Head Over Heels

December 3, 2016

Head Over Heels, a short claymation film written and directed by Timothy Reckart. Music by Jered Sorkin (full credits here).

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One Moment

December 2, 2016

“One Moment,” by OK Go. Full video notes and credits here. There’s also a behind-the-scenes video.

OK Go disclaimer: “No playable guitars were harmed in the making of this video.”

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Trump Appoints ‘Foreclosure King’ As Treasury Secretary

December 2, 2016

Trump Appoints 'Foreclosure King' As Treasury Secretary

President-elect and self-proclaimed swamp-drainer Donald J. Trump has named Goldman Sachs alum and former hedge fund partner Steve Mnuchin as his Treasury Secretary. Mr. Mnuchin, who was finance chair of the Trump campaign and the producer of Suicide Squad, became infamous as the “Foreclosure King” when his OneWest Bank foreclosed on over 36,000 family homes during the financial crisis. OneWest specialized in “harsh, repugnant and repulsive” foreclosures on the homes of minority families and the elderly, and in one celebrated case foreclosed on a 90-year-old woman over a 27 cent error.

The Department of the Treasury controls mortgage guarantee agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and runs the MHA mortgage relief program and the Hardest Hit Fund, which helps homeowners most in danger of foreclosure due to the financial crisis. Oh, it also regulates banks.

More:

“Trump Treasury pick made millions after his bank foreclosed on homeowners,” Lorraine Woellert, Politico

“Steve Mnuchin: Evictor, Forecloser, and Our New Treasury Secretary,” Peter Dreier, American Prospect

“Trump Was Always Going to Be a Gift to Wall Street. His Pick for Treasury Secretary Proves It.,” Jordan Weissmann, Slate

“Donald Trump voter who lost her home to new Treasury pick Steven Mnuchin has ‘no faith in our government anymore,’” Josh Boak and Jeff Horowitz, AP via Salon

“Angus King: Trump’s not draining swamp, he’s adding alligators,” Mark Hensch, The Hill

Bonus:

“Before heading to the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin will grace the silver screen in ‘Rules Don’t Apply,'” Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times

“The fiancée of Trump’s twice-married new Treasury Secretary, 53, is 35-year-old actress who sparked fury after she ‘invented parts of her memoir about nearly being killed in Africa,'” Jennifer Newton, Daily Mail

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French Town Upholds 62-Year-Old Ban on UFOs

December 2, 2016

French Town Upholds 62-Year-Old Ban on UFOs

The mayor of the French town of Châteauneuf-du-Pape has upheld a 62-year-old law banning UFOs.

The 1954 law was established after a man in northern France said he had seen two figures that looked like ‘deep sea divers’ emerging from a ‘cigar-shaped’ space ship.

But don’t make yourself a tin foil hat yet. Lucien Jeune’s son, Elie Jeune, has dismissed his father’s decree as a “publicity stunt”, telling reporters: ‘At that time, people were talking a lot about extraterrestrials and the unknown, it was in fashion, and there were loads of stories circulating.’

‘He wanted to make a bit of an advertisement for Châteauneuf. It was an excellent publicity stunt… and free.’ Journalists flocked to Châteauneuf-du-Pape from all over the world and, predictably, the public couldn’t get enough of the story.

— “‘No UFOs allowed’: French mayor refuses to overturn town’s bizarre extraterrestrial ban,” Hazel Plush, The Telegraph

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AP Rules on Writing About the ‘alt-right’

December 1, 2016

AP Rules on Writing About the 'alt-right'

How should the press write about the “alt-right” cabal behind the election victory of Donald Trump, that loosely-affiliated group of folks who look like sharp-dressed young Republicans with odd haircuts who have a “think tank,” but give nazi salutes and speak ill of African Americans, Jews, and non-European immigrants?

The Associated Press has finally decided. After the election. Thanks a lot, AP.

“ ‘alt-right’ (quotation marks, hyphen and lower case) may be used in quotes or modified as in the ‘self-described’ or ‘so-called alt-right’ in stories discussing what the movement says about itself.

Avoid using the term generically and without definition, however, because it is not well known and the term may exist primarily as a public-relations device to make its supporters’ actual beliefs less clear and more acceptable to a broader audience. In the past we have called such beliefs racist, neo-Nazi or white supremacist.

Boilerplate

Again, whenever ‘alt-right’ is used in a story, be sure to include a definition: ‘an offshoot of conservatism mixing racism, white nationalism and populism,’ or, more simply, ‘a white nationalist movement.’

— “Writing about the ‘alt-right,'” John Daniszewski, AP Vice President for Standards, Associated Press blog

Of course, not everyone is an editor. Some writers see it another way:

“Keep calling the alt-right ‘the alt-right.’ Soon, it won’t be a euphemism anymore.” Julian Sanchez, Washington Post

Then again, look here.

More:

“News organizations are telling writers to be clear that the alt-right is a racist movement,” German Lopez, Vox

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Image from Oxford University Press.

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Ben Carson at HUD: Pyramid Scheme?

November 30, 2016

Ben Carson at HUD: Pyramid Scheme?
Last we heard of retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, he was proposed for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, presumably because he lives in a house and once lived in a city. We assume President-elect Trump will appoint a city planner as Surgeon General.

Dr. Carson’s fascination with Egyptian pyramids may influence U.S. cityscapes during the Trump administration. On the other hand, his spokesman told the press that Ben Carson thinks he’s unqualified to run a federal department. Any department. Oh, and the good doctor recently diagnosed the HUD-administered Fair Housing laws as “communist.”

More:

“Ben Carson Is Trump’s Pick for HUD Secretary, for Some Terrible Reason,” Eric Levitz, New York Magazine

“Ben Carson for HUD Secretary, Why?” Kriston Capps, CityLab

“Stop Treating HUD Like A Second-Tier Department,” Andrew Flowers, FiveThirtyEight

Update:

“Turns Out Ben Carson Didn’t Grow Up in Public Housing,” Adam K. Raymond, New York Magazine

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Black Friday 2016: High-Caliber Sales

November 29, 2016

Black Friday 2016: High-Caliber Sales
‘Tis the season. As the world prepares to wish for Peace on Earth, Americans spent Black Friday 2016 stockpiling firearms. On the day after Thanksgiving the FBI processed a record 185,713 background checks for gun transactions, more than any single day since the NICS system launched 18 years ago, up from last year’s 185,345 background checks. Jingle bells, pass the shells.

The Trump campaign got $30 million from the NRA, which claimed a Clinton administration would ban the assault-type weapons prized by militias and mass murderers, and would confiscate all privately-owned  firearms. The Obama presidency has been good for gun merchants, who predicted a Trump victory would see a slump in sales, but it hasn’t happened. There are anecdotal accounts that the 2016 election prompted a rise in gun purchases by anxious African Americans. See, Donald Trump is boosting the economy, even before his inauguration.

More:

“FBI runs more background checks than ever after gun sales soar on Black Friday,”Alex Yablon, The Guardian

Related:

“Burglars rob militia family bungalow of guns, machetes, grenades and body armor,” Travis M. Andrews, Washington Post

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The Post-Truth Presidency

November 28, 2016

The Post-Truth Presidency

Editors of the Oxford English Dictionary has chosen the “2016 Word of the Year”: Post-truth.”

post-truth (adjective) — Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief:

‘in this era of post-truth politics, it’s easy to cherry-pick data and come to whatever conclusion you desire’
‘some commentators have observed that we are living in a post-truth age’

That dictionary’s definition of “Truth”: “That which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.” So what could negate that? George Orwell reflected on that in 1942:

“A British and a German historian would disagree deeply on many things, even on fundamentals, but there would still be that body of, as it were, neutral fact on which neither would seriously challenge the other. It is just this common basis of agreement, with its implication that human beings are all one species of animal, that totalitarianism destroys.” — George Orwell, “Looking Back on the Spanish War.”

So we know what causes the phenomenon, this “War on Reality,” and now there’s a name for it.

h/t: Gideon Lichfield

More:

“Trump Team Explains They Were Campaigning Against Facts, Not Just Clinton,” Margaret Hartmann, New York Magazine

“The post-truth world of the Trump administration is scarier than you think,” Margaret Sullivan, Washington Post

Related:

“How Do You Avoid Sounding Elitist in a Post-Truth Era?” Nancy LeTourneau, Washington Monthly

“Merriam-Webster’s plea: There’s still time to prevent ‘fascism’ from becoming word of the year,” Ben Guarino, Washington Post

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Flying to Mars? Not So Fast.

November 28, 2016

Brian Resnick, Brad Plumer, Javier Zarracina, and Christophe Haubursin of Vox explain how a trip to Mars can kill you. On the other hand, think of the frequent flyer miles ….

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On Green Dolphin Street

November 27, 2016

“On Green Dolphin Street,” written by Bronisław Kaper. Recorded in 1958 by Miles Davis (trumpet), Julian “Cannonball” Adderley (alto sax), John Coltrane (tenor sax), Bill Evans (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums).

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