Archives for November 2017

Donald Trump is a merchant of hatred who stews in his own toxicity

Brendan Cox, whose wife Jo was murdered by a supporter of Britain First, writes: If you’re like me, you check the news each morning with the worry that Donald Trump might have tweeted his way to the third world war. So in some ways, the fact that “all” he did this morning was to retweet the world-view of a far-right extremist from the organisation Britain First is something of a relief. At least we’re not waking to gifs of mushroom clouds over Korea. But that is to take false comfort. That shouldn’t be where we set the bar for the president of our closest ally.

It is fair to say that all of us who spend too much time on social media have probably retweeted people we might not be aware of, or who have dubious views on other issues. If this were a one-off, I might give President Trump the benefit of the doubt. But it’s not. Trump, from the beginning, throughout his campaign and since the election, has used hatred and bigotry to mobilise support.

He’s done so from calling Mexicans rapists to pledging a ban on all Muslims entering the country, to failing to disavow the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville. On Twitter he’s retweeted far-right activists following Charlottesville, shared antisemitic memes against Hillary Clinton and shared content from @WhiteGenocideTM – an account featuring dozens of racist memes.

In short, what his track record shows is that this isn’t a mistake, it’s a strategy. The impact of this strategy is to legitimise those driven by hatred. It makes them think that their views are mainstream, when in fact they are not – and makes those already driven by hatred more likely to act on it. [Continue reading…]

Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of Britain First tweeted:


Former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke tweeted:

This is why WE LOVE TRUMP and WHY the FAKE NEWS MEDIA HATES TRUMP. He brings to light what the lying, Fake News Media Won't. The truth is the media covers up horrific numbers of racist hate crimes against White people!

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, tweeted:

Britain First is a vile, hate-fuelled organisation whose views should be condemned, not amplified.

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, tweeted:

I join the urgent call for President @realDonaldTrump to remove his Britain First retweets and make clear his opposition to racism and hatred.

These are the neo-fascist Islamophobes that Trump is promoting:



Special relationship? Theresa May discovers she has no friend in Donald Trump

Julian Borger writes: It was some poor official’s job this morning to tell Theresa May that while she slept, the relationship with the US became special for all the wrong reasons.

It is at least historic. No US president in modern times has addressed a UK prime minister with the open peevishness and contempt of Donald Trump’s tweet telling May to mind her own business.

George W Bush’s offhand “Yo Blair”, caught on an open mic in 2006, did not show much respect either, but at least it was meant to be friendly. We are a very long way away from such halcyon partnerships as Churchill-Roosevelt and Reagan-Thatcher.

Trump could not even be bothered to get May’s Twitter handle right. The diss had to be corrected.

There are many layers of humiliation here for May to get her head around over breakfast. Not only is it personally demeaning, it is also politically toxic.

The prospect of a successful or at least survivable Brexit is posited on a strong relationship with Washington. In that regard, May’s successful rush to Washington in January to become the first foreign leader received at the Trump White House was presented as a coup.

Under EU rules, the two countries are not allowed even to start negotiating a trade deal until the UK is truly out of Europe, but the warm words and the pictures of the Trump and May holding hands at least struck an encouraging tone. The prime minister got to Washington in time to help the state department and Congress stop the president lifting sanctions on Russia, and squeezed out of him his first grudging words of support for Nato.

It has been downhill since then. [Continue reading…]


With the successful Hwasong-15 test, North Korea’s final goal is in sight

Andrei Lankov writes: As long as the United States doesn’t use military force (at the cost of risking a major war), nothing can stop North Korean leaders from becoming the third country in the world, after Russia and China, capable of annihilating any American city.

Perhaps North Korean decision-makers hope that once they have the first strike capability in place, they will be in a position to start negotiating and, perhaps, negotiate a freeze under favorable conditions.

CNN recently cited a statement by an unnamed North Korean official who said: “Before we can engage in diplomacy with the Trump administration, we want to send a clear message that the DPRK has a reliable defensive and offensive capability to counter any aggression from the United States.”

These words are not surprising to the majority of North Korea watchers who have long known that this is exactly Pyongyang’s strategy or, at least, its plan A (there might be a plan B and a plan C, of course).

But it is remarkable that the intention to look for compromise after acquiring the first strike capability has been expressed in such explicit terms by a Pyongyang representative.

North Korea’s decision-makers believe that they have just a few more steps before they arrive at their strategic goal. Once there, they can begin negotiating and seriously reduce international pressure. They likely expect that if they agree to freeze launches and nuclear tests, many of the sanctions will be lifted. They are probably right. [Continue reading…]


How four recent launches signaled new leaps in North Korea’s missile capabilities

The Washington Post reports: It wasn’t a big surprise, but it was a big deal — so much so that North Korea issued commemorative stamps. Two successful missile launches in July almost certainly proved that the country had produced an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the United States. A Nov. 29 test that flew even higher and longer indicated that the entire U.S. mainland most likely was within range.

According to U.S. intelligence analysts, the country also has nuclear warheads small enough to fit on its missiles. On Sept. 2, the country tested its most powerful nuclear device yet, a blast seven times the size of the bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima.

Nonproliferation experts had long assumed that the secretive country’s nuclear capability was further along than many people wanted to believe, but seeing the proof was still jarring.

North Korea has launched 20 missile tests in 2017, and 15 were successful, according to a database maintained by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. The tests represented giant leaps forward in technology. [Continue reading…]


The disappointing truth about U.S. plans to shoot down North Korean nuclear weapons

Tim Fernholz reports: At a Nov. 6 press conference with US President Donald Trump, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe was asked if Japan would respond to North Korean missile launches by shooting them down.

“I could just take a piece of the Prime Minister’s answer,” Trump interjected, “He will shoot them out of the sky when he completes the purchase of lots of additional military equipment from the United States. He will easily shoot them out of the sky, just like we shot something out of the sky the other day in Saudi Arabia.”

But Trump was wrong: The US can’t easily shoot down missiles like the one North Korea tested yesterday, which are designed to launch nuclear weapons. The Saudi military did intercept a missile using a US-made Patriot missile defense system, but it was a medium-range missile moving at far slower speeds than a nuclear warhead launched by an inter-continental ballistic missile.

Stopping a nuclear ICBM is a much more difficult challenge, one that the US has struggled with since the Cold War, spending hundreds of billions of dollars to come up with a system of sensors and missiles called GMD, or Ground-based Midcourse Defense.

The premise is simple: Once the US detects a missile launch with a variety of radar systems, it will shoot its own interceptor into the sky. After the enemy nuclear warhead separates from its rocket booster, a defensive interceptor, or “kill vehicle,” separates from its own booster and attempts to crash into the warhead. Executing this maneuver during a roughly twenty minute window against a warhead moving faster than the speed of sound is extremely difficult in practice.

“The US missile interceptors based in Alaska and California are assessed to have a 25 percent chance of a head-on collision with the attacking missile, but most experts believe the true performance to be much lower,” Dr. Bruce Blair, a former nuclear launch control officer turned anti-proliferation activist, said in a statement.

“It is not a reliable defense under real-world conditions,” echoed experts at the Union of Concerned Scientists in an extensive report published last year. “By promoting [missile interception] as a solution to nuclear conflict, US officials complicate diplomatic efforts abroad, and perpetuate a false sense of security that could harm the US public.” [Continue reading…]


Ratko Mladic and the war crimes revisionists

Oz Katerji writes: Twenty two years after the Srebrenica massacre, Ratko Mladic has been convicted of the crime of genocide and sentenced to life imprisonment in the final case of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal at The Hague.

Among those in attendance at The Hague was Fikret Alic, survivor of the Serbian-run Trnopolje concentration camp. In 1992 a photograph of Alic’s emaciated figure, published on the front cover of Time magazine, shocked the world, leading to international shock and condemnation of the atrocities unfolding in Bosnia.

Five years after that infamous photograph, a now defunct British far-left magazine known as LM (formerly Living Marxism) ran an article defending the concentration camp by one Thomas Deichmann. The article, headlined “The picture that fooled the world,” claimed that reporters from the British ITN TV news company had deliberately misrepresented the image of Alic, stating that the concentration camp was a “collection center for refugees” who were free to leave “if they wished.”

Not only was this an outrageous, unsubstantiated lie (and has echoes of the claims the Nazis made about the show camp of Theresienstadt) but it was a direct attack on the survivors of Serbian crimes against humanity.

ITN successfully sued LM for libel and were awarded £375,000 in damages, which bankrupted the publication and put it out of business.

However this was not the end of the story. The reporters involved in the fraudulent LM article refused to back down, and they were defended by high profile individuals such as celebrated left-wing academic Noam Chomsky.

In a 2006 interview, Chomsky reiterated the claim: “It was a refugee camp, I mean, people could leave if they wanted,” and in 2011 condemned the libel case against LM, in an email exchange in which he also said that referring to Srebrenica as an act of genocide “cheapens the word.”

A book published by Edward Herman and David Peterson called The Politics of Genocide, which claims Serb forces “incontestably had not killed any but ‘Bosnian Muslim men of military age’” carries a foreword by Chomsky and an endorsement by Australian journalist John Pilger.

Wednesday, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia concluded that genocide was committed in Srebrenica, and that it had been orchestrated by Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb general.

But nobody should be expecting any retractions or apologies from Chomsky or Pilger, men for whom genocide denial has become a point of pride.

Today, Chomsky, Pilger and a slew of other notable left-wing academics, journalists and bloggers are applying this same war-crimes revisionism to the war in Syria. [Continue reading…]


Ku Klux Klambakes

Adam Hochschild writes: Most of us who grow up in the United States learn a reassuring narrative of ever-expanding tolerance. Yes, the country’s birth was tainted with the original sin of slavery, but Lincoln freed the slaves, the Supreme Court desegregated schools, and we finally elected a black president. The Founding Fathers may have all been men, but in their wisdom they created a constitution that would later allow women to gain the vote. And now the legal definition of marriage has broadened to include gays and lesbians. We are, it appears, an increasingly inclusive nation.

But a parallel, much darker river runs through American history. The Know Nothing Party of the 1850s viciously attacked Catholics and immigrants. Eugenics enthusiasts of the early twentieth century warned about the nation’s gene pool being polluted by ex-slaves, the feeble minded, and newcomers of inferior races. In the 1930s, 16 million Americans regularly listened to the anti-Semitic radio rants of Father Charles E. Coughlin.

The most notorious of all the currents in this dark river has been the Ku Klux Klan. It flourished first in the South after the Civil War, lynching and terrorizing African-Americans who tried to vote, and then gradually disbanded in the early 1870s under pressure from the federal government. After a long spell of quiescence, it reemerged into national prominence in the 1920s, reaching an all-time peak membership in 1924—a year, incidentally, that saw the dedication of various Confederate memorials, including the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, whose planned removal was the pretext for the “Unite the Right” rally there in August. After another eclipse, the Klan roared back to life a third time in protest against the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Among other acts of violence, Klansmen took part in the murder of three voter registration workers near Philadelphia, Mississippi, in the summer of 1964—James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman.

All along, of course, even while sticking to rhetoric of tolerance and inclusion, politicians have made winks and nods toward that dark river of which the Klan is a part. Richard Nixon had his Southern Strategy. Running for president in 1980, Ronald Reagan sent an unmistakable message by giving a speech about states’ rights near Philadelphia, Mississippi. George H.W. Bush used the notorious Willie Horton campaign commercial. And now suddenly, it’s no longer just winks and nods. Only when pressed by a reporter did Donald Trump in early 2016 reluctantly disavow the support of Klan leader David Duke. “David Duke endorsed me? O.K., all right. I disavow, O.K.?” Then as president he outraged people around the world by equating antiracist protesters with the unsavory brew of white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and Klan members who gathered at Charlottesville, declaring that there were “some very fine people on both sides.” One of the least fine among the right-wingers rammed his car into a crowd of counterdemonstrators, killing one and injuring many others. Once again, it seems, the Klan is elbowing its way back into American public life. [Continue reading…]


The European thinkers behind the white-nationalist rallying cry, ‘You will not replace us’

Thomas Chatterton Williams writes: The Château de Plieux, a fortified castle on a hilltop in the Gascony region of southwestern France, overlooks rolling fields speckled with copses and farmhouses. A tricolor flag snaps above the worn beige stone. The northwest tower, which was built in the fourteenth century, offers an ideal position from which to survey invading hordes. Inside the château’s cavernous second-story study, at a desk heavy with books, the seventy-one-year-old owner of the property, Renaud Camus, sits at an iMac and tweets dire warnings about Europe’s demographic doom.

On the sweltering June afternoon that I visited the castle, Camus—no relation to Albert—wore a tan summer suit and a tie. Several painted self-portraits hung in the study, multiplying his blue-eyed gaze. Camus has spent most of his career as a critic, novelist, diarist, and travel essayist. The only one of his hundred or so books to be translated into English, “Tricks” (1979), announces itself as “a sexual odyssey—man-to-man,” and includes a foreword by Roland Barthes. The book describes polyglot assignations from Milan to the Bronx. Allen Ginsberg said of it, “Camus’s world is completely that of a new urban homosexual; at ease in half a dozen countries.”

In recent years, though, Camus’s name has been associated less with erotica than with a single poignant phrase, le grand remplacement. In 2012, he made this the title of an alarmist book. Native “white” Europeans, he argues, are being reverse-colonized by black and brown immigrants, who are flooding the Continent in what amounts to an extinction-level event. “The great replacement is very simple,” he has said. “You have one people, and in the space of a generation you have a different people.” The specific identity of the replacement population, he suggests, is of less importance than the act of replacement itself. “Individuals, yes, can join a people, integrate with it, assimilate to it,” he writes in the book. “But peoples, civilizations, religions—and especially when these religions are themselves civilizations, types of society, almost States—cannot and cannot even want to . . . blend into other peoples, other civilizations.”

Camus believes that all Western countries are faced with varying degrees of “ethnic and civilizational substitution.” He points to the increasing prevalence of Spanish, and other foreign languages, in the United States as evidence of the same phenomenon. Although his arguments are scarcely available in translation, they have been picked up by right-wing and white-nationalist circles throughout the English-speaking world. In July, Lauren Southern, the Canadian alt-right Internet personality, posted, on YouTube, a video titled “The Great Replacement”; it has received more than a quarter of a million views. On, a Web site maintained anonymously, the introductory text declares, “The same term can be applied to many other European peoples both in Europe and abroad . . . where the same policy of mass immigration of non-European people poses a demographic threat. Of all the different races of people on this planet, only the European races are facing the possibility of extinction in a relatively near future.” The site announces its mission as “spreading awareness” of Camus’s term, which, the site’s author concludes, is more palatable than a similar concept, “white genocide.” (A search for that phrase on YouTube yields more than fifty thousand videos.)

“I don’t have any genetic conception of races,” Camus told me. “I don’t use the word ‘superior.’ ” He insisted that he would feel equally sad if Japanese culture or “African culture” were to disappear because of immigration. [Continue reading…]


It’s the kultur, stupid

Timothy Garton Ash writes: “The reason we are inundated by culturally alien [kulturfremden] peoples such as Arabs, Sinti and Roma etc. is the systematic destruction of civil society as a possible counterweight to the enemies-of-the-constitution by whom we are ruled. These pigs are nothing other than puppets of the victor powers of the Second World War….” Thus begins a 2013 personal e-mail from Alice Weidel, who in this autumn’s pivotal German election was one of two designated “leading candidates” of the Alternative für Deutschland (hereafter AfD or the Alternative). The chief “pig” and “puppet” was, of course, Angela Merkel. Despite the publication of this leaked e-mail two weeks before election day, adding to other widely publicized evidence of AfD leaders’ xenophobic, right-wing nationalist views, one in eight German voters gave the Alternative their support. It is now the second-largest opposition party in the Bundestag, with ninety-two MPs.

Xenophobic right-wing nationalism—in Germany of all places? The very fact that observers express surprise indicates how much Germany has changed since 1945. These days, we expect more of Germany than of ourselves. For, seen from one point of view, this is just Germany partaking in the populist normality of our time, as manifested in the Brexit vote in Britain, Marine le Pen’s Front National in France, Geert Wilders’s blond beastliness in the Netherlands, the right-wing nationalist-populist government in Poland, and Trumpery in the US.

Like all contemporary populisms, the German version exhibits both generic and specific features. In common with other populisms, it denounces the current elites (Alteliten in AfD-speak) and established parties (Altparteien) while speaking in the name of the Volk, a word that, with its double meaning of people and ethno-culturally defined nation, actually best captures what Trump and Le Pen mean when they say “the people.” In Angst für Deutschland, her vividly reported book about the party, Melanie Amann, a journalist at the weekly news magazine Der Spiegel, notes how some of its activists have appropriated the slogan of the East German protests against Communist rule in 1989: Wir sind das Volk—We are the people. Like other populists, Germany’s attack the mainstream media (Lügenpresse, the “lying press”) while making effective use of social media. On the eve of the election, the Alternative had some 362,000 Facebook followers, compared with the Social Democrats’ 169,000 and just 154,000 for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU). [Continue reading…]


Trump’s tax plan ‘is at every turn carefully engineered to deliver a kiss to the donor class’

The New York Times reports: The tax plan has been marketed by President Trump and Republican leaders as a straightforward if enormous rebate for the masses, a $1.5 trillion package of cuts to spur hiring and economic growth. But as the bill has been rushed through Congress with scant debate, its far broader ramifications have come into focus, revealing a catchall legislative creation that could reshape major areas of American life, from education to health care.

Some of this re-engineering is straight out of the traditional Republican playbook. Corporate taxes, along with those on wealthy Americans, would be slashed on the presumption that when people in penthouses get relief, the benefits flow down to basement tenements.

Some measures are barely connected to the realm of taxation, such as the lifting of a 1954 ban on political activism by churches and the conferring of a new legal right for fetuses in the House bill — both on the wish list of the evangelical right.

With a potentially far-reaching dimension, elements in both the House and Senate bills could constrain the ability of states and local governments to levy their own taxes, pressuring them to limit spending on health care, education, public transportation and social services. In their longstanding battle to shrink government, Republicans have found in the tax bill a vehicle to broaden the fight beyond Washington.

The result is a behemoth piece of legislation that could widen American economic inequality while diminishing the power of local communities to marshal relief for vulnerable people — especially in high-tax states like California and New York, which, not coincidentally, tend to vote Democratic.

All of this is taking shape at such extraordinary velocity, absent the usual analyses and hearings, that even the most savvy Washington lobbyist cannot be fully certain of the implications.

Mr. Trump and the Republican leadership in Congress — stymied in their efforts to repeal Obamacare, and short of legislative achievements — have signaled absolute resolve to get a tax bill passed by the end of the year. As the sense has taken hold that Washington is now a trading floor where any deal is worth entertaining so long as it brings votes, interest groups have fixed on the tax bill as a unique opportunity to further their agendas.

“There’s a Christmas-tree aspect to the bill,” said C. Eugene Steuerle, a Treasury official during the Reagan administration and now a senior fellow at the Urban Institute. As an example, he cited the provisions in the House bill designed to appeal to the religious right.

“People want to add certain things, and if they don’t cost a lot, it’s a way to buy in agreement,” Mr. Steuerle said.

Economists and tax experts are overwhelmingly skeptical that the bills in the House and Senate can generate meaningful job growth and economic expansion. Many view the legislation not as a product of genuine deliberation, but as a transfer of wealth to corporations and affluent individuals — both generous purveyors of campaign contributions. By 2027, people making $40,000 to $50,000 would pay a combined $5.3 billion more in taxes, while the group earning $1 million or more would get a $5.8 billion cut, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office.

“When you put all these pieces together, what you’re left with is we are squandering a giant sum of money,” said Edward D. Kleinbard, a former chief of staff at the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation who teaches law at the University of Southern California. “It’s not aimed at growth. It is not aimed at the middle class. It is at every turn carefully engineered to deliver a kiss to the donor class.”

In a recent University of Chicago survey of 38 prominent economists across the ideological spectrum, only one said the proposed tax cuts would yield substantial economic growth. Unanimously, the economists said the tax cuts would add to the long-term federal debt burden, now estimated at more than $20 trillion. [Continue reading…]


Trump’s pussy problem

The Daily Beast reports: In a previously unreported comment to the now-defunct Maximum Golf magazine, Donald Trump singled out a “young socialite” at his club at Mar-a-Lago by telling a reporter, “there is nothing in the world like first-rate pussy.”

The remark never made its way to print, as a top editor of the magazine forbade the reporter from putting it in the publication. But the former journalist who wrote the article, Michael Corcoran, and another editor, both confirmed that it was said by Trump as Corcoran followed him around at his Florida golf club for a profile.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump’s use of the word fits a pattern he exhibited before he found himself at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. In the run-up to the 2016 election, Trump took great pleasure in repeating a comment yelled from a supporter about Ted Cruz. “You’re not allowed to say… She said he’s a pussy! Terrible. Terrible,” he said to an elated crowd. And Tucker Carlson remembers Trump responding to a jab about his hair with the observation, “But I get more pussy than you do.”

As president, however, Trump has sought to downplay or even deny this part of his past. He has reportedly floated the notion that the infamous Access Hollywood tape—which caught him bragging that his stardom allowed him to grope women without their consent—is a fake. Despite a pre-election public apology for the 2005 recording, Trump has backtracked, according to The New York Times. It’s not his voice, the president told a senator. And “Grab ’em by the pussy,” he’s told aides, just does not sound like something he would say. [Continue reading…]


Woman’s effort to infiltrate The Washington Post dated back months

The Washington Post reports: The failed effort by conservative activists to plant a false story about Senate candidate Roy Moore in The Washington Post was part of a months-long campaign to infiltrate The Post and other media outlets in Washington and New York, according to interviews, text messages and social media posts that have since been deleted.

Starting in July, Jaime Phillips, an operative with the organization Project Veritas, which purports to expose media bias, joined two dozen networking groups related to either journalism or left-leaning politics. She signed up to attend 15 related events, often accompanied by a male companion, and appeared at least twice at gatherings for departing Post staffers.

Phillips, 41, presented herself to journalists variously as the owner of a start-up looking to recruit writers, a graduate student studying national security or a contractor new to the area. This summer, she tweeted posts in support of gun control and critical of Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigrants — a departure from the spring when, on accounts that have since been deleted, she used the #MAGA hashtag and mocked the Women’s March on Washington that followed Trump’s inauguration as the “Midol March.”

Her true identity and intentions were revealed only when The Post published a story on Monday, along with photos and video, about how she falsely told Post reporters that Moore had impregnated her when she was a teenager. The Post reported that Phillips appeared to work for Project Veritas, an organization that uses false cover stories and covert video recordings in an attempt to embarrass its targets.

Phillips’s sustained attempt to insinuate herself into the social circles of reporters makes clear that her deception — and the efforts to discredit The Post’s reporting — went much further than the attempt to plant one fabricated article.

Phillips’s encounters with dozens of journalists, which have not been previously reported, typically occurred at professional networking events or congratulatory send-offs for colleagues at bars and restaurants. She used three names and three phone numbers to follow up with Post employees, chatting about life in Washington and asking to be introduced to other journalists.

In one case, Phillips kept a conversation going for five weeks with a Post employee over text message, repeatedly asking whether she and her husband could meet Phillips for dinner. After the employee shared that she was experiencing a family tragedy, Phillips wrote: “Let me know if I can do anything to help, even if just to talk or something small. We’d like to send flowers or a donation… Thoughts & prayers.” [Continue reading…]


Jared Kushner met with special counsel about Flynn

CNN reports: Jared Kushner met earlier this month with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team as part of the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the election, according to two people familiar with the meeting.

Mueller’s team specifically asked Kushner about former national security advisor Michael Flynn, who is under investigation by the special counsel, two sources said. Flynn was the dominant topic of the conversation, one of the sources said.

“Mr. Kushner has voluntarily cooperated with all relevant inquiries and will continue to do so,” Abbe Lowell, Kushner’s lawyer, told CNN.

The conversation lasted less than 90 minutes, one person familiar with the meeting said, adding that Mueller’s team asked Kushner to clear up some questions he was asked by lawmakers and details that emerged through media reports. One source said the nature of this conversation was principally to make sure Kushner doesn’t have information that exonerates Flynn. [Continue reading…]


Special counsel delays grand jury testimony amid signs of Flynn deal talks

CNN reports: Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team has postponed an anticipated grand jury testimony linked to his investigation into Michael Flynn amid growing indications of possible plea deal discussions.

Additional witnesses were expected to be questioned soon including a public relations consultant hired by Flynn’s lobbying firm who was given an early December date deadline to appear before the grand jury, according to a person at the company.

Ahead of the delay, the impression was that the testimony needed to happen soon, the source said. [Continue reading…]


Music: Arve Henrikson — ‘Le Cimetière Marin’



North Korea’s latest missile launch appears to put U.S. capital in range

The Washington Post reports: North Korea launched what appears to be another intercontinental ballistic missile, the Pentagon said Tuesday, with experts calculating that the U.S. capital is now technically within Kim Jong Un’s reach.

The launch, the first in more than two months, is a sign that the North Korean leader is pressing ahead with his nation’s stated goal of being able to strike the United States’ mainland and is not caving in to the Trump administration’s warnings. The missile logged a longer flight time than any of its predecessors.

“We will take care of it,” President Trump told reporters at the White House after the launch. He called it a “situation we will handle.”

Trump has repeatedly said that military options are on the table for dealing with North Korea, suggesting that time has run out for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear problem.

A growing chorus of voices in Washington is calling for serious consideration of military action against North Korea, although this is strongly opposed by South Korea, where the Seoul metropolitan region — home to 25 million people — is within the range of North Korean artillery.

And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday that “diplomatic options remain viable and open, for now.” He added: “The United States remains committed to finding a peaceful path to denuclearization and to ending belligerent actions by North Korea.”

The missile, which launched early Wednesday local time, traveled some 620 miles and reached a height of about 2,800 miles before landing off the coast of Japan and flew for a total of 54 minutes. This suggested that it had been fired almost straight up — on a lofted trajectory similar to North Korea’s two previous intercontinental ballistic missile tests.

The Pentagon said that the projectile did indeed appear to be an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM. The latest missile “went higher, frankly, than any previous shot they’ve taken,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said. He described the launch as part of an effort to build missiles “that can threaten everywhere in the world.”

If it had flown on a standard trajectory designed to maximize its reach, this missile would have a range of more than 8,100 miles, said David Wright, co-director of the global security program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. [Continue reading…]

David Wright adds: We do not know how heavy a payload this missile carried, but given the increase in range it seems likely that it carried a very light mock warhead. If true, that means it would be incapable of carrying a nuclear warhead to this long distance, since such a warhead would be much heavier. [Continue reading…]


North Korea’s latest missile launch suggests weapons testing lull was seasonal, rather than strategic

The Washington Post reports: North Korea’s latest missile launch is its 20th in 2017 — and it seems to dash the idea that Pyongyang’s lull in weapons testing over the past two months indicated a willingness to negotiate.

There had been 74 days between Tuesday’s test and the last North Korean provocation, a missile launch on Sept. 15 that capped off a bout of activity over the summer months. Some hoped that this apparent lull might show that Washington’s hard-line policy on North Korea was working or that Pyongyang was open to a “freeze for freeze” policy like that advocated by China and Russia.

Instead, just before 3 a.m. local time, North Korea fired a missile to the east. The Japanese Defense Ministry said the missile appeared to have flown for about 50 minutes. This missile test may prove a theory put forward by analysts such as Shea Cotton, a research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies: The lack of weapons tests from North Korea was not strategic — it was seasonal. [Continue reading…]


Trump once said the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape was real. Now he’s not sure

The New York Times reports: Shortly after his victory last year, Donald J. Trump began revisiting one of his deepest public humiliations: the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape of him making vulgar comments about women.

Despite his public acknowledgment of the recording’s authenticity in the final days of the presidential campaign — and his hasty videotaped apology under pressure from his advisers — Mr. Trump as president-elect began raising the prospect with allies that it may not have been him on the tape after all.

Most of Mr. Trump’s aides ignored his changing story. But in January, shortly before his inauguration, Mr. Trump told a Republican senator that he wanted to investigate the recording that had him boasting about grabbing women’s genitals.

“We don’t think that was my voice,” Mr. Trump told the senator, according to a person familiar with the conversation. Since then, Mr. Trump has continued to suggest that the tape that nearly upended his campaign was not actually him, according to three people close to the president.

As the issue of sexual harassment has swept through the news media, politics and entertainment industries, Mr. Trump has persisted in denying allegations that he, too, made unwanted advances on multiple women in past years. In recent days, he has continued to seed doubt about his appearance on the “Access Hollywood” tape, stunning his advisers. [Continue reading…]

Let’s just play along with this absurd claim — “We don’t think that was my voice,” says Trump, who apparently needs the assistance of others in identifying his own voice.

If the tape was a fake, then it was good enough to fool Trump. Yet that also implies that the success of the deception hinged on the sound of the voice rather than what was being said.

Trump was quick to own the words in the tape: “I said it, I was wrong and I apologize.”

So what now? Is he going to retract his apology? Is he going to say he got fooled by a fake tape?

Is this further evidence that the president “is unraveling“?

A report in the Washington Post indicates that Trump is now totally delusional.

President Trump has expressed certainty that the special-counsel probe into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia will be finished by the end of the year, complete with an exoneration from Robert S. Mueller III, according to several friends who have spoken with him in recent days.

Trump has dismissed his historically low approval ratings as “fake” and boasted about what he calls the unprecedented achievements of his presidency, even while chatting behind the scenes, saying no president since Harry Truman has accomplished as much at this point.

Time to invoke the 25th Amendment!