NOAH’S RAINBOW SERPENT – observations by Ian MacDougall


Posted in Uncategorized by Ian MacDougall on July 29, 2016


I have recently been involved in something of an online exchange at  Quadrant Online  (where I am a paid-up subscriber) with a participant who goes by the nom-de-blog of ‘en passant’. (   Quadrant Online  is a ‘conservative’ site devoting itself to ‘conservative’ causes like opposition to mainstream climatology; opposition to Islam and increase of the Islamic population of this country; opposition to the Turnbull ascendancy in the Liberal Party and for an Abbott revival there. It also seems to favour trickle-down economics. In short, QO supports an assortment of causes; one or two of which I also support. (nb: NOT Tony Abbott.)

I am also a subscriber at New Matilda , a more leftward site which likewise supports a variety of causes, some of which I likewise support. (

However, in the last 24 hours, there has been something of a cybersnafu in the works at  Quadrant Online . A crucial response of mine to ‘en passant’ disappeared into cyberspace. Repeat postings got the usual ‘looks like you’ve already said that’ site response. An email exchange with QO management followed, and I was told that other site commenters had had similar experience.

So I have decided to post the missing response here.

The discussion was on Trump vs Clinton for the US presidency. The immediately preceding comment from ‘en passant’ concludes as follows:

I thought you just had thought-bubble, but now I realize you live in one as you failed to answer the only question that really mattered. Trump or Clinton for President? As you failed to work that out when broadly asked I will make it easy for you: they are the only choices. Roll of drums …. and the answer is: ….?

In the absence of any (successfully) posted response from me, the site got:

 en passant

 July 29, 2016 at 11:14 am

Oh well, Ian, I think you have made your line of thought clear.

What I had been unsuccessfully trying to post in response was:

Trump or Clinton?

Gee that’s a tricky one. Let’s see…. (While I’m thinking, you might amuse yourself scratching some more through that dirt file of yours. But for that, you might have to find some sort of light down there under that rock you hide under.)

Trump if he becomes US President will have to make a lot of important decisions. But the only decisions of his that I have so far been able to find record of, all directly involve his own financial interest. I think that also may be the reason Trump has failed to gain any  enthusiastic  traction so far here Quadrant Online editorial level. Opinion here seems to be that he is the best of a bad pair.

But Hillary is married to former President Bill. And Bill took a magnificent decision in 1999 to withdraw the US support that the murderous Suharto regime had previously enjoyed re East Timor. That threw the balance in favour of East Timorese independence, particularly after the US Chief of the General Staff got on the phone to the Indonesian armed forces chief thug Wiranto and read him the  Riot Act.

I can’t see Trump ever doing anything half as principled as that. His first question would most likely be “what’s in it for me?” Nor can I see Bill dropping out of influence anytime soon. Can you, ‘en passant’ or whatever your real name is?

So…… Suspense…………. Drum roll…………Bagpipes in chorus…………. Heavenly Choir…………





Posted in Uncategorized by Ian MacDougall on December 26, 2014

DSCN1746We know where and how to hunt Alaska brown bears and our sucess [sic] at taking big bears shows it.


Mileur’s Guide Service, Alaska.

From their website:

Management of the harvest of Kodiak bears is currently based primarily on population assessments and regulation of sport hunting. With a healthy population of bears on the archipelago, the emphasis has been on maintaining a stable bear population that will sustain an annual harvest of 150 bears, composed of at least 60 percent males.

Just inside the entrance to Departures at the Anchorage International Airport, Alaska, there stands a large case of thick perspex. (Perhaps it is glass – I was in a bit of a hurry.)

Inside the case stands the stuffed hide, suitably mounted on a realistic rock-like platform, of a magnificent Kodiak bear. Kodiak Island is 160 km long and of area 9,300 sq km, and is the largest island in the Kodiak Archipelago on the south coast of Alaska.

Also inside the case is a photo taken of the bear shortly after it was shot. It lies in what appears to be a dry creek bed, with the presumed and clearly proud shooter sitting behind it.


A small placard gives some additional information:

May 5th, 1996

Shot by Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S.  [ie Doctor of Dental Surgery; Master of Science – IM.]

Male 9.4 years.

Wt 1,300 – 1,500 lb.

Taxidermist: Bret’s Wildlife Artistry, Willow, Alaska.

The services of Bret’s Wildlife Artistry, Willow, Alaska probably did not come cheap. How much public money was spent on this exhibit by either the airport or the government, I have no idea, but I suspect it was not much. More likely, the exhibit is a generous and proud donation to the airport’s interior décor by Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S.


Neither have we any way of determining the degree of personal risk taken by Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S, and please understand that it could have been anything between trivial and considerable, depending on the exact circumstances. The Kodiak bear, Ursus arctos middendorffi, is the largest subspecies of Ursus arctos, and the grizzly bear: Ursus arctos horribilis is another. Apart from the polar bear Ursus maritimus, the grizzly is without doubt the most aggressive and dangerous of all the North American bear species. Shooting at one, even from a distance and using a high-powered rifle with a telescopic sight, can still land a shooter in a heap of trouble: well, in principle anyway.

In 2007, Alaska had an officially estimated 30,000 brown bears state-wide. Of these, about 1,900 were shot (the wholesome-sounding euphemism is ‘harvested’) in the hunting season. Though every now and then a careless hunter gets harvested by a bear, human hunters pose far more of a danger to bears than bears do to humans.

Kodiak bears are a unique subspecies of the brown or grizzly bear… They live exclusively on the islands in the Kodiak Archipelago and have been isolated from other bears for about 12,000 years.

 There are about 3,500 Kodiak bears; a density of about 0.7 bears per square mile.

 Kodiak bear populations are healthy and productive. They enjoy relatively pristine habitat and well managed fish populations. In most areas the number of bears is stable, but there are some places where bear density is increasing.

Of that 30,000 total Alaskan brown bear population, about 15,000 will be male and the same number female. There are restrictions on the killing of females (‘sows’). Male bears (‘boars’) are more highly prized as trophies by the hunting brotherhood; the bigger, the better. So the majority of those shot can be assumed to be male, just like the one ‘harvested’ by Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S.

That gives us a rough mortality rate for Alaskan grizzlies of say 1,500 / 15,000 per year, or 10%: about four bears are shot every day, on average. Statistically, as we shall see, few can get to die of old age. Their maximum life expectancy? The oldest known wild Kodiak bear was a sow 35 years old. The oldest known boar was 27 years old. As the maximum weight of Kodiak bears as cited by the government is up to 1,300 lb, Aberle’s specimen at “1,300 – 1,500 lb” was truly a whopper. And it was in the prime of its life.

For the fraternity of bear hunters, and all others interested, Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S has obligingly supplied some details of the ammunition he used. It is on the placard in the glass case along with the other information. Take it for granted that the mass, velocity and gauge of his bullet was adequate for the task of turning the bear, over however many seconds, minutes, hours or even days, from a virile and healthy young animal into the collapsed bag of pelt, meat, bones and offal shown in the photo. The exhibit gives no information on the time taken for this bear to die, but many no doubt are injured by bullets but get away none the less.

An estimated 100,000 black bears (Ursus americanus) also inhabit Alaska. Statewide, and between 2003 and 2007, the annual ‘harvest’ of this species increased steadily from about 2,500 to 3,250 bears. But modern bear hunting is only potentially dangerous. Far more hunters survive an encounter with a bear than the other way around. But bears are not the most dangerous big game. That honour seems to go to the cape buffalo, an animal that will take to stalking the hunter at the drop of a hat, particularly if wounded.

However I did hear a story (retold second hand from a friend) from a big game hunter, in whose opinion the most dangerous animal was the male wild pig, ie original wild boar. It lives in dense vegetation or rainforest understorey, and in those conditions, it is only a matter of three seconds between the time he breaks cover and when he’s got you; with tusks that can rip you open as if you were a wet paper bag. That means you have three seconds to locate him, take aim, and get your shot away; probably not to be followed by a second one.

The preferred weapon, according to this source, is a large bore (preferably 12 gauge) shotgun, and the preferred ammunition is not a standard shotgun cartridge, but one loaded with a single slug: a cylinder of lead about 1 inch (24 mm) long and of diameter to neatly fit the shotgun bore.

AcuTip Slug – solid lead bullets for shotgun use. These are big, heavy, fat hunks of soft lead that have enormous stopping power (e.g. a typical 12 gauge slug is .73″ caliber and weighs 438 grains* – a 9mm bullet is .355″ and 115 grains).

  *(1 grain = 64.799 milligrams, so the slug would weigh 28.4 g: about 60% of the mass of a golf ball, but packed into only one sixteenth of the golf ball’s volume..– IM)

Kodiak bears are remarkably uniform genetically, but not absolutely so. In 1912, the volcano Novarupta, which is 160 km northwest of Kodiak Island staged a one month long eruption, which is held to be the largest eruption in the 20th century. (The largest eruption in recorded history appears to have been the 1883 eruption of the Krakatoa volcano in Indonesia, and the second-largest that of the Santorini volcano in the Mediterranean, circa 1,500 BC, which put an end to the Minoan civilisation.)

Wildlife on Kodiak Island was decimated by ash and acid rain from the eruption. Bears and other large animals were blinded by thick ash and many starved to death because large numbers of plants and small animals were smothered in the eruption. Birds blinded and coated by volcanic ash fell to the ground. Even the region’s prolific mosquitoes were exterminated. Aquatic organisms in the region perished in the ash-clogged waters. Salmon, in all stages of life, were destroyed by the eruption and its aftereffects. From 1915 to 1919, southwestern Alaska’s salmon-fishing industry was devastated.

That event just over 100 years ago could only have acted as a massive genetic bottleneck or selector, on the wildlife, including of course, the Kodiak bears.

Today hunters kill about 180 Kodiak bears each year under tightly controlled regulations. About 5,000 resident hunters apply each year for a chance at the 496 bear permits that are available for them. Hunters who are not residents of Alaska must hire a professional guide, paying $10,000 – $21,000 per hunt. Over 70% of the Kodiak bears killed by hunters are males. (ie around 135 boars pa- IM)

If there are 3,500 Kodiak bears and around 50% of them are male, the boar population will be around 1,750. If we take the ‘harvest’ rate as being 135 boars per year, then a given boar’s probability of not being shot in any given year, expressed as a percentage, is (1,750 – 135) / 1,750 x 100, = 92%. This of course, is an annual hunting kill, or cull rate, of 8%.

With each passing year, each surviving boar is pushing his luck just a bit further: 8% further, to be more precise. The probability (ps) after the passage of n years, that any given boar will have been shot, assuming all other factors are equal, is given by the equation:

ps = 1 – (92/100)n

As the years go by and the value of n steadily increases, the value of (92/100)n tends towards zero, and the value of ps, the probability of the boar being shot, tends towards 1: that is, towards certainty. For example, after 8 years,

ps = 1 – (92/100)n

= 1 – (92/100)8

= 1 – 0.51

= 0.49,

which means that the boar will have a 50% chance of still being alive, and half its contemporaries born in the same year will have been shot. After 16 years, that chance will have decreased to 26% and after 32 years to 0.07%. Of the original 1,750, only

1,750 x 0.07/100

= 1.225

~ 1

will still be alive. But precisely which one?

For an important factor has been left out of the above equation. Though boars are more desirable than are sows to the trophy-minded hunting population, all boars are not equally so. Some, like the unfortunate individual harvested by Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S, have characteristics which make them a particularly desirable compensation for the US$10,000 – $21,000 which has to be stumped up by the non-Alaskan hunter for the shooting of them. They are large, in the prime of life, and with fur, face and hide that has not been marred through losing fights with other boars. They are the winners in the Alaskan struggle for existence. Because they have been the outstanding survivors of their species, they are the fittest. Charles Darwin would have undoubtedly agreed.

Thus the culling process carried out by the likes of Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S, is the diametric opposite of that carried out by any competent livestock breeder on a breeding population of domestic animals, or by nature herself on wild populations. As the years roll by, the effect of all the rifle-toting hunters can only be in favour of a genetic drift in the population: a weeding-out of those with nature’s most desirable and vital characteristics, and selecting in those with the least desirable, from a bear-survival point of view.

There is another distinct possibility here as well. North American bears do not actively seek out and stalk the men hunting them the way cape buffalo reportedly do. But any bears with this aggressive inclination would arguably have better survival chances and leave more progeny than the more shy and elusive of their kind. The hunters might just be selecting this type of bear into the population.

One possible way the hunters can avoid contributing to this outcome is for them to select the smallest, scruffiest and most beaten-up of youngest boars for their ($10,000+) trophies: something I suspect they would be reluctant to do.

The genetic drift will be somewhat glacial in its pace, enabling each generation of hunters to reach its dotage averring that over their entire hunting careers, the target populations have remained of constant apparent quality. But it will happen, because by its very nature, the selection process carried out by the likes of Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S. is non-random.

So what is achieved by the shooting of bears? There are millions of gun owners in America, and a huge number are active shooters of wildlife. Shooting at living animals clearly provides these people with a satisfaction not to be had from shooting at trees, targets nailed to them, bottles on posts and such. The preferred target is a living animal whose remains can be dressed in some way to provide a conversation piece for the hunter’s den. And the bigger, the better. Size clearly matters. The head of a rabbit preserved and mounted by an outfit with the skills of Bret’s Wildlife Artistry, Willow, Alaska and hung up on the wall of the shooter’s den would clearly not be good enough: at least, not enough to start up the right kind of conversation. Not when one can have the head of say, a moose, caribou, wolf, bear or cougar in its place.

Don’t get me wrong. I am also a gun owner, and I occasionally shoot a fox, rabbit, injured kangaroo or other wildlife, and livestock injured beyond recovery. Foxes and rabbits do serious damage to Australian native wildlife, and do not belong in the landscape. I am not at all worried about their genetic future, as they are great survivors back where they came from, and I think that it was a great mistake to introduce them to Australia. They should be eliminated, and as humanely as possible..

But as a teenager, I found considerable satisfaction in a day’s rabbit hunting. Sometimes I think that perhaps we males of the species Homo sapiens have an innate bloodlust very important for survival in our hunter-gatherer past. The same sort of response can be seen when a well fed dog takes off after a cat or rabbit on sight and impulse. It does not need to do it, yet it does it.

So what has been achieved by the killing of this particular bear? Most important I suppose, Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S has had a big boost to his own self-image (ie his ego), and the satisfaction of having taken on a dangerous animal on terms he might persuade himself were equal. But even if we count that as a positive, we are left with little else. I have no doubt that some hunters will claim that their activity is good for the bear population as a whole, and for the species through prevention of overpopulation. But the hide cannot last say, a human lifetime, not even if expertly preserved by America’s most competent taxidermist and kept away from the air inside a sealed glass case. Not even if it impresses hordes of airline passengers and tourists. Ask yourself: how many leather articles you own that are 50 years old? 100 years old? Even 10 years old?

Wood preserves far better than does leather. The oldest wooden artifact that I have ever personally been in contact with is an oak table from Shakespeare’s time that an antique-collector friend bought in England and had shipped out here to Australia, and at an expense so great she would not disclose it. But over the 400 years or so since the Immortal Bard  might have supped at it, slow dry rot has left the table’s wood scarcely harder than balsa.

As for wooden tables, so too for stuffed bears. Sadly, in a couple of generations’ time, Aberle’s prize bear will probably have to be replaced by a fresh, and likely somewhat inferior, specimen. Because that is the way both decay and selection work in nature.

Kenneth M Aberle, D.D.S., M.S, and his fellow hunters could avoid this outcome by putting their rifles, telescopic sights and ammunition into permanent storage, and reverting to the bear-harvesting techniques practiced by their ancestors earlier on in the Iron Age. They could hunt bears with nothing more dangerous than spears and knives.

They have a precedent to follow. Amongst the native Alaskan Tlingit people, a young man wanting to pass his initiation test and be accepted into manhood had to do something far more difficult than look through the telescopic sight of a high powered rifle at a distant bear, then let fly a pellet of lead with a squeeze of the trigger, and then make himself available for a photo opportunity afterwards.

He had to cover one of his hands with the fine dry dusty spores produced by a certain local species of bracket fungus, sneak up on a wild deer, and leave his palm print clearly visible on its side. After which, he was not only accepted into the company of Tlingit hunters, he was accepted as a man amongst men.

But try that trick on a Kodiak bear, other than maybe one in deepest hibernation, and you will be harvested. London to a brick.

Far better, therefore, to leave the selecting and harvesting to Nature.



All pages should be listed at the right of your screen

Posted in Uncategorized by Ian MacDougall on March 21, 2010


If they are not, scroll right down to the bottom of this page, and you should find them there.

MacDougall’s Music

Posted in Uncategorized by Ian MacDougall on March 4, 2010

I am currently recording a new CD: Songs From the Shed. Those interested in my existing CDs can read more at my other WordPress site >>>

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The Serpent’s Alphabetical Directory

Posted in Uncategorized by Ian MacDougall on November 26, 2009
Carbon Abatement Submission (Senate Inquiry) CondensedThough air temperatures whether local or worldwide, daily or annual average, may for various reasons not reflect it, the world is none the less clearly warming. It is now possible to fulfill Lord Franklin’s dream and sail the Northwest Passage over the top of Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific, at least for one month or so in the Northern summer. Possibly within the next ten years ships will be able drop anchor in an essentially ice-free Arctic Ocean, right at the North Pole. That together with the satellite altimetry data on sea levels  testifies to the rapidity of global warming, and of the onset of the positive feedback loops that can only further accelerate it. The safest assumption we can make, in short, is that we face a planetary climate emergency, requiring urgent economic reforms on a comparable scale to those which took place in Australia after the declaration of war in 1939…


Kangaroos, Thylacines and Aborigines 1As in other areas of human history, inference is needed for the Aboriginal past not only because there are controversial and politically sensitive areas, but because the documentary record alone is insufficient for sound judgement one way or another. While some might find certain inferences to be politically (and mythologically) attractive, on close inspection they turn out to be too improbable for acceptance. Such, I argue, is the case with Keith Windschuttle’s thesis on the demise of the Tasmanians, which he applies also to explain the declines of the mainland populations, namely that the bulk of it was the unintended consequence of introduced diseases, rather than the intended consequence of deliberate frontier violence…


Kangaroos, Thylacines and Aborigines 2 Beside European settlement, agriculture, rainfall and temperature, there is another, related distribution. It is that of the present day distribution of speakers of indigenous languages, mainly found today beyond the Europale. It shows that wherever Europeans settled, the native languages died out. The unavoidable conclusion is that conditions inside the Europale increasingly militated against aboriginal children learning their ancestral language in the process of growing up…

 The language decline correlates with the dilution of the aboriginal indigenous gene pool, as increasing numbers of people who describe themselves as Aborigines find themselves acknowledging, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, one or more Europeans in their ancestry…


Kangaroos, Thylacines and Aborigines 3The British perception was that the macropods were wild in the country and belonged to nobody. The ecological reality of Tasmania and elsewhere was that the biomass of available grass and herbage in any one period of time could feed a related biomass of herbivores only up to a limit, which in turn could support a limited biomass of omnivorous humans, their dogs and a net population of wild carnivores. The latter included dingoes on the mainland, where they had displaced thylacines; thylacines in Tasmania, and also the Tasmanian Aborigines’ dogs (gone feral) as the aboriginal populations crashed. Settlers everywhere in Australia honoured these principles every time they set about clearing the bush to make way for grass; ‘clearing off’ kangaroos and emus to make way for sheep, cattle or crops, and clearing off Aborigines to make way for themselves…


Kangaroos, Thylacines and Aborigines 4…Windschuttle’s Australia is one where the Aborigines went quietly to their fate as fringe dwellers of the country towns, and in marked contrast to their aboriginal counterparts in the Americas and New Zealand.

If there was no ‘warfare’ of whatever category involved in this transition, then the attendant and marked depopulation of the countryside and Aboriginal population decline can only be due to starvation and/or disease. Windschuttle won’t have starvation, but at the same time there are problems with the disease hypothesis that beg for a remedy, an explanation, or at the very least, a Band-Aid: which leaves warfare of some kind hanging around in the background.

And so we come to the elephant in the parlour of Aboriginal history…


Night Vision and BipedalismThis raises the intriguing possibility that before the discovery of fire and the invention of the thorn-fenced kraal, our distant African ancestors attained their relatively longer legs by wading, swimming and climbing for shelter at night up or down rocky cliffs, bluffs and outcrops, where long non-grasping legs provide no great disadvantage. For the climbing of trees, they do. Getting to where the predators cannot reach you makes poor night vision less of a disadvantage…


Plimer’s Climatology 101Plimer says that nothing humans do can affect the climate of the whole Earth, and that if it is warming, it is a good thing anyway.  Others disagree, and contend that climate change is occurring because of CO2 emissions. These latter were not put into the air for the purpose of warming the planet. Like the radioactive waste from the nuclear industry, they are a by product of another project entirely, to be justified after the fact…

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Plimer’s Climatology 102 At a point in the long distant past someone extracted what was found to be useful fuel from a coal outcrop, and the coal industry was born. Only since the work of Arrhenius in the late 19thC have questions arisen about the basing of the steel, power generation and other industries upon it. Established industry has understandably reacted to the IPCC reports and scientific concern about greenhouse gases with counter-argument and delaying tactics regarding the transition to alternatives. Ian Plimer’s book and his talk to the Sydney Mining Club talk are best seen in this context… 

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Plimer’s Climatology 103The total yearly biomass production of the organisms on Earth is on one estimate at around 170 billion tonnes (164 billion tons)  of which a third is oceanic and two thirds terrestrial: say 60 billion tonnes oceanic. Assuming this roughly to be 10% of the total oceanic biomass brings the total mass of all marine organisms to 600 billion tonnes, or 600 Gt. The potential total CO2 addition to the hydrosphere of 4210 Gt (assuming it all finishes up in the oceans) is thus about 7 times the total biomass in the oceans. That is indeed significant…

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Plimer’s Climatology 104…a two degree rise due to CO2 will produce a further two degree rise due to water vapour, making four degrees in all. The next domino to fall in this situation is the methane, locked up in arctic permafrost in Siberia and Northern Canada, and below the deep ocean floors as methane hydrates. In all those locations, it has built up from slow bacterial decomposition of organic matter. Methane is 45 times as powerful a greenhouse gas as CO2, to which it oxidizes in about a year after release to the air. The warming produced by this gas may in turn release the final nightmare gas, hydrogen sulfide. Plimer does not mention these potentially disastrous knock-on effects of methane and hydrogen sulfide…

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Plimer’s Climatology 105: Lord Franklin’s Dream Turned NightmarePope aside, there’s no need to ask which embodiments of human stupidity Plimer might have had in mind. He has spent the preceding 483 pages denouncing them: ‘activists’, ‘environmentalists’, Greenpeace… but above all, Sir Nicholas Stern, Michael Mann, James Hansen, Al Gore, Ross Garnaut; other practitioners of the alleged quackery and pseudoscience of climatology, the IPCC, the Royal Society, the signers of the Kyoto Accord… If the book’s index was any good I could look them all up.

But that is only half of the last sentence. I have an uneasy feeling that behind the rest of it lies the profound theological thought that there will be no runaway greenhouse or climate catastrophe, because God will not allow it.


Plimer’s Climatology 106: His Lordship’s ListAt the end of his book, Ian Plimer hands over the keyboard to his lordship to deal with the question ‘What if I am wrong?’ In Plimer’s view Monckton (previously an economic adviser to Margaret Thatcher) had already dealt with it splendidly in a speech to the Local Government Association at Bournemouth, on 3 July 2008. So Plimer reproduces the speech in its entirety (with his lordship’s permission) on pages 489-493 of Heaven+Earth. We can take as noted the usual ‘ITS?’ (is that so?) in the margin against each one of the following points as they occur, and as well a ‘WIIFY?’ –  an abbreviated form of ‘what’s in it for you?’