Sunday, August 20, 2017

Across The Universe, Cont. - Distorted Duo

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From NASA/ ESA, August 14, 2017:  Gravity governs the movements of the cosmos. It draws flocks of galaxies together to form small groups and more massive galaxy clusters, and brings duos so close that they begin to tug at one another. This latter scenario can have extreme consequences, with members of interacting pairs of galaxies often being dramatically distorted, torn apart, or driven to smash into one another, abandoning their former identities and merging to form a single accumulation of gas, dust, and stars.

The subject of this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image, IC 1727, is currently interacting with its near neighbour, NGC 672 (which is just out of frame). The pair’s interactions have triggered peculiar and intriguing phenomena within both objects — most noticeably in IC 1727. The galaxy’s structure is visibly twisted and asymmetric, and its bright nucleus has been dragged off-centre.

In interacting galaxies such as these, astronomers often see signs of intense star formation (in episodic flurries known as starbursts) and spot newly-formed star clusters. They are thought to be caused by gravity churning, redistributing, and compacting the gas and dust. In fact, astronomers have analysed the star formation within IC 1727 and NGC 672 and discovered something interesting — observations show that simultaneous bursts of star formation occurred in both galaxies some 20 to 30 and 450 to 750 million years ago. The most likely explanation for this is that the galaxies are indeed an interacting pair, approaching each other every so often and swirling up gas and dust as they pass close by.

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

Trump's Poll Numbers Dropping In Key States

A new NBC News / Marist poll out today indicates that support for neo-fascist demagogue Donald "Rump" Trump is slipping in key states that he carried last November, falling below 40% in Michigan (36% approve), Pennsylvania (35% approve), and Wisconsin (34% approve). Even more telling, the question of whether Rump's conduct makes you feel embarrassed that he's President, the numbers were even worse: Michigan with 64% feeling embarrassed, Pennsylvania with 63%, and Wisconsin with 64%.

Six in ten voters in all three states said that America's international role had been diminished under Rump. The poll also showed that voters in those key states would prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress by margins of 8% (Wisconsin), 10% (Pennsylvania), and 13% (Michigan).

The poll was taken after the white supremacist riot in Charlottesville on August 12 and during the week of Rump's "fine people on both sides" comment giving white supremacists moral equivalency with people protesting them.

Tweet/ Pic Of The Day - The Sign

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(Via Balloon Juice)

Sunday Reflection - Statue Symbolism

Some musings on statue symbolism this morning. As always, these are snippets; please go to the links for the full essays.

First, if you aren't already aware of the origins and true meaning of Confederate statues, Prof. Karen Cox is here to enlighten:
Almost none of the monuments were put up right after the Civil War. Some were erected during the civil rights era of the early 1960s, which coincided with the war’s centennial, but the vast majority of monuments date to between 1895 and World War I. They were part of a campaign to paint the Southern cause in the Civil War as just and slavery as a benevolent institution, and their installation came against a backdrop of Jim Crow violence and oppression of African Americans. The monuments were put up as explicit symbols of white supremacy.
(If you're familiar with the KKK- glorifying 1915 D.W. Griffith movie, "The Birth of a Nation," think of these statues as static representations of the same era and racial perspective.)

Infidel 753 on the claim that the Confederate statues represent Southern "heritage:"
To really see how bizarre this is, imagine if some Germans insisted on displaying Nazis flags and statues of Nazi leaders, but claimed that this was out of pride in their German heritage and nothing to do with anti-Semitism or fascism.  Germany as a culturally-distinct region is more than a thousand years old and can boast world-class achievements in science, technology, music, literature, architecture, and on and on.  To ignore all that, and choose symbols representing solely Germany's twelve-year lurch into the darkest depths of evil, would strongly suggest that what they were really commemorating was not German heritage at all, but rather that very evil.
So it is with the Confederate flag and statues.  To treat these as if they were the epitome of the Southern heritage, the symbols best suited to express it, actually demeans that heritage by presenting only its worst face as if that represented the whole. 
Christine Emba on why she's tired of explaining why she and other racial and religious minorities matter in the "debate" over Jim Crow- era monuments:
There are the appeals to reason, grown tedious for having been so often repeated: No, taking down a monument is not an “erasure of history.” No, it is not a slippery slope from removing mutinously erected statues of Lee to dynamiting monuments to George Washington. No, even if all the Confederate monuments disappeared overnight, we would not as a country forget that the Civil War ever happened or what it meant. After all, we still have books and museums and cemeteries and preserved battlefields and structural inequality. 
Then there are the analogies, the individual stories, all the more painful for being constantly retold: No — I can’t just “get over it,” because I can’t just take off my dark skin, which permanently marks me as the other. No, they aren’t “just statues”: They bring up personal, painful memories of current racism and marginalization — shall I recount those for you, again? [snip]
...Why would so many Americans rather undergo one million mental contortions than admit that someone else's safety matters? Why is it so hard for you to care? 
The answer, I think, is not one that I'll like. But perhaps you can take up the burden of explaining that to me.
Sadly, the majority of Americans (!) still believe the statues should remain, though at the same time they claim to oppose white supremacy and the KKK by large percentages. We have a lot of explaining to do, don't we?

(Photo: The Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, VA)

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Tweet / Pic Of The Day

Gotta love those Bostonians:

Kudos to Dan Drezner for the Ken Burns-style message.

Today's Cartoon Twofer - Luckovich Edition

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(Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Consititution)

(Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Hate Radio Buffoon: "A Second Civil War" Coming

Yesterday, hate radio pustule and depraved opioid abuser Rush "Limpballs" Limbaugh attacked the anti-Nazi    counter protesters in Charlottesville, while weaving multiple anti-Semitic tropes into his tirade. Saying that the white supremacists "were not the problem,"  Limpballs blamed the violence on "people like George Soros and any other number of international financiers whose objective it is to take the United States out and down as a superpower.” He claimed the counter protesters represented an “ongoing effort to erase America by discrediting the entire premise of our culture, our history, our founding,” who "showed up in Charlottesville to create mayhem and cause hell.” Ominously, the porcine buffoon told his faithful audience that, “we are on the cusp of a second civil war.”

Limpballs has a long and ugly history of racist comments. Sadly, he has millions of angry, clueless "dittohead" followers, many of whom will take his "second civil war" comment to heart, continue to arm themselves, and act out their leader's direction in a violent way. Just wait.

BONUS:  Of course, Limpballs is only one of many mercenary crackpots pushing this seditious notion. So are Michael "Wiener" Savage (who is, not coincidentally, flogging his new book whose theme is "civil war") and the ever- porcine Alex Jones. We wonder what kind of a kickback these malicious weasels are getting from the NRA to rile up the morons and boost gun sales.

Letters We Wish We'd Written - Bearing Witness

In today's Washington Post:
Regarding the Aug. 16 front-page article “Trump again blames ‘both sides’ ”: 
I was a preschooler in Germany at the end of World War II. My generation learned the horrific history of the Nazis and how they pulled a whole country along with them. The shame and guilt continue to lie heavily on my generation. Now, as a longtime citizen of the United States, I watched in horror the events in Charlottesville. But more chilling were the words of the president. 
I can only imagine how descendants of slaves, Holocaust survivors and their descendants felt hearing the president equate those who had the courage to oppose with those who marched with the Nazi salute, the Nazi flag, torches, the Ku Klux Klan and the others Mr. Trump called “fine people” who marched along with them.  
I felt the beginning of Nazi history repeating itself. 
It is not enough for our representatives to denounce the alt-right. They must find the moral backbone to denounce those leaders, including the president, who have made excuses for the movement and its hateful ideology. They must refuse to be associated with the president’s party if it continues to value reelection chances and passage of its agenda over what is morally right and if it continues to tolerate this president, who has demonstrated that he lacks the moral authority to lead this great country. The danger is too great.
Ute O’Neal, Potomac
So far, we see very little evidence of Republican politicians willing to directly confront neo- fascist incompetent Donald "Rump" Trump, nor do we expect to see it any time soon if ever. As Brian McFadden portrays Sneaker of the House Paul "Lyin'" Ryan in the cartoon below, the only concern motivating these weasels is that they be able to shovel more of America's wealth upward as quickly as possible. No moral authority there.

Swamp Creatures: Carl Icahn Edition

The New Yorker magazine has a fascinating article (referenced briefly by Rachel Maddow last night) that looks into the dealings of billionaire investor and long-time corporate raider Carl "I Con" Icahn, who until yesterday, was an "advisor" to neo-fascist demagogue Donald "Rump" Trump for regulatory "reform", a euphemism for cutting regulations unpopular with corporations. What makes that particular connection galling is that Icahn -- who has long chafed under Federal regulations impacting his investments -- was more interested in boosting his profits through cutting regulations, particularly at the EPA, that were bothersome to his bottom line.

In particular, he was bleeding millions from his investment in CVR, an oil refinery in Texas, due to a requirement that ethanol be blended into their fuel or purchase "credits" from refineries that do. He wanted that requirement done away with, and he let Rump know that it was his top priority:
"Appearing on Bloomberg TV on August 16, 2016, [Icahn] vowed that Trump would put an end to 'these crazy regulations' on his first day in office. In fact, Icahn continued, he had spoken with Trump about the E.P.A. rule obliging his refiner to purchase renewable-fuel credits. If elected, Trump 'will stop that,' Icahn promised. 'That’s a hundred per cent.' Several weeks after Trump’s victory, Icahn tweeted, 'I’ve agreed to serve as a special advisor to the president on issues relating to regulatory reform.' [snip] 
In the months after the election, the stock price of CVR, Icahn’s refiner, nearly doubled—a surge that is difficult to explain without acknowledging the appointment of the company’s lead shareholder to a White House position. The rally meant a personal benefit for Icahn, at least on paper, of half a billion dollars." (emphasis added)
Icahn's brief stint as "advisor" to Rump on regulatory matters benefitted him greatly, perhaps even beyond the CVR caper. Financiers quoted in the New Yorker article joke that it was a corporate raid on Washington by Icahn, and "the cheapest takeover Carl's ever done." Drain the swamp, indeed.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Today's Cartoon - The "Resistance"

(Far) right on, (far) right on!

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(Brian McFadden, via Daily Kos)

Tweets Of The Day - Bye Bye Bye

Peak schadenfreude:


Weekend Music Rondo

The Dave Brubeck Quartet's vanguard 1959 album "Time Out" defined "West Coast cool jazz" and was a study in unusual time signatures. "Blue Rondo à la Turk" is no exception to that and, along with "Take Five" from the same album, has become a jazz classic. Hope you enjoy (h/t Silver Spring Bureau Chief and blog musical concierge Brian):

Breaking: Steve Bannon Out! (UPDATED)

Reports are that white nationalist toad and Trump whisperer Steve "Loose Cannon" Bannon has "resigned" his position in the Trump regime. Further reporting suggests Bannon's resignation was forced. He took a page from The Mooch's "How To Get Fired" manual when he let his bizarre, Trump-undermining freak flag fly to The American Prospect magazine. Sad!

Are Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka cleaning out their cubbies yet?

Popcorn munching time!

UPDATE:  No hard feelings! (our emphasis)
The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over,” said Bannon Friday after confirming he was leaving the White House. “We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency. But that presidency is over. It’ll be something else. And there’ll be all kinds of fights, and there’ll be good days and bad days, but that presidency is over.”
The cock crowed three times...

(Photo: Rump and Bannon in happier times.)


The New Yorker joins The Economist in vying for Cover of the Week:

("Blowhard" cover by David Plunkert)

Who's Resigning Today?

Following his hateful and clueless remarks on August 15 that put Nazi demonstrators on the same plane as anti- Nazi demonstrators in Charlottesville, neo- fascist Donald "Rump" Trump hastily folded two of his business advisory councils after it became clear their CEO members were going to resign due to Rump's moral vacuity.

Here's a pop quiz:  which was the next group to disassociate themselves from this vicious moral black hole --  Rump's Evangelical Advisory Board or members of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities?  The "religious" or the "secular"? Psssh! We know, it was a ridiculously easy quiz:

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(For those who have trouble viewing the letter, you can see the full text here.)

It's as true today as it was nearly 40 years ago that these direct descendants of the so- called "Moral Majority," are neither moral nor a majority. Nor are the bootlicks in the White House and Executive Branch that continue to stain themselves by not resigning from this un- American dumpster fire of a regime.

BONUS:  Mitt Romney has issued a statement calling on Rump to "acknowledge that he was wrong, apologize" for his remarks on August 15. Better late than never, but you can't put Rump's poison back in the bottle now.