. The Cyber Ninjas' fraudit might have been an incompetent farrago, but real actors are using stealth and deception to accomplish similar goals.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

In Contrast With Yesterday's Post

If yesterday's post was dripping with pathos, this post is pure Schadenfreude, involving a truly awful individual.  Florida congressional candidate and QAnon whacko KW Miller is hospitalized with the 'rona, and he's got things to say:

Predictably, his followers are just as crazy as he is, and seem bound and determined to get him killed: KW Miller gained national notoriety when he claimed that Beyoncé Knowles was secretly Italian, and that Patti LaBelle is a Satanist. His Twitter account was nuked, but I recall that he had long-running feuds with 'leftists' online. I don't wish death upon this idiot, even though he is a crazed lunatic who has spread conspiracy theories and disinformation, but I sure as hell won't weep at the prospect of his demise, or a painful existence with diminished lung capacity. He did provide entertainment for a while with his bizarre rants, but his entertainment value has long been outstripped by the danger he poses to our society.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Murder by Facebook

I'm one of those smug types who is quick to note that he has never had a Facebook account... back in the 90s, I worked as a private investigator (mainly investigating sketchy automobile insurance claims, with an occasional foray into litigation preparation), so I quickly became appalled at the amount of information about people was available.  We had to hunt down information using subscription index services, it was our job.  There was no way I would voluntarily put down personal information under my own name.  "Filed a workers' compensation claim for a bad back?  Then what's this photo of you doing kegstands all about?"  Besides, did I really need to know that a guy I worked with twenty years ago hates Jews?

The worst thing about Facebook is how it has become a dangerous vector for disinformation, though The Zuck deflected a question about the role of his monster in the anti-vax movement.  It's not just Russian troll farms or right-wing scam organizations that are the perpetrators, sometimes it's just some random bro with brain poisoning...

I admit to feeling Schadenfreude when I read of anti-vax-and-mask superspreaders dying of COVID, and I confess that I peruse the Sorry Antivaxxer website and the Twitter feed of The Herman Cain Awards, but there are some people I can't bring myself to dunk on, such as this victim of disinformation whose story seems to have broken even the HCA feed proprietor (who hasn't posted since):

THAT is just plain depressing, depressing and infuriating.  Here is an ignorant girl with underlying conditions who didn't have the resources to hunt down sound information, instead relying on advice from this guy:

She had comorbidities, she even knew enough to take them into account when asking for advice, but she still took the advice of some bro who probably doesn't even feel any remorse for her death. I'm reminded of a line from the film Animal House


This bro probably doesn't care that his bad advice got her killed, and Zuckerberg certainly doesn't care. Disinformation peddlers are murderers, and Facebook is, perhaps, their greatest weapon.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

It's Like Juneteenth Never Happened.

Remember the elation people, especially African-Americans, felt when Juneteenth was declared a federal holiday?  The Juneteenth holiday commemorates when enslaved people of African descent in Texas finally learned that the Confederacy lost the War of Treason in Defense of Slavery, and were finally emancipated?  Well, in Texas, the state which gave us Juneteenth, it looks as if the emancipation never occurred....  we now have the spectacle of mounted Customs and Border Patrol agents whipping refugees at the southern border.

Many of the more than 10,000 refugees stuck in the vicinity of the Del Río-Ciudad Acuña International Bridge are Haitians fleeing the turmoil resulting from a presidential assassination (probably paid for by a Haitian-American doctor living in Florida) and the one-two punch of a 4.2 magnitude earthquake.followed by tropical storm Grace.

While the claims of refugee status need to be vetted, especially in this time of pandemic, the very idea of mounted lawmen (so called) whipping black and brown people is a throwback to a barbarous time which we have never really put behind us.  

Personally, I would allow these refugees to settle Alabama, to offset the state's population loss... this, though, is probably the reason for the violent crackdown by CBP.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Horror Stories, Notable Victims

The disappearance of Long Islander Gabby Petito has become a viral obsession for legions of amateur sleuths.  Ms Petito, a pretty blonde girl who was documenting a cross-country road trip with her fiancé, was reported missing by her parents.  Human remains 'consistent with her description' were found in Wyoming.  The online explosion of amateur detectives has raised the issue of missing white woman syndrome- this pretty, social media savvy white woman disappeared in a region in which 710 indigenous women went missing between 2011 and 2020.  

The rates of violence, and sexual violence, against Native American women is horrific.  This statistic is particularly chilling: On some reservations, indigenous women are murdered at more than ten times the national average.  The epidemic of missing Native American women, 5,712 as of 2016, should be a recurring national headline, though it receives less attention that the disappearance of a single blonde lady from an upper middle class background.  Hopefully, the current obsession with Gabby Petito's disappearance will inspire those who have been trying to crack the case to take on the cases of missing indigenous women.  Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, the first Native American cabinet member in US history, has a plan to address this crisis.  I don't know if she has considered harnessing the power of the Tik-Tok teens, but once activated, these online communities can be a powerful force for good.

I have to confess that I haven't covered the issue enough... poking through the archives, I found a mention in 2019, but I have to note that I was a bit distracted throughout 2020.  It's so far from my pretty well-ordered Northeastern life, but it is a horror story that I read up on fairly regularly.  I have a sinking feeling, though, that every post I could make on the subject would be 'more of the same', inaction without having 'notable' (conventionally attractive while) victims.  I sincerely hope that a top-to-bottom approach, from the online teens to the Secretary of the Interior, will prove me wrong.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Seeing an Old Friend

 Last night, I saw an old friend I haven't seen in a while, an intelligent, handsome, good boy named Dexter.  My coworker used to bring him to work on a fairly regular basis, the worksite being an absolute paradise for an active, bright dog.

Last night, my coworker brought Dexter to work, a nice return to the old routine.  He is looking grayer now, his hearing is not so great, and he's not as spry as he used to be, he sometimes has knee problems, but he's still the good boy and the good friend he's always been:


I'm sure he had a great time on the job, there are all sorts of interesting smells around, and it was a solid seven hours spent with his very best friend of all.  I was happy to see him, I was reminded of a time when we were both younger and more spry.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Busy Day, Beautiful Day

Today has been one of those flawless September days which characterize late summer in the New York City metro area.  It began early for me, with my volunteer judo coaching gig.  With social distancing rules still in effect, we were able to teach some facsimile of the sport, using elastic resistance bands for uchikomi and improvising grappling dummies from the padding used to wrap the goalposts of the soccer field we are using for the athletic program.  Sensei stressed the importance of discipline in the sport, and enumerated the values he expected as part of the disciplined regimen: respect, politeness, kindness, and good listening skills.  It might seem odd to stress kindness in a combat sport, but there is a moral component- one simply does not want any crumb-bums in one's dojo.

We taught for classes, and after shooting the breeze with my fellow coaches, I left around 12:30, and decided to run some errands before work.  The traffic was so bad, though (I imagine everybody is taking advantage of the limited number of nice weekends we can expect before it gets cold), and I ended up going to work very early.  Why sit in traffic on a local thoroughfare when one can sit in a shady spot with a friendly cat for a while?

I think I learned what my superpower is... it's a knack for arriving at a place exactly when I am needed.  Yesterday, I got to work just as one of our managers was getting ready to leave, and a sketchy guy in a sketchy pickup truck pulled into our lot.  Today, the head of our retail division came to get some stuff she needed for a fundraising event which is to take place tonight.  While her husband waiting in their car with their not-quite-two-year-old son, she came in to get some signs, and some containers, which I was able to help her lug to the car.  While she was rummaging around in the basement, she found a merchandise rack that she decided she needed.  While not terribly heavy (for a brute like myself), it was a bit bulky- I ended up taking it out of an oversized basement door and King Konged it up an exterior stairway.  Her husband and I then partially disassembled it to get it to fit in their vehicle, and they were off to the races.  

Now, after a busy day, it's pretty quiet.  With the arduous tasks behind me (unless, of course, another should arise), it's time to take advantage of this now-tranquil summer evening:

Now, THAT's what I call working hard!

Friday, September 17, 2021

Right-Wing Rally Reluctance? More Like a Change of Scope

I've been checking up periodically on the right-wing rally scheduled for tomorrow, ostensibly in support of the incarcerated 1/6 insurrectionists.  While there was some nervousness about the upcoming event, a lot of right-wingers are shunning it, claiming that it is a trap set by the Feds.  Noted right-wing extremism expert Jared Holt has an important article about the event, citing a general paranoia on the far-right of infiltration by 'glowies'.  On the imageboards favored by online righties, glowies (also known as glowf__s or glown_____s, I kid you not) and fedposters are a constant concern, members of three-letter agencies exhorting posters to violent acts that would get them arrested potentially lurk in front of every monitor.  Additionally, the organizer of the event is a minor Trumpworld coffee boy who is searching for his grift in the MAGA Universe.  He doesn't have the following of a Flynn or a Lin, and he really needs to get a day job... even worse for him, his former boss has come out and stated that the rally is a setup.

The real concern now is that media coverage of this probable-dud is distracting from more insidious antidemocratic efforts by right-wing activists, including rallies at state capitals and local school boards.  The Federal authorities will be prepared for any malfeasance in DC, but the authorities in Salem, OR or Loudoun County, VA probably won't be.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Another Global Pandemic

Today's post is a break from the usual run of bad news about current events, and a detour into an unusual run of bad news... in an annual count of avian migration casualties by the Audobon Society's Project Safe Flight in New York City, a mass death event of birds was reported, and covered by Gizmodo.  The end-of-summer migration season is in full swing, and New York City, with its glass towers and nocturnal lights, poses a terrible risk for birds on the move.  There are ideas to make migration less fraught, such as turning off lights at night and making windows more visible with etching or decals.

In April of this year, my great and good friends of the Secret Science Club hosted a lecture on bird migration by author Scott Weidensaul.  This lecture, and my regular reading on ecological matters, should have warned me of what to expect, but it didn't quite prepare me for the photograph of dead birds accompanying the Gizmodo article.

On the job, I am fortunate enough to be exposed to the natural world and its processes.  The sites at which I work are on the route of the Atlantic Flyway. and I have been enchanted by the birds I have been able to observe, primarily osprey, and a couple of weeks ago, a pair of bald eagles which I hope establish a nest onsite.  Tropical storm Ida forced us to shut down this site until repairs can be made to the local access road by the municipality, and to a gravel driveway by the organization.  One of my coworkers, a acting manager of this site, is an even more avid birder than I am, and I'm sure she'd be upset to read this article, though she knows the perils faced by our avian darlings.  Again, seeing the pictures packs an emotional punch that dispassionate knowledge lacks.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

A Second Pandemic Coming?

It's been a while since I've covered a COVID-19 related topic (almost a week!).  This is odd, considering that the pandemic is THE news story of the decade, if not the early 21st century.  I figured I'd post about the pandemic today because one in every five-hundred Americans has died of COVID-19.

On a more alarming note, I have a feeling that things are going to get worse in the short-term.  With the death of an anti-vaxxer and QAnon celebrity in a Chicago hospital which refused to pump her full of ivermectin, anti-vaccine fanatics, led by grifters like Lin Wood, are discussing storming hospitals, doxxing healthcare workers, tying up the reception desks, and calling in bomb threats:

Meanwhile, Wood is exhorting his followers to 'go to war', then making insincere attempts to walk the rhetoric back: The majority of these discussions are occurring on off-brand social media platforms, such as Telegram, where moderation is not really implemented. More mainstream social media sites aren't much better: Truth to tell, I'd rather see anti-vaccine whackaloons steer clear of hospitals, rather than being admitted, then becoming martyrs for an increasingly-unhinged mob of fanatics with violent ideation. Still, my greatest concern is that there will be a bomb attack or mass-shooting at a medical facility. With one-in-five-hundred Americans having died of the disease, and hundreds of thousands more deaths likely, it's the secondary pandemic of violence which is freaking me out.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Newsom Vs Noisome

I've been preoccupied with parochial concerns for most of this month, so I haven't posted about the farcical California gubernatorial recall election.  I believe that the main purpose of this grotesque farrago is a 'Hail Mary' attempt to flip the Senate by having a Republican in the governor's mansion when Senator Dianne Feinstein dies or becomes incapacitated or retires before her term is up.  Republicans might not be intelligent, but they have a great deal of low cunning.   The fact that this recall is costing $276 million hasn't been trumpeted nearly enough, and the mainstream media will still parrot the lie that the GOP is the Party of Fiscal Responsibility.

The number one Republican contender in this free-for-all, Larry Elder, has already claimed that Newsom's electoral victory was marred by fraud, even though the results have not been announced.  This, like Trump's insistence that Biden's victory was fraudulent, serves to undermine the public's faith in the electoral process and to delegitimize all Democratic victories for ever and ever, world without end, amen.  It's a cynical ploy, but I have an infuriating suspicion that the media will play along, even though California Democrats win state offices by large margins.

As far as Newsom's main opponent, Larry Elder is noisome... he has stated that women are not as informed politically as men, that slave owners should have been paid reparations for losing their slaves, that Black Americans had sounder families under slavery, he doesn't believe that the 'glass ceiling' exists for women, he is against Roe vs Wade, he believes Blacks are more racist than Whites, and denies that systemic racism exists.  He believes that global warming is a hoax.  He is on record stating that the minimum wage should be zero.  He is against mask and vaccine mandates.

His former fiancée claims that he pulled a gun on her during a domestic dispute.  In Elder, the Republicans have managed to find a candidate even more repulsive than Trump.  I suspect that, even if he loses, his national profile will be raised among the MAGA dead-enders.

It's now California's choice to make, Newsom or Noisome.  I know that the populace will make the right choice.  Hell, even Elder knows that.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Secret Science Club Zoom Lecture Recap:

Tonight, my great and good friends of the Secret Science Club are presting a Zoom lecture featuring geophysicist and water expert Dr Giulio Boccaletti of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University. Previously, he has been affiliated with Princeton, the Nature Conservancy, and MIT. He is the author of the book Water: A Biography.  He is also an ocarina virtuoso.

Dr Boccaletti began his lecture with a quip about how he is calling in from London, where it is late night, so he might be interrupted by an irate neighbor.  He then discussed the summer of 2021, which has been marked by long-term droughts in the North American west and floods in New York, Germany, and China.  Something is going on, which provides a context for his book.  As an environmental scientist, he has been waiting for a train crash for rwenty years.  The chemistry of the atmosphere is changing, and water is the principle chemical agent in this change.  Politics and an aging infrastructure are also factors in our current crisis. We can't understand where we are going without knowing where we came from.

The story of water is not technological, but political.  As towns grow and farms expand, people forget why structures such as dams and levies were built.  Institutions form in the shadow of infrastructure and people are forced to respond to changes in levies and reservoirs.  What is most engineered is not landscapes, but political institutions.  

Dr Boccaletti indicated that he would be presenting vignettes depicting the history of water.  Liquid water appeared on Earth 3.8 billion years ago, either off-gassing as the planet cooled or, more probably, brought from asteroid impacts.  The water that you drink probably passed through a dinosaur's kidneys long ago.  The amount of water on the planet is fixed- most of it is in the oceans, some is in the atmosphere, some is locked in the ground.   Dr Boccaletti displayed a diagram showing the distribution of the world's water:

Much of the sun's energy is intercepted by water, which evaporates and eventually falls as rain.  The scale of the energy pouring onto the Earth is vast, about 170K terawatts.  

Hominids have been on the planet for about 5 million years, and H. sapiens has been around for about 300K years.  Only in the last 10K years have humans been civilized, we decided to stand still in a world of moving water.  The story of our interaction with water is a story of two opposing agents of environmental change.  Water determines whether we have food or not.  Dr Boccaletti showed us the Babylonian map of the world depicting the Tigris and Euphrates rivers as the center of the known world.  He then spoke of the legend of Utnapishtim, the survivor of a global flood.  The Great Flood narrative is worldwide, there are examples from the Americas, and throughout the Old World.  Our civilized origins are born of water.

Water has always had a role in the development of political institutions.  Showing a vase depicting Greek hoplites, the farmer-soldiers who were wealthy enough to arm themselves and demand a role in government.  Their wealth was due to the rich, rain-fed farms that they owned.  Other regions of the planet weren't lucky enough to be able to farm using rainwater alone.  The governments of the Greek city states inspired the Roman republic.  Ultimately, the Greek and Roman forms of government led to the underpinnings of the modern state.  It wasn't a given that this particular area of the world would have had such a lasting impact.

Dr Boccaletti then discussed his hometown, Bologna, a landlocked Lombard planned city with a heyday in the 11th to 15th centuries.  Behind the city walls, there are canals, now mostly underground, to power the economy of the city, which was known for its textile mills (such as silk and hemp mills) powered by water, the primary source of energy for industry.  Bologna was also home to an early university.  In the university archives, the Justinian Corpus Iuris Civilis, much of the jurisprudence in the Corpus dealt with water rights, some of which made it into the Magna Carta, which entails water rights for the Thames.  Ideas of territorial sovereignty dating to issues of rights to land recovered from floods, are still extant today.

The topic then shifted to the geopolitics of water in the 17th century.  Dr Boccaletti showed us a picture of the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in Rome, which represented globalism, and a call for a resumption of Papal authority.  Many of our modern institutions have their roots in this era, and water infrastructure was a crucial factor.  Dr Boccaletti cited the engineering of the Dutch polders and the draining of the Lincolnshire fens, and the treaties of Westphalia and Munster, which dealt with access to rivers.

The 18th and 19th centuries were characterized by globalization and colonization.  The Constitution of the United States regulates commerce, much of it fluvial.  Dr Boccaletti joked about talking about the Constitution with a primary audience, but the interstate commerce which was central to much of the founding documents inspired him to do so.

Dr Boccaletti described the 20th century as the hydraulic century.  He discussed the Tennessee Valley Authority, noting that the region, with its u-navigable river, was plagued by poverty, malnutrition, pellagra and other diseases.  Roosevelt wanted to bring cheap power to this area, and without high-voltage transmission capacity, Roosevelt decided to bring hydroelectric power by harnessing the river.  He used his authority to harness the power of the rive to turn the lights on.  The project had political overtones, the development of water resources had an enfranchising effect, bringing power to previously powerless persons.  The idea of the TVA was not only successful in the US, it was brought to Jordan, the Awash River in Ethiopia, and to Helmand in Afghanistan.  Currently, our reservoirs capture about twenty percent of rainfall worldwide, we 'replumbed' the planet.  The perception was that we conquered nature, a misconception which set us up for failure in a changing world.

Currently, the US and Europe have stalled in water projects, while China forged ahead with the Three Gorges Dam, which incorporates 28 million tons of concrete, a 600 kilometer reservoir, generators providing the power of ten Hoover dams, and flood control. The dam flooded artifacts, displaced over a million people, and changed the ecosystem of the river, endangering many species.  Currenty, the Yangtze River drainage basin is being dammed for power projects.  Chinese finance and expertise is now being brought to many parts of the world, particularly Africa and Asia.

Catastrophes are a powerful political motivator.  Struggles with nature are always used as a measure of control, and the illusion of state power to control nature is fragile.

The lecture was followed by a Q&A session.  The opening question regarded Roman aqueducts.  Dr Boccaletti noted that most of the aqueducts were private endeavors, with the emperors occasionally building one.  They didn't represent the power of the state, but of wealthy persons.  Regarding water, the state power was centered in the ports, which enabled crops from far-off provinces to be brought to Roman.  The vast trade system offset small irrigation systems.  The sewer system, such as Rome's Cloaca Maxima, is still in use.  Regarding floods, there was some private land, which made building levees difficult.  Romans responded to the threat of flood by building on hills.

Another question involved the impact of agriculture on underground aquifers, such as the Ogalalla Aquifer.  These aquifers are reliable water sources, provided that the ability to pump water is available.  These aquifers are being depleted.  In California, rivers are disappearing because ground water levels are dropping.  The story is entirely agriculture-based, the Colorado River is largely being depleted by agriculture, which involved great federal infrastructure and agronomy projects.  San Diego, for example, could not exist without these projects.  It's a complicated problem to answer. What do you want your landscape to look like and who should live there?

Some bastard in the audience asked about desalinization and capture of atmospheric water vapor to supplement drought-parched regions.  Noting that there is no silver bullet, water desalinization is very expensive but can be used on a municipal basis.  There is a limit to the energy available to desalinate water, there is a floor on the price, even at sea level.  Pumping the water upstream raises the cost.  Desalinated water is simply not economical for agricultural purposes. So far, atmospheric capture is impractical, but there are some interesting technological developments.

Another question involved the possibility of upcoming wars over water.  Is the burgeoning water crisis coming to a head?  Most nations and most societies are failing to develop the infrastructure they need to manage water.  The world is not running out of water, but access to water is varied.  Dubai exists.  Many people have problems with access to water, but most people are in the middle, with their access to water not exactly secure.

Regarding the use of technology to resolve our water crises, individual actions are insufficient.  Dr Boccaletti mused about what an environmentalist republic would look like.  The climate solution is pushing societies to address environmental needs, but there is the problem of using public power to, say, relocate populations.  Technology is a powerful instrument, we are in a golden age of Earth monitoring, but the power of the commonwealth, collective agency over environmental problems, is necessary.  Technology has a role to play, but not as great as one might think.

The last question involved the 'replumbing' of the planet with dams and reservoirs.  This didn't change the climate in a planetary sense, because atmospheric water vapor was unaffected, but it had political effects- Dr Boccaletti cited Stalin's demands for increased cotton production in the Aral Sea region.  The damning of rivers in Uzbekistan, caused the Aral Sea to dry up, and the increasing salinity has made recovery of this body of water impossible.  The local effects were drastic, but the effect on the global scale was negligible.

Once again, the Secret Science Club served up a fantastic lecture.  Kudos to Dr Boccaletti, who stayed up past 2AM, Margaret, and Dorian for a fantastic evening of topical science, presented in unambiguous terms.  For a taste of the SSC experience, pour yourself a nice beverage and check out this video of the good doctor discussing the future of water security


Now, sit back and soak in that SCIENCE!

Sunday, September 12, 2021


I spent much of yesterday away from all media, coaching a bunch of kids with colleagues I have known for twenty years, colleagues with whom I attended post-9/11 memorial services for our fallen friends.  I had to work yesterday afternoon, so I caught up with the news, which was dominated by 9/11 retrospectives.  I also made the mistake of checking social media accounts... Roodles was particular disgusting:

Giuliani has hated Joe Biden every since Biden derided him back in 2007: 


"Mr Noun Verb 9/11" passed into the American lexicon, and Rudy has never forgotten it. Rudy then degenerated into self-parody:

This is a character who has done nothing but polticize 9/11 for twenty years. Even worse, Rudy's reputation as 'America's Mayor' is based on lies. Sure, Giuliani was seen on TV, walking the streets of lower Manhattan, looking as if he were commanding the response, but it's because he had nowhere else to go, against the advice of experts, who told him to put NYC's emergency command center in the Brooklyn MetroTech, Giuliani put the command center in World Trade Center 7, near the site of a 1993 truck bomb attack.  He did it as a favor to landlord Larry Silverstein, who had some vacant space.  If Giuliani had been competent, he wouldn't have been wandering the streets, covered in ash and playing to the camera crews.  Additionally, his failure to provide adequate radios to the FDNY resulted in the deaths of hundreds of first responders.  Giuliani's entire reputation was based on bullshit.

I hereby name Giuliani the gaslighter-in-chief of this commemoration.  His heroism was always a sham, based on his ineptitude and misfeasance, and his decades of politicizing the tragedy has always been disgusting.  To see him chastise anyone for making the memorial a political show is truly disgusting.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

It's twenty years since the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, with the Shanksville, PA crash probably representing a thwarted attack on the Capitol, or perhaps White House.  I pretty much covered my experience of that day and its aftermath ten years ago, and my opinions and observations about the day haven't changed in any appreciable fashion.

The day itself, like today, was one of those flawless late-summer days in the New York metropolitan area, after the heat of August has broken.  The sky was cloudless, the temperature comfortable.  I don't know why I was lollygagging that morning, but I left home too late to ride my bicycle to the office.  Soon after I arrived, horror struck, and the initial incredulousness was followed by shock that such an accident had occurred, and the dawning realization that we were at war when the second plane hit.

I lost friends in the towers, and the one thing that struck me was that they were roughly my age, and the sort of individuals who were up-and-coming in lucrative careers.  Also, the victims that day were responsible, punctual people... if they had played hooky or lollygagged on the way to work, perhaps they would have survived.  I remember the memorial services in the weeks that followed, remembered the grief-stricken faces of friends who were mourning brothers or husbands.

One particular friend of mine, the athletic director of the program I volunteer for (a tough guy with a heart-of-gold from Queens, a boxer in his heyday), got everybody in his office out alive.  Ignoring the shelter-in-place order from building management, he entered the men's bathroom and yelled, "Get out now.  Don't wash your hands, don't even stop to wipe your ass!"  He then barged into the women's bathroom and bellowed the same admonition.  Everybody got out, but he definitely suffered from PTSD in the aftermath, and once the memorials were over, it was years before he set foot in Manhattan.

A couple of weeks after the attacks, I visited the rubble pile with a friend who lived downtown.  It was a four-story tall nightmare that stank unbearably and still emitted smoke.  Even at home in Yonkers, the evil, unforgettable smell was apparent every time the wind blew from the south.

I remember learning early on that the burgeoning Security State was a sham.  When the Saturday morning athletic program began the first week in October, I got on the 1 Train at 238th Street in the Bronx, lugging a large gym bag packed with a double-weight judo gi and a pair of size 12 flip flops, unchallenged by any law enforcement officer or MTA employee.  When I exited the train at 42nd St Times Square, the station was swarming with NYPD officers in SWAT gear and NY National Guard toting automatic rifles.  I proceeded to the nearest exit, only to find it closed off with a metal gate- the next exit was similarly blocked, and I was finally able to egress from the station through one of the main entrances, all the while carrying a bag which could have contained anything.  The entire security apparatus did nothing to keep anyone with nefarious plans out of this heavily trafficked station, but it did a damn good job of trapping everyone inside if there were an attack.  This pretty much told me that much of the security response was bullshit. 

In 2001, I was too young and too male to be familiar with the term 'gaslighting', but I realize that that was what was happening to the nation.  There was the ellision of Saudi complicity in the attacks, the strange drumbeat of war against Iraq (at the time, the most secular Muslim country in the Middle East), the lionization of the nincompoop who failed to keep the country safe that day, and the insistence that the country was unified when fundamentalist evangelical preachers were blaming the attack on lesbians and atheists, law-abiding Muslim-Americans were demonized, and anyone doubtful about the drumbeat for war was branded a traitor.  Perhaps the most grotesque thing about the aftermath was the praise of first responders, and the use of them as propaganda props for a global war while the very politicians vociferously calling to avenge them held up funding for those stricken with debilitating or terminal illnesses... now, THAT is a betrayal!

I avoided the anniversary coverage today.  In the COVID era, we moved up our Saturday classes to September, and we moved them outside.  Today was the first day, a perfect late summer day, like the one twenty years ago that turned into a horror.  It was a morning spent with fellow coaches who lived through that day, a morning of reminiscence.  In particular, I was coaching a socially-distanced simulacrum of judo with one of my closest Muslim friends, the man I have for years jokingly described as 'Morocco's George Clooney'.  Thank goodness (the goodness of New Yorkers in general, though NYPD behaved badly at times) he never was hassled in those days.  It's good to have friends, even though having connections means inevitable losses along the way... the men I knew who were killed were guys I met through the program.  Today, I took great comfort in being with old friends, friends with whom I shared the grief of twenty years ago.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Mad Dad Mode

Last night, President Biden went into mad dad mode, chastising those naughty childish types who refuse both vaccines and masks.  In order to bring these idiots into compliance, he has implemented vaccine mandates for certain employees: those working for companies employing 100 or more persons (those not vaccinated will have to be tested twice a week), healthcare workers in facilities receiving federal funds, executive branch personnel, and contractors working for the federal government:

My job as president is to protect all Americans. So tonight, I’m announcing that the Department of Labor is developing an emergency rule to require all employers with 100 or more employees that together employ over 80 million workers to ensure their work forces are fully vaccinated or show a negative test at least once a week.


My plan will extend the vaccination requirements that I previously issued in the health care field. Already, I’ve announced we’ll be requiring vaccinations that all nursing home workers who treat patients on Medicare and Medicaid, because I have that federal authority.

Tonight I’m using that same authority to expand that to cover those who work in hospitals, home health care facilities or other medical facilities. A total of 17 million health care workers. If you’re seeking care at a health facility, you should be able to know that the people treating you are vaccinated — simple, straightforward, period.

Next, I will sign an executive order that will now require all executive branch federal employees to be vaccinated — all. I’ve signed another executive order that will require federal contractors to do the same. If you want to work with the federal government and do business with us, get vaccinated. If you want to do business with the federal government, vaccinate your work force.

 Thankfully, Biden also mandated stiffer penalties for assholes who abuse in-flight personnel, doubling the previous fines.  Personally, I feel that lifetime flying bans and even public beatings (I'm only half joking) should be added to the penalties:

Today, tonight, I’m announcing that the Transportation Safety Administration, the T.S.A., will double the fines on travelers that refuse to mask. If you break the rules, be prepared to pay. And by the way, show some respect. The anger you see on television toward flight attendants and others doing their jobs is wrong. It’s ugly.

Biden also had strong words about the Republican politicians which have fought against state and local mask-and-vaccine mandates:

While the vaccines provide strong protection for the vaccinated, we read about and hear about and we see the stories of hospitalized people, people on their death beds among the unvaccinated over the past few weeks. This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.

And it’s caused by the fact that despite America having unprecedented and successful vaccination program — despite the fact that for almost five months, free vaccines have been available in 80,000 different locations — we still have nearly 80 million Americans who have failed to get the shot. And to make matters worse, there are elected officials actively working to undermine the fight against Covid-19. Instead of encouraging people to get vaccinated and mask up, they are ordering mobile morgues for the unvaccinated dying from Covid in our communities. This is totally unacceptable.


Let me be blunt. My plan also takes on elected officials in states that are undermining you and these lifesaving actions. Right now, local school officials are trying to keep children safe in a pandemic while their governor picks a fight with them and even threatens their salaries or their jobs. Talk about bullying in schools.

If they will not help, if those governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my power as president to get them out of the way. The Department of Education has already begun to take legal action against states undermining protection that local school officials have ordered. Any teacher or school official whose pay is withheld for doing the right thing, we will have that pay restored by the federal government, 100 percent. I promise you, I will have your back.

President Biden also spoke of protecting workers who need time off for vaccination, and of seeking equity in COVID response for communities of color.  He also spoke of providing doses of vaccines to poorer countries, and promised to release a detailed pandemic preparedness plan- notably, the Obama administration left Trump a pandemic response plan, which was ignored.

The speech was forceful and, as President Biden put it, blunt- it was the speech of an angry parent who has had enough of recalcitrance among his charges.  Sure, the mandates will be challenged by Republican officials who wish to see Biden fail, even if it causes the deaths of their constituents, but such mandates as Biden has proposed have long been deemed constitutional.  Sadly, the current Supreme Court, dominated by right-wing whackaloons, will most likely ignore precedent.  The next few months will be a shitshow, but with last night's speech, Joe Biden showed that he means business, and will use his authority as Chief Executive to save people who will resent him for their deliverance.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Getting the Band Back Together

Last year, the Date the World Ended was March 10, the last night I got together with the team for bar trivia.  It was a weird moment in time- even the fate of following week's NYC St Patrick's Day parade (subsequently canceled) was still up in the air.  Our stalwart MC, with a newborn baby in the house, decided that the best course of action would be to pull the plug, for the safety of his wife and child.  Every other event pretty much shut down soon afterwards, and life took a surreal turn... empty supermarket shelves, deserted highways (the solitude punctuated by periodic drive-bys of cars going excessive speeds), and a weird time dilation effect of endless days and ephemeral months.  The team disbanded, and our weekly 'hangout' took place over Zoom, a poor substitute for sitting down for beer and useless information.

Tonight, we're getting the band back together- bar trivia has resumed, with the old MC back in charge.  The old venue is gone, a victim of the pandemic and an unreasonable landlord.  The new venue is within walking distance, just over the Bronx border from Casa di Bastard.  With a new venue, we hope to unleash a reign of terror on the unsuspecting trivia teams of the northern Bronx.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

A Perfect Metaphor

Thankfully, Vulgarmort won't have any official role to play in the memorials for the upcoming 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.  New Yorkers have roundly rejected him, his reactions to the attacks were always disgusting, and there's nothing he could possibly add to the solemn proceedings.  Luckily, he has another commitment that night, he will be offering color, by which I mean off-color, commentary to a sad boxing match between two past-their-prime fighters.

I can think of no better metaphor for Trump's presidency that having the dunce deliver uninformed comments about a no-stakes boxing match between a never-quite-was and a has-been, whose entire participation in the affray is due to another boxer being out sick with COVID-19.  What could be more appropriate?

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Ivermectin Nearly Wrecked Him!

The unregulated use of the medication ivermectin has resulted in emergency calls to poison control centers nationwide.  Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic medicine, primarily an antihelmintic... the developers of ivermectin's precursor, avermectin, won the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine in 2015, because of the drug's use to combat diseases caused by worms, such as the horrific filarial blindness, which actually rendered certain regions of sub-Saharan Africa uninhabitable.  

Ivermectin gained its cachet among anti-vaccine crusaders because, experimentally, it inhibits the replication of SARS-CoV-2 in monkey kidney cells in vitro... in concentrations which are dangerous to humans.  Because of this finding, desperate South Americans, with no access to vaccines, used ivermectin, a not uncommon drug used in the Global South, as a 'Hail Mary' response to COVID-19 infection.  The important thing to realize is that these individuals had no access to vaccines.  

In a developed nation in which vaccines have been distributed freely, the use of ivermectin, in the form of veterinary medicines, is a bad idea, but conspiracy theory promulgators are now touting it as a 'miracle cure' for just about everything:

As I recall, Mick Jones sang about this... There being a fine line between black comedy and horror, people who should be able to get vaccines with no problem are still consuming the horse paste (I believed the following could be a joke, but the guy's social media posts suggest otherwise):

I suspect we'll read about this guy in the Irish racing form.

For a good overview of ivermectin and its fascination for the MAGA crowd, I suggest a listen to the latest episode of Matt Binder's DOOMED podcast, in which he interviews internal medicine doctor Eric Osgood.  The Good Doctor gives a thorough breakdown of what ivermectin is, what it does, and how it came to be seen as an anti-COVID measure.  It's a compassionate, intellectual discussion of a controversy which has, bizarrely, taken on culture war status.  I can't recommend it highly enough.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Labor in the Time of COVID

It's Labor Day, that nominally pro-worker holiday that was created in order to undercut the dangerously radical May Day in the US... can't have those proles getting any Marxist ideas!

After a year of articles alternately praising workers for being heroes and calling for the end to the COVID related unemployment benefits (to force people back to work), our labor situation is, well, strange- in a particularly cruel bit of irony, the expanded unemployment benefits expired on this very day, but companies are competing for talented workers, which would tend to suggest a good situation for job seekers.  Unfortunately, our society tends to use sticks, rather than carrots, so the cessation of benefits will most likely outweigh pay raises.  Of course, the sad joke of calling shelf-stockers and cashiers heroes is really not that appealing to the Joe or Jane Schmo actually doing the job, while having to deal with a deadly virus AND obnoxious customers... these people need raises, not empty platitudes.

Personally, I received my typical annual raise on the job.  While a modest augmentation of my hourly wage, it was accompanied by a huge increase in hours on the job, due to various emergencies.  My employer receiving grant money to offset financial hardships was a key factor in this occurring.  I'm doing okay, the average worker is really experiencing a mixed bag, financially.  The real issue, though, is the fact that CEOs are receiving hundreds of times the compensation of typical workers, while being appallingly undertaxed.  I don't really see that changing, and the fact that billionaires have to perform unearthly stunts to claim the mantle of heroism of a simple supermarket stocker is no consolation.

At least it was a good day for a BBQ.  Post title a play on Márquez.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Bastard With Bangs

Before going to work this afternoon, I caught most of the Wonkette Livechat with Robyn Pennacchia and Stephen Robinson.  It's a lively, thought-provoking discussion between two intelligent and engaging hosts, which I hope is the first of a regular series.  While watching the stream, I noted that Robyn's bangs game is particularly strong.  In response to my comment, one wag wondered what I would look like with bangs, so commenter Javey Daze obliged with a photo manipulation:

Thanks, I hate love it!  Looking at the picture, I manage to look like the Fourth Stooge, a sort of unholy mashup of Curly and Moe... or perhaps a particularly disreputable monk.  Now I'm wondering if I could get this effect by using multiple packages of the longest sets of false eyelashes i can find.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

A New Underground Railroad?

This has been a busy week, so I have not been able to devote much time and cogitation to the Texas abortion ban, and its accompanying law allowing private individuals to sue abortion providers, and others assisting a woman or girl to obtain an abortion for at least $10K.  The later provision strikes me as particularly deranged- it would allow a rapist to sue a girl's mother for driving her to a clinic to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.  Enraged exes?  Jealous jilted jerks?  Hateful neighbors?  All would be empowered to ruin the lives of persons involved in the termination of an unwanted pregnancy.  The Supreme Court, in supremely cowardly fashion, de facto upheld the law by simply not acting to rule on it.

A few years ago, I discussed the need for an organization, or organizations, analogous to the Underground Railroad.  Back then, I envisioned it as existing to safeguard immigrants in order to allow them to escape unjust authorities, but now I see a need for an organization which could transport women and girls wishing to terminate unwanted pregnancies to safe states, where the procedures could be performed by providers unfettered by a coterie of Texas misogynists.

It's going to get worse in the short term, as states such as Florida are considering Texas-style abortion bans of their own.  As I said, for a few years, I have been pondering the need for a new Underground Railroad, and I am concerned that I was right.  The 2022 midterm elections cannot come quickly enough.. the GOP needs to be terminated.  It's not like it has a functioning heart, after all.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Party With Friends, Exile Ends

Today marked the end of my year-and-a-half exile from Manhattan... My last sojourn in the borough was on March 7, 2020.  Since then, I had limited my New York City trips to the Bronx, which is two blocks from my home.  Today, though, I hung out with a bunch of Wonkette readers in order to celebrate the 40th birthday of Joe S, who calls Jersey City home.  Present were Dr Jen, who I hung out with last Sunday, ziggywiggy, mavenmaven, BillE Goat (who came down from Massachusetts, Uncle Milburn (who flew in from Washington State), Joe from Portland, and several others whose 'nyms I didn't catch.

It was a glorious day, spent in beautiful Bryant Park, and we had a nice little potluck lunch.  I had planned to make some vegan summer rolls, I even started pickling some julienned carrot and daikon on Monday, and bought some Vietnamese rice paper and hoisin sauce... last night, I had planned on thinly slicing a Napa cabbage and rolling up some fried tofu (atsu-age) with the vegetables and hoisin sauce, but then I started drinking with my neighbor.  In a stunning reversal, I hit the local-ish Ukrainian deli this morning and bought some house-made kabanosy, along with a big chunk of slab bacon for Joe S' birthday present (the reason for this errand in the first place).  He was born in Russia, and came to the US as a kid, so this was the kind of stuff he regularly ate for breakfast.

It was a wonderful time with wonderful people, and Dr Jen gave me a couple of her books, which I am looking forward to reading.  I had to leave the party early, though, because today is a workday and the boss is very demanding.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Ida Know a Thing

I made a glaring error in yesterday's post, when I wrote that Ida posed more of a danger to the Gulf Coast than it did to the NYC metro area, where thirteen people were reported dead.  I spent much of the night vacuuming water from the basement, taking breaks when the repeated act of moving the 2.75 gallons of water in the filled vacuum to drain it made me sore.  As you can imagine, those breaks were occupied with watching coverage of the storm's effect on my neck of the woods.  I have never been so happy to live on a hill in a city of hills.

Today was a weird day, a sunny day punctuated by still-extant flood warnings on my phone.  The residual winds of the departed storm provided for cool conditions.  I spent much of the day mopping, the water having subsided enough to make the wet-vac impractical, then I set up a fan to help evaporate any residual moisture.

This afternoon, I had idle post-Ida hands, so my upstairs neighbor and I cracked open a couple of beers.  Even sitting around, having brewskis, I had to take a couple of phone calls regarding the storm's effects on one of my workplaces- the storm had washed away portions of a gravel driveway, and an onsite rental property had a flooded basement with a damaged door.  My boss also informed me that the site would be closed to the public all weekend, the road is off limit to non-local traffic.

I've indicated that I got off lightly, but that being said, it will still take days for conditions to return back to normal.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Ida Threat

While it's nothing compared to the devastation in the Gulf Coast South, tropical storm Ida has adversely effected the NYC metro area.  Close on the heels of Henri, Ida has been causing flooding- the ground simply can't absorb more rain.  We have also been on tornado watch for a few hours, the phone buzzing with the warnings every hour or so.

On a personal level, water has gotten into the basement of the house, so I have my work cut out for me.  Luckily, last summer I bought a small wet/dry shop vacuum for just such a development.  I'm thankful that I have a roof over my head, but I have to confess that I absolutely hate vacuuming... you can't even listen to the radio while you're doing it.

Now, excuse me, I have some work to do... and this on my night off.