Sunday, May 19, 2019

Across The Universe, Cont. -- Gravitational Interplay 30 Million Light Years From Home

(click on image to enlarge)

From NASA/ ESA, May 16, 2019NGC 4485 has been involved in a dramatic gravitational interplay with its larger galactic neighbour NGC 4490 — out of frame to the bottom right in this image. This ruined the original, ordered spiral structure of the galaxy and transformed it into an irregular one.

The interaction also created a stream of material about 25,000 light-years long, connecting the two galaxies. The stream, visible to the right of the galaxy is made up of bright knots and huge pockets of gassy regions, as well as enormous regions of star formation in which young, massive, blue stars are born.

Below NGC 4485 one can see a bright, orange background galaxy: CXOU J123033.6+414057. This galaxy is the source of X-ray radiation studied by the Chandra X-ray Observatory. It’s distance from Earth is about 850 million light-years.

Credit:  ESA/Hubble, NASA

SNL Unloaded On Anti-Choice AL State Senators

“This looks like the cast of a Lipitor commercial. This look like mugshots of everyone arrested at a massage parlor. If any of them had lips I would tell them to kiss my entire ass.” SNL's Leslie Jones, commenting last night on the white male Rethuglican state Senators voting to essentially ban abortions, including pregnancies resulting from rape and incest.

Russian Efforts To Destabilize Austria Exposed

That the bastard's tentacles reach far beyond Putin puppet Donald "Rump" Trump is broadly known. Now it's on tape:
Turns out Russian collusion isn’t a "witch hunt hoax" after all. At least not in Austria.
The country’s government collapsed on Saturday after Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said he was pulling the plug on his ruling coalition after just 17 months in office.
The move came barely 24 hours after the release of a bombshell video showing Heinz-Christian Strache, the far-right leader of his junior coalition partner, trying to trade public contracts for party donations from a woman he believed to be the wealthy niece of a Russian oligarch. [snip]
The incriminating video triggered the resignation of Strache, the government’s No. 2 official, earlier Saturday.

Given the' gravity of the scandal — in the video Strache offered to exchange lucrative government contracts for campaign donations with a supposed Russian millionaire and discussed how to hide the payments from authorities — Kurz appeared to have concluded that pulling the plug was the only way he could shield his own party from the affair. [snip]

The Freedom Party has a formal partnership with Vladimir Putin’s political party, but has repeatedly denied working to further Russian interests in Austria.
Now, does this sound familiar:
... Freedom Party officials repeatedly confirmed those fears over the past 17 months with aggressive anti-asylum policies and by poisoning Austria’s political discourse with overtly racist rhetoric.

The Freedom Party’s provocations included flirtations with the identitarian movement and regular attacks on journalists, whom Strache labeled as "the biggest whores on the planet" in the leaked video.  (our emphasis)
Right- wing parties around the globe are being supported by the malicious Russian autocrat, with the approval of our own would- be autocrat (see Orban and Bolsonaro for starters).  This is just a reminder that the neo- fascist malignancy isn't confined to any one country.  It's a truly global struggle that we must begin to turn the tide by winning against it here in the United States.

(Image:  Jon Berkeley, The Economist, London)

Today's Cartoons

(click on images to enlarge)

(Jim Morin, Miami Herald)

(Kevin Siers, The Charlotte Observer)

(Steve Sack, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

(Ken Catalino,

(Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

(Marty Two Bulls,

(Steve Breen, San Diego Union-Tribune)

Saudis Still Agitating For War With Iran

Time's a- wastin'!  Need to get that war with Iran started while the compromised, easily manipulated dolt is still in the White House!
Saudi Arabia has called for urgent meetings of the regional Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League to discuss escalating tensions in the region, the kingdom’s official news agency said on Saturday.
The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said King Salman had invited Gulf leaders and Arab states to two emergency summits in Mecca on May 30 to discuss recent “aggressions and their consequences” in the region.
John Bolton and Mike Pompeo just felt thrills up their chickenhawk spines.

A pretext for the Saudis is the recent attack on four ships in the Persian Gulf, two of them Saudi tankers, none of which were significantly damaged.  Some experts took note of how this looked =cough= suspicious, especially in light of our allies saying they saw "no increased threat" from Iran or its proxies

Note the source in the embedded news story below for another actor keen to get the United States into another quagmire in the Middle East:

Our simpleton "president" may think he's in control, but he's in way over his head versus the bonesaw crowd and the chickenhawks in his cabinet.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

No, No, No, No, No

It's "Excerpt Two" where a fatal misreading of reality presages a possible third failed presidential campaign (click to enlarge):

In response:

He seems determined to make this pitch, doesn't he? 

The Clinton impeachment.  Swift boats.  Birtherism.  "One term president."  Obamacare sabotage.  Colluding with Russians.  Nativism.  Racism.  Homophobia.  War on women's rights.  Gun violence.  Voter suppression.  Merrick Garland.  White nationalism.  Babies in cages.  All things Trump, ffs.  And on and on, ad nauseam.

He wants to run a 1976 campaign while the country's burning down.  Somebody, make an intervention, please.  We're 50 years past the unicorn of clubby "bipartisanship."  This is a fight, and we're damn sure angry!

The Absurd And Unintended Consequences Of Alabama's Abortion Ban

Law professor Carliss Chatman follows the "logic" of the recently enacted Alabama law virtually ending abortion rights to its "logical" conclusions:
Alabama has joined the growing number of states determined to overturn Roe v. Wade by banning abortion from conception forward. The Alabama Human Life Protection Act, as the new statute is called, subjects a doctor who performs an abortion to as many as 99 years in prison. The law, enacted Wednesday, has no exceptions for rape or incest. It redefines an “unborn child, child or person” as “a human being, specifically including an unborn child in utero at any stage of development, regardless of viability.”
We ought to take our laws seriously. Under the laws, people have all sorts of rights and protections. When a state grants full personhood to a fetus, should they not apply equally?
Child support starting at conception? Sure!

Claim a fetus on your taxes? Makes sense!

Deporting a pregnant immigrant with an American citizen/fetus in her womb?  Better not!

How about detaining that pregnant immigrant's American citizen/fetus without arraignment or trial? Unconstitutional!

How about counting that American citizen/ fetus in the census?  Now you're talking!

It's an interesting read showing the absurdities of the Alabama law beyond, for example, the brutality of having no exceptions for rape or incest and criminalizing a medical procedure.  The application of the 14th Amendment's definitions of personhood and citizenship is the foundation for what would become an issue for the courts:
... States have been allowed to define the personhood of unnatural creatures — such as corporations — since very early in our nation’s history. In exchange for this freedom, states are not permitted to go back on their deal. In other words, once personhood rights are granted, a state may not deny life, liberty or property without due process, nor may a state deny equal protection under the law. States have never had the right to define the personhood of people. This was a subject — influenced either by place of birth or by complying with immigration and naturalization requirements — for the Constitution and federal law. State grants of natural personhood challenge this norm.
Since different states have laws that protect women's reproductive rights (eg., New York), applying the "logic" in the Alabama law in a post- Roe world would lead to the unintended consequence of what Chatman calls a bonkers system of "two- tiered fetal citizenship" across the country.  It's a timely and thought- provoking article.  Go read!  (h/t FOB P.E.C.)

BONUSSteve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog has more on Chatman's op/ed.

Today's Cartoons

(click on images to enlarge)

(Pat Bagley, The Salt Lake Tribune)

(Steve Sack, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

(John Darkow, Columbia Missourian)

(David Horsey, Seattle Times)

(Patrick Chappatte, New York Times)

(John Cole, Scranton Times-Tribune)

See You In Court, Stevie

Former hedge fund forecloser and minor Bond villain Treasury Secretary Steven "Vowel Missing" Mnuchin responded yesterday to the House Ways and Means Committee's lawful subpoena for sociopathic demagogue Donald "Not Exonerated" Trump's tax returns from 2013 to 2018 with an arrogant "no." In his letter to Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA), Mnuchin claimed legal "advice" from William Barr's Justice Department indicated that the subpoena "lacks legitimate legislative purpose," something that isn't in the purview of the Executive Branch to determine.

Again, 26 USC 6103 empowers the House Ways and Means Chairman to be given anyone's tax returns:
"(f) Disclosure to Committees of Congress
(1) Committee on Ways and Means, Committee on Finance, and Joint Committee on Taxation
Upon written request from the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, the chairman of the Committee on Finance of the Senate, or the chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request, except that any return or return information which can be associated with, or otherwise identify, directly or indirectly, a particular taxpayer shall be furnished to such committee only when sitting in closed executive session unless such taxpayer otherwise consents in writing to such disclosure." (our emphasis)
"Shall" means shall. Next stop, Federal court to compel Mnuchin to release the subpoenaed records, with stiff penalties for noncompliance.

(photo: Andrew Harre/ Getty Images)

"Consensual Rape" And The Rethug Mentality

Obscure Missouri state Rep. Barry Hovis stands in a long line of backward, misogynist Rethuglican pols and their enablers in believing that raped women were just "asking for it." In the debate over the state's new anti-choice law, Hovis, a former police officer, launched into a largely fact-free discourse on rape, unleashing this foul crap:
“Let’s just say someone goes out and they’re raped or they’re sexually assaulted one night after a college party — because most of my rapes were not the gentleman jumping out of the bushes that nobody had ever met,” Hovis said. “That was one or two times out of a hundred. Most of them were date rapes or consensual rapes, which were all terrible."
Imagine being a woman and having this twisted clown be the cop that arrives after you report being raped. Imagine voters in Missouri electing this cretin and you have the answer to why we can't have nice things in America. We imagine Hovis earned his Master of Rapes degree at the Todd Akin School for Understandin' Wimmen, where professor Todd Akin, once a candidate for U.S. Senate against Sen. Claire McCaskill in 2012, propounded his theory that a woman could "shut down" a pregnancy in the case of "legitimate rape."  Also... "the gentleman."

The enduring union of the "corporate conservative" movement and the theocratic far-right has produced this dangerous nonsense. Their beliefs that women are not equal citizens with equal rights -- importantly the right to decide what happens in their own bodies -- permeate every corner of their policies, from rejection of equal pay and employment opportunities for women, to their new attacks on Roe v. Wade. As it has before, their overreach will boomerang against them at the polls, as women and men understand their end game: taking women back to a patriarchal, 19th century world. Not going to happen.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Twit Tweet, Thwap

Twit tweet:


Trump's Next Move? Rounding Up Immigrants Using Military

Bigoted demagogue Donald "Not Exonerated" Trump's immigration "reform" dog and pony show yesterday is already being panned by Rethugs (cruel, but not cruel enough) and Dems as "dead on arrival." As one of the projects of his cluelessly underqualified son-in-law Jared "Mr. Ivanka Trump" Kushner, it was a throwaway matter for Trump, whose interest is not in immigration reform, just political immigrant bashing.

As a sign of just how cynical and empty the Trump immigration "reform" show was, the White (Supremacist) House appears to be considering removing undocumented immigrants using the military. Using the Insurrection Act of 1807 for cover, the Trump regime would use military assets to round up and forcibly remove immigrants and their families, according to several regime officials. The Insurrection Act, however, has limits for when it would be invoked in using military force:
"(T)he president has the authority to use military force within the country’s borders, but only in the very specific instances of 'insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy.' It can also be invoked in disaster scenarios, but only if there is such widespread domestic violence that local authorities cannot maintain public order."  (our emphasis)
The Act was last invoked for the Los Angeles riots in 1992, when police and military units put down riots stemming from the beating of Rodney King by LA police.

This misuse of the military to show how "tough" he is on undocumented immigrants for his rabid cult fits in with the deployment of thousands of troops sent to the border with Mexico to address a "crisis" of his own making. Any twisted invocation of the Insurrection Act for the purpose of removing undocumented immigrants must be successfully challenged in court.

Today's Cartoons

(click on images to enlarge)

(Kevin Siers, The Charlotte Observer)

(Walt Handelsman, The Advocate, New Orleans)

(Jim Morin, Miami Herald)

(Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

(Kevin Kallaugher, The Economist, London)

(Tom Toles, Washington Post)

Weekend Bi-Coastal Music Twofer

We've featured both of today's bands previously: Parquet Courts, a New York City- based indie band, and the seminal 60's band from San Francisco, The Beau Brummels.  "Freebird II" is from Parquet Courts' "Wide Awake" album released a year ago this week.  "Just A Little" was The Beau Brummels' second single (following the landmark "Laugh, Laugh") and was released nearly 54 years ago in June 1965. Hope you enjoy the bi- coastal, bi- generational music.

"Charting Awful New Frontiers" In The Republican War On Women

Michelle Goldberg has a must- read on why a post- Roe world would be even worse than the conditions that existed before Roe.  Here are a few of her top line arguments (our emphasis):

While doctors were prosecuted for abortions before Roe, patients rarely were. Today, in states that have legislated fetal personhood, women are already arrested on suspicion of harming or endangering their fetuses, including by using drugs, attempting suicide or, in a case in Utah, delaying a cesarean section. There’s no reason to believe that, in states where abortion is considered homicide, prosecutors will be less punitive when investigating it.

Further, the abortion bans in the new wave are harsher than most of those that existed before Roe. At that time, most states prohibited abortion in most circumstances, but according to historian Leslie Reagan, the author of the book “When Abortion Was a Crime,” there was little legal conception of fetal personhood.
Overturning or weakening Roe also shifts the Overton window:
Republican politicians in other states are clearly interested in locking women up; last month Texas legislators held a hearing on a bill that would allow women who have abortions to be charged with homicide and potentially subject to the death penalty. In a post-Roe future, the political fight, at least in red states, could shift from whether women can have abortions to whether they can be imprisoned for them.
Should there be any more talk of a Republican "fever" breaking upon the election of a Democratic president in 2020, the troglodyte extremism exhibited by these State and local (largely white male) Republicans demonstrates this isn't a bug of that rotted out party -- it's a feature. 
As we watch Donald Trump remake this country in ways that once seemed unimaginable, it’s tempting to reach for historical analogies to grapple with what’s happening. It’s why, as people struggle to understand how his abuses of power might be constrained, there’s been renewed interest in Watergate. Yet, as in the comparison between Richard Nixon and Trump, the past can prove inadequate to understanding the depredations of the present. Rather than moving backward, we’re charting awful new frontiers.
These are not people with whom you can have a civil dialogue, much less reason with.  They are yahoos who will use their power to impose their dangerous, antediluvian views on everyone else.  At every level in American politics, as we keep saying, they need to be voted out of office once and for all.  The vast majority of Americans disagree with these absolutist crackpots and have ever since Roe;  they need to act on that at the polls from now on.