Queens of the Stone Age tease new song

We're about a month away from the new Queens of the Stone Age album, Villains. Yesterday the band put out this video as a teaser to an upcoming song from that album. 

You can definitely feel the influence of Mark Ronson in the sound of the tracks we've heard off of Villains so far. The secret sauce to the Q.O.T.S.A sound has always been the rhythmic grooves that served as the foundation to the driving guitars and Josh Homme's menacing lyrics. It makes a lot of sense that Homme would team up with one of today's top producers, to squeeze out ever last drop of groove on the new album. 

Here is Homme talking to NME recently about Villains

“There are some slower moments but I like to dance, man, and whether it’s Eagles [Of Death Metal] or Queens or [Them Crooked] Vultures there’s no reason not to conjoin rock’n’roll and dance and hallelujah and darkness and all that in one thing. In a world of desperately going for ‘likes’ I think ‘Villains’ is more like, ‘We’ll take the dislikes, we’ll take all the outcasts’. This album is here to do bad guy stuff.”

I wouldn't be surprised if the band gets some blowback for leaning so far into a new direction, but I'm excited to see just what the full album sounds like. Josh Homme is a rock and roll legend who has evil intentions in his heart and a maniacal drive to create infectious rifts. This is the album that I'm sure he's always wanted to make, but now has the confidence to unleash onto the world. 


Nine Inch Nails - "Less Than" video

Last year Nine Inch Nails released the EP, Not The Actual Events on Christmas. Earlier this year Trent Reznor said that it would be the first in a series of three EPS.  

Today the song and video for "Less Than" was released. The video is directed b Brook Linder, whose worked with artists like Grimes and Operators in the past, and features the Jeff Minter made video game Polybius

The song has a good amount of bite by the time it gets to the first chorus, which distinguishes itself from a lot of NIN's recent work. I love the way the video works with the song to create a sense of momentum. I look forward to hearing more of the new EP, Add Violence when it comes out on the 21st. 

This may be the next Google Pixel

Android Police got their hands on photos of what they believe to be Google's second generation Pixel phone. They claim that these pictures are probably form the XL version of the phone,  and seem fairly confident that that these photos are real:

We rate this rumor a 8 out of 10 on our confidence scale. The reason we are subtracting two points is due to the fact that we are not confident our source material reflects a fully finalized design. As such, there is a possibility that small changes may still occur before the phone makes it into production, as we don't expect Google to announce this device before October. Still, we are exceptionally confident that this image represents the overall look and feel of Google's new smartphone, even if some small elements may not end up being representative of the final product

I'm excited that all of the major flagships are moving towards a bezel-less future. There's not a lot of room to innovate in modern cell phone design, but getting these phones to be mostly screen is that right move.  

I have no idea what they mean when they say that the Pixel 2 will have a squeezable frame. It's kind of hard to squeeze anything that has a layer of glass on it, but perhaps the back and sides have some kind of extra meshy texture. 

This is a really good looking phone, and exactly what I want to see out of Google as they try to get into the flagship market. 

Stranger Things season two coming October 27

It's been a pretty strange last 24 hours in the news cycle. Whoever is doing the marketing over at Netflix could not have picked a better time to release this trailer. 

The first season of Stranger Things was one of the best things I've watched last year. If you have have Netflix and some time to kill I highly recommend the show. It's like someone had a young Steven Spielberg direct a show adapted from unreleased Stephen King stories. I also give high marks to the killer soundtrack

Vote on Senate health care bill delayed

Jennifer Steinhauer and Thomas Kaplan, reporting for the New York Times:

Facing intransigent Republican opposition, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, announced on Tuesday that he will delay a vote on his legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, dealing President Trump an embarrassing setback on a key part of his agenda.

Republican leaders had hoped to take a page from the playbook used to get a bill over the line in the House, appeasing the most conservative members of their conference while pressuring moderates to fall in line with fewer concessions.

But as opposition mounted in both camps, even against a vote just to take up the bill, Mr. McConnell decided he would delay consideration until after the Senate’s weeklong July 4 recess.

“We will not be on the bill this week, but we will still be working to get at least 50 people in a comfortable place,” Mr. McConnell said.

This is a big deal for a couple of reasons. It gives people a chance to give their Senators feedback. Many Senators will be hosting town hall meetings over the next couple of weeks, giving you a chance to have your voice heard. You can also call your Senators, which is much more effective than sending a letter or email, here's a list of their numbers. 

This is a bill that will effect millions of Americans in one way or another, it's nice to see that there will be at least a couple of weeks between the bill becoming public, and when it is voted for. This does mean the Senate's health care bill has been defeated. If their is one person in Congress who has the skill to get an unpopular bill voted for, it's Mitch McConnell. It will take an outcry from the general public unlike anything we've seen in our lifetime to defeat this bill, but it is possible. There is no doubt that there is room to improve the healthcare system in this country, but the bill that the Senate has come up with does the opposite of that. It's time to make your voice heard. 

Europe is getting hit by another massive cyberattack

Andrew Roth, reporting for the Washington Post:

A new wave of powerful cyberattacks hit Europe on Tuesday in a possible reprise of a widespread ransomware assault in May that affected 150 countries, as Ukraine reported ransom demands targeting the government and key infrastructure, and the Danish Maersk conglomerate said many of its systems were down.

These attacks are getting more sophisticated and are targeting major country's key infrastructures. At what point do countries like the Ukraine, which has been hit multiple times now, have to start treating these attacks as an act of war? 

Google slapped with $2.7 billion fine in antitrust ruling

Mark Scott, reporting for the New York Times:

Google suffered a major blow on Tuesday after European antitrust officials fined the search giant a record $2.7 billion for unfairly favoring some of its own services over those of rivals.

The penalty, of 2.4 billion euros, highlights the aggressive stance that European officials have taken in regulating many of the world’s largest technology companies, going significantly further than their American counterparts.

By levying the fine against Google — more than double the previous largest penalty in this type of antitrust case — Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s antitrust chief, also laid claim to being the Western world’s most active regulator of digital services, an industry still dominated by Silicon Valley.

Ms. Vestager has a history of going after big tech companies, including Amazon, Apple, and Facebook. It seems like the E.U. wants much more of a hands on approach to how the tech giants are regulated that what we see in the US. As for next steps:

Google has 90 days to respond to the European Commission’s demands, or face penalties of up to 5 percent of the average daily global revenue of Alphabet, its parent company. European officials said on Tuesday that they would regularly monitor the company’s activities to ensure that it was complying with the ruling.

Under European rules, the company — and not the regulator — must come up with proposals to guarantee that it treats competitors fairly when people make online search queries. The authorities can demand that Google make further changes if they are not satisfied with the initial proposals.

I expect that we will see a very long legal battle over this case. Eventually Google will probably make some slight changes to their search preferences in the E.U. and pay a much smaller fine than the $2.7 billion, and this thing will be done with.


The Verge shows off what's new in iOS 11

If you own a newer iPad, you are really in for a treat when iOS 11 drops. Apple has made thiPad line almost as capable as a laptop without sacrificing what makes the tweener devices cool - namely their simplicity and portability.  

Dieter Bohn does a good job running down some of the best new features in iOS 11: improved multitasking, system wide drag and drop, a dock - just to name a few. It's when you see a demo of the new operating system in motion that all of these little improvements really come to life. 


CBO score for Senate health care bill: 22 million uninsured by 2026

Thomas Kaplan and Robert Pear, reporting for the New York Times:

The Senate bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act would increase the number of people without health insurance by 22 million by 2026, a figure that is only slightly lower than the 23 million more uninsured that the House version would create, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Monday.

Next year, 15 million more people would be uninsured compared with current law, the budget office said.

The legislation would decrease federal deficits by a total of $321 billion over a decade, the budget office said.

The argument from the right will be, "Hey, at least it's better than the mean old House bill!"


Nintendo announces the SNES Classic, September launch date

Last year Nintendo released the NES Classic which featured dozens of classic Nintendo games and the thing sold like hotcakes. Many people were dismayed when the gaming company announced earlier this year that they were discontinuing the system. Nintendo came out and said that the NES Classic was not intended to be a long-term product, which led to rumors that a possible SNES system could be in the works.

Fast forward to today:

Here's a list of games that was announced in a Nintendo press release:

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System: Super NES Classic Edition has the same look and feel of the original system – only smaller – and comes pre-loaded with 21 incredible games:

Contra III: The Alien Wars™
Donkey Kong Country™
Final Fantasy III
Kirby™ Super Star
Kirby’s Dream Course™
The Legend of Zelda™: A Link to the Past™
Mega Man® X
Secret of Mana
Star Fox™
Star Fox™ 2
Street Fighter® II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
Super Castlevania IV™
Super Ghouls ’n Ghosts®
Super Mario Kart™
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars™
Super Mario World™
Super Metroid™
Super Punch-Out!! ™
Yoshi’s Island™

While I don't look back at the SNES as fondly as I remember the original Nintendo console, I can't tell you how many hours I sunk into games like Super Mario World and Super Street Fighter 2.

There is an arcade bar a block away from my apartment which my wife and I frequent anytime we need to get a nostalgic gaming fix. It's easy to see how these throwback consoles are so popular, they scratch a very similar itch. Hopefully Nintendo has better expectations of what demand is going to be like this time around, I'm sure it will be a huge seller this holliday. 

Supreme Court to hear travel ban case

Adam Liptak, reporting for the New York Times:

The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would decide whether President Trump’s revised travel ban was lawful, setting the stage for a major decision on the scope of presidential power.

Mr. Trump’s revised executive order, issued in March, limited travel from six mostly Muslim countries for 90 days and suspended the nation’s refugee program for 120 days. The time was needed, the order said, to address gaps in the government’s screening and vetting procedures.

Two federal appeals courts have blocked critical parts of the order.

This is where the Garland blockade pays off for Republicans. 

'Obama's secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin's election assault'

Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima and Adam Entous, reporting for the Washington Post:

Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried “eyes only” instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides.

Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race.

But it went further. The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.

One of the most harrowing pieces of journalism I've ever read. To the degree that our toxic political culture got in the way of defending our most precious democratic institution will be something future generations will never forgive us for. 

Nintendo on Switch Shortages

Kyle Orland, writing for Ars Technica:

Nintendo Senior Director of Corporate Communications Charlie Scibetta wants to push back on those accusations. "It's definitely not intentional in terms of shorting the market," he told Ars in a recent interview. "We're making it as fast as we can. We want to get as many units out as we can to support all the software that's coming out right now... our job really is to get it out as quick as we can, especially for this holiday because we want to have units on shelves to support Super Mario Odyssey."

Far from intentional, Scibetta says the shortages are simply a result of Nintendo underestimating the interest in the system. "We anticipated there was going to be demand for it, but the demand has been even higher than we thought," he said. "We had a good quantity for launch, we sold 2.7 million worldwide in that first month, said we're going to have 10 million [more] by the end of the fiscal year... Unfortunately, we're in a situation right now where as quick as it's going into retail outlets it's being snapped up. It's a good problem to have, but we're working very hard to try and meet demand."

There's no doubt that there is shortage of the consoles. Every time I'm in a big box retailer I check to see if their are any Switch consoles in stock, and I've yet to see one out in the wild. It looks Nintendo has another hit on their hands. 

Obama rips into the Senate health care bill

It should be no surprise that former President Barack Obama would not be happy with the GOPs attempt to repeal and replace much of his landmark healthcare bill. Mr. Obama has written a full retort to the Senate's prospective version of the ACHA which was released this morning. You can read the full post via Facebook here.  Here are a couple of paragraphs from the statement that caught my eye:

The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else. Those with private insurance will experience higher premiums and higher deductibles, with lower tax credits to help working families cover the costs, even as their plans might no longer cover pregnancy, mental health care, or expensive prescriptions. Discrimination based on pre-existing conditions could become the norm again. Millions of families will lose coverage entirely.

Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.

Trevor Noah on the Philando Castile verdict

This is really powerful stuff from Trevor Noah on the death of Philando Castile and the not guilty verdict from the ensuing trial. I remember when Noah took over The Daily Show from Jon Stewart, and thinking that it would take some time for the young comedian to find his voice. Noah took over TDS in one of the most heated times in the history of American politics, and quickly found the delicate balance of humor and levity that it takes to host the show well. There are no jokes in this segment, no bits of humor to cut through pain, and yet Noah handles his monologue with grace. 

Radiohead - "Man of War" video

Radiohead is releasing OKNOTOK 1997-2017, a 20th anniversary reissue of their classic album OK Computer tomorrow. The reissue is coming with three previously unreleased songs, including "I Promise," "Lift," and this version of "Man of War," a song that the band has been playing live for years, dating back to The Bends tour

If you want to read about OK Computer, and why it is regarded as one of the best albums of the past 20 years I highly recommend this piece by Stephen Hyden. If you enjoy a good oral history, then I highly recommend Andy Green's feature on OK Computer for Rolling Stone. 

There are not a whole lot of albums that I personally get excited about anniversaries for. I absolutely enjoyed the remix to Sgt. Pepeprs that came out around that albums 50th anniversary, because it really changed the experience of listening to that album. Getting solid studio versions to songs like "Man of War" makes this reissue feel vital in a way that just doing a new mix would not have. 

Sarah Kliff on the Senate health care bill

There are not many people who have been in the business of covering health care policy as closely and as long as Sarah Kliff. Here is her take on the Senate's health care bill, which was given the aptly obtuse and wordy title - The Better Care Reconciliation Act:

  • The Senate bill begins to phase out the Medicaid expansion in 2021 — and cuts the rest of the budget’s program too. The Senate bill would end the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid to millions of low-income Americans. This program has provided coverage to more Americans than the private marketplaces
  • It would also cut the rest of the public insurance program. Better Care would also limit government spending on the rest of the Medicaid program, giving states a set amount to spend per person rather than the insurance program’s currently open-ended funding commitment.
  • The Senate bill provides smaller subsidies for less generous health insurance plans with higher deductibles. The Affordable Care Act provides government help to anyone who earns less than 400 percent of the federal poverty line ($47,550 for an individual or $97,200 for a family of four). The people who earn the least get the most help. The Senate bill would make those subsidies much smaller for many people, and only provide the money to those earning less than 350 percent of the poverty line ($41,580 for individuals and $85,050 for a family of four). The Senate bill will tether the size of its tax credits to what it takes to purchase a skimpier health insurance plan than the type of plans Affordable Care Act subsidies were meant to buy. Essentially, these tax credits buy less health insurance.
  • The Senate bill repeals the individual mandate — and replaces it with nothing. The bill gets rid of the Affordable Care Act’s unpopular requirement that nearly all Americans carry health coverage or pay a fine. This could cause significant disruption in the individual market because it takes away a key incentive healthy people have to buy coverage, meaning only sick people may sign up.
  • The bill would cut taxes for the wealthy. Obamacare included tax increases that hit wealthy Americans hardest in order to pay for its coverage expansion. The AHCA would get rid of those taxes. Obamacare was one of the biggest redistributions of wealth from the rich to the poor; the AHCA would reverse that.
  • The Senate bill defunds Planned Parenthood for one year. This would mean Medicaid patients could no longer seek treatment at Planned Parenthood clinics. Experts expect this would result in low-income Americans getting less medical care and having more unintended pregnancies, as access to contraceptives would decline.
  • All in all, the replacement plan benefits people who are healthy and high-income, and disadvantages those who are sicker and lower-income. The replacement plan would make several changes to what health insurers can charge enrollees who purchase insurance on the individual market, as well as changing what benefits their plans must cover. In aggregate, these changes could be advantageous to younger and healthier enrollees who want skimpier (and cheaper) benefit packages. But they could be costly for older and sicker Obamacare enrollees who rely on the law’s current requirements, and would be asked to pay more for less generous coverage.

Kliff goes into much further detail on how the bill drastically changes the way Medicaid works in this country, and the effects that the bill will have on lower-to-middle class families. It's going to take some time for people to fully analyze the language of the Better Care Act, hopefully there will be some time between when the CBO get's done accessing the bill, and when it is put to a vote. 

Lyft's new shuttle service sounds familiar

Heather Yamada-Hosley, writing for lifehacker:

I take Lyft or Lyft Line a couple times a week, usually because I’m traveling with other people and it’s the same or cheaper (and much, much cleaner, faster, and more pleasant) than taking public transportation. But Lyfts can add up fast and Lyft Line, while less expensive, can take you out of your way and make your travel time much longer.

Lyft Shuttle addresses both those issues by having you walk to a nearby pick up spot, get in a shared car that follows a pre-designated route, and drops you (and everyone else) off at the same stop. So, basically, you share a ride with other people (most of the time) so your ride price is lower, but you know exactly how long the ride will take because you’re on a pre-designated route.

I'm pretty sure there is a public service that already does something fairly similar. If only only I could remember what that was...

Oh, right. 

I get that people in big cities are not all that excited to use public transit, but it's sad that instead of trying to improve a public service people are running to the private sector to solve their problems. 

Karen Handel wins Georgia special election

Jonathan Martin and Richard Fausset, reporting for the New York Times:

Ms. Handel, 55, fended off Jon Ossoff, a 30-year-old Democrat and political newcomer who emerged from obscurity to raise $25 million from progressives across the country eager to express their anger at Mr. Trump. That fervor quickly elevated what would otherwise have been a sleepy local race into a high-stakes referendum on Mr. Trump and the most expensive House campaign in history.

The victory for Ms. Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state and Fulton County official, averted a humiliating upset for Republicans in an affluent, suburban Atlanta seat they have held for nearly 40 years. And it showed that Republicans skeptical of Mr. Trump remain comfortable supporting more conventional candidates from their party.

It looks like Ossof is going to lose by somewhere around a five-point margin. Republicans had just won this district by 23 points in the general election. This was the Democrats last, best hope to take a seat in the House before the 2018 mid-term elections. Today's results proved a tough loss for Dems, but the general voting trends of the last couple of months point to Republicans losing major ground in what have been traditionally deep red states.

The question facing the Democratic leadership is whether they can find enough strong candidates from an admittedly shallow bench, and a message that resonates with disenfranchised voters - both working class Democrats and frustrated moderate Republicans - to actually have a shot of taking back a majority in either house of Congress. 

For Republicans this was a hard earned win, and worth celebrating, but also a reminder that there are no safe seats come next November. Things will be different in the midterms, the party will not be able to pour all of its resources into a handful of races. I have no doubt that Republicans will raise an amount of money that is almost impossible to imagine, but the trick for them will be knowing where that money will be best spent.

 If these special election results prove anything it's that we are in for a wild year at the polls. It's not as if this president is going to become any less polarizing in the coming year, We are about to see the fallout of the ACHA Senate vote, and have a huge fight over tax reform. If the Democrats were a party without a message, they are about to get handed all of the talking points they need. Now they need to find candidates who can win, and soon.