Thursday, January 03, 2019

Life on other planets . . .

Isaiah's THE WORLD TODAY JUST NUTS "The Mad Dog and Cher Show."

mad dog and cher

Love that comic.  :D

Now I always thought that if we found a planet with oxygen, we would probably find other life.  Turns out that might not be the case.  No, I'm not surprised to be wrong -- it happens all the time.

SPACE.COM reports:

Oxygen may not be quite as compelling a sign of alien life as astrobiologists had thought, a new study suggests.
Researchers running laboratory experiments with various types of simulated exoplanet atmospheres managed to generate oxygen, as well as carbon-containing organic molecules, the chemical building blocks of life as we know it.
"People used to suggest that oxygen and organics being present together indicates life, but we produced them abiotically in multiple simulations," study lead author Chao He, of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said in a statement. "This suggests that even the co-presence of commonly accepted biosignatures could be a false positive for life." [10 Exoplanets That Could Host Alien Life]

FOX NEWS adds:

Earth's atmosphere is made up of several elements but is approximately 20 percent oxygen (the rest is largely comprised of nitrogen, argon and carbon), so scientists have long theorized that the presence of oxygen could indicate the existence of life, but He's work leads him to believe otherwise.
He and the other researchers performed a simulation experiment, testing nine different gas mixtures that are "consistent with predictions for super-Earth and mini-Neptune type exoplanet atmospheres." Each mixture contained water, carbon dioxide, ammonia and methane and was heated at various temperatures, ranging from 80 to 700 degrees Fahrenheit.
After being put into the Planetary HAZE (PHAZER) chamber for three days and exposed to two types of energy - plasma and UV light - the researchers found that the various compounds generated oxygen and organics including formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide.
"Our laboratory results indicate that complex atmospheric photochemistry can happen in diverse exoplanet atmospheres and lead to the formation of new gas products and haze particles, including compounds (O2 and organics) that could be falsely identified as biosignatures," the study's abstract reads.

So that's really big news.  Might be the biggest news of the year -- and, yes, I know 2019 just started.

"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
Thursday, January 3, 2018.  Oil, oil and more oil.

Starting with oil, Tsvetana Paraskova (OILPRICE) points out that Iraq is "OPEC's second biggest producer."  And Iraq is coming off a very busy December.  Ben Van Heuvelen and Ben Lando (IRAQ OIL REPORT) note, "Iraq's oil sector finished its most prolific year in history with a record-setting month of exports."  It's most prolific year in history with a record-setting month of exports?

Grasp that.

Top peaceful protest story: : ' protesters wearing yellow vests, imitating the French "" movement, demonstrate against corruption and lack of services in the southern city of on Dec… , see more
Protest in Baghdad over services and corruption and in support of those in Basra Protest in Nasiriya over lack of water at university Protest in Basra calling for provincial govt to be dismissed

Grasp that the people in Basra don't have potable water.  Grasp that cholera is again on the rise in Iraq.  Grasp all of that and so much more and ask where the money goes?  Refugees?  The United Nations, the Red Cross and others tend to care for the refugees.  So where does the money go?

Of the windfall, Carla Sertin (ARABIAN INDUSTRY) explains, "The vast majority of exports came from Iraq's southern Basra area, which is oil-rich. It exported 2.63mn bpd in December, Reuters reported, up from 3.363mn bpd in November."  HELLENIC SHIPPING NEWS adds, "The average sale price in December was $52.8 per barrel, generating around $6.1 billion in revenue, the statement [from the Ministry of Oil] said."

In December, the oil trafficking generated "around $6.1 billion in revenue."  But with a population that is approximately 36 million people, you have people living in poverty?  In the land of widows and orphans, you have people struggling to eat.  Yet in one month alone, they brought in $6.1 billion?

Where does the money go?

The corrupt officials and politicians get rich.  Nouri al-Maliki, to name but one, should be in prison alone for how his family became rich while he was prime minister with Nouri Jr. having bachelor pads across Europe (not just in England) and tons of sports cars.  What did Nouri Jr. (Ahmed al-Maliki) ever do?  Did he ever work an actual job?  No, Daddy put him on the payroll.  And what a payroll it was for him to afford all that he now has.

Corruption flourishes in Iraq.  The US has selected puppets and let them do anything in the hope that they would finally -- at last, for real this time -- get the oil and gas law passed.

They have never been able to do so thus far.

And the US government turns the other way as the press is attacked in Iraq -- by the Iraqi government.

Remember when THE NEW YORK TIMES pulled a reporter after a gun was pointed at him?  And remember how, instead of making this front page news, they buried it?

Remember when the 2012 protests resulted in the kidnapping and beating of reporters -- reporters who were willing to go on the record?  THE NEW YORK TIMES mocked what happened while THE WASHINGTON POST and NPR actually covered it.

It's happening again, the attacks on the reporters.

Iraqi SWAT forces arrest reporter covering protests in front of Basra Province government building. Initially, security forces tried to seize his equipment. When he resisted, he was arrested.
Iraqi SWAT forces arrest reporter covering protests in front of Basra Province government building. Initially, security forces tried to seize his equipment. When he resisted, he was arrested.
Iraqi SWAT forces arrest reporter covering protests in front of Basra Province government building. Initially, security forces tried to seize his equipment. When he resisted, he was arrested.

Where is the outcry?

The attitude of the western press is: We all have to be silent and give a chance for the latest US puppet to get his footing.  They always have an excuse for failing to cover what actually happened.

TIME magazine wants to pretend -- check out all the different covers for that issue -- that they care about actual journalism and support journalists in difficult situations.  But TIME's not reported on it.  The Committee To Protect Journalists?  Not a word.  But didn't they send Al Roker to Time Square for New Year's Eve?  Great job, CPJ, you should be proud of yourself for being a blithering idiot.

Meanwhile, they raise 'em dumb in the 'resistance.'  Big surprise, as they spread fear about Russia, they don't have the time to actually learn anything -- thereby explaining this stupid Tweet.

Oh boy. Britain once held Basra during the Iraq invasion and it flourished.

Basra did not flourish under the British.  What a stupid thing to say.  What an insane thing to say.  Reality, the Brits were run out of Basra.  They were hidden away on a base for the last months and that base? Dismantled by hand within 24 hours of their departure -- not by the Brits, by the people of Basra.  What a liar.  But you have to be a liar to be part of the 'resistance.'  You have to pretend war is good and you have to whore for corporatists Democrats because we must not criticize them, right?  We must bite our tongue for the good of the country.  Bulls**t.

The Brits were not in control in Basra.  They fled their base in 2007 for the safety of the airport.  Everyone criticized their action.  The American officials -- military and civilian -- were publicly stating that the British had lost Basra before the British fled their base for the airport.

It takes a lot of stupidity to float the 'resistance.'  For those looking to be informed, Kim Segupta (THE INDEPENDENT) offered an analysis back in 2007.

Back to oil, OIL REVIEW MIDDLE EAST reports:

Halliburton Company has signed two contracts with Eni Iraq BV (Eni) to provide integrated drilling services at Eni’s Zubair Oil Field in Southern Iraq.

Under the terms of contracts, Halliburton will mobilise four to six rigs to drill development wells over the next two years.

Score another win for the criminals of the world.

The following community sites updated:

  • Wednesday, January 02, 2019

    Tiffany Haddish

    I like Tiffany Hadish.  I wish she made better films but she's always good in them even when the films are weak.  She had a stand up that did not go well.

    As CNN notes, some are slamming her and some are defending her.  I asked C.I. and Kat about it because they do a lot of speaking.  They said the mood of the room can make a huge difference.  C.I. also noted that she doesn't 'prepare' and gets mad if people start talking about it beforehand -- as in, "What are you going to say?  What are you going to do?"  If she thinks about it, she will get nervous.  I didn't know this until today but she is very shy -- is that the word?  Uncomfortable might be a better word.  She has a technique were she grabs one wrist and squeezes it if she's getting nervous.  But she speaks to people over and over and I had no idea that it made her uncomfortable and I've been with her when she's spoken.   And you would never guess that she was the least bit uncomfortable or nervous. 

    But she stressed that the mood of the room can be deadly and if you can't ride it out or turn it around, you're going to stumble and that may be what happened to Tiffany.  If so, she said it happens and you learn to manage it.  I hope so because I really do love Tiffany's comedy and I also love her in films.

    For me, public speaking's fun but I don't do it that often and I also don't fret over it when I do it because I'm usually taking in whatever the locale is and enjoying that. 

    Ava and C.I. are the same way, by the way, when they write together for THIRD or a newsletter.  They have no idea what they're going to write and they can't plan it or worry about it because it will be too much.  They have written at least one media commentary at THIRD every week since January of 2005.  That's 14 years -- good heavens.  They really do great work.  In fact, their latest is "TV: Does TV ever change?" and it really pissed me off when I read it.

    My boys aren't into superheroes -- they think they're too old.  My daughter doesn't care for superheroes unless it's a guy she thinks is good looking (she loves the man who playes Falcon and the man who plays Captain America).  So I don't watch those superhero shows on The CW.  But they did a three-part episode where they went from THE FLASH to ARROW to SUPERGIRL.  And on SUPERGIRL, Supergirl is kept imprisoned for at least half the episode.  They bring on not one but 2 Supermans as well as Arrow and the Flash.  But the woman is sidelined and on her own show.  These are action shows, how dare they do that.

    And here's the kicker, Ava and C.I. checked Rotton Tomatoes and all these critics praised the 3-parter -- including female critics!

    WTH?  You don't praise a show that imprisons the only female superhero on her own show -- keeps her away from the action, sidelines her.  That's outrageous.

    Ava and C.I. are real critics, feminist critics.  We are lucky  to have them.

    "Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
    Wednesday, January 2, 2019.   The new year is upon us and already Jake Tapper's making clear that he's more obsessed with gossip (Donald Trump's mean Tweet) than actual issues (such as Senator Elizabeth Warren's major essay that is the opening salvo in her campaign to win the Democratic Party's presidential nomination).

    Let's start with the grifter.

    The Russian Gov’t is basically holding an American hostage. A retired Marine. Who works for an automotive components supplier. Who served two tours in Iraq. Why isn’t Trump doing anything about this? Oh, because he’s on the Russian Govt’s side, not USA. What will he give Putin?

    SPLINTER NEWS noted of scam artist Dworkin:

    According to a piece out on Wednesday by The Daily Beast, one of these new anti-Trump PACs, the Democratic Coalition Against Trump, has been sinking its donors’ money into consultants and its own legal expenses rather than tangible action to fight back against the president.
    As the site reports, the group brought in half a million dollars last year, $130,000 of which was paid to the Bulldog Finance Group—a consulting firm run by political operative Scott Dworkin, who is also a senior adviser at the Democratic Coalition. More than half of the money raised by the Democratic Coalition last year was funneled to its employees or their consulting firms. In 2016, the numbers were even worse: “Dworkin and other staff members received more than 90% of all of the Democratic Coalition’s expenditures, either personally or through a consulting company.” (Dworkin’s Twitter handle is literally @funder.)
    Dworkin’s PAC scam isn’t some sort of new invention—such groups proliferated among conservatives who exploited the backlash against Obama for their own profit. Unfortunately, the grift is bipartisan and will endure until the laws that lightly police these organizations are tightened. 

    So what's Scammy Dworkin Tweeting about now?

    A Canadian citizen of British parents who apparently acquired American citizenship at some point.  Is he a spy?  A US government spy?  A corporate spy?

    Who knows.

    Despite Scammy Dworkin's hysterical Tweet both Congress and the State Dept are aware of the arrest.

    The State Dept, noting privacy concerns, have declared that they are working on the issue of consular access.

    Scammy showed no concern over Maria Butina's arrest or imprisonment here in the US.  But he and others are sure eager to tie Maria into the arrest of Mr. Multi-citizenship.

    Professional Liar Samantha Vinograd is among the people pimping the hypothesis (presented as fact) that this man was arrested because of Maria Butina.

    That would be the Samantha who works for Goldman Sachs when not delivering 'commentary' on CNN.  Because that's what a 'good' American does, right?

    Back in the day, she had to hide in the shadows.  Why?  She's also Jewish -- a fact Barack worked hard to conceal when he put over Iraq during his presidency.  Why?  Iraqis already feel that they have been controlled and manipulated by the government of Israel.  The revelation that Saint Barack had installed some Jewish person over supervising their country might have been the last straw for the US occupation.

    Having done nothing that improved life for the Iraqi people, Big Money Samantha shows up to tell us what she knows must be taking place.  Does she still have a security clearance?  If she does, her statements are in violation and she needs to have her clearance pulled.

    The Iraqi people continue to suffer while 'helpers' like Samantha grow rich with Goldman Sachs.


    Link to headline article

    It's a real shame that there were no women in Barack's administration who could have addressed this never-ending issue.

    If only the National Security Council had a woman over Iraq -- Oh, wait.  They did.  We were just talking about Samantha Vinograd.  She did nothing to help Iraqi women.  Oh, and wasn't there a Secretary of State?

    No, not John Kerry.  If John tries to run for the Democratic Party nomination, we'll float what he doesn't want anyone to remember -- his infamous cranky meltdown where he declared that women's rights didn't matter and he had more to focus on.  He had that meltdown not in the 70s or 80s or even 90s.  He had that public  meltdown while he was Secretary of State.  Retire from public life, John, no one needs you.

    No, we're talking about Hillary Clinton.  What did she do to stop female genital mutilation?  The problem existed before she was Secretary of State.  And she has repeatedly presented herself as the defender of women's rights.  So what did Hillary do?

    Hint: Nothing.

    The US government has never cared about the well being of the Iraqi people.  After 15 years of war and occupation, if you're still not grasping that, you really need some sort of remedial instructor to assist you before you next try to speak in the public square.

    Speaking of stupidity in the public square . . .

    Retired four-star Admiral William McRaven, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014 (which included the OBL mission), just issued the following statement to CNN in response to POTUS attacking GEN McChrystal on twitter: 1/4
    2/4 “Stan McChrystal is one of the great generals of this generation and the finest officer I ever served with. He is a deep strategic thinker, tactically brilliant, with unparalleled personal courage. His leadership of special operations forces in Iraq and Afghanistan...
    3/4 “... unquestionably saved the lives of thousands of American and allied troops, as well as countless civilians. No general I know has given more in the service of this country."
  • 4/4 Trump’s tweet this morning attacking McChrystal was in response to the general saying the president is dishonest and immoral:

    Oh, Jake, you think you're running with the big boys but you're just standing there in a soggy diaper.

    Where's your Tweet about the genital mutilation?  Or about Iraq at all?

    Instead you're wasting everyone's time over Stanley McCrystal?  The general Barack Obama fired?  A detail you leave out in your Tweet as you rush to defend this idiot.  Just because Donald calls him out doesn't mean you have to defend him.  There's nothing worth defending.

    Maybe you're trying to erase Michael Hastings?  In his very short life, Michael did journalism that mattered.  You?  Not so much, Jake, not so much.

    CNN is a joke and a number of people will be fired soon.  Jake, you'd do well to focus on actual journalism and actual news instead of joining the Trump hysteria.  Don't come crying to me if it's decided that you're not really enhancing CNN's reputation.  They want to get rid of Chris but don't feel they can because of his brother.  Jake, you don't have a brother who's governor of New York so start focusing on news before it's too late for you.

    For those late to McCrystal, he's a horrid man.  He lied about Pat Tillman for propaganda reasons.  There is no noble -- or even rational -- bone in his body.  He wanted more US troops in Afghanistan in 2009.  When he didn't get his way?  He was insubordinate to the Commander in Chief (Barack) and leaked to his friends in the press.  He got his way -- when he should have been fired -- but despite getting what he wanted, his assessment was proven wrong -- the increase did not win the war.  McCrystal is a failure.  And that's before we get to the part where Stanley The Bitch McCrystal mocks Joe Biden and Barack Obama to a reporter (Hastings).  Talk about gross insubordination.  He is no one to praise.  He refuted the civilian control over the military that is basic to a democracy.  He is no one to praise.

    Instead of wasting our time on nonsense, Jake Tapper should be addressing real news.  US Senator Elizabeth Warren wants to be president.  She's considering a run for the Democratic Party's  2020 presidential nomination.  As part of that consideration, she's contributed a major paper to COFR's FOREIGN AFFAIRS.  We've noted it already this week but let's note what she says about war in the paper:

    A foreign policy that works for all Americans must also be driven by honest assessments of the full costs and risks associated with going to war. All three of my brothers served in the military, and I know our service members and their families are smart, tough, and resourceful. But having a strong military doesn’t mean we need to constantly use it. An effective deterrent also means showing the good judgment to exercise appropriate restraint. 
    Over the past two decades, the United States has been mired in a series of wars that have sapped its strength. The human cost of these wars has been staggering: more than 6,900 killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, another 52,000 wounded, and many more who live every day with the invisible scars of war. By financing these conflicts while cutting taxes, the country has essentially charged the costs of war to a collective credit card for future generations to pay, diverting money that could have been invested in critical domestic priorities. This burden will create a drag on the economy that will last for generations. 
    The costs have been extraordinarily high, but these wars have not succeeded even on their own terms. We’ve “turned the corner” in Afghanistan so many times that it seems we’re now going in circles. After years of constant war, Afghanistan hardly resembles a functioning state, and both poppy production and the Taliban are again on the rise. The invasion of Iraq destabilized and fragmented the Middle East, creating enormous suffering and precipitating the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. The region remains a tangled mess—the promise of the Arab Spring crushed, Iran emboldened, Syria devastated, the Islamic State (or ISIS) and its offshoots stubbornly resilient, and a massive refugee crisis threatening to destabilize Europe. Neither military nor civilian policymakers seem capable of defining success, but surely this is not it.
    A singular focus on counterterrorism, meanwhile, has dangerously distorted U.S. policies. Here at home, we have allowed an imperial presidency to stretch the Constitution beyond recognition to justify the use of force, with little oversight from Congress. The government has at times defended tactics, such as torture, that are antithetical to American values. Washington has partnered with countries that share neither its goals nor its ideals. Counterterrorism efforts have often undermined other foreign policy priorities, such as reinforcing civilian governance, the rule of law, and human rights abroad. And in some cases, as with U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s proxy war in Yemen, U.S. policies risk generating even more extremism.
    As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I have seen up close how 17 years of conflict have degraded equipment, sapped forces’ readiness, and forced the postponement of investment in critical military capabilities. It has distracted Washington from growing dangers in other parts of the world: a long-term struggle for power in Asia, a revanchist Russia that threatens Europe, and looming unrest in the Western Hemisphere, including a collapsing state in Venezuela that threatens to disrupt its neighbors. Would-be rivals, for their part, have watched and learned, and they are hard at work developing technologies and tactics to leapfrog the United States, investing heavily in such areas as robotics, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, and quantum computing. China is making massive bets in these and other areas in an effort to surpass the United States as a global technological power. Whether the United States will maintain its edge and harness these technologies for good remains an open question. 
    It is the job of the U.S. government to do what is necessary to protect Americans, but it is long past time to start asking what truly makes the country safer—and what does not. Military efforts alone will never fully succeed at ending terrorism, because it is not possible to fight one’s way out of extremism. Some challenges, such as cyberattacks and nuclear proliferation, require much more than a strong military to combat. And other dangers, such as climate change and the spread of infectious diseases, cannot be solved through military action at all. The United States will spend more than $700 billion on defense in the 2018–19 fiscal year alone. That is more in real terms than was spent under President Ronald Reagan during the Cold War and more than all the rest of the country’s discretionary budget put together. But even as Washington spends more and more, U.S. military leaders point out that funding a muscular military without robust diplomacy, economic statecraft, support for civil society, and development assistance only hamstrings American national power and undercuts any military gains. 
    As a candidate, Trump promised to bring U.S. troops home. As president, he has sent more troops into Afghanistan. On the campaign trail, Trump claimed he did not want to police the world. As president, he has expanded the United States’ military footprint around the globe, from doubling the number of U.S. air strikes in Somalia to establishing a drone base in Niger. As a candidate, Trump promised to rebuild the military, but as president, he has gutted the diplomatic corps on which the Pentagon relies. He promised to reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation, but he has undermined a successful nuclear deal with Iran, has failed to roll back the North Korean nuclear program, and seems intent on spurring a new nuclear arms race with Russia. 
    These actions do not make Americans safer. It’s time to seriously review the country’s military commitments overseas, and that includes bringing U.S. troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq. They have fought with honor, but additional American blood spilled will not halt the violence or result in a functioning democratic government in either place. 

    Sidebar: I especially like the turned corner remark -- since we've made it here for over 10 years now.  It's a bit like when I saw Alexandria's Tweet responding to Claire McCaskill.  As Keesha's long said of this site, "This is a private conversation taking place in a public sphere."  So if Claire found my words worth using, more power to her.

    But at some point, does Jake intend to explore what Elizabeth Warren's advocating for?  Does anyone?  Because this qualifies as something that matters.

    McCrystal's itty-bitty feelings?  They don't matter at all.

    There are issues that actually matter and if the press could stop obsessing over Donald Trump's insults, they might have time to actually cover the news that matters.  But gossip is so much cheaper to manufacture, right, CNN?

    In other news, PRESS TV reports:

    The US military has issued a report, admitting killing additional civilians since it started its military campaign in Iraq and Syria in 2014.
    The report released on Sunday shows that over 1,100 civilians were inadvertently killed in airstrikes over the last four years, marking an increase of 15 people since November.
    War monitoring groups, however, estimate that the raids have killed thousands of civilians.
    “The Coalition conducted a total of 31,406 strikes between August 2014 and end of November 2018. During this period, based on information available, CJTF-OIR assesses at least 1,139 civilians have been unintentionally killed by Coalition strikes since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve,” said the report. 

    A new year.  Before we get fully into it, check out these end of the year pieces by Stan, Ann and Rebecca:

  • And here we had the following 2018 pieces:
  • 2018: The Year of Media Self-Exposure
  • 2018 in Books (Martha and Shirley)
  • 2018 in Music

  • New content at THIRD: