Funding sources for the anti-climate change effort. Credit: Prof. Robert Brulle, Drexel University

Thirty Pieces of Silver


Why do people doubt the reality of anthropogenic climate change in the face of near unanimous expert evidence that it is real? It’s because the fossil fuel industry and its investors have spent billions of dollars working to persuade Americans of a lie: that there is doubt, that the science is uncertain. Those fossil fuel…

Short-eared Owl and Swainson's Hawk, Camas Prairie, Idaho

The Owl and the Hawk


It was a rainy, dreary day in Camas Prairie this past Wednesday. But despite the rains, birds were active. And WC had a chance to watch an interesting interaction between a Swainson’s Hawk and a Short-eared Owl. Now a Swainson’s is a pretty big bird, with a length of about 21 inches and a wingspan…

Military Section, Morris Hill Cemetery, Boise, Idaho

Memorial Day, 2019


Life is precious, including soldiers’ lives. Memorial Day is when we remember those who gave up their lives in service to our country. We should also remember it is important not to waste those lives, only to spend them when necessary. These are just a few of the graves of soldiers from the Boise area…

Dr. Murray Gell-Mann in his Santa Fe Institute office, 2014. Photo credit InSightFoto

R.I.P. Murray Gell-Mann, 1929-2019


Murray Gell-Mann is the only Nobel Prize winner WC has ever taken birding. It’s true. Here’s a (lightly edited) blog post from 2009, reporting the event: WC won’t even pretend: this borders on bragging. Last Saturday WC birded with Dr. Murray Gell-Mann, Nobel-prize winning physicist, linguist, philosopher and avid birder. There wasn’t much of a…

Toddler, Tantrums and Presidents

Presidential Temper Tantrums


WC was in line in a big box store recently. The customer in line ahead of WC had a 4-5 year old child. There was an argument between mother and child over something from the rack alongside the checkout stand. Voices were raised, and then the kid launched in to a full blown temper tantrum,…

Intel Inside

Intel’s Intel


So as it turns out, Intel has a secret computer inside your computer. At least if you have an Intel Central Processing Unit (CPU) in your computer; you know, Intel Inside™. The marketing slogan turns out to have more than one meaning. It’s called the Intel Management Engine, the IME, and it has been included…

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey gives the annual State of the State address at the Capitol in Montgomery, Ala. on Jan. 9, 2018.Brynn Anderson / AP file

Hypocrite of the Year 2019: The First Nomination


Here at Wickersham’s Conscience, we are swamped with potential candidates for Hypocrite of the Year already, and the year is only a little over a third along. Last year’s HOtY, the despicable and appalling Mitch McConnell (R, 17th Century) is ineligible.1 As is his puppet master, the clown in the White House.2  But otherwise, WC…

Snollygoster, Artist Unknown

Trump: The All-Time, Champion Snollygoster


WC is indebted to long-time reader CaliforniaCruisin for the word “snollygoster.” She applied it to Fairbanks politician wannabe and serial loser Joe Miller. But Miller is a piker, a mere pretender, just a hack in comparison to the grifter in the White House. A snollygoster is “One, especially a politician, who is guided by personal…

Mountain Chickadee, West Mountain, Valley County, Idaho

The Challenges of Pruning, Part 1


“Pruning,” in this context, is deciding which old photographs to discard and which to keep. Sometimes it’s obvious and easy; other times less so. When you have something over 200,000 photos, chewing up some three terabytes of hard drive space, almost all of birds, you have to prune. Because WC’s skills have improved over time,…

Silver-Backed Tanager, Ollyatantambo, Peru

Return of Bird of the Week: Silver-backed Tanager


Another spectacular tanager, the Silver-backed Tanager, feeding on a berry on the grounds of the hotel where were staying. It’s also called a Silvery Tanager, but that seems less descriptive to WC. Officially it’s Tangara viridicollis, the same genus as last week’s Saffron-crowned Tanager. But that’s no particular distinction, there are fifty-some species in the genus Tangara,…

Open Pit Mine (upper right) and Tailings Storage Pond (lower left), Sonora Mexico (from 35,000 feet)

The Lessons from Cloud Peak


As WC noted yesterday, Cloud Peak Energy has filed Chapter11. The promises, actual and implied, Cloud Peak made in its mining plan and environmental impact statements are in very serious jeopardy, because the continued existence of Cloud Peak itself is doubtful. What are the lessons to be drawn from all this? First, and most obviously,…

Cloud Peak's Gillette-based Cordero Rojo mine. Photo Credit: Cloud Peak Energy

Another One Bites the Dust


Cloud Peak Energy used to be the nation’s third largest coal producer. Last year it slipped to fourth place. This year it quietly slipped in to Chapter 11. How’s that coal thing working for you, Donnie? Cloud Peak had nearly no cash, was hundreds of millions of dollars in debt and sold less coal in…

Western Tanager, Poison Creek Picnic Area, Owyhee County, Owyhee Scenic Byway

An Owyhee Photo Sampler


“Owyhee” is an early spelling of the 50th state, Hawai’i. The Owyhee Mountains, ancient volcanoes, are named by early fur trappers. In 1819, three Hawai’ian, part of Donald McKenzie’s fur-trapping expedition, were sent to trap a large stream that emptied into the Snake River. When they did not return, McKenzie investigated and found one man murdered…

P F "Flip" Sloan with Barry McGuire, undated photo

How Flip Sloan Was Wrong


The late P. F. “Flip” Sloan (nee Philip Gary Schlein, 1945 – 2015) wrote the folk pop tune, “Eve of Destruction.” For those who have forgotten, or are too young to remember, here’s the lyrics:1 The eastern world, it is explodin’, Violence flarin’, bullets loadin’, You’re old enough to kill but not for votin’, You…

The National Security Agency headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland. (Credit: NSA)

Getting Off the NOBUS Bus


The National Security Administration has two cyber missions: attacking foreign cyber systems to gather intelligence and defending U.S. cyber systems from attacks by third parties, both foreign governments and criminals. There’s an inherent conflict of interest in those dual responsibillities when the NSA discovers a critical bug in widely-used software like Microsoft Windows. Does NSA…

Eight of the nine Bartley kids; Grandpa Walt is in the front row, second from right

Some Notes of Grandpa Walt


Today would have been Grandpa Walt’s 130th birthday. Alas, he didn’t see his 70th birthday, dying in a telephone booth, calling his oldest daughter, Helen, to tell her he wasn’t feeling well. Walter was the 6th of 10 children. He lost everything in the Great Depression, and moved from Iowa to Central California. Three kids,…