The Green Blues Show – Edition 18


The Green Blues Show

In today’s edition of the Green Blues Show:

Online gaming solves big genome problems; an eminent South African jurist says Israel practices apartheid in the occupied Palestinian West Bank; a young Afghan refugee shares his harrowing tale of flight to Canada; and old tunes that never fade may jog other memories that do.


In the wake of the most recent slaughter of innocents down in the States, a few thoughts worth considering:

The 2008 Supreme Court case, District of Columbia v. Heller, ruled that the Second Amendment does indeed confer an individual right to bear arms for self-defense. Advocates for unlimited gun rights maintain that the right of self-defense includes defense against the government of the United States of America.

Setting aside the legitimacy of this interpretation of either Heller or the text of the Second Amendment, the “bulwark against state tyranny” claim for individual gun rights raises a few troubling questions:

Wall art in Aida refugee camp, Bethlehem (David Kattenburg)

How is “tyranny” defined? Does every “free citizen” get to decide when the state is violating their rights, and wield his or her AR-15 accordingly? Will an AR-15 defend a freedom-loving citizen from the full military force of the U.S. federal government? What happens when “free citizens” stockpiling AR-15s as a “bulwark against government tyranny” devolves into armed paramilitaries attacking people they consider enemies? Since the rule of law would have given way to armed insurrection, what would be the “glue” holding people and groups together?

The answer is: very little if anything. The argument that an armed citizenry today would function like the Minutemen during the Revolutionary War is misguided, not to mention ahistorical. The Minutemen were trained, organized, disciplined units sanctioned by young America’s leaders. Their mission was to oppose a foreign country on the other side of an ocean, not wage insurrection against their own elected government.

Furthermore, the imbalance in lethal capacity between the U.S. military and randomly organized militias is hard to overstate. Remember Ruby Ridge? Remember Waco?

Yes, the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were determined to prevent the kind of authoritarian tyranny that made them break away from England.

But the bulwark they had in mind against that tyranny was embodied in precisely the democratic infrastructure they created: the rule of law.


Phylo is an online game with a highly useful aim: helping geneticists identify DNA sequences linked to medical disorders.

Gamers play Phylo (David Kattenburg)

A new version of Phylo is now in the works, incorporating brand new puzzles for Phylo’s tens of thousands of gamers to solve – in exchange for enhanced feedback and amusing rewards. Among the vexing problems to be solved: the fine structure of RNA, and how bacterial chromosomes have evolved.

I spoke with Olivier Tremblay-Savard, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Manitoba. The Human-Computation Platform for Multi-Scale Genomic Analysis Tremblay-Savard and his colleagues are working on, is scheduled to be released to online gamers this summer.


The senior correspondent for Canada’s public broadcaster, the CBC’s Neil MacDonald, put it perfectly recently in an opinion piece at CBC’s website:

“If it looks like a duck,” MacDonald began, launching into an essay about the rising acceptance of the Israeli apartheid idea, then it probably is a duck.

MacDonald’s essay sparked predictable howls of outrage and volleys of complaints from Israel’s friends and advocates here in Canada.

John Dugard

John Dugard (David Kattenburg)

John Dugard is one of those who believes Israel does practice apartheid, and he should know. Between 2001 and 2008, the South African jurist served as special United Nations rapporteur on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. I spoke with John Dugard at his home in the Netherlands.


When refugees from war ravaged Syria and other failed states in the region began pouring into Europe in 2015 – peaking at almost a million – Canadians imagined themselves far removed from the crisis.

They soon wised up, late last year, in the dead of winter, as African migrants began pouring over the US border in the dead of winter, typically under-dressed. Refugees on the unarmed road of flight. I spoke with a young Afghan refugee named Mojtaba, back in 2016.


Old songs linger in your head, after many other memories have vanished. How it is that brains shed ordinary memories – while sparing lyrics and music – is one of neuroscience’s great mysteries. Can hardy music circuits jog cognition and speech among the elderly and disabled? Hopes are high.

Ellen Locke and Natalie Baird (David Kattenburg)

One thing is clear: singing old songs makes elderly people happy, and that’s good for their health. Here’s a story about that.

In this edition of the Green Blues Show, songs from Tommy Johnson, Magic Sam, Mansce Lipscomb and Charlie Musselwhite

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