Shared posts

24 Feb 06:20

Latest Airport-Security Exploit: Walking Through in a Group

by Kevin
parody TSA logo

Here’s another of those occasional reminders that the TSA, like so much of our astoundingly expensive “national security” apparatus, is utterly and completely useless.

I just ran a search that suggests I have mocked the TSA in print well over 100 times now, not even counting the occasional offhand mention, and yet it still sucks. I’m starting to think it’s not even paying attention to criticism.

Its latest buffoonery, unless something else has happened since Monday, involves a security breach at JFK Airport. Although “security breach” seems a little overwrought here, because the incident involved 11 people who defeated the TSA’s high-tech, multi-layered, double-top-secret security scheme by the cunning expedient of just walking through it. Apparently, these miscreants saw an untended security line, or at least an unmanned metal detector, and decided to walk through. Which they did, unmolested (verb choice intentional) by the TSA. Three of them actually set off the metal detector and yet no TSA employee seems to have roused himself or herself to see what was going on.

Of course, there’s nothing they can do themselves anyway, because as I’ve mentioned before, TSA employees are not law-enforcement officers, although they refer to themselves as “officers” and have gradually changed their uniforms over the years to seem more and more officer-like. But they have no law-enforcement authority. So, should an incident take place like … well, let’s see, like 11 people walking through a security checkpoint and heading toward some planes, what the TSA is supposed to do is call airport police. Sometimes there is an officer near the checkpoint, like the one in Oakland who talked meanly to me when I forgot my ID once, and then let me get on the plane anyway because, you know, I’m white. But he could conceivably have shot me if … well, you know.

And the TSA did notify airport police at JFK after the incident Monday. Two hours after the incident Monday, by which time all the unscreened potential terrorists had boarded their planes and flown off to their potentially deadly destinations.

I guess I should give somebody some credit for not scrambling fighters to escort these planes, as they have done in the past for equally crappy reasons. But they did follow the even stranger practice they sometimes follow of screening the suspicious individuals upon arrival. What does that achieve? Obviously, at that point they have not hijacked the plane. And if they wanted to shoot people at an airport, they would have done that already and saved themselves the trip. Oh, I see TSA released a statement, so maybe it’ll explain why it does that?

TSA conducted security measures at the passengers’ arrival airport [SFO]. TSA works with a network of security layers both seen and unseen. We are confident this incident presents minimal risk to the aviation transportation system. Once our review is complete, TSA will take appropriate action.


I did greatly enjoy, though, the comment that TSA has security layers “both seen and unseen.” They were unseen at JFK on Monday, that’s for sure.

23 Feb 16:56

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Swearing


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

It's interesting how caveman can speak a language that won't exist for 50,000 years, but they still have trouble with article usage.

New comic!
Today's News:

Turbo-geeks of London! BAHFest London tickets are about 40% sold. We usually sell 70% of tickets in the last week, so this one will definitely sell out. Book now, or dwell in sorrow.

23 Feb 15:32


[*disables social networking accounts*] [*social isolation increases*] Wait, why does this ALSO feel bad?
22 Feb 21:07

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Solving Sophie's Choice


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

My love for you is boundless, but it's not a desideratum in this context.

New comic!
Today's News:

Some fresh and tasty book reviews have been posted at The Weinerworks.

21 Feb 23:38

Photographic Wreckery

by john (the hubby of Jen)













Thanks to Craig T., Katie F., Elizabeth D., Johanna, & Sparky M. for making us afraid to go into the bakery again. (Or maybe looking forward to it? I mean, that "shark" is kinda adorable.)


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21 Feb 23:19

Bill Urges Texans to Use Correct Flag Emoji

by Kevin

If you’re looking for examples of legislative nonsense (and who isn’t?), looking at a list of “resolutions” will always pay off. Because resolutions aren’t binding, legislators feel free to use them for everything from declaring a position on some irrelevant world event to honoring a local sports team. You could argue that this practice is bad because it wastes time they could otherwise devote to actual legislation, or that it’s good because it wastes time they could otherwise devote to actual legislation. There are even some examples of resolutions that are actually funny (on purpose), and I’m a fan of those only partly because it’s an excuse to mention the book I wrote that has a few of those in it.

This isn’t as good as the Boston Strangler resolution (also Texas) or the New Mexico Wizard Bill (both in that book, coincidentally), but seemed worth noting.

Not being Texan, I had not previously pondered the similarities between the Texas and Chilean flags, but they are in fact very similar. And Rep. Tom Oliverson (R.-Austin) would like to make sure Texans don’t confuse them when selecting emojis.

Both flags are red, white, and blue, obviously, and feature a lone star. The red and blue are different shades, it appears, but the only other difference is that the Texas flag has its lone star in a blue square:

while on the Chilean flag the whole left border is blue:

No, wait, it’s the other way around. Chile has the blue square, and Texas has the full blue field on the left. Sorry! Just remember everything’s bigger in Texas, and you can keep them straight that way. Although Chile is actually bigger than Texas (291,933 square miles v. 268,597), and that could be confusing if you were to get that extraneous fact stuck in your brain.

Apparently, Chile had its flag first, or at least it adopted the basic design in 1817. The Republic of Texas adopted its flag in 1839, and it became the state flag when Texas joined the Union (temporarily at first) in 1845. It’s not clear who designed the Texas flag, and there’s no reason to think it was modeled on Chile’s. As is usually the case, there were lots of other designs out there, actual or proposed; I have to say I find it kind of hilarious that according to this article, Texas might have had a flag with a rainbow on it, had a meeting about flag designs not “hastily adjourned” in 1836 because the Mexican Army was on the way.

Anyway, the flags are in fact similar, and so their flag emojis of course are similar, and similarly confused. Oliverson’s resolution (right) aims to do something about that.

According to HCR 75, “most major electronic messaging applications” include an emoji for Chile’s flag but not Texas’s. “All too often,” it claims, the Chilean flag is used as a substitute, which will not do. The colors and symbols stand for different things, the resolution says, and so on and so forth. Therefore, by adopting the resolution, the legislature would

reject the notion that the Chilean flag, although it is a nice flag, can in any way compare to or be substituted for the official state flag of Texas and [would] urge all Texans not to use the Republic of Chile flag emoji in digital forums when referring to the Lone Star Flag of the great State of Texas.

So far there has been no further action on the resolution, but it was just filed on February 16. In the meantime, consider yourselves only informally urged.

20 Feb 07:57

Decision Paralysis

Good point--making no decision is itself a decision. So that's a THIRD option I have to research!
20 Feb 03:49

#1132; My Everything Collection

by David Malki

Hate to see good stuff thrown away? Donate it to your local thrift shop and let them throw it away, out of your sight!

19 Feb 21:26


by Minnesotastan

Snopes confirms that Mencken did make such a pronouncement in 1920 (using the term "downright moron").
In this case the attribution to Henry Louis Mencken, a prominent newspaperman and political commentator during the first half of the 20th century, is accurate. Writing for the Baltimore Evening Sun on 26 July 1920, in an article entitled “Bayard vs. Lionheart” (and reprinted in the book On Politics: A Carnival of Buncombe), Mencken cynically opined on the difficulties of good men reaching national office when the scale of their campaigns precluded them from directly reaching out to large segments of the voting public:
The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.

The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.
Mencken biography.
19 Feb 10:52

Pirate Site With No Traffic Attracts 49m Mainly Bogus DMCA Notices

by Andy

As reported in these pages on many occasions, Google’s Transparency Report is a goldmine for anyone prepared to invest time trawling its archives.

The report is a complete record of every DMCA notice Google receives for its ‘search’ function and currently lists more than two billion URL takedowns spread over a million websites. Of course, most of those websites will remain faceless since there’s far too many to research. That said, the really big ‘offenders’ are conveniently placed at the top of the list by Google.

The most-reported sites, according to Google

As we can see, the 4shared file-hosting site is at the top of the list. That isn’t a big surprise since the site has been going for years, attracts massive traffic, and stores countless million files.

There are a number of other familiar names too, but what is the site in second place? has a seriously impressive 49.5m takedown requests logged against it. We’ve never even heard of it.

Checking the site out, MP3Toys is clearly a pirate platform that allows users to download and stream unlicensed MP3s from thousands of artists. There are hundreds of these kinds of sites around, probably pulling content from YouTube and other web sources.

But here’s the problem. According to Google, (which also uses a .tech extension) has only been appearing in its databases since Jun 30, 2016. During this short time, Google has received requests to remove 49.5 million URLs from its indexes. That’s about 1.6 million URLs for each of the 31 weeks MP3Toys has been online.

No site in history has ever achieved these numbers, it’s completely unprecedented. So MP3Toys must be huge, right? Not exactly.

According to Alexa, the site’s .xyz domain is ranked the 25 millionth most popular online, while its .tech domain is currently ranked 321,614 after being introduced in January 2017.

In loose terms, this site has no significant traffic yet will soon be the most-infringing site on the whole Internet. How can this be? Well, it’s all down to an anti-piracy company making things up and MP3Toys going along with the charade.

As seen in the image below, along with outfits such as the BPI and BREIN, anti-piracy outfit APDIF do Brasil has an unusual fascination with MP3Toys. In fact, it’s sent the vast majority of the notices received by Google.

However, while some of the notices are undoubtedly correct, it appears a huge number are absolutely bogus. Instead of scanning the site and sending an accurate takedown notice to Google, APDIF tries to guess the URLs where MP3Toys stores its content. A sample list is shown below.

The problem here is that in real terms, none of these URLs exist until they’re requested. However, APDIF’s guesses are entertained by the site, which creates a random page of music for every search. The content on these auto-generated pages cycles, but it never relates to the searches being put in. As shown below, even TorrentFreak’s Greatest Hits Volume 77 is a winner (Test it yourself here)

So in summary, APDIF makes up its own URLs, MP3Toys randomly generates a page of music that has nothing to do with the URL input, APDIF logs it as an infringement of its clients’ rights, and sends a complaint to Google.

Then, putting the icing on an already confused cake, Google ‘removes’ every URL from its search results, even though it appears they were never in them in the first place. And that’s how a site with virtually no traffic received more DMCA complaints than The Pirate Bay. Unbelievable.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

18 Feb 20:03

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Anti-Theodicy


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

I think you could do an entirely novel exegesis of the Old Testament based around this premise.

New comic!
Today's News:

Hey! Geeks of London! Come see me, March 25th, at Imperial.

17 Feb 20:44

Friday Favs 2/17/17

by Jen

Some of my favorite new submissions this week:


Ever get the feeling something's missing?

Like the second cake Jessie ordered?

Or any semblance of reading comprehension?


LEGO Batman is all the rage right now, so here:

...something to rage over.

(Or maybe sh** a brick? I'll show myself out.)


And finally, when you ask for "The Cake Is Not A Lie," (a classic Portal reference) and get what I'm pretty sure is the creepiest thing I've ever read:

Just keep telling yourself that.


While you wrestle with that nightmare fuel...

...appropriate Portal song is appropriate:

(If you're super confused right now, play the game. Trust me. It's amazing.)


Thanks to Jessie A., Jeff E., & David E. for the most perfect song setup of all time. This was a triumph. I'm making a note here: "HUGE SUCCESS."


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14 Feb 05:20

Congratulations, Lady Who Shut Down Dance by Citing Obscure Law

by Kevin

A Valentine’s Day dance had been planned for last Saturday night in Henryetta, Oklahoma, but that was cancelled thanks to the good work of Robbie Kinney, the woman who called attention to a city ordinance precluding “public dance halls” within 500 feet of a church. Rosie LaVon’s, the site where the alleged criminal conspirators had planned to meet in order to “dance” and God knows what else, is only 300 feet from the nearby Church of Christ.

After Kinney blew the whistle, the organizer decided to cancel, despite something less than overwhelming support for Kinney’s position.

“Other than her,” said Joni Insabella, who owns the venue, “nobody objected, not even the church.” Then who cares what Kinney thinks? Insabella’s husband, apparently, who she said advised her to cancel the dance. Why would he advise that? “He’s the city attorney,” she said, “and he swore an oath to uphold the law.”

Kinney, too, insisted the letter of the law had to be enforced. “I’m sorry,” she told NBC, “but the law is the law. Law enforcement does not have the right to pick and choose which laws they are going to enforce, no matter how ridiculous they are.”

She was neither sorry nor correct.

First, we should look at the law itself. Does it really preclude dancing within 500 feet of a church, or is this one of those made-up stories of which so many dumb-law books other than The Emergency Sasquatch Ordinance are filled? No, this one’s real, although it targets dance halls, not the dancing itself.

Section 9-403 of the town ordinances says “No public dance hall shall be permitted where the same is located within 500 feet of any church or public school.” What’s a “public dance hall”? Any place where a “public dance” is held (as well as “all adjoining rooms, hallways or other appurtenances,” so don’t try dancing there either). Okay, so what’s  a “public dance”? That, says section 9-401, is any dance “to which the public generally may obtain admission,” as opposed to one where admission is “based upon personal selection or invitation.” Just to make clear that these private dances are permitted, another section specifically exempts them from the law.

One of Henryetta’s many dance-hall exclusion zones

Now, this is not an anti-dancing ordinance or an effort to protect local churches from the sin radiated by people who dance. After all, it doesn’t say “no dancing shall be permitted within 500 feet of any church,” so the Red Zone could be totally packed with sweaty writhing dancers and this law wouldn’t apply. The law aims to keep the zone clear of a particular kind of establishment, though it’s probably more accurate to say it was intended to shut down a particular establishment. “This ordinance was put in place back in the 1970s when there was a troublesome dance bar on Main Street,” the mayor said, “and it’s never been enforced.” Except against the troublesome dance bar, I assume—as you can see above, the Church of Christ is almost exactly 500 feet from Main Street, so my guess is that’s where said dance bar was located. Church and school protection, in other words, may just have been an excuse to get rid of a business they didn’t like. It hasn’t been enforced since then, the mayor likely meant.

But wait. Whether it’s been enforced in the past doesn’t matter, at least according to Robbie Kinney. The law is the law, and it must be strictly enforced no matter how ridiculous. Right?


For one thing, it’s not always clear what the law is. Laws are written by people, and some of those people aren’t very good at it. Like, possibly, whoever wrote section 9-405, “Attendance by Minors.” That section first makes it unlawful to allow any person under the age of 14 to attend a public dance. The next sentence says “[i]t is lawful for any person under the age of 18″ to attend, “unless such person be in company with and attended by a parent or guardian.” Emphasis added. Apparently, somebody wanted to make sure 15- to 17-year-olds were not accompanied by a parent or guardian at public dances? Seems a little creepy, but the law’s the law. Or maybe sometimes it isn’t?

Section 10-413 makes it unlawful “for any person to be about in the immediate vicinity where a person or persons are gambling….” Is it constitutional to punish someone just for being near an illegal activity? Don’t think so. It sure isn’t constitutional to punish someone just for being “disrespectful” to a police officer, or to “use abusive or indecent language toward or about any such officer….” (10-610). The main point of the First Amendment was to protect the right to tell a government agent to go f*** himself (or words to that effect), wasn’t it? So this won’t do. Also unconstitutional, and maybe unsurprising, is the ban on “immodest dancing” at public dances (9-410). The ordinance uses the terms “indecent or vulgar,” but these too are undefined. It’s apparently up to the Chief of Police to decide what dancing is acceptable, and that always goes well. The “insulting signs or language” ordinance (10-302) also seems to be not very enforceable.

Weekend funerals are illegal in Henryetta, unless it’s an emergency (11-312(B)). It’s unlawful for any person to play on the sidewalks unless specifically authorized by ordinance (14-204). It’s also unlawful to cross the street under any circumstances unless your path is “at right angles to the curb” (15-1004). Since the law must be enforced as written, I assume no deviation from 90 degrees will be tolerated.

The point, of course, is that some common sense is often required when interpreting laws, and people should use it; and also law enforcement does have an enormous amount of discretion to “pick and choose” what laws they are going to enforce. That discretion can certainly be misused, but the risk is pretty low if they’re choosing not to enforce a law that’s ridiculous or unconstitutional—and there are an amazing number of those laws on the books, believe me.

This one may not be around much longer, at least, because the mayor says they are likely to repeal it at the next city council meeting. Given her commitment to the letter of the law, maybe Kinney will get herself a protractor and start checking pedestrians. The law’s the law!

13 Feb 19:56

Airplane oxygen masks explained

by Minnesotastan

Excerpts from an article in the Travel section of The Telegraph:
“Up front, the pilots will don their own masks and commence a rapid descent to an altitude no higher than 10,000 feet,” he continues. “If the emergency descent feels perilously fast, this isn’t because the plane is crashing: it’s because the crew is doing what’s it’s supposed to do.”..

According to Airbus, if a plane loses pressure at 40,000 feet, those on board have as little as 18 seconds of “useful consciousness” without supplemental oxygen...

...what you’re supplied isn’t exactly oxygen – nor is it not compressed air in the scuba diving sense. Oxygen tanks are heavy and bulky so aircraft use a more complicated system. The panel above each seat actually contains a cocktail of chemicals that, when burned, release oxygen. They might include barium peroxide, a fine white powder used in fireworks, sodium chlorate, more commonly used as a weedkiller, and potassium chlorate, a staple of school science lab experiments (it reacts violently with sugar).

Tug the mask, like you’re told in the demonstration, and the chemical process starts. Once it starts, it cannot be stopped until everything’s burned up (around 12-15 minutes...).
This is important:
Do not expect the bag to inflate. Passengers have reportedly suffered hypoxia after believing their mask was broken because the bag wasn’t inflating, prompting them to remove it. Hence the warning given during every safety briefing.

“Oxygen is supplied in a constant flow,” explained a BA spokesman. “The bag does not inflate like a respirator bag used in a medical theatre. How full it gets depends on an individual's rate of breathing. If the rate of breathing is very quick, air is inhaled at a faster rate and so the bag will inflate less. If all the air isn't inhaled, some will remain in the bag, partially inflating it.”

The oxygen generator can also get extremely hot – so don’t touch it – and passengers may even notice a burning smell (so don’t be alarmed).
I don't know if the standard passenger mask is a "partial rebreather," capturing exhaled air, which even if "once-used" still has usable oxygen available, or a "non-rebreather."

More information at the FAA.
13 Feb 19:55

Finding "dark skies"

by Minnesotastan

Those who wish to see the skies as their grandparents did and appreciate the magnificience of the Milky Way would do best to find a "dark sky" away from the contaminatin of urban lighting.  I made the screencap above from a world map at DarkSiteFinder.

It's zoomable to tell you which way to drive from Salt Lake or Park City for stargazing -

- and it covers the entire world -

?why the hot spot in subSiberian Russia?  Perhaps burning natural gas from oil fields?

Found via an article at FiveThirtyEight about The Darkest Town in America, which discusses the environmental and health effects of nocturnal light pollution.

And this is related: an aerial view of a community in the process of switching from conventional sodium lights to LEDs:

Discussed at the Mildly Interesting subreddit.
11 Feb 19:51

Stunning Rogue One Zeta-class cargo shuttle

by Jonathan

This brilliant minifig scale Zeta-class cargo shuttle by Renegade Clone is by far my favorite vehicle from Rogue One. Looking like a turtle on its belly with its flippers up, this ship looks exactly like the one in the film – the builder has captured it just perfectly. It’s definitely in my top two along with the Rebel U-Wing.

Zeta-class (infiltration)

With a wonderful orange highlighted belly and forward hatch that opens with plenty of room for the cargo crates and *spoilers*, the builder used LEGO Digital Designer for rapid prototyping during the construction and an estimated 4000 LEGO bricks to create this UCS quality model. But then Krennic’s Imperial Shuttle is pretty cool too, so it’s easily in my top three.

Zeta-class (forward 3/4 view)

Check out the Flickr album to see work in progress pics and more *spoilers*. A brilliant replica of one of my favorite ships …until LEGO brings out a Hammerhead Corvette, that is!

The post Stunning Rogue One Zeta-class cargo shuttle appeared first on The Brothers Brick.

10 Feb 19:31

Stardew Valley

I have accidentally watered virtually every person and object in Pelican Town.
10 Feb 08:24

Woman Gets a Ticket for Parking Two Seconds Early

by Kevin

It was a no-parking zone until 10 am. The time stamp on the ticket was 9:59:58. Case closed.

Closed in the defendant’s favor, because—even though this was clearly a violation—the judge decided to let it slide. He said afterward that he believed her story that her car’s clock was at least two seconds fast, but since he started laughing as soon as he looked at the ticket, that explanation probably wasn’t really necessary.

Slightly reminiscent of the Hyperphrase order, in which a judge refused to strike the defendant’s motion even though, “in a scandalous affront to this court’s deadlines,” the defendant filed it a full four minutes and 27 seconds late.

That situation, too, resulted in judicial mockery.

09 Feb 10:56

Some notes on the worst-case scenario

by Charlie Stross

Confession time: I'm an optimist, especially about the ideas of social progress that emerged in Europe at the end of the middle ages and became mainstream in western politics in the early 20th century. I called the outcome of the Brexit referendum wrong (by underestimating the number of racist bigots and Little Englanders in the UK population: Brexit is a proxy for English nationalism, which is absolutely not the same as British nationalism), and I called the US presidential election wrong (underestimating the extent of gerrymandering and micro-targeted black propaganda driven by data mining in the campaign).

Since January 20th we've seen a degree and type of activity emanating from the new US administration that is markedly different from anything in my politically aware lifetime (loosely: since Reagan). Blanket bans on entry to the USA by anyone associated with certain nationalities, mass firings at the State Department, a president railing against a "so-called judge", the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff being booted off the National Security Council and replaced by a white nationalist ideologue, and a former CEO of Exxon in the Cabinet: what's going on?

Let me pull on my pessimist's hat and advance the most scary hypothesis I can imagine that explains the current situation.

Please note that the following scenario assumes that what we are witnessing is deliberate and planned and that the people in Trump's inner circle actually have a coherent objective they are working towards. (I desperately hope that I'm wrong on all counts.)

Here's the thing: we are looking at an administration that is very clearly being operated on behalf of carbon extraction industries. Trump's cabinet picks are almost all climate change deniers. While there are some questionable exceptions--Tillerson has apparently conceded some human link with climate change--even those who are "soft" on climate change existing at all stand to benefit from interests in the coal and oil industries.

There is a huge asset bubble tied up in uncombustable fossil fuels--the carbon bubble. In addition, there is a base of approximately $70Tn ($70,000 billion--let that sink in for a moment) of installed infrastructure for processing fossil fuels and petrochemicals (with plastic and composite manufacturing being relatively small compared to packaging, shipping, and burning the stuff for energy).

Meanwhile, rival power industries are coming on stream rapidly. Solar power and electric cars could halt growth in fossil fuel demand as soon as 2020. The cost of solar has fallen by 85% in the past 7 years: by 2035 electric vehicles could make up 35% of the road transport fleet, and two-thirds by 2050. These estimates are conservative, based on the assumption that breakthrough technologies will not emerge to permit photovoltaic cells and battery capacities vastly better (or cheaper) than today.

It follows logically that if you have heavily invested in fossil fuels, time is running out to realize a return on your investment. Buying a US administration tailored to maximize ROI while fighting a rear-guard action against action on climate change and roll-out of a new, rival energy infrastructure is therefore rational (in business terms).

Russia and the Putin angle is best understood as part of this; oil and gas exports accounted for 68% of Russia's export revenues in 2013. The possibility that Trump is personally heavily invested in Rosneft via shell proxies while being at loggerheads with Merkel might be an inversion of the normal state of affairs in international relations for the past 70 years but is entirely consistent with the big money picture: Germany is trying to push (heavily) for renewable power (as well as generally being welcoming to refugees--see below).

It isn't possible for a US administration to make a ban on solar power and electric vehicles to stick globally. By its nature, solar will work well in equatorial regions, and these are where economic growth is currently focussed (China, India, and Africa all having huge population bases and demand for rapid roll out of infrastructure). Because PV is local, the need for capital-intensive centralized power stations and distribution grids is avoided: this will make it easier for Africa to catch up, just as the large-scale roll-out of telephony is sub-Saharan Africa has largely leap-frogged fixed wires and gone straight to cellular. Late adopters get better infrastructure.

Looking ahead, the carbon barons have to know that in 10-20 years time the USA will be stuck with obsolescent infrastructure and a loss of relative advantage if they pursue this course (although they, individually, will be a whole lot richer). What is to be done?

Let's consider the other strand of the Trump administration: white nationalist revanchism.

Without derailing into a close examination of the creed of this movement, I'm going to generalize by saying that the alt-right are overtly anti-muslim, anti-semitic from the grass roots up, and Steve Bannon is effectively setting foreign policy. (They're also anti- just about every minority group you can think of, including anyone who isn't neurotypical, able-bodied, conformist, and predictably supportive of their agenda.) Bannon believes in an existential war between Christendom and Islam; he doesn't believe in international institutions like the UN, NATO, or the EU (even though these were in most cases created by US foreign policy during the era of containment. What alliances the Bannon administration is building overseas are being made with extremists and neo-fascists. Trump appears to be attempting to destabilize Australian PM Turnbull, who is vulnerable to a back-bench challenge and is "soft" on immigration policy compared to such lunatics as Tony Abbott (his predecessor) or Pauline Hanson (and Australian immigration policy is an international disgrace). Trump seems to be happy to deal in France with Marine Le Pen, a court-confirmed fascist (she lost a libel case against a journalist who described her as such), or UKIP's former leader Nigel Farage (whose school habits included researching and singing old Hitler Youth drinking songs). And the authoritarian, homophobic strand in Russian politics is just another piece of the jigsaw.

To talk in terms of a white supremacist neo-fascist international doesn't seem extreme at this point. The fourteen signs of fascism are politically convenient to the carbon entrepreneurs. Fascism's disdain for facts plays well with climate change denial. It's elevation of nationalism above all other virtues helps anyone whose goal is to play divide-and-conquer, profiting by arbitrage of commodities trafficked across international borders (such as coal and oil and gas). And so, fascism is promoted and prospers under a carbon bubble bust-out regime.

But there's a more dangerous end-game on the horizon, once the oil men have packed their bags and retired to enjoy their riches.

Note that climate change denialism is a flag of convenience for the folks at the top. It's a loyalty oath and a touchstone: they don't necessarily believe it, but it's very convenient to fervently preach it in public if you want to continue to turn a profit.

If you believe in anthropogenic climate change but dare not admit it, you cannot be seen to do anything obvious to remediate it. But there is one remediation tactic you can deploy deniably: genocide.

We are on course to hit 10 billion people by the end of the 21st century, and although the second derivative of the curve of population increase is flat, our peak population won't begin to decline at this rate until well into the 22nd century. Estimates for the Earth's human carrying capacity vary and may be ideologically biased to support various conclusions; Malthusian ideas persist despite constant upward revision of the peak population. One thing is sure, for decades now other folks' population has been a political football. Thanks to the Green Revolution in agronomy we're well past the previously posited breakdown points of the 1960s.

I am going to posit that a foreign policy set by white supremacists in support of a carbon extraction regime is going to cleave to certain pseudo-scientific ideas, notably Social Darwinism (which isn't Darwinian, isn't social, and is fundamentally flawed as bad science) and Malthusianism (which has been used in the past as an excuse for tactics ranging from the innocuous--improving access to family planning and birth control--to the monstrous--conquest and genocide. And that last point brings us neatly round to Hitlerism.

While the gas chambers and extermination camps of the Final Solution get the most attention, people tend to forget that a large chunk of Hitler's plan for conquest, Generalplan Ost, relied in the short term on the Hunger Plan--to kill 20-30 million people in Eastern Europe and Russia by systematically stealing their food (to feed the Reich's own armies and slave workers who would be engaged in the enterprise of conquest)--and in the long term (post-war) on the systematic "removal" of 45 million more persons, nominally by exile into Siberia, but in practice probably by an extension of the already operating death camp system.

But the Neo-Nazi International won't need death camps in the 2020s to 2030s if their goal is to cut the world population by, say, 50%. Climate change and a clampdown on international travel will do the job for them.

Consider Bangladesh, and the Bay of Bengal fisheries collapse, not to mention the giant anoxic dead zone spreading in the By of Bengal (which means those fisheries won't be coming back for a very long time). There are nearly 170 million people there, mostly living on alluvial flood plains feeding into the gradually rising ocean. If the sea level rises by just one meter, 10% of the land area will be flooded; most of the country is less than 12M above sea level. It's a primarily agricultural economy (it's one of the main rice and wheat producing nations), heavily dependent on fisheries for protein to supplement the diet of its citizens.

Bangladesh can't survive the 21st century on this basis. It's vulnerable to devastating tropical cyclones bringing storm surges, and as the atmosphere heats, these are going to become more energetic. The loss of fisheries may cripple its ability to feed its population, even if temperature rises don't kill off the wheat and rice crops. Flood, famine, and storm look as if they will inevitably render a large part of the country uninhabitable within 50 years.

I see three possible responses:

  • A rational and humane response to this would involve attempts to: promote GM crops with increased heat resistance and increased bioavailable protein and micronutrient contents to repace the dying fisheries: promote female literacy, education, and access to healthcare (demographic transition correlates strongly with female education and emancipation): redeploy human capital to urban center construction in the northern highlands: invest in survival infrastructure (flood/weather shelters), and so on.

  • An unplanned, current-day response to this would be to provide ad-hoc famine relief and aid on demand, to wring hands when millions die in heat emergencies or super-cyclone storm surges, to prevent mass emigration by criminalization rather than by trying to make Bangladesh a more attractive place to stay, and so on. You know this scenario because we're living it today.

  • A white supremacist response to this would be to build a wall around Bangladesh--probably a "virtual" one patrolled by killer robots--and starve the inmates to death so they don't pump any more carbon into the atmosphere. After all, the residual carbon content of a dead foreigner is measured in single-digit litres.

All the pieces of the neo-Nazi solution to climate change already exist. Walls: look to the West Bank barrier or the Mexico-United States barrier for examples. Drones for border patrol are already a thing. The global crack-down on immigration by the developed world should need no introduction; there are loopholes (so called "Investor Visas") for anyone with six or seven digits in cash who wants to move freely, but these are generally out of the reach of even the western middle classes. (Free movement of labour as well as capital would defeat the core principle of arbitrage upon which economic imperialism depends.)

So here's what I expect to see if the alt-right get their way globally:

  • The obvious stuff (the agenda dictated by the fourteen signs of fascism) is a distraction
  • The real plan, in the short term, is to maximize the liquidation of capital investments in the carbon bubble on behalf of the principal shareholders
  • Once the carbon bubble has deflated, the angry and impoverished citizens of the first world will be pointed at a convenient scapegoat--foreigners overseas
  • A clampdown/shutdown on most international travel will ensue (hint: there's a reason Bannon et al hate the EU, and it's not economic: it's all to do with the bit about freedom of movement)
  • Tighter controls on "immigration", enforced out of sight by killer drones, will replace relatively permeable frontiers with exclusion zones enforced by bullets and bombs
  • Climate-change induced famine will replicate the intent of Hitler's "hunger plan", without the need for hands-on involvement by Western soldiers who might be traumatized by the requirement to shoot the surviving "living skeletons"
  • A systematic genocide of the Middle East and the Islamic world (hint: that's where the eliminationist rhetoric of the islamphobes leads if you follow it to its logical conclusion) will reduce Earth's human population by up to 30%: other culls elsewhere will be enforced by containment of would-be migrants and the primary tool of murder will be famine and lethal heat waves.
  • This will be presented to the citizens of the west as a "solution" to anthropogenic climate change for which they should be grateful, and framed as defending us from hordes of dark-skinned alien terrorists and asylum seekers who want to come to our lands and out-breed us and convert us to their weird and scary way of life and enslave our women (and you know the rest of this dismal litany of racism already, so I'll stop here).

Never say Nazis don't learn the lessons of history. This time round, the Final Solution to Anthropogenic Climate change will be entirely deniable! There are no gas chambers or Einsatzgruppen involved: any bullets will be fired by autonomous robots, without a human finger on the trigger, and will be an automatic reaction to an attempted border crossing, so not the fault of the perpetrators. The victims will have only themselves to blame, for being born in the wrong place, in the wrong century, and for failing to adapt, and for starving themselves, and for inviting the attention of the border patrol drones. It will be a slow-motion atrocity on a scale that dwarfs the Holocaust. And it is the logical conclusion of the policies our new fascist international overlords appear to be working towards implementing.

Please can you explain to me why I'm wrong to fear this outcome?

09 Feb 10:44

Bury Ourselves

by Reza

09 Feb 10:35

Google Brain super-resolution image tech makes “zoom, enhance!” real

by Sebastian Anthony

(credit: Google Brain)

Google Brain has devised some new software that can create detailed images from tiny, pixelated source images. Google's software, in short, basically means the "zoom in... now enhance!" TV trope is actually possible.

(credit: Google Brain)

First, take a look at the image on the right. The left column contains the pixelated 8×8 source images, and the centre column shows the images that Google Brain's software was able to create from those source images. For comparison, the real images are shown in the right column. As you can see, the software seemingly extracts an amazing amount of detail from just 64 source pixels.

Of course, as we all know, it's impossible to create more detail than there is in the source image—so how does Google Brain do it? With a clever combination of two neural networks.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

09 Feb 05:08

Breaking your way through the polar ice of Canada

by Luka

For Canada’s 150th birthday, Adam Dodge built a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker diorama, and it’s surprisingly satisfying to look at. There’s a nice contrast between the clean surfaces of the ice and sea and the intense, broken up ice and the very industrial-looking ship. The icebreaker just pops out with its bright, high-visibility colour scheme. The whole diorama has a sense of motion about it, with the thick ice stacked up in the front and the broken-up ice at the back, which is achieved by carefully arranged translucent window panes and cheese slopes.


The post Breaking your way through the polar ice of Canada appeared first on The Brothers Brick.

08 Feb 22:30

Focus Knob

Maybe if I spin it back and forth really fast I can do some kind of pulse-width modulation.
07 Feb 00:43

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Formality


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Finally, someone brave enough to tell the truth about our hypocrisy as to the topic of formality in language.

New comic!
Today's News:
06 Feb 20:22

All You Can Eat

After my absent-mindedness resulted in a bad posterboard-related stomachache, I learned to do the sign-making place last.
06 Feb 19:42

Don't park like an asshole

by Minnesotastan

Forward this image to any acquaintances of yours who think it's o.k. to infringe on the broad space next to a handicapped parking spot. 

Photo cropped for size from the original here.
05 Feb 23:38

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - A Realistic Alien Invasion


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

I am prepared to write comics for our alien conquerors.

New comic!
Today's News:
04 Feb 22:10

Lucky Accident

by Scandinavia and the World
Lucky Accident

Lucky Accident

View Comic!

03 Feb 19:51

frogsuggest: friend of the day!meet handsom roundboy desert rain frog! he lick! he yell! he...


friend of the day!
meet handsom roundboy desert rain frog!

he lick!

he yell!

he round!

he grump!

he squish!

he run!



03 Feb 19:50

It's Finally Easy to Watch Other Space, the Best Scifi Comedy You've Never Seen

by James Whitbrook on io9, shared by Sophie Kleeman to Gizmodo

Do you remember Paul Feig’s scifi comedy Other Space? You’ll be forgiven for saying no. The 2015 series premiered on Yahoo Screen and felt like it promptly vanished off the face of the Earth because of it. Which is a damn shame, because it’s bloody brilliant—and now, it’s actually easy to watch in its entirety (for…