Sunday Evening Open Thread: Second Time As Farce…

Both Sides From The New York Times

My Twitter lit up this morning with Bret Stephens’s call to sink Iran’s navy. But nobody wants war, he assures us.

Right next door (figuratively speaking), Eliot Higgins has an excellent explainer on the evidence proffered so far and how to analyze it. If you want to learn more about how to do open-source intelligence, take some time with this article.

Stephens’s piece, of course, offers nothing remotely like evidence.

And the Times Editorial Board advises the President to heed his deal-making reflex, not his hawkish advisers.

I guess two out of three isn’t too bad.

Open thread – slow afternoon.

Saturday Morning Open Thread: Cartoon Villains

(Mike Luckovich via

(Signe Wilkinson via

(Non Sequitur via

(Drew Sheneman via

The Recent Attack On Shipping in the Gulf of Oman

Two commercial shipping vessels were attacked yesterday in the Gulf of Oman. Both vessels and their cargoes will be salvaged, the crews were safely removed, and none of the potentially environmentally damaging cargo – one of the ships was carrying distillates of naptha, the other methanol – appears to have leaked out into the Gulf of Oman. Because of where these attacks occurred, everyone seems to have immediately decided it was Iran. Secretary of State Pompeo went so far as to state it was unequivocally Iran at his press conference yesterday.

Secretary Pompeo eventually changed his statement to US intelligence assesses, from US government. Regardless, it appears that he’s basing a lot of this on the US Navy surveillance footage that was released of an unexploded ordnance (UXO) tech on one of the Iranian rescue teams removing what could be a magnetically attached mine or magnetically attached shaped charge attached to the side of the Kokaku Courageous. The Navy identified the device as a magnetically attached limpet mine, but the video is too grainy to confirm it.

There are problems with the official US position as expressed by Secretary Pompeo.

Chief Wright has far more experience with this than I do, but I’d add that if we had conclusive proof, as Secretary Pompeo claimed yesterday, that Iran had placed these explosive devices, then he would have released that video instead of video of an Iranian UXO tech disarming and removing an unexploded device that is unidentifiable by video prior to the Iranian rescue team beginning rescue operations aboard the attacked ship. Chief Nance, who like Chief Wright, has far more experience with this than I do, has similar concerns.

James Fallow’s sums the problem up for all of us:

The owners of the Kokaku Courageous have now come out and stated that their ship was not attacked with a mine or a shaped charge, rather by an unidentified airborne device – and not by a torpedo.

One of the tankers that were attacked in the Gulf of Oman was struck by a flying object, the ship’s Japanese operator said on Friday, expressing doubt that a mine had been attached to its hull.

But Yutaka Katada, the company’s president, citing accounts from the ship’s crew, said Friday: “I do not think there was a time bomb or an object attached to the side of the ship.”

Please keep in mind that no evidence has actually been provided of who was responsible for last month’s attacks on shipping vessels in the area.

The bigger issue right now is how Secretary Pompeo and Assistant to the President-National Security Advisor Bolton try to spin this and leverage it to get the war they so clearly want. This includes trying to tie all of this back, in some way, shape, and/or form to Afghanistan and/or the Taliban so they can just take action under the existing 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force that was passed shortly after 9-11. Speaking of pieces of unexploded ordnance lying around waiting to go off…

Until or unless more and better evidence is actually released, all we can do is wait. The only good news in all of this, if there is any good news beyond that no one was seriously injured and no environmental damage appears to have occurred, is that because of the President’s, his cabinet members’, his administration’s, and his surrogates’ well earned reputation for mendacity, no one, including our allies and partners, is simply accepting the official US position on yesterday’s attacks. The same people that asked all of us to believe that no one on the White House staff asked/ordered the Navy to remove the USS John McCain from the President’s sight while he was in Japan, which was a lie, are the same ones that now want us to accept without question that Iran’s famed and feared IRGC carried out a sloppy operation and did so in such an amateurish way that they got caught red handed. Either these guys are the greatest threat to everyone, everywhere or they’re the Keystone Cops. Pick one, they can’t be both. The President’s, his cabinet members’, his administration’s, and his surrogates’ chronic inability to tell the truth may actually be the one thing that keeps things from escalating.

Open thread!

Guest Post – ““Après May le Deluge”

I couldn’t resist adding the above tweet. Many thanks to BJackals Foreign Correspondent Tony Jay; the timing (2am GMT) is not ideal for him to respond immediately, but I wanted to give the maximum number of American readers time to enjoy it properly. (Also, who knows but that by tomorrow morning, there will need to be a *third* ETA… so: “The Tory Leadership Election 2019 – Sort of not-Brexit but really it is Edition”:

Hello everybody.

I recently had the very great pleasure of being lured to an abandoned Scout Hut just outside the picturesque town of Caernarfon where, for reasons I won’t go into without an opium pipe to hand, I found myself sans trousers and briefly suspended above a Welsh-Rite Satanist altar by a cunning arrangement of hooks and chains while a burly fellow in full horns-and-hooves regalia laboured away at my hairy showpiece with a length of bone-knotted horsetail and, while I was there, I thought, oh, this reminds me, I really must see if anyone at Balloon Juice would be interested in a guest-post about the current Tory Party leadership elections.

So, I did, and here it is.

Now, obviously, very few of you good people will have much of a clue who the various oddballs and grease-spots are jostling to succeed Robot/Zombie hybrid Theresa May as leader of both the Conservative and Unionist Party and (because the Tories made a post-2017 deal with the Orange-Sashed Shouting Party of White Protestant Shouty Extremism known as the DUP) Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. With good reason. There’s far too many Democrats in the race to be revealed by the FTFNYT as History’s Greatest Monster to leave any cerebral room for remembering foreign politicians, many of whom are undoubtedly without a snowball’s chance in Guantanamo of getting anywhere near the shiny brass ring anyway, but, since I love to mock the evil and deluded, let’s give them all a gentle squeeze of encouragement and pop their clothes on the hook so we can have a quick butchers at what’s going on down there, eh?

First, a little run down of the actual electoral system the Tories are using to select their leader. In the past you only needed a couple of MPs backing you to get your name thrown into the hat, with prospective candidates being expected to self-audit their chances and take into account the frowny faces of Party grandees should they waste their valuable time with vanity bids, but since the last contest in 2016 they’ve concluded that so many Tory MPs are intemperate fame-whores that it would make more sense and be quicker all round if every nominee had to approach the contest with at least eight declared supporters. Don’t have that level of support? Sit the fuck down, loser.

It all starts with two rounds of voting amongst the MPs of the Parliamentary Party. After the first of these rounds candidates with fewer than 17 votes are eliminated, and after the second candidates with fewer than 33 votes are handed the revolver and a single bullet. At this point if all of the candidates have more than 33 votes (just about technically possible if highly unlikely) then the one with the least support is eliminated, and the votes continue with much behind the scenes horse-trading and back-stabbing with the one garnering the fewest votes from their fellow MPs being dropped each time. Once there’s only two candidates left in the running it’s handed over to the Tory Party membership for a month’s worth of postal voting as somewhere between 40 and 140 thousand clinically sociopathic reptiloids (no one knows the true number, or how many of them are actually alive as opposed to post-mortem bequests) get to foist a Prime Minister on the country without any input from the mere human cattle.

Democracy? Sovereignty? Fuck that, gimmee, gimmee, gimmee.

The race officially opened a couple of days ago but, of course, unofficial campaigning has been going on for weeks if not months, way pre-dating May’s official declaration of surrender. The BBC recently slipped out of its gimp-mask and furry restraints long enough to record what its political wing had revealed about their opinions. Roughly two/thirds of Tory MPs have stated their preferences, but as the Media’s political correspondents are always swift to remind viewers with a hearty laugh and a wink of admiration, Tory MPs are well known as being the most duplicitous, deceitful and downright untrustworthy electorate outside of the world of professional Boxing, so take everything with enough salt to repopulate Sodom.
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