On Spam (posts to this website)

I was asked recently what I do and might recommend others do about spam posts.

This website will ask anyone commenting anywhere for their eMail address. If the post looks reasonable, I will send a test eMail to that eMail address. If that eMail bounces, the post is rejected. Simple as that.

The webmaster (me) will look at a post. If it contains scrambled words (in fashion recently), or atrocious grammar, or just gobbledygook, the post is rejected. Also simple.

I keep a spreadsheet of bad posters and their IP addresses. (My provider, HostPapa, has a tool called the IP Deny Manager. It manages the .htaccess file for me, under the covers. This is a good idea, because if you deny yourself, you can’t get back in to fix it. Apparently this has happened to some website owners.)

I keep track of every spam post attempt. I have the date, IP address, and content characterization. Since I started keeping track, there have been over a thousand crummy spam posts to various parts of my site. It is a frustrating time-waster. Such the price of setting a basic level of quality.

Having my own sortable and searchable record gives me some insight: If you spam me twice, you get denied forever. If your spam post IP address is in a spamming range, I may deny that range forever. I do this particularly when Arin Whois tells me the IP address range is somewhere really strange – I don’t really expect to be sold Nike shoes or cheap sports jerseys by someone in China with odd English. This is just an example. EMails pretending to be in Germany have been in style lately – ending in .de for example.

There are WordPress add-in tools to help with spam, but I’m not sure they’re going to reduce my work. My site is set up so that nothing goes up unapproved. If you are allowing posts up without approving them, there is a plugin (Akismet I think) that will attempt to make the spam – not spam decision for you.

However, you must/should then check every post to make sure the correct decision was made. And fix the wrong guesses. I don’t see that as being less work than my method. Meanwhile the plugin is telling the world about your posts. It uses your decisions to make other decisions, in the cloud. My understanding, anyway,

(as an aside: my Internet browser does Not come up with any web page by default. I see no reason why Microsoft or CheckPoint or McAfee should be notified every time I go online with FireFox. My browser comes up with a local file, which I created on WinXP with FrontPage. The file has a few hotlinks, such as to WordPress administration, that are convenient for me. My wife’s computer’s browser comes up with a blank page. To quote my writer friend Steve Donnelly, in Crash Cathcart, “You agreed to inform on yourself when you took out a driver’s license.” To which I add, or logon to a web page, or turn on a cell phone, and the list goes on. Yes, I am paranoid about surveillance, and so is Steven Aftergood – which see earlier in this blog, eh?)

So, if you are the bizarre poster who asked about spam help, check your WordPress admin panel. There is a default plugin already installed and its name is Akismet or something close to that. You will likely need to update it and then activate it.

Oh yes, and next time, provide a real eMail address. WordPress keeps that between you and me, and I will check that it can receive a test message. OK?

Peter MacKay

I have wanted to do a rant on Peter MacKay but have been beaten to it, at least partly, by Chantal Hébert. Here is a superb article about Mr. MacKay’s time as Justice Minister. I will recap just a few of Ms. Hebért’s comments:

  • the minister’s Internet surveillance bill, a proposed law whose intrusiveness may not pass muster with the courts.
  • Then there is the prostitution bill that MacKay brought forward last month.It is not clear that it is more Charter-proof than the struck-down law it seeks to replace.
  • The justice portfolio has, on two notable Canadian occasions, been a springboard to national leadership. In this instance history is not in the process of repeating itself.

I’m sure you get the general tone of Hebért’s article. This on MacKay as Justice Minister.

Now for a little bit of extra information. Here is the usual Wikipedia entry, a good background on Peter MacKay. Let me summarize a few key points here.

  • MacKay became leader of the Conservative party due to the Orchard deal. This deal included: no merger with the Canadian Alliance, revisit NAFTA, review railway subsidies, and preserving the environment. I believe every part of this deal has been broken by Mr. MacKay and the Conservative government of Steven Harper.
  • As Minister of Foreign Affairs: presided over the slow Lebanon evacuation, sided with Bush and the Conservatives in opposing a UN call for a ceasefire against Israel, and called Hezbollah a cancer. Luckily Hezbollah can be a terrorist organization simply because our government says it is.
  • As Defence Minister: took a $16,000 helicopter ride from a fishing camp to Gander. Then this: In 2008, MacKay announced a broad exhaustive and very expensive program to upgrade the Canadian military’s equipment, spending over $400 billion over 25 years. Unlike every previous spending announcement of its kind, no “white paper” or detailed breakdown of this number was available nor was any claimed to exist.

Since the last point involves the F-35, about which I’ve ranted before, I cannot stop myself from adding this pointer, where you will find that the chief of defense staff contradicts Peter MacKay’s claim that the F-35 is the only sufficiently stealthy and advanced plane that will work for Canada.

I submit that all the above makes Peter MacKay a legitimate person of interest.

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably guessing what the dumb question is. Here it is: how do you suppose people like Peter MacKay keep their jobs, while being reassigned willy-nilly? Is is because they are under Steven Harper, where the key qualification is to say Yes? To anything?

It is a dumb question, eh?



New Jersey Rep. Rush Holt and Government Secrecy Project Director Steven Aftergood

I have been a fan of Steven Aftergood for quite some time. If you go to www.fas.org and find Secrecy News, you can get yourself subscribed to an eMail or two a week – on US Government secrecy. Often you will have access to Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports that are not available to the general public – except through Secrecy News.

Since my (Canadian) government is, imho, in the pocket of the US Government, and is following in its footsteps in terms of destroying environmental regulation and stepping up intrusion into people’s lives (for example, allowing telecoms to give out information without a warrant, and making them non-prosecutable and non-suable if they do so), because of this ongoing intrusion in Canada and its role model in the USA, I think it is important for citizens of both countries to wake up and start some citizen action.

Here is a joint article by Holt and Aftergood on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HSPCI). Their opinion is, imho, scathing.

Here is a quote: Nowhere in the committee report is there any acknowledgement of the public’s concern over mass surveillance. Nowhere is there a hint that the NSA has acted improperly in subverting encryption standards used in software installed on personal computers nationwide. Nowhere does the committee note the NSA’s practice of breaking into shipping boxes that contain American electronic products, inserting covert surveillance technology, resealing the boxes, and sending them on to the purchasers, to the detriment of U.S. industry.

As Holt and Aftergood point out, the watchmen are angered that bad practices got caught, not that surveillance in the USA is totally out of hand.

You may recall an earlier post here, where somehow electronic bugs got into foreign embassy staff computers. Maybe the underlined text above explains how this could happen.

You may recall the James Travers post about ‘imagine a country.’ We live in that country, and it’s not going to get better if none of us do anything about it.

GM Crops (again)

The 12 June 2014 issue of Nature has, as its first article, an editorial on genetically engineered crops. I have mentioned this before. I feel like saying, I told you so, because I did. The article in nature specifically mentions glyphosphate, which this Wikipedia article will inform you, is Roundup™.

The article sounds a warning: genetically modified crops resistant to herbicides have contributed that trait to noxious weeds, such as palmer pigweed. Please click on the hotlink above, it’s a short editorial. Resistance will soon be common in many weeds.

Like antibiotics, over-prescribing leads to resistance faster. Planting half a world’s cropland with GM crops resistant to herbicide is, simply put, a fast course to disaster.

The article also mentions the idea of creating ‘refuges’ which will, supposedly, provide non-resistant insects to outbreed any resistant ones that develop against the bacterial toxin. There is a Wikipedia article on this here. This isn’t going to work for very long either.

((As an aside, I’m pretty sure this is the same bacterium [Bacillus thuringiensis] used to spray against the gypsy moth, both up North and here in Toronto golf courses and parks. I recall being assured that the toxin only is active in alkaline pH, and so we humans with acid stomaches were safe. Of course this is only partly correct and deliberately misleading, as our intestinal tract is alkaline. This fact is used to make a special aspirin coating that does not dissolve in the stomach, for arthritis sufferers.

One wonderful side effect of spraying a few years in a row up North was the effect on the ecosystem. No orioles. No grasshoppers. No frogs. No garter snakes. No bats. Few swallows. Insects that develop in water seemed to be immune: mosquitoes, tabanids, black flies were still everywhere.

This year, for the first time in about ten, we have bats in our bat house again, and the odd frog can occasionally be seen. So much for ‘targeted intervention.’ Back to GM crops.))

Once again, I refer you to my earlier blog post. GM crops are an insidious threat, in more ways than just leading to resistance. They will likely lead to monopolies in crop seed. Click here for the earlier rant/post.

F35 Revisited

Here you will find an article in the Toronto Star by Bruce Campion-Smith on the F-35. Apparently Ottawa is considering just buying this plane, without due consideration of alternatives. It’s hard to be sure about anything our Federal Government hasn’t done yet, or their intentions. However, the F-35 is a nightmare plane, in my opinion, that is over budget and potentially unsafe. At one point the fire extinguishing system was reported to be removed, to save weight.

In this article you will find this quote from Billie Flynn, a former Canadian Air Force pilot who today works as a test pilot for Lockheed Martin:

He said performance — not safety — has dictated the use of two engines in fighters in the past. According to Lockheed Martin, the single F-35 engine produces one-third more thrust than the two engines in Canada’s existing CF-18 fighters.

“It’s never been the case that you put two engines . . . in an airplane because of redundancy. You power an airplane because you want a certain type of performance, of range and speed,” Flynn told the Star, during a visit last month to a defence trade show in Ottawa.

“We have the single most powerful fighter engine ever developed. It can go faster, we stay up longer because we are more efficient than any other power plant combination that exists in the world,” he said.

Unfortunately, this is misleading, perhaps deliberately so.

Here is the Wikipedia page on the F-35, and here is the page on the CF-18. If you read these carefully, you will find these facts:

The CF-18 engine produces 16,000 lb thrust, times two engines. The F-35 single engine produces 28,000 lb thrust, without afterburner. Thus the claim of one-third more power says that 32,000 times four thirds equals 28,000 – simply bad arithmetic.

The CF-18 flies at Mach 1.8 while the F-35 flies at Mach 1.6. (I believe even that number is available only briefly in the F-35.) So the claim that the single-engined F-35 can go faster is also bad arithmetic.

The F-35 range is given as 2,200 km and 1,080 km. Assuming that those are both optimal numbers, and the latter is the ‘radius’ of the former, we can now look at the CF-18 number, which is 3,300 km (unloaded). So the claim that the F-35 can stay up longer than the CF-18 appears to be bad numerology, again.

The F-35 thrust/weight ratio is given as 0.87 while the CF-18 is given as 0.89. Again, the claim of superior power for the F-35 does not match with the facts.

The CF-18 can climb to 50,000 feet in a minute. The F-35 may be able to match this.

So, the claim by Billie Flynn quoted above seems to be, at best, completely mistaken.

Even better, the F-35 has three variants. One of these has no landing hook but will operate on an aircraft carrier, landing vertically. This F-35 B has this remark in the Wikipedia entry:

On 6 January 2011, Gates said that the 2012 budget would call for a two-year pause in F-35B production during which the aircraft faced redesign, or cancellation if unsuccessful.

and this:

Lockheed Martin Vice President Steve O’Bryan has said that most F-35B landings will be conventional to reduce stress on vertical lift components. However these conventional mode takeoffs and landings cause “an unacceptable wear rate” to the aircraft’s poorly designed tires.

Even better is the F-35 C, of which Wikipedia has this to say:

Compared to the F-35A, the F-35C carrier variant features larger wings with foldable wingtip sections, larger wing and tail control surfaces for improved low-speed control, stronger landing gear for the stresses of carrier arrested landings, a twin-wheel nose gear, and a stronger tailhook for use with carrier arrestor cables. The larger wing area allows for decreased landing speed while increasing both range and payload.

Which sounds pretty good, until you also read this:

The replacement engines for at-sea repair are too large to be transported by current underway replenishment systems.

and this:

The USN is dealing with the following issues in adapting their carriers to operate the F-35C.

  • The F135 engine exceeds the weight capacity of traditional replenishment systems and generates more heat than previous engines.
  • The stealthy skin requires new repair techniques; extensive skin damage shall necessitate repairs at Lockheed’s land-based facilities.
  • The adoption of volatile lithium-ion batteries and higher voltage systems than traditional fighters.
  • Storing of new weapons not previously employed on carrier aircraft.
  • Large quantities of classified data generated during missions shall require additional security.

So, what’s my point, you’re asking? My point is this:

The F-35 is a very expensive airplane. There are alternatives (including one made by SAAB that interoperates with all NATO communications et cetera) that out-perform the F-35. The F-35 has been designed for stealth – not exactly a requirement when flying over Canada. The F-35 has three variants – making it more complex with more compromises.
our government is going to buy them, unless some of us (that includes you) write to our MPs and our Prime Minister and our Minister of Defence and complain. Perhaps we should also write to our favourite newspaper.
If you have a blog or a website, consider linking to this page, or just write your own.
We don’t get what we deserve. We get what our politicians think they can get away with, while increasing their power or political connections. Make them understand that you understand this.

GM Crops: what does ‘GM’ Stand For?

I know that GM stands for Genetically Modified. There is a wonderful Wikipedia entry on this, to which I refer you for further information: what it is, how it is done, et cetera.

The basic idea is to incorporate, into a plant’s very DNA, one or more extra genes. Early attempts made tomatoes stay firm longer. Later successes included adding a bacterial insecticide, and resistance to the general weed-killer RoundUp.

In the Wikipedia article (which I strongly recommend you actually read, please) you will find out that measures to prevent resistance to the above kind of GM crop are needed. Eventually resistance will develop, just as it does for antibiotics. As with antibiotics, resistance develops faster the more widespread the prescribing, or in the crop case, planting, is done.

I have several problems with GM crops, and the likely, almost certain, arrival of resistance to the benefits (weed killer immunity, insect immunity) is one of my issues.

GM crops have been made to actually increase food value (see Golden Rice in the Wikipedia article). So why am I against these ‘frankenfoods?’

GM will eventually stand for, Growing Monopoly. To plant GM crops, you must purchase GM seeds. Even though patents will run out, the possibility of competition against the GM Giants seems pretty low. So, farmers all over the world (especially in Asia) will be giving up the old ways of planting the best seed from last year, and simply buying more GM seed again this year. Once there is clearly insufficient old-seed to revert to old-seed practices, the GM seeds will in effect have a monopoly on the relevant crop plantings. All over the world.

GM is starting to stand for, Government Manipulation. Several jurisdictions have limited GM crops, and the GM crop community is actively lobbying, of course, to reverse this. There is some detail on this in Wikipedia also, search for ‘government’ or ‘regulation.’

GM crops appear not to be dangerous for human consumption. Generally the modification produces a single protein / chemical / enzyme in the modified plant. For example, immunity to the general plant-killer RoundUp™ is achieved by supplying an alternate pathway to the one RoundUp cripples. Thus the GM plant can survive RoundUp. The immunity to insects is achieved by producing a compound that the bacteria use to kill insects – probably in order to consume their carcasses. In these cases, the added capability of the GM plant is well understood. Testing the individual compound for human health risk is relatively straightforward.

GM crops are supposedly not going to spread their abilities to neighbouring crops. This is incorrect. Some fields adjacent to GM fields are already losing their all-green status as food producers. Complex trials using chloroplast genetic modification (there are no chloroplasts in pollen, and pollen is the most mobile deliverer of genetic information to the next generation) have shown that, the pollen modification somehow, occasionally, gets into the nuclear DNA and is indeed transmitted via pollen to neighbouring fields.

So, eventually, GM will stand for, Global Migration.

In summary:

  • GM crops potentially/eventually can create seed monopolies.
  • GM crop companies will be lobbying to help this happen.
  • GM crops will eventually be subject to resistance: their advantage will dissipate like the advantages of new (and old) antibiotics.
  • GM crop modifications will escape into ‘wild’ populations.

It is perhaps worth dwelling on the latter complication. Once RoundUp resistance is widespread, that weed killer could become worthless. As it is legal in Ontario for use against noxious weeds, I use it as my only defence against poison ivy. While I am apparently immune, my spouse and grandchildren are not. Once RoundUp is useless, I will have no sensible way to control a toxic weed. Farmers dependent on RoundUp resistant crops will be in a similar state of dismay.

Now for the dumb questions:

  • Can you imagine a regulatory regime that would avoid monopoly power for the seed sellers?
  • Can you imagine a regulatory regime that would ensure that GM traits do not escape into the wild?
  • Can you imagine a regulatory regime that would manage and prevent GM-modification resistance?

and finally,

is it better to have wide diversity in crop seeds, managed all over the world by crop growers, than to exploit an advantage that may be both temporary and fallible, with single-source GM seeds for each crop?

Any lobbyists out there willing to take this topic on? Please advise.

as always, responses here must do only three things: provide a real eMail (kept secret); have decent spelling and grammar; and, actually say something of interest.

Who Kathleen Wynne is Not

Kathleen Wynne is not Dalton McGuinty. It was not her aide who arranged for the gas plant eMails to be erased. She was not premier when the Oakville gas plant was cancelled. She was not premier when the Mississauga gas plant was cancelled either.

(as an aside:

The Oakville gas plant cancellation was spearheaded in part by Erin Brockovich, who was brought in from the United States as a specialist in activist cancellation of projects. Here you will find these words: On October 1, 2010, local opponents rallied at the Ontario legislature and brought in American environmentalist Erin Brockovich to help generate publicity for their fight with the government.

The Mississauga gas plant cancellation was spearheaded by persons who lived completely out of sight of the project. I know: I was within a stone’s throw of the project on several occasions, and have photographs showing it, and how construction continued (thus raising costs) even after the cancellation decision. It is perhaps worth noting that the few people living close to the proposed plant told me they a) had no problem with the plant, and b) felt harassed by those who opposed the plant – occupants of a tower that cannot be seen from their home.)

Kathleen Wynne is not Deb Matthews. So ORNGE and eHealth issues don’t really belong to the current premier of Ontario, they belong to the current Health Minister of Ontario. (Whether that appointment should stand is the subject of another debate, eh?)

Kathleen Wynne is not Tim Hudak. She does not think that a million jobs can be created, even though she is not an economist. She does know that real economists don’t think a million jobs can be created.

(as an aside:

I submit that no government knows how to create any jobs except those in its bureaucracy. I also submit that no government knows how to keep jobs in Ontario, given our free trade agreements.)

Kathleen Wynne is not Andrea Horwath, although her budget might have had you thinking she was.

Kathleen Wynne may, or may not, be the next premier of Ontario.

(as an aside: If you live in Ontario, you are responsible for what happens next. So do get out and vote – for the candidate or party of your choice. Okay?)