Sunday Evening Open Thread: Watching War Crimes on TV

Be grateful you’re not the MAGAt minion(s) tasked with spending their Sunday evening toggling between the minute-by-minute ratings for the Game of Thrones / Glory of Trump competition… because there *will* be tantrums.








Wag the Dog Open Thread: “Not Saying We Won’t Get Our Hair Mussed… “


No, really. (It was a ‘surprise appearance’ to ‘thank American troops for their service’.

Meanwhile, perpetual war cheerleader Tom Cotton is doing his best General Turgidson imitation:

… because nothing props up a Republican “president”‘s sagging self-esteem poll numbers like a nice photogenic foreign war, amirite?!?

The main firewall against John Bolton and his acolytes right now seems to be that Trump thinks (a)being in charge of a war is too much work; and (b) it would give entirely too much media attention to people who are not Donald Trump. Slender reed.
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Late Night Thieves’ Paradise Open Thread: SPACE PIRATES!!!

There’s a joke to be made that Ted Cruz might possibly be a space alien in a badly-designed human suit, but seriously: even TV Tropes doesn’t take ‘Space Pirates’ seriously.

Of course, Raphael ‘Ted’ Cruz is taking the resulting online abuse predictably:


 
Presumably related, somehow, to Cruz’s new boogeymonsters (note Rep. Johnson’s home state):

“Education – feh! SPACE PIRATES, pew pew pew!”








Monday Morning Open Thread: Building the Grift Waaaahl


 

The now-famous border wall GoFundMe was conceived by Purple Heart recipient Brian Kolfage, who wrote at the time he was upset by “too many illegals . . . taking advantage of the United States taxpayers,” and the “political games from both parties” when it came to border security. Kolfage, a triple amputee, pressed onward despite falling short of his $1 billion goal — launching a nonprofit to build portions of the wall on private land for a “fraction of what it costs the government.”

While the majority of donors continue to believe in Kolfage’s efforts, the nonprofit’s clandestine operations and assurances of progress are insufficient for others. Some have taken to social media, seeking photos, videos — anything — for evidence they aren’t being misled…

Reporting on the apparent lack of progress on the private wall, published early Friday by the Daily Beast, drew criticism from Kolfage. The veteran called out the story’s author, Will Sommer, who indicated he’s repeatedly asked Kolfage for proof they were close to a groundbreaking.

“Omg this is PERFECT timing by the liberal rag news site. They are about to look more stupid than @hillaryclinton on election night 2016!” Kolfage wrote. “I guaranteed we would build the wall . . . and I’ll leave it at that!”

Kolfage did not respond to an email and message from The Washington Post requesting comment Friday. While the nonprofit has floated various groundbreaking dates in the past, it’s not exactly clear when, or if, construction will begin…

This might be excused as a classic example of a well-intentioned amateur getting involved with something beyond his capacity to execute, except… Kolfage’s prior record is less than reassuring. Per NYMag:

As the Daily Beast reports, Kolfage “was a prolific operator of hoax pages on Facebook, and money he raised in the past to help veterans’ programs in hospitals never actually went to those hospitals.” The vet, who lost three of his limbs in a rocket attack in Iraq in 2004, founded sites including FreedomDaily, which ran headlines like “Obnoxious Black People Lose Their Minds When Victoria Secret Models Say This 1 Word On Live Video.” The site was shuttered after it was sued for misidentifying a Michigan resident as the driver of the car that killed a protestor in the Charlottesville riot.
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Lalalalalalalala I Can’t Hear You

Donald Trump has long believed that he could eliminate nuclear weapons from the world. He is the greatest negotiator ever, and he doesn’t understand why those wimpy diplomats can’t just heave a hearty “Fuck You” across the conference table and walk out, which would induce the other party to come around.

The administration’s approach to foreign policy is driven by Trump’s ignorance and greed, but with an inertial component of conventional policy development by the permanent government employees who remain at lower levels, and a layering of political appointees with their own agendas, some of which dovetail with Trump’s, some of which are more or less conventional foreign policy, and some that are quite idiosyncratic.

Trump’s impulsiveness and desire to be the center of attention lead to statements of policy unexpected by other components of the government. “They were informed by tweet” is a statement that often appears in news stories. After an initial surprise, the impulsive statements may be modified or suppressed, but some work their way into official policy.

Conventional foreign policy analysis is still useful in looking at other countries. North Korea’s response to Trump, for example, is pretty much what you would expect. Russia isn’t too far off, although the relationship between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, whatever it may be, can be a confounding factor. But in order to understand America’s actions today, we have to look at Trump’s motivations.

North Korea has again launched some missiles. They are not ICBMs that could reach the United States. Trump tweeted that he is willing to wait it out, although it was earlier reported that he was angry about the launch. And Trump’s tweet says that “Anything in this very interesting world is possible,” which may be a threat.

Trump wants big wins, and he seems to be holding out for a total surrender of all of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program before removing any sanctions at all. North Korea is operating on a more normal timeline, in which small moves on each side gradually build confidence toward a goal. North Korea has made some token moves, and they feel that it is time for the United States to do the same.

Reliable rumor has it that teams at the State Department and the national laboratories are on call to bring North Korea’s nuclear weapons back when Kim gives the word. Trump and his administration really believe that this will happen.

In Trump’s mind, waiting is easy. The two summits with Kim gave him lavish photo-ops and the ability to say that he is negotiating. He has put his deal on the table. It is up to Kim to accept it.

In Trump’s business life, he probably could walk away from a deal that was going bad after he proclaimed success. The people working for him tied up the loose ends, and he never noticed. He just went on to another deal. Next after North Korea could be a grand arms control deal with Russia and China. He would certainly get a Nobel Prize for that.

The greatest negotiator, with the greatest mind – he’s said that he could master the details of arms control in an hour or so – doesn’t need advisors. He has now gutted much of the advisory structure surrounding the President. The State Department has been cut back. Ambassadors are absent in many countries. The cabinet is composed of people who don’t know what they are doing, many of them in acting positions. His closest advisors in the White House are his children and toadies. Anyone who has disagreed with him has been removed.

So now he can run international relations as he has always believed they should be run. There has been an unfortunate distraction from the Special Counsel and Congress, but now that the Mueller report is out and tied up by Attorney General Bill Barr, that problem has been solved, as Trump and Vladimir Putin argeed.

For Trump, the central consideration is his being able to preen as a great negotiator and claim that he is making important agreements. This week’s North Korean missile test, therefore, is unimportant. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is already playing it down, although the South Koreans, who are within the missiles’ ranges, are not so happy.

Trump’s strategy of ignoring facts that inconveniently undermine his narratives has worked for him as a real estate developer and television personality. Those interactions were managed by his underlings and are likely to disappear if one ignores them. International issues don’t go away. Kim continues to build up his nuclear arsenal and, further, expects continuing negotiations, including reciprocal actions. The missile test is a reminder of that. If Trump continues to ignore Kim’s inconvenient actions, Kim has more.

When and how will Trump react? It appears that he has never been in this kind of situation before, so it’s impossible to predict. So far, “Lalalalalalala I can’t hear you” is working for him.

 

Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner.