November 25, 2015

Science in the age of information

Science is not a realm of independent inquirers. It is a grant-seeking game very much like that of corporate environmental groups. The ones who speak out are by definition fringe voices and automatically discredited by the academy. The analogy is not David vs. Goliath but Cassandra among the Trojans.

November 14, 2015

I stand with the trees and watch with the raptors.

Our friends at received a not untypically incoherent letter of complaint recently, which they haved shared with your editor. It came from Alabama, but I do not publish the author’s name, instead encouraging him to stop misdirecting his own energies, both negative and positive.
You could more effectively direct your energies to environmental and health consequences of millions of acres of oceans, atmosphere polluted by nuclear radiation and from fossil coal, and oil burning which is killing entire forests, poisoning sea life, and manifests health conseuqences for hundreds of millions if not billions of populations who can barely breathe in cities choked with pollution.

I stand with the trees and the raptors.

Your ignorance of the inetivable course of humanity in its greed for energy is an outrage. Complaining that governments waste money or that wind power engineering in its inefficiencies and pre-maturity or unsightlyness should be stopped in its tracks; pretending to prevent exploit of secondary 'renewable', in fact inexhaustible, solar wind and wave power would condemn centuries of windmills which have proven their utility and innocence for generations.

Soon the spectre of your poor ignorance will be redundant. Meso-scale changes in global weather perhaps even completely uncorrelated with the burning of dinosaurs and biomass which you prefer to ignore are forecast to endanger significant proportion of global populations living near seacoasts, and diminish those winds which, if properly exploited, might provide some glimmer of an alternative for the energy needs of billions on this planet.

Enjoy the weather.
AWEO replied as follows, and after several days have not received a reply in turn.
You claim to stand with the trees and the raptors, yet you would have the former leveled and the latter decimated to build enough wind towers to provide any meaningful fraction of our electricity needs — and only when the wind happens to be blowing in the right direction at the right speed, and never mind our other energy needs.

Obviously our efforts should be directed at cleaning up and reducing our actual energy use, not at pretending to provide alternatives that remain and ever will remain sideshows at best. But worse, they are sideshows increasingly destructive of landscape and wild habitat, as well as costly wastes of resources.

November 13, 2015

GORT: field; GORTA: hunger

Gort, g. guirt, pl. id., m., a field or plantation, a corn-field and esp. a field of oats; al. name of Irish letter G; g. féir, a hay-field; g. arbhair, a corn-field; tá g. maith agam i mbliadhna, I have a good crop of oats this year; in place-names: Gortineddan; G. na cille, Gortnakilla, etc.; dim. goirtín (gu-); cf. páirc and garrdha.

Gorta, g. id., f., hunger; scarcity, famine, destitution; stinginess; g. eolchair, hunger during lying-in; fuair sé bás den gh., he died of hunger; leigfeadh fuil fuil ’on g., acht ní leigfeadh fuil fuil do dhortadh, one might let his relative starve but not his relative’s blood to be spilled (with impunity); an gh. ghann, lean famine (poet.); gs. as a., stingy, miserly, as ruidín g., a miserly little creature.

Gorthach, -aighe, a., vehement, ardent; cf. an ghéag gh. raobh chosnaimh laoch lonnach láidir, the ardent youth, shielder of impetuous and doughty warriors (Fil.); sm., a wounder, a warrior who presses hard on the enemy.

Gortuighim, -ughadh, v. tr., I hurt, wound, oppress, pain, afflict, injure; al. goirtighim.

Gortuighim, v. tr., I starve.

—Foclóir Gaedhilge agus Béarla, 1927, by Patrick Dinneen

November 2, 2015

How to dilute negative results to protect an industry

A recently published study implies that wind turbines as close as 0.25 mile and up to an outdoor average noise level of 46 dB(A) do not disturb sleep. In fact the actual noise levels were only estimated and averaged only 35.6 dB(A), which is a level that indeed would be unlikely to disturb sleep indoors. Furthermore, the range of distance from wind turbines extended to 11.22 kilometers. The result is that the data from households closer to noisier wind turbines are obviously diluted by the greater amount of data from farther away. Finally, averaging sleep experience over time serves to mask, rather than discover, any experience of particularly disturbing nights.

When the full paper is available, it will be interesting to see if the authors acknowledge these limitations: that their sample size from noisier and closer sites was insufficient to reach any conclusions, that noise levels were outdoors only and estimated rather than measured, and that sleep disturbance was assessed as 30-day averages, ignoring actual nightly experience.

Sleep. 2015 Oct 22.
Effects of Wind Turbine Noise on Self-Reported and Objective Measures of Sleep.
Michaud DS, Feder K, Keith SE, Voicescu SA, Marro L, Than J, Guay M, Denning A, Murray BJ, Weiss SK, Villeneuve PJ, van den Berg F, Bower T.

November 1, 2015

Eibhlín Nic Niocaill — obituary by Pádraig Pearse

From An Claidheamh Soluis agus Fáinne an Lae, 21 August 1909:

There are times when journalists and public men experience a trial more cruel than others can easily imagine. It is when they are called upon in the course of their duty to write or speak in public of things that touch the innermost fibres of their own hearts, things that to them are intimate and sacred, entwined, it may be, with their dearest friendships and affections, awakening to vibrations old chords of joy or sorrow. The present is such an occasion for the writer of these paragraphs, and this must be his excuse if he does not pay to Eibhlín Nic Niocaill such tribute as readers of An Claidheamh Soluis will expect. It is not in human nature to write a glib newspaper article on a dead friend. One dare not utter all that is in one’s heart and in the effort of self-restraint one is apt to pen only cold and formal things. Therefore we will discharge as briefly as may be the duty that falls upon us.

First we would voice the sorrow of our organisation for the death of one of its most brilliant and heroic members. We have often spoken in the name of the Gaelic League, but never have we felt ourselves peculiarly at one with it as thus making ourselves the mouthpiece of its tribute to Eibhlín Nic Niocaill. We knew her well, and she was the most nobly planned of all the women we have known. The newspapers have truly spoken of her as the most distinguished student of her time. Gaelic Leaguers will remember her as an incomparably strenuous worker during her brief but crowded career of active service. But it is neither as a student or as a League worker that her friends will think of her. Her grand dower of intellect, her gracious gift of charm and sympathy, her capacity for affairs, were known to all, but those who knew her best know that all of these were the least of her endowments. What will stand out clear and radiant in their mental picture of her is the loftiness of her soul, the inner sanctity of her life.

The close of that life had been worthy of it. If she had been asked to choose the manner of her death she would surely have chosen it thus. She died to save another, and that as a young Irish-speaking girl. Greater love than this no man hath than he give his life for his friend. To Eibhlín Nic Niocaill high heroism was native. Her life was consecrated to the service of high things. And without seeking reward she found rich reward in the enthusiastic love of hundreds. She gave much love and received much love. Not many have been carried with such passion of grief and affection as that which thrilled in the keenings of the Kerry women as the curraghs forming her funeral procession moved across the sound:

“Mo ghroidhn tú, a Eibhlín,
“Mo ghroidhn do mháthair,
“Mo ghroidhn go bráth í!”
they said. In Dublin her comrades’, and fellow-students’, grief was not articulate, but no one who witnessed it could doubt its poignancy. Our second duty is to offer respectfully the sympathy of her and our co-workers to her father and mother and brothers. The memory of her life and death will be the greatest treasure in the years that are to come. And for them the treasure will be none the less though many thousands of her people claim a share in it also.

I bhfochair an Uain go raibh a hanam ar feadh na sforaíochta!

—P.H. Pearse

October 16, 2015


Fornocht a chonac thú,
a áille na háille,
is dhallas mo shúil
ar eagla go stánfainn.

Chualas do cheol,
a bhinne na binne,
is dhúnas mo chluas
ar eagla go gclisfinn.

Bhlaiseas do bhéal
a mhilse na milse,
is chruas mo chroí
ar eagla mo mhillte.

Dhallas mo shúil,
is mo chluas do dhúnas;
Chruas mo chroí,
is mo mhian do mhúchas.

Thugas mo chúl
ar an aisling do chumas,
is ar an ród seo romham
m’aghaidh a thugas.

Thugas mo ghnúis
ar an ród seo romham,
ar an ngníomh a chím,
is ar an mbás a gheobhad.


Naked I saw thee,
O beauty of beauty.
And I blinded my eyes
For fear I should fail.

I heard thy music,
O melody of melody,
And I closed my ears
For fear I should falter.

I tasted thy mouth,
Sweetness of sweetness,
And I hardened my heart
For fear of my slaying.

I blinded my eyes.
And I closed my ears,
I hardened my heart
And I smothered my desire.

I turned my back
On the vision I had shaped
And to this road before me
I turned my face.

I have turned my face
To this road before me,
To the deed that I see
And the death I shall die.

—Pádraig Pearse

October 12, 2015

Letter from Trey Gowdy to Elijah Cummings, Oct. 8, 2015

Excerpts. Complete PDF available at:

… When we began this investigation, Sidney Blumenthal was not on our potential interview list. Secretary Clinton’s exclusive use of private email, housed on her own private server, was not a topic of our inquiry. Yet when we learned nearly half of Secretary Clinton’s entire email correspondence regarding Benghazi and Libya before the attacks was with Sidney Blumenthal, that became a fact we could not ignore. When we learned Secretary Clinton exclusively used private email to correspond for her official duties and that the State Department did not even have access to these records until this Committee asked for them, that became a fact we could not ignore. …

Blumenthal was neither a State Department employee nor an employee of the federal government nor an expert on Libya, by his own admission. The fact that former Secretary Clinton relied so heavily on an individual for the Libyan intervention, her quintessential foreign policy initiative, whom the White House explicitly prohibited from working at the State Department is mind boggling. … Blumenthal was not merely acting as a steward of information to Secretary Clinton but was acting as her de facto political advisor. …

In a six day span in February 2011, Blumenthal sent Clinton detailed reports titled “Latest Libya intel,” “Libya intel,” “No fly zone over Libya,” “Intel on Gaddafi’s reinforcements,” “Libya WMD,” “Qaddafi’s Scuds and strategy for holding on,” “Option on WMD,” “Phone #s that may work,” and “Q location, new defections, beginnings of interim govt.” These daily emails, filled with unvetted intelligence, continued for nearly six weeks. Secretary Clinton often responded to Blumenthal, and almost always forwarded them to her top policy advisor, Jake Sullivan, in some cases cautioning him not to “share until we can talk.” Much of the information in Blumenthal’s emails came from Tyler Drumheller, a controversial former CIA operative, and Cody Shearer, another old Clinton friend. Interestingly, Secretary Clinton even took the further step to hide from Sullivan the fact that some of this information came from Shearer. It is unclear why she did this, and it is not at all clear what intelligence tradecraft was undertaken to ensure the reliability of this information, or whether the State Department’s very own intelligence bureau, funded by taxpayers for that very purpose, was even aware of these matters.

Dozens of emails between Clinton and Blumenthal show an individual who tried to heavily influence the Secretary of State to intervene in Libya. Blumenthal pushed hard for a no-fly zone in Libya before the idea was being discussed internally by senior U.S. government officials. Clinton told Blumenthal that she was pushing the option with the “[U.N.] Security Council,” and to “[s]tay tuned!” Shortly thereafter, the U.S. pushed a no-fly zone through the U.N. Security Council.

The emails also show Blumenthal firmly as a political body who pulled no punches towards the White House or others in government with whom he disagreed. In one email he discussed “National Security Adviser Tom Donilon’s babbling rhetoric about ‘narratives’ on a phone briefing of reporters” that “inspired derision among serious foreign policy analysts here and abroad.” In another email he described “[Obama] and his political cronies in the WH and in Chicago are, to say the least, unenthusiastic about regime change in Libya or anywhere else in the ME. Why is that? Hmmm. Obama’s lukewarm and self contradicting statements have produced what is at least for the moment, operational paralysis.”

Once Blumenthal got his way and a no-fly zone was established, he pushed for a more aggressive posture by the U.S. in the conflict, including arming the rebels. To support his rationale to Secretary Clinton, he used sagging polling numbers. …

Beyond the pure politics that were occurring at this time, perhaps more disturbing is that at the same time Blumenthal was pushing Secretary Clinton to war in Libya, he was privately pushing a business interest of his own in Libya that stood to profit from contracts with the new Libyan government — a government that would exist only after a successful U.S. intervention in Libya that deposed Qaddafi. This business venture was one he shared with Tyler Drumheller and Cody Shearer, the authors of the information sent to Secretary Clinton. It is therefore unsurprising that somebody who knew so little about Libya would suddenly become so interested in Libya and push an old friend in a powerful place to action — for personal profit. …

“You should be aware that there is a good chance at the contact meeting in Turkey the TNC [National Transitional Council of Libya] ambassador to the UAE, a man you have not yet met, whose name is Dr. Neydah, may tell you the TNC has reached an agreement with a US company. The company is a new one, Osprey, headed by former General David Grange, former head of Delta Force. Osprey will provide field medical help, military training, organize supplies, and logistics to the TNC. They are trainers and organizers, not fighters. Grange can train their forces and he has drawn up a plan for taking Tripoli similar to the plan he helped develop that was used by the first wave of Special Forces in the capture of Baghdad. This is a private contract. It does not involve NATO. It puts Americans in a central role without being direct battle combatants. The TNC wants to demonstrate that they are pro-US. They see this as a significant way to do that. They are enthusiastic about this arrangement. … As I understand it, they are still working out funding, which is related to the overall TNC funding problems. Grange is very low key, wishes to avoid publicity and work quietly, unlike other publicity hungry finns. Grange is under the radar. Tyler, Cody and I acted as honest brokers, putting this arrangement together through a series of connections, linking the Libyans to Osprey and keeping it moving. The strategic imperative: Expecting Gaddafi to fall on his own or through a deus ex machina devolves the entire equation to wishful thinking. The TNC has been unable to train and organize its forces. The NATO air campaign cannot take ground. The TNC, whose leaders have been given to flights of fancy that Qaddafi will fall tomorrow or the day after, have come to the conclusion that they must organize their forces and that they must score a military victory of their own over Qaddafi that is not dependent solely on NATO in order to give them legitimacy. …

In addition to Sidney Blumenthal’s business interests, Secretary Clinton also apparently received classified information from Blumenthal — information she should have known was classified at the time she received it. In one email, Blumenthal writes “Tyler spoke to a colleague currently at CIA, who told him the agency had been dependent for intelligence from [redacted due to sources and methods].” This information, the name of a human source, is some of the most protected information in our intelligence community, the release of which could jeopardize not only national security but also human lives. Armed with that information, Secretary Clinton forwarded the email to a colleague — debunking her claim that she never sent any classified information from her private email address. …