Saturday, December 31, 2016

Last Call For Looking Back At 2016

White House photographer Pete Souza gives us his final year in pictures as he shared his best shots from 2016.

For the eighth and final time, I am presenting my annual Year in Photographs.

All of them were taken either by me or a White House photographer on my staff. For many of the images, I’ve included the backstory behind the image to provide further context or to share why that image was particularly important to me.

As always, the editing for this project is both subjective and personal. Yes, there are some historic moments included but mostly I was looking for behind-the-scenes moments that give people a more personal look at the President and First Lady. And I’ve included a few that I thought were just cool photos.

I hope you enjoy this final Year in Photographs of the Obama administration. It’s been the honor of a lifetime to be a witness to history these past eight years.

— Pete Souza, Chief White House Photographer

Make sure you have a look.  Here's my favorite of the year:

This is the Barack Obama I want to remember, a president who inspired generations over his eight years.  We will not see his like again in our lifetimes, and America will be a poorer place for it.

And yet that little boy's face is full of hope and joy.  That too is what this president gave us, genuine moments of real hope and true joy.  We will need those memories as we move ahead in 2017. Perhaps in this child's lifetime we will see someone as great in the White House again. I have to hope we do.

Don't lose that hope.

Zandar's 2017 Predictions

Here we go again with another time capsule that we'll revisit a year from now on December 31, 2017, and we'll see how I did. 

1) President Trump's average approval rating as of the end of 2016 according to Real Clear Politics's average is 44% favorable, 48% unfavorable, and 43% favorable-48% unfavorable according to Huffpost Pollster average.  My prediction is that he's at or below 44% favorable by this date next year.

2) At least one of Trump's cabinet selections will be rejected by the Senate.  My money's on Rex Tillerson, but the Senate will not confirm all of Trump's picks.  It will be a move by Republicans to let off the growing pressure on them to rein Trump in, but in the end somebody just as bad as Tillerson will be confirmed.  I'd love for Democrats to make this a nasty mess however.

3) Republicans are already fleeing from repealing Obamacare. I'll go out on a limb and predict that no repeal bill will pass in 2017.  Republicans are just too far apart on a solution. I'll take the split here if a repeal bill passes but the actual repeal part doesn't happen until after the 2018 election. I'll take full credit though if that repeal date should be after the 2020 election, which is definitely possible.

4) Harry Reid left the Dems the option to Bork a Trump Supreme Court pick.  I expect that will happen at least once (remember Harriet Miers?) I'll take the split if a second pick is confirmed before the end of the year, but Trump won't get his first pick.

5) All this shouting about the United Nations won't change anything: the US will continue to fund the UN as normal.  I could see a symbolic cut, but nothing about ending funding to the UN, it's simply too important.

6) Likewise, all of Trump's bankster choices for his cabinet and advisors means the debt ceiling will be raised on time.  That will happen quickly.

I expect plenty of new GOP legislation out before the end of the year:

7) A national 20-week ban on abortions will make it through the House.

8) National Voter ID will make it through the House at least.

9) Medicare and Social Security "reform" will also make it through the House.  I expect all of these to die in the Senate.

10) And as always, ZVTS will make it too.  It wasn't a gimme as it has been in the past, I've considered hanging it up, but decided that Trump was just too much of a threat to stop this place.

We'll see how things turn out.

Russian To Judgement, Con't

No, that Friday night Washington Post headline about RUSSIA HACKED OUR POWER OMG is misleading.  Russia did not "penetrate" the US power grid in Vermont, that's not what actually happened.  What actually happened is that malware often used by Russian hacker groups was found on one laptop used by a Vermont power utility, and no damage was caused. Rich Lawler at Engadget explains:

Just a few days ago, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security released a report detailing their assessment that Russian hackers were behind a series of attacks on US agencies and citizens. While the Obama administration issued sanctions, code linked to those hackers has been shared with other agencies, and on Friday, the Burlington Electric Department found malware with a matching signature on one of its laptops. The discovery raises more questions than it answers, but with recent reports of Russian hackers attacking the power grid in Ukraine, it obviously has raised alerts all over.

The Washington Post first reported the finding, suggesting that Russian hackers had gained access to the electrical grid via the Vermont utility, however the company's statement says there's no indication that happened. In a statement, it said the laptop in question was not connected to grid systems. Vermont Public Service Commissioner Christopher Recchia told the Burlington Free Press that the grid was not in danger.

Because it's not clear exactly what matched, there's a possibility that it could be the result of a false positive, or shared code. Also, it's not clear when or how the malware got on the laptop. Based on those reasons, a number of security professionals on Twitter suggested waiting for more details before crediting this finding to Grizzly Steppe (a name attributed to the Russian attacks in Wednesday's report).

So no, this really is nothing more than bad, bad reporting from WaPo.  Surprise, right?  In the midst of a real crisis of confidence in our media, it's important to note that much of the damage is self-inflicted by journalism itself. Yeah, manufactured fake news is definitely a problem, but it only was able to be used so effectively by others against the US because American journalism is by and large awful, stupid garbage on a daily basis.

Keep that in mind as we head into the Trump regime era.

Zandar's 2016 Scorecard

Time to go over my 2016 predictions and see where I ended up for the year as we usually do on December 31.  Let's see how I did...

1) No beating around the...well...Bush.  Hillary Clinton will be elected President of the United States in 2016.  I'll take the half-point if it's Bernie somehow, but if a Republican wins?  We all lose.

WRONG: And history books will be written for decades as to why.

2) 2016 in economics?  Unemployment under 5.5%, oil under $50, and the Dow Jones will close above 16k.  Yes, 2015 was the first negative year in the markets since 2008 and the Fed raised rates, but we were due, and I think the country will stay on track.

RIGHT: Oil is $53 today, but unemployment is under 5% and the Dow is close to 20K.  I'll take the 2 for 3 here.

3) Movies, I see a good year for both Marvel with Captain America: Civil War and DC with Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice.  Both will break $200 million domestically.  How will Deadpool, Suicide Squad, Doctor Strange and X-Men Apocalypse do?  Less sure about those, but they'll all do $100 million a piece.  I'll take the split if I get at least 3 right.

RIGHT: All six superhero films beat those numbers. Civil War beat $400 mil, Deadpool, BvS and Suicide Squad all topped $300 mil, Doc Strange came in at $225 mil, and even X-Men Apocalypse came in at $155 million.

4) Half-a-dozen massive Supreme Court cases in 2016 could change everything.  I'll call it 5-4 that SCOTUS will side with the Obama administration on Texas's abortion laws being too strict...

RIGHT: 5-3 with the passing of Scalia.

5) ...but you can kiss Affirmative Action goodbye.  Kennedy has repeatedly sided against it, as have the court's other four conservatives.

WRONG: Scalia's death and Kennedy's change of heart saved Fisher. As it was, upheld 4-3.

6) As with 2014's Sochi Winter Games, I predict the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics will be an absolute disaster.  There is no way Brazil is going to be ready for this, and I expect the games will be a nasty, disjointed affair with barely functional venues.

RIGHT: "Barely functional venues" was the generous term as the Olympic Village was unfinished and pool water was algae green. And President Dilma Rouseff was impeached and removed from office not long after.

7) I think it's a safe bet that turnout in the 2016 election will be under 50%.  The last time that happened was in 1996 (49%) when Bill Clinton was re-elected and 8 million angry Americans turned to Ross Perot, ironically proving a major third-party candidate reduces turnout.

SPLIT:  There are still several questions about 2016's election that have to be answered, needless to say.  Turnout was supposedly two points higher than in 1996.

8) The Oculus Rift and other virtual reality headset systems will bomb.  We're talking "Google Glass" level of bomb here.  Ironically, the rebranded, industrial/commercial version of Google Glass will return in 2016 and probably do better.

RIGHT: Both predictions were correct.  VR is there, but only 6 million or so have sold. Oculus itself sold well under 500K units.  If it wasn't for Sony's PlayStation VR and Samsung's Gear VR, it would have been a complete waste.

9) The 2016 GOP nominee will not be Trump.  Somehow, the voters will nominate either Cruz or Rubio instead, I don't know how but...hey, we shouldn't have gone down this far anyway. I'll hedge my bet and say that I hope he is.

WRONG: And for the same reasons as #1.

10) ZVTS will still be here going into 2017.  Here's hoping we make it through.

RIGHT: Still here, and now, I think needed more than ever as we head into the new year.

So 7.5 out of ten, not bad at all, but the two biggest predictions were devastating.  We'll be cleaning up for decades after this election.
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