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The metamorphosis of Morning Joe

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I’ll start this with a quick confession, though most regular readers are already aware of it. I’ve been a fan of Morning Joe for years… pretty much since the beginning. (Also, by way of full disclosure, I’ve actually met and spoken with Joe Scarborough on a number of occasions, though not so much with Mika, and even did the show once.) This has been the subject of many bizarre interactions with readers leaving comments and people I engage with on social media. The feedback ranges from the humorous to the incendiary, mostly from people who don’t watch the show and fail to understand why I always did. But that’s been changing over the past year or so.

I’ve found myself increasingly unable to simply sit back and enjoy the MSNBC morning gab festival while I work. Some days I sit through it anyway (often with the sound down so I can focus on writing but still keep an eye out for breaking news on the chyron). Other days I haven’t been able to make it through five minutes before changing the channel. I’ve actually gotten to know a lot more about Fox & Friends this year, though sometimes I flip over to CNN Headline News.

If you’d pressed me as to why my viewing habits shifted I would have been hard-pressed to effectively put it into words. But now, someone else has come along and done the job in a way which left me stunned when I came across it last night. Alex Castellanos, writing at the Daily Caller, has summed up the entire experience in a way which left me saying, “Oh… Wow. That’s really it.”

His essay has a title which is far more harsh than the actual contents of the piece. “IT’S OFFICIAL: The Ranting Anti-Trump Monotony Of ‘Morning Joe’ Is Now A Disastrous Failure.”

As I said… a bit harsh, but it does grab your attention. And we should be clear here that the “failure” part has nothing to do with ratings or commercial success. The show is actually doing better in the ratings, likely because they now attract a lot more fans of Maddow and Chris Hayes who no longer have to worry about hearing anything that might offend them. If there is a “failure” here it is of purity, not rankings in the key demos.

Alex starts with nine paragraphs of praise for Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski and the rest of the crew which made the show tick. He talks about how he too was a regular viewer for years on end and he describes all the elements of the program which made it so worth watching, whether you were a liberal, a conservative, or anything in between. The chemistry of the main characters in this play was fully as important as the policy discussions and reporting which unfolded around the table. And then he gets down to the meat of the matter and explains where the wheels came off the wagon during the age of Trump.

Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski used to represent the political battle of the sexes, daddy-bear Republicans versus the mommy-party Democrats. The couple simmered: Mika and Joe were a flesh-and-blood version of the age-old evolutionary conflict that drives human progress. They fought, embraced, and respected each other in smoldering discussions that left viewers envious of make-up sex. Matlin and Carville could not touch them.

Their clashing views gave show dramatic power. As their relationship grew stronger, viewers found Morning Joe was also their home: a safe space for political conflict. Now, that Morning Joe is no more. As our President might tweet, #Sad. #FailingMorningJoe.

The conflict between mom and dad is gone. The relationship that once ignited sparks has been dimmed and homogenized. Every cast member reads the same script, disowning differences and drama. Morning Joe has become a sea of sameness. The performers play indistinguishable parts, predictable bobble-head dolls that hate Donald John Trump.

Every morning, Joe trods the same path: “Can you believe what Trump has done? He does not respect the institutions that we, the establishment, have been running. He does not understand the principles that we, the establishment, have been upholding. He is disrupting the status quo that validates our superiority. When will Republicans in the Senate say “enough” and stand up to Donald Trump? And when will someone pass the Grey Poupon?”

You really need to read the entire article to fully appreciate this exploration of the metamorphosis we’ve witnessed. It’s the story of how Morning Joe spent years as the happy caterpillar of political commentary, chewing its way through the leaves of the Washington swamp. But last year it spun a cocoon, emerging as a sad, angry moth that now endlessly flits around the flame of the Trump presidency.

Castellanos isn’t a fan of Trump. For that matter, I couldn’t call myself a “fan” either. I criticize the President on this site on a nearly weekly basis when I disagree with him on this or that policy point, often on things like the Renewable Fuel Standard or privatization of ATC. I also praise him when he’s doing solid conservative work on issues such as immigration, law enforcement and eliminating wasteful regulations. But while Castellanos may not be wearing a MAGA hat, he actually is a fan of good political television coverage. I’ll just chime in and say that I feel the same way.

The Trump presidency offers the chance for both supporters and opponents to debate how the President is changing Washington. What needed to be changed and what might we miss when it’s gone? Those are the things that Joe and Mika used to do regularly and they would bring on guests from all across the spectrum of political opinion to fuel that discussion. But too many in the news business this year missed out on one fact which Castellanos drives home: “Donald Trump was a hand grenade thrown under Washington’s door. Millions of Americans saw Trump, with his gargantuan failings and excesses, and chose him anyway over the world Morning Joe continues to defend.”

It would have made for a great debate. (And out there on the web, that debate is actually taking place, though cable news cameras shy away from it.) Sadly, as Alex points out in closing, Morning Joe is now entirely predictable. If you miss one show this week, don’t worry. The same show will run again tomorrow. I seriously hope that changes because I remain a fan of Joe and Mika and I’d love to see the game afoot once again around that table.

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Previously Deported Illegal Alien Charged with Brutal Murder of Shakopee, MN Woman

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Minnesota officials charged Fraider Diaz-Carbajal from Mexico with the brutal murder of his former girlfriend in Shakopee, Minnesota earlier this month.

Fraider Diaz-Carbajal had been previously deported but told the court he has lived in the are for 18 years.
Fraider does not speak English and needed a translator.

He stabbed his former girlfriend several times before cutting his own neck.

SW News Media reported:

A 27-year-old woman who was killed in Shakopee on Aug. 12 has been identified as Enedelia Perez Garcia, 27, and today prosecutors charged Fraider Diaz-Carbajal, 35, 1279 Taylor St. Unit 6, with second-degree murder (not premeditated) in her death. Police say he was in the country illegally after being deported in 2014.

At about 4:02 p.m. on Aug. 12, Shakopee police were dispatched to a fight call involving a knife at 1279 Taylor St., No. 6., and while on the way to the Taylor Ridge Towhomes, they were told a male had a knife and a female was possibly dead.

According to the charging documents, officers found a bloody scene in the upstairs bedroom: Diaz-Carbajal was lying with his head resting on the stomach and chest of a woman who was sitting on the floor with her back against the wall and did not appear to be breathing. Diaz-Carbajal’s throat was cut with a 6 to 8-inch-long laceration and there were several stab wounds in his abdomen. He was “taking occasional breaths and moving” and a large, bloody knife was at his left side.

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Can AI produce fine art?

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We don’t normally cover the fine art beat here for obvious reasons, but there was a sale of a painting to a French collector in February which drew some attention. Another work by the same artist is going on sale at Christie’s presently. They works are going for some impressive amounts of money, but that’s not what makes the story interesting. The artist is an Artificial Intelligence program from a company named Obvious. (Time)

Hanging inside a gold frame on a pristine white wall in Christie’s Central London Gallery is a dark, moody portrait of a man in Puritan-style black clothes—the work, it seems, of some Old Master. But scrawled in the bottom right corner, there’s an unexpected signature: a mathematical equation.

This is Edmond de Belamy by French art collective Obvious—or, more accurately, by an algorithm designed by Obvious.

“The whole process is about humans having as little input as possible in the finished piece,” says Gauthier Vernier, one of three 25 year-old French men who started Obvious in April 2017 out of their apartment in Paris. Since then, by teaching a computer about art history and showing it how to make its own work, Obvious have produced 11 artworks with the help of artificial intelligence.

I’m not going to go into great detail about the technical particulars behind this since you can read them all at the article and at the Obvious Art website if you wish. The short version is that they developed an algorithm that scanned a vast number of paintings taken from classical art. It uses something called Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) which randomly generate images meeting certain criteria (a face has two eyes, one nose, one mouth, etc.) and the program “tests” each image itself to see if it can tell whether it’s original art or a computer generation. The results do indeed resemble portraits.

Here’s the real question: Is this art? Allow me to offer the definitive answers (plural) because it works both ways.

First… Yes. This is art.

But that answer comes with a caveat. Anything can be art because art is in the eye of the beholder. You can walk down the beach, find a particularly interesting looking piece of driftwood, take it home, clean it up and mount it on a wooden base. If you find it attractive, if it brings you pleasure, if your friends come over and compliment you on it… it’s art. And that’s only good art I’m talking about. Some of the crap put out by human beings as “modern art” is total garbage. If a crucifix in a jar of urine or three basketballs shoved into a broken fish tank (I actually saw that one in a gallery in New York City some years ago) qualify as art, then anything this robot spits out can certainly bear the name.

Second… No. This is definitely not art.

What they are presenting is a painting. But it didn’t come from an original thought or moment of inspiration in a mind, human or otherwise. They fed a bunch of examples into a program and had it randomly place zeros and ones corresponding to random colors until it generated something which matched certain test criteria that the programmers defined as being “art.” There was no feeling, no intent nor even any knowledge in the “mind” of the program of what it was doing. It was solving a math problem by randomly guessing combinations until it arrived at some solutions which met those design criteria.

It also wasn’t “painted” in any way that requires effort, training or involves risk of messing up a brush stroke. I had to search for a while to find out how the actual, physical paintings are created, but the AI only generates an image file. It’s then fed into a fancy laserjet printer which is set up to print on canvas instead of paper. Then a human being took it out and mounted it in a frame. An artist could never reproduce one of their painting precisely by hand. There would always be at least minute differences. Obvious could crank out the same portrait a thousand times and they would all be the same.

This isn’t even artificial intelligence as near as I can see. And it’s certainly not fine art. You could switch out the canvas for paper and it would be making interesting posters. If some rich collector wants to go to Christie’s and lay out tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for one of these creations, that’s up to them. But save up your money, because Obvious can produce thousands more for you in no time at all.

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President Trump Responds to Manafort Conviction “Nothing to do With Russian Collusion” (VIDEO)

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“NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIAN COLLUSION” – President Trump

President Trump responded Tuesday afternoon after a jury found his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort guilty on 8 felony counts.

The President spoke to the press shortly after he landed in Charleston, West Virginia as he headed to his rally.

“It doesn’t involve me but I still feel really sad…you know it’s a very sad thing that happened. This has nothing to do with Russian collusion. This started as Russian collusion…this has absolutely nothing to do…this is a witch hunt and it’s a disgrace,” Trump said.

President Trump also said that he feels very bad for Paul Manafort. “He worked for Bob Dole, he worked for Ronald Reagan…” Trump continued.

The President didn’t answer any questions about his former lawyer Michael Cohen who just pleaded guilty to 8 counts; his plea deal includes 3-5 years jail time.

VIDEO:


After four days of deliberations, the jury reached a verdict on 8 counts and could not make a decision on 10 counts in the tax evasion and bank fraud case against Paul Manafort.

Judge Ellis declared a mistrial on 10 counts. The jury found Manafort guilty on 8 counts.

Both Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort were hunted down by Mueller and his thugs because of their association with Donald Trump.

We currently have a two-tiered justice system because AG Sessions is AWOL.

One set of laws for Trump and his supporters and another set of laws for Democrats and Clinton-Deep State cronies.

H/T: Zero Hedge

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