August 30, 2016 in 4,369 words

That’s for the courts to decide

A little of both, I suppose. Grafitti under the railroad bridge on the Saint Vrain Greenway in Longmont.

I want to believe.

The time there was a train crossing overhead was really creepy. It wasn’t particularly loud, but I could really sense the weight on that bridge a few feet over my head.


This Day In History: August 30, 30 B.C.

On this day in history, 30 B.C., Queen Cleopatra of Egypt, the iconic seductress and lover of both Julius Caesar and Marc Antony, commits suicide after her forces are crushed by Octavian, who shortly became the first emperor of the Rome.

Cleopatra was born in 69 B.C., and was made queen of Egypt as Queen Cleopatra VII at just 18 years old, along with her brother who was proclaimed King Ptolemy XIII. They ruled as husband and wife… Yes, husband and wife. It didn’t take long for sibling rivalry to erupt, resulting in civil war breaking out 3 years later in 48 B.C. …

Trump said he could put several blue states in play. It’s clear he can’t.

or months, Donald Trump and members of his political team promised to put reliably Democratic states like New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Oregon into play. But now, with only two months until Election Day, it’s clear that those promises were empty boasts.

The presidential electoral map shows Trump losing key swing states and even barely holding on in some GOP bastions. Given the current numbers, the major question is the size of Hillary Clinton’s electoral vote victory.

Over the past 10 presidential contests, there have been three narrow electoral college wins (1976, 2000 and 2004) and three true blowouts (1980, 1984 and 1988). The remaining four contests (1992, 1996, 2008 and 2012) produced something in between — a comfortable victory for the winner but not quite a landslide. The winners in those four elections received between 332 and 379 electoral votes, while the losing candidate drew between 159 and 206 electoral votes. (In four of the 10, there was a faithless elector.) …

Rush Limbaugh’s Ultimate Betrayal of His Audience

The talk-radio host claims that he never took Donald Trump seriously on immigration. He neglected to tell his immigration obsessed listeners.

For almost a decade, I’ve been angrily documenting the way that many right-wing talk-radio hosts betray the rank-and-file conservatives who trust them for information. My late grandmother was one of those people. She deserved better than she got. With huge platforms and massive audiences, successful hosts ought to take more care than the average person to be truthful and avoid misinforming listeners. Yet they are egregiously careless on some days and willfully misleading on others.

And that matters, as we’ll come to see.

Rush Limbaugh is easily the most consequential of these hosts. He has an audience of millions. And over the years, parts of the conservative movement that ought to know better, like the Claremont Institute, have treated him like an honorable conservative intellectual rather than an intellectually dishonest entertainer. The full cost of doing so became evident this year, when a faction of populists shaped by years of talk radio, Fox News, and picked Donald Trump to lead the Republican Party, a choice that makes a Hillary Clinton victory likely and is a catastrophe for movement conservatism regardless of who wins. …

Anthony Weiner was the Ted Cruz of the left

With Monday’s Anthony Weiner news, I’m seeing a lot of people make statements along the lines of this from John Fugelsang, which I don’t think is quite right:

The thing is: Weiner’s congressional career wasn’t exactly brought down by the sexting scandal. It was brought down by the sexting scandal and by Weiner’s status as a terrible coworker.

When Weiner became embroiled in scandal in 2011, then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she’d like him to resign, as did Steve Israel, the congressman who ran the campaign committee charged with electing Democrats to the House.

Weiner’s lack of intraparty support in the face of the scandal was what made his position untenable. And he lacked support within the House Democratic conference for a reason. …

10 Tragic Stories From The Childhood Of Charles Manson

In August 1969, Charles Manson’s Family brutally murdered nine people as part of an insane plan to bring about a race war. The fame of his victims, the horrific way they were killed, and Manson’s own unique brand of madness have left him imprinted in history as one of the most horrible killers of all time.

No monster, though, is born from nothingness. Charles Manson was a child once, and that childhood was littered with tragic moments. No one would claim that these stories are sad enough to justify what he did, but they might shed light on how monsters are formed.

10. His Mother Named Him ‘No Name’

Charles Manson’s mother was a 16-year-old girl named Kathleen Maddox, and his father was a transient laborer named “Colonel,” whom he never met. Kathleen may have been a prostitute, although Manson denies that’s true. Regardless of how she made her money, Kathleen was a far cry from the world’s best mother.

When Manson was born, she didn’t even bother giving him a name. When the nurses handed her the paper, she wrote “No Name,” and to this day, his birth certificate is registered as “No Name Maddox.” …

The Anthropocene epoch: scientists declare dawn of human-influenced age

Experts say human impact on Earth so profound that Holocene must give way to epoch defined by nuclear tests, plastic pollution and domesticated chicken

Nuclear test explosion in Mururoa atoll, French Polynesia, in 1971. The official expert group says the Anthropocene should begin about 1950 and is likely to be defined by the radioactive elements dispersed across Earth by nuclear bomb tests.

Humanity’s impact on the Earth is now so profound that a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene – needs to be declared, according to an official expert group who presented the recommendation to the International Geological Congress in Cape Town on Monday.

The new epoch should begin about 1950, the experts said, and was likely to be defined by the radioactive elements dispersed across the planet by nuclear bomb tests, although an array of other signals, including plastic pollution, soot from power stations, concrete, and even the bones left by the global proliferation of the domestic chicken were now under consideration.

The current epoch, the Holocene, is the 12,000 years of stable climate since the last ice age during which all human civilisation developed. But the striking acceleration since the mid-20th century of carbon dioxide emissions and sea level rise, the global mass extinction of species, and the transformation of land by deforestation and development mark the end of that slice of geological time, the experts argue. The Earth is so profoundly changed that the Holocene must give way to the Anthropocene. …

Nasa: Earth is warming at a pace ‘unprecedented in 1,000 years’

Records of temperature that go back far further than 1800s suggest warming of recent decades is out of step with any period over the past millennium

he planet is warming at a pace not experienced within the past 1,000 years, at least, making it “very unlikely” that the world will stay within a crucial temperature limit agreed by nations just last year, according to Nasa’s top climate scientist.

This year has already seen scorching heat around the world, with the average global temperature peaking at 1.38C above levels experienced in the 19th century, perilously close to the 1.5C limit agreed in the landmark Paris climate accord. July was the warmest month since modern record keeping began in 1880, with each month since October 2015 setting a new high mark for heat.

But Nasa said that records of temperature that go back far further, taken via analysis of ice cores and sediments, suggest that the warming of recent decades is out of step with any period over the past millennium. …

10 Curious Automobile-Related Inventions From Bygone Days

Today, cars take up a significant part of our lives. They help us get from point A to point B with relative convenience and provide us with a freedom and independence that public transportation is mostly incapable of providing.

However, today’s cars are more or less uniform in terms of their style and features. So it is always fascinating to look back and see what might have been if the more curious automobile-related inventions of yesteryear had actually caught on.

10. Charvolant

The Charvolant (aka the kite-carriage) was a carriage pulled solely by kites. It was invented in the 19th century by English schoolteacher George Pocock who had a great interest in kites and their ability to lift small items, light loads, and even people.

The Charvolant could hold several passengers and move at a fairly fast speed, depending on the pace and the type of wind present. Several reports of kite-carriages traveling around England circulated shortly after the bizarre invention and attracted considerable attention from the press and the public. …

Will Pedestrians Be Able to Tell What a Driverless Car Is About to Do?

For self-driving vehicles to succeed, they’ll have to earn the trust of walkers, joggers, and bicyclists.

A van used to test how pedestrians respond to self-driving vehicles, photographed at Duke University

A fully autonomous self-driving car doesn’t really need a steering wheel, or a rearview mirror, or even windows to get where it’s going. But the first models are still likely to have them. (And not just because such features could be legally required.)

In the coming years and decades, as the public decides how to feel about autonomous cars, the way that self-driving vehicles appear will be arguably as important as how they function. And people, Americans in particular, have clearly defined expectations about what cars ought to look like.

“When we’re looking at new devices, you could make them anything, right? Any shape, any form,” said Robert Brunner, the industrial designer who worked for many years at Apple and now runs his own design studio. “But we’re also trying to get people to relate to and understand the technology.” Self-driving vehicles, he says, should feel inviting and friendly, and should inspire confidence. The way to do this might be to follow Google’s lead, and make driverless cars cute. At the very least, Brunner told me, the ideal self-driving car probably shouldn’t be a “black menacing thing with lots of red lights.” …

We polled Americans about self-driving cars. Here’s what they told us.

Self-driving cars are coming faster than anyone expected just a few years ago. And America, according to a new Vox/Morning Consult poll, isn’t really ready for that.

More Americans say they they’re more worried about the prospect of self-driving cars than excited. They’re afraid that the technology will take jobs away from taxi and truck drivers, and they’re skeptical that the technology will save lives as supporters claim. Overall, just 32 percent believe that self-driving cars will improve the driving experience, compared to 48 percent who don’t think so.

And for all the hype surrounding ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, the vast majority of Americans say they never use them. Most of those who don’t use the services say it’s easier to just drive their own cars. …


Mark Y. asks: Why were people who made alcohol during prohibition called bootleggers?

Although Prohibition officially began on January 16, 1920, the impetus for banning the production, sale, importation and transportation (though not the consumption) of alcohol had been brewing for decades before. Part of a string of reforms introduced by Progressives, Protestants and other activists to cure all of society’s ills, limiting the consumption of alcohol was thought by many to be the cure for domestic violence, poor health, loose morals and, of course, public drunkenness.

The advocates of Prohibition even managed to convince many heavy drinkers; after all, sacrificing alcoholic drinks was a little thing compared to creating a better society. Will Rogers often joked about this: “The South is dry and will vote dry. That is, everybody sober enough to stagger to the polls.”

Not just a 20th century phenomenon, many localities and states had been prohibiting the sale of liquor long before, including a ban in Maine from 1851 to 1856, and in Kansas, which banned the sale of alcohol in 1881 and didn’t repeal it for hard liquor until 1948. …

Amazon, known for its soul-crushing work culture, is testing a 30-hour workweek

Amazon is reportedly piloting a program that will allow some technical teams to clock in just 30 hours per week.

These employees will be salaried and receive the same benefits as those working traditional 40-hour weeks, but their pay will be reduced proportionally by 25%, reports the Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

A few dozen technical employees will test the shorter schedule. They are expected to work Monday through Thursday from 10am to 2pm with flexibility outside of those hours. This ensures that employees working 30 hours a week will have at least 16 hours of overlap with their other colleagues. …

‘Freaks on the peaks’: the lonely lives of the last remaining forest fire lookouts

There were 10,000 lookouts, scanning the wilderness for signs of smoke. Now just a few hundred remain, and they pass the time hiking, writing and knitting.

For Levi Brinegar, alone atop his mountain, a storm can feel like the end of the world. Clouds swallow the peak, winds howl and lightning blazes.

“The tower shakes. During the last one the windows cracked. The lightning was 50 feet away. It was like strobe lighting going off. It was crazy.”

Brinegar, 26, endures this, and more, for $12 an hour. He could not be happier. He reckons he has the best job in the world. “It’s fun. I’ll definitely try to get back next year.”

Brinegar is a fire lookout for the US Forest Service. He has spent the summer on a peak in Montana’s Helena-Lewis and Clark national forest armed with binoculars, a compass and a radio, scanning the wilderness for smoke. …

How Actual Nazis Are Influencing Trump (More Than He Knows)

Imagine if the president of the U.S. took advice directly from you and your friends. And I mean all of them … even the ones whose local claim to fame is “guy who buttered his dick in my dad’s trailer.” Normally, that’s the kind of sweet-ass situation only kids in Disney Channel original movies and billionaires get to experience. But in the bum-fuck craziness of the 2016 election, a few thousand loud, angry, and mostly very young people have found themselves acting, collectively, as some of Donald Trump’s most valued advisers.

See, Donald Trump isn’t a tech-savvy guy. He doesn’t use email, barely uses computers, and generally has articles he wants to read printed out for him. Check out this picture of him at his desk:

That stuff in the background is called “paper.” People used it in olden times.

Donald Trump’s been tweeting for a while, but before he started running for president he mostly tweeted harmless nonsense. Even his Twitter-fights with people were fairly tame and perfectly captured their demographic of 12-year-olds.

As soon as he started running, the darkest and angriest corners of the internet realized that a man who publicly said all the terrible shit they could only type might actually become the president. They set out to help him win the domain they knew best: the internet. And Trump noticed their support.

Now, Donald Trump doesn’t know what Pepe is. But when he retweeted this bizarre channer meme, you can bet he understood the message of whoever made it:

We, trolls of the internet, are adopting you, Donald Trump. …

The rise of robots: forget evil AI – the real risk is far more insidious

It’s far more likely that robots would inadvertently harm or frustrate humans while carrying out our orders than they would rise up against us

When we look at the rise of artificial intelligence, it’s easy to get carried away with dystopian visions of sentient machines that rebel against their human creators. Fictional baddies such as the Terminator’s Skynet or Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey have a lot to answer for.

However, the real risk posed by AI – at least in the near term – is much more insidious. It’s far more likely that robots would inadvertently harm or frustrate humans while carrying out our orders than they would become conscious and rise up against us. In recognition of this, the University of California, Berkeley has this week launched a center to focus on building people-pleasing AIs.

The Center for Human-Compatible Artificial Intelligence, launched this week with $5.5m in funding from the Open Philanthropy Project, is lead by computer science professor and artificial intelligence pioneer Stuart Russell. He’s quick to dispel any “unreasonable and melodramatic” comparisons to the threats posed in science fiction. …

Meet USBee, the malware that uses USB drives to covertly jump airgaps

Technique works on virtually all USB drives with no modifications necessary.

In 2013, a document leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden illustrated how a specially modified USB device allowed spies to surreptitiously siphon data out of targeted computers, even when they were physically severed from the Internet or other networks. Now, researchers have developed software that goes a step further by turning unmodified USB devices into covert transmitters that can funnel large amounts of information out of similarly “air-gapped” PCs.

The USBee—so named because it behaves like a bee that flies through the air taking bits from one place to another—is in many respects a significant improvement over the NSA-developed USB exfiltrator known as CottonMouth. That tool had to be outfitted with a hardware implant in advance and then required someone to smuggle it into the facility housing the locked-down computer being targeted. USBee, by contrast, turns USB devices already inside the targeted facility into a transmitter with no hardware modification required at all.

“We introduce a software-only method for short-range data exfiltration using electromagnetic emissions from a USB dongle,” researchers from Israel’s Ben-Gurion University wrote in a research paper published Monday. “Unlike other methods, our method doesn’t require any [radio frequency] transmitting hardware since it uses the USB’s internal data bus.” …

California’s Smart New Retirement Plan and the Industry That Opposes It

Many asset-management companies fear a program that would reduce something they depend on: consumers’ confusion.

Today, half of American households have exactly zero retirement savings, not counting traditional pension plans, which are becoming ever less common, or Social Security. There are two basic reasons for this distressing state of affairs. The first is that many families don’t make enough to cover their basic living expenses. The second is that even people who could put money aside often don’t have easy access to retirement savings programs—which is particularly the case for workers whose employers don’t offer any kind of retirement plan.

To address this second problem, several states are experimenting with public programs that automatically enroll employees in a retirement plan if their employer doesn’t offer one. California’s plan (which still must be finalized after different versions passed the two houses of the state legislature last week) would automatically cover anyone who works at a company with five or more employees. By default, each participant would save 3 percent of her income, but workers would have the choice to change their contribution percentage or to opt out altogether. …

10 Ways We Are Being Watched, Monitored And Spied On

While the intent might be up for debate, the fact that our governments and businesses appear to be watching our every move isn’t. As technology increases, seemingly more and more rapidly, more data about us is stored and shared—and most of the time, we are unaware it is being collected or how it might be used.

10. Increasing CCTV Surveillance

In 2011, there was one CCTV camera for every 32 UK citizens. By 2016, this number had increased to one for every 11, making the United Kingdom the most spied upon country in the world.

Not that the UK is alone in its surveillance of citizens. Almost all countries have security cameras in place. In 2013, the BBC ran a story about the increasing numbers of CCTV cameras being installed and put into operation across the United States, where they were being hailed as crucial in apprehending the culprits of the Boston bombing. That is why these cameras are put in place, and there are plenty of examples of them being used to good effect. There increasing numbers, however, make some people uneasy, and the line between security and the infringement on privacy is becoming grayer all the time. …

The U.S. Is Now Eating and Wasting Twice as Much Food as It Did in 1975

4,000 calories per person per day is not sustainable.

Americans ate an average of 1,999 calories per day in 1975. That’s according to the USDA, which released updated data this month that says we’re now up to 2,481.

That increase has come with soaring rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, the fiscal cost of which is inordinate.

The greater threat to our health as a population, though, may be the fact that the total U.S. food supply (the amount available, both produced and imported) is now 4,000 calories per person per day, also according to the USDA. This means that close to half of that food supply is going to waste. At the same time, none of these numbers is growing as quickly as the total number of people. Between 1975 and today, the American population increased from 213 million to 319 million. …

Microsoft says MacBook is as useful as a hat for your cat

Technically Incorrect: A new ad for the Surface Pro 4 suggests Apple’s MacBook isn’t too useful.

In recent weeks, Microsoft has flexed a little brutality toward Apple.

After so many years of being mocked by Cupertino, you can imagine that Redmond’s been girding itself for retaliation.

Now, it’s decided to use Surface Pro 4 ads for the purpose.

First, there was a thorough mocking of Apple’s suggestion that its iPad Pro is now a computer. Now comes outright derision of the MacBook.

A new Surface Pro 4 ad throws out pro forma niceties, in favor of cheery insults.

A MacBook, says the ad, is less useful than a Surface Pro 4. “Like a hat on a cat,” it insists. …


House Committee on Un-American Activities

Today I found out the Cincinnati Reds were once renamed the “Redlegs” due to the second “Red Scare”.

The Cincinnati Reds name was originally inspired by a previously existing team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, which was the first fully professional baseball team. This former team had ten men on salary for eight months to play baseball for the Red Stockings. It was organized by Harry Wright, who also played center field for the team and managed the defensive positioning, which was something that typically wasn’t done at that time. The Cincinnati Red Stockings were wildly successful early on, going 57-1 (wins-tie) in their first season while touring the United States. They followed this up by winning 24 straight games the next season before losing 8-7 in 11 innings to the Brooklyn Atlantics, which resulted in their attendance declining substantially and the team ultimately being disbanded, even though they only lost 6 games throughout that season.

In any event, the present day Cincinnati Reds’ name was inspired by the Cincinnati Red Stockings, even though they have no real connection with the Red Stockings other than being from the same town and initially naming themselves the same thing (the Cincinnati Red Stockings). However, when this latter organization moved from the American Association to the National League, they shortened the name to just “Reds”. …

Video Goodnesses
(and not-so-goodnesses)

Stephen would like to thank Anthony Weiner for rising to the occasion and providing this truly rock-solid story.

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

Seth takes a closer look at how Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are preparing for the presidential debates.

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

“Weighing up to 30lbs the Black Sea Hare is the largest slug in the world and is found in abundance along the Pacific Coast of the United States.

Aptly named Sea Hare due to their rabbit ear looking appendages, these creatures are truly a primordial wonder of the ocean. Who would have ever thought a Sea Slug could grow to the size of a small dog!?”


6 Racist Things That ‘Non-Racist’People Always Say

According to the news cycle, there are a few things you can count on happening every day. Somebody out there is angry about a reboot of a beloved childhood franchise, somebody out there is definitely masturbating in a McDonald’s drive-thru, and somebody is (correctly) asking Americans to talk about diversity. Hopefully, we’re all taking that last one seriously.

And if we aren’t taking discussions about diversity seriously, then it might be because our eyes are glazed over from seeing some of the same bullshit arguments over and over again. So let’s take a step back and have a conversation about the conversation itself.

Here are six things everyone needs to stop word-vomiting in discussions about diversity.

#6. “This Is About The Sanctity Of Something!”

Does your heart get angry when a beloved character gets a race or sex change in a movie adaptation? Do you think the sex and race of a character are sacred? Like, “Holy Word of God” sacred? If so, are you five years old?

You’re probably used to laughing at hypocritical religious types, like the proprietors of a bakery who refused to serve gay couples, but had no problem celebrating dog weddings. Apparently, Jesus’ final commandment was “Love one another as I have loved you, and as my two dogs Buster and Miss Thang have loved each other since their wedding day. Amen.”

But at least that bakery was taking a stand about a real religious tenet, and not a sliver of pop culture. Unless we’ve decided fandoms are religions now, no one should be arguing that a character’s race, sex, hair color, or anything is sacred. They’re FICTIONAL CHARACTERS. …