All posts by birdjanitor

Cleans up after birds.

August 16, 2017 in 4,536 words

Cory Gardner’s Lakewood Town Hall Was a Shit Show

An audience member was led off by police after heckling Senator Cory Gardner.


At his Lakewood town hall on Tuesday, August 15, Senator Cory Gardner saw a lot of red.

Before the event, audience members were handed signs that had nothing more than a red thumbs-down and a green thumbs-up on either side, and the crowd of mostly Gardner detractors waved the red finger, so to speak, at Gardner with reckless abandon at any mention of his conservative leanings or Donald Trump.

Signs weren’t Gardner’s only problem yesterday, when the senator held three town halls along the Front Range. Despite a moderator at the one at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood repeatedly asking members of the crowd to remain respectful and lower their voices, hecklers interrupted Gardner nearly every time he tried to answer a question. A man was even led off by police after yelling “Fucking whore!” several times at a woman who’d asked him to quiet down. Spats broke out in the audience, with Gardner supporters telling his detractors to “shut up,” and vice versa. The fights even spilled out into the parking lot after the meeting’s end. It was like a really bad traffic jam, and Gardner was the Civic that crapped out in the fast lane.

In media coverage of the town hall, as well as at the gathering itself, hecklers drowned out the voices of genuinely curious and concerned constituents. A woman who identified herself as a rape victim asked the senator how he explained to his three daughters his support of a president who has boasted about committing an assault against a woman. Another woman, voice shaking, said that Trump’s strong rhetoric about North Korea scared her, and she asked Gardner, chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific, if he would support a Democratic bill that would strip Trump of unilateral power to launch nuclear weapons. Gardner’s answer didn’t offer her much comfort: He told the woman he wouldn’t strip the president of his authority in that way. But at least he answered honestly.

The case against free speech for fascists

Land Of The Free

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

The quotation—incorrectly attributed to the French enlightenment writer Voltaire—sums up the American ideal of free speech. The basic idea is that, in order for freedom to flourish, people of good will must protect even repulsive speech—up to and including pornography, racism, sexism, bigotry, and in some cases, generalized calls to violence. Free speech must be universal, the argument goes. If Nazis are not able to speak, we will all be silenced.

This principle was sorely tested over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. Nazis were permitted to march and speak. The result was not more freedom for all. Instead, the march ended, predictably, in horrific violence. One of the people attending the white supremacist march drove his car into a crowd of peaceful counter-protestors, killing a woman named Heather Heyer and seriously wounding many others. Letting Nazis congregate didn’t allow others to speak; it silenced at least one person forever. Defending fascists’ right to speak their minds resulted in the death of someone else. The violence in Charlottesville bleakly suggests that free speech absolutism—without anti-fascism—leads to less free speech for all, not more.

Free speech defenders vigorously reject the suggestion that, as an ideology, free speech absolutism may fail in some situations. The American Civil Liberties Union has a long history of defending neo-Nazis’ right to hold marches and rallies. In line with that tradition, the ACLU of Virginia came to the defense of Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler and prevented the city of Charlottesville from moving the site of the rally from Emancipation Park, despite the city’s safety concerns. The ACLU’s legal position prompted a board member to resign. It also led many on social media to suggest that the ACLU had paved the way for fascist violence.

Trump Knows Exactly What He’s Doing

The president used a narrow condemnation of neo-Nazis to mount a defense of the politics of white resentment.

President Trump’s short press conference Tuesday afternoon was remarkable for seeming cogent. In so many of his public statements Trump wanders, free-associates, digresses, and seems either incapable or uninterested in piecing together complete sentences. The fact that he didn’t seem to be improvising made his defense of some of those who participated in a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, more important.

It was the clearest and most precise articulation of a view that Trump has espoused since the start of his political career. The president worked to draw a fine distinction between different elements of the march, and in the process to rescue his own vision of pride in white America from being tarnished from association with neo-Nazis. Trump mounted a defense of a political movement rooted in pride about Confederate symbols and white heritage by seeking to disassociate it from its more extreme elements.

“I am not putting anybody on a moral plane,” he said, but that wasn’t quite right. Trump was passing moral judgment on self-described neo-Nazis and white supremacists, in order to defend those who marched alongside them in defense of a Confederate monument, even if they did not endorse either their means or ultimate ends. The latter group forms a core part of Trump’s support. Although many Republican officeholders rushed to condemn Trump’s comments, there’s little evidence to believe most Trump voters disagree with the president. In June 2017, the left-leaning firm Public Policy Polling found that 70 percent of Trump backers support public monuments to the Confederacy, with only 15 percent approve of their removal. In a June 2015 CNN poll, almost six in 10 whites said they viewed the Confederate battle flag as a sign of Southern heritage, not bigotry.

Having drawn this distinction, Trump could portray what happened in Charlottesville not as a battle over racism but instead as a clash between two equally legitimate political factions. It allowed him to declare that there is an “alt-left” equivalent to the alt-right—fringes that employ violence, and tarnish the “very fine people on both sides”—and to ignore questions about whether there was actually equivalent hatred and malice in the two groups that clashed in Charlottesville.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: Though plenty of observers are disgusted by the president’s validation of racist protesters, no one should be surprised or take it as a spontaneous riff: It was one of the most cogent, precise, and enduring cases he has made as a politician.

The president of the United States is now a neo-Nazi sympathiser

Donald Trump’s press conference was a grotesque display of empathy for violent racists. At least it united the Republicans in disgust at their president

Donald Trump the neo-Nazi sympathizer has achieved what Donald Trump the president has singularly failed to do: unite the nation.

An immensely fractured country – riven by race, class, culture and politics – finds itself transfixed by one grotesque display of empathy for violent racists. These are the same violent racists whom White House aides previously called, in remarks that Trump read out loudly and very carefully: “Criminals and thugs.”

But that was so Monday. One short day later, the leader of the nation – that daily proclaims its commitment to liberty and justice for all – declared there were “very fine people” in Charlottesville, who simply joined a neo-Nazi rally to protest about a statue.

“You had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest, and very legally protest – because I don’t know if you know, they had a permit,” Trump helpfully explained to the astonished press corps at Trump Tower. “The other group didn’t have a permit. So I only tell you this: there are two sides to a story.”

Sadly for Trump, there is only one side to the political reaction to his comments: sheer disgust. As an apologist for racist protestors – even though they obtained a precious permit – Trump has magically created a sense of spine in his own Republican party.

Obama’s response to Charlottesville violence is the most liked tweet in Twitter’s history

The Fix

Unlike some former presidents, Barack Obama is showing no signs of completely abandoning public life.

Since leaving office, Obama has commented on major events or controversies, including the terrorist attack in Manchester, England, and Sen. John McCain’s brain cancer diagnosis. He did so again on Saturday, after the deadly violence in Charlottesville.

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion … People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love … For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite,” Obama said, quoting former South African president Nelson Mandela in tweets.

The first tweet, which shows a picture of Obama smiling at four children, has been retweeted more than 1.1 million times and liked 2.723 million times as of Tuesday evening.

No, Mr Trump, we’re not the same as the neo-Nazis

In Charlottesville I faced off with men bearing torches and swastikas shouting ‘Jews will not replace us’. Yet the president thinks both sides are to blame.


Only one side nearly beat a black man to death with poles in a parking garage while hurling racist insults. It wasn’t our side.

The president of the United States called a mob of people marching with torches and chanting Nazi slogans “very fine people”. Fine people don’t chant Nazi slogans. Fine people don’t surround and attack college students. And fine people don’t stand with those who do.

I was there that night in Charlottesville. I can say with certainty that the only fine people I saw were the young students who stood outnumbered and ready to defend their campus and their beliefs against an onslaught of demagoguery.

I know some of those students. They were ready to die for what they believed in. I was prepared to die, too. A man wearing a swastika pin shouted transphobic and racist vitriol at me, inches from my face.

The only fine people that night were those sprayed with mace and doused with lighter fluid from the torches that they were beaten with, afraid of being burned alive. Fine people don’t wear swastikas. Yet President Trump blamed both sides, despite the fact that only one side was run down by a terrorist.

I was there when the attack happened. Despite the president deeming me – a transgender woman – unfit for military service, I ran toward the attacker with a weapon. I was ready to engage him if he tried to hurt more people.

Stephen Colbert Tears Apart Trump’s ‘Seventh Circle of Hell’ Presser

‘Once again, Donald Trump wasn’t fully sure whether the Nazis should get all the blame,’ the ‘Late Show’ host marveled.

THANKS to CBS and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for making this program available on YouTube.


Stephen Colbert had his monologue all written and ready for Tuesday night’s show. Then President Donald Trump gave a press conference in which he backtracked and once again blamed “both sides” for Saturday’s terror attack in Charlottesville.

Just one day after the Late Show host listed off everything Trump appears to hate more than Nazis, Colbert had no choice but to go in on the president once more for his apparent refusal to fully condemn white supremacy in America.

“He held a press conference today, in I believe the seventh circle of hell,” Colbert said. He mocked the president for saying that he likes to “wait for the facts” before speaking, pointing to the various outright lies he has told since entering the White House about “illegal voters” and his inauguration crowd size.

“Honestly, if the press were not fake and if it was honest, the press would have said what I said was very nice,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday.

“And if you were a better president, you would have said something very nice,” Colbert shot back.

Ed. I’m beginning to think it’s probably a good thing that I’m working crazy days and hours, while spending as many of my non-working hours as possible riding my new roarange bicycle. The events of the last few days have made me sick to my stomach knowing that the shithead occupying the White House is systematically dividing and destroying this country. I’m tired in this cold place.


In this cold place
Who will save me?
Who will take the place of God tonight?
Did I believe?
Oh really believe that
I could see light
That’s hopeless and clearer than dawn

I looked so hard
For a savior
But then, I’ve nothing left to save
I would waste their time,
I know, I’ve wasted mine
Cos tonight, I’m hopeless and clearer than dawn

I got no light
I got no hope
I got no will
I got nowhere to go
I lost my soul
I cut my skin
I see my life
At how it all begins

I got no light
I got no hope
You wanted more
I got no more to know
I couldn’t speak
I couldn’t stand
I’m so ashamed
At how it all began

God I’m tired, of feeling like it’s prison without walls
And I’m tired, of feeling so alone and nothing more
And I’m tired, of feeling like my skin just holds me wrong
And I’m tired, I’m tired of all I’ve done.

Can you save me from going down?

I'm A Bee Detective (Seriously), And My Job Is Crazy As Fuck

Picture a bee detective. Did you just conjure up an image of an anthropomorphic bee in a little fedora, making honey puns at the sexy queen that just got buzzed into his office? Good. We're on the same wavelength here. But sadly, that's not what a real bee detective looks like. We spoke to Dale, an apiary inspector for the state of Ohio. As he puts it, "My job is to look for disease in the hive [and] issues with pests that can cause harm to that hive or hives in the area." If it's any consolation, you may continue to picture him as a cartoon bee in a trench coat. There's no harm in that.

#4. Being A Bee Detective Sometimes Means High-Speed Chases And The Police


A lot of wacky misunderstandings happen when you're cruising around in a beemobile. "I received a call for a swarm that was at a neighbor's house [when] my wife and I were at a wedding," Dale says, because bee detectives are apparently on call? "I knew I only had a short time before they would fly off, so dressed in my suit, I threw on a bee vale and climbed a tree [to] cut a branch off that had the swarm. I did not have anything to put them in, so I just laid the branch with bees on it in the back of the van and jumped in and drove them to my apiary."

That turned out to be a bad plan. "I had bees flying all over in my van and I did not have my full suit on, so I was worried that I would get stung," Dale continues. He admits he was "driving a little fast" when he noticed the worst thing he could have seen at that moment: flashing red and blues. "A state trooper clocked me and tried to pull me over," he explains. "Not sure what to do, I pulled over, he came to the window ... I held up my badge and yelled that I had bees in the back, [and] when he looked in the van, he could see the swarm buzzing around. I have never seen someone run to their car so fast and take off."

So Tommy Boy was completely right. Again.

Even just the ol' beemobile itself can cause some problems. "I was out inspecting in the woods and left my car parked alongside the road with a magnetic sticker on the side identifying me as the county bee inspector." Much to his surprise, "my car was called in as a meth lab (because of my smokers in the back) and it was impounded and searched." Presumably, that magnetic sticker is a lot bigger and more prominent now. Perhaps featuring several profanities. But speaking of bees and illicit substances ...

Why social capital could be the key to solving America’s overdose epidemic

Researchers are exploring how community, connection and trust could help protect society’s most vulnerable


Recovery from addiction and other mental illnesses relies heavily on social support.

In 2016, Louise Vincent lost both her teenage daughter and her right leg. The leg had been injured in a car accident; after doctors failed to treat her pain effectively, she ultimately relapsed into opioid addiction and an infection festered.

Her daughter, Selena – who, like her mother, had diagnoses of both addiction and bipolar disorder – died at 19 of an opioid overdose while in rehab. Her mother had sent her away to try to protect her. But the program turned out to be so negligent that it had no overdose protocol or antidote on hand.

Still, Vincent, a 41-year-old native of Greensboro, North Carolina, hasn’t let the discrimination and neglect that drove her losses destroy her. She’s gotten passionately involved in two organizations that take an entirely different approach to people who use drugs.

Those organizations saved her life – but not in the way you might think. ...

Insect burgers and balls: Swiss supermarket to sell bug-based food

Coop has set a date to introduce food items made from creepy crawlies to Switzerland. From bug burgers to "insect balls," food security authorities have voiced support for such food as a means for sustainable living.

Coop, Switzerland's second-largest supermarket chain, announced on Monday it will start selling insect-based food for humans later this month, making it the first grocer to do so in the Alpine nation.

The offered products are made of protein-rich meal worm produced by Swiss start-up Essento. The items will be sold in select Coop branches across Switzerland, including Geneva, Bern and Zurich.

The decision comes after Switzerland revised its food safety laws in May, paving the way for the production and distribution of insect-based food, including "insect balls" and insect burgers (pictured above).

In order to meet Swiss safety laws, the insects must be bred under strict supervision for four generations before they're ready for human consumption.

The insect balls represent a healthy culinary specialty that mixes meal worms with rice, carrots, celery, leeks and a pinch of chili, said Essento co-founder Christian Bärtsch. ...

This $70 robot that mimics a sea-turtle may eventually reach Mars

A New Turtle Explorer

Researchers at University of Arizona have created a modular robot made of cardboard and a Raspberry Pi Zero (a simple computer) for around $70.

The form and movement of this little machine is made to mimic a sea turtle, and the cardboard fins can be swapped out for more durable, 3D-printed materials depending on the environment.

Biologists, mechanical engineers, and computer scientists collaborated to create this robot, and they have big plans for it; one day they hope to send it to Mars. ...

Scientists Finally Unlock the Recipe For Magic Mushrooms

Based on prior reporting from field work and various sources, this reporter can confidently conclude that magic mushrooms are very chill. There’s more than college weekends to back that stance up, though. Past research has suggested they can help with the existential anxiety of cancer, positively change personalities, and even help kick nicotine addictions.

You might wonder, then, why doctors don’t prescribe mushrooms’ active ingredient, psilocybin. Aside from being a schedule 1 drug, scientists haven’t fully understood the chemistry behind how mushrooms produce the chemical—until now. A new study may finally lay the groundwork for a medical-grade psilocybin patients can take.

“Given the renewed pharmaceutical interest in psilocybin, our results may lay the foundation for its biotechnological production,” the researchers write in the study published this month in the journal Angewandte Chemie (it’s German).

Living things make molecules through a series of chemical reactions, similar to how car makers produce cars on assembly lines. Enzymes act as the workers/robots, speeding up the reactions by helping put the pieces together. Actually making psilocybin requires mapping the biological factory.

A 1968 paper (obviously it was in 1968) offered a proposed order of events leading to a finished psilocybin molecule, by adding radioactive elements and watching what happened to them on the assembly line. The researchers thought that maybe tryptophan, the amino acid everyone wrongly says makes you sleepy, was the first piece, which then went through four successive steps to become the finished product. ...

If an AI creates a work of art, who owns the rights to it?

IP + AI


Beauty is in the active pixel sensor of the beholder.

Artificial intelligence is already capable of creating a staggering array of content. It can paint, write music, and put together a musical. It can write movies, angsty poems, and truly awful stand-up comedy. But does it have ownership over what it produces?

For example, an AI at Google has managed to create sounds that humans have not heard before, merging characteristics of two different instruments and opening up a whole new toolbox for musicians to play around with. The company’s DeepDream is also capable of generating psychedelic pieces of art with high price tags; last year two sold for $8,000—with the money going to the artists who claimed ownership over the images.

As it stands, AIs in the US cannot be awarded copyright for something they have created. The current policy of the US Copyright Office is to reject claims made for works not authored by humans, but the policy is poorly codified. According to Annemarie Bridy, a professor of law at the University of Idaho and an affiliate scholar at Stanford University’s Center for Internet and Society, there’s no actual requirement for human authorship in the US Copyright Act. Nevertheless, the “courts have always assumed that authorship is a human phenomenon,” she says. ...

THE SPACE SHUTTLE DISCOVERY AND ITS TOILET

A while back we told you the story of the WWII submarine that was lost due to a malfunctioning toilet. It turns out that a similar incident threatened the space shuttle Discovery in 1989…

TOP SECRET

On November 22, 1989, the space shuttle Discovery blasted off from the launchpad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a five-day secret mission in Earth orbit. It is believed to have deployed a spy satellite for the Department of Defense, but since the mission was (and still is) classified, only the United States government knows for sure.

But some details of the mission have emerged, and they involve something a little more down-to-earth: the space shuttle’s toilet, or Waste Collection System (WCS), as it was more properly known. The $30 million device looked like an ordinary toilet, but because it was designed to operate in zero gravity, the experience of using it was quite different from using a toilet on Earth. The WCS toilet was equipped with a seat belt and stirrups that allowed shuttle astronauts to anchor themselves in place, so that they didn’t float away in the middle of doing their business. And instead of a flush handle, the toilet was operated with a lever similar to an automobile stick shift.

SHIFTY BEHAVIOR

  • When astronauts needed to answer the call of nature, after first securing themselves to the toilet with the seat belt and stirrups, they shifted the toilet lever once, closing a valve on the outer hull called the overboard vent valve that was normally open to the vacuum of space.
  • Once the valve was closed, a second shift of the lever opened an inner valve called the slider valve or toilet gate valve at the bottom of the toilet bowl. The toilet was now “open for business”; urine could be deposited into a funnel attached to a vacuum hose (male- and female-shaped funnels were available), and solid waste could be deposited into the toilet bowl.
  • To help the solid waste get to the bottom of the bowl, a third shift of the toilet lever activated a fan that used airflow to blow the waste through the toilet gate valve into an interior holding compartment of the toilet.
  • After the waste had floated into the inner compartment, shifting the toilet gear in the reverse direction turned off the fan.
  • A second reverse shift closed the toilet gate valve, securing the solid waste in the toilet’s interior compartment.
  • A final reverse shift opened the overboard vent valve, exposing the inner compartment and the solid waste therein to the vacuum of outer space. Doing so freeze-dried the waste, killing bacteria and helping control odors. The waste itself remained trapped inside the holding compartment, because ejecting into space would have turned it into a projectile hurtling through space at more than 17,000 miles per hour.

...

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

VICE News reports on the country's remaining Robert E. Lee statues--and their potential to spark future conflicts.

THANKS to HBO and VICE News for making this program available on YouTube.

Business is booming for the Kopelski twins of Kopelski Twins Confederate Statue Modification Service, who offer an even more rewarding alternative to the removal of racist statues.

THANKS to CBS and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for making this program available on YouTube.

Seth breaks down the crazy that came out of President Trump's most recent press conference, where he seemed to side with white supremacists in the wake of the events in Charlottesville.

Seth Meyers' monologue from Tuesday, August 15.

THANKS to NBC and Late Night with Seth Meyers for making this program available on YouTube.

'Wizard of Oz' is a great movie ... if you're into Kansas farm girls committing double homicide and skipping away scot-free to some fire beats put down by the Lollipop Guild.

New food labelling bill requires companies to disclose health information, whether they collaborated with Nazis during WWII.

THANKS to Comedy Network and The Beaverton for making this program available on YouTube.

Two short videos showing the many sides of Max.

FINALLY . . .

The Five Dumbest Eclipse Deals on the Market


You've probably heard about the rare total solar eclipse set to pass over the skies on August 21.

Heard about it again.

And again.

And some more.

Whether you've heard the repeated reminders that if you enjoy your sense of vision, you should buy these glasses before viewing the eclipse, or the shameless, never-ending plugs that Casper, Wyoming, is actually a cool place to visit once every few hundred years, or the re-hashing of "X/Y/Z ancient culture thought the total solar eclipse meant imminent death/world ending/God's revenge," you get it already:

The eclipse is happening, and it's already the greatest thing that's ever happened and ever will happen.

But, wait! It's also the greatest opportunity ever for some companies to cash in on the eclipse with ideas that range from interesting to idiotic. Here are just five of them: ...

Ed. More tomorrow? Probably. Possibly. Maybe. Not?