Yes, it was probably an accident, no, Russia probably wasn't behind it, yes, these facts are subject to change at a moment's notice.
We had a damn feeling.
The oddest thing about Iran's retaliatory strikes on bases housing US troops in Iraq was that just after that, a Ukrainian flight took off from the Tehran airport and proceeded to violently crash just minutes later, killing all 176 people on board, including 63 Canadian citizens who were set to change planes in Kyiv. WT-everloving-FUCK?
Needless to say, it set our spidey senses humming, which tends to happen when a flight that's either Ukrainian or in Ukrainian airspace all of a sudden goes down.
CBS broke news a few minutes ago that "US officials" are now pretty sure Iran shot down that flight. We do not know if these are the same "US officials" who swear up and down that Donald Trump just had to assassinate Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani to prevent an imminent attack, but then could neither shit nor get off the pot when they had to actually present that intel to members of Congress.
Also, people are already dying. But you haven't met them, so no big.
As seemed likely last summer when July became the hottest month in human history and the glaciers in Greenland were gushing melt water into the ocean, scientists have confirmed that 2019 was among the hottest years on record. A team of European climate scientists at the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service announced exactly that Wednesday, noting that 2019 was the second-warmest year on record, and that's only by a hair, because "the global average surface air temperature was 0.04 °C lower than in 2016, the warmest year on record." As the New York Times explains for USA people who use real non-socialist temperatures, that difference was "less than one-tenth of a degree Fahrenheit."
Pretty sure I wouldn't be able to feel the difference sitting in my 1973 Chevy, Vlad the Impala, even with the broken AC (it's parked and my daily drive is a hybrid, shut up).
Also, the death toll from the Australian wildfires is now up to 27 humans and over a billion animals. One billion.
And other fun with Trump Iran war polls!
In the time between Donald Trump dumbassedly ordering the killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani and this morning, when he folded like a common folder (WHICH IS GOOD), a meme proliferated on Facebook, something along the lines of "I will listen to your thoughts on why we should war at Iran just as soon as you identify Iran on this map." It was a good meme! It didn't include any Russian disinformation, the map didn't have any fake hurricane dicks on it, it didn't ask for the name of your first grade teacher or your mother's maiden name, and it made its point succinctly. Most Americans had never heard of Soleimani before last week -- which is actually fine, most Americans have better things to do and aren't Iran experts -- but after the strike, all these MAGA dipshits started acting like he was their age-long sworn arch-nemesis, whose crimes only their orange God could avenge.
Well, some polling has finally come out on the Soleimani strike, and on warring Iran in general, and it's a good thing Trump caved like a common caver (WHICH IS GOOD) because if he thought a war was going to be good for pulling his approval ratings out of the shitter and making a majority of Americans not despise him, hahahahahahahahahahahahaha fuck off. (More on that in a second!)
The survey, from Politico/Morning Consult, also says how many Americans know where Iran is, on maps. It is 28 percent, or a little over one out of four. Or should we say, it's 28 percent when you show a regional map. When you show a map of the whole entire world, it's only 23 percent. (Hint: Iran is the great big one sandwiched between the other two countries we've been warring since 9/11, pop quiz NAME THOSE COUNTRIES!)
Iran shot missiles at American troops last night. Thank goodness Dear Leader is so ... oh fuck.
Tuesday night, or in the wee hours of Wednesday morning if you happen to be in the Middle East right now, Iran began its retaliation for Donald Trump's targeted killing of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani. And maybe Iran also finished its retaliation for the killing. The Iranian military targeted two Iraqi military bases that house American troops, but so far, we haven't heard that there were casualties, and we hope it stays that way.
Anyway, it's fine.
It's not global warming, it's bad guys. Shoot the bad guys!
The horrifying Australian wildfires have (finally) gotten worldwide attention, and vividly illustrate the environmental catastrophes that are becoming increasingly common with climate change. Hotter temperatures dry out ecosystems, resulting in more stuff that's likely to burn, leading to hotter, faster-spreading fires. And people fleeing their homes and tweeting photos of Martian-looking skies with the hashtag #apocalypse. Twenty-six people have died and Australia's rural firefighting force, largely made up of volunteers, is exhausted but still going, because what else are they going to do?
Or maybe it's all a HOAX! That's the conclusion of a whole bunch of rightwing assholes who have taken to Twitter to insist that the record wildfires are really evidence of a wave of arson. There's no actual wave of arson, but why bother with mere facts? Monday, police in New South Wales released statistics on arrests relating to the fire season, noting that 183 people are facing legal penalties for various infractions. Forty-seven were accused of "discarding a lighted cigarette or match," 53 for "failing to comply with a total fire ban," and 24 with setting fires deliberately. The Sydney Morning Herald notes that, of those arson cases, "None of those fires are threatening the South Coast," where the worst, headline-grabbing fires are. That would be zero.
Stephen Miller pushes to declare Moon a 'safe third country.'
The Trump administration's efforts to eliminate the asylum process continues, this time into downright bizarre territory. Yr Wonkette likes to joke about how all rightwingers seem to think everyone from Latin America is from "Mexico," and as the above 100 percent real Fox News chyron demonstrates, the Right is pretty helpful in creating that impression. But now the administration is out to deter asylum applicants who really are from Mexico by sending them to Guatemala, which makes all kinds of sense. Buzzfeed News reports that, under an expansion of an already controversial program aimed at preventing anyone from gaining asylum at the southern border, the US will begin sending Mexican asylum-seekers to Guatemala instead of allowing them to seek refuge in the US.
Well sure it's probably a violation of US and international law. Why would that stop this bunch? Besides, look at all the federal judges Mitch is getting confirmed!
Donald Trump reacts with very presidential tantrum.
Iraq's Parliament voted yesterday to expel US troops from the country following last week's assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike near the Baghdad airport. The vote is nonbinding unless the Iraqi government takes further action, but that could happen, too. Donald Trump threatened Iraq with sanctions if it tells the US to GTFO, because he is a big angry toddler with a lot of executive power.
The New York Times reports,
The troops will be limited to "training and advising" Iraqi forces, but will not be allowed to move off their bases or to fly in Iraqi airspace while plans are being made for their departure, said Brig. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf, the military spokesman for Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.
Purely by coincidence, the US military in Iraq also announced it's suspending its operations in Iraq to focus on the troops' own security, which means it won't be fighting ISIS or training the Iraqi military for the time being, which are kind of the only official reasons US forces are still in Iraq anyway (Also OIL). Since Iraq is the base of operations for US attacks on ISIS inside Syria, that makes two countries where The Troops won't be fighting ISIS.
Oh, yeah, and Iran said it was entirely scrapping the 2015 international nuclear deal that Trump walked out on last year, so there's that, too. In other words, just another day that ends in heavy drinking.
It's the Sunday show rundown!
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on every one of the Sunday shows this week doing his best "Colin Powell WMD" sales pitch to the American people (except for the whole not having decades of goodwill or reputation to squander) after the targeted killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force. The killing was roughly equivalent to assassinating VP Mike Pence and Defense Secretary Esper with a soupçon of added CIA Director, so Pompeo is now trying to reassure us that we have nothing to worry about.
On CNN's "State of The Union," Pompeo began by having to answer why Trump, in one of his McDonald's constipation-induced Tweetstorms, is threatening to commit war crimes:
We'll be 'greeted as liberators,' and other greatest hits from 2003.
Looks like the US has gone and started another Middle East war, or at least done its damnedest to try, with the assassination of Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad yesterday. Not surprisingly, the usual rightwing suspects are hailing Donald Trump as the Brilliant Tough Guy who took Brilliant Tough action, and any quibbles about the legality or wisdom of a targeted assassination, without consulting Congress, is moot. After all, America won, Iran lost, and that's all there is to it. We sure showed them!
Let's take a look at some of the very smartest takes!
Government says this is no time to talk about climate. Have some respect for all the koalas that died.
Australia, as we mentioned New Year's Eve, is on fire. Wildfires have burned roughly 12 million acres in the country since September and killed at least 15 people; by comparison, the 2018 wildfires in California, which killed about 100, burned 1.9 million acres. Here's a map of current fires (within 72 hours) on the continent, via researchers at Western Australian universities:
New South Wales has declared a week-long state of emergency, giving authorities greater powers to coordinate disaster and evacuation response, like closing roads and utilities.
Some of the numbers from Australia's bush fires are simply terrifying:
The blazes made breathing the air in Sydney as bad as smoking 37 cigarettes and have killed 480 million animals, environmental officials told the Times in the United Kingdom, including nearly one-third of the koalas in one of Australia's most populated koala habitats in an area 240 miles north of Sydney.
Half a billion animals. Sure, a lot of Australian wildlife wants to kill you, but that's still horrible. On Monday, a volunteer firefighter in New South Wales died when a 10-ton fire truck was knocked on its side by a fire tornado, a term we've learned here in the USA too.
Most of us. Just not the people in charge.
Let's start with good news on climate: In poll after poll, large majorities of Americans say they agree climate is a major concern and that the government needs to do more to reduce carbon emissions. More than three-quarters of adults and teens agree that human activity is affecting the climate, and a majority think it's not too late to find solutions. Some people are shaky on the scientific details; a Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation poll earlier this month found that
43 percent of adults and 57 percent of teens cited "plastic bottles and bags" as a "major" contributor to climate change, which is incorrect. That response may echo a recent burst of news media attention to plastic pollution in the oceans.
But the main point is that big majorities know that burning fossil fuels is heating up the planet, so if some people drive less and recycle more plastic, that's not a terrible thing. How's this for encouraging? Among Republicans, a majority of millennials and Gen-Z young'uns want more government action on climate, too. Baby steps -- teach your parents well, young Rs.
Wooden shoe like to see other countries do that too?
The Supreme Court of the Netherlands ruled on Friday that the country's government must sharply cut national carbon emissions by the end of 2020, the first time a nation's courts have demanded such specific action on climate. The ruling mandates a reduction in greenhouse gases to 25 percent of 1990 levels.
Because of climate change, "the lives, well being and living circumstances of many people around the world, including in the Netherlands, are being threatened," Kees Streefkerk, the chief justice, said in the decision. "Those consequences are happening already."
The Dutch government has already committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions, though its environmental agency estimates the planned cuts would come to 19 to 25 percent of 1990 levels. Now the higher end of that target is the minimum that must be met. That could require the complete closure of coal-fired power plants, including some opened in the last decade. GOOD.
And here's an advantage that this and other lawsuits against European national governments have: The group that filed the lawsuit, the Urgenda Foundation, based some of its arguments in human rights laws. Pity the US no longer considers those relevant!
Don't threaten us with a great idea!
In a truly mind-boggling statement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to retaliate against a congressional resolution condemning the Ottoman Empire's historic genocide of over a million Armenians by having Turkey's parliament condemn the US's own genocidal campaign against Native Americans. Apparently Erdogan thinks the US is as deeply invested in denying its history as his government is in downplaying his own country's past sins. Dude must be watching too much Fox News.
Speaking on a pro-government Turkish TV channel, Erdogan said,
We should oppose [the US] by reciprocating such decisions in parliament. And that is what we will do [...]
Can we speak about America without mentioning [Native Americans]? It is a shameful moment in US history.
Well, guess that would show us! Maybe Erdogan could bring it up when he's on the phone with his buddy Donald Trump, so he can point out it's racist to call Elizabeth Warren "Pocahontas."
Awesome, just awesome.
There is trolling, and there is Russian state-run TV trolling Donald Trump after his most recent meeting with one of his Russian handlers (ALLEGEDLY) in the Oval Office on the very same day the House Judiciary Committee voted out articles of impeachment.
We still don't know what the hell Trump really discussed last week with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, but we can't imagine it's anything good. The White House swears Trump was like "LOL don't meddle in our elections WINK WINK," but Lavrov says nah, that didn't even happen. Did Trump leak some more highly classified intel to the Russians, like he did when he met with Lavrov in 2017 in the Oval Office? WHO CAN SAY!
Julia Davis reports at the Daily Beast on Russian TV's reaction to the meeting, and surprise, they are doing boner-giggling cartwheels over every aspect of it. The network Rossiya 1 reportedly just loved the visuals of the pic you see above, and did a segment called "Puppet Master and 'Agent'—How to Understand Lavrov's Meeting With Trump." Very subtle!
Davis has more:
It's a greenhouse gas, gas, gas.
Time magazine named teen climate activist Greta Thunberg its 2019 Person of the Year yesterday, making her, at 16, the youngest person to ever receive the title (and no, all those fresh off the shelf computers in 1983 don't count). The cover article noted that she'd started her climate protests alone in August 2018, skipping school to stand in front of the Parliament building in Stockholm with a sign reading "Skolstrejk för klimatet: 'School Strike for Climate.'" The idea caught on, and now Greta is the face of what finally seems to be a global surge in people demanding their governments address a civilizational crisis.
Somehow, a memo must have gone around Greater Wingnuttia, because all of a sudden yesterday rightwingers were OUTRAGED that Time hadn't given the honor to the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. Sure thing! Remember how concern for the protesters in Hong Kong has been one of the great causes of the American Right all year? Nope, us either.
Donald Trump Jr. set the tone, and just look at the sick burn he tossed at Time, with Greta's own words, wow, such burn, many libs triggered.
It's another edition of 'Rashomon On The Potomac'!
Donald Trump's Secretary of the Navy, Richard V. Spencer, resigned yesterday after being told to pack his bags by Defense Secretary Mark Esper. Spencer was officially forced out of his job because he tried to set up a secret deal to allow an accused war criminal to makes a semi-graceful exit from the Navy without first running it past Esper. But supporters of Spencer say the Navy secretary became the fall guy when he attempted to protect the military justice system from Trump's meddling. One thing's for sure: Donald Trump really doesn't give two shits about "justice" if it means American fighting men might get in trouble just for killing a bunch of foreigners whose lives don't matter anyway.
Spencer's resignation came about after Trump objected last week to the Navy proceeding with a disciplinary hearing for Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, the Navy SEAL who was accused by his own platoon of murdering an injured teenaged ISIS fighter who had been captured, and of randomly shooting at civilians in Iraq. Gallagher was acquitted of the killing at court martial, but was found guilty of posing for trophy shots with the prisoner's corpse, just as any red-blooded psychopath would. On November 15, Trump reversed the Navy's decision to reduce Gallagher in rank, and also pardoned two other accused or convicted war criminals, because he loves the Troops, especially the ones like Gallagher, who's on Fox News all the time.
When the Navy nonetheless insisted on holding a hearing to take away Gallagher's "Trident" pin -- his SEAL insignia -- Trump tweeted that the Navy would do no such thing, because as commander-in-chief, Trump Is The Law. This led to understandable concern among military brass, because while the military is definitely under the command of the "president," the military justice system is supposed to be sacrosanct, not subject to political whim, especially when it comes to individual cases.
The Washington Post reports that Esper forced Spencer to resign after Spencer
privately proposed to White House officials that he would ensure that Gallagher retired as a Navy SEAL, with his Trident insignia, if they did not interfere with a review board convened to determine his fitness to stay in the elite force.
According to a Pentagon spokesperson, Spencer had to go because he hadn't told Esper of the plan, and because the secret deal contradicted Spencer's public opposition to Trump's interference in the case. Shame on you, Richard Spencer, for going outside the chain of command and betraying your ethical commitments! But as Post columnist David Ignatius reports, the reality may be a bit more complicated. Sources told Ignatius that Spencer had been trying to find a face-saving way to keep Trump from directly ordering the Navy to drop its probe, while also getting Gallagher out of the service with the shiny gold pin that said he was still a SEAL, to keep Trump happy.
After that Trump tweet, Spencer cautioned acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney that he would not overturn the planned SEAL peer review of Gallagher without a direct presidential order; he privately told associates that if such an order came, he might resign rather than carry it out. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke with the White House late Thursday to try to avert this collision.
Milley's de-escalation efforts initially appeared to be successful. A Pentagon official messaged me Friday morning: "Missiles back in their silos … for the time being." But the truce was short-lived. By Saturday, the White House was demanding to know whether Spencer had threatened to resign; the Navy secretary issued a statement denying that he had made any such public threat and continued to seek a deal that would protect the Navy from a direct showdown with Trump.
The proposed side deal, in this telling, was a "hold-your-nose solution," according to a "source close to Spencer." Instead, the whole thing fell apart and Spencer was forced out.
Oh, yes, and Gallagher happens to be represented by two former law partners of Rudy Giuliani, as Ignatius notes, "investigator Bernard Kerik, a former New York police commissioner, and Marc Mukasey, who represents Trump." Just in case there were any question about whose ass is loved by whom.
Spencer wrote Trump a good fuck-you letter on the way out at least:
In the letter, Spencer explains he can't keep serving a guy who thinks he can make up the law as he goes along:
As Secretary of the Navy, one the most important responsibilities I have to our people is to maintain good order and discipline throughout the ranks. I regard this as deadly serious business. The lives of our Sailors, Marines and civilian teammates quite literally depend on the professional execution of our many missions, and they also depend on the ongoing faith and support of the people we serve and the allies we serve alongside.
The rule of law is what sets us apart from our adversaries. Good order and discipline is what has enabled our victory against foreign tyranny time and again [...] The Constitution, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, are the shields that set us apart, and the beacons that protect us all.
In a pointed echo of former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis's Farewell to Arseholes last year, Spencer writes,
Unfortunately it has become apparent that in this respect, I no longer share the same understanding with the Commander in Chief who appointed me, in regards to the key principle of good order and discipline. I cannot in good conscience obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath I took in the presence of my family, my flag and my faith to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. The President deserves and should expect a Secretary of the Navy who is aligned with his vision for the future[.]
Translation: It was a good ride, but I can't stand by this tinpot dictator, bye!
And as Ignatius notes, the really troubling thing is that it looks like Esper can. For all the talk of Spencer's supposedly underhanded double-dealing, the practical result here is that Gallagher will keep his SEAL status and his restoration in rank, and the military will go along with Trump's interference in war crimes trials.
It's a great day to be lawless!
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