Rise Of The Mesh-ings

A couple of years back, when Egypt was in turmoil during the ouster of Mubarak (strange that we have to name which time it was in turmoil…) The Powers That Be shut down internet access so as to halt social media, email, skype, and all from showing what was happening. At that time I made a posting about ways to make an “ersatz network”, mostly the longhand way. Building routing points, DNS servers, and such and getting people connected on an intranet of sorts, then having someone with a satellite phone or packet radio or (other method) linking that into the broader internet if needed.

https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/small-group-communications-wo-internet/

I’d even given a bit of a nod to “mesh networks” as a future thing.

There is mention made of self forming webs in one of the pages. That’s a more complicated extension. To make it such that the devices discover each other, and ‘link hands’ so to speak. So if there were enough of them, the whole area becomes one large web of communications. (The problem there is with the lack of ID. If 2000 folks are all “anon”, how do you find your spouse?) But with ‘not too much work’, that can be fixed too (or may already have been fixed by someone…) So, take a blog where folks can post with any name not already taken. Pretty quickly folks could paste up messages saying “John Q. Public looking for Jane, need lunch in 10 minutes.”

http://daviddarts.com/

PirateBox DIY

PirateBox can be configured to run on many devices, including wireless routers, single-board computers, laptops, and mobile phones. Key hardware platforms include the TP-Link MR3020 and the Raspberry Pi both of which start at US$35.

OpenWrt
PirateBox will potentially run on most OpenWrt compatible routers with USB storage. Check out this tutorial and be sure to visit the forum for support and more info.

OpenWrt with Mesh
Thanks to lead PirateBox developer Matthias Strubel PirateBox can now be configured to create wireless mesh networks using Alexandre Dulaunoy’s Forban. This feature is still in testing – for more info, check out this forum post.

So those distributed mesh self organizing bits are being worked on…

The “how to” do it on a Raspberry Pi mostly has a download of a prebuilt image. I’d want to know what was in it before using it for anything where badges and guns were involved (or checking accounts and money…)

Remember that a “mesh network” is one that mostly self forms between a whole bunch of gadgets and they all share over their individual connections to the nearest ones, and via the mesh of connections, with the further nodes that are out of range for a single hop.

Well that “being worked on” has become “done deal”. And in a far more elegant and complete way than I’d expected. I’d figured that the Libertarian mindset of the Geek World would take umbrage at having THEIR communications screwed around with by mere governments…. and I was right. Furthermore, it wasn’t just the Linux world. Android got in on the act (though as a derivative of Linux the only real surprise there is that Google is willing to let go of that much control and monitoring…) But in any case, someone would do it. So both Linux and Android. And….

Macintosh / Apple / iStuff too. Of course, you need a newer iThingy to get it to work. But a small price (and self healing over a couple of years anyway).

http://www.cultofmac.com/271225/appreciated-ios-7-feature-will-change-world/

How an Under-Appreciated iOS 7 Feature Will Change the World

Mike Elgan (3:07 pm PDT, Mar 22nd 2014)

curious download hit Apple’s app store this week: a messaging app called FireChat.

It’s a new kind of app because it uses an iOS feature unavailable until version 7: the Multipeer Connectivity Framework. The app was developed by the crowdsourced connectivity provider Open Garden and this is their first iOS app.

The Multipeer Connectivity Framework enables users to flexibly use WiFi and Bluetooth peer-to-peer connections to chat and share photos even without an Internet connection. Big deal, right?

But here’s the really big deal — it can enable two users to chat not only without an Internet connection, but also when they are far beyond WiFi and Bluetooth range from each other — connected with a chain of peer-to-peer users between one user and a far-away Internet connection.

It’s called wireless mesh networking. And Apple has mainstreamed it in iOS 7. It’s going to change everything. Here’s why.

It can also extend an Internet connect to a place where none exists — for example, to a hotel basement, cave or to rural areas where cell tower connections are non-existent.

It does that through the mesh networking capability inherent in the Multipeer Connectivity Framework. With multiple users in the area, FireChat can relay messages just like the internet does, from node to node (phone to phone).

(Apple’s AirDrop works in the same way, by the way.)

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204144

Share content with AirDrop from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch
With AirDrop, you can share photos, videos, websites, locations, and more with people nearby with an Apple device.

What you need
To share content with AirDrop, both people need one of these devices using iOS 7 or later, or a Mac with OS X Yosemite:
iPhone 5 or later
iPad (4th generation or later)
iPad mini
iPod touch (5th generation)
You also need to turn on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. If you want to share with your contacts, sign in to your iCloud account.
Learn more about using AirDrop to share with people using a Mac with Yosemite.

So go ahead, evil dictator, cut the local WiFi and even the internet trunk. We’ll just share our short texts, emails, files, photos, movies, you name it directly with each other, no central node need apply. And when any node has a connection to the rest of the world, we ALL have a connection to the rest of the world. (Though how fast a connection is unclear and likely to be slow, but workable for getting the important bits of news out or in.)

While sharing with just recognized contacts requires an iCloud login, sharing with anyone does not. In an emergency, opening up a connection to “All” lets things just flow, but with a loss of privacy.

Were I in the Media Business, I’d be equipping all my remote reporting teams with a iPhone, iPad, Macintosh, etc. along with a satellite internet feed gizmo. Then, when they are reporting from a ‘hot zone’, they can just ‘mesh’ together and to their uplink. If things get really dodgy, then they can open things to “all” and let ‘er rip to an entire demonstration worth of folks.

(there’s more at both links)

Android?

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.servalproject

Description

Mobile phones normally can’t be used when cellular networks fail, for example during a disaster. This means that millions of vulnerable people around the world are deprived of the ability to communicate, when they need it most.

We have spent the past four years working with the New Zealand Red Cross to create a solution. We call it the Serval Mesh, and it is free software that allows smart-phones to communicate, even in the face of catastrophic failure of cellular networks.

It works by using your phone’s Wi-Fi to communicate with other phones on the same network. Or even by forming impromptu networks consisting only of mobile phones. Mesh communications is an appropriate technology for complementing cellular networks. Think of it like two-way radio or CB radio that has been propelled into the 21st century. For long-range communications you will still need to make use of cellular or fixed telephone networks or the internet.

This software allows you to easily make private phone calls, send secure text messages and share files in caves, in subways, in the Outback, in Australia or Africa, in Europe or the United States — even when cellular networks fail or are unavailable.

You can also keep using your existing phone number on the mesh, which is really important in a disaster when people are trying to get back in contact with each other.

Our software:

* Is completely open and open-source; free for all
* Can be carried and activated in seconds by those who need it when it is needed
* Is carrier independent
* Can be installed during an emergency from only one phone
* Is distributed nature makes network resilient
* Can use your existing phone number
* Encrypts mesh phone calls and mesh text messages by default
* Can distribute pictures, videos and any other files
[…]
What’s New
0.92
* MeshMS text messages display delivery notifications and timestamps, and only stored encrypted, but are not backwards compatible
* Vastly simplified the connection screen
* Added phone dialler for tablet users
* Our routing protocol has been improved
* The Peer List is more responsive to changing network conditions
* Reduced power consumption in a number of use cases
For a complete list of changes, see https://github.com/servalproject/batphone/blob/master/CURRENT-RELEASE.md

Want an Android to share with a Mac or Ithingy?

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/22766220/mesh-networking-from-ios-to-android

Mesh networking from ios to android

Is there any framework that connects an ios device to an android device using a mesh network ?

There are apps like firechat that ables users to speak to each other using only bluetooth and wifi (via apple’s multipeer connectivity framework). But is there any way to connect ios devices to android devices using multipeer connectivity of some kind ?

I’m trying to build an app like firechat to be used by some friends here in college, but it needs to connect ios devices to android devices. If there would only be ios devices, multipeer connectivity framework would be just fine, but in this case I don’t know wich framework to use in order to connect all these devices
[…]
I believe the Open Garden SDK may be able to meet your needs.

Basically it is an SDK for multipeer communication, by the creators of Firechat. And they claim that it is the same technology that Firechat uses, so I believe it will work with Bluetooth.

They also claim it works on Android and iOs, and as Firechat works on Android too now, I would believe that it is true.

Sorry for all the hypotheticals, but I have not been granted access to it yet so I can´t confirm any of these facts.

Looks like the needed bits exist and folks are working on the implementations.

Also expect multiple implementations from multiple sources for meshing, so that if any one gets broken, others will step up.

http://www.networkworld.com/article/2224025/smartphones/android-phones-are-connecting-without-carrier-networks.html

PHILANDROID
By Steven Max Patterson

OPINION
Android phones are connecting without carrier networks
A new prototype backup network connects Android phones through a mesh network established with the phones’ Wi-Fi chips, which can come in handy during emergency situations.

Network World | Feb 12, 2013 10:12 AM PT

While the cellphone network in Haiti survived the devastating earthquake in 2010, the added load of international aid workers who arrived in the aftermath caused it to crash. Josh Thomas and Jeff Robble, both working at Mitre, saw this problem and created a working prototype backup network using only the Wi-Fi chips on Android smartphones. This capability won’t be shipped on new mobile phones anytime soon, but it is a really interesting open innovation project to understand and follow, and for some an Android project to which they might contribute.

The Smart Phone Ad-Hoc Networks (SPAN) project reconfigures the onboard Wi-Fi chip of a smartphone to act as a Wi-Fi router with other nearby similarly configured smartphones, creating an ad-hoc mesh network. These smartphones can then communicate with one another without an operational carrier network. SPAN intercepts all communications at the Global Handset Proxy (see figure at right) so applications such as VoIP, Twitter, email etc., work normally.

The source from the Linux Wireless Extension API was merged into the Android kernel source and compiled. The modified version of Android was used to root specific models of Android smartphones to expose and harness the ad-hoc routing features of the onboard Wi-Fi chip to enable this intercept.

It is really a framework for further research to refine how to build the special case of an ad-hoc mesh network. SPAN’s routing module is designed to be plug-and-play so it can be easily replaced. Researchers and developers interested in experimenting with new routing protocols save months of man-hours needed to build the entire app by using the SPAN framework.

The current version can be toggled between widely adopted routing protocols OLSRd and Dijkstra to test the differences in the performance of network discovery and routing. In testing SPAN, the limits of these routing protocols were discovered. Network discovery floods a network with “hello” packets so a routing table can be built. This type of discovery works well in static networks because the amount of bandwidth used for discovery is limited to infrequent changes in the network.

Some background on that Serval app up above:

http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2011/01/researchers-enable-mesh-wifi-networking-for-android-smartphones/

Researchers enable mesh WiFi networking for Android smartphones
Australian researchers have created a system that allows VoIP calls to be …

by Casey Johnston – Jan 31, 2011 9:30am PST

An Australian research group from Flinders University has found a way to apply WiFi mesh networking onto the Android operating system, allowing phones to act as access points over radio waves to transmit voice calls as data. While the system currently only works between phones relatively close together, the researchers hope the use of transmitters will extend the service to remote areas for emergency use.

The system, named Serval, can relay VoIP calls between phones using their WiFi networking. Individual phones can also act as relay points, and theoretically should be able to bridge together a phone in a remote area with no service to one with access to the cellular network, where the call can finally be relayed to its intended recipient.

In its present state, Serval can only connect between phones that are no more than a few hundred meters away from each other, and the call quality is horrendous. But its creators say that coverage could be extended in areas with no reception by installing transmitter boxes that could pass along the call, which would be good enough for an emergency situation.

“A few hundred meters” is a pretty good distance, especially in a crowd. I note in passing that folks are already thinking about repeater boxes. Linux in a lunch pail with a big antenna and you have a mobile “hot spot / mesh node” for greater distance and clarity. I also note that sending text and pictures is not time dependent so the voice quality issue from packet delays is not an issue.

And, of course, you can do it with Linux boxes / tablets / phones / cards / {whatever}…

http://www.linuxplanet.com/linuxplanet/tutorials/6758/1/

Setting up a Linux-based Open-Mesh Wireless Network, Part 1

Hardware and Software
May 26, 2009
By Eric Geier

Mesh networks are a type of wireless network. As you’ll discover, mesh networking is great for blanketing Wi-Fi in larger areas. They are especially useful in places where the environment changes frequently, such as people and walls moving around in malls, trees and buildings growing around an apartment complex, boats moving around the docks, and trucks coming in and out of stops. Additionally, they are perfect for locations and applications where it’s hard to run network cabling.

I would also add that they are really great for letting a cluster of robots share computes for a good hard think session… shades of SkyNet…

Instead of having to run Ethernet cables to each of the access points, mesh networks work wirelessly. Only one mesh node (or more for larger networks) must be grounded and plugged into an Internet connection. Other mesh nodes, acting as repeaters, can be placed throughout a building or outdoor area, only requiring power. When someone surfs the web from a repeater, the traffic hops from node-to-node, making it back to a gateway. The hops can vary depending upon the current signal levels among them all. Hence the common saying about mesh, “self configuring and healing”, and why they are perfect for busy areas.

Where does Linux or open source come into play? Well, there’s Open-Mesh, a volunteer-based organization that provides hardware and services for mesh networks. The comparatively low-cost hardware, or nodes, are loaded with open-source firmware.

The service or dashboard is provided for free by Open-Mesh and lets operators manage their mesh networks online. Then for user authentication (username and password-based access) or pay-for-use applications, there’s the free CoovaOM or CoovaAAA services in addition to other paid options.

n this two-part tutorial series, we’ll set up a mesh network using the Open-Mesh gear and services. First we’ll gather the hardware, create a Dashboard account, and configure the network settings. Then in the next part, we’ll experiment with the internal splash page, third-party captive portal, set up web filtering with OpenDNS, and finally install the nodes and test coverage. Now lets get started!

Expect to see folks showing up at major demonstrations or events with those management / authentication apps in a lunch box or backpack ready to go for the event.

And, yes, you can do it with the Raspberry Pi:

http://hackaday.com/2012/11/14/mesh-networking-with-multiple-raspberry-pi-boards/

Since he’s got several Raspberry Pi boards on hand [Eric Erfanian] decided to see what he could pull off using the robust networking tools present in every Linux installation. His four-part series takes you from loading an image on the SD cards to building a mesh network from RPi boards and WiFi dongles. He didn’t include a list of links to each article in his post. If you’re interested in all four parts we’ve listed them after the break.

He says that getting the mesh network up and running is easiest if none of the boards are using an Ethernet connection. He used the Babel package to handle the adhoc routing since no device is really in charge of the network. Each of the boards has a unique IP manually assigned to it before joining. All of this work is done in part 3 of the guide. The link above takes you to part 4 in which [Eric] adds an Internet bridge using one of the RPi boards which shares the connection with the rest of the mesh network.

If the power of this type of networking is of interest you should check out this home automation system that takes advantage of it.

And, for those inveterate diehards who insist on things that are Industrial Strength, you can do it on BSD Unix. Here’s the pointer:

https://wiki.freebsd.org/WifiMesh

A wireless mesh network, sometimes called WMN, is a typical wireless network but using a mesh topology instead. These networks are often seen as special ad-hoc networks since there’s no central node that will break connectivity (in contrast with common wireless networks that you have at home/office, where there’s a central Access Point). 802.11s is an amendment to the 802.11-2007 wireless standard that describes how a mesh network should operate on top of the existing 802.11 MAC. If you want to know more, check the resources section. You may already know about the Wireless Distribution System, WDS for short, and if you do, just think of 802.11s as the standard that will expand and unite WDS. Note that 802.11s is much more complex than WDS (for example, 802.11s includes a routing protocol, an airtime link metric protocol and a congestion control signaling protocol, just to name a few).

This project aims to implement the upcoming 802.11s wireless mesh standard (not yet ratified) on the FreeBSD operating system (of course :-) )

Development is occurring at the FreeBSD HEAD branch and an experimental support is present on FreeBSD 8.0.

This work was sponsored by The FreeBSD Foundation.

In Conclusion

Did I mention that “It’s a bad idea to annoy the Geek!”?
We have keyboards and we know how to use them…

So TPTB decided to get in the grill of the Tech Generation (of all ages…) and we collectively are responding with a nice Aikido rotating side step and letting all those negative waves go flying by, while we continue to communicate as we wish. At most, TPTB can disrupt things for a little while, in a new way. Then we adapt and keep on keeping on.

Yeah, I suppose they could flood the entire assigned bands with jammer noise. Then we would just need to respond with an external gizmo to frequency hop over all available bandwidth ( a known communications method ). Just a few dollars and time. The process marches on.

Oh, and as a side note, these mesh networks don’t have those nice big central servers where all your communications can be saved and dredged through by companies and agencies. Expect to see increasing use of encrypted packet communications over meshes. Central Services? To quote P.G. “We don’t need them!”…

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Posted in Emergency Preparation and Risks, Political Current Events, Tech Bits | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Welcome to Political Manipulation Awareness Day!

Just a short note to commemorate this day of awareness. As some of you may have noticed, there is a great deal of hype and noise going on today. We are all supposed to have our “awareness” raised. So, to do my part, I’m recognizing this as the Earth Political Manipulation Awareness Day!

Call it P-MAD or EP-MAD if you like. Just remember the MAD part of it.

So, in honor of the high effort put forth by such manipulative political agencies as The Club Of Rome (who have been bringing us “Oh, No! Running Out!!!” ‘awareness’ since the very bogus book Limits To Growth in the ’70s), and to all the Malthusians who have been preaching ‘awareness’ of “Doom In Our Time!” from too many people to ever feed, and most recently to the IPCC and minions and useful idiots who have been force feeding us ‘awareness’ of the clear and present demise of the entire planet in a too cold / too hot / too wet / too dry / apocalyptic acid in an ever more dilute ocean from the missing Antarctic; in honor of all them, and more, I propose to heft a glass of modestly cheap white wine while I raise my awareness of their cheap Political Manipulation.

What else?

Today I have put a new liner in my (mandatory) recycle bin. Nothing else. Just the liner. Made from oil. Disposable. Got it from the store by driving my 2 ton station wagon over (with only me in it) using high octane gasoline. Everything else went into the garbage can.

This evening, I’ll be cooking BBQ marinated chicken over a mesquite (thanks P.G.!) and briquette fire. The mesquite tastes better, but I’m going to get it started using petroleum on charcoal. Note that the name “charcoal” is for the two ingredients from which it is made. Char, made from wood and often called charcoal, and coal. Yup. Real honest to goodness coal goes into charcoal briquettes. Once those are started, I’ll lay on the mesquite and once it is involved, the food goes on. Meat. Copious quantities. With a side of baked potatoes with real butter. Thanks to all those folks who have been raising my ‘awareness’ about the amount of grain and water that goes into making a pound of meat, I’ve developed a hankering for more of it ;-)

I’ve also got time to water the lawn and garden, making sure my bunny and plants are well watered and fed. I’ll be using Miracle Grow fully chemical fertilizer. The stuff works great. I’ve been made very “aware” of usage of fertilizers on farms, and figure it seems to work well.

I’ve also got some alien seeds from my seed archive. I’m still trying to figure out which one is most “foreign” here, but once I’ve worked that out, some of them go into the garden. I understand Purselane and Goosefoot are both weedy species that are also usable for food. Though I’ve been wanting to plant my Italian Dandelions for a while. Selected cultivar with larger more tasty leaves. We’ll see what strikes my fancy, er, ‘awareness’…

Finally, I’m cleaning up part of my patio, so going to generate more landfill fodder as old things no longer needed get thrown away. Need to “clean up the earth” (by filling a landfill) after all… So the old “pop-up” tent like cover gets the heave ho. Yeah, it is a plastic top over metal folding legs, and could likely be recycled, but… the locals decided that only plastic with numbers on it can be recycled and the tarp top has no numbers, plus getting it off of the metal would be a pain, so the metal can’t be recycled. Oh Well…

At least I’m more ‘aware’ of it.

I’ve also got lots of lights on in the house and yard for the cheery “aware” look. I’m very aware of how happy I am to have lots of light. Even especially aware of the incandescent lamps on dimmers. A few years back when the Eco-Nazis came for the lightbulbs, I bought a large stash. What ought to be a lifetime supply. On dimmers they last much much longer ( even a 5% power reduction can give a large lifetime increase). So my awareness of being politically and legally manipulated as to what kind of lighting I can buy was very successful, and I reacted accordingly. There is nothing quite as pleasing as that warm yellow glow of a pure incandescent bulb. No flicker (fast or slow) like with fluorescents, no excess 540 nm blue causing insomnia like from LED bulbs, no mercury to worry about. Instant on. Instant off. 100% dimmable range. No hum, buzz or whine. Wonderfully aware of them ;-)

So be sure to do what you can to raise your awareness of political manipulation on this day, and of course, react accordingly!

To your health! (Raises glass of wine…) Now where did I put that meat and marinade…

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Posted in Political Current Events | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

News Bits and Misc. Stuff

I’m going to take the ‘saved links’ for several different things and put them in one posting. In some cases they don’t justify a posting on their own, in others it’s just more effective to “get ‘r done” than sit on it for a longer treatment.

Water

First up, the California Water Wars, Drought Edition:

For those not familiar with life in The Cadillac Desert, wars over water rights are part of the turf. Until recently, it was “first come, served forever, the rest of you suck it.” The first claimant on water had water rights, everybody else had to deal with what was left over. There was some finesse in this. For example, riparian rights said you got reasonable use of a river near you, but could not take more than your share and had to leave enough for others downstream, sort of. (Ask Mexico about the Colorado River…) Then there were surface rights. If you could stick a well in the dirt, all you could pump was yours. For things like major dams, say the Oroville Damn and the Shasta Damn that feed water into the California Aqueduct, those farmers who first signed up for the building of them got allotments of water, and those then tend to stay theirs in perpetuity (though failure to use the water can result in reductions, so folks tend to always use their water… and after something like 50 years they ‘renegotiated’ the rates to yet another sweetheart rate).

Lately some of that has changed. The original contact for major water from dams ran out and a new one issued with some changes. During major droughts there’s a reduced allotment to each farmer (with some rice farmers now selling their water rights so cities) and more importantly, Governor Moonbeam (aka Jerry Brown) has made a water grab for water rights to ground water.

http://www.examiner.com/article/california-groundwater-grab

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed three unprecedented bills this week that regulate California’s underground water sources – groundwater. Groundwater includes all water resources contained in the pore spaces of rock and soil below the ground surface. And, in the case the new regulations, such water resources would include those on both private and public lands.

Approximately 80% of California water is used by the agricultural industry and farmers. This water irrigates almost 29 million acres, which grows 350 different crops. Urban users consume 10% of the water, and industry receives less than 10% of the water supply. A significant source of agriculture and industrial water demand is drawn from groundwater on private property.

Since the state’s founding, groundwater (as with certain mineral rights and other rights to use) has been considered a constitutionally-protected property right; landowners have been able to pump groundwater unrestrained by state regulators. But, increasing reliance on groundwater during droughts has depleted some groundwater basins.

The Governor’s new groundwater regulations are comprised of three bills: SB 1168 instructs local agencies to create groundwater management plans, AB 1739 establishes when the state government can intervene in local groups’ failure to sufficiently implement groundwater management plans, and SB 1319 would postpone state enforcements in certain cases where surface water has been impacted by groundwater pumping. (Los Angeles Times, Sept. 16, 2014)

So in one regulatory swoop, the constitutional property rights in the ground water on your own property have been moved to a State managed government run resource. Oh Well, who needs property rights. We also, now, have “eminent domain” approved for use to confiscate your land and give it to another private party for development if they can show they can make a larger tax base out of it (i.e. show the government that they will get a larger cut of the action). Not like there’s any tendency for Crony Capitalists to hang out with Corruptible Politician (but I’m being repetitive…)

So what property rights DO you have in land? Er, not much. You can pay property taxes on it, and use it in exactly and only those ways the zoning rules allow, with only the changes permitted by the relevant regulatory bodies and with the right licences, and only for as long as someone else doesn’t whisper in your local Govt ear that they can make a bundle on that land if the Govt will just hand it over… Oh, and don’t ever plant a Redwood Tree or you must go to the Redwood Commission to get permission to cut it down when it threatens to topple onto your house. (Single trees tend to fall over in heavy wind as their roots are shallow…)

But there was one small glimmer of hope. Local Govt was drooling over the opportunity to move to Tiered Pricing where you got a little water at a reasonable price, then they would ratchet up the price rapidly with added consumption. (Tiers like this are usually based on the local community averages, so the very very rich on 5 acre estates get more of the ‘life line’ quantity than the poor person on a dinky lot.) This went off to court, and the court discovered it could stand up for the average Joe and Jane (or found that it could not come up with a suitable dodge…)

http://newsdaily.com/2015/04/california-judge-rejects-citys-tiered-water-rates/

California court rejects city’s tiered water rates

Tuesday, April 21, 2015 CURTIS SKINNER FOR REUTERS

(Reuters) – A state appeals court ruled on Monday that a southern California city’s tiered water rates, developed in an effort to combat overuse during the state’s ongoing drought, violated the state’s Constitution.

The three-judge panel for the state’s 4th District Court of Appeal sided with taxpayers of the Los Angeles-area city of San Juan Capistrano, who filed a lawsuit against the city’s plan to charge differing rates based on water usage.

The judges said in the 29-page opinion that the cost schedule was unconstitutional because it made some consumers pay more for water than it cost the government to provide it, violating a voter-approved proposition.

“We do hold that above-cost-of-service pricing for tiers of water service is not allowed by Proposition 218 and in this case, [the city] did not carry its burden of proving its higher tiers reflected its costs of service,” they wrote.

The panel sent the case back to a lower court, adding that the rate tiering can be legal if a connection between pricing and costs can be demonstrated.

So watch for local water boards to suddenly find ways that providing a little more water costs them a lot more to provide…

Welcome to Kalifornia, the land of Fruits and Nuts…

It will be interesting to watch how this all sorts out, especially if we enter one of the perfectly normal Mega Droughts that California has had throughout history. Though I did see on the weather report last night that we are expecting snow in the mountains this week. In the end of April. When it’s supposed to be warm, but isn’t.

Nifty Home Heating

Got a high heat load to dump from your Cloud Server Farm? Don’t like paying for all that A/C load? Have a lot of folks who need some heat? Why not put the servers in their home as a heater?

http://newsdaily.com/2015/04/free-home-heating-offered-by-e-radiators/

Free home heating offered by e-Radiators

Tuesday, April 21, 2015 REUTERS

A Dutch energy firm is trailing a scheme that offers both the promise of free energy to home-owners and a cheap alternative to large data centers for computing firms.

Dutch start-up Nerdalize has teamed up with energy providers Eneco to launch its e-Radiator prototype, which is being tested in five Dutch homes as an alternative heating device. The e-Radiator is a computer server that crunches numbers for a variety of Belgian firms – while the resultant heat will heat the rooms in which they’re situated. Nerdalize believes the scheme could be a commercially viable alternative to traditional radiators.
CEO Boaz Leupe told Reuters the scheme is ideal for both computing clients and home owners.

“These computers generate massive amounts of heat and then you start using energy to cool that down again, which is a bit of a waste. With the solution that Nerdalize has, we don’t actually have to build the data center, which saves a lot of costs in infrastructure and we don’t have the cooling overhead, plus that you have the environmental benefit, that the Kilowatt hour you are using is used twice, once to heat the home and once to compute the clients task without the cooling overhead,” Leupe told Reuters.

He added: “Actually what we do is not that different from a normal cloud provider, pretty much we make sure that there is infrastructure, or hardware and that there is a lot of clients that now book their feed with traditional cloud provider, and basically what booking capacity means is that you rent a computer for a little while and we rent out computer to universities and companies that have computer-intensive needs.”

Nerdalize’s founders thought up the scheme after crowding around a laptop to keep warm after a home thermostat broke.

That must have been one heck of a laptop… Me? I’d have turned on the electric oil filled roll around kept for that purpose.

I also have to wonder what one does in the summer… Then again, this is Holland, so maybe they never get warm ;-)

Not going to work well in Phoenix Arizona, but probably a killer idea for Nome and Fairbanks. (Maybe Toronto too…) Communications costs will go up, but from some classes of distributed compute problems, where communications load is not too high, it could work rather well.

Maple Syruple

I’ve always loved real Maple Syrup and find the artificial stuff cloying and like oversweet glue in the mouth making for dry pancakes. Now I have a reason to pay up for it:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110330131316.htm

54 beneficial compounds discovered in pure maple syrup

Date:
March 30, 2011
Source:
University of Rhode Island
Summary:
Researchers have discovered 34 new beneficial compounds in pure maple syrup and confirmed that 20 compounds discovered last year in preliminary research play a key role in human health.

University of Rhode Island researcher Navindra Seeram has discovered 34 new beneficial compounds in pure maple syrup and confirmed that 20 compounds discovered last year in preliminary research play a key role in human health.

On March 30 at the 241st American Chemical Society’s National Meeting in Anaheim, Calif. the URI assistant pharmacy professor is telling scientists from around the world that his URI team has now isolated and identified 54 beneficial compounds in pure maple syrup from Quebec, five of which have never been seen in nature.

“I continue to say that nature is the best chemist, and that maple syrup is becoming a champion food when it comes to the number and variety of beneficial compounds found in it,” Seeram said. “It’s important to note that in our laboratory research we found that several of these compounds possess anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which have been shown to fight cancer, diabetes and bacterial illnesses.”

The anti-inflammatory part was what caught my eye. As our present high omega-6 fat ratio from plant seed oils is prone to causing higher inflammation, it’s nice to know that some Maple Syrup pushes things the other way.

[…]
“We know that the compounds are anti-inflammatory agents and that inflammation has been implicated in several chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, certain types of cancers and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s,” Seeram said.

As part of his diabetes research, Seeram has collaborated with Chong Lee, professor of nutrition and food sciences in URI’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences. The scientists have found that maple syrup phenolics, the beneficial anti-oxidant compounds, inhibit two carbohydrate hydrolyzing enzymes that are relevant to Type 2 diabetes management.

The irony of finding a potential anti-diabetes compound in a sweetener is not lost on Seeram. “Not all sweeteners are created equal,” he said.
Among the five new compounds is Quebecol, a compound created when a farmer boils off the water in maple sap to get maple syrup. It takes 40 liters (10.5 gallons) of sap to make 1 liter (2 pints) of syrup.

“Quebecol has a unique chemical structure or skeleton never before identified in nature,” Seeram said. “I believe the process of concentrating the maple sap into maple syrup is what creates Quebecol. There is beneficial and interesting chemistry going on when the boiling process occurs. I believe the heat forms this unique compound.”

More at the link.

Me? I’m looking at a nice Short Stack with real butter on it and a nice Maple Syrup coat… with bacon on the side ;-)

Why I Like Linux – Security Edition

I have an ongoing love / hate relationship with Unix / Linux operating systems. I love what it lets me do, but I hate how it makes me do it. At any rate, I’ve been working my way down the Security Food Chain trying to figure out how to make a truly secure from the ground up Linux. Peeling back each layer tended to show some “issues” at the next layer down. Now a decent Linux is far more secure than any Windoze release, and that is why secure platforms like the Macintosh tend to be built on a Linux core (or, in the case of the Mac, a Mach Micro Kernel that is in turn based on that Unix / Linux world). I’d finally reached the point of looking at compile time flags (that are often set for convenience and speed instead of security) and the C Library and found it was going to be a “piece of work” to really really lock it down. Yet someone must have done that already, given that darned near every cheap DSL router (and similar network gear) has in it’s guts a Linux / Unix clone of some sort. (Even Cisco started with a BSD flavor and slowly mutated it into Cisco IOS… in the early days you could ‘get root’ on a Cisco router and use familiar Unix commands.)

Well, a bit of poking around (and this is part of what I love – if YOU need something, odds are someone else needed it and got there first) showed that some other folks had already “been there”. First up, there’s an alternative C Library. This matters as pretty much everything on the system will be making calls to that library of functions supplied via the C compiler to all the compiled programs. This library is particularly designed to be smaller, with fewer calls (which also means fewer attack interfaces) and somewhat hardened as it is used in those ubiquitous small routers and needs to be hardened for years without daily updates like M.S. needs…) But I was not keen on the idea of needing to “roll my own” OS based on that library. It would take a bit of work. Yet again, poking around found someone else had already done it. uClibc is that micro-C library.

http://opensource.dyc.edu/node/345

Lilblue: A security enhenced, fully featured XFCE4, amd64 Gentoo Desktop, built on uClibc

1. Introduction

“Lilblue”, named after the Little Blue Penguin of New Zealand, a smaller cousin of the Gentoo, is a security enhenced, fully featured XFCE4, amd64 Gentoo Desktop, built on uClibc.

The “security enhencement” comes from a toolchain which builds all of userland

* with stack smashing protection and stack-check,
* as position independant executables — even executables are marked ET_DYN
* with hardened linking — relocation read only and no lazy binding (relro and bindnow),
*with a non-executable stack, only RW permitted on a GNU_STACK phdr,

and a kernel which provides:

* various memory protection features for processes (PAGEEXEC, MPROTECT, RANDMMAP, EMUTRAMP),
* an enhenced address space layout randimization in conjunction with PIE above,
* numerous internal and kernel-userland surface hardening features,

The “fully featured desktop” comes the fact that the system comes with over 800 packages covering most desktop needs. XFCE4 was chosen because of its slim and flexible nature. These include:

* ephiphany, claws, hexchat for browsing, email and IRC
* abiword, evince, gcalctool, gtext for generic office software
* gqview, smplayer for multimedia with many open codecs
* transmission for bittorrent
* and no! busybox does not provide most of the core utilities

“Lilblue” should not be thought of as an “embedded” system. The major difference between it and a stock Gentoo system built with the same package set is that uClibc replaces glibc. Work is on the way to make about 7000 packages available via bin hosting.

Finally, why uClibc and why only amd64? Let me address the latter first: almost all desktop systems today support X86_64 architecture. Factored in with time constraints, mostly revovling around the difficulties maintaing hardening on X86, this made the choice to only support amd64 seem reasonable. The uClibc is harder to justify, so may or may not accept the following reasons:

* uClibc is a configurable standard C library aimed at embedded systems, and it should remain so, but it is not just for embedded systems anyore!
* uClibc is fast! “lilblue” boots in 14 seconds off a SSD
* uClibc is small ~400 KB for uClibc vs 1.7 MB
* uClibc’s “linkage surface” is half that of glibc: 1327 symbols for uClibc vs 2188 for glibc (Gentoo users can compare the speed of revdep-rebuild)
* It is not the mainstream and forces the developer to confront design principles when building a “Standard C Library” and executables that link against it
* I like working with the people who work on Gentoo and uClibc. Its not a reason to use “lilblue”, but it was a motivation for me to do this

It goes on from there. My only “complaint” is with the assumption of 64 bit desktops as ubiquitous. Most of mine are not, and the one I do have is a bit strange hardware that isn’t well supported by Linux drivers, so not a great candidate. (This is that ‘how it makes me do it’ part – where I get to buy Yet Another Machine, or do the work of making it “go” in 32 bit land…)

So this site is a wealth of security oriented work, and the ideas and pointers on what and why. They have several other projects too, so the top page is also interesting.

http://opensource.dyc.edu/

Welcome!

Welcome to opensource.dyc.edu. This site is dedicated to the distribution of Open Source software developed by both the students and faculty in the Information Technology Department at D’Youville College. The development teams hosted here are dedicated to the production of high quality Open Source software which serve a variety of needs.

D’Youville College is a small Liberal Arts College located in Buffalo, NY, that offers baccalaureate and graduate degrees in a variety of disciplines. For more information about the College and our programs, please visit http://www.dyc.edu . For more information about the Information Technology and our degrees, visit our site at tweedledee.dyc.edu/it .

Tor-ramdisk 20150411 released

This release of tor-ramdisk follows upstream’s release of tor 0.2.5.12 and 0.2.6.7. Both branches are now carrying stable releases, so I made the jump to the 0.2.6 branch to keep up with the new features upstream has been adding with each new branch. These releases come only a couple of months after the last releases and they address a couple of bugs. One is an assertion failure which a client can trigger in a hidden service.

That Tor-ramdisk is an interesting project, from the page for it:

Tor-ramdisk

Tor-ramdisk is a uClibc-based micro Linux distribution whose sole purpose is to securely host a Tor server purely in RAM. For those not familiar with Tor, it is a system which allows the user to construct encrypted virtual tunnels which are randomly relayed between Tor servers (nodes) until the connection finally exits to its destination on the internet. The encryption and random relaying resist traffic analysis in that a malicious sniffer cannot easily discover where the traffic is coming from or what data it contains. While not perfect in its efforts to provide users with anonymity, Tor does help protect against unscrupulous companies, individuals or agencies from “watching us”. For more information, see the Tor official site.

The usefulness of a RAM only environment for Tor became apparent to me when Janssen was arrested by the German police towards the end of July, 2007. (You can read the full story in a CNET article.) While the police did not seize the computer for whatever reasons, they certainly could have. More typically, it would have been taken for forensic analysis of the data on the drives. Of course, if the computer housing the Tor server has no drives, there can be no question that it is purely a network relaying device and that one should look elsewhere for the “goods”.

Other advantages became clear:

* It is useful to operators that want all traces of the server to disappear on powerdown. This includes the private SSL keys which can be housed externally.
* The environment can be hardened in a manner specific to the limited needs of Tor.
* It has the usual speed advantages of diskless systems and can run on older hardware.

The only known disadvantage is that it cannot host Tor hidden services which would require other services (e.g. http), and their resources (e.g. hard drive space), in addition to the Tor server itself. However, as a middle or exit node, it is ideal.

I could see, for example, having Tor-ramdisk on a semi-remote file server and doing a net-boot from it (all over encrypted link and from an encrypted disk). Then you have a working Tor relay with “nothing on it” and on power down, it goes POOF! Having the net-boot via a mapped IP address would also mean that attempts to net boot it elsewhere would fail… While I rather like the idea of providing a Tor Relay to the world, I’d only do it at a site that was not my home, and via hardware / software such as this where it “goes away” on power down.

That way, if someone a bit unclear on the concept finds “illicit” material originating from your Tor Relay, and does not understand that you can’t see that material, they don’t come banging down your door like the Germans did to Janssen.

I’ve not explored their other projects. Yet.

Jefferson and Sally

There’s been an ongoing “did so – did not” argument over the question of Thomas Jefferson having kids with Sally Hemmings. For those who don’t know, Sally was a half-sister to Jefferson’s wife. (Her dad had a, um, er, ‘interaction’ with one of his black slaves and Sally was the result). When Jefferson’s wife died, Sally stayed on at the house. While Jefferson had pledged to his spouse that he would never remarry (or so I’ve been told) there was not a lot said about, um, er, ‘interaction’… And Sally did have kids.

So some locals decided to smear Jefferson with accusations of being their daddy. He mostly just ignored it.

Only in the last couple of decades has genetic testing gotten good enough to show that the Hemmings of today do have the Jefferson genes. Not as well advertised were the details of “which genes”. I, too, had “bought the story” that this was conclusive proof of Jefferson as dad. Turns out they were only looking at the Y chromosome, and that can come from ANY male Jefferson, not just Thomas, and that bit was glossed over with a bit of wink wink nudge nudge he was in the house…

http://www.abbevilleinstitute.org/review/taking-back-thomas-jefferson/

These folks do a much more in depth analysis of the whole thing and, IMHO, show fairly convincingly via ‘circumstantial’ evidence that in some cases Thomas was not around to ‘do the deed’ when another male relative of his was, and was fond of hanging out with the staff…

Fifth, Madison’s claim that Jefferson fathered all – or any, for that matter – of Sally’s children must be considered along with other equally valid evidence to the contrary. For instance, Jefferson’s nephews, the Carr brothers, confessed to Jefferson’s grandson, “Jeff” Randolph, that they fathered some children by Sally and were to blame for the stain on their uncle’s name. Jefferson’s plantation overseer, Edmund Bacon, denied that Jefferson fathered any of Sally’s children, claiming that he often saw another man – whose name the publisher of his memoirs redacted – sneaking out of Sally’s quarters in the early morning. Bacon also alluded to young men at or around Monticello, such as the Carrs, getting “intimate with the Negro women.” Bacon’s testimony, however, has been peremptorily dismissed by Brodie and Gordon-Reed, probably because it is somewhat of a smoking gun against their theory. Unlike the Jeffersons or Hemingses, Bacon did not have a direct stake in the answer to the question and was relatively unbiased. More importantly, Bacon was the only actual eyewitness in the scandal. “His testimony is compelling, overwhelming, and uncontradicted,” according to author William G. Hyland, Jr. “Not hearsay, not second-hand gossip, but direct eyewitness testimony.”
[…]
The second piece of evidence is Nature’s DNA study. This study, misleadingly titled “Jefferson Fathered Slave’s Last Child,” settled the issue for many, awing the public and professionals with the authority of science. This is terribly unfortunate, for the results of the study were actually inconclusive. The study tested DNA samples from the descendants of five men: Field Jefferson (Thomas Jefferson’s uncle), Eston Hemings (Sally’s last son), Peter and Samuel Carr (Thomas Jefferson’s nephews), and Thomas Woodson (who claimed to be the missing first son of Thomas Jefferson and Sally). The results showed a match between the male chromosomes of the descendants of Eston and Field Jefferson, meaning that a man in the Jefferson bloodline was probably the father of Eston. In other words, Thomas Jefferson could not be ruled out as the biological father, though he was not proven to be the father, either. The results also ruled out the Carrs’ paternity of Eston (though not of Sally’s other children, at least some of whom they confessed to fathering) and proved that Woodson was not a part of the Jefferson bloodline. The scientists also noted that Jefferson and Hemings bloodlines could have mixed illegitimately in earlier or later generations, though they found the possibility unlikely. The recent revelation of illegitimacy in the British royal line, however, uncovered by the discovery of King Richard III’s remains, is a reminder that such caveats cannot be dismissed cavalierly.
[…]
In spite of the limitations of the results, the scientists declared that they had proved that Thomas was Eston’s father. Shortly thereafter, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation endorsed Nature’s conclusions. The DNA study showed nothing more than that Eston was descended from a male in the Jefferson bloodline, but the Memorial Foundation declared that Thomas Jefferson himself was the likely father of all of Sally’s six children, anyway. “We don’t need proof,” sneered Peter S. Onuf, the historical consultant to the Memorial Foundation. “We are historians, we write history the way we want to.” At the time of Eston’s conception, however, there were at least nine eligible Jefferson fathers in the vicinity of Monticello and a total of twenty-five in Virginia. By the DNA alone, without any consideration of plausibility, the probability of Thomas Jefferson’s paternity is as low as 4%. Singling out Thomas Jefferson is not the “simplest and most probable” explanation, as the scientists said, but rather the most sensational.

The Thomas Jefferson Scholars Commission, a “blue-ribbon panel” of independent experts, convened after the Memorial Foundation betrayed its namesake, has advanced the theory of Thomas Jefferson’s younger brother, Randolph Jefferson, as the likeliest father. An oral tradition among some of the Hemingses holds that Eston was fathered by a Jefferson “uncle,” and Randolph was known as “Uncle Randolph” around Monticello. Unlike the reserved and monastic Thomas Jefferson, Randolph was known to socialize with the slaves, slipping away to play the fiddle and dance late into the night. Randolph was likely present at the time of Eston’s conception, too, and was a regular visitor to Monticello. In fact, there were even reports of Randolph fathering children by other slaves. Interestingly, Sally’s births coincided with Randolph’s interlude between wives and terminated in 1809, the same year that Thomas Jefferson came home for good and Randolph remarried. Randolph also had four sons, all of whom were young men at the time of Eston’s conception, visiting Monticello with their father and on their own. Randolph and his sons are all eligible paternity candidates for Eston.

It’s a long article with much more in it, but it convinced me that Thomas was being painted with a brush that ought to have been for Randolph.

Not that it matters much… but I had been enamored of the idea of Thomas Jefferson both keeping his promise to his dead wife and elevating a slave to the role of housewife and mother. Oh Well… looks like the realty was more “on the road and younger brother will play”…

Linking Without Lauding

Want to link to an article while not raising their ‘link count’ in things like Google search engine stats? There’s a site for that…

http://www.donotlink.com/

Just paste in the URL in question and it gives you a handle to it.

After All These Years – Mendel missed a trick

It seems that while the normal “random assortment” of Mendel is the norm, some genes are a bit greedy and get preferential assortment. This has some interesting implications for everything from plant and animal breeding to figuring out how much of who’s genes you have.

http://phys.org/news/2015-02-r2d2-mendel-scientists-selfish-gene.html

R2d2 beats Mendel: Scientists find selfish gene that breaks long-held law of inheritance
Feb 11, 2015

The force is strong with this one. UNC School of Medicine researchers discovered a gene called R2d2 – Responder to meiotic drive 2 – that breaks Gregor Mendel’s century-old “law of segregation,” which states that you have an equal probability of inheriting each of two copies of every gene from both parents.

For years, scientists had evidence that this law was being broken in mammals, but they didn’t know how. Now they’ve implicated R2d2, a so-called “selfish gene.” Led by UNC School of Medicine scientists, researchers from across the country used data from thousands of genetically diverse mice to show that female mice pass on one copy of the R2d2 gene more frequently than the other copy.

The discovery, published in PLoS Genetics, has wide ranging implications. For instance, when doctors calculate the probability of a person inheriting the genes responsible for a disease, the calculations are based on Mendel’s law. Findings from the fields of evolutionary genetics and population genetics are also based on Mendel’s law. And the discovery could have implications for the fields of biomedical science, infectious diseases, and even agriculture.

“R2d2 is a good example of a poorly understood phenomenon known as female meiotic drive – when an egg is produced and a “selfish gene” is segregated to the egg more than half the time,” said Fernando Pardo-Manuel de Villena, PhD, professor of genetics and senior author of the paper. “One notable but poorly understood example of this in humans involves the transmission fused chromosomes that can contribute to trisomies – when three chromosomes are passed on to offspring instead of two.”

http://phys.org/news/2015-03-genetically-mammals-fathers.html

You might resemble or act more like your mother, but a novel research study from UNC School of Medicine researchers reveals that mammals are genetically more like their dads. Specifically, the research shows that although we inherit equal amounts of genetic mutations from our parents – the mutations that make us who we are and not some other person – we actually “use” more of the DNA that we inherit from our dads.

The research, published in the journal Nature Genetics, has wide implications for the study of human disease, especially when using mammalian research models. For instance, in many mouse models created for the study of gene expression related to disease, researchers typically don’t take into account whether specific genetic expression originates from mothers or fathers. But the UNC research shows that inheriting a mutation has different consequences in mammals, depending on whether the genetic variant is inherited from the mother or father.

“This is an exceptional new research finding that opens the door to an entirely new area of exploration in human genetics,” said Fernando Pardo-Manuel de Villena, PhD, professor of genetics and senior author of the paper. “We’ve known that there are 95 genes that are subject to this parent-of-origin effect. They’re called imprinted genes, and they can play roles in diseases, depending on whether the genetic mutation came from the father or the mother. Now we’ve found that in addition to them, there are thousands of other genes that have a novel parent-of-origin effect.”

Oh Dear. So much for “settled science” as a meme…

And, finally the last one for this batch:

Is Britain REALLY in the EU?

http://www.vernoncoleman.com/euillegally.html

A fascinating look at the question of the manner of the British entrance into the EU that does a pretty good job of showing that it was not done legally and so is not valid. Golly, that could have an impact…

Was Britain Taken Into The EU Illegally?

Vernon Coleman

Many constitutional experts believe that Britain isn’t actually a member of the European Union since our apparent entry was in violation of British law and was, therefore invalid.

In enacting the European Communities Bill through an ordinary vote in the House of Commons, Ted Heath’s Government breached the constitutional convention which requires a prior consultation of the people (either by a general election or a referendum) on any measure involving constitutional change. The general election or referendum must take place before any related parliamentary debate. (Britain has no straightforward written constitution. But, the signing of the Common Market entrance documents was, without a doubt, a breach of the spirit of our constitution.)

Just weeks before the 1970 general election which made him Prime Minister, Edward Heath declared that it would be wrong if any Government contemplating membership of the European Community were to take this step without `the full hearted consent of Parliament and people’.

However, when it came to it Heath didn’t have a referendum because opinion polls at the time (1972) showed that the British people were hugely opposed (by a margin of two to one) against joining the Common Market. Instead, Heath merely signed the documents that took us into what became the European Union on the basis that Parliament alone had passed the European Communities Bill of 1972.

Some MPs have subsequently claimed that `Parliament can do whatever it likes’. But that isn’t true, of course. Parliament consists of a number of individual MPs who have been elected by their constituents to represent them. Political parties are not recognised in our system of government and Parliament does not have the right to change the whole nature of Britain’s constitution. We have (or are supposed to have) an elective democracy not an elective dictatorship. Parliament may, in law and in day to day issues, be the sovereign power in the state, but the electors are (in the words of Dicey’s `Introduction for the Study of the Law of the Constitution’ published in 1885) `the body in which sovereign power is vested’. Dicey goes on to point out that `in a political sense the electors are the most important part of, we may even say are actually, the sovereign power, since their will is under the present constitution sure to obtain ultimate obedience.’ Bagehot, author of The English Constitution, 1867, describes the nation, through Parliament, as `the present sovereign’.

In 1972, when Heath decided to take Britain into the Common Market, he used Parliament’s legal sovereignty to deny and permanently limit the political sovereignty of the electorate. Heath and Parliament changed the basic rules and they did not have the right (legal or moral) to do that. The 1972 European Communities Bill wasn’t just another Act of Parliament. Heath’s Bill used Parliament’s legal sovereignty, and status as representative of the electorate, to deny the fundamental rights of the electorate.

Precedents show that the British constitution (which may not be written and formalised in the same way as the American constitution is presented) but which is, nevertheless, enshrined and codified in the Magna Carta (1215), the Petition of Right (1628), the Bill of Rights (1689) and the Act of Settlement (1701) requires Parliament to consult the electorate directly where constitutional change which would affect their political sovereignty is in prospect. (The 1689 Bill of Rights contains the following oath: `I do declare that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state or potentate hath or ought to have jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence or authority within this Realm.’ Since this Bill has not been repealed it is clear that every treaty Britain has signed with the EU has been illegal.)

So, for example, Parliament was dissolved in 1831/2 to obtain the electorate’s authority for the Reform Bill and again in 1910 following the Lord’s rejection of the Liberal Finance Bill.

and it goes on from there.

So how about it Britain, ready to rectify that error? I don’t know much about how British Law works in cases like this, but I’d have thought someone would be suing by now.

The End

And that’s the end of this batch of “small but interesting bits”.

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Posted in Favorites, History, Human Interest, Political Current Events, Science Bits | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Fascinating Solar, AO, QBO, Cold NH Winter link

Yes, another that’s been ‘in queue’ since 2014… but just in case anyone missed it…

Jarl Ahlbeck found a rather intriguing connection between low solar activity, and easterly QBO, and a negative AO with cold Northern Hemisphere winters.

https://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2014/11/24/jarl-ahlbeck-a-link-between-low-solar-activity-easterly-qbo-negative-ao-and-cold-nh-winters/

I’m still not quite sure what to make of it, other than that normal weather oscillations of long duration have more to do with N.H. cold or heating than any magic gas might. A couple of teaser quotes:

Jarl Ahlbeck: A link between Low solar activity, Easterly QBO, negative AO and cold NH winters

Posted: November 24, 2014 by tallbloke in Analysis, atmosphere, Celestial Mechanics, climate, Cycles, Forecasting, general circulation, Natural Variation, weather

Future low solar activity periods may cause cold winters in North America, Europe and Russia.

Jarl Ahlbeck – Abo Akademi University, Finland

Historically, low solar activity periods like the Dalton and Maunder Minima have been connected to cold winters in Europe. It seems very possible that the low solar activity forced areas of low pressures into a southern route or caused a negative Arctic Oscillation, AO, which in turn allowed cold air from the North Pole to flow across Europe. But can we obtain from real measurements that low solar activity really is able to do that?

Turku winter vs AO from Tallbloke's

I found that the mechanism is statistically significant, but it is not very simple to prove. There is no direct statistical relationship saying that low solar activity always should cause a negative Arctic Oscillation (which caused cold air to push further south than normal). But if we consider a second natural parameter, the strength and direction of the stratospheric wind in the Tropics (the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation index, QBO) I found a very interesting result: During periods of low solar activity (few or no sunspots) an easterly QBO causes a negative AO, but a westerly QBO causes a positive AO.

However, during low solar activity the easterly QBO causes a considerably stronger negative AO than the westerly QBO is able to cause a positive AO. Furthermore, easterly QBO is more common than westerly QBO during the Nordic Hemisphere winter.

He then goes on to provide some of that “hard to prove” which sends you off to this link / paper:

https://tallbloke.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/ahlbeck_solar_activity.pdf

with lots of graphs, data, links, and more.

Conclusion.

Historically, low solar activity has been connected to cold winters in Europe. A definitive physical mechanism for this fact has not yet been presented. This analysis however shows that the influence of solar activity together with stratospheric mechanisms acting on the Arctic Oscillation is statistically significant. It also explains why the Arctic Oscillation seems to behave according to a random walk mechanism. If the solar activity in the future goes into a new Dalton or Maunder Minimum, the winters in North America, Europe and Russia may become very cold.

In this article I looked at a proposed mechanism for solar changes to stratospheric changes to ocean current changes. I think these two are related.

https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2015/04/21/from-the-models-need-more-department/

Given that the solar indexes are in the basement and this solar cycle is VERY long (that correlates with very low) that last line (which I bolded) is the kind of thing that makes you want to go “Brrrrr!”.

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Posted in AGW Science and Background, Science Bits | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Euros, Deflation, and Greece

This article from The Economist has a great “dead parrot” picture in it… so hit the link.

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21627620-deflation-euro-zone-all-too-close-and-extremely-dangerous-worlds-biggest-economic

The euro zone
The world’s biggest economic problem

Deflation in the euro zone is all too close and extremely dangerous
Oct 25th 2014 | From the print edition

THE world economy is not in good shape. The news from America and Britain has been reasonably positive, but Japan’s economy is struggling and China’s growth is now slower than at any time since 2009.
[…]
Now that German growth has stumbled, the euro area is on the verge of tipping into its third recession in six years. Its leaders have squandered two years of respite, granted by the pledge of Mario Draghi, the European Central Bank’s president, to do “whatever it takes” to save the single currency. The French and the Italians have dodged structural reforms, while the Germans have insisted on too much austerity. Prices are falling in eight European countries. The zone’s overall inflation rate has slipped to 0.3% and may well go into outright decline next year. A region that makes up almost a fifth of world output is marching towards stagnation and deflation.
[…]
And, unlike Japan, which has a homogenous, stoic society, the euro area cannot hang together through years of economic sclerosis and falling prices. As debt burdens soar from Italy to Greece, investors will take fright, populist politicians will gain ground, and—sooner rather than later—the euro will collapse.

This parrot has ceased to be

Although many Europeans, especially the Germans, have been brought up to fear inflation, deflation can be still more savage (see article). If people and firms expect prices to fall, they stop spending, and as demand sinks, loan defaults rise. That was what happened in the Great Depression, with especially dire consequences in Germany in the early 1930s.

OK, they hype deflation quite a bit. Don’t get me wrong, deflation has its problems; but frankly I don’t see it as quite the ogre they see. OTOH, I’m glad my house is now “worth” about 9 times what I paid for it and the remaining mortgage is about 1/2 years pay instead of decades… but really, if gasoline costs 5% less and I can buy a hamburger for a dime less and maybe even can get a dishwasher for $20 less, am I really going to be sitting on my spending money?

IMHO, there’s a basic misunderstanding of how real people in the real world do their decision making that permeates Economics and especially Political Economics and decision making. In real deflation, the real injured parties tend to be folks with heavy debt loads; and the folks making big ‘delay the purchase’ decisions are those with a pile of money. In our modern society, not many people have a lot of money and most of the population pretty much spends what it has. A few companies and a few insanely rich people have excess cash, but even there much of it is not in cash, but is in investment vehicles. Yes, deflation is bad. But mostly to bankers and lenders who get more loan defaults and to people in heavy debt situations (the king of which is our own government… not me). But, leaving that aside for another day, we’ll “go with it” that deflation might be a horrible thing and admire Europe a bit more in that context.

But slowing prices and stagnant wages owe more to weak demand in the economy and roughly 45m workers are jobless in the rich OECD countries. Investors are starting to expect lower inflation even in economies, such as America’s, that are growing at reasonable rates. Worse, short-term interest rates are close to zero in many economies, so central banks cannot cut them to boost spending. The only ammunition comes from quantitative easing and other forms of printing money.

Aye, now there’s the rub… It’s the “stagnant wages” and weak demand. Now just how do “they” expect the average Joe and Jane to go out and buy more stuff, making more jobs and profits, if they don’t spend their cash? Can’t have them sitting on their piles of cash, now can we? Better “stimulate” them to go spend it!! /sarc;>

In reality, the average Joe and Jane are NOT sitting on their cash due to anticipation of deflation, or any other reason. They simply do not have it. Why? Because while overall price levels are not inflating, it is bifurcated. WAGES are more stagnant, while what we buy has been going up. We ARE spending our cash, just getting less for it (so less “demand” seen).

This, IMHO, is another example of what I call the failure of “over averaging”. Average together too many things and you hide the answers. Averages are used to hide the noise so you can see the signal, but too much averaging hides both. Averaging wage prices in with consumer prices hides the disparity of growth rates between them into one “deflation” that is really an ‘unemployment due to excess taxation and regulation crisis’.

So take a look at somewhere like Spain. With 40%+ youth unemployment, just how do you expect them to raise demand? And WHY are they unemployed? Think businesses just sit around thinking “maybe we can not hire folks in droves”? No. They look at cost to hire, regulatory environment, costs to fire if things change. Risk / reward. Over regulation, too many laws making hire / fire decisions painful. Too much social tax burden making other places look better. Those things are what kills job demand. Now average that in with rising costs for food, housing, clothes, cars, etc. (often from that same social tax burden) and net you get “deflation with weak demand”. An error of over averaging.

I would propose making two numbers. Income Inflation and Expenditure Inflation (and one could argue for a Manufacturing Inflation) and compare them. The delta between them would tell much much more about what is really happening in the economy than one bland over averaged “inflation / deflation” number that hides all the juicy bits.

The Economist proposes as the only “solution” more of the same medicine that has not worked and will not work as long as the root cause of too much taxation and too little freedom for companies and people remains. Bank Monetary Policy and free run Government Money Fiscal Policy.

If Europe is to stop its economy getting worse, it will have to stop its self-destructive behaviour. The ECB needs to start buying sovereign bonds. Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, should allow France and Italy to slow the pace of their fiscal cuts; in return, those countries should accelerate structural reforms. Germany, which can borrow money at negative real interest rates, could spend more building infrastructure at home.

That would help, but not be enough. It is a bit like the early years of the euro debacle, before Mr Draghi’s whatever-it-takes pledge, when half-solutions only fed the crisis. Something radical is needed. The hitch is that European law bans many textbook solutions, such as ECB purchases of newly issued government bonds. The best legal option is to couple a dramatic increase in infrastructure spending with bond-buying by the ECB. Thus the European Investment Bank could launch a big (say €300 billion, or $383 billion) expansion in investments such as faster cross-border rail links or more integrated electricity grids—and raise the money by issuing bonds, which the ECB could buy in the secondary market. Another possibility would be to redefine the EU’s deficit rules to exclude investment spending, which would allow governments to run bigger deficits, again with the ECB providing a backstop.

Sigh. Yeah, that’s the ticket. /sarc;>

MORE government spending on “infrastructure” will just cause MORE taxes to be taken from the real economy. MORE difficulty hiring new employees to do anything other than that infrastructure project as there’s less left for them. MORE government issued funny money (via printing of whatever indirect kind) just cheapens the money left in the hands of regular folks all that much more. Sure, it will succeed in driving up the prices of what people buy. Sure, it will make the over averaged “deflation” look better as low inflation. NO, it will not get that 20 something in Spain a job and a home and the need to stock it with furniture and domestic goods. He’s still going to be in Mom’s basement with his Nintendo and hanging out with friends at the corner.

Not until all the regular ordinary day to day businesses, NOT just those with special contacts in government for ‘infrastructure’, get the freedom and ability to hire that kid will a job for him or her be forthcoming. It does nothing to make me willing to hire a new waitress if their mandated wage plus tax burden still exceeds their income generation. Repaving the street somewhere doesn’t change that.

That, IMHO, is the reason we have these persistent “stagflation” and now maybe “stagdeflation” episodes. Our rulers think that flushing more printed money out to their friends and cronies will make things better, and they know it will make their friends and donors happy, so that’s what they do. That money is taken from the rest of us, so makes for less ‘buying more'; and a slower economy, not faster. Or the money is just printed and effectively taken from anyone holding cash via dilution of buying power (which, thankfully, is rarely the average person). In the end, the cronies are richer, the politicians are rewarded with “contributions”, and the rest of us just grit our teeth and wait. Repeat until a generation just can’t stand it anymore and something really bad happens…

So what’s the real problem? Well, that would take a book or two to describe.

The short from is that in a truly free economy there is always an equilibrium wage rate for folks to be employed and there is always an adjustment to either inflation or deflation of the currency. It is only when the tax take is too large for businesses to be viable (or for employment of a person to be viable) or when various laws and regulations make it too expensive to have a business or hire more people; that is the time when an economy has structural unemployment and failure of economic growth.

Now we may not LIKE the equilibrium wage rate. When things slow down, it can drop greatly. Sure, you can have everyone employed at $1 / hour, but what good is it? But between the absurd end of that argument curve, and the reality of our USA and European wage and employment taxation process, lies a great gulf. We are presently in the realm where more “benefits” and more “minimum wage hikes” just mean more folks unemployed and fewer with jobs paying any taxes.

There is a real and objective value to the labor they offer, and when the costs to use that labor exceed that value, the job ends. It doesn’t matter if you have that “end” come from being fired, from having the company close down, from replacing the grape pickers with grape harvesting machines, or from having the factories pack up and move to China. The particular way the job is lost is just a linear programming problem for the operations analyst at the company to solve.

Right now we have ever increasing automation of farm work. In the USA there is a holiday dedicated to Caesar Chavez as the founder of the United Farm Workers union as a P.C. Holiday for Hispanics. Never mentioned is the millions he had put out of work via demanding wages in excess of the value provided by that labor. Where there used to be millions of farm workers, there are now machines, or crops that do not need those workers. (Much of it just moved to Mexico where the former migrant farm workers now get about $9 / day instead of the US $9 / hour… but at least they don’t have to drive up to California. Grapes moved to mechanical harvesters. Some orchards changed to mechanical harvesting, while others became pastures. Tomatoes got a very effective mechanical harvester. You can argue that those are better ways anyway, and I’m all for eliminating that ‘stoop labor’, but then again, it was not MY job that ‘went away’…)

It is that kind of thing that causes large, persistent, structural unemployment. Not how much paper the government prints or how much of it they give to Friends Of Government to tear down and build new bridges to nowhere…

In Conclusion

So my take on all this is that the EU, much like Japan, is headed into the same kind of StagFlation, but with higher structural unemployment and much greater political strife. Between the stresses between the countries and the more volatile cultures anyway, it will not be as ‘quiet’ as Japan has been. The banks will keep printing money (once Germany gets backed so far into a corner that they can’t avoid printing more money to loan to Greece) and the regulators will keep on heaping on ever more mandates until the ossification is so bad that the system fails. They are too wedded to their dogmas to do otherwise.

Greece is on the edge of default (again…)
http://money.cnn.com/2015/04/17/investing/greece-default-risk-rising/index.html

so the “more goodies to be handed out” v.s. “not enough jobs paying taxes” vs “not enough German money to suck in” is headed for a wall. Again.

Eventually that bullet can not be dodged and then things start to blow up, and then heal and recover. Until then, as long as the ‘same old same old’ non-working ‘cures’ are applied, the process will just slowly grind into dust.

Here in The USA we are having the same process under the Democrats. With luck we can swap them out for Republicans (or better yet Libertarians) in the next year or so; and hopefully those Republicans can be weaned off their own version of “spend and print”… as opposed to the Democrats “tax and spend and tax and print”… So with gridlock in congress via the last election, we’re doing a little better than the EU on recovery. Now if folks can just learn and generalize from that…

What we really need is a good pruning of regulatory burden and size of government along with taxation level. Toss out about 1/2 of the departments wholesale and all the dead weight burden on the economy that they represent with them. I know that will never happen. Only revolutions do that kind of thing (which is likely why they happen with such regularity…) and they often do not end well, so are generally to be avoided. While I might hope for a “good pruning”, I suspect that ‘stagflation’ is on the cards for us, perhaps even ‘hyperstagflation’ given the rate at which worthless paper is being used to fund a huge Central Authority Bloat Machine.

Oh Well.

Maybe, if we’re really lucky, the EU can collapse first and the USA can learn from it and avoid that fate… Or maybe I’m just getting a bit of ‘contact’ from the neighbors smoke… ;sarc/>

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