Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Conservative Intellectual Crisis

David Brooks has rarely been right about anything. Now that everyone is wondering what will happen to the Republican party after the election, on Friday he optimistically joined in The Conservative Intellectual Crisis. Zack Beauchamp in Vox wrote about how he completely missed the elephant in the room, David Brooks says conservatism has failed, but he misses the biggest reason: race.

Space Station Fisheye Fly-Through 4K (Ultra HD)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Today's Apple Announcements

I watched the Apple event today and I'm a bit underwhelmed.

They started talking about iPhones which was annoying because even during the recent iPhone event people wanted to hear about new macs. Now the mac event had to share time with iPhones. Then they announced a new TV app for Apple TV which brings a unified TV experience to all your devices because there's also an iPhone and iPad app. All your devices except your macs.

So a half hour into their mac event they finally announced new MacBook Pros which were overdue. So the new model is thinner and lighter, no surprise. The screen is a bit better, so are the speakers, okay. It's got a giant touch pad and I wonder if it leaves enough room to rest your palms. It has replaced all the ports with four Thunderbolt 3 ports (which physically are USB-C ports). It's nice that any of them can be a power connection, but magsafe is gone and you're gonna need a bunch of dongles. Also nice is it's SSD only, no HDs. The 15" comes with a base 512GB SSD and 1TB is $400 more while 2TB is $1,200 more!

The big feature is a new TouchBar which replaces the row of function keys. It's basically an iPod Touch at the top of the keyboard that's half the height of a key. It's retina color screen and it changes functions depending on the app you're using. So it can show emojis or shortcuts, or photos to scroll through, or the old function keys or media keys. I wonder if Safari will have a "Do you want to upgrade Flash Player" button on the TouchBar?

As a touch typist who knows keyboard shortcuts (and also a Quicksilver user) I’m not sure I’d use it. I don't look at keys when I type and these keys always change. I know many people don't learn shortcuts like command-B to bold text and maybe this is for them. But since the keys change with context, how do you change the volume while editing a video? Don’t those buttons just go away?

And do I want to scroll through a small row of emjoi looking at the keyboard instead of looking at a big grid of them on that giant 15" screen right in front of my eyes? Even the space limited iPhone replaces the keyboard with a bigger list of emoji. Why not put a screen on the new double sized Force Touch Pad? The Touch Pad doesn't have taptic feedback, at least the Touch Pad would (and you'd still have a row of physical keys).

And I suspect all the Windows users are saying, well we have a touch screen on our laptops, so we can just touch our video editing controls. I get that for a desktop machine like an iMac a touch screen would be awkward (though Microsoft yesterday announced a neat way to do it), but I'm not sure that's the case in a laptop (given the examples they demo'ed today).

The one really nice addition is that the Touch Bar includes Touch ID so you can do Apple Pay and login to your account with just a fingerprint.

It's rather a huge disappointment that they didn't say anything about new iMacs or MacPros today. I wonder if a TouchBar will come to their keyboards? Apple recently (a year ago?) announced new keyboards for those machines and they didn't even include a number pad. Then again, maybe the real estate restrictions are too much for a desktop. I'd rather have the TouchBar software run on an iPhone or iPad next to the desktop machine. They didn't say anything about that either.

At the end of the event they said the new MacBook Pro supersedes the $999 13" MacBook Air in every way. It's thinner, just as light, faster, has more connectors, etc. It's also starts at $500 more and that's without a TouchBar. And while the 12" MacBook is the modern low end, it's $1299. So Apple is still selling the Air.

They should refresh the MacBook with a faster CPU (though I'm guessing they can't put the Intel i processors in a fanless case) and better screen with their new wide color gamut tech and update to the newest bluetooth and new butterfly keyboard tech. If they made a 14" version I think it would be perfect for a lot of people.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Debunking the Patriot Act as It Turns 15

The Electronic Frontier Foundation on Debunking the Patriot Act as It Turns 15. “In honor of the law’s 15th anniversary, here are 15 things you might not know about the Patriot Act.”

House Republicans are already preparing for ‘years’ of investigations of Clinton

The Washington Post reports House Republicans are already preparing for ‘years’ of investigations of Clinton

Jason Chaffetz, the Utah congressman wrapping up his first term atop the powerful House Oversight Committee, unendorsed Donald Trump weeks ago. That freed him up to prepare for something else: spending years, come January, probing the record of a President Hillary Clinton.

“She’s not getting a clean slate,” he said. “It’s not like the State Department was bending over backwards to help us understand what was going on. We’ve got document destruction. We’ve got their own rogue system. We’ve got classified information out the door. We’ve got their foundation doing who knows what. I mean, it took them four years just to release her schedule.”

Sigh. I always get annoyed when I hear things about how Washington doesn’t work and both sides are the problem. After a Senate feels that presidents don’t get to nominate Supreme Court justices for 25% of their term (and McCain suggested maybe not for any of their term), now it seems a Republican House is ready to revestigate stuff they’ve already investigated 8 times.

Look, oversight is important, but these are obviously partisan witch hunts. It’s a demonstration that it’s not just Donald Trump who’s not willing to accept the results of an election but the Republican Congress as well. Sure the parties are supposed to “compete” but they also have to actually govern and every poll and congressional approval rating shows that the American people are sick of Congress not being able to do that.

“Republicans are pretending like they haven’t been investigating Secretary Clinton for years ever since she announced that she was running for president, including everything from Benghazi to emails to the Clinton Foundation,” Cummings said in a statement. “It’s no exaggeration to say that on the first day Secretary Clinton walks into the White House, Republicans will have already investigated her more than any other president in history.”

Software Error Implicated in Crash of Mars Lander

Software Error Implicated in Crash of Mars Lander

Unlike the doomed Beagle 2 mission that was lost in 2003, Schiaparelli transmitted its status data to its mother ship—the Trace Gas Orbiter—during its descent. As reported in Nature News, an early look at the data points to a series of cascading software errors as the reason for the botched landing.

By all accounts the descent started well, with the lander decelerating rapidly as it brushed up against the Martian atmosphere, eventually deploying its parachute as planned. But things began to go squirrely just prior to the five-minute mark of the planned six-minute descent.

For reasons that are still a mystery, the lander ejected both its heat shield and parachute way ahead of schedule. Schiaparelli then engaged its thrusters for a painfully brief three-second burst—a procedure that was supposed to last for 30 seconds once the lander was just a few feet off the ground. The lander’s onboard computer, it would appear, seems to have thought it was close to the surface. Indeed, Schiaparelli even took the time to switch on some of its instruments, including tools to record the planet’s weather and electrical field.

The sad reality is that Schiaparelli was still somewhere between 1.25 to 2.5 miles above the surface when this happened, falling at a rate of about 185 mph (300 km/h). It struck the ground with tremendous force, resulting in an explosion—and a brand new surface feature."

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau constitutional? The D.C. Circuit says no. Here’s why.

Andrew Rudalevige writes Is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau constitutional? The D.C. Circuit says no. Here’s why. It’s a nice history lesson of Supreme Court decisions on something that seems so obvious, can the president fire appointees?, but like many things is more complex the more you look into it.

Toddlers Have Shot at Least 50 People This Year

WonkBlog explains, Toddlers have shot at least 50 people this year. Last night, “Clinton was referring here to a less-discussed aspect of [D.C. v. Heller] that also overturned a requirement that firearms like shotguns and rifles be unloaded and disassembled or trigger-locked while stored at home.”

“In 2015, there were 58 shootings committed by toddlers, or more than one every week. The drumbeat of tragic shootings involving children barely able to walk has continued unabated this year. Since Jan. 1, there have been 51 shootings involving toddlers in the United States. ”

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“So far this year, at least 538 children under the age of 12 have been killed or injured by gunfire, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit that tallies data on shootings.”

A Deal That Never Happened

I haven’t paid that much attention to the Clinton email WikiLeaks dump. I figure if something big comes out of it I’ll hear about it. Instead most of it all seems like pretty reasonable things that a few outlets are making a big deal out of when they shouldn’t. This is a typical example, goes into details on A Deal That Never Happened.

Donald Trump is making false and grossly inflated claims about an alleged ‘quid pro quo’ between the State Department and the FBI regarding one of Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Trump insists in campaign appearances that newly released documents show that a State Department official offered a deal to the FBI if it would declassify one of Clinton’s emails, and that this reveals ‘how corrupt she is.’

What the FBI documents actually show is that:

  • A deal was first suggested by a now-retired FBI official — not anyone at State — and he quickly dropped it.
  • The FBI-State deal never happened. The sentence remains classified as ‘Secret’ as the FBI wanted, and the FBI didn’t get the added agents in Iraq that it wanted State to approve.

Furthermore, our reporting shows the deal would have involved one short sentence in a single email that was forwarded to Clinton, then secretary of state, regarding arrests of suspects in the Benghazi attacks of Sept. 11, 2012.

But to hear Trump describe it, this amounts to a massive, illegal cover-up."

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Why Democrats have no "Freedom Caucus"

A month ago Matt Grossmann and David A. Hopkins explain in Polyarchy Why Democrats have no “Freedom Caucus”. It’s a weak title but this is the least partisan and best explanation of the differences of the parties I’ve seen. Here’s the intro:

In our new book, Asymmetric Politics: Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats, we explain why the congressional parties have come to behave so differently. Because the Republican Party is defined by its adherence to the symbolic cause of conservatism, Republican officeholders pledge fidelity to a set of abstract values.

In eras when conservatives largely agree about how their ideological commitments are best advanced in practice, the party appears relatively unified and harmonious. When significant internal disputes arise — a regular occurrence during the Obama presidency — they tend to take the form of accusations from one faction of Republicans that their fellow partisans have betrayed conservative principles.

The Democratic Party, in contrast, has consistently maintained the character of a coalition of social groups more preoccupied with pragmatically seeking concrete benefits from government than with advancing a larger ideological cause. Disagreements among Democrats tend to divide the interests of one group or set of groups from another.

In previous decades, when the coalition included white Southerners and conservative Catholics as well as racial minorities and left-leaning intellectuals, forging compromise was a particularly difficult task for the Democratic leadership. Today, the constituent elements of the coalition are more mutually compatible in their policy preferences, although party leaders must still work to satisfy the policy priorities of each group without the ability to appeal to a common ideological commitment.

They point out that restoring earmarks won’t help because the ideologues will still fight.

Congressional term limits are a bad idea

In Vox, Lee Drutman explains why Congressional term limits are a bad idea.

Since 15 states do have term limits, we actually can know something about their effects. And the political science literature here is pretty unequivocal. Term limits are the surest way to weaken the legislative branch and empower the executive branch. Term limits are also a great way to empower special interests and lobbyists. Basically, what term limits do is shift power toward those who are there for the long haul.

This result has been replicated multiple times. In one study, a post-term-limits respondent said that after term limits, “agencies [do] what they want to. [One bureaucrat told me] we were here when you got here, and we’ll be here when you’re gone.” As the authors of this study note, “Legislative oversight is the venue of specialists. A term-limited legislature tends to be populated by generalists, who lack the accumulated knowledge to exercise oversight effectively, if they even recognize it as their responsibility.”

Term limits also strengthen the power of lobbyists and interest groups for the same reason. In term-limited states, lawmakers and their staff have less time to build up expertise, since they are there for a limited time. But like the executive agencies of the state government, lobbyists and interest groups are also there year after year. They are the true repeat players building long-term relationships and the true keepers of the institutional knowledge. This gives them power.

I forget where but I heard recently that 50% of the House is under 6 years and 70% of the Senate is under 12 years, the numbers that Trump recently suggested.

GOP vs Democracy

John Scalzi wrote about Trump, the GOP, and the Fall. He’s got a really fun beginning.

At this point there is no doubt that Donald Trump is the single worst major party presidential candidate in living memory, almost certainly the worst since the Civil War, and arguably the worst in the history of this nation. He is boastful and ignorant and petty, disdainful of the Constitution, a racist and a sexist, the enabler of the worst elements of society, either the willing tool of, or the useful idiot for, Vladimir Putin, an admirer of despots, an insecure braggart, a sexual assaulter, a man who refuses to honor contracts, and a bore.

He is, in sum, just about the biggest asshole in all of the United States of America. He’s lucky that Syrian dictator Bashar Hafez al-Assad is out there keeping him from taking the global title, not that he wouldn’t try for that, too, should he become president. It’s appalling that he is the standard bearer for one of the two major political parties in the United States. It’s appalling that he is a candidate for the presidency at all.

But note well: Donald Trump is not a black swan, an unforeseen event erupting upon an unsuspecting Republican Party. He is the end result of conscious and deliberate choices by the GOP, going back decades, to demonize its opponents, to polarize and obstruct, to pursue policies that enfeeble the political weal and to yoke the bigot and the ignorant to their wagon and to drive them by dangling carrots that they only ever intended to feed to the rich. Trump’s road to the candidacy was laid down and paved by the Southern Strategy, by Lee Atwater and Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove, by Fox News and the Tea Party, and by the smirking cynicism of three generations of GOP operatives, who have been fracking the white middle and working classes for years, crushing their fortunes with their social and economic policies, never imagining it would cause an earthquake.

Here’s the main point:

But they don’t control Trump, which they are currently learning to their great misery. And the reason the GOP doesn’t control Trump is that they no longer control their base. The GOP trained their base election cycle after election cycle to be disdainful of government and to mistrust authority, which ultimately is an odd thing for a political party whose very rationale for existence is rooted in the concept of governmental authority to do. The GOP created a monster, but the monster isn’t Trump. The monster is the GOP’s base. Trump is the guy who stole their monster from them, for his own purposes.

Chatherine Rampell wrote in The Washington Post, When the facts don’t matter, how can democracy survive?.

But this anti-intellectual, ignore-the-data attitude mostly owes its growth to a careless, conspiracy-theorizing league of (mostly) conservative politicians and pundits. They elevated themselves by sowing distrust in traditional institutions and sources of authority, from the media to civil servants to scientists. They presented themselves as the sole truth-tellers, system de-riggers and messianic statistics unskewers, while maintaining that everyone else was feeding the public lies.

Today, some of these same message-bearers are the victims of their own success. The most prominent right-wing media outlet, Fox News, has been attacked by even more right-wing media outlets for supposedly conspiring against Trump. Fox News’s own polls, for example, stand accused of pro-Clinton skewing.

The problem with elevating yourself by tearing down the existing authoritative institutions is that once you succeed, you’ve established a road map for others to tear you down, too. There will always be someone waiting in the wings with an even juicier conspiracy theory, an even zanier hidden truth, an even more intricate data-unskewing method — and there’s no longer any authority left to debunk any of it. This is how a democracy crumbles: not with a bang, but with data trutherism.

A couple of months ago Richard Wolffe wrote in The Guardian The GOP tried to sink Obama. Instead, the party imploded.

Obama’s biggest threat was that he could realign American politics, shifting it fundamentally towards progressives for a generation. He and his campaign aides talked privately of being the Reagan of the left: a transformative figure who would leave an indelible legislative mark at home and restore America’s position on the world stage.

So the GOP leadership chose to make Obama unacceptable, unpalatable and un-American. On the night of his first inauguration, House Republican leaders met at a Washington steakhouse to plot their path back to power. They would not reform their policies or consider the root cause of their defeat. Instead, they would oppose Obama on everything, well before he tried to pass a giant stimulus bill or healthcare reform.

They needed to deny him a reputation for bipartisanship and mainstream politics, and they succeeded. He wasn’t reasonable; he was an ideologue. His vision of healthcare reform wasn’t a free-market system based on Republican plans; it was a socialist takeover that would destroy the American way of life. He was inviting terrorist attacks on the homeland, not hunting down Osama bin Laden. He was acting in unconstitutional ways because he wasn’t really American at all.

And a couple of months before John McCain says he’ll vote against any Hillary Supreme Court nominee, Wolffe suggests:

This should lead to some serious soul-searching inside the Republican party. Not a post-mortem about how to reach out to Latino voters, but a dismantling of the politics of personal destruction, and the creation of a new, hopeful agenda that can appeal to the mainstream. Instead, the only point of unity inside the GOP is its gleeful hatred of Hillary Clinton, and its thinly veiled disdain for a nominee who has yet to find a politician he can’t insult.

Jennifer Victor writes in Mischiefs of Faction on Vox, The chaos in the GOP reveals the flaw in democracy we don’t usually see.

The chaos in the Republican Party we now observe is a natural byproduct of competing majorities. At this late stage in the game, the party lacks an institutional mechanism that would force stability, or coordination, in the party over its nominee. The party failed to coordinate on a candidate that might provide the appearance of a stable majority.

Democracy can only enact the “will of the people” if the will exists. What we’re seeing from Republicans is a classic preference cycle. There is no single majority preference among the members of the party; rather, there are different majorities that prefer different outcomes. At this late stage in the presidential campaign, we lack institutions that limit our ability to observe different majorities, and the result is chaos.

For some good news, Nancy LeTourneau talks about How Big Is Clinton’s Lead? “This race isn’t nearly as close as 2012 and – as we’ve pointed out before – Trump has never led the race at any point. But there is something else this chart demonstrates. When pundits report that this has been a remarkably stable race, it is true that Trump has always captured about 42% of the vote. But look at what is happening to Clinton’s numbers recently. There is a clear upswing that puts her average very close to 50%.”

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Stop waiting for a big breakthrough on climate change. This is what we’ll get instead.

Brad Plumer writes in Vox, Stop waiting for a big breakthrough on climate change. This is what we’ll get instead. “Global warming can sometimes feel like this big, hopelessly intractable problem that no one’s doing much about. But the first two weeks of October have seen a genuinely impressive barrage of climate action around the world.”

  1. Canada got a carbon tax.
  2. The Paris climate deal went into effect.
  3. A new global deal on aviation emissions.
  4. A new global deal to phase out HFCs.

“If we’re going to solve global warming, it will probably look like that. There will never be one dramatic moment you can point to and say, “Aha! There’s the turning point.” Instead, countries will plug away at small issues, like HFCs, or aviation, or when to hold the next UN Paris meeting, and build momentum over time. As Johannes Urpelainen of Columbia University once put it, we’re going to have to “dream big, win small.””

Monday, October 17, 2016

UK admits it spied illegally for 17 years, is sorry, won't stop

The Verge reports UK admits it spied illegally for 17 years, is sorry, won't stop

The ruling has both good news and bad news for British spies. First, the bad news: the court found that, between 1998 and the tail end of 2015, GCHQ’s bulk collection program was conducted in brazen defiance of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Parliament never approved the program as legal, despite several opportunities to do so.

The good news is that last November — years after the initial Snowden disclosures and months after the Privacy International lawsuit was filed — the GCHQ’s bulk collection program was changed to include more disclosure on the underlying policies, rendering it legal without affecting the underlying operations. As a result, nothing has to change, and it’s unlikely that anyone involved in the program will face repercussions of any kind."

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Taking Trump voters’ concerns seriously means listening to what they’re actually saying

Taking Trump voters’ concerns seriously means listening to what they’re actually saying - Vox

There is absolutely no evidence that Trump’s supporters, either in the primary or the general election, are disproportionately poor or working class. Exit polling from the primaries found that Trump voters made about as much as Ted Cruz voters, and significantly more than supporters of either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. Trump voters, FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver found, had a median household income of $72,000, a fair bit higher than the $62,000 median household income for non-Hispanic whites in America.

A major study from Gallup's Jonathan Rothwell confirmed this. Trump support was correlated with higher, not lower, income, both among the population as a whole and among white people. Trump supporters were less likely to be unemployed or to have dropped out of the labor force. Areas with more manufacturing, or higher exposure to imports from China, were less likely to think favorably of Trump.

So what is driving Trump supporters? In the general election, the story is pretty simple: What’s driving support for Trump is that he is the Republican nominee, a little fewer than half of voters always vote for Republicans, and Trump is getting most of those voters.

In the primary, though, the story was, as my colleague Zack Beauchamp has explained at length, almost entirely about racial resentment. There’s a wide array of data to back this up.

And then this article gets very interesting.

Any solution has to begin with a correct diagnosis of the problem. If Trump’s supporters are not, in fact, motivated by economic marginalization, then even full Bernie Sanders–style social democracy is not going to prevent a Trump recurrence. Nor are GOP-style tax cuts, and liberal pundits aggressively signaling virtue to each other by writing ad nauseam about the need to empathize with the Trump Voter aren’t doing anyone any good.

What’s needed is an honest reckoning with what it means that a large segment of the US population, large enough to capture one of the two major political parties, is motivated primarily by white nationalism and an anxiety over the fast-changing demographics of the country. Maybe the GOP will find a way to control and contain this part of its base. Maybe the racist faction of the party will dissipate over time, especially as Obama’s presidency recedes into memory. Maybe it took Trump’s celebrity to mobilize them at all, and future attempts will fail.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Donald Trump Says He ‘Called’ the ’08 Crash. Here’s What Really Happened

Politico describes Donald Trump Says He ‘Called’ the ’08 Crash. Here’s What Really Happened

A review of his behavior around the worst financial crisis of this generation shows that Trump didn’t ‘call it,’ didn’t see the recession coming—or at least didn’t say so in public—and he didn’t really benefit from it, either. He wasn’t a seer. Like a lot of Americans, he got hit by the downturn and was just looking to survive. Trump weathered the crisis, and was able to do that because of what he and his businesses had become—and he did it using tactics he had perfected over decades to rescue himself from precarious financial situations. He bragged, he exaggerated, and—when backed into a corner—he sued, using brash and antagonistic legal strategies to buy himself time on the obligations he couldn’t meet."

Most of his failing positions were licensing, but Trump Tower Chicago was different, he was building it and on the hook financially for it.

In spite of his stated assurances that he was cash-flush—“I was in a very strong financial position,” he told POLITICO this week, declining to elaborate—he sued Deutsche Bank to try to get out of a $40-million portion of the construction loan [for Trump Tower Chicago] that he had personally guaranteed, invoking a force majeure clause in the contract...In other words, some six weeks after Trump had gone on TV and said he had predicted the recession, he filed a lawsuit clamoring for relief—arguing, essentially, that the American real estate bust was an unforeseeable act of God.

And he was just another failed mortgage who got a loan from the bank that he shouldn't have.

Molo looked beyond the blunt-force gall and braggadocio and saw something more basic—something that made Trump no different from thousands of average homeowners with underwater mortgages. “He clearly,” the Deutsche Bank attorney said in an interview this week, “was in a ‘work-out situation’”—meaning he couldn’t pay what he owed when he owed it and needed to find a way to work it out. He needed to renegotiate. Or else.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Hubble Finds 10 Times More Galaxies Than Thought | NASA

NASA reports Hubble Finds 10 Times More Galaxies Than Thought

In analyzing the data, a team led by Christopher Conselice of the University of Nottingham, U.K., found that 10 times as many galaxies were packed into a given volume of space in the early universe than found today. Most of these galaxies were relatively small and faint, with masses similar to those of the satellite galaxies surrounding the Milky Way. As they merged to form larger galaxies the population density of galaxies in space dwindled. This means that galaxies are not evenly distributed throughout the universe's history, the research team reports in a paper to be published in The Astrophysical Journal.

'These results are powerful evidence that a significant galaxy evolution has taken place throughout the universe's history, which dramatically reduced the number of galaxies through mergers between them - thus reducing their total number. This gives us a verification of the so-called top-down formation of structure in the universe,' explained Conselice.

The decreasing number of galaxies as time progresses also contributes to the solution for Olbers' paradox (first formulated in the early 1800s by German astronomer Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers): Why is the sky dark at night if the universe contains an infinity of stars? The team came to the conclusion that indeed there actually is such an abundance of galaxies that, in principle, every patch in the sky contains part of a galaxy.

However, starlight from the galaxies is invisible to the human eye and most modern telescopes due to other known factors that reduce visible and ultraviolet light in the universe. Those factors are the reddening of light due to the expansion of space, the universe's dynamic nature, and the absorption of light by intergalactic dust and gas. All combined, this keeps the night sky dark to our vision.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

One Month To Go

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10 Most Emotional Movies of All Time

Some of their picks didn't work as well for me, but these are always well done...

Talking Politics

Matthew Yglesias points out The lesson of Hillary’s secret speeches is she’s exactly who we already knew she was. As he points out, deal making really is easier in private and any big pieces of legislation happen because of private negotiations. Also, for politicians, public statements often override private ones because they're the ones they're held accountable to.

Sarah Kliff explains, Clinton and Trump's confusing debate exchange about Obamacare.

Jennifer Williams points out, A Muslim American asked Trump about Islamophobia. His answer was super Islamophobic.. "Trump is spinning a wild conspiracy theory: the idea that American Muslims secretly know who all the terrorists are. He's painting the entire American Muslim community as a fifth column — a devious enemy secretly undermining the very nation in which they live. But that’s patently false."

"According to Gallup, "Since 9/11, the Muslim-American community has helped security and law enforcement officials prevent nearly two of every five al Qaeda terrorist plots threatening the United States." Gallup also found that "tips from the Muslim-American community are the largest single source of initial information to authorities about these few plots.""

German Lopez finds Americans don’t know crime has plummeted. In fact, they think it’s gone up. "In reality, various types of crime have plummeted, based on the official FBI figures. The violent crime rate has fallen by more than half, with the murder rate dropping from 9.8 per 100,000 people in 1991 and 8.2 in 1995 to 4.9 in 2015. Rape, robbery, burglary, and theft rates have all also dropped. (There aren’t good statistics for drug and white-collar crimes.)"

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Matthew Yglesias summed up the second debate, A competent woman just debated a man who has no idea what he’s talking about. He rips apart his various "policy" statements.

Perhaps the most fun fact check was from Warren Buffett, Trump: Warren Buffett avoids taxes like me. Buffett: Nope, and here's my taxes to prove it.

This was refreshing, Nearly one-third of all Republican senators now say they won’t support Trump


And if you missed it John Oliver unleashed hell on Republicans trying to distance themselves from Trump.

Louisiana isn’t letting (some) immigrants get married

The Washington Post reports Louisiana isn’t letting immigrants get married. That's only somewhat hyperbolic.

So, as of this year, any foreign-born person wanting to get married in Louisiana must produce both an unexpired visa (even though a federal court has ruled that marriage licenses cannot be denied based on immigration status), as well as, somewhat inexplicably, a birth certificate.

No birth certificate, no marriage, no excuses.

The law has indeed placed marriage off-limits to immigrants in the country illegally, as intended. But it’s hurt plenty of legal immigrants, too. Louisiana is home to thousands of refugees, predominantly Vietnamese and Laotians who received asylum in the 1970s and 1980s after fleeing war and communism in their homelands.

Today these Louisianans often have green cards and even U.S. citizenship, but no access to their original birth documents, if such documents even exist."

This kind of thing seems to come up often and is something that Republican's forget. Not everyone has a birth certificate, and that doesn't mean they've done anything wrong. It's the same issue with needing to show an id to vote, not everyone has one. Not everyone drives, not everyone can easily get one. But the government has to work for everyone, not just the 90%. That's a big difference from a business. In businesses you pick your markets, and if one segment is too costly to get into, you skip it. Governments don't have the option.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Justice Breyer on Charlie Rose (and the Second Amendment)

Last night Charlie Rose interviewed Justice Breyer. Breyer can be wordy and it's rare for any Justice to talk in any detail about cases, but the last 10 mins were really good. Charlie asked "What does the second amendment mean to you?" Here's Breyer's answer:

It says, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." What did I think it meant and John Stevens thought it meant and Ruth Ginsburg thought it meant and what David Souter thought it meant.

In article one of the Constution it gives to Congress the power to call up and regulate state militias. There was a lot of concern, if you read the Federalist Papers you just get a feeling for it; there was a lot of concern and fear that congress might do that, and disband them. And replace the state militias after they had disbanded them with a federal army. And that, many people said vote no on the constution because if they can do that, then they can, the federal government, destroy your freedom.

Well said Madison, in a sense if I paraphrase him, 'never fear we will put in the constution an amendment which says congress can't do that'. It cannot call up and disband the state militias. Why? Because, a well armed militia is necessary for a free state, ie a state militia. And therefore the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. In other words they're talking about that. That's what I thought they were talking about. Which is not the right of an individual to keep a gun next to his bed. Okay?

That's perhaps the most succinct refutation of Heller I've read. His next answer on how he and Scalia approach decisions differently is equally good.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Martin Scorsese's List of 39 Foreign Films Every Filmmaker Should See

Martin Scorsese's List of 39 Foreign Films Every Filmmaker Should See

Back in 2006, budding filmmaker Colin Levy had the privilege of meeting with Scorsese after winning an NYC-based short contest. Unfortunately for Levy, he had yet to be exposed to much of Scorsese's most celebrated films (including Taxi Driver and Goodfellas) at the time of the meeting. Fortunately for us, his limited knowledge of cinema provided Marty with the opportunity to deliver one of the most prized lists for which a self-educated filmmaker could ever ask.

In the words of Levy, "I labored over a thank-you card, in which I expressed the overwhelming impression I had gotten that I don’t know enough about anything. I especially don’t know enough about film history and foreign cinema. I asked if he had any suggestions for where to start." He received the following note in response:

NoFilmSchool typed up the list with links to how to watch them at places like Hulu or Amazon, etc. Here's my version with links to IMDb and sorted by year. The bold ones I've seen. I have work to do, many of the others are sitting on my TiVo.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Jimmy Carter changed presidential transitions forever

The Vox Mischiefs of Faction blog is posting a 4 part series on presidential transitions. I found part two, Jimmy Carter changed presidential transitions forever quite interesting.

Part one is How the presidential transition process has evolved over time. Parts three and four aren't out yet.

Update: Part 3 is here: Bill Clinton set a bad example with his transition

Revealed: The FBI’s Secret Methods for Recruiting Informants at the Border

The Intercept reports on The FBI’s Secret Methods for Recruiting Informants at the Border

The government materials published with this story were provided to The Intercept by an intelligence community source familiar with the process who is concerned about the FBI’s treatment of Muslim communities. The system, according to the source, amounts to an informal watchlist of people who have caught the FBI’s interest — not because they have done something wrong, or might be dangerous, but because they might be useful to the government.

Signs of the informant-recruiting pipeline have been noticed outside the government. Human rights and immigration attorneys interviewed by The Intercept said it was very common for Muslim clients in particular to be questioned at the border upon returning from an international trip, and then contacted by FBI agents within days."

A History of President Obama’s 8 Years in Office

NY Magazine has a nice infographic, A History of President Obama’s 8 Years in Office "In this issue, we’ve tried to create an inventory of those years and to think a bit about how they might look from the distance of history. (That is, how will millennials remember the era in which they were so casually mocked, even as they remade the world with social media and an easy openness about gender?) Thankfully, we’ve had some help in putting together our time capsule, including from the president, who sat down in August with Jonathan Chait to discuss some critical moments of his tenure."