Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy New Year!

To all of our valued readers who stop by this blog, to all our friends and family, our best wishes for a safe, healthy, prosperous and happy New Year!

Of course, it's already 2019 in over half the world.  Here's a perennial favorite, fireworks over spectacular Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong, with Auld Lang Syne sung in English and Chinese, and a little 1812 Overture at the finale (watch full screen of course).

Today's Cartoons

(click on images to enlarge)

(Jeff Stahler,

(Rob Rogers,

(Jeff Danziger, The Rutland Herald, Vermont)

(Tom Toles, Washington Post)

Monday Reading

As always, please go to the links for the full articles/ op eds.

Before we get to the mundane, a new horizon in human history is about to be reached 4 billion miles away:
Streaking through space at nearly nine miles per second, NASA's New Horizons probe closed in on a frozen remnant of the solar system's birth Monday, on track for a historic New Year's Day flyby of the most distant body ever explored. 
Officially known as 2014 MU69, the target is a small, 19-mile-wide object in the remote Kuiper Belt a billion miles past Pluto, a body so far away -- 4.1 billion miles from Earth -- it appears as little more than a speck of light even to the Hubble Space Telescope. 
Dubbed "Ultima Thule" (pronounced TOO-lee) in a NASA naming contest, the small body is thought to be literally frozen in time, a pristine remnant of the original disk of rocky debris that coalesced to form the solar system some 4.6 billion years ago. 
New Horizons will fly within 2,200 miles of Ultima Thule during the New Year's Day encounter, mapping its surface with a suite of cameras, spectrometers and other instruments to probe its structure and chemical makeup, giving scientists a close-up look at one of the solar system's original building blocks.  [snip]
While the flyby will happen in the blink of an eye, it will take 20 months for the gigabytes of stored data to make their way back to Earth, thanks to the enormous distances involved and the probe's 30-watt radio transmitter, which operates at power levels comparable to a refrigerator light. (our emphasis)
For perspective, New Horizons was launched in 2006, when Dumbya was president.

The advent of a New Year is always the occasion for retrospectives, predictions, and listicles.  Here's a telling retrospective that while familiar is at the same time unsettling:
President Trump’s year of lies, false statements and misleading claims started with some morning tweets. 
Over a couple of hours on Jan. 2, Trump made false claims about three of his favorite targets — Iran, the New York Times and Hillary Clinton. He also took credit for the “best and safest year on record” for commercial aviation, even though there had been no commercial plane crashes in the United States since 2009 and, in any case, the president has little to do with ensuring the safety of commercial aviation. 
The fusillade of tweets was the start of a year of unprecedented deception during which Trump became increasingly unmoored from the truth. When 2018 began, the president had made 1,989 false and misleading claims, according to The Fact Checker’s database, which tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president. By the end of the year, Trump had accumulated more than 7,600 untruths during his presidency — averaging more than 15 erroneous claims a day during 2018, almost triple the rate from the year before(our emphasis)
There's no question that Trump is a sick, unhinged monster.  The article goes on to opine about whether the firehose of lies is still working.

As for predictions, Jack Shafer offers this:
The pattern of lies and lying that Mueller has uncovered isn’t random. Many of the verified lies told by Flynn, Manafort, Gates, Papadopoulos, Van Der Zwaan and Cohen were told to protect both the tellers and the man at the top of the prosecutorial pyramid that Mueller is building: Donald Trump. 
I’m not foolish enough to predict when Mueller will close his case, but I’m brave enough to venture that Trump’s troubles are only now beginning. As Garrett M. Graff recently wrote, there are more than a dozen investigations into the various scandals connected to the president, from the Russians’ hack of the election to the purchase of influence by Middle Easterners to obstruction of justice to inauguration committee funding to campaign finance fraud. On Jan. 3, a Democratic House of Representatives will be seated and pursue aggressive, additional oversight into Trump’s affairs, further complicating his life. I can’t wait until Trump tweets his view that Congress should be dissolved. 
Trump and his team will, I suppose, attempt to lie their way out of the jams that 2019 promises. It’s my guess that Mueller is hoping for exactly that. The old lies told in Trump’s service have brought him closer to the truth. Newer lies will only hasten the president’s demise.

Kerry Eleveld lists Trump's 5 worst moments of 2018 (how difficult to winnow out just 5!).  Number 1:
The Trump administration's horrific policy of forcibly separating children from their parents at the nation's Southern border was as misguided as it was unconscionable. Trump used the federal government to terrorize desperate migrants, kidnap their children, and in some cases permanently orphan those kids. Systematically wielding the might of the federal government to inflict pain and trauma on some of the globe’s most vulnerable and defenseless people may not be the downfall of Trump’s presidency, but it was by far his lowest, most depraved episode in 2018 and worthy of an unceasing and indefinite amount of scorn and humiliation. It was monstrous, and Trump should never be allowed to live it down. 
Guess Trump won't be calling this guy "one of my generals":
The former top commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, retired four-star Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, criticized President Donald Trump's behavior and handling of the presidency, saying the commander-in-chief is dishonest and immoral. 
“I don’t think he tells the truth,” McChrystal said in an exclusive interview on “This Week” when asked by Co-Anchor Martha Raddatz if he believes the president is a liar. 
“Is Trump immoral, in your view?” Raddatz asked. 
“I think he is,” he said.  

As always, Infidel 753 has a great link round- up to ring out 2018.  Let's just say our favorite link has to do with a certain planet.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Across The Universe, Cont. -- The Early Universe

(click on image to enlarge)

From NASA/ ESA, December 24, 2018This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope reveals an ancient, glimmering ball of stars called NGC 1466. It is a globular cluster — a gathering of stars all held together by gravity — that is slowly moving through space on the outskirts of the Large Magellanic Cloud, one of our closest galactic neighbours.

NGC 1466 certainly is one for extremes. It has a mass equivalent to roughly 140,000 Suns and an age of around 13.1 billion years, making it almost as old as the Universe itself. This fossil-like relic from the early Universe lies some 160,000 light-years away from us.

Nestled within this ancient time capsule are 49 known RR Lyrae variable stars, which are indispensable tools for measuring distances in the Universe. These variable stars have well-defined luminosities, meaning that astronomers know the total amount of energy they emit. By comparing this known luminosity to how bright the stars appear in the sky, their distance can be easily calculated. Astronomical objects such as this are known as standard candles, and are fundamental to the so-called cosmic distance ladder.

Credit:  ESA/Hubble & NASA

New Year Blogroll Notes

A Hackwhackers housekeeping note:  We've added several kindred blogs to our blogroll in recent days/ weeks/ months.  We enjoy following them, and we hope you will, too, if you're not already:


Green Eagle

Vagabond Scholar

Web of Evil (M. Bouffant)

Happy (?) reading!

Today's Cartoons

(click on images to enlarge)

(Nick Anderson, Washington Post Writers Group)

(Clay Jones,

(Matt Wuerker, Politico)

What He Is And Who We Are

Karen Tumulty opens her piece on the reaction of Donald "Rump" Trump to the deaths of two migrant children on the southern border with this observation:
With President Trump, there is no bottom. Every time you think you have seen it, he manages to sink even lower.

Leonard Pitts, Jr., on what, owing to Trump, we now stand for as a people:
“This isn’t us.” That’s what people keep saying. But it is. That’s the entire point. The abiding anger, the situational morality, the disregard for fact, the cruelty, the political gangsterism, these things are what America, writ large, now stands for.

It will get worse in 2019 as Rump and his family face multiple legal challenges and policy and investigatory challenges from the Democratic House.  It will only get better if the "us" that's the majority in this country continue to resist until this ugly chapter in our history is ended.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Today's Cartoons

(click on images to enlarge)

(Mike Peters, Dayton Daily News)

(Jack Ohman, Sacramento Bee)

(Ann Telnaes, Washington Post)

(Kevin Siers, Charlotte Observer)

Tweets Of The Day

This pile of Republican shit:

Go get him!

He Scrimped, Then Left Millions To Vulnerable Children

Here's the antithesis of the story about the vulture capitalists below, to give us all a little badly needed hope:
Alan Naiman was known for an unabashed thriftiness that veered into comical, but even those closest to him had no inkling of the fortune that he quietly amassed and the last act that he had long planned. 
The Washington state social worker died of cancer this year at age 63, leaving most of a surprising $11 million estate to children’s charities that help the poor, sick, disabled and abandoned. The amount baffled the beneficiaries and his best friends, who are lauding Naiman as the anniversary of his death approaches in January. 
That’s because the Seattle man patched up his shoes with duct tape, sought deals at the grocery store deli at closing time and took his best friends out to lunch at fast-food joints. 
Naiman, who died unmarried and childless, loved kids but also was intensely private, scrimping, investing and working extra jobs to stockpile money that he rarely spent on himself after seeing how unfair life could be for the most vulnerable children, his friends say. 
 In the end, a life well- lived.

Sun Capital, Vulture Capitalists

Another example of the free hand of the market throttling workers:
Once the Marsh Supermarkets chain began to falter a few years ago, its owner, a private-equity firm, began selling off the vast retail empire, piece by piece. The company sold more than 100 convenience stores. It sold the pharmacies. It closed some of the 115 grocery stores, having previously auctioned off their real estate. Then, in May 2017, the company announced the closure of the remaining 44 stores. 
Marsh Supermarkets, founded in 1931, had at last filed for bankruptcy. 
“It was a long, slow decline,” said Amy Gerken, formerly an assistant office manager at one of the stores. Sun Capital Partners, the private-equity firm that owned Marsh, “didn’t really know how grocery stores work. We’d joke about them being on a yacht without even knowing what a UPC code is. But they didn’t treat employees right, and since the bankruptcy, everyone is out for their blood.” 
The anger arises because although the sell-off allowed Sun Capital and its investors to recover their money and then some, the company entered bankruptcy leaving unpaid more than $80 million in debts to workers’ severance and pensions.
For Sun Capital, this process of buying companies, seeking profits and leaving pensions unpaid is a familiar one. Over the past 10 years, it has taken five companies into bankruptcy while leaving behind debts of about $280 million owed to employee pensions. [snip]
 “These private-equity firms buy a company, plunder it of any assets, and then send it into bankruptcy without paying employees,” said Eileen Appelbaum, an economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research who studies private-equity transactions. “To anyone but a bankruptcy court, this looks like a swindle.” (our emphasis)
At a minimum, with a new Democratic House, legislation reforming bankruptcy laws to keep companies like Sun from shedding their pension obligations would finally break through Republican obstruction and force the Senate's hand. Let's see how Senate Republicans (and Individual 1) tell blue- collar workers who face the prospect of not having their pensions funded as promised, "Sorry, suckers.  #MAGA!"

By the way, what kind of person runs this social Darwinist, Randian operation, you ask?
... The public face of the firm is [Marc] Leder, a co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team and the New Jersey Devils hockey team. Noted for his extravagant parties and yachting expeditions, he has been dubbed by tabloids as “the Hugh Hefner of the Hamptons.” 
Politically, he may be best known for hosting the Boca Raton, Fla., dinner where presidential candidate Mitt Romney made what became infamous comments about the “47 percent of the people . . . who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims.”  (our emphasis)
This is an in- depth read, and well worth the time. 

Friday, December 28, 2018

Twit Tweet, Thwap

Twit tweet:


Today's Cartoons

(click on images to enlarge)

(Tim Eagan, via

(Pat Bagley, The Salt Lake Tribune)

(Dave Granlund,

(Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Trump Springs A Trap!


Apparently, Individual 1/ Donald "Rump" Trump and the other stable geniuses at the White (Supremacist) House think they've got Democrats right where they want them in the Trump government shutdown standoff.  Sam Stein and Asawin Suebsaeng provide the geniuses' thoughtful reasoning:
In their eyes, a prolonged stalemate will likely fracture voters along traditional partisan lines, and the ultimate outcome will be a debate waged largely on the president’s terms. Increasingly, they see an upside in forcing likely incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi to have to spend the first days, if not weeks, of the next Congress engaged in an argument over border wall funding rather than her preferred agenda: a mix of sweeping ethics and election reforms and congressional oversight. And they continue to believe that a conversation around immigration and border security is in the president’s best political interests. 
If their strategy of demonizing immigrants in the recent mid- term elections hadn't blown up in their pasty faces, and if, like Individual 1 and his white nationalist minions, Democrats were incapable of multi- tasking, this would still be borderline political malpractice.  Oh, and not incidentally, Nancy Pelosi can run circles around them backwards and in high heels. While Individual 1 may think he can survive holding on to just 35 percent of the electorate, Republicans who've thus far tied themselves to the fate of this repulsive regime may be less enthusiastic about standing next to their fearful leader in this and future inane battles.

Why?  A Reuters/ Ipsos poll out yesterday shows Individual 1's not winning the p.r. battle beyond his knuckle- dragging base, and even then, many of them don't think the government should be shut down over Individual 1's manhood wall :
Forty-seven percent of adults hold Trump responsible, while 33 percent blame Democrats in Congress, according to the Dec. 21-25 poll, conducted mostly after the shutdown began. Seven percent of Americans blamed congressional Republicans. 
The shutdown was triggered by Trump’s demand, largely opposed by Democrats and some lawmakers from his own Republican Party, that taxpayers provide him with $5 billion to help pay for a wall that he wants to build along the U.S.-Mexico border. Its total estimated cost is $23 billion. 
Just 35 percent of those surveyed in the opinion poll said they backed including money for the wall in a congressional spending bill. Only 25 percent said they supported Trump shutting down the government over the matter(our emphasis)
That 35 percent represents the generic Trump base. That 25 percent represents the dead- enders in the Trump base.  Congressional Republicans know rabble- rousing over immigration helped cost them 40 seats in the House (and Senate seats in Nevada and Arizona);  having 25 or 35 or even 40 percent of the electorate behind you isn't going to cut it in a general election, especially when Individual 1 is the face of your party and is leading the country further into economic and geopolitical headwinds.  And, of course, wait until the Special Counsel issues his indictments and report.

To see how this is impacting the only thing that matters to Individual 1:

(click on image to enlarge)

(Morning Consult poll of registered voters)

So, to those stable geniuses we say, continue to live in your Fox "News" bubble. That way you'll never see what hit you.

Weekend Music Bonanza

The '50s and '60s were the Golden Age of TV Westerns (or "oaters"), with 30 of them airing in prime time by 1959.  To us, the title songs often provide some of the more enduring memories of those programs, whether we saw them when they first aired or later in re- runs.  That's because the producers often hired the best songwriting talent from movies to "brand" their show. We've chosen a few examples of what we think are some of the best intros/ credits music from that era.  Saddle up!

The Virginian (composer Percy Faith)

Rawhide (Dmitri Tiomkin)

Wagon Train (Jerome Moross)

Bonanza (Jay Livingston)

The Roy Rogers Show, "Happy Trails" (Dale Evans)

QOTD And New Year's Resolution

David Rothkopf lists the many disqualifying, damaging and damning wrongs perpetrated by Individual 1 and concludes:
"It is easy to grow numb to this. It is possible to become distracted by rage. But remembering what is at stake, we must focus on undoing this great wrong that took place in 2016 and seeking justice for the crimes that contributed to that and have unfolded since. 
Imagine what Washington or Lincoln would say were they to see this. Worse still, imagine what our grandchildren and generations to come will say. This is the history we bequeath to them. Let it in the end be an affirmation of our institutions and our ability to repel danger. 
Let it in the end be worthy of the best of the legacy that came before. We're an imperfect society, but we should not elevate the worst among us as we have done with this man Trump and the corrupt crowd of enablers surrounding him."
We're the majority in this country. We'll see to it that Individual 1 and as many of his ugly tribe as possible are gone, sooner rather than later.  Let's all resolve to see it through to the end of this miserable time in the life of our country, and that the dark forces he's unleashed are driven back so that a better, brighter future can emerge.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Twit Tweet, Thwap -- Taking Democrats Hostage Edition

Twit tweet:


Today's Cartoons

(click on images to enlarge)

(Drew Sheneman, The Star-Ledger, Newark)

(Jack Ohman, Sacramento Bee)

(Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

(Brendan Loper, The New Yorker)

Fallout From Cadet Bone Spurs' Three Hour Trip To Iraq

Iraqi lawmakers Thursday demanded U.S. forces leave the country in the wake of a surprise visit by President Donald Trump that politicians denounced as arrogant and a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.  
Politicians from both blocs of Iraq's divided Parliament called for a vote to expel U.S. troops and promised to schedule an extraordinary session to debate the matter. 
"Parliament must clearly and urgently express its view about the ongoing American violations of Iraqi sovereignty," said Salam al-Shimiri, a lawmaker loyal to the populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. [snip]
Mr. Trump spent about three hours on the ground at a U.S. air base west of Baghdad Wednesday. Security was so tight the White House gave the Iraqi prime minister just two hours notice for a meeting with the president.  
The prime minister couldn't make it, so they settled for a phone call, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reported.  
So, to summarize: Cadet Bone Spurs, so concerned about his personal safety that he gave practically no advance notice of his photo- op visit, bigfooted into the country that was supposed to be his new staging area for anti- ISIS operations in recently- abandoned Syria, offending the leaders of Iraq to the point they now want us out.  Brilliantly played, you cowardly jackass!

Are The Propagandists Losing?

Perhaps it's only temporary. Perhaps it's changing demographics. Perhaps it's progressive passion, or just good sense kicking in.  Regardless, if Fox "News" (a.k.a. GOP-TV) is losing, America is winning:
According to ratings data released Wednesday by Nielsen, MSNBC's prime-time programs averaged 2.578 million total viewers, easing ahead of Fox News Channel (2.240 million) and CNN (1.398 million). In the key demographic of viewers 25-54, the demo coveted by major national advertisers, MSNBC was #1, with 471,000 to CNN's 415,000 and FNC's 355,000--a rare third-place finish for Fox, which has held onto first place for years. 
With four weekly wins in a row, MSNBC is on track to beat Fox News in prime (among total viewers and in the demo) for the month of December, with just days left to go. 
MSNBC's [Rachel] Maddow had the top-rated program across all of cable news, averaging 3.213 million total viewers and 621,000 viewers 25-54, nearly twice that of Fox News, which finished third in the 9 p.m. time period, with 343,000 viewers 25-54.
MSNBC also finished first for the week between the hours of 6 a.m. and 2 a.m.--known as "sales day"--beating Fox News for the first time since 2000 among total viewers and beating FNC for the first time since 2001 among viewers 25-54. 
Three MSNBC programs also beat Fox News and CNN among total viewers for the week: MSNBC Live with Ali Velshi at 3 p.m. (1,249,000 to FNC's 1,153,000 and CNN’s 931,000), Deadline: White House at 4 p.m. (1,738,000 viewers to FNC's 1,320,000 and CNN’s 1,121,000) and Hardball with Chris Matthews at 7 p.m. (1,926,000 to FNC's 1,744,000 vs. CNN’s 1,261,000).
Yes, MSNBC is still corporate media, and we're not fans of some of their talent or the way they present every issue. But compared to GOP-TV... there's no comparison.  Even on the "opinion" shows, you're infinitely more likely to get opinions based on fact on MSNBC (or CNN).  Though GOP-TV will continue to peddle its fabulist drivel to millions of mouth- breathers, any sign of its weakness as a cheerleader for Cadet Bone Spurs should be gratefully received.

So, in the Republican war on truth, let's take this as a small victory for reality- based America.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Cadet Bone Spurs Drops In To Iraq (UPDATED)

First, a news item:
The daughters of the late Dr. Larry Braunstein, a one-time podiatrist based in Queens, have told the New York Times that their father helped President Donald Trump escape getting drafted during the Vietnam War by fabricating a diagnosis of bone spurs in his feet. 
56-year-old Dr. Elysa Braunstein tells the Times that her late father implied that Trump did not suffer from a debilitating foot ailment, and that he offered the bogus diagnosis as a favor to Trump patriarch Fred Trump. 
“I know it was a favor,” explains Elysa Braunstein, whose account was also corroborated by her sister, Sharon Kessel. “What he got was access to Fred Trump. If there was anything wrong in the building, my dad would call and Trump would take care of it immediately. That was the small favor that he got.” (our emphasis)
You could have knocked us over with a feather.  Who would've imagined old Fred Trump ever bailing out his worthless son?

Today, for the first time in his regime, Cadet Bone Spurs visited American troops in a combat zone.

(Photo: Pear- shaped man at Al Adad Air Base, Iraq/ Reuters)

Interesting juxtaposition.

UPDATE: True to form, since Cadet Bone Spurs' lips were moving, you knew he'd be lying, while delivering a political speech to the
troops no less --

Today's Cartoons

(click on images to enlarge)

(Rob Rogers,

(Mike Smith, Las Vegas Sun)

(Chris Britt, Illinois Times)

(Mike Peters, Dayton Daily News)

(Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press)

Mid-Week 22 Song

Bon Iver (from the French bon hiver, or "good winter") is one of the finest indie folk groups around, formed in Wisconsin in 2007, and a long-time favorite of ours. Built around a core of founder Justin Vernon, with keyboardist Sean Carey and drummer Matthew McCaughan, the group has been nominated for 9 Grammys and has won two. Our song today,"22 (OVER S∞∞N)", is from the band's 2016 album "22, A Million," here performed live at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Paris this past fall. Enjoy.

It's Stupid's Economy

Now that we're within a month of entering the third year of the catastrophic Trump regime, the one area the public gives Individual 1 credit for is handling the economy. (How about the record 75 straight months of job growth under President Obama that was handed to Individual 1? Pfft!)  That's about to be tested, as the economy is showing serious signs of a slowdown.

With a competent president in the Oval Office, meeting the challenge of an economic slowdown would be difficult enough. With an ignorant, impulsive narcissist in the Oval Office, well, hold onto your hats.

Paul Waldman expects typical Individual 1 behavior in response to bad news, and just hopes he and his Republican enablers don't take us all down with them:
... [S]hould a recession come, he’ll act as though the entire thing was planned and executed by his enemies to prevent him from receiving the adulation that is his due. He will make it intensely personal, just as he does everything else. 
As for any policy changes he might make to address a recession, the best we can hope for is that Trump doesn’t make things worse. His Republican allies in Congress will say the only answer to our economic problems is another round of tax cuts, particularly for the wealthy, which will probably sound to him like a great idea. We know that because no matter what the problem is, that’s their solution. The bubonic plague could return, and Republicans would propose that we stop it with a cut to the capital gains tax.
Waldman's colleague Catherine Rampell looks at "the Keystone Cops" in charge of our economy, specifically the way Individual 1 and his foreclosure king Treasury Secretary handled the increase in the Federal Reserve's interest rate by Fed Chairman and Individual 1 appointee Jay Powell:
Over the decades, the Federal Reserve has cultivated a hard-won, well-deserved reputation for political independence — and with it, a credible commitment to stable prices. The entire worldwide financial system depends on that independence. 
With one fell swoop, Trump could destroy it, and set off a global panic. 
None of that has stopped some of Trump’s economic advisers, such as Heritage Foundation fellow Stephen Moore, from encouraging Trump to fire Powell, plus everyone else at the Fed, too. That’s ultimately what would be necessary for Trump to get the looser money he wants: He appointed four of five sitting Fed board governors, and last week they all voted unanimously for a rate hike. 
Fortunately, some Trump officials know how disastrous such developments could be. Unfortunately, those officials also appear to be incompetent. 
First, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tweeted a quote purportedly from Trump himself, declaring that “I never suggested firing Chairman Jay Powell, nor do I believe I have the right to do so.”  [snip]
Then Mnuchin decided to make things worse. 
On Sunday, he released a seemingly panicked statement urging the public not to panic. From his Mexican golf vacation, Mnuchin had called heads of our biggest banks and then told the world that these banks had enough liquidity to continue lending. He also announced an emergency Christmas Eve convening of the “Plunge Protection Team,” which includes heads of the Fed, Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. 
I cannot sufficiently stress how amateurish it was for Mnuchin to make this announcement. 
Or, in other words, when you elect clowns, you should expect a circus.

Fortunately, we just elected a House full of competent Democrats who will try mightily to steer the circus clowns away from the rocks. For our sake, not Individual 1's, we need them to succeed.

Who Was Naughty And Who Was Nice?

You see a pattern here?

(h/t darwinfish2)

Monday, December 24, 2018

Tide You Over Music

This has been a seasonal tradition here going back several years:  Sergei Prokofiev's Lieutenant Kijé - Symphonic Suite, Op. 60 ("Troika"), played by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. A little ear worm music to tide you over the next 36 hours!

Twit Tweet, Thwap -- Trump Exceeds Lies Per Sentence Quota Again

Twit tweet:


Actually, the New York Stock Exchange dropped 653 points today...

Today's Cartoons

(click on images to enlarge)

(Dan Wasserman, Boston Globe)

(Jeff Darcy, Cleveland Plain Dealer)

(Patrick Chappatte, New York Times)

(Adam Zyglis, The Buffalo News)

(Nick Anderson, Washington Post Writers Group)

Monday Reading (UPDATED)

As always, please go to the links for the full articles/ op eds.

Today's must read:  Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse's (D-RI) "battle plan for beating the right."
Victory has traits. Victory must be organized. Organization requires strategy, preparation, tactics, training, and teamwork. Brave and able troops have been slaughtered throughout history in failures of organization. 
Losing has traits, too. As Democrats, we offer better and more popular policy positions, and we have flamboyant heroes. Yet, so often, we lose. Now we have won back a foothold on power, and the question is: what do we do with it? I’m sick of losing. I’m particularly sick of our “loser traits.” It’s time we faced up to them.
Go read it, absorb it, promote it.

In his retrospective of former Defense Secretary James Mattis, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jim Hoagland offers his historical perspective on Mattis and the regime he worked for:
This much we know: Mattis never expected, intended or accepted that he would be driven to resign from the Trump administration. He told friends as much when they teased that he must keep a letter of resignation tucked inside his jacket pocket at all times. Unspoken but hanging in the air at such moments was the Mattisonian thought: The bastards will have to fire me. 
He abased himself — not something he would have endured willingly — by staying on in a Cabinet of crooks, dolts and sycophants who form the biggest swamp in Washington in my 50-plus professional years here(our emphasis)

Speaking of crooks, dolts and sycophants, Treasury Secretary Steve "Mr. Marie Antoinette" Mnuchin took a break from golfing at Cabo (while 800,000 federal employees are on shutdown furlough) to make some calls at his boss's request, the kind of calls a crook, dolt and sycophant would make:
The Treasury Department said that Mnuchin held a series of calls with CEOs of major banks: Bank of America, Citi, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo.
"The CEOs confirmed that they have ample liquidity available for lending to consumer, business markets, and all other market operations. He also confirmed that they have not experienced any clearance or margin issues and that the markets continue to function properly."
Equity markets have been rocky for various reasons, including tariff wars, general uncertainty, and the Fed increasing interest rates. No markets rise forever and we've seen a long run. A recent survey of global CEOs showed that chief financial officers overwhelmingly expect a recession by 2010 and many think 2019 will be the year. [snip]
Mnuchin's move might have made sense if there were public concerns about bank stability. Bank stocks have been taking a hit with market oscillations. When people worry about the economy, they expect that banks may suffer. When things slow, fewer people and companies take out the loans that are the source of institutional income. 
But there hasn't been a lot of concern about underlying bank stability. At least, there wasn't until Sunday evening when the tweets hit the fan. Particularly as Mnuchin was reportedly on vacation in Mexico(our emphasis)
Paul Krugman has a brief twitter thread on the subject here. Here's the conclusion:

See also the Update below.

All quiet on the Mueller front?  Not really.  Max Bergmann and Sam Berger tell us Individual 1's cooked:
For nearly two years, since the U.S. intelligence community released its report on the Russian campaign to assist Donald Trump in the 2016 election, the American people have been seeking an answer as to whether the Trump campaign colluded with its Russian counterpart. In the endless speculation about the direction of the investigation, a common view was that maybe the investigation would never implicate President Trump or find any collusion.

But a flurry of recent activity this past week all points in the same direction: Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation will likely implicate the president, his campaign, and his close associates in aiding and abetting a Russian conspiracy against the United States to undermine the 2016 election. [snip]
Mueller is coming. And he is clearly coming for Trump. Not simply for obstructing justice but for conspiring with a hostile foreign power to win an election. This is a scandal unlike any America has ever seen. 
Man, would that make the season bright!

Where there's smoke, there's probably something hot and burning:
Jerry Falwell Jr. confirmed that he loaned $1.8 million — with the help of President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen — to a young pool attendant he and his wife had befriended while staying six years ago at a luxury hotel. 
Buzzfeed News had previously reported on a lawsuit that claimed the evangelical leader and his wife had developed a “friendly relationship” in 2012 with Giancarlo Granda, then 21 years old, at Fontainebleau Miami Beach, and Falwell confirmed in a court filing that he helped set up the younger man in business. 
Fallwell, who runs homophobic/ theocratic Liberty University, was among the first evangelical endorsers of serial adulterer and crime boss Donald "Rump" Trump.  If you don't smell something off here, you may want to consult an ENT specialist.

Finally, as always, please check out the link round- up at Infidel 753's joint.  He's done his usual fine job of collecting items for you to browse, so give him some love.

UPDATE:  Well, we heard from the New York Stock Exchange today -- it dropped 653 pointsThanks, Mnuchin!  Thanks, Trump!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Across The Universe, Cont. (With Bonus Jupiter Pictures)

(click on images to enlarge)

From NASA/ ESA, December 20, 2018Abell S1063, a galaxy cluster, was observed by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope as part of the Frontier Fields programme. The huge mass of the cluster — containing both baryonic matter and dark matter — acts as cosmic magnification glass and deforms objects behind it. In the past astronomers used this gravitational lensing effect to calculate the distribution of dark matter in galaxy clusters.

A more accurate and faster way, however, is to study the intracluster light (visible in blue), which follows the distribution of dark matter.

Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Montes (University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)

BONUS:  NASA's Juno spacecraft has been orbiting Jupiter every 53 days since the summer of 2016. It's mission will continue until 2021, when it will either be extended or the spacecraft will be programmed to plunge into Jupiter.  In the meantime, we have some glorious pictures Juno's taken of the largest planet in the solar system, some of them color- enhanced by citizen scientists to bring out details in Jupiter's atmosphere. Vox has these and more, as well as explanations of these images, all of which are incredibly beautiful.

In true color:

Jupiter's south pole, with swirls of storms (enhanced):

Jupiter's southern hemisphere (enhanced):

Tweets Of The Day -- Non Compos Mentis

Today's Cartoons

(click on images to enlarge)

(Mike Smith, Las Vegas Sun)

(Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

(John Deering, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

(Matt Wuerker, Politico)

Just The Facts, Ma'am

We've become so accustomed to seeing news reports on deranged demagogue Donald "Rump" Trump tiptoe around what is plain for the eye to see (that he's, well, a deranged demagogue), that when we see a reporter speak the unvarnished truth, it comes as a small shock.  We're not referring to cable news reporters or to articles marked "analysis," but to a news story on the front page of our hometown paper, the Washington Post.

Here's how their White House Bureau Chief, Phillip Rucker, opens his news report in today's paper:
For two years, they tried to tutor and confine him. They taught him history, explained nuances and gamed out reverberations. They urged careful deliberation, counseled restraint and prepared talking points to try to sell mainstream actions to a restive conservative base hungry for disruption. But in the end, they failed. 
For President Trump, the era of containment is over. 
One by one, the seasoned advisers seen as bulwarks against Trump’s most reckless impulses have been cast aside or, as Defense Secretary Jim Mattis did Thursday, resigned in an extraordinary act of protest. What Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) once dubbed an “adult day care center” has gone out of business. 
Trump will enter his third year as president unbound — at war with his perceived enemies, determined to follow through on the hard-line promises of his insurgent campaign and fearful of any cleavage in his political coalition. 
So far, the result has been disarray. The federal government is shut down. Stock markets are in free fall. Foreign allies are voicing alarm. Hostile powers such as Russia are cheering. And Republican lawmakers once afraid of crossing this president are now openly critical.
At the same time refreshing and trite, what Rucker expresses is what's been in plain view for any but the most determined Trump cultists to see since Dolt 45 descended the golden escalator at Trump Tower.  It's not labeled "analysis" or couched in "some say" or "on the other hand" or other journalistic fig leafs, but in the facts of Trump's puerility, his impulsive recklessness, and the disarray of his shambolic regime.  Rucker later goes on to quote the pithy remark made by Gen. Barry McCaffrey, "This is a rogue presidency," something that was evident from Day 1 with Dolt 45's "American carnage" inaugural and crowd mirage.

Why has it taken so long to get to the point where journalists (or at least this one) finally report facts that have been obvious for ever?  Was it the unprecedented confluence of events of the last week, especially the Mattis resignation, that convinced some that it was time to report the truth in no uncertain terms?  Maybe, but at the same time, as the great Jay Rosen points out, others =cough= New York Times =cough= are still in the maintain access/ both sides/ don't rock the boat mode, even after the Mattis debacle:

So, we won't pop the champagne corks just yet. One giant leap for a man, one small step for journalism.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Ingraham Retroactively Makes Ass Of Herself

After the horrific massacre last Valentine's Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL by a gunman wielding a semi-automatic assault rifle, David Hogg emerged as one of the leaders of what would become the "March For Our Lives Movement." As such, he represented a threat to the death-by-firearm lobby and their followers in right-wing media. Enter neo-fascist propagandist Laura Ingraham, Fux's resident hate harpie. Ingraham took it upon herself to attempt to degrade Hogg for not getting accepted by several schools he'd applied to (oddly enough, all state schools in California). Her mean, nasty tweet caused her vile program on Fux to lose advertisers, forcing her to issue an insincere "apology," which Hogg declined to accept.

Well, it looks like Hogg has the last laugh: he announced over Twitter today that he'll be attending Harvard next fall, majoring in Political Science. Ingraham, meanwhile, is still Ingraham. Sad!

(photo: Ingraham at the 2016 Rethuglican National Convention, getting into the spirit of things.)

Twit Tweet, Thwap -- Working Hard Or Hardly Working?

Twit tweet:


The Potemkin president signing his Potemkin bills.

Today's Cartoons

(click on images to enlarge)

(Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

(Scott Stantis, Chicago Tribune)

(John Darkow, Columbia Missourian/ Daily Tribune)

(Jim Morin, Miami Herald)

Jill Stein, The Useful Idiot

Vladimir Lenin is alleged to have called clueless and easily manipulated pawns for the Soviet cause "useful idiots." Whether he used that term or not, it applies to some who've been used by the modern Kremlin to advance their sabotage of Western democracies, principally the United States. In the 2016 elections, we are just beginning to see the scope and depth of the Kremlin's manipulation of social media to deepen divisions and to create false narratives while boosting the chances of Russian asset and demagogue Donald "Rump" Trump.

The Kremlin also had a useful idiot in Green Party candidate and far-left hack Jill Stein. As NBC reports, Stein's campaign benefited from Russian bots who used social media to target African-American voters and encourage them to vote for Stein, which would indirectly help Rump:
"Building support for Stein was one of a “roster of themes” the Moscow-sanctioned internet trolls “turned to repeatedly” in their effort to disrupt the election, according to a research team led by the New Knowledge cybersecurity firm. The researchers also found that the campaign to bolster Stein gained in intensity in the final days of the presidential campaign and largely targeted African-American voters."
Stein infamously was one of two Americans that were seated with Russian autocratic thug Vladimir Putin at a gala in 2015, the other being convicted felon and Rump's (briefly) national security advisor Michael Flynn. She's also been parroting the Kremlin's line for years:
"There’s nothing in the reports to suggest that Stein was aware of the influence operation, but the Massachusetts physician has long been criticized for her support of international policies that mirror Russian foreign policy goals.

As a frequent guest on the Russian state-owned English language broadcast and online outlets RT and Sputnik, Stein has also benefited from Moscow’s help during her presidential runs in 2012 and 2016.

An NBC News review of the archives of RT and Sputnik, which the CIA has described as part of 'Russia’s state-run propaganda machine,' from early 2015 to the 2016 election shows more than 100 stories, on-air and online, friendly to Stein and the Green Party." 
(our emphasis)
Russia was not only directly involved in creating false stories and narratives undermining Hillary Clinton, they also sought to elevate Stein's little-noticed candidacy through their propaganda and social media attacks to siphon African-American and progressive voters away from Clinton. It worked in critical states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania to give Rump the electoral victory. One useful idiot gave us another.

Trump's Bear Market

With Wall Street posting its worst December since 1931, NASDAQ, the tech engine of the stock market, said that we've entered a bear market, as worries about incompetent demagogue Donald "Rump" Trump's bizarre economic policies drive down the markets. The mid-cap S&P 400 confirmed that the bear market analysis. Just in the past week, the S&P 500 fell 7%, the Dow fell 6.8%, and the NASDAQ fell 8.4%. That will hit anyone with a 401(k) savings/investment account.

The foremost concern is Rump's tariff/trade war with China, the second largest economy in the world, with a deadline for negotiations expected to pass without agreements in place. The Trump government shutdown has also raised concerns that Rump is unable to negotiate a deal which would keep the government running. To top it off, there are reports that Rump has talked about firing Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell -- his own appointee -- over the Fed's decision to raise interest rates four times over the past year. For Rump to fire Powell would be unprecedented and possibly illegal, not that Rump wouldn't try:
"The independence of the Fed is one of the pillars of confidence global investors have in the U.S. financial system. Powell's removal would undermine that confidence because it would now seem the most important central bank was now under the control of a politician, who may not always have the best interests of the economy at heart. Sometimes it's necessary to raise interest rates to keep inflation in check. [snip] 
If Trump were to try to remove Powell or force his resignation it could cause the market to drop at least another five percent, according to Jeff Kilburg, CEO of KKM Financial in Chicago."
All Rump had to do was to maintain the economic policies of President Obama which gave us over 7 years of growth and decreasing unemployment. Instead, he blew up trade agreements, imposed damaging tariffs, passed a tax giveaway to the top one percent which gave them a brief "sugar high," and added over a trillion dollars to the debt. For some one who bragged that he alone could fix it, he fixed it alright.