Category Archives: Uncategorized

Jack Ohman: Smoke, mirrors, and a Tweet or two

From the editorial cartoonist of the Sacramento Bee:

Mr. Fish: Power Drain

From Clowncrack, his blog of edacious eccrinology:

Graphic Representation: Strangest Show on Earth™

We begin today’s offerings with the Washington Post:

Tom Toles: The real story from this White House will be found in the opposite of the fine print


Next, from the Columbus Dispatch, three rings running:

Nate Beeler: The Greatest Show on Earth


The Chattanooga Times Free Press gets the rundown:

Clay Bennett: President Trump


The Arizona Republic assesses Trump’s new Environmental Protection Agency chief:

Steve Benson: Smoke gets in your eyes. . .


While the Kansas City Star notes some departures:

Lee Judge: A well-worn path


And the Lexington Herald-Leader contemplates the enablers:

Joel Pett: “Excuse me….? My democracy broke down and…..”


Headline of the day: Red state Trump rage

From the London Daily Mail:

‘Do your job!’ Angry protesters drown out leading Republican congressman – in deep-red Utah! – as they wave signs reading ‘DISAGREE’ and complain that he won’t investigate Trump’s conflicts of interest

  • House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz tried to face down an angry crowd when he hold a town hall meeting in his district
  • Constituents blasted him for failing to sufficiently investigate President Donald Trump and on a local lands issue
  •  He faced chants of ‘Do your job!’ and ‘Vote him out’
  • Chaffetz met privately with Trump this week
  • He joined a letter with the leading Democrat on his committee criticizing Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway for touting Ivanka Trump’s products from the White House 
  • ‘I would like to know why if Trump is too despicable for your 15-year-old daughter, why is he fine for me?’

A treat: Chris Hedges interviews Mr. Fish

In the 51 years we’ve been involved in the world of journalism, we’ve seen a sad abdication of the role in mainstream media in fulfilling its prime directive: Speaking truth to power to inform the citizenry.

We use that word citizenry because journalism should be all about educating citizens to enable them to act politically at all levels of what is laughably called a democracy.

The journalist is morally obligated to expose hidden and shadowy influences impacting the lives of her readers, viewers, and listeners.

And while many of the dwindling numbers of people who manage to make enough to survive by dedicating their lives to honest service, their voices are drowned out if a flood of diversions and propaganda designed to distract the public from gaining a real and complex grasp of the predators who see them simply as veins to be mined for the sake of profits and power.

Folks who drop by our humble digital abode quickly discover our love of the editorial/political cartoon, one of the most powerful and immediate of all forms of journalism.

We fell in live with editorial cartoons when we were about six or seven years old, about the time the television set first appeared in our home [and we were early adapters], Suddenly, thee was something else beside the funny pages to catch our childish attention, and the inages in the midst of the gray type of the editorial page dealt with figures appearing on that 18-inch flickering electronic hearth that now dominated the living room.

Not only were the images fascinating and often funny; they made sense of the cascade of images and words emanating from that attention-grabbing box which now dominated so much of family time.

The 1960’s brought an engaged and self-sacrificing civil rights movement, the first stirrings of contemporary feminism, and the rise of a vocal and demonstrative opposition to the growing American military violence in Vietnam.

The Sixties also gave rise to an incredible flowering of independent, community-based alternative newspapers, many of them featuring their own political cartoonists. R. Cobb [previously], one of the greatest of all the political cartoonists of the last century, worked for the Los Angeles Free Press. His drawings remain both strikingly contemporary and searingly on point as when he first drew them five decades before,

Cobb’s counterpart today is Dwayne Booth, the Mr. Fish whose creations make regular appearances here at esnl.

Booth is an immensely gifted artist, veering from almost photographic hyperrealism to childlike pastiches, all of them created freehand [An editorial cartoonist we know once complained that Mr. Fish simply Pgotoshopped photographs; he doesn’t].

The images Mr. Fish creates are vivid, immediate, and compelling, conveying messages we should all hear. He is, we think, America’s finest editorial cartoonist.

And with that, here’s a real treat, an interview of Mr. Fish by a Pulitzer-winning journalist, the former New York Times Mideast Bureau Chief Chris Hedges, conducted for Hedges’ show on RT America:

On Contact: The Power of Political Cartoons with Mr. Fish

Program notes:

On this week’s episode of On Contact, Chris Hedges discusses the influence of editorial cartoons and the plight of the artists who make them with political cartoonist Dwayne Booth, also known as Mr. Fish. RT Correspondent Anya Parampil explores what we have done to dissident artists throughout American history.

Philippine cops, vigilantes paid cash for killings

More than 7,000 people have been murdered since Rodrigo Duterte took the helm as president of the Philippines last 30 June, and the government is paying bounties for each body.

And the killers are cops and vigilantes, eager to capture some of that wealth for themselves.

The slain are alleged drug dealers as well as folks who merely used drugs, but if they were, we’ll never know, since the rewards are paid only for killings, not captures.

Duterte is no stranger to murder. He’s boasted about it, telling this to an audience of business owners last month:

“In Davao [where he served as mayor] I used to do it personally. Just to show to the guys [police officers] that if I can do it, why can’t you. And I’d go around in Davao with a motorcycle, with a big bike around, and I would just patrol the streets, looking for trouble also. I was really looking for a confrontation so I could kill.”

And back in September, when then-President Barack Obama dared to criticize Duterte’s bloody vigilantism, here’s how Duterte responded prior to a meeting with Obama and other regional leaders, via Agence France Presse:

“If you are poor you are killed”: Extrajudicial Executions in the Philippines’ “War on Drugs,” a devasting new report from Amnesty International, provides a look at both the killers and some of their victims, and it’s truly sobering.

From the organization’s announcement of the report some detail about the bounties and the killers:

Incited by the rhetoric of President Rodrigo Duterte, the police, paid killers on their payroll, and unknown armed individuals have slain more than a thousand people a month under the guise of a national campaign to eradicate drugs. Since President Rodrigo Duterte came to office seven months ago, there have been more than 7,000 drug-related killings, with the police directly killing at least 2,500 alleged drug offenders.

Amnesty International’s investigation, documents in detail 33 cases that involved the killings of 59 people. Researchers interviewed 110 people across the Philippines’ three main geographical divisions, detailing extrajudicial executions in 20 cities across the archipelago. The organisation also examined documents, including police reports.


The police killings are driven by pressures from the top, including an order to “neutralize” alleged drug offenders, as well as financial incentives they have created an informal economy of death, the report details.

Speaking to Amnesty International, a police officer with the rank of Senior Police Officer 1, who has served in the force for a decade and conducts operations as part of an anti-illegal drugs unit in Metro Manila, described how the police are paid per “encounter” the term used to falsely present extrajudicial executions as legitimate operations.

“We always get paid by the encounter…The amount ranges from 8,000 pesos (US $161) to 15,000 pesos (US $302)… That amount is per head. So if the operation is against four people, that’s 32,000 pesos (US $644)… We’re paid in cash, secretly, by headquarters…There’s no incentive for arresting. We’re not paid anything.”

The chilling incentive to kill people rather than arrest them was underscored by the Senior Police Officer, who added: “It never happens that there’s a shootout and no one is killed.”

The experienced frontline police officer told Amnesty International that some police have established a racket with funeral homes, who reward them for each dead body sent their way. Witnesses told Amnesty International that the police also enrich themselves by stealing from the victims’ homes, including objects of sentimental value.

The police are behaving like the criminal underworld that they are supposed to be enforcing the law against, by carrying out extrajudicial executions disguised as unknown killers and “contracting out” killings.

More than 4,100 of the drug-related killings in the Philippines over the past six months have been carried out by unknown armed individuals. “Riding in tandem”, as the phenomenon is known locally, two motorcycle-borne people arrive, shoot their targets dead, and speed away.

Two paid killers told Amnesty International that they take orders from a police officer who pays them 5,000 pesos (US $100) for each drug user killed and 10,000 to 15,000 pesos (US $200-300) for each “drug pusher” killed. Before Duterte took power, the paid killers said, they had two “jobs” a month. Now, they have three or four a week.

The targets often come from unverified lists of people suspected to use or sell drugs drawn up by local government officials. Regardless of how long ago someone may have taken drugs, or how little they used or sold, they can find their names irrevocably added to the lists.

In other cases, their names could be added arbitrarily, because of a vendetta or because there are incentives to kill greater numbers of people deemed drug users and sellers.

DroughtWatch: Storms bring dramatic relief

The major rain storms hitting California over the past week have brought the most dramatic relief yet to a parched Golden State, with reductions at all levels, according to the latest map from the United States Drought Monitor.

The most telling dropoff was in the worst category, Exceptional Drought, which fell from 18.31 percent of California’s land area to 2.13 percent in the course of seven days.

More than a third of California [34.62 percent] is now drought-free, compared to 18.07 percent last week:


Quote of the day: The goddess of today’s GOP

Gore Vidal, one of the most perceptive writers America has ever produced, cast a discerning eye on the monster who birthed the modern Republican Party, a Russian exile whose writing inspired Paul Ryan and a whole host of modern monsters who use who narcissistic scribblings as justification for as politics for politics as eugenic cleansing, waging war on the poor and disadvantaged for the sake of the almighty dollar.

Writing in an Esquire commentary in July, 1961, Vidal said it better than anyone else ever has:

Ayn Rand is a rhetorician who writes novels I have never been able to read. She has just published a book, For the New Intellectual, subtitled The Philosophy of Ayn Rand; it is a collection of pensées and arias from her novels and it must be read to be believed. Herewith, a few excerpts from the Rand collection.

  • “It was the morality of altruism that undercut American and is now destroying her.”
  • “Capitalism and altruism are incompatible; they are philosophical opposites; they cannot co-exist in the same man or in the same society. Today, the conflict has reached its ultimate climax; the choice is clear-cut: either a new morality of rational self-interest, with its consequence of freedom…or the primordial morality of altruism with its consequences of slavery, etc.”
  • Then from one of her arias for heldentenor: “I am done with the monster of ‘we,’ the word of serfdom, of plunder, of misery, falsehood and shame. And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride. This god, this one word: ‘I.'”
  • “The first right on earth is the right of the ego. Man’s first duty is to himself.”
  • “To love money is to know and love the fact that money is the creation of the best power within you, and your passkey to trade your effort for the effort of the best among men.”
  • “The creed of sacrifice is a morality for the immoral….”

This odd little woman is attempting to give a moral sanction to greed and self interest, and to pull it off she must at times indulge in purest Orwellian newspeak of the “freedom is slavery” sort. What interests me most about her is not the absurdity of her “philosophy,” but the size of her audience (in my campaign for the House she was the one writer people knew and talked about). She has a great attraction for simple people who are puzzled by organized society, who object to paying taxes, who dislike the “welfare” state, who feel guilt at the thought of the suffering of others but who would like to harden their hearts. For them, she has an enticing prescription: altruism is the root of all evil, self-interest is the only good, and if you’re dumb or incompetent that’s your lookout.

Chart of the day II: Most Americans reject GMO food

From a new report from the Pew Research Center:


Yet another racist in The Donald’s cabinet lineup

It’s either a still from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, a 1920 classic German horror film, or Trump administration Chief Strategist and mastermind Steve Bannon introducing the latest name on the Trump cabinet short list, as American women look on in horror.

It’s either a still from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, a 1920 classic German horror film, or Trump administration Chief Strategist and mastermind Steve Bannon introducing the latest name on the Trump cabinet short list, as American women look on in horror.

The Breitbart Administration may about to pick yet another loathesome member to Dr. Caligari’s Cabinet.

The New York Times reports that Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, is on the short list to become Secretary of Defense in the Trump administration.

Gee, another Southern Republican. Surprise, surprise.

But there more, reported in a second Times story:

In 1981, a Justice Department prosecutor from Washington stopped by to see Jeff Sessions, the United States attorney in Mobile, Ala., at the time. The prosecutor, J. Gerald Hebert, said he had heard a shocking story: A federal judge had called a prominent white lawyer “a disgrace to his race” for representing black clients.

“Well,” Mr. Sessions replied, according to Mr. Hebert, “maybe he is.”

In testimony before Congress in 1986, Mr. Hebert and others painted an unflattering portrait of Mr. Sessions, who would go on to become a senator from Alabama and now, according to numerous sources close to President-elect Donald J. Trump’s transition team, is a potential nominee for attorney general or secretary of defense. Mr. Hebert testified that Mr. Sessions had referred to the American Civil Liberties Union and the N.A.A.C.P. as “un-American” for “trying to force civil rights down the throats of people.”

One African-American prosecutor testified that Mr. Sessions had called him “boy” and joked that he thought that the Ku Klux Klan “was O.K. until I found out they smoked pot.”

Mr. Sessions denied calling the lawyer “boy” but acknowledged or did not dispute the substance of the other remarks. The bitter testimony sank his nomination by President Ronald Reagan to be a federal district court judge and foreshadowed the questions that Mr. Sessions could face at another set of Senate confirmation hearings if Mr. Trump nominates him for a cabinet position.

Chart of the day: Cities & housing for the homeless

From Housing Not Handcuffs, Ending the Criminalization of Homelessness
in U.S. Cities, a report from the  National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty:


The lack of adequate public shelter for the poor in America’s cities has been accompanied by increasingly criminalization of those who, lacking shelter, sleep on sidewalks, under overpasses, and in their vehicles.

From Al Jazeera:

Cities across the US are enacting more bans on living in vehicles, camping in public and begging, despite federal efforts to discourage such laws amid a shortage of affordable housing, according to a new report.

Denver, which ordered about 150 homeless people living on pavements to clear out their belongings on Tuesday, was among four cities criticised for policies criminalising homelessness in a report by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, an advocacy group aiming to prevent people from losing their homes.

The other cities listed in its “hall of shame” are in Hawaii, Texas and Washington state.

Many cities with increasing home prices have been struggling with homelessness, including Denver and Honolulu, which were reprimanded for an anti-camping law and ban on sitting or lying on sidewalks, respect[ively].

“These laws are unconstitutional and bad public policy,” Maria Foscarinis, the centre’s executive director, said.

More from the center:

Across the country, cities are criminalizing homelessness, making it illegal for people to sit, sleep, and even eat in public places—despite the absence of housing or even shelter, and other basic resources.

These laws and policies violate constitutional rights, create arrest records and fines & fees that stand in the way of homeless people getting jobs or housing, and don’t work. The evidence is clear that homelessness is reduced in communities that focus on housing, and not those that focus on handcuffs.

Criminalization of homelessness costs more money than simply solving the problem by ensuring access to adequate housing.

And there is a growing awareness among the general public that our criminal justice system is not the solution to social problems.

The time is right for a national campaign to stop the criminalization of homelessness—and to push for effective housing policies that end homelessness.

Even supposedly “liberal” cities like Berkeley, California have been aggressively targeting the homeless, and that’s even with one of the nation’s best [but overcrowded] shelter programs.

Earlier this month a city council candidate was arrested when police cleared a homeless tent camp near city hall erected as a protest over the lack of housing.

Chart of the day: The sharply divided electorate

From A Divided and Pessimistic Electorate, a new report from the Pew Research Center including data derived from polling the day before the election:


Chart of the day: Is Donald Trump the Devil?

Following up on our previous post, a chart from the Toronto Star cataloging the lies told by Donald Trump during his campaign from mid-September through this weekend [click on the image to enlarge]:


More from the Star, which has a complete list of the lies at the link:

Sure, all politicians lie. But Donald Trump is in a class by himself.

He lies strategically. He lies pointlessly. He lies about important things and meaningless things. Above all, he lies frequently. Since he began his campaign last June, the Republican presidential candidate has subjected America to a daily barrage of inaccuracy and mendacity.

His rival, Hillary Clinton, has her own reputation for dishonesty. Some of it is no doubt earned: she has made false claims this campaign about her email scandal, about her flip-flop on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and about assorted other things. But our scrutiny shows there is just no comparison in their level of accuracy on the campaign trail. At the three presidential debates, for example, we counted 104 false claims for Trump to 13 for Clinton.

The extreme, unprecedented quantity of Trump falsehoods is why we started fact-checking everything he said. From mid-September through Sunday, we did 28 “#TrumpCheck” analyses of every word he uttered or tweeted in a given day.

The total: 560 false claims, or a neat 20 per day.

About that curious headline. . .

While esnl is an atheist, in the sense that we live our life without consideration for religious teachings, we weren’t always an unbeliever.

Indeed, we once led the services in a metropolitan Los Angeles church, and we have read the Bible cover to cover a dozen times or more.

And having read and studied the book in great detail, we have a problem understanding why so many [but not all] evangelical Christians are back Trump.

That adherence to a man so antithetical to the values they profess becomes even more curious in this biblical passage from the Book of John, Chapter 8, verse 44, a declaration that would seem to depict The Donald in every detail:

Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

Lusts and lies. . .how better to characterize the self-proclaimed pussy-grabber who would be president of the greatest military and economic power on earth?

Headline of the day III: Coulrophobia in the U.S.A.

The creepy clown mania that’s swept from the U.S. to Europe [see our previous Headline of the day] has come home again.

And while Germany is officially banning creepy clown costumes, it’s parents who are doing in in the U.S.

From Deutsche Welle:

Are Trump and Clinton costumes too scary for Halloween?

The US presidential race and its unpopular candidates don’t just turn off a lot of voters. Even as Halloween costumes, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are unacceptable to many.

Heavens above!: The death of a distant sun-like star

Another glorious image from the Hubble Space Telescope from NASA:

This image of NGC 2440 shows the colourful "last hurrah" of a star like our Sun. The star is ending its life by casting off its outer layers of gas, which formed a cocoon around the star's remaining core. Ultraviolet light from the dying star makes the material glow. The burned-out star, called a white dwarf, is the white dot in the centre.

This image of NGC 2440 shows the colourful “last hurrah” of a star like our Sun. The star is ending its life by casting off its outer layers of gas, which formed a cocoon around the star’s remaining core. Ultraviolet light from the dying star makes the material glow. The burned-out star, called a white dwarf, is the white dot in the centre.

And the explanation:

This image, taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows the colorful “last hurrah” of a star like our sun. The star is ending its life by casting off its outer layers of gas, which formed a cocoon around the star’s remaining core. Ultraviolet light from the dying star makes the material glow. The burned-out star, called a white dwarf, is the white dot in the center. Our sun will eventually burn out and shroud itself with stellar debris, but not for another 5 billion years.

Our Milky Way Galaxy is littered with these stellar relics, called planetary nebulae. The objects have nothing to do with planets. Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century astronomers called them the name because through small telescopes they resembled the disks of the distant planets Uranus and Neptune. The planetary nebula in this image is called NGC 2440. The white dwarf at the center of NGC 2440 is one of the hottest known, with a surface temperature of more than 360,000 degrees Fahrenheit (200,000 degrees Celsius). The nebula’s chaotic structure suggests that the star shed its mass episodically. During each outburst, the star expelled material in a different direction. This can be seen in the two bowtie-shaped lobes. The nebula also is rich in clouds of dust, some of which form long, dark streaks pointing away from the star. NGC 2440 lies about 4,000 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Puppis.

The material expelled by the star glows with different colors depending on its composition, its density and how close it is to the hot central star. Blue samples helium; blue-green oxygen, and red nitrogen and hydrogen.

Credits: NASA, ESA, and K. Noll (STScI), Acknowledgment: The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Chart of the day: What Americans do/don’t recycle

From the Pew Research Center:


World’s largest animals headed to extinction

A richness map of (a) the number of megafaunal species, (b) the number of declining megafauna species, and (c) the number of threatened megafaunal species in their native ranges. Megafauna are defined as terrestrial large carnivores (more than 15 kilograms) and large herbivores (more than 100 kilograms). Threatened includes all species categorized as Vulnerable, Endangered, or Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. From "    "." Saving the World's Terrestrial Megafauna."

A richness map of (a) the number of megafaunal species, (b) the number of declining megafauna species, and (c) the number of threatened megafaunal species in their native ranges. Megafauna are defined as terrestrial large carnivores (more than 15 kilograms) and large herbivores (more than 100 kilograms). Threatened includes all species categorized as Vulnerable, Endangered, or Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. From “Saving the World’s Terrestrial Megafauna.”

Driven by fear of predators, the quest for valuable animal parts [many consumed by older men in Asia in search of restoring their erections, ad appetites for exotic foods, Homo sapiens is killing off his fellow large creatures.

And without immediate action, many and perhaps most of some of nature’s most magnificent creature will only survive as stuffed museum specimens.

That action, and the money to fund it, is needed now, declares a global coalition of life scientists.

From the University of California, Los Angeles:

Preventing the extinction of gorillas, rhinoceroses, elephants, lions, tigers, wolves, bears and the world’s other largest mammals will require bold political action and financial commitments from nations worldwide. In an article in the journal BioScience, 43 wildlife experts write [open access] that without immediate changes, many of the Earth’s most iconic species will be lost.

“The loss of these magnificent animals would be a tremendous tragedy,” said Blaire Van Valkenburgh, a UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and one of the article’s co-authors. “They are all that is left of a once much more diverse megafauna that populated the planet only 12,000 years ago. And more importantly, we have only just begun to understand the important roles they play in maintaining healthy ecosystems.”

Among the most serious threats to endangered animals are illegal hunting, deforestation, habitat loss, expansion of livestock and agriculture into wildlife areas, and human population growth, they write.

The scientists, who represent six continents, write that humans have “an abiding moral obligation to protect the Earth’s megafauna,” or large mammals. “We must not go quietly into this impoverished future.”

In addition to their significance to ecosystems, animals such as tigers and elephants attract tourists and their money to parts of the world that have few alternative sources of income, said Van Valkenburgh, who holds the Donald R. Dickey chair in vertebrate biology in the UCLA College.

“This paper is a call for action at all levels, local to global, to halt the rapid decline of the megafauna,” she said.

The paper reports that 59 percent of the largest carnivores and 60 percent of the largest herbivores have been classified as threatened with extinction, and that the situation is especially severe in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, where the greatest diversity of extant megafauna live.

William Ripple, the paper’s lead author, a distinguished professor of ecology in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University, said the animals’ declines are occurring rapidly.

“The more I look at the trends facing the world’s largest terrestrial mammals, the more concerned I am we could lose these animals just as science is discovering how important they are to ecosystems and to the services they provide to people,” he said.

The scientists call for comprehensive action, including expanding habitats for the animals and changing conservation policy. The paper notes that some conservation initiatives have been successful and that, if measures are taken now, it may still be possible to rescue these animals from extinction.

The article is published in seven languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, French, Malay, Portuguese and Thai.

Mr. Fish: Straight from the Horse’s Ass

From Clowncrack, his blog of hippomanic haruspication:



Mr. Fish: Thirst

From Clowncrack, his blog of dapatical dehydration:

BLOG Fish 2

Chart of the day II: Scraping the barrel’s bottom

From Gallup:

BLOG Nominees