Sunday, August 21, 2016

Why Remake Ben-Hur?

Speaking of remakes, Vox says, The new Ben-Hur remake strips an iconic story of its style, message, and purpose. "The most baffling thing about the new Ben-Hur is why it was made at all. Why remake one of Hollywood’s most enduring and iconic productions? And why remake it with director Timur Bekmambetov at the helm? The result is a remake with no guiding principle beyond mere existence."

Friday, August 19, 2016

Obamacare Hits a Bump

Paul Krugman in Obamacare Hits a Bump does a nice job explaining the current issues the program is facing, most notably about Aetna dropping out of many of the exchanges.

The story so far: Since Obamacare took full effect in January 2014, two things have happened. First, the percentage of Americans who are uninsured has dropped sharply. Second, the growth of health costs has slowed sharply, so that the law is costing both consumers and taxpayers less than expected.

Meanwhile, the bad things that were supposed to happen didn’t. Health reform didn’t cause the budget deficit to soar; it didn’t kill private-sector jobs, which have actually grown more rapidly since Obamacare went into effect than at any time since the 1990s. Evidence also is growing that the law has meant a significant improvement in both health and financial security for millions, probably tens of millions, of Americans.

Much of the new system is doing pretty well — not just the Medicaid expansion, but also private insurer-based exchanges in big states that are trying to make the law work, California in particular. The bad news mainly hits states that have small populations and/or have governments hostile to reform, where the exit of insurers may leave markets without adequate competition. That’s not the whole country, but it would be a significant setback.

But it would be quite easy to fix the system. It seems clear that subsidies for purchasing insurance, and in some cases for insurers themselves, should be somewhat bigger — an affordable proposition given that the program so far has come in under budget, and easily justified now that we know just how badly many of our fellow citizens needed coverage. There should also be a reinforced effort to ensure that healthy Americans buy insurance, as the law requires, rather than them waiting until they get sick. Such measures would go a long way toward getting things back on track.

But of course Congress is broken and Republicans are hostile to any fixes to Obamacare.

The Rise and Fall of an All-American Catchphrase: Free, White, and 21

I've never heard of this before. The Rise and Fall of an All-American Catchphrase: 'Free, White, and 21'

She was a young society woman. He was an enigmatic stranger. They’d just met at a speakeasy and as dusk set in were parked lakeside in his roadster to get better acquainted.

“You mind if we stay here a while,” he asked, “or must you go home?”

She pulled back, eyes wide, insulted.

“There are no musts in my life,” she said, “I’m free, white, and 21.”

Poor choice of words, but only because the guy was a fugitive from a chain gang. It’s right there in the title of the movie: I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932). Otherwise, neither he nor the assumed audience would have thought much more of the expression. It was a catchphrase of the decade, as blandly ubiquitous as any modern meme: a way for white America to check its own privilege and feel exhilarated rather than finding fault.

“Free, white, and 21” appeared in dozens of movies in the ’30s and ’40s, a proud assertion that positioned white privilege as the ultimate argument-stopper. The current state of contention over the existence and shape of white privilege weaves back into the story of this catchphrase: its rise, its heyday, and how it disappeared. White America learned the same lesson as the society woman saying “free, white and 21” to the fugitive: you can’t be sure to whom you are speaking. Every time a movie character uttered this phrase so casually, they were giving black America a glimpse into the real character of American democracy. Decades before it came to a head, they inadvertently fed the civil rights struggle. The solution to this problem would be quintessentially Hollywood, and thus quintessentially American—a combination of censorship and propaganda that would erase “free, white, and 21” from films, from public life, and nearly even from national memory.

Olympic Races, in Your Neighborhood

The New York Times has a very cool interactive graphic Olympic Races, in Your Neighborhood "What would Olympic races look like if they took place near you? Enter your address below to find out."

Is Donald Trump Actually Trying to Win?

There have been a number of articles on Trump's true plans given the post-RNC campaign implosion we've seen. Gruber does as good a job as anyone at summing it up. Is Donald Trump Actually Trying to Win?.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Reconstruction of the Delta Airlines Datacenter Outage

UP2V presents A reconstruction of the Delta Airlines datacenter outage .

Movie Review: Complete Unknown

I saw an early screening of Complete Unknown. I can't give it a strong recommendation, but if you do see it, I recommend going in completely blind. It's a Michael Shannon movie, that was enough for me to want to see it. Rachel Weisz is always interesting too. It's the writer/director of Maria Full of Grace which I loved.

Unfortunely, the movie is structured a bit oddly. For the first few minutes you don't really know what's going on, but you can follow it and figure out what character traits the filmmaker is trying to get across. Then there's a significant scene that's played as a mystery for no great reason (more on that later). The problem is that any description of the movie will give this mystery away. Even the one sentence IMDb blurb gives it away. Any normal person (that is not a movie freak) chooses to see a movie based on some description of it and virtually any description of this film will spoil the mystery of this scene. But it's not important to the story, the mystery is resolved shortly thereafter and the story proper continues. It's just an unnecessary and I think ill conceived choice for the film.

So, if the above is enough to make you want to see it, stop reading now. If you want to be spoiled or want to read this after seeing the film, please continue.

SPOILERS

The IMDb blurb:

As a man contemplates moving to a new state with his wife for her graduate program, an old flame - a woman who often changes identities - reenters his life at a birthday dinner party.

Weisz is thisi woman, Alice. The opening few minutes you see a few of her previous identies in quick scenes. Sometimes wordless, sometimes with dialog where you can't see her face, so it comes across as voice over. it reminded me of Beneath the Harvest Sky which had the camera follow characters so you mostly saw their backs and it was difficult for a while to figure out which character was which (or even how many there were) because you didn't see their faces. During the Q&A the director said it was deliberate to make her past more mysterious. Which is a really odd thing to want to do while introducing the character to the audience. More on that later.

So you see her meet a guy in a cafeteria, he's Tom's (Michael Shannon) co-worker. Then we go to Tom's house, we meet his wife as they're preparing for a party and ultimately we find the friend is invited and he's bringing Alice to meet his friends for the first time. For contrived reasons Tom himself is the last to arrive and stares at Alice and makes some pointed comments about her stories. The fact that he knows her, they dated and she disappeared (from him and her family) is kept as a mystery to the audience. It builds a little tension (which Shannon is great at) but it's irrelevant to the stroy.

They story is about identity. The director said so in the Q&A and it's pretty obvious from the rest of the film. So why have the first third of the movie be this mystery? Particularly one that's going to be ruined by any description of the film?

The story is this, Alice has reinvented herself many times and now feels kind of trap by these choices because it's left some holes in her life. Tom has a fine life, a great house, wonderful wife but seems trapped in a job he isn't getting enough satisfaction from, which is perhaps a more common situation. Let's compare and contrast these extremes and what happens when they bump into each other. That's an interesting story and these are good actors to dramtize it, but the film wants to walk around it.

In the Q&A we learned that the director worked out her various past lives and some moral issues in them. He hints at them in the beginning and by hint I mean shows someone in a shot before you really understand what you're seeing. And then never follows up on it. So in one of these past identies she was a stepmom and what did that mean to her? Did she know going into it that she would leave this kid? And what would that do to the kid? All interesting questions. All left out of the film. Apparently there was more of the dinner party scene which was cut where the characters debated some aspects of identity, which is the point of the film. Instead he choose to spend time on her current odd profession, a biologist studying a new species of frog. In the last act we see frogs croaking for almost a full minute. Yup.

And then there's a part of the Q&A that made the movie worse for me. I'm going to spoil most of the ending here. Tom and his wife Ramina (Azita Ghanizada) are debating a big life choice (it's in the IMDb blurb). Obviously spending time with Alice has influenced his decision. At the end, he returns to Ramina and starts to talk about his decision (though he's treated her badly all night so he had other things he should have explained first). So he walks in, she's sitting in a chair in the living room, he sits on the coffee table in front of her and says I've been thinking... I was thinking to myself, "don't cut to black". The film didn't, but it did cut to Weisz and then ends. Now it was clear to me as to what Shannon had chosen. When asked in the Q&A the director said he "didn't think it was ambiguous" but it was a taste choice, he'd rather the audience have to work a little to be more engaged with the film.

I'm sorry, you can't have it both ways. If it's not ambiguous then the audience isn't working for it. If it's not stated then there is some ambiguity in the scene. And I think it's just lazy. Sure I can assume what he says, but I can sit at home and assume a story. I came to the movies to see a story, one that the filmmaker worked hard to create. Write the scene and show me Michael Shannon having a difficult conversation with his wife about a big life decision. That would be drama (particularly because she has reason to be angry with him) and it would be interesting and it would probably be better than I could imagine, because Michael fucking Shannon doesn't come to my home and act out the stories I imagine.

Don't leave out the climax of your film, write amazing dialog and dramatize your story. And don't waste time in your film telling a different story than the one you're trying to tell.

A Few Links

Here are some tech related articles I've liked recently

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Stop and frisk’s end didn’t cause a crime wave in New York City — a big win for reform

Last week Vox wrote, Stop and frisk’s end didn’t cause a crime wave in New York City — a big win for reform. "On Monday, the New York Daily News editorial board acknowledged that the end of ‘stop and frisk’ — the aggressive, controversial policing practice that New York City police previously used to stop, question, and frisk mostly innocent people on the street — did not lead to an increase in crime. The editorial board previously warned that a court’s ruling striking down stop and frisk as unconstitutional would lead to the end of a decades-long crime decline in New York City."

"The New York Daily News’s admission isn’t noteworthy just because an editorial board sucked up its pride and admitted it was wrong but also because it shows the potential win-win to policing reforms."

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The real reason Matt Damon was brought in to save ancient China

The Washington Post has a surprisingly long article explaining The real reason Matt Damon was brought in to save ancient China.

Despite Damon’s prominent appearance, the nuts and bolts of "The Great Wall" are more Chinese than perhaps any major co-production between the United States and China has been before. Within China, the movie is being hailed as the first of its kind to be made by a major Chinese director, backed by a Chinese-owned Hollywood studio and featuring Chinese historical themes. And if successful, it could mark a step forward for the influence of the Chinese film industry around the world.

Creating a film that captures audiences in both China and the United States has been a Holy Grail for the global film industry — often sought after, and rarely achieved. In part, this is due to the strict requirements for movies in China. To protect its nascent film industry, China limits the number of foreign films that theaters can show each year. But foreign films can gain guaranteed access to China’s lucrative market by applying to be official U.S.-China co-productions, in which Chinese and American entities work together to create a film. The sought-after designation means the film will be shown in Chinese movie theaters, and it gives American studios a larger share of the box office take. But in return, the film must typically feature Chinese actors, be at least partially shot in China, and follow China’s strict restrictions on content, including censoring any material that portrays the Chinese government, police or army in a negative light.

But the Chinese and Hollywood studios backing “The Great Wall” are hoping that their formula will finally crack the code. The film, backed by Universal Pictures and others, features a large cast of famous Chinese actors, including megastar Andy Lau, actress Jing Tian and boy-band heartthrob Wang Junkai. It is directed by Zhang Yimou, perhaps China’s most famous filmmaker. It prominently features an aspect of China that is also known around the world: the Great Wall. And it is being produced by Legendary Entertainment, a Hollywood studio that was acquired by the Chinese company Dalian Wanda earlier this year, the first time a major American production company has come under Chinese control.

Director Zhang Yimou spoke out to defend “The Great Wall” against charges of whitewashing late last week. "In many ways 'The Great Wall' is the opposite of what is being suggested. For the first time, a film deeply rooted in Chinese culture, with one of the largest Chinese casts ever assembled, is being made at tent pole scale for a world audience." He added, "Matt Damon is not playing a role that was originally conceived for a Chinese actor.”

How Sergei Eisenstein Used Montage To Film The Unfilmable

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Rio 2016: Photos From Days 4-6

In Focus with Rio 2016: Photos From Days 4 through 6 "Hundreds of photographers have gathered in Rio to follow the action in the Olympic arenas, swimming pools, racetracks, and more. Over the next two weeks I’ll be featuring some amazing images from recent Olympic events. Today’s entry encompasses cycling, archery, volleyball, weightlifting, diving, sailing, judo, a passing capybara, and much more."

Main 1500 500

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Republicans’ Big Gerrymander Could Backfire in a Major Way

John Gastil in Monkey Cage thinks The Republicans’ big gerrymander could backfire in a major way

After the 2010 Census, the Republican Party put in motion its plan to redraw congressional districts more favorable to conservative candidates. Whereas bipartisan gerrymandering creates safe districts for both parties, the GOP undertook partisan gerrymandering, which packs the other party’s voters into as few districts as possible and spreads out the gerrymandering party’s voters across many districts, each of which that party can win but often by uncomfortably narrow margins.

If the Trump collapse and Clinton surge continue, they could reveal the perils of partisan redistricting. That strategy created so many marginal Republican districts that if the GOP loses the bulk of the seats at or below R+2, it would also lose its congressional majority. A catastrophe that claimed every GOP seat at or below R+4 would bring the GOP caucus close to the size of today’s House Democrats.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Get Ready for the 2016 Perseids

Universe Today says Get Ready for the 2016 Perseids "The 2016 Perseids present a few challenges, though persistent observers should still see a descent show. The Perseids are typically active from July 17th to August 24th, with the peak arriving this year right around 13:00 to 15:30 Universal Time on Friday, August 12th. This will place the radiant for the Perseids high in the sky after local midnight for observers in the northern Pacific, though observers worldwide should be vigilant over the next week. Meteor showers don’t read predictions and prognostications, and an arrival of the peak just a few hours early would place North America in the cross-hairs this coming Friday. The Perseids typically produce an average Zenithal Hourly Rate of 60-200 per hour, and the International Meteor Organization predicts a ZHR of 150 for 2016."

So for me, I'll be out after midnight Thursday night.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Olympics 2016 in Rio

In Focus shows Rio 2016: Photos From the First Weekend "Hundreds of photographers have gathered in Rio to follow the action in the Olympic arenas, swimming pools, racetracks, and more. Over the next two weeks I’ll be featuring some amazing images from recent Olympic events. Today’s entry encompasses fencing, basketball, handball, swimming, diving, eventing, table tennis, archery, and much more."

There are a number of phenomenal photos. I think this is my favorite:

Main 1500 500

I've been watching the Olympics all weekend. I have the TiVo set to record everything and I'm watching through. I skip the common sports, soccer, tennis, basketball, boxing, I can watch them anytime and I'm not particularly interested in them throughout the year, so I have no interest during the Olympics. But I enjoy watching the unusual sports every four years. So I'm recording three channels and skimming lots and finding what interests me.

Swimming is fun, but there are too many variations (distance, stroke, relay, etc.) and too many heats in each. I'm about reaching my fill, but it's fun to see how many medals Ledecki and Phelps can rack up.

Gymnastics is just amazing to watch what these people can do, and how dominant the US women are. I'm still looking forward to seeing more.

For me this year, I'm surprised that I'm really enjoying Team Handball. I didn't know much about it and I remember not being interested in previous years, but it seems to be perfectly constructed for watching a team put a thing in a goal. It's kinda like water polo on land, but that means you can see all the action. It's played on a court about twice the size of a basketball court, so the camera can show a whole half at once letting you see strategy but all individuals (unlike soccer). It's fast but not too fast so the camera isn't chasing the puck like in ice hockey. There's about a score a minute so that way more interesting than soccer and not too frequent like in basketball where only the end matters. Players are still really happy when they score, it's not rote like basketball. The goal isn't too big but goalies seem to be about 35% effective in making a stop, so it's rare but exciting if they do. A game is an hour, in two halves. The clock runs for each half, stopping only for injuries or to clean the court, and timeout are limited, so there's no end of game annoyance as in basketball. And there's no odd equipment like in field hockey where everyone runs bent over. I haven't figured out the rules but there's more contact than basketball and less than in ice hockey. I've seen two women's games and the Brazilians are particularly fun to watch. I've seen one men's game and it didn't quite have the same feel.

Equestrian has been my least favorite, particularly the dressage. The cross country was entertaining for a horse or two.

I'm liking indoor volleyball more than beach volleyball. In the latter they need more players on the court. They have too much ground to cover and the rallies are too short, it's very rare to see a point with more than two net crossings.

Table tennis at this level is just crazy to watch. It's interesting that there are so many different styles and all seem competitive at this level. I don't remember seeing a "tomahawk serve" before. On the other hand judo and fencing seem like the sports equivalents of pure breeding going too far. There are lots of common actions but to score a point you have to do in such a particular way that the participants don't know what happened until asking the judge. If the fencing were real, both parties would be stabbed and one a microsecond before the other.

Then there are the specific skill sports like weight lifting, archery and shooting that are definitely fun in small doses. NBC needs to do better at showing a camera angle that shows the distance they're shooting from and the (in the case of shooting ridiculously) tiny targets they're hitting.

Fun stuff.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Joe Scarborough Claims Trump Asked About Using Nuclear Weapons Three Times in a Briefing

I'm no fan of Joe Scarborough but I saw a tweet this morning pointing to this segment from today's show:

"A foreign policy expert, international level, went to advise Donald Trump, and three times he asked about the use of nuclear weapons. Three times he asked at one point, 'if we have them, why can't we use them?' ... Three times in an hour briefing why can't we use nuclear weapons."

It struck me as an odd thing to throw in as an aside, particularly from an anonymous source that apparently happened several months ago. I have all the same questions as the Washington Post, I have a few questions for ‘Morning Joe’…:

  1. Exactly when did you find out about this information?
  2. Was this conversation with your source off the record?
  3. Who was the expert?!
  4. How do you feel about your show’s take on Trump in 2015?

This is a frightful claim, intended to scare us (and make news) and it's completely unsourced and vague. It's bad journalism. It's not like there aren't real ways to knock Trump, there's no need to make stuff up, but you have to have evidence.

Remakes Better Than the Originals

Following on from Monday's post here are movie remakes that are better than the originals. I'm not counting remakes into a different language, that would be far too many films. I'm also not counting made-for-TV versions.

I probably shouldn't count remakes of a silent film into a talkie, that strikes me as huge shift in the medium, but I'm leaving them in and have marked the four affected films.

  • 1932 Tarzan the Ape Man - from silent
  • 1938 Wizard of Oz - from silent
  • 1940 His Girl Friday
  • 1941 The Maltese Falcon
  • 1954 A Star Is Born
  • 1956 The Man Who Knew Too Much
  • 1956 The Ten Commandments - from silent
  • 1957 An Affair to Remember
  • 1959 Ben-Hur - from silent
  • 1968 Romeo and Juliet
  • 1982 The Thing
  • 1986 The Fly
  • 1986 Little Shop of Horrors
  • 1988 Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
  • 1995 Heat
  • 1999 The Thomas Crown Affair
  • 2001 Ocean's Eleven
  • 2002 The Quiet American
  • 2005 Batman Begins
  • 2007 3:10 to Yuma
  • 2012 Dredd

I'm not sure any of these belong here, but I've seen them argued on several lists.

  • 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers
  • 1979 Nosferatu the Vampyre
  • 1983 Scarface
  • 1991 Cape Fear
  • 1996 Ransom
  • 2000 Gone in Sixty Seconds
  • 2003 Freaky Friday
  • 2003 The Italian Job
  • 2004 Dawn of the Dead
  • 2007 I Am Legend
  • 2010 True Grit

Okay, what am I missing or wrong about?

Trump's Appetite for Destruction: How Disastrous Convention Doomed GOP

Matt Taibbi writes in Rolling Stone about the RNC, Trump's Appetite for Destruction: How Disastrous Convention Doomed GOP. It's standard Taibbi fun. First he imagines an RNC that would have been ridiculously entertaining:

It wasn't what we expected. We thought Donald Trump's version of the Republican National Convention would be a brilliantly bawdy exercise in Nazistic excess. We expected thousand-foot light columns, a 400-piece horn section where the delegates usually sit (they would be in cages out back with guns to their heads). Onstage, a chorus line of pageant girls in gold bikinis would be twerking furiously to a techno version of "New York, New York" while an army of Broadway dancers spent all four days building a Big Beautiful Wall that read winning, the ceremonial last brick timed to the start of Donald's acceptance speech...

Then he explains how the media will now cover Trump:

Thanks to Trump, we in the media can no longer cast politics as a sports story, because the illusion that both sides have a compelling chance at victory is now a tougher sell. Instead, we will sell it as a freak show, a tent full of bearded ladies and pinheads at which to gape. Next to sports, freak shows are what the media do best, so it'll be an easy switch. Shows like Anderson Cooper 360° will become high-tech versions of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo or The Biggest Loser, destinations for Americans to tune in for a bit to feel superior to the mutants debasing themselves onscreen.

Finally he outlines what Trump should have done:

Of course, the Republicans blew the one chance they had to save themselves. They could have turned the internal discord to their advantage and held an open convention of ideas, dispensing with the pretense of unity and presenting themselves instead as a big enough tent to embrace and accept many different viewpoints.

Trump should have invited his fiercest critics, the Mike Lees and George Wills of the world, to come onstage and explain why they so fervently disagreed with his tactics and rhetoric. He even should have stopped short of demanding endorsements from all of them. A smart Donald Trump – such a thing is difficult to imagine, but let's say – would have given his opponents a forum to just whale away at him, even removing time constraints. It would have helped make Trump look more like presidential material.

And this would have accomplished two other things.

First, and most important, it would have rescued the immediate future of the party in the highly likely event that Trump goes on to lose in November.

The Republican leadership from Ryan on down could have walked away from this convention with their pseudo-dignity intact, having spoken out against Trump's more naked and vulgar form of racism, standing instead on the principle of a more covert, more subterranean, more dog-whistle-y form of race politics – you know, like Mitt Romney lecturing the NAACP about black people wanting "free stuff."

Second, it would have made for a fascinating run-up to Trump's final address. Here was a man famous for being so thin-skinned that he stays up at night tweeting insults at judges and editors of New Hampshire newspapers, giving the world's biggest stage to his critics.

Then he could have ascended the podium on the concluding night and delivered his apocalyptic argument, which he'd describe as believing in so strongly he stacked it up against his fiercest critics. And he'd have plenty of fodder to swing back at, with decades of Republican inaction, corruption and failure to save American jobs to use in service of his case for a radical change of leadership.

The RNC should just hire him for next time. They'll have a lot of openings.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Sharp differences over who is hurt, helped by their race

Pew Research Center reports Sharp differences over who is hurt, helped by their race "Black and white Americans have profoundly different views on racial equality, and a new survey finds they also differ on the extent to which a person’s race can be a burden or a benefit. For blacks, the answer is clear: 65% say ‘it is a lot more difficult to be black in this country than it is to be white.’ Fewer than half as many whites (27%) agree."

NewImage

The difference in views between Hillary and Trump supports is stark.

NewImage

Only 9% of America Chose Trump and Clinton as the Nominees

The New York Times puts things in perspective, Only 9% of America Chose Trump and Clinton as the Nominees. I don't know why this is interactive instead of a single static graph. I wish this version showed the point, "103 million of them are children, noncitizens or ineligible felons, and they do not have the right to vote."

Sequels Better than the Original

I've been meaning to make this list for a while and it came up again last night. Sequels are usually not better than the original, but sometimes they are. Here's a list ordered by year of the sequel. I'm open to suggestions and criticisms. I'll follow this up with other variations (remakes better than original and series where the best one is one of the later films).

  • 1934 Tarzan and His Mate
  • 1935 Bride of Frankenstein
  • 1963 From Russia With Love
  • 1964 A Shot in the Dark
  • 1974 The Godfather Part II
  • 1978 Dawn of the Dead
  • 1980 The Empire Strikes Back
  • 1981 Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
  • 1982 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  • 1987 Evil Dead II
  • 1991 Silence of the Lambs
  • 1991 Terminator 2: Judgement Day
  • 1993 The Wrong Trousers
  • 1995 Desperado
  • 1999 Toy Story 2
  • 2003 Oldboy
  • 2003 X-Men 2
  • 2004 Spider-Man 2
  • 2008 The Dark Knight
  • 2013 Hunger Games: Catching Fire
  • 2014 Captain America: The Winter Soldier

These are arguably better (well I've seen arguments at least)

  • 1979 Aliens
  • 1980 Superman II
  • 1985 Rambo: First Blood Part II

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Trump Bullshits on Ukraine

ThinkProgress stating the obvious: Trump Appears To Be Ignorant of a Major International Conflict.

Asked about the scrubbing of pro-Ukrainian language from the Republican platform, Trump offered up a word salad in which he seemed unaware that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been meddling in Ukrainian politics for years.

‘[Putin’s] not going into Ukraine, okay, just so you understand. He’s not going to go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down. You can put it down. You can take it anywhere you want,’ Trump said.

Stephanopoulos pushed back, reminding Trump that Putin’s ‘already there, isn’t he?’ Trump quickly changed the topic to Obama bashing.

‘Okay — well, he’s there in a certain way. But I’m not there. You have Obama there,’ Trump said. ‘And frankly, that whole part of the world is a mess under Obama with all the strength that you’re talking about and all of the power of NATO and all of this. In the meantime, he’s going away. He takes Crimea.’"

We have 99 days left of increased scrutiny on Trumps knowledge, abilities and past. This should be fun (at least it had better be).

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The ‘Smoking Gun’ Proving North Carolina Republicans Tried To Disenfranchise Black Voters

The Washington Post reports on The ‘smoking gun’ proving North Carolina Republicans tried to disenfranchise black voters.

In particular, the court found that North Carolina lawmakers requested data on racial differences in voting behaviors in the state. 'This data showed that African Americans disproportionately lacked the most common kind of photo ID, those issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV),' the judges wrote.

So the legislators made it so that the only acceptable forms of voter identification were the ones disproportionately used by white people. 'With race data in hand, the legislature amended the bill to exclude many of the alternative photo IDs used by African Americans,' the judges wrote. 'The bill retained only the kinds of IDs that white North Carolinians were more likely to possess.'

The data also showed that black voters were more likely to make use of early voting — particularly the first seven days out of North Carolina's 17-day voting period. So lawmakers eliminated these seven days of voting. 'After receipt of this racial data, the General Assembly amended the bill to eliminate the first week of early voting, shortening the total early voting period from seventeen to ten days,' the court found.

Most strikingly, the judges point to a 'smoking gun' in North Carolina's justification for the law, proving discriminatory intent. The state argued in court that 'counties with Sunday voting in 2014 were disproportionately black' and 'disproportionately Democratic,' and said it did away with Sunday voting as a result.

'Thus, in what comes as close to a smoking gun as we are likely to see in modern times, the State’s very justification for a challenged statute hinges explicitly on race — specifically its concern that African Americans, who had overwhelmingly voted for Democrats, had too much access to the franchise,' the judges write in their decision.

Evidently we all knew this would happen except for John Roberts.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Let's all say goodbye to the Philae comet lander, which we'll never hear from again

The Verge recommends Let's all say goodbye to the Philae comet lander, which we'll never hear from again "There’s still some time left before Europe’s Rosetta mission comes to an end in September, but it’s already time to say goodbye to the mission’s Philae lander — the first spacecraft ever to touch down on a comet. Tomorrow at 5AM ET, the European Space Agency will switch off the Electrical Support System Processor Unit (ESS) on the Rosetta spacecraft, which is currently orbiting around the comet that Philae landed on. The ESS is the system Rosetta uses to communicate with Philae, but researchers need to power it down to prepare for the end of the mission. Once it’s off, there will be no way for the two spacecraft to talk to each other."