Sunday, January 22, 2017

Across The Universe (Cont.) - "A Slice Of Sagittarius"

(click on image to enlarge)

From NASA/ ESA, January 16, 2017: This stunning image, captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), shows part of the sky in the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer). The region is rendered in exquisite detail — deep red and bright blue stars are scattered across the frame, set against a background of thousands of more distant stars and galaxies. Two features are particularly striking: the colours of the stars, and the dramatic crosses that burst from the centres of the brightest bodies.

While some of the colours in this frame have been enhanced and tweaked during the process of creating the image from the observational data, different stars do indeed glow in different colours. Stars differ in colour according to their surface temperature: very hot stars are blue or white, while cooler stars are redder. They may be cooler because they are smaller, or because they are very old and have entered the red giant phase, when an old star expands and cools dramatically as its core collapses.

The crosses are nothing to do with the stars themselves, and, because Hubble orbits above Earth’s atmosphere, nor are they due to any kind of atmospheric disturbance. They are actually known as diffraction spikes, and are caused by the structure of the telescope itself. Like all big modern telescopes, Hubble uses mirrors to capture light and form images. Its secondary mirror is supported by struts, called telescope spiders, arranged in a cross formation, and they diffract the incoming light. Diffraction is the slight bending of light as it passes near the edge of an object. Every cross in this image is due to a single set of struts within Hubble itself! Whilst the spikes are technically an inaccuracy, many astrophotographers choose to emphasise and celebrate them as a beautiful feature of their images.

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

Tweets Of The Day - "Alternative Facts" And The Kiss

Press Secretary Sean "Baghdad Sean" Spicer is being "defended" in her own soulless way by Rump advisor Kellyanne "Baghdad Kellyanne" Conway for his bald- face lies yesterday, prompting the hashtag #alternativefacts and a query:

And in case you had any doubt about the Rump/ James Comey bromance:

Sunday Reflection - Sign Of The Times

From the Women's March in New York City (via HuffPo).

(click on image to enlarge)

(bertbelgian/ Instagram)

Damn right!

Trump's Monkey Business

Anyone who thought con-man-in-chief Donald "Rump" Trump was sincere when he conducted his "press conference" on January 11 promising to deal with conflicts of interest with his business holdings...well, we'll sign you up for a course in ethics at Trump University. Pro Publica has researched the process required for Rump to meet even the barest minimum standards to avoid conflicts of interest, and surprise! he has yet to complete it. He promised to transfer his companies to his sons, Beavis and Butthead, before the inauguration rather than to divest his holdings entirely (foreign entities would still be dealing with the Trump family as far as loans, patronage, etc.).  The three states where he needs to file the documents hadn't received the necessary documents as of the afternoon of January 20, hours into Rump's term, and in violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution.
"To transfer ownership of his biggest companies, Trump has to file a long list of documents in Florida, Delaware and New York. We asked officials in each of those states whether they have received the paperwork. As of 3:15 p.m. today, the officials said they have not.Trump and his associates 'are not doing what they said they would do,' said Richard Painter, the chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush. 'And even that was completely inadequate.”
Expect more smoke and mirrors from a con artist who will prove to be the most unethical and corrupt in our nation's history. He's hoping, as with his still-unreleased tax returns, that the public won't care about his family business getting richer with foreign gratuities and barely-concealed bribes. He has to be held accountable.

The Banality Of Evil Strikes Again

They lie just as easily and naturally as they breathe.

On their first full day in office, neo- fascist pathological liar Donald "Rump" Trump and his mini- Goebbels, empty suit Press Secretary Sean "Baghdad Sean" Spicer, faced the public and media in their official capacities and... lied their asses off.
On Saturday, President Donald Trump’s first full day in office, he gave a speech at CIA headquarters in which he lied about the size of the crowd at his inauguration and falsely claimed that he had never feuded with the U.S. intelligence community. Hours later, his press secretary emerged from the West Wing, lied about the size of the inaugural crowd and took no questions. 
The most important news here is not the crowd size, or whether Trump feuded with America’s spies (he did), or even that the president and his press secretary lied. Politicians lie. What’s remarkable is that the president and his administration chose to lie, repeatedly, on their first full day on the job, about a relatively trivial ― and easily checkable ― matter.  (our emphasis)
The article details the facts opposing Rump and his mini- Goebbels.  The truth is plain to see (as they say). That Rump lies as a matter of course is not in the least surprising;  he's a narcissist and sociopath. Clearly, he's selected a staff that is willing to lie just as vigorously and nonsensically just to keep their jobs. That this is the template right from the start, while not surprising, may be disturbing enough to have awakened some of the stenographers in the media, long oblivious to what was coming their way.

In the meantime, here's "Vladimir Putin's" (Beck Bennett's) message to the American people on Rump, crowds and the Women's March yesterday:

BONUS:  SNL's host Aziz Ansari (first south Asian host ever) closed his monologue with this:
"If you're scared about Trump and you're very worried, you're going to be OK, too. Because if you look at our history, change doesn't come from presidents. Change comes from large groups of angry people. And if day one is any indication, you are part of the largest group of angry people I have ever seen.”

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Resistance Begins (Cont.)

Marching today in the overwhelmingly huge crowd in Washington, D.C., today, I was able to take some ground- level pictures that didn't begin do justice to the enormity and sprawl of the event. Due to my primitive photographic skillz with my new smartphone camera, I've relied on the Silver Spring Bureau Chief, Brian, for the pictures below.

Peaceful, powerful, loud, chanting, energized, determined, focused, standing up and pushing back (click on images to enlarge):

And finally, some editorializing on a certain Republican media orifice:

BONUS: Dear friend and reader P.E.C. sent us these photos of the marchers in Boston:

And, no marchers, but the majestic State House with its golden dome gleaming in the winter sun:

The Resistance Begins

Today, in cities in the U.S. and around the world, a diverse collection of perhaps millions of women and men marched in opposition to demagogic bigot Donald "Rump" Trump and his policies on women's and LGBTQ rights, the environment, immigration, and a host of other issues. The march in Washington, D.C. alone drew an estimated 500,000 plus people -- far exceeding Rump's inaugural crowd -- and was attended by such A-list celebrities as Madonna (who dropped a couple of "F bombs"), Alicia Keys, Scarlet Johansson, and Gloria Steinem. Our own brother Hackwhacker and his family were among the crowd in D.C. Major cities -- Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles among them -- saw thousands turn out to protest Rump and his divisive rhetoric and administration, over 670 events in the U.S. and worldwide. In Boston, where our dear friend and supporter P.E.C. was, the crowd was estimated at over 125,000. City by city, expectations of crowd size were uniformly exceeded. Here's a photographic depiction of today's historic marches in some major metropolitan areas.

Washington, D.C.:


New York City:

Los Angeles:



Here's a sampling of additional marches in the U.S. and around the world, from London to Sydney to Mexico City. Here's more.

The goal will be to keep this movement together, through the coming weeks as a Rethug Congress seeks to dismantle progressive programs and legislation from the past 50 years, through the 2018 mid-term elections where progressives are notoriously absent from the voting booth, and in 2020 when we'll have a shot at defeating Rump and reversing the damage he's doing and will do to America. It has to be done.

Rump's Attack On The Middle Class Begins

As one of his first official duties, demagogue and Putin poodle Donald "Rump" Trump signed a slew of reactionary executive orders to cancel or alter previous policies aimed at aiding the middle class. Acting on the nihilistic Republican urge to strip 20 million Americans of their health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, Rump also signed an order directing Federal agencies to "minimize the unwarranted and regulatory burdens of the Act," which is intended to obstruct ongoing implementation of the Act while Congressional Rethugs work at repealing the signature legislation of the Obama Administration.  Another one of the orders was to cancel the rate cut on FHA mortgage premiums, a move that punishes homeowners with FHA loans by an average of $500 this year. Rump also signed an order freezing the issuance of regulations (presumably from environmental protection, to immigration, to women's reproductive rights, to energy conservation and renewable energy, all of which are anathema to the new reactionary, hard-right regime).

Many of his unpopular actions will undoubtedly be taken in the middle of the night, and with little of the usual Trumpian fanfare, so as not to surprise his conned base. It's up to us in opposition to him to make it clear, what he's up to: filling the "swamp" he pledged to drain with alligators.

Sentimental Journey

As he did for decades as Senator from Delaware, former Vice President Joe Biden chose to take the Amtrak train from Washington to Wilmington, Delaware yesterday after the inauguration. He estimates that he's taken the round trip some 8,200 times over his time serving in Washington. It's no wonder that this unpretentious and hopeful man, who most recently lost his beloved son Beau, is beloved regardless of political affiliation.

The Day After

Bill Maher is back and does a fine job of summarizing the inauguration of neo- fascist nitwit and man with the nuclear codes Donald "Rump" Trump:

Also, we've had presidents who played musical instruments (Truman and Nixon, the piano; Clinton, the sax). We had no idea Rump played an instrument until our Silver Spring Bureau Chief brought this to our attention:

Sad (but not sad trombone)!

BONUS: And speaking of sad, there's this photo of viewing stands from Rump's inauguration. H/t to Tengrain at Mock Paper Scissors.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Weekend Not Backing Down Song

Well, there were several song choices we were mulling over for this fateful day.  Like this.  And this. But we decided on a different message.  This is it.

Pictures Don't Lie, Unlike Shitgibbon Trump

The photo on the left is the crowd at President Obama's 2009 inaugural, the one on the right is from today's inaugural of neo- fascist un- President Trump. Sad!

(click on images to enlarge)

(Photos: Reuters/ AP, via New York Daily News)

Another side- by- side via Vox (Obama 2009 on left, Rump on right)

(Photo: Javier Zarracina)

BONUS: NBC's Katy Tur shot this video along the parade route: sparse crowds, empty stands. Sad!

Our National Catastrophe -- And The Fight Ahead

At noon on this appropriately gloomy and rainy day in Washington, the national catastrophe many of us have been dreading since the election will begin. During whatever time the Trump mis- administration exercises its power it will use that power to corrode America's democratic institutions and whatever moral purpose we share as a nation. We have sown the wind, and now we'll reap the whirlwind.

Here are the reflections of others on this day of national humiliation and shame (a.k.a., "Mourning in America"). As always, please go to the links for the entire articles (our emphasis throughout).

Michael Tomasky on the slog ahead and the hope he has:
... [T]here will be the daily, weekly, monthly slog of feeling the man drag us all down, as he already has. How much worse are we as a people than we were 17 months ago? It’s impossible to measure precisely. But we know that we’ve gone from being shocked at the idea of having a presidential candidate shout about building a wall to debating whether Congress would appropriate the funds for it; from being scandalized at the very idea of a Muslim registry to wondering how such a thing could be implemented; from being aghast that a sexual predator could sit in the Oval Office to not even mentioning it anymore. All that happened without him even being president. To what will we be sensitized with him holding the office? 
We survived the crooks and liars and incompetents and alcoholics. I think we’ll survive Trump too. But it will require people on the left and the right to guard our institutions, and to say to him no, you just can’t do that. I was struck Thursday by words written by Eliot A. Cohen, a conservative, writing in The American Interest: “nothing will teach him gravitas, magnanimity, or wisdom.” 
No, nothing will. But I still hold out the hope that we the people can punish him for his lack of those qualities, his lack of any belief system. He didn’t win a majority of our votes. He doesn’t today have a majority of our support. And time will show that gravitas, magnanimity, and wisdom, especially wisdom, still matter.
Ryan Cooper tells us to brace ourselves for what's coming (spoiler alert: an Era of Epic Corruption):
On the day of his presidential inauguration, it's already clear how Donald Trump will govern. We've seen his Cabinet appointees, and watched some of their confirmation hearings. Now we've got a first glimpse of his budget ideas. 
Brace yourself, America: The Trump administration is going to be an epic disaster — an orgy of looting, corruption, and austerity. 
David Cay Johnson, who's been observing Trump for decades, warns:
This Friday America enters a perilous era when a man who trusts Vladimir Putin more than Americans in Congress, the military or our intelligence services takes the oath of office. Whether our republic endures Donald J. Trump’s clearly divided loyalties may well depend on how smartly Americans respond to our new president, with his insatiable lust for money, power, and public adoration.
Johnson then outlines what he thinks Trump's actions will be in the days ahead (worth keeping track of), and concludes:
Anyone who thinks that our Constitution will save us from Trump’s instincts does not understand that it is a piece of paper that can be ignored by a president determined to emulate Vladimir Putin’s autocratic style. 
Be wary. Be watchful. But most of all don't be dumb and play into Trump’s hands.
That last admonition especially applies to our broken corporate media, for whom (with minor exceptions) we hold out no hope.

Kevin Fallon on the concert last night that kicked off the "celebrations" and the tone it set:
Thursday's inauguration weekend welcome concert did its job, in that it accurately and compellingly set the tone for the new administration and the new America. It didn’t run properly, didn’t reflect your tastes or interests, and you wouldn’t want to purchase a ticket to it—let alone desire to be present to witness the disaster. 
Yet here we are. 3 Doors Down is here, too.
Infidel 753 sounds the clarion:
Never listen to those who tell us everything is already lost (and yes, I admit that for a brief time I was among them).  Don't read that link, read this one, my response to a bout of despair on our side in early 2010 when the original passage of Obamacare seemed doomed.  As I pointed out at the time, progressives of generations past -- Dr. King, Frederick Douglass, César Chávez, Harvey Milk, the suffragettes and union organizers of a century ago -- faced daunting circumstances, but they kept fighting and ultimately won.  If we keep fighting, we still might lose.  If we don't, we will definitely lose.
So, here we all are, with a strong sense of the disaster that's about to unfold.  We can despair, or we can resolve to fight back, in the knowledge that our fight is not only just but imperative.

We say fight. Beginning now.

Illustration of the Day

(click to enlarge)

Tjeerd Royaards

The Plot Thickens

There is mounting evidence that not only did the Russian regime engage in cyber espionage to benefit Putin poodle Donald "Rump" Trump in the election, but that members of the Rump campaign were coordinating on a regular basis with Russia. Three top Rump associates -- former campaign manager Paul Manafort, business advisor and Russophile Carter Page, and long-time political ratf*cker Roger Stone -- are the subject of a Federal counterintelligence investigation into communications and financial transactions with the Russian government during the course of the Rump campaign. Investigators also are looking into evidence that Russia paid pensioners living in the U.S. to either participate in "fake news" efforts or to launder money to benefit the Rump campaign. In a related story, Russian hacker Stanislav Lisov was arrested at the Barcelona airport by Spanish police on a warrant issued by the FBI through Interpol. Lisov had previously fled the U.S. after his role in the hacking computers to embarrass Secretary Clinton's campaign was uncovered. He's being held pending an extradition request from the U.S.

The ominous element in this investigative process is that, once Rump is sworn in, he can use his executive power to redirect or to shut down these investigations. The likelihood is great that he will, because his overweening narcissism and sociopathy won't allow him to believe that he was elected as a result of the intervention of a hostile foreign government (even though he actively encouraged Russia to hack Secretary Clinton's emails). That's a direct threat to our democracy, and an open invitation to Putin to meddle again.