Brexit

After seeing all of the arguments, anger, outrage and occasional insanity going on over the whole exit situation in the UK right now, I find myself having decidedly mixed feelings over the whole thing. While it’s nice to see that their political system is just as screwed up as ours is over here, I do have considerable sympathy for them and what they’re going through.

The arguments by both sides of the issue have ranged from thoughtful and logical to utterly ridiculous and even borderline insane. The leave faction has blamed the EU for everything from unemployment, to a failing health care system, to increased violence and crime, to, well, everything, really. Basically if it was bad, and it happened in the UK, the leave faction blamed the EU for it.

On the other side of the coin, the stay faction was employing similar tactics. The EU was responsible for everything great and good, according to them. It was fostering economic prosperity, improving human rights, made the sun come up in the morning, was responsible for nice weather…

Well, okay, so I’m getting a bit silly, but no more silly than some of the things I’ve heard and read that were coming from the people on both sides of the issue.

The truth of the matter is that both sides are right. Or both sides are wrong. However you want to look at it.

I don’t think there’s much doubt that the EU was economically beneficial for some (but certainly not for all) people. It almost certainly helped improve human rights for a lot of people. It made trade easier, made business easier, made travel easier.

But at the same time it could be argued that the average citizen of the UK, people in the low to mid income ranges, so little or none of those benefits. In fact, as far as lot of them were concerned, their situations got worse. Housing prices skyrocketed, the job market shrank, wages stagnated. The EU seemed to become increasingly dictatorial, overriding local and national laws and policies.

Still, I think that the vote would have swung the other way if it hadn’t been for Cameron and his cronies panicking as it came down to the wire and they saw the polls were indicating that the stay or leave vote was in a dead heat.

Instead of continuing to focus on the benefits of staying in the EU, they began uttering vague, even overt threats. The pension system would be decimated if they leave. The country will be thrown into depression. The economy would go down the toilet. The UK would become a third world country overnight…

Most of those threats were either outright lies or wildly exaggerated, and the people realized that. Nor do the British respond well to being threatened. It tends to make them dig in their heels and get a bit testy. And I think that in the end, that’s what helped push the leave vote over the top.

Cameron and his advisers are, I think, largely responsible for the leave faction winning. They completely misread the situation. Frankly, I always got the impression that Cameron and his people were in over their heads since they came into power, but that’s another story.

Is Flying a Drone Illegal? A Comprehensive Guide to America’s Drone Laws | Motherboard

An entirely too thorough look at the absurd state of drone regulations in the United States.

Source: Is Flying a Drone Illegal? A Comprehensive Guide to America’s Drone Laws | Motherboard

If you want to see the definition of the word “nightmare”, go read this article over at Vice that tries to make sense out of FAA drone regulations, it’s utterly ridiculous attempts at enforcing those regulations, and all the other nonsense going on over in Washington.

The situation is indeed a nightmare. There is no other way to put it. Essentially not even the FAA knows what the hell the regulations are, what they should be or really anything about the whole situation.

To make matters even more interesting, there are several laws already on the books and court cases dating back to the beginning of aviation that make a pretty good case for the FAA not being legally allowed to regulate drones in the first place. 

The FAA claims that to use a drone commercially, you have to get a 333 exemption. But the FAA doesn’t have any regulations on the books nor case law to point to that makes commercial drone operation illegal or against the rules in the first place. Right now the most prominent lawyers dealing with drone operations are advising operators to not get the 333 exemptions because A) the FAA can’t give a permit to do an activity that isn’t illegal in the first place, and B) if you do get one you’re putting yourself at risk for breaking the 333 rules which are just as bad as the rest of the situation.

The other interesting thing is that unless you’re flying a drone for commercial purposes (i.e. making money off it), you are using the drone for hobby or personal use. And in that case, the FAA is specifically forbidden, by federal law, from having any jurisdiction at all. The FAA Modernization Act of 2012 specifically states that the FAA has absolutely no jurisdiction over model aircraft if it is flown strictly for hobby or recreational use.

Let’s make things even more interesting: In the wake of some well publicized incidents, a lot of state and local jurisdictions have been rushing to pass restrictions on the use of drones. The problem with that is they can’t. State and local jurisdictions have no legal authority over airspace. They might be able to regulate launching and landing, but actual flying? No. That’s a federal matter.

Then there are the yahoos who keep threatening to shoot down drones. Shooting at any aircraft is a felony. Plain and simple, and carries a maximum 20 years in federal prison.

But… But there’s disagreement in the courts as to whether a drone is an “aircraft” or not, believe it or not. Part of that goes back to model aircraft, which are specifically exempt from FAA regulations except under limited circumstances (i.e. can’t fly near air ports, etc.)

If it’s not an “aircraft” then all bets are off because the FAA has no jurisdiction at all except if the drone intrudes on lawful manned aircraft operations. If it is an “aircraft”, well, that opens up a whole different kettle of worms…

Now add in this fact: There are cases dating back to the early days of flight regarding land owners shooting at aircraft or otherwise trying to impede the operation of aircraft flying over their property. it’s been generally interpreted that you cannot ‘own’ the airspace above your property except up to a certain altitude. While the FAA claims it controls all the airspace in the country from ground level up, according to the courts, it almost certainly doesn’t. There have been legal cases dating back to the 1940s and before that state that the landowner controls the airspace up to a varying amount of altitude that bounces all over the place.

According to some rulings, you would be legal to fly over anyone’s property, at any time, as long as you’re higher than any structure on the property. Other rulings put the altitude at varying distances.

The whole situation is an utter and complete mess.

The FAA is finally going to be coming out with actual rules and regulations later this summer. I’ve seen early drafts, and, surprisingly, most of the new rules actually make sense. The requirement that you have a pilot’s license is being eliminated, a requirement that was utterly ridiculous from the beginning because knowing how to fly manned aircraft has absolutely nothing to do with flying a drone. The two skill sets are completely different. Especially since the big commercial drones literally fly themselves with little or no input from the “pilot”, using GPS, on-board gyros and collision avoidance systems. Requiring a pilot’s license to fly a drone is like requiring you to be a heart surgeon to buy aspirin.

But those regulations don’t do much to resolve the fact that it seems the FAA doesn’t seem to have the legal authority to regulate drones in the first place except with regard to them interacting with manned aircraft.

Farming…

I realized this morning that for a blog that’s called ‘grouchyfarmer’, I haven’t talked much about actual farming here. (Well, to be honest, considering how rarely I’ve posted things here over the last year I haven’t talked about much of anything. But that’s a different story.)

I was a farmer, though. I worked on the family farm while growing up, all through high school and even while I was in college. Before we got married, Mrs. Grouchy (egads, I’m sure she would have a few choice words if she heard me call her that…) and I seriously considered doing something like buying into the family farm. But she was starting into a serious career, already had pretty good job prospects, and we moved to follow her career, and it was a choice that we never regretted.

I went back home from time to time to help my father out. Later when jobs were scarce, I worked as a farm hand for a year or so. But I generally haven’t been involved in the industry much since the early 1990s. For a time, briefly, we considered growing vegetables and fruit as a part time occupation when we inherited the farm, but quickly had to abandon that idea when reality set in and we realized that to make it work we would have to devote far more time to it than we could afford to. Basically one of us would have had to quit our day job and work full time at it, something we couldn’t justify economically.

Even when I was a kid farming was already changing. The so-called mega-farms were starting up, milking not just 40 or 50 cows as we were at our peak, but hundreds of cows. One of our neighbors pulled up and moved to Arizona in the early 1960s, to start one of the first mega dairy farms.

Even back in the 1960s farming was a difficult business, and in every way imaginable; economically, physically, emotionally… A lot of people have this romanticized image of farming; the noble famer out tilling the land, his or her own boss, working outside on warm, summer days, planting, cultivating, harvesting, brushing cows, watching sheep, whatever.

Isn’t like that. Never was. Never will be. Those pastoral scenes are largely the creation of Victorian era writers and artists who romanticized farming, created these peaceful, calm, lovely images in words and with oil on canvas.

George Henry Durrie (American Painter, 1820-1863)  Haying at Jones Inn.JPGWhenever I see a scene like this in an art gallery or museum, I would like to take the artist, put a shovel in his hand and let him clean out pens for a day and see if he still thinks farming is romantic. Or being up 29 hours straight because you spent all night nursing a cow who’s having a difficult birth. Or watching one of your tractors burning out in a field because a fuel line ruptured. Or…

Well, you get the idea.

Farming isn’t a ‘lifestyle’. Farming isn’t romantic. Farming isn’t images of cows grazing placidly in meadows. Farming is bloody hard work interspersed with moments of sheer panic as you watch things turning to crap because of circumstances outside of your control.

NeuroLogica Blog » Theranos Exposed

Source: NeuroLogica Blog » Theranos Exposed

As someone who has to surrender several rather large vials of his blood every six months for a variety of tests, I can assure you that it is a royal pain in the ass. Or in the arm, since that’s the part that’s being repeatedly punctured every time I go to the clinic. So it’s understandable that a lot of people wanted to believe that Theranos had invented some kind of magical machine (called Edison) that could do the job with just a couple of drops of blood and do it in just a few minutes.

Alarm bells should have went off all over when this company appeared out of nowhere with it’s claims. And in some circles they did go off. This would require an incredible breakthrough not only in medical science but in technology as well, and which seemed far too good to be true.

But that didn’t prevent the media, even the media that should have known better, from heaping praise upon the company and it’s founder, Holmes. Nor did it prevent some health care corporations, who also should have known better, from buying into the deal and using Theranos as their testing service.

Then little things started to show up. Like the fact that Theranos itself wasn’t even using it’s own machine, Edison, for most of the testing, and was using standard testing technologies that required large blood samples. Or how the fact that the results from the Edison machine seemed to be off just a wee bit. Well, okay more than a wee bit, really. Some estimates I’ve seen claim the results coming from this ‘revolutionary new testing procedure’ were wrong 50% – 80% of the time. So wrong that Theranos itself has had to invalidate all of the test results done by the machine over the last two years.

Other little nasties turned up. Like untrained, unqualified people doing the testing, according to Medicare’s auditors.

The company has gone from being worth over $5 billion dollars to literally nothing almost overnight, now.

There is no shortage of individuals and companies selling ‘health’ products that are utterly worthless, even down right dangerous. Things like supplements, naturopaths, the utterly insane people who are trying to tell parents that giving their autistic kids enemas of what essentially is industrial strength bleach… The list goes on and on. Theranos is just the latest and most high profile.