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The Internet died a little today

John Perry Barlow, Internet Pioneer, 1947-2018

It’s just as well he exited when he did.

I remember when the Web was young people like him were dedicated to keeping it free and open and uncensored. These days I notice in places like Ars Technica that the big challenge everyone agrees on is how YouTube and Twitter can more effectively stifle unpopular views.

No one, it seems, is any longer interested in a free and open and uncensored Internet.

Elon Musk might be a charismatic genius, but he’s a terrible speaker

But you should watch this speech anyway.

I like this guy. It’s easy because I’m not a TSLA shareholder. I love how he’s trolling everyone with his flamethrowers and orbiting roadsters, but I also like his suggestion that humanity needs big goals. He’s too young to have experienced the excitement I got out of the Apollo Program, but he recognizes how important that is for any civilization that aspires to be considered, well, civilized.

Right now I think America’s aspirations, at least, have been most threatened by the small-minded people behind NASA and in the Congress. The history, goals and performance of, for example, the SLS program, are scandalous compared to what Space X has achieved.

We are lucky to have visionary billionaires like Musk and Jeff Bezos who are willing to think the big thoughts that are impossible for the the bean counters and drones of government.

Elon Musk wins this one

I think the fact that a Tesla Roadster is orbiting the sun (not the Earth), probably forever, is the biggest win of the decade and also epic trolling of other ego-centric billionaires.

Top that, Larry Ellison and Richard Branson.

Iranian riots are more or less over

Yet the Mullahs arrested this former president yesterday. What are they afraid of?

He was one of the guys who stormed the US Embassy in 1979, and was a two-term hardline president. But now he seems to be one of the good guys.

A Norwegian friend

Ahmadinejad was a populist. He was a Black Hat to the Americans and the Israelis because of all his anti-American and anti-Israeli rhetoric, but it was clear (to me, at least) he was just playing to the gallery. He was a successful politician in a country where you could never go wrong bitching about the Americans. The reason it is dangerous to “offer support” to Iranian dissidents is because one point of orthodoxy across the political spectrum in Iran is being intensely suspicious of the US, especially the CIA (they lose their shit over the CIA).

Imagine, for example, Nikita Khrushchev giving press conferences and offering the support if the Soviet people to Americans taking the Fifth before the House Un-American Activities Committee. How would that have helped those Americans?

This is why Obama’s silence during previous Iranian uprisings was the smarter move. If you want the protests to succeed, don’t give the reactionaries more political ammunition against the protestors.

Your assignment: ruin Christmas, for everyone

It must be such a miserable existence to be a Grauniad columnist:

I am atheist and anti-consumerist and I love Christmas, always have. Just don’t like the traffic.

Lighten up, Francis.

Moar gun control fale

I don’t even know where to start with this article, it is so full of fale. … 807b4f8a63

It underscores why thoughtful gun nuts are so impatient with the ridiculous clamor for gun controls. The article about National CCW Reciprocity (obliging states to recognize other states’ CCW licenses they way they recognize drivers licenses and marriage licenses (but not, sadly, beautician’s licenses)) makes no sense whatsoever.

Gun violence experts and victims’ advocates say the legislation is particularly alarming for domestic violence survivors, who are in more danger when their abusers are able to carry hidden firearms.

Because without this legislation, abusers are not able to carry hidden firearms? Is there something wrong with their hands or arms this legislation will fix? And WTF is a “gun violence expert?”

In another example, an abuser who is convicted of sexually assaulting his girlfriend cannot currently legally carry a concealed firearm in Massachusetts. But under this bill, he could obtain a permit from nearby New Hampshire ― which issues permits to nonresidents and does not consider that offense prohibitory ― and carry his firearm back into his home state.

Well, no. Anyone who is convicted of sexual assault — or any other felony — is not legally permitted to possess a firearm in any state in the Union. National Reciprocity is not some kind of magickal Get Out of Jail Free Card for convicted felons. Do people really believe it is? Or, as I strongly suspect, are they deliberately lying?

Oh, BTW, this also applies to anyone with a misdemeanor conviction of domestic violence. That’s right, domestic violence is the only misdemeanor conviction that will cause you to be deprived of an enumerated Constitutional civil right — nationally. Forever.

“Imagine fleeing to another state where you believe your abuser won’t be able to carry a gun, and then finding out that Congress says that he can bring his gun with him ― and he can hide it,” she said.

Really? So your abuser won’t do that now because Congress hasn’t yet allowed it? Do these people really believe a person bent on mayhem will suddenly stop and have second thoughts because he doesn’t have a permit to carry a gun? Is this how it’s supposed to go:

“Damn. I really wanted to go across town and shoot my ex to death but I wasn’t able to before because I couldn’t get a CCW in this state, but thanks to National Reciprocity I can get a Utah CCW and go out and blow her fucking head off!”

Are they really this stupid? Is anyone?

In fact, since guns are actually more useful to women who need to defend themselves from abusers than they are to the abusers themselves (a 220lb man doesn’t need a gun to abuse a 130lb woman), anything that makes it easier for at-risk women to legally acquire, possess and carry guns will make them safer.

Two Brexit mea culpas

These are definitely worth reading if you are at all interested in the Brexit debacle/triumph (however you feel about it):

Face it. People Like Us blew it for everyone but themselves

Actually, this one, a letter to the editor of the Financial Times, bears quoting:

Sir, Your pages overflow with predictions of disaster brought on by the Brexit/Trump axis. Leaving aside the depressing and repetitive pointlessness of this mass guesswork, its underlying assumption — that things were better when People Like Us were in charge — is at best dubious, at worst delusional. Under PLU rule, we have two failed wars and the Middle East in flames, China expansionist, Europe enfeebled, America ineffective and Russia resurgent. At home, we have banking crises, stagnant median incomes, uncontrolled borders, record indebtedness, profiteering by the “professional” classes, and general social polarisation. This is the Eden from which the rude and licentious electorates have expelled us?

Face it. We FT readers had our decades in charge and we blew it for everyone but us. Time for us to do what we’ve been telling the rest of them to do for years, and suck it up. Or go forth and earn the respect that regains power.

Keith Craig, London SW7, UK

Robert Peston Admits Brexit Voters Were “On The Right Side Of History”

Peston characterized the referendum as an opportunity for ordinary people to tell out-of-touch elites what they really think (and insisting that was a Good Thing in and of itself).

He also says, “I’m not saying . . . that Brexit is going to turn out to be this wonderful thing.” I think that’s another important point that is often missed in the back and forth between Brexit supporters and Brexit opponents. There can be no doubt there will be costs to Brexit, primarily economic; it was always disingenuous for Brexit proponents to insist otherwise. The question should have been, is the return of national sovereignty worth the costs? But the question was never put that way. Brexit supporters claimed it was a march to a new Jerusalem and opponents moaned it was Armageddon.

I was in favor of Brexit, but I also always recognized the UK would have to give up some of the economic advantages of being inside the EU. Personally, I felt it would be worth it, as the EU is dominated by unaccountable anti-democratic institutions, and I thought it was foolish for an Anglo-Saxon nation to surrender any more of its sovereignty to a Continental super-government. I am pretty sure the UK can be successful making her own rules from now on, but we honestly can’t say we know what’s going to happen; especially since so much of the question depends on how the EU itself acts, and its record of rational behavior is a poor one.

On the other hand, I have often been irritated by the weird suggestion by Brexit opponents that post-Brexit trade between the UK and the EU will somehow stop. WTF? Of course the UK will continue to trade with the EU, it will simply be on different terms. But that doesn’t mean economic collapse for the UK as all such trade disappears. Jesus, why can’t anyone have an intelligent discussion anymore?

Remembering Lloydie

Just learned a one-time climbing buddy of mine died over the weekend when he fell from the Devil’s Backbone Trail on Mt Baldy.

I notice he was interviewed by the OC Register when they were asking why people climb: … climb.html

At the end of our Mt Whitney Mountaineers Route climb I gave him a Mesa Tactical cap:


I would never take the Devil’s Backbone Trail in winter. I just avoided it. Almost all the fatalities (maybe all of them) in the last few years on Baldy have been people using that trail in the winter.

This is what it looks like in the summer:


There are safer ways up or down.

Pascal’s Wager in the 21st century

Recently a friend, a father of two boys, complained that President Obama is paying more attention to anthropogenic global warming (AGW) than to defeating ISIS.

I honestly don’t understand this sentiment. Sure, it’s fine to attack Obama’s foreign policy on a variety of grounds, but suggesting that his focus on AGW instead of ISIS is somehow wrong doesn’t make a lot of sense, especially for parents.

ISIS does not represent an existential threat to the United States, and I strongly suspect that in ten years it will be little more than a bitter memory. On the other hand, if the President is right about AGW, it is your children and grandchildren who will pay for our failure to do something about it now (not my kids, I don’t have any).

The President is responding to the broad scientific consensus on AGW. There are some dissenters, but for the most part the vast majority of climate and other scientists agree on AGW. It is possible they are wrong, but what if they are right? What will you say to your grandchildren, living in a world of crazy weather and rising tides and diminished glaciers — of famine and climate-related unrest and conflict — when they ask why your generation didn’t do more to stop AGW? “Oh, we were much more concerned about a band of guerrillas in the Middle East.” “What band of guerrillas, grandpa?”

I don’t have to worry because I never have to consider having such a conversation with my grandchildren. I can go on being irresponsible with my middle finger raised high in the direction of your kids and their kids.

There is a central irony to the AGW “debate’ (which is actually more like people shouting over each other across a table). I honestly don’t know who is right, I don’t claim to be scientifically competent enough to evaluate the data on my own, and it seems to me the discussion is too political to pretend to be objective anymore anyway. But in America the people most opposed to any action to stop or reverse AGW are conservatives, and mostly conservative Christians. And the most common argument, known as Pascal’s Wager, such people make for why an atheist like me should pray to god even if he doesn’t believe in an afterlife is, “What if we’re right?”

What if the AGW proponents are right? If they are right and we don’t act, your kids and your grandkids are fucked. If they are wrong and we act against AGW we will have a little slower economic growth and cleaner air. When looking at these trade-offs, it’s really hard (for me) to get all worked up against the AGW hippies.

And I don’t even have any kids.

Another friend (father of two girls) asks:

What if they aren’t right?

We’ll have slower growth and cleaner air.

How many trillions will have been spent that could have helped many other things. Hardly a small economic blip.

We aren’t talking about trillions. We’re talking about making it marginally more expensive to unlock C02 into the atmosphere. Maybe billions. And you are suggesting there are opportunity costs. With regard to private spending, I don’t see much,* especially since the additional artificial costs imposed for releasing CO2 into the atmosphere would change behaviors in largely positive ways (since I am not a shareholder of, for example, ExxonMobil, I can say that; YMMV).

If the spending you are referring to is government spending, there aren’t really any opportunity costs, because the money you save here will simply be squandered stupidly in some way over there. In any case, investment to reduce greenhouse gases should be beneficial in the long run because they are likely to make renewable energy sources more viable. For one reason or another, humanity will have to wean itself from fossil fuels someday.

There’s an economic concept, I don’t know what it’s called, something about the fallacy of risk. It’s not just a matter of investing to reduce this or that risk, you also have to consider the nature of the risks. Like, say you need to walk across a narrow beam to get from one place to another. If there is a three foot drop below the beam, you think nothing of walking across. But if there’s a hundred foot drop, you might decide not to make the crossing at all. But nothing else has changed: same beam, same objective; only the relative impact of the outcomes, the gravity of the risks being assumed, has changed.

AGW, if it’s real, is potentially one of the biggest problems facing humanity, maybe the biggest.

But I don’t know the answers, nor, honestly, do I really care. Not at all. I have no skin in this game: after all, I have no children. I simply cannot understand the intransigence, on this point, of people who do have children.

* In the developed world. The developing world could potentially see their economic growth stunted, and that would indeed be bad for them. But only marginally bad, not any kind of an existential threat (as climate change, which will hurt the developing world far more than it does us, threatens to be).

Battle of Algiers revisted

Once again, the problem with using profiling to fight terrorism:

Palestinian teen girls play bigger role in terror attacks on Israelis

On the other hand, the problem with employing teen girls as terrorists:

Dressed in skirts over their jeans and scarves on their heads, two teenage Palestinian girls from northern Jerusalem headed to downtown Jerusalem on Monday, took out scissors and stabbed a 70-year-old Palestinian man they had mistaken for an Israeli Jew.

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