Friday, May 26, 2017

Russophobia Alone is Not Going to Work for Democrats

Yesterday afternoon I was ready to declare that Trump is in real trouble based on a reading of Nate Silver's article from Wednesday, "Donald Trump’s Base Is Shrinking":
...Trump’s base seems to be eroding. There’s been a considerable decline in the number of Americans who strongly approve of Trump, from a peak of around 30 percent in February to just 21 or 22 percent of the electorate now. (The decline in Trump’s strong approval ratings is larger than the overall decline in his approval ratings, in fact.) Far from having unconditional love from his base, Trump has already lost almost a third of his strong support. And voters who strongly disapprove of Trump outnumber those who strongly approve of him by about a 2-to-1 ratio, which could presage an “enthusiasm gap” that works against Trump at the midterms. The data suggests, in particular, that the GOP’s initial attempt (and failure) in March to pass its unpopular health care bill may have cost Trump with his core supporters.
But then this morning there is the news that Republican Greg Gianforte handily beat Rob Quist, darling of the Bernistas, in the Montana special election to fill Ryan Zinke's at-large congressional district seat, and this despite Gianforte being charged with assault on the eve of the election.

The anti-Trump mainstream press is spinning the result by closing the barn door after the pony has departed the farm, saying that, well, Quist never really had a chance to win. Here's a sample from Nate Silver's "What Went Down In The Montana Special Election":
Our vantage point is that we’re mostly looking at special elections in terms of how they might predict 2018. A night where Democrats are losing Montana by “only” 6 or 7 points is consistent with the sort of map you might see if Democrats were either taking over the House, or coming pretty close to it.
On the other hand, our expectations were already pretty high for Democrats. The opposition party — the party that doesn’t hold the White House — usually does well in midterm elections. And Trump is not a popular guy. The Democrats have plenty of issues, like the GOP’s unpopular health care bill, to campaign upon. This isn’t complicated stuff. You’d expect them to do pretty well under such circumstances, and to have a decent shot — let’s call it 50 to 60 percent — of taking over the House.
This result in Montana doesn’t change our priors much, therefore. Furthermore, it’s a somewhat quirky race, given that Quist and (especially) Gianforte both have their issues as candidates, and that Montana has been a little bit more competitive in Congressional and statewide races than in races for the presidency. Quist winning by 1 or losing by 13 might have called for a recalibration of our assumptions; we don’t think this result does.
We have a situation where Trump is losing his true believers at the same time the Democrats are trying to find true believers based on a new McCarthyism. It is a race to the bottom. While the touts at FiveThirtyEight are proclaiming, based on the numbers, that control of the House should shift to the Democrats. The problem with this is all the Dems are offering voters is an infantile, delusional complaint that it is all Russia's fault.

Look at this morning's lede unsigned editorial "President Trump Fails NATO," in the "newspaper of record":
That Mr. Trump and the allies were unable to agree on a common approach toward Russia was also worrisome. Moscow has become increasingly aggressive as Mr. Putin annexed Crimea, waged war in eastern Ukraine, meddled in the American and European elections and intervened militarily in Syria. The most that emerged from a meeting between Mr. Trump and Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, was that the two shared the “same line” on Ukraine.
All told, Mr. Trump’s commitment to NATO and America’s tradition of leadership remain very much up in the air. Should the president abdicate both, no one would be happier than Vladimir Putin.
If Russia were an aggressive power, shattering states right and left, forever on the offensive, this pitch might find an eager audience. Instead it's an upside-down view of the world. Russia is acting overwhelming in a defensive manner. The deep-state Democratic Party is asking voters to embrace a Bizarro World. That's a tough sell.

Trump is peddling a similar product. Rather than Russophobia, Trump is pitching Wahhabi-philia. It is not just the reality of Trumpcare upsetting his true believers; it's Trump's cavorting with the sheikhs and failing to collaborate with Russia to role up ISIS that is prompting his die-hard supporters to calve off from the base. Once this happens, once your vanguard crumbles, the rout is on. (A modified form of this happened with Obama in 2013.)

It surprised me that on Tuesday David Brooks, "The Alienated Mind," nonchalantly referred to Trump's impeachment as inevitable:
As the impeachment investigation proceeds, it’ll be important for us Trump critics to not set our hair on fire every day, to evaluate the evidence as if it were against a president we ourselves voted for. Would we really throw our own candidate out of office for this?
But in order for that to happen, Democrats have to take back the House next year. Russophobia alone is not going to get that done.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Tech Feudalism: Another Sign of End Times

Last week Naked Capitalism posted a terrific piece, "Notes From an Emergency: Tech Feudalism," by Maciej CegÅ‚owski. Ceglowski defines "the feudal internet" as follows:
The status quo in May 2017 looks like this:
There are five Internet companies—Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook. Together they have a market capitalization just under 3 trillion dollars.
Bruce Schneier has called this arrangement the feudal Internet. Part of this concentration is due to network effects, but a lot of it is driven by the problem of security. If you want to work online with any measure of convenience and safety, you must choose a feudal lord who is big enough to protect you.
These five companies compete and coexist in complex ways.
Apple and Google have a duopoly in smartphone operating systems. Android has 82% of the handset market, iOS has 18%.
Google and Facebook are on their way to a duopoly in online advertising. Over half of the revenue in that lucrative ($70B+) industry goes to them, and the two companies between them are capturing all of the growth (16% a year).
Apple and Microsoft have a duopoly in desktop operating systems. The balance is something like nine to one in favor of Windows, not counting the three or four people who use Linux on the desktop, all of whom are probably at this conference.
Three companies, Amazon, Microsoft and Google, dominate cloud computing. AWS has 57% adoption, Azure has 34%. Google has 15%.
Outside of China and Russia, Facebook and LinkedIn are the only social networks at scale. LinkedIn has been able to survive by selling itself to Microsoft.
And outside of Russia and China, Google is the world’s search engine.
That is the state of the feudal Internet, leaving aside the court jester, Twitter, who plays an important but ancillary role as a kind of worldwide chat room.
 As China is donning the mantle of global leadership with its One Belt, One Road Initiative and Made in China 2025, the U.S. is looking to expand perpetual war to more parts of the planet. On the one hand you have China which is looking to build, on the other hand you have the United States which is looking to destroy. Most would dismiss this as an oversimplification, but what other conclusion can we draw?

The only thing the United States has in the way of an industrial policy is to be found in Silicon Valley where a mad dash is underway to corner the market with the first commercially successful self-driving vehicle. The masters of the tech universe, as Ceglowski explains, are also enraptured with space travel and immortality:
Given this scary state of the world, with ecological collapse just over the horizon, and a population sharpening its pitchforks, an important question is how this globalized, unaccountable tech industry sees its goals. What does it want? What will all the profits be invested in?
What is the plan?
The honest answer is: rocket ships and immortality.
I wish I was kidding.
The best minds in Silicon Valley are preoccupied with a science fiction future they consider it their manifest destiny to build. Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are racing each other to Mars. Musk gets most of the press, but Bezos now sells $1B in Amazon stock a year to fund Blue Origin. Investors have put over $8 billion into space companies over the past five years, as part of a push to export our problems here on Earth into the rest of the Solar System.
As happy as I am to see Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos fired into space, this does not seem to be worth the collapse of representative government.
Our cohort of tech founders is feeling the chill breath of mortality as they drift into middle age. And so part of what is driving this push into space is a more general preoccupation with ‘existential risk’.
Musk is persuaded that we’re living in a simulation, and he or a fellow true believer has hired programmers to try to hack it.
Peter Thiel, our most unfortunate German import, has built a survival retreat for himself in New Zealand.
Sam Altman hoards gold in Big Sur.
OpenAI, a religious cult thinly disguised as a research institution, has received $1B in funding to forestall the robot rebellion.
The biggest existential risk, of course, is death, so a lot of money is going to make sure that our big idea men don’t expire before the world has been received the full measure of their genius.
Google Ventures founded the very secretive life extension startup Calico, with $1.5B dollars in funding. Google loses $4B a year on its various “moon shots”, which include life extension. They employ Ray Kurzweil, who believes we’re still on track for immortality by 2045. Larry Ellison has put $370M to anti-aging research, as anybody would want to live in a world with an immortal Larry Ellison. Our plutocrats are eager to make death an opt-out experience.
Now, I’m no fan of death. I don’t like the time commitment, or the permanence. A number of people I love are dead and it has strained our relationship.
But at the same time, I’m not convinced that a civilization that is struggling to cure male-pattern baldness is ready to take on the Grim Reaper. If we’re going to worry about existential risk, I would rather we start by addressing the two existential risks that are indisputably real—nuclear war and global climate change—and working our way up from there.
But real problems are messy. Tech culture prefers to solve harder, more abstract problems that haven’t been sullied by contact with reality. So they worry about how to give Mars an earth-like climate, rather than how to give Earth an earth-like climate. They debate how to make a morally benevolent God-like AI, rather than figuring out how to put ethical guard rails around the more pedestrian AI they are introducing into every area of people’s lives.
The tech industry enjoys tearing down flawed institutions, but refuses to put work into mending them. Their runaway apparatus of surveillance and manipulation earns them a fortune while damaging everything it touches. And all they can think about is the cool toys they’ll get to spend the profits on.
The message that’s not getting through to Silicon Valley is one that your mother taught you when you were two: you don’t get to play with the new toys until you clean up the mess you made.
The circumstances that have given the tech industry all this power will not last long. There is a limited time in which our small caste of tech nerds will have the power to make decisions that shape the world. By wasting the talents and the energies of our brightest people on fantasy role play, we are ceding the future to a more practical group of successors, some truly scary people who will take our tools and use them to advance a very different agenda.
To recap: the Internet has centralized into a very few hands. We have an extremely lucrative apparatus of social control, and it’s being run by chuckleheads.
The American government is also being run by chuckleheads.
The question everybody worries about is, what happens when these two groups of chuckleheads join forces?
I think the answer is that end times are upon us.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Rodrigo Duterte, an Enemy Worse than Islamic State?

Look at how the "Significant Digits" FiveThirtyEight daily newsletter summarizes the Islamic State of Lanao's attack in Marawi City on Mindanao, the southernmost major island in the Philippines:
60 days 
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte declared a 60-day period of martial law for the entirety of Mindanao island because of clashes between armed groups and the government. [ABS CBN]
No reference to the fact that these innocuous "armed groups" are loyal to the Islamic State, nor that the article hyperlinked mentions that "2 soldiers and one police officer were killed, while 12 others were wounded in ongoing clashes in Marawi City." In other words, a deadly assault by the Islamic State in former U.S. territory is not being reported as such, but as another example of authoritarian overreach by Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte.

Even worse than FiveThirtyEight is Foreign Policy's Situation Report. Writers Paul McLeary and Adam Rawnsley don't even mention the ongoing battle in Marawi City; rather they choose to lede their morning news summary with Trump's boast to Duterte about sending nuclear subs to the Korean Peninsula:
Nukes. President Donald Trump disclosed to Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte last month that he recently sent “two nuclear submarines” to the area around the Korean peninsula to deal with the threat of North Korea, and the U.S. “a lot of firepower over there,” though “we don’t want to use it.”
A transcript of the April 29 call between the two leaders made by the Philippines government was obtained by the Washington Post on Tuesday. Duterte told Trump that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “might go crazy one moment,” leading Trump to point out that “we can’t let a madman with nuclear weapons let on the loose like that. We have a lot of firepower, more than he has, times 20.”
The disclosure to Duterte over the location of American submarines comes as the Philippines leader has pushed for closer relations with both China and Russia, and slammed American policies in the region. It also reflects the White House’s willingness to ignore Duterte’s angry comments about U.S. policy in an effort to keep up relations with a critical Asian ally.
Since taking office in June, Duterte has overseen a bloody campaign of murder against drug users and dealers that has been roundly criticized by the international community. The Trump administration has remained quiet over the campaign, but in the call Trump praised Duterte for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.”
The idea here is that Duterte is the enemy, and the Islamic State of Lanao, also known as the Maute group, doesn't even merit mention.

Duterte was in Moscow meeting with Putin when the attack in Mindanao happened, prompting him to cut short his trip. The meeting is referenced on the President of Russia website:
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, I am happy to see you in Moscow. We met in Lima before and recently in Beijing. Last year, we marked 40 years of diplomatic relations between our countries. 
Regrettably, our trade has been modest, but it started growing early this year and has already increased by 25 percent. There are many promising areas of bilateral cooperation, such as power machine building, transport infrastructure, energy and possibly military technical cooperation. 
I would like to begin our meeting by expressing condolences on the loss of Filipino lives in a terrorist attack. My colleagues and I understand that you need to get back home as soon as possible. I hope that the conflict you have mentioned will be settled without delay with minimal losses.
You and I know that our staff and colleagues worked hard to prepare a package of documents. Your ministers will stay in Russia for a while, and I know that these documents aimed at promoting bilateral ties will be signed tomorrow.
As you may know, I was not in Moscow but in one of Russia’s regions today. However, I certainly had to use this opportunity to meet with you personally and to thank you for accepting our invitation to visit Russia. I hope we will use the little time we have before your departure to have a personal discussion of bilateral relations and the situation in the region. 
Back in March The New York Times ran a lengthy piece on Duterte written by Richard Paddock, "Becoming Duterte: The Making of a Philippine Strongman," the sole goal of which, of all those column inches, was to publish a few choice morsels from the psychological assessment that Duterte had to complete in order to have his marriage annulled:
Years later, a psychological assessment of Mr. Duterte, prepared in 1998 for the annulment of his marriage, concluded that he had “narcissistic personality disorder” and a “pervasive tendency to demean, humiliate others and violate their rights.”
Once again the message is clear: U.S. subjects are not allowed to pursue their own interests and seek rapprochement with China and Russia, to do so is to be considered an enemy, one more worthy of mention than that foil of convenience, the Islamic State.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hippies vs. Punks: The Zombies' Odessey & Oracle (1968)


I was working a conference in April and in attendance was a guy I've known for a long time. He is a member of my union; that's how I know him. He is something of a pop music aficionado. He can go on for long stretches of time; for instance, about the recording history and chart positions of British Invasion bands of the 1960s.

This is what he did when I gave him, and a couple other aging union brothers, a lift home from an all-day out-of-town union assembly. He had burned a British Invasion disk. To each track he provided a running commentary. It was a delight, until the CD player of the rental car I was driving ate the disk. The guy freaked and started pounding on the dashboard. Fortunately, we were only a few clicks from his aprtment. I was able to soothe him with the promise that a pair of needle-nose pliers would remedy the situation. When we got to his building, he ran upstairs, grabbed the pliers (which, thank goodness, he possessed) and returned to successfully extract his juicy nuggets of Georgie Fame, Petula Clark, Herman's Hermits and The Hollies.

Next I saw him, at last month's conference, there wasn't any shadow of the British-Invasion-CD meltdown, only the bright sunshine of his having seen the week prior The Zombies 50th anniversary tour of Odessey & Oracle (1968).

Odessey & Oracle, which my union brother proceeded to tell me, is a classic from the psychedelic era. The album was recorded principally at Abbey Road Studios a few months after The Beatles had recorded Sgt. Pepper's there. He raved for a solid ten minutes about the record, saying I had to listen to it immediately, particularly if I was unfamiliar with it. I promised I would.

I waited until a copy, which was the 2004 reissue by Fuel 2000, was available from my public library. I've been listening to it off and on for four weeks (mostly on last week).

What I've been thinking about is mostly how short-lived psychedelic pop/rock was. This train of thought is a continuation from the last Hippies vs. Punks post. By 1969 Pink Floyd had put a lot of sonic space between it and their Syd Barrett records. (Just think of the aural distance between June 1, 1967 Sgt. Pepper's and November 22, 1968 The White Album.)

The popular reception of Odessey & Oracle is a testament to the spontaneously anachronistic quality of psychedelic pop. As Greg Russo explains in his liner notes, The Zombies were having difficulty making money on tour. After a disastrous trip to the Far East, the band -- really the songwriters, keyboard player Rod Argent and bass player Chris White -- decided to make one more go of it in the studio. They signed with CBS Records, and CBS put up the money to record at Abbey Road.

Once the session work was done and the mixes made, Clive Davis, head of CBS, was not much impressed, an opinion that was confirmed when the first two singles released in 1967, "Friends of Mine" (not the best choice) and "Care of Cell 44" (much better) both tanked, followed by the generally ignored release of the album in April 1968.

The label then basically shelved Odessey & Oracle. By this time most of The Zombies had gone out and found regular day jobs. Chasing after the Zeitgeist, Rod Argent was already working on rebuilding the band, moving a new Zombies (which would become Argent) in, as Russo says, "a progressive, heavier" direction.

Then something bizarre happened. A U.S. radio station in the Midwest started playing "Time of the Season" at the end of 1968/beginning of '69, and by March it was a smash hit, reaching #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topping the Cashbox chart.

By March of 1969 the first blush of psychedelia had already faded. Nixon was in the White House and his secret saturation bombing of Cambodia was underway. Nineteen-Sixty-Nine and 1970 -- with Woodstock and Altamont, Easy Rider and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the Weather Underground and Kent State -- are the end of the '60s dream.

The Zombies psychedelic pop from the Summer of Love must have seemed simultaneously dated and fresh. Instantaneous nostalgia.

Sgt. Pepper's promise that everything is right here right now had proven hard to hold onto. Societies are not founded on such freedom. But people didn't want to give up the dream, particularly as that dream was floating closer and closer to the mainstream. So Odessey & Oracle found its place on AM radios in station wagons headed to and from the beach, or even on the supermarket PA, soothing shoppers as they strolled the fluorescent aisles buying Pop-Tarts and Tang.

Last week when I went on my morning coffee break -- there is an espresso place up the block from the building where I work that serves good coffee and is staffed by friendly, attractive, thoughtful, non-hipster young people -- two young women (my favorites) were working the counter. while on the sound system The Supremes' "You Can't Hurry Love" was playing.

Either these young women were very kind and adept at affecting interest or they were genuinely interested when I launched into a small spiel about how music is isomorphic, that it mirrors the society from whence it originates, and that now, for our society, it would be impossible to produce Motown sound. "We're not that happy anymore," I said.

One of the young women agreed. "Yeah. You're right. We don't do happy."

Democrats Likely to Take Back the House in 2018

It's looking good for the shiftless, Russophobic Democrats to reclaim the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2018 midterms. Harry Enten ran the numbers in "Democrats Don’t Need Trump’s Voters To Retake The House":
[O]pinions of the incumbent president and House voting patterns have become more closely linked in recent midterms. The president’s party has lost at least 83 percent of voters who disapprove of the president’s job in every midterm since 1994. In none did the president’s party win more than 87 percent of those who approved of the president’s job.2 These statistics are not good news for Republicans if Trump’s current approval rating (40 percent among voters) and current disapproval rating (55 percent) holds through the midterm. Even if Trump’s Republican Party wins the recent high water mark of 87 percent of those who approve of the job the president is doing and loses only 83 percent of those who disapprove, Republicans would still lose the House popular vote by 7 percentage points.3 That could be enough for them to lose the House.
Then in 2019, with Democrats controlling the House and a base thirsty for blood, we can look forward to impeachment proceedings.

I consider the Watergate Era a cultural high point for the nation (if only because it produced Neil Young's Ditch Trilogy). So I'm hoping that another impeachment of a Republican president will get the body politic's creative juices flowing again.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Trump's Embrace of al-Saud Proof of a United States in Crisis

Almost nothing remains of candidate Trump after four months in office.

For those voters who thought Trump offered the rational choice with his promise to shelve regime change in Syria in favor of dealing first with Islamic State (which implied continued engagement with Iran), the orgiastic embrace over the weekend of POTUS 45 in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia proves that Trump's campaign-trail rationality was merely rhetoric.

Trump completed a rhetorical somersault yesterday with his speech on Islam. He managed to criticize Iran for extremism and a lack of freedom at the very moment that Iranian voters reelected moderate president Hassan Rouhani (something subjects of al-Saud can only dream about).

For the moment mainstream press (see "In Saudi Arabia, Trump Reaches Out to Sunni Nations, at Iran’s Expense" by Ben Hubbard and Thomas Erdbrink) and alternate media (see Bill Van Auken's "Trump’s speech in Riyadh signals US escalation against Iran") are in agreement over Trump's hypocrisy. Of course, the alternate media tends to did a little deeper into why Trump is moving to scrap Obama's Iran nuclear deal legacy achievement. According to Van Auken,
Beyond the drive to militarily confront Iran, a principal regional rival of US imperialism in the Middle East, and the huge profits that Saudi arms purchases reap for the US military industrial complex, there are broader strategic considerations in the US turn toward a closer alliance with Riyadh.
Some of these issues were outlined on the eve of Trump’s trip in a piece published by the influential Washington think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies and authored by Anthony Cordesman, a longtime Pentagon adviser. First among them is, according to Cordesman, “the continued level of US dependence on Saudi help in securing the stable flow of Gulf oil.”
While US imports from the Gulf have fallen sharply over the past quarter-century, Cordesman cites “indirect dependence” in terms of the impact a disruption in oil exports would have on global energy prices and the world capitalist economy. In particular, he points to the dependence of Asian economies on Gulf petroleum exports.
If the United States failed in “providing power projection forces and arms” to the region, he writes, its principal global rival, China, might fill the void. “China may not yet be ready to try to assume the role, but the entire South China Sea crisis would pale to near insignificance if China became the de facto guarantor of Gulf stability.”
Cordesman continues: “The real-world nature of US influence and power in the Pacific would be cut massively, China’s leverage over other major Asian economies like Japan and South Korea would be sharply increased, and the potential rise in tension between China and India--and cut in India’s relative position--would have a massive impact on the balance of power in South Asia and the Indian Ocean.”
In other words, the turn toward closer relations with Saudi Arabia and the related Gulf oil sheikdoms is bound up with US imperialism’s mounting conflict with China, which it has identified as the principal challenge to the drive for American global hegemony. Washington is determined to dominate Asia, including China, by maintaining the military power to choke off the region’s energy imports.
The fact that the sclerotic House of Saud, one of the world’s last absolute monarchies, has become a lynchpin of Washington’s imperialist strategy, not only in the Middle East but globally, is a measure of the crisis of American and world capitalism.
Oil revenues, which account for fully 90 percent of the kingdom’s export earnings, have been cut nearly in half since 2014. Last month, the government was forced to reverse itself on austerity measures that hit the military and public employees over fear that declining living standards and rising unemployment are creating the conditions for social revolt.
In the predominantly Shia Eastern Province, the center of the kingdom’s oil production, security forces laid siege to the town of Awamiyah, a center of resistance to the regime, during the week preceding Trump’s visit. Combined with the failure of the Saudi bid to topple the Assad regime in Syria by supporting Al Qaeda-linked militias and the regime’s inability to retake Yemen from the Houthi rebels, the deepening domestic crisis is creating the conditions for revolutionary upheavals against Washington’s principal ally in the Arab world.
Obama's push for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal was not because he was a fervent pacifist. It was because segments of the U.S. deep state realize that Iran cannot be conquered militarily. The U.S. cannot win that war. The fact that the U.S. is moving full steam in that direction is certainly proof of a crisis.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Trump Revealed CIA-ISIS Plot to Lavrov + Trump's Approval Rating Heads South + Present at the Creation of the EU Security State

This morning Niqnaq re-posts an interesting piece by John Helmer, "WASHINGTON POST REVEALS ISIS WAS 'PARTNER' SUPPLYING TRUMP INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING FOR RUSSIAN OFFICIALS":
A Washington Post reporter has revealed that the Islamic State (IS) laptop plot story, which President Donald Trump mentioned to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the White House last week came from IS itself, through the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The reason for the leaking against Trump, which followed in the Post and in the Anglo-American media, has also been disclosed by the Post. The CIA and at least one senior staff official of the National Security Council, who briefed the CIA on what Trump had said, are angry at the President for revealing collaboration between IS operatives and their US Government handlers in attacks on Russian targets, including Russian airline travellers.
[snip]
. . . [T]he US “partner” is being run by the CIA for Islamic State (ISIS) operations against Russia. The “common threat”, to which McMaster referred – that is, an Islamic State plot against both American and Russian air travellers — is a plot which the senior NSC and CIA operatives do not want to reveal to their real adversary. This, according to Miller and his US official sources, is not Islamic State but Russia.
[snip]
. . . Trump identified a US tie to Islamic State which is operational against Russian targets. That the Obama Administration and the CIA have been doing this is no secret. Nor is the prospect of Islamic State and CIA plots against Russian and international aviation a secret.
Helmer doesn't clarify Israel's role in this story of the ISIS-U.S. alliance. Why was Israel identified as the source? My guess is that the Israelis are active participants along with Daesh and the CIA.

****

FiveThirtyEight has a handy poll tracker for Trump's approval ratings, "How Un/Popular is Donald Trump?" Trump's baseline "Approve" is at a low, while his "Disapprove" is at a high. He is not cooked yet. But if these trends continue -- say, his "Approve" numbers dip below 35% -- he will be.

****

Guy Verhofstadt had an opinion piece, "Speak Up for Europe and Win," published in the NYT the other day where he celebrates the resurgence of the neoliberal center and points the way forward to a reanimated European Union. That path? Increased centralization and militarization:
After the German elections in September of this year, we have to start reforming the union — not by papering over the cracks, but with deep reforms. That means fixing the eurozone, strengthening the union’s foreign policy and border protection measures, creating a European defense force and establishing a continentwide security service. All of this needs to go hand in hand with deep changes to our institutions. The key challenges are to replace the bloated European Commission with a smaller government and to eradicate once and for all the unanimity rule.
Not much hope there.