Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Subdued New Year's Eve In Hong Kong; Australia Engages In Risk-Taking

The normally jaw- dropping New Year fireworks in Hong Kong were subdued and limited this year, as protests against the government continued.  The techno music dominating the show added to the joyless, "let's get this over with" impression we got watching this:

In Sydney, Australia, meanwhile, despite pleas not to put on a fireworks display in the midst of historic bushfires burning across Australia, including near Sydney, the right- wing, climate change skeptical PM Scott "Bogan" Morrison opted to go ahead anyway.  We won't be showing you their display. But we'll show you this (click on image to enlarge):

It's really not comforting to know there are morons like Trump running other "advanced" countries.

BONUS:  Morrison tried to console bushfire victims, to disastrous results.

Tweets Of The Day -- Disgrace

Today's Cartoons

(click on images to enlarge)

(Dan Wasserman, Boston Globe)

(Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press)

(Matt Davies, Newsday)

(David Horsey, Seattle Times)

(Tim Campbell, Washington Post Writers Group)

(Matt Wuerker, Politico)

(Tom Toles, Washington Post)

(Stuart Carlson, gocomics.com)

(Dave Whamond, caglecartoons.com)

(Clay Jones, claytoonz.com)

(Steve Breen, San Diego Union-Tribune)

(Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Trump's "Wag The Dog" Moment?

Iraqi Shiite militiamen stormed the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad earlier today, retaliating for the U.S. airstrikes against Iranian-backed militia forces in Iraq on Sunday. Dozens of the militiamen and their supporters entered the embassy and set a fire inside, while some climbed to the roof. The escalating conflict began when the Iranian-backed militia forces fired rockets into a U.S. military compound last week, killing a contractor and wounded others. U.S. warplanes responded with airstrikes that killed an estimated 25 Shiite militia members on Sunday. The government of Iraq had opposed the U.S. airstrikes, but was ignored.

Unhinged, impeached demagogue and draft dodger Donald "Bone Spurs" Trump, using his favorite form of official communication, tweeted this morning that he was holding Iran responsible for the embassy attack. Trump's mismanagement of Middle Eastern affairs is having repercussions, per the Associated Press:
"The developments represent a major downturn in Iraq-U.S. relations that could further undermine U.S. influence in the region and also weaken Washington’s hand in its maximum pressure campaign against Iran.

Iraq has long struggled to balance its ties with the U.S. and Iran, both allies of the Iraqi government. But the government’s angry reaction to the U.S. airstrikes and its apparent decision not to prevent the protesters from reaching the embassy signaled a sharp deterioration of U.S.-Iraq relations."  (our emphasis)
If and when Trump plunges us into a conflict with Iran, a much larger and militarily stronger country than Iraq, this may be this incident that prompted it. As the passage above notes, we need Iraq to help us in the region, and that help is looking more and more elusive with Trump's blundering.

Trump has been trying frantically to distract the public from his multiple failings and crimes, which have culminated in his impeachment. War in an election year -- the "wag the dog" strategy -- is a risky proposition, but it served former President Dumbya in 2004, who wrapped himself in the flag, and falsely conflated the 9-11 attack by mostly Saudi nationals with Saddam Hussein's saber rattling. Ominously, Trump is crazed and reckless enough to try anything to rally support, including armed conflict with Iran.

(photo: Qassim Abdul-Zahra/AP)

"Please To Celebrate In An Orderly Manner!"

Russian- born sports writer Slava Malamud clues us in on how Russians celebrate Christmas and the New Year in a hilarious essay on their food, festivities, entertainment, and drink... most of all the drink. It's a nice pathological study, too. A small excerpt:
In Russia, the holiday season lasts between December 31 and January 8, with the period between January 1 and January 8 known as The National Hangover, or Mother Russia Needs To Lay Down a Bit. Almost all businesses are closed, right down to newspapers, which don’t come out the whole week, because small letters make Russia’s head hurt this time of the year.
To be sure, the New Year itself is toasted with champagne, usually of the Sovietskoye Shampanskoye brand, known as the main reason Napoleon’s frightened and scandalized troops ran out of Russia in 1812. It’s used to wash down the remains of the Olivier salad and is usually accompanied by tangerines.
But once the time to midnight has been counted down, Russia gets down to the serious celebrating business by pulling its bottle of Stolichnaya out of its ZIL brand refrigerators. There is only one thing Americans should know about drinking with Russians: don’t. It is the number two killer of Americans in the history of inter-country relations, trailing only the cumulative effects of marrying a mail-order bride.
You have to take some time to read the whole, delightful piece. H/t to Balloon Juice for introducing us to this talent.

Monday, December 30, 2019

The Party Of Real America

Charles Gaba researched and tweeted out some vivid comparisons earlier today (@charles_gaba).

-- This is the 2018 Census Bureau estimated racial/ ethnic breakout of the total U.S. population (click on charts to enlarge):

-- This is the racial/ ethnic composition of the U.S. House of Representatives, by party:

Does it seem one party "looks" more like America than the other?  Maybe that party is the party of Real America;  you know, the Americans rarely the subject of political analyses and media coffee shop safaris.

Some Iconic 2019 Photos

There are so many iconic photos from this year about to end. These two represent fulfillment of a dream and strength, and refusal to back down (click on images to enlarge):

Speaker Nancy Pelosi mock claps Trump at State of the Union

Megan Rapinoe celebrates World Cup victory

There was also terrible, human- caused violence to our planet, as these photos demonstrate:

Flooding victims of Hurricane Dorian

Fire burns near San Bernardino, CA

Inhumanity to man was also recorded:

A small child cries after her mother was detained at Mexican border

A man and his child drowned in the Rio Grande trying to enter the U.S.

And finally, our national disgrace plays royal dress-up:

(All photos AP, except child crying at border -- John Moore/Getty)

Twit Tweet, Thwap: Me! Me! Me!

Twit Tweet: In the wake of the hate crime stabbings of several Orthodox Hasidic Jews in Monsey, NY, malignant narcissist Donald "It's All About Me" Trump replied to praise he heard on Fux's Wingnut Couch Potato Show:


And who is Dov Hikind you ask?

Seems about right. Trump keeps checking the boxes, doesn't he?

Today's Tomorrow Cartoon

(click to enlarge)

One of the first acts of the Dem-majority House in February, 2019 was to pass the "Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019." It has been called the first significant gun safety legislation in a generation. After passing the House, it was sent to the Rethuglican-controlled Senate, where it has sat on the desk of evil pustule Sen. Moscow Mitch McConnell ever since.

Expanded background checks are supported by 89% of the public, but the coin-operated Rethug politicians wouldn't care if it were 99% as long as NRA money keeps flowing to them. They must be defeated, starting with Moscow Mitch. You can help by donating to Dem Amy McGrath for Senate.

Monday Reading

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

Ryan Cooper writes about how the rotted- out Republican Party is determined to take health insurance away from millions of Americans:
... If Trump wins reelection, he will very likely be able to replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg on the Supreme Court, and that will almost certainly spell doom for the law (with this lawsuit or another one). If that happens, something like 20 million people will lose their insurance immediately — as Medicaid is drastically rolled back, the exchanges are shut down, and anybody between 18 and 25 who is still on their parents' coverage is kicked off. Protections for people with preexisting conditions would be removed, and private insurers could once again place annual and lifetime coverage limits on their policies.
The slow-motion collapse of the private health insurance system would accelerate as well, as cost-control policies designed to slow the cancerous cost bloat that is eating the American economy from the inside would be deleted. More broadly, there would be spectacular chaos within the health care system, which was totally overhauled to accommodate ObamaCare changes — and this time there will be no guiding hand from Congress.
So while there is a never-ending parade of war crimes, corruption, and general insanity from the Trump regime to distract us, let's not forget that Republicans are also gunning for your health insurance. If they can't take it away, by God they'll make it as crummy and expensive as possible.
Preserving affordable health insurance will be a key defining issue in 2020, as it was in the 2018 mid- term blue wave elections. 

Frida Ghitis thinks 2019 was a turning point in the battle for democracy in Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America.  But:
The pivotal contest is taking place in the United States, the country whose deep democratic roots make it well-equipped to defy the authoritarian trend. The United States remains a vigorous democracy, but it, too, is one of the nations where democracy, according to Freedom House, “has weakened significantly,” thanks in part to a president who launches incessant attacks “on the rule of law, fact-based journalism, and other principles and norms of democracy." This year, that president, Donald Trump, was impeached in a historic vote. Although the chance that legislators will remove him from office remains almost nonexistent, impeachment signaled that many Americans strongly reject his assault on democratic norms. The 2020 election will determine whether the nation that has been an icon of global freedom will shift to a democratic path or continue on the rutted road to authoritarianism, which would have ominous implications for freedom around the world.
The 2016 election was the most important election in American history in at least 80 years;  2020 will be even more important.  If affordable health insurance is a key issue, Trump's and Republicans' assault on American democracy will be the key theme.

American agriculture is experiencing a one- two punch from nitwit Donald "Rump" Trump's trade wars and climate change:
US farmers have taken a particularly harsh beating this year from a one-two punch of nasty flooding exacerbated by climate change and a trade war with China.
Severe floods spurred by record rainfall soaked the southeast and the Midwest this summer, delaying plantings of corn and soy crops. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that the 12-month period ending in May of this year was the wettest 12 months on record in the United States. (NOAA’s full climate and weather assessment for 2019 will be available in January.) Flooding on the Mississippi River this year also set records for how long it lasted in several locations.
In August, the US Department of Agriculture reported that farmers weren’t able to plant more than 19.4 million acres of cropland in 2019, the most since reporting began in 2007. Most of this area was spread across 12 states in the Midwest and Great Plains.

The late planting pushed back harvests, leaving the crops still standing vulnerable to freezing. Historic autumn rainfall then further drenched the region, leading farmers in states like Minnesota and North Dakota to abandon tens of thousands of acres of crops, including potatoes and sugar beets.
The ongoing trade war with China has also hammered crop sales. Chinese imports of US agriculture products fell by nearly 20 percent, and the Trump administration has responded with close to $28 billion in aid for farmers hurt by foreign tariffs. (The Environmental Working Group found that big, industrial-scale farms, rather than family farms, are getting the majority of those funds.)
A lot of the farmers who voted for Trump will still vote for him because he hates the same people they do;  but don't be surprised if the added chaos Trump brings to the table doesn't peel off a not- insignificant number of them.

For a more comprehensive reading list, we recommend Infidel 753's link round- up (which is where we found the story on struggles in American agriculture, above).  Always worth the visit, both for the round- up and for his other posts.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Civil Rights Icon Rep. John Lewis' Cancer Diagnosis

Grim news from an American hero:
Rep. John Lewis recently learned from doctors that he must undergo treatment for pancreatic cancer. He released this statement today regarding his prognosis and his plans to continue to serve the people of the 5th Congressional District of Georgia:

“I have been in some kind of fight – for freedom, equality, basic human rights – for nearly my entire life. I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now.

“This month in a routine medical visit, and subsequent tests, doctors discovered Stage IV pancreatic cancer. This diagnosis has been reconfirmed.

“While I am clear-eyed about the prognosis, doctors have told me that recent medical advances have made this type of cancer treatable in many cases, that treatment options are no longer as debilitating as they once were, and that I have a fighting chance.

“So I have decided to do what I know to do and do what I have always done: I am going to fight it and keep fighting for the Beloved Community. We still have many bridges to cross.

“To my constituents: being your representative in Congress is the honor of a lifetime. I will return to Washington in coming days to continue our work and begin my treatment plan, which will occur over the next several weeks. I may miss a few votes during this period, but with God’s grace I will be back on the front lines soon.

“Please keep me in your prayers as I begin this journey.”


(Photo:  Rep. Lewis at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, Alabama)

Across The Universe, Cont. -- Active Galactic Nucleus

(click on image to enlarge)

From NASA/ ESA, December 23, 2019This swirling mass of celestial gas, dust, and stars is a moderately luminous spiral galaxy named ESO 021-G004, located just under 130 million light-years away. 

This galaxy has something known as an active galactic nucleus. While this phrase sounds complex, this simply means that astronomers measure a lot of radiation at all wavelengths coming from the centre of the galaxy. This radiation is generated by material falling inwards into the very central region of ESO 021-G004, and meeting the behemoth lurking there — a supermassive black hole. As material falls towards this black hole it is dragged into orbit as part of an accretion disc; it becomes superheated as it swirls around and around, emitting characteristic high-energy radiation until it is eventually devoured.

The data comprising this image were gathered by the Wide Field Camera 3 aboard the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Credit:  ESA/Hubble & NASA, D. Rosario et al.

Tweets Of The Day -- Atrocities

This is the 9th violent anti-Semitic attack in the New York City area during Hannukah this year.  It's domestic terrorism, pure and evil.

Today's Cartoons

(click on images to enlarge)

(Jimmy Margulies, jimmymargulies.com)

(Paul Szep, gocomics.com)

(Joe Heller, Green Bay Press-Gazette)

(Pedro Molina, Counterpoint)

(Jim Morin, Miami Herald)

(Chris Britt, Counterpoint)

(Mike Smith, Las Vegas Sun)

(Michael Ramirez, Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Republican Senators Recoiling From Toxic Giuliani

The one person perhaps most responsible for leading world- class moron Donald "The Dumb Don" Trump into the Ukraine thicket and, hence, to his impeachment is his personal consigliere Rudy "You Have A Fool For A Lawyer" Giuliani (um, thank you?).  The very public spectacle of a clearly diminished, if not psychotic, Giuliani fumbling around Ukraine in his latest effort to "prove" it was Ukraine that meddled in the 2016 election, not Russia, has Trump's enablers in the Senate rattled.  The on- going criminal investigation involving indicted Giuliani associates and Russian bag men Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman (and soon Giuliani?) is also giving pause to reptilian Republicans looking for mud to sling during an impeachment trial.

Earlier in December, Sen. Lindsey "Huckleberry" Graham, a thing with no discernible scruples, called on Giuliani to testify on his conspiracy theories "findings" concerning the dealings of the Bidens in Ukraine, ignoring ample evidence that there was no there there.  Now, however, as Giuliani's mania has become more outrageous and his ties to Russian cut- outs more obvious, Huckleberry and other Republican rats in the Senate don't want to be within smelling distance of him:
As senators prep for the impeachment trial they are distancing themselves, now publicly, from Giuliani in an attempt to steer clear of his less-than-reliable associates in Kyiv.
“Rudy Giuliani long ago lost any shred of credibility, especially after the dossier he assembled for the State Department stunningly mirrored Russian propaganda,” Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) told The Daily Beast. “Knowing that, anyone that attempts to defend President Trump’s behavior by citing Rudy’s information over our own intelligence agencies is simply irresponsible, uninformed or willing to be that useful idiot the Kremlin desires.”  [snip]
“I wouldn’t trust Rudy to represent me in a parking dispute so I’d say avoid,” a senior GOP Senate aide said tersely when asked if it was a good idea for Republican senators to meet with Giuliani to get a Ukraine briefing. Another top aide in a different Republican office said their senator had informed staff that they had “no interest at all” in meeting with Giuliani on this, fearing it would amount to a “waste of time,” if not something worse.
Huckleberry, observing that Giuliani's trip to Ukraine was studded with meetings with former pro- Russian prosecutors and a KGB- trained legislator, perhaps sees the danger of having a self- interested lunatic testifying and going off like a, um, "hand grenade" in a public hearing.  So, now he wants the intelligence community to do the job of deep- sixing Giuliani's fever dreams:
“He has not shared any of that information with me,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) about the information Giuliani obtained overseas. “My advice to Giuliani would be to share what he got from Ukraine with the IC [intelligence community] to make sure it’s not Russia propaganda. I’m very suspicious of what the Russians are up to all over the world.”
Now he's suspicious.  How convenient.

(Meanwhile, in the "you can't make this stuff up" category, Giuliani has a "director of communications" and traveling companion who's 20- year- old college student and vigorous résumé- padder named Christianné Allen If you haven't read this Politico article about Giuliani's grifting alter ego, please do so.  The saying "Birds of a feather flock together" was never more true.)

BONUS:  If you haven't already checked it out, Olivia Nuzzi has a revealing article about her recent conversation with a dotty, Bloody Mary- swilling Giuliani.  Yikes!

(Photo:  Giuliani meeting with Alexiy Derkach, graduate of KGB academy and pro- Russian Ukrainian lawmaker, in Kiev December 5.)

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Trump Stock Market Performance Lags Behind Clinton's, Obama's

Earlier today, we posted about how the rotted- out Republican Party of malicious, puerile moron Donald "Shart of the Deal" Trump was inflicting pain on average Americans while enabling the richest to bleed the economy of wealth.  To forestall any comeback arguments about "Trump's stock market!" this chart provides a quick primer (click to enlarge):

For the roughly half of Americans who aren't invested in the stock market, well, we guess you don't count with the bloated, bragging buffoon who loves to take credit for the economy and stock market that was handed to him on a silver platter by President Obama.

Today's Cartoons

(click on images to enlarge)

(Paul Szep, gocomics.com)

(Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

(Pat Bagley, The Salt Lake Tribune)

(Mike Smith, Las Vegas Sun)

(Ken Catalino, gocomics.com)

(Monte Wolverton, caglecartoons.com)

(Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press)

(Scott Stantis, Chicago Tribune)

(Dave Granlund, davegranlund.com)

Tweets Of The Day -- Less Than Ideal? (UPDATED)

We see malicious, puerile moron Donald "Rump" Trump is making good use of his "executive time":


GOP: Party Like It's 1929

Who could possibly have foreseen malicious moron and businessman extraordinaire Donald "Shart Of The Deal" Trump's failure to grasp basic economic principles
President Donald Trump’s strategy to use import tariffs to protect and boost U.S. manufacturers backfired and led to job losses and higher prices, according to a Federal Reserve study released this week.
“We find that the 2018 tariffs are associated with relative reductions in manufacturing employment and relative increases in producer prices,” concluded Fed economists Aaron Flaaen and Justin Pierce, in an academic paper.
While the tariffs did reduce competition for some industries in the domestic U.S. market, this was more than offset by the effects of rising input costs and retaliatory tariffs, the study found.
“While the longer-term effects of the tariffs may differ from those that we estimate here, the results indicate that the tariffs, thus far, have not led to increased activity in the U.S. manufacturing sector,” the study said. [snip]
The top ten manufacturing industries hit by foreign retaliatory tariffs were producers of: magnetic and optical media, leather goods, aluminum sheet, iron and steel, motor vehicles, household appliances, sawmills, audio and video equipment, pesticide, and computer equipment.
The top ten industries hit by higher prices were: aluminum sheet, steel product, boilers, forging, primary aluminum production, secondary aluminum smelting, architectural metals, transportation equipment, general purpose machinery and household appliances.
(Trump:  "Smoot and Hawley are examples of  people who have done an amazing job and are being recognized more and more.")

... Or, that Trump's "greed is good" regime would usher in a period of runaway wealth accumulation by the top 1 per centers, unequaled since 1929?
... The world’s 500 wealthiest people tracked by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index added $1.2 trillion, boosting their collective net worth 25% to $5.9 trillion.
Such gains are sure to add fuel to the already heated debate about widening wealth and income inequality. In the U.S., the richest 0.1% control a bigger share of the pie than at any time since 1929, prompting some politicians to call for a radical restructuring of the economy.
“The hoarding of wealth by the few is coming at the cost of peoples’ lives,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described democratic socialist, said in a Dec. 12 tweet as the U.K. began to vote.
If anyone thinks Republican trickle- down economics is going to come to the rescue...
What is behind the extraordinary rise in inequality and the near-stagnant growth of wages for typical workers over most of the past generation? The root cause is that workers are being cut out of their share of economic growth—as shown in the pay–productivity gap.  [snip]  The growing wedge between productivity and pay is the income generated by workers in the economy that has been claimed by corporate owners and managers and others at the very top of the pay scale.
The corporate class is also doing all it can to make sure that gap isn't closed by collective bargaining:
In the face of a worker campaign to form a union, employers routinely engage in a wide range of tactics to prevent workers from organizing... [M]ore than two in five employers were charged with illegal tactics—from coercion to threats to firings—in more than two out of five (41.5%) of union elections in 2016 and 2017. And one of the most severe forms of employer aggression—firing or discharging workers for union activity—is widespread. Employers were charged with illegally firing workers in one out of five (19.9%) of union elections in 2016 and 2017.
Meanwhile, Moscow Mitch McConnell is bottling up hundreds of bills in the Senate that the Democratic House has passed, including the Raise the Wage Act of 2019:
It’s not just minimum wage workers who benefit from minimum wage increases: Low-wage workers in general tend to get a wage bump when the wage floor rises. Wage growth for low-wage workers in states with minimum wage increases that have outpaced inflation is faster than in states without such increases.  Federal policymakers should heed the lessons from state increases and raise the federal minimum wage. The Raise the Wage Act of 2019 would raise wages for 33.5 million workers nationwide by increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025 and would set it to update automatically each year based on median wage growth.
Lest we forget, what did those wealthfare tax cuts (the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act - TCJA) do that the rotted- out Republican Party passed in 2017? 
...[I]nvestment has not boomed since the TCJA’s passage. Instead of an investment boom indicating the TCJA is working, we see investment growth continuing along its pre-TCJA trend for a couple of quarters before falling all the way to 1.3% in the third quarter of 2019. To be clear, if the TCJA’s corporate rate cuts were working, we would be seeing a permanent rise in investment. Instead, investment growth is cratering.
In summary:  Republicans, afflicting the afflicted and comforting the comfortable since 1921.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Tweets Of The Day -- Moscow Mitch Edition

Today's Cartoons

(click on images to enlarge)

(R.J. Matson, caglecartoons.com)

(Peter Schrank, Sunday Business Post, Dublin, Ireland)

(Nate Beeler, Counterpoint)

(Scott Stantis, Counterpoint)

(Jim Morin, Miami Herald)

(Bill Bramhall, New York Daily News)

(Rob Rogers, robrogers.com)

(Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

(Drew Sheneman, The Star-Ledger, Newark, NJ)