By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

1. The careening, reckless Trump presidency

Here's a rare Saturday Atomic! as you head out for your "Panic Saturday" shopping spree. There is panic in Washington and Western capitals  at the Winter Solstice with a Full Cold Moon. A good portion of the federal government is shuttered as a true "Madness of King George"  scenario emerges. President Trump is demanding funding for a border wall Republicans in Congress have passed on for two years. When Trump met with Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer earlier this month, he said, "I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck, I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it." But Friday the flip-flopping Tweeter-in-Chief said, "The Democrats now own the shutdown!" Wall Street Journal: "Frustrated by President Trump’s vacillations during the week, lawmakers reached a procedural agreement Friday that they wouldn’t take another vote until a deal had been struck between the White House, GOP and Democratic congressional leaders." 

The result was an open Senate vote for hours on Friday as senators scrambled to take flights back to DC while Vice President Pence, Jared Kushner and temp Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney talked with congressional leaders. Remember those cra-zeee scenes in the movie "The Madness of King George"? Trump now has Congress on a yo-yo. Trump apparently is adamant he wants $5 billion for the orphaned wall that he repeatedly told supporters that Mexico would pay for. He now wants American taxpayers to pay up. Hoosiers would break down this nuttiness in this blunt fashion: "The President is full of bullshit."

2. Trump betrays the Kurds

On top of the farcical government shutdown, we're learning that President Trump betrayed our brave Kurdish allies in a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a week ago Friday. The emerging Turkish autocrat pressed Trump on why some 2,000 U.S. troops were still in Syria, according to shorthand by several senior administration officials. “You know what? It’s yours,” Trump said of Syria. “I’m leaving.”  This has set in motion even more cold full lunacy, with Defense Sec. Jim Mattis resigning in protest over that and Trump's decision to withdraw most U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Erdogan would love nothing more than to carve up the Kurds, and Trump is obliging. The Syrian pullout is dangerous, as Washington Post  columnist Jim Hoagland explained: "Telegraphing withdrawal while they are still in the field exposes troops to attack by the enemy, or from previously friendly forces now likely to feel betrayed." The Kurds played a crucial and pivotal role in defeating ISIS. Trump's response was akin to the campaign manager telling the young intern on the day after the election: "Thanks a lot kid, now get lost."

3. The Kabul helipad

As for Afghanistan, the satirical website Duffel Blog reported: “U.S. Quietly Builds Helipad on Roof of Embassy in Afghanistan.” That's a reference to the iconic photo of Americans evacuating from Saigon as South Vietnam fell to the communists in 1975. Worth repeating is U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, who did a tour in Afghanistan said Friday he hoped Afghan withdrawal plans were "not true," adding, "Withdrawing half our troops at this critical time is a major risk that would lead to greater instability and jeopardize America’s national security." The other conspicuous Hoosier who has served in that theater, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, hasn't reacted, but said in November following the death of a Utah mayor fighting there, "Terrible news from Afghanistan this evening. Even as many lose track of the fact that we’re still there, the war continues to take American and Afghan lives." And this from the New York Times: “Everyone has been saying that Trump didn’t want to visit the troops in war zones because he questions the mission there,” said Jon Soltz, an activist Iraq war veteran who remains in the National Guard. “I think it’s the other way around. He’s scared to go to Iraq or Afghanistan, like he was scared to go to Vietnam, so he pretends to question the mission.”

3. Buttigieg with  Iowa progressives

Mayor Buttigieg made his first trip to Iowa after announcing he wouldn't seek a third term. He spoke to the Progress Iowa's Christmas Party Thursday, saying, "I belong to a generation that will literally live and die by decisions being made right now." The Des Moines Register: Buttigieg highlighted his own story as an openly gay mayor who served as an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, and he called for "deep and lasting change" on major issues. "We can’t just polish off a system so broken that many people — many people we know in this part of the country — went to the polls in 2016 with their eyes wide open and voted to burn the house down. We can’t go back. It is a season for boldness and a focus on the future." As for a presidential run, Buttigieg said, "Conversations are getting pretty real and I think, really, January will be the time to make some steps."

4. Keeping score

Democrat Rep. Joe Kennedy III is keeping score of the Trump/Ryan/McConnell "trifecta," noting: - 4M working age Americans lost health care; -$1.5T corporate handout; -$779B deficit; -Worst Dec stock market since 1931 -17% increase in hate crimes; -2,654 migrant kids taken from families; -~40,000 gun deaths in 2017. Out-going Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich: "This chaos, both foreign and domestic, is putting America in danger and must stop immediately."

5. 'Hutch' passes

Long-time Indiana University beat sports writer Terry Hutchens died at age 60 following a car accident on Monday. Hutchens wrote for the Indianapolis News, IndyStar and lately for CNHI. IU basketball coach Archie Miller reacted, saying, “Saddened to hear the news of the passing of Terry Hutchens!  Our deepest thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Susan, mother Dena, sister Kelly and two sons Bryan and Kevin.  RIP Terry,  you were truly one of the best!”

We'll be monitoring the chaos through the holidays, folks. Keep an eye on The Atomic!