“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Speaking of contingent liabilities, why is this our problem?

South Korea Rejects Trump’s Demand They Pay for Missile Defense

Trump Insists System 'Most Incredible Equipment'

President Trump has repeatedly made clear that he likes the idea of getting other countries to pay for US military operations that benefit them, and that showed up today in the ongoing buildup on the Korean Peninsula, with Trump talking up how incredible the THAAD missile defense system is, and that it “would be appropriate” for South Korea to pay for the billion dollar system’s deployment.
South Korea didn’t like that idea too much, and since the THAAD deployment is subject to an actual agreement, they were quick to point out that the agreement required them to provide a site and infrastructure for the deployment, while the US paid for deployment and operation.

The THAAD is intended to protect targets in the area around Korea from North Korean missiles, though its effectiveness in actual situations is seen by most experts as extremely limited, and the it would be of little use if the US did launch a full-scale war against North Korea, as most retaliation would be artillery, not missiles.

Trump’s notion that he might be about to get South Korea to pay for the costly system is the latest in a string of such notions that has come very much after the fact, with the US already having agreements in place that don’t oblige the other nation to offer them any sort of payment,, and no real reason for anyone to expect that they’d suddenly offer to do so just because Trump suggested it would be “appropriate” of them to offer.

Last 5 posts by Jason Ditz

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Trump exploring plan to ‘recycle’ infrastructure

Trump exploring plan to ‘recycle’ infrastructure
An Australian program that “recycles” infrastructure to public-private partnerships and frees up capital for new projects is one model the Trump administration is exploring to beef up US needs.

Two of President Trump’s good friends, both well-respected New York developers and co-chairs of his infrastructure council, Steve Roth and Richard LeFrak, laid out some of their thinking at an infrastructure forum on Monday.

“We were chosen because both of us know how to get things done,” LeFrak said. It also doesn’t hurt that both have the president’s “ear,” from time to time, he said to laughs, so “if that means the commission will have some authority, that’s the authority.”

But project time lines that can now stretch to a decade need to be shortened, LeFrak said, in line with Germany, Canada and Sweden — where it takes just six months from proposal to permits.

“Not that we have to compromise our environmental standards; it’s not that we have to compromise any of the things that are important to people,” LeFrak said, which should be a relief to those worried about birds and bees. They do want all parties to “voice their opinions” and come out “with a decision that makes the best sense for everybody.”

Both Roth and LeFrak, who spoke on different panels during the forum at Bloomberg headquarters, said they are looking to Australia’s infrastructure investment model as one tool to use in the US.

Down Under now gives its states the power to “recycle” excess holdings through long-term leases, which provide funds to develop new “greenfield” infrastructure. Its government has also created a fund that provides a 15 percent sweetener toward the new projects.

Projects ripe for such “recycling” come with their own revenue streams, such as toll roads, airports and ports. For instance, LaGuardia’s Terminal B is being leased to a private consortium that is now rebuilding it and will operate it through 2050.

Critical infrastructure improvements, however, often benefit the public but have no revenue of their own — such as a new Gateway train tunnel under the Hudson River.

“There [is] no question that there are ideas that are global that are better served than what we are doing now,” LeFrak said.

Roth says the federal government can make the approval process more efficient and that sovereign wealth funds, pension funds and other investors are waiting for the right opportunities to “purchase” and operate infrastructure.

As The Post revealed, former NBA star Magic Johnson has created the JLC Infrastructure Fund that is already investing and seeking more such projects.
The $1 trillion the president has proposed to invest across the country may only require $200 billion or less in equity because of the layers in the projects’ capital stacks.

“It is significant but the actual investment would be less because of the multiplier effect,” Roth said.

Unlike the states, he observed, the federal government doesn’t have to have a balanced budget and has no balance sheet. Because every dollar is an expense, there is a disincentive toward maintaining what is already there.

“There is no glory in maintenance,” Roth said. “There is glory in building and glory in ribbon cutting.”

Monday, April 24, 2017

Email, written by a Democratic operative, expressed confidence that Ms. Lynch would keep the Clinton investigation from going too far

The Russians Hacked Democrats’ Plans to Cheat in the General Election, Too

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

New York Times report on Saturday claimed that FBI Director James Comey decided to reveal last year that he was re-opening the investigation into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton because he suspected Attorney General Loretta Lynch was covering up for her — and because an email found by Russian hackers seemed to support those suspicions.

The Times’ investigative report suggests that a U.S. intelligence agency managed to intercept some of what Russian hackers were stealing — and that one document, “described as both a memo and an email, was written by a Democratic operative who expressed confidence that Ms. Lynch would keep the Clinton investigation from going too far.”

According to the Times, Comey feared that Lynch — who had insisted the Clinton probe be referred to as a “matter” and not as an “investigation,” and who suggested it the investigation was not criminal when, in fact, it was — would declare the case closed, and then Russian hackers would leak the document to undermine the FBI’s image of independence.

The Times notes: “Mr. Comey’s defenders regard this as one of the untold stories of the Clinton investigation, one they say helps explain his decision-making.” And if a local news reporter in Phoenix had not caught Lynch meeting with former President Bill Clinton, she might have succeeded in sheltering the Clintons even more effectively than she had.

When Comey’s letter to Congress about the re-opening of the investigation was revealed on October 28, it changed the contours of the presidential race — arguably by uniting reluctant conservatives around Donald Trump’s candidacy.
Breitbart News was in the room when Trump announced the news to thousands of supporters in New Hampshire:

In July 2016, a batch of emails from the Democratic National Committee released by Wikileaks, and said by U.S. intelligence agencies to have been obtained most likely by Russian hackers, revealed collusion between senior party officials and the Clinton campaign to thwart the insurgent candidacy of socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Now, according to the Times, another hacked document, purportedly stolen by Russians, may have revealed collusion between the former Attorney General and the Democrats to ensure Hillary Clinton’s victory in the general election.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

The first paragraph has been updated to clarify that the Times report was referring to Comey’s announcement last year.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Dishonest and Corrupt US Media is Enabling False Flag Setups - Why?

The Chemical-Weapons Attack In Syria: Is There a Place for Skepticism?

The American media has excluded dissenting expert opinions in its rush to embrace Trump’s war on Syria.

In addition to highlighting the embarrassing degree to which the American media is seduced by displays of American military might, its rush to embrace President Trump’s decision to launch a military attack against Syria on April 6 has also crowded out dissenting voices from the administration’s claim that it was the government of Bashar al-Assad that was responsible for the chemical-weapons attack in Khan Sheikhun, which killed over 80 people and injured hundreds. 
By firing 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Shayrat air base in Syria, and killing five Syrian soldiers and nine civilians in the process, President Trump was able to transform himself in the eyes of the media from an object of derision into, in the words of erstwhile Trump critic Elliot Abrams, “Leader of the Free World.” 

Dissent from what amounts to a new party line has been noticeably absent. As the investigative journalist Robert Parry recently observed, “All the Important People who appeared on the TV shows or who were quoted in the mainstream media trusted the images provided by Al Qaeda–related propagandists and ignored documented prior cases in which the Syrian rebels staged chemical weapons incidents to implicate the Assad government.” 

Former British ambassador to Syria Peter Ford told the BBC last week that he seriously doubted that Assad was the culprit. “Assad,” said Ford, “may be cruel, brutal but he’s not mad. It defies belief that he would bring this all on his head for no military advantage.” Ford said he believes the accusations against Syria are “simply not plausible.”

And so, on what evidence and intelligence was Trump’s decision based upon?
On April 11, the White House released a declassified four-page report meant to prove its case against Assad and serve as a belated justification for the Tomahawk attack on Syria’s Shayrat air base.

The report, which was authored not by US intelligence agencies but by the White House under the supervision of national-security adviser H.R. McMaster, says that “The United States is confident that the Syrian regime conducted a chemical weapons attack, using the nerve agent sarin, against its own people in the town of Khan Shaykhun in southern Idlib Province on April 4, 2017.”

The report relies on “open source” videos for proof of its claim that a “chemical munition landed not on a facility filled with weapons,” as the Russians and Syrians have claimed, “but in the middle of a street in the northern section of Khan Shaykhun. Commercial satellite imagery of that site from April 6, after the allegation, shows a crater in the road that corresponds to the open source video.”
Yet the administration’s report has come under withering scrutiny from Dr. Theodore Postol, a professor emeritus of science, technology, and national-security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who once served as a scientific adviser to the chief of naval operations at the Pentagon.

Postol’s exhaustive critique of the White House report notes that “The only undisputable facts stated in the White House report is the claim that a chemical attack using nerve agent occurred in Khan Shaykhun, Syria.” And yet, according to Postol, “the report contains absolutely no evidence that this attack was the result of a munition being dropped from an aircraft. In fact, the report contains absolutely no evidence that would indicate who was the perpetrator of this atrocity.” 

Postol writes that “The only source the document cites as evidence that the attack was by the Syrian government is the crater it claims to have identified on a road in the North of Khan Shaykhun.” Yet his analysis of the photographs of the crater provided by the White House “clearly indicates that the munition was almost certainly placed on the ground with an external detonating explosive on top of it that crushed the container so as to disperse the alleged load of sarin.”

And so, “In order to cover up the lack of intelligence to supporting the president’s action, the National Security Council produced a fraudulent intelligence report.” Postol concludes that the “report is completely undermined by a significant body of video evidence taken after the alleged sarin attack and before the US cruise missile attack that unambiguously shows the claims in the WHR [White House Report] could not possibly be true.”

The Nation spoke to Postol over the weekend. 

“What I think is now crystal clear,” he said, “is that the White House report was fabricated and it certainly did not follow the procedures it claimed to employ.”
“My best guess at the moment is that this was an extremely clumsy and ill-conceived attempt to cover up the fact that Trump attacked Syria without any intelligence evidence that Syria was in fact the perpetrator of the attack…. It may be,” he continued, “that the White House staff was worried that this could eventually come out—a reckless president acting without regard to the nation’s security, risking an inadvertent escalation and confrontation with Russia, and a breakdown in cooperation with Russia that would cripple our efforts to defeat the Islamic State.”

“If that is not an impeachable offense,” Postol told The Nation, “then I do not know what is.”

It is entirely possible, of course, that dissenting voices like Postol’s and Ambassador Ford’s may ultimately be proved wrong, and that Assad was indeed behind the chemical-weapons attack. 

Indeed, if it is true, as CNN reported on April 13, that the “US military and intelligence community has intercepted communications featuring Syrian military and chemical experts talking about preparations for the sarin attack in Idlib,” then that would be hard, if not impossible, to explain away. Meanwhile, US officials are not backing away from their claim that there is “no doubt” that the Syrian government ordered the attack. 

But at this early stage, questions such as those posed by Postol and Ford should be aired by the US media, not ignored. And, given that the US intelligence community has seemingly kept its distance from the administration’s claims, a serious investigation into what exactly took place is all the more necessary.
Robert Parry writes, “it remains a mystery why this intelligence assessment is not coming directly from President Trump’s intelligence chiefs as is normally the case, either with an official Intelligence Estimate or a report issued by the Director of National Intelligence.”

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA case officer and Army intelligence officer, told radio host Scott Horton on April 6 that he was “hearing from sources on the ground in the Middle East, people who are intimately familiar with the intelligence that is available, who are saying the essential narrative we are hearing about the Syrians and Russians using chemical weapons is a sham.” 

Giraldi also noted that “people in the both the agency [CIA] and in the military who are aware of the intelligence are freaking out about this because essentially Trump completely misrepresented” what had taken place in Khan Sheikhun. Giraldi reports that his sources in the military and the intelligence community “are astonished by how this is being played by the administration and by the US media.”

Given the seriousness of the questions raised by Giraldi, one can’t help but wonder if the administration’s motives for launching the missile strike were motivated by considerations other than those which they have aired thus far. What exactly was the rush? The findings of an investigation into the attack by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is expected to be released in only two weeks time. 

In the meantime, according to a report from the April 5 meeting of the UN Security Council, the UN’s high representative for disarmament affairs, Kim Won-soo, informed the Council that “the information on the reported 4 April use of chemical weapons in Khan Shaykhun, in Syria’s Idlib Governorate, was still coming in.” The high representative could also not confirm who carried out the attack, though both sides of the six-year-long Syrian war have been repeatedly accused of using chemical weapons. 

Yet in spite of all this, Trump, perhaps sensing political advantage, rushed to execute a unilateral and illegal military response. The fact that he did so raises serious questions about his judgment, as well as the judgment of all the pundits who applauded him.

But perhaps the enthusiasm that greeted Trump’s missile strike was misplaced. Ambassador Ford warns that “Trump has just given the jihadis a thousand reasons to stage fake flag operations, seeing how successful and how easy it is with a gullible media to provoke the West into intemperate reactions.”

It hardly needs saying that highlighting these dissenting voices is not tantamount to excusing Assad’s heinous human-rights record or his previous attacks, which have killed countless innocent Syrians. Rather, it is to draw attention to the failure of the US media, which has once again abdicated its responsibilities by ignoring the serious questions and allegations raised by Postol, Giraldi, and Ford about the White House’s intelligence relating to the chemical-weapons attack in Syria.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Jumping for a giant: Brave sailor saves a whale trapped in a fishing net after hurling himself 40 feet off the deck of a cargo ship

  • Crew gesture to each other as the whale writhes trapped in the net 
  • Sailor hurls himself off 40-foot-high deck and lands feet away from the mammal 
  • Teams up with another man and the pair push the whale back into the ocean

Published: 19:28 EDT, 20 April 2017 Updated: 07:11 EDT, 21 April 2017
This brave sailor dived off the side of a cargo ship to save a whale that had got stuck in a fishing net.

In astonishing video footage, the crew of the Bahamas-registered Cheikh El Mokrani can be seen gesturing at each other on deck as the mammal writhes in the waters below.

After a moment's consideration, one man hurls himself off 40-foot-high deck and lands just feet away from the giant mammal.

Crewman jumps from cargo ship to save whale tangled in net

After a moment's consideration, one man hurls himself off 40-foot-high deck and lands just feet away from the giant fish
The crew member swims towards the whale and pushes its nose away from the net
After a moment's consideration, one man hurls himself off 40-foot-high deck and lands just feet away from the giant mammal

The crew member swims towards the whale and pushes its nose away from the net. He is soon joined by another man and together they push the fish free. 
A cheer goes up from the deck as the whale swims back into the ocean. 
Reacting to the rescue on April 19, YouTube users praised the bravery of the sailors.

Tom Scott said: 'The feat was and is amazing to watch, it's good to see people who care and is willing to risk life and limb to save our planet.'  

And John S wrote: 'Fantastic humanitarian act of kindness, I applaud them.'   
Cheikh El Mokrani was the leader of an Algerian uprising against the French in 1830.  
He is soon joined by another man (pictured) and together they push the mammal free
A cheer goes up from the deck as the whale swims back into the ocean
He is soon joined by another man (pictured) and together they push the mammal free. A cheer goes up from the deck as the whale swims back into the ocean
Reacting to the rescue on April 19, YouTube users praised the bravery of the sailors. Pictured: The whale being guided to freedom
Reacting to the rescue on April 19, YouTube users praised the bravery of the sailors. Pictured: The whale being guided to freedom

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Marine Le Pen refused meeting Lebanon's religious leaders because they wanted her to wear a head scarf

This is why millions of French people will vote Marine Le Pen for president

Marine Le Pen has lambasted by her rivals, criticised by leading economists and business leaders, declared public enemy number one by most politicians outside her party and had war declared on her by sextremists Femen.

Yet on Sunday in the first round of the French presidential election somewhere between seven and eight million French people are expected to vote for her as the next president of France.

We asked some of those voters who attended her raucous rally in Paris to tell us why, in just one sentence or two.


"She will change something. We need to give her a chance. She can’t do anything catastrophic. If she doesn’t succeed then we will try someone else," said Francois Glauzy, a chauffeur from the Paris suburb of Bagneux. 

French first

"I want her to give a chance to French people above the others and give work to people who need it," said Rosaline Glauzy, also from the Paris suburb of Bagneux.
Grandfather Denis Thierry, a former member of the Communist party from Paris told The Local there must be "national priority" for the French.

"I have grandchildren. They are all on the list for social housing but not one of them has been given lodging. They need to prioritize lodging and jobs for French people."

Student Roxanne Boissel said: "I know a lot of students who don’t have work because those jobs are going to immigrants. France has homeless living in the streets but immigrants are given housing.


"We need to control our borders and our country. France is nothing like it was 20 years ago," said Florence Gerault a teacher from Versailles.

Radical Islam

"I will vote Marine Le Pen to stop the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in France more than anything else because it’s a real problem for the country and for all of Europe," said Gregory a civil servant from near Paris. "All those who are considered a danger should be expelled from France."

Tough on crime

Martine a civil servant who is originally from Guadeloupe said: "I want to feel safe when I leave my house in the morning. Criminals are not punished in this country. If she doesn’t win, I won’t stay in France. I don’t feel safe."


"I’m voting for Le Pen for a return to national sovereignty and a return of power to French people so we are dictated to by Brussels. I want a return to a Europe of nations," said Valentin Manent, aged 28 a stage technician from the city of Orleans.


"In the current economic context immigration is just not sustainable. It causes difficulties in terms of security and needs to be controlled," said 27-year-old Bruno.

"I’ll vote her for social justice. Our elderly people and our handicapped need to be looked after before immigrants are looked after," said 38-year old Jeanne Berullier from Orleans.

Antonio Davisseau, a young student from Toulon in the south of France added: "We have millions of unemployed and homeless people and the government does nothing for these people yet they welcome all the immigrants. Marine Le Pen is the only one who will change things radically."

Kevin, a 25-year-old from Nancy who works in marketing spoke of the immigrant communities in poor housing estates.

"We can’t accept more immigrants, when we can’t assimilate those that are already here," he said. "They live in their own communities and it just encourages integralism."

Veronica Radoux, from suburbs of Paris said: "France cannot take on all the misery in the world. At some point we have to say ‘stop’. Marine Le Pen can change things. She is willing.

Alexandre a 20-year-old student said: "Most of the criminals we have are immigrants and they don't want to be French. They want to keep their own identity."

Revive "forgotten France"

"Voting for Le Pen is about getting the forgotten France back again," said Quentin a 29-year-old political advisor for the National Front.

"There is a big divide between the big cities in France and the rest of the country. The small places on the outskirts are all having their banks and shops closed down. Some cities and villages are dying. I'm defending these territories. We all are."

Cyril, an engineer from Paris, said: "There is so much immigration that we are losing our identity. Our principle value is respect and there’s none left."
Elisabeth Lalanne de Haut, a National Front regional councillor from Haute Normandie, said: "There’s only Marine Le Pen who can restore French values and our customs, traditions and our homeland, because certain other candidates don’t like France."

A 60-year-old retired man from Toulouse who gave his name as Jean-Pierre said: "Before, I used to speak to anyone, but I don’t want to speak to people wearing the veil. What would I say to her? I Just want things to be balanced. We are turning into Lebanon."

Valentin Caceres, a 20-year-old student from the greater Paris region of Ile-de-France said: Each country is different. When I go to Morocco or the United States I like to discover new cultures and I want France to keep its own culture. We have the impression that France is no longer France."

"She is the only one who is a patriot and the only one who will defend French values of liberty, egality and fraternity. These are the values of our civilisation of our story, but we are losing them," said retired 61-year-old Christian de la Motte from Paris.

"Africans who come to France come with their own traditions and their own culture and little by little they impose their culture and traditions," he added. "I don’t want to eat halal meat or have people praying in the streets and we don’t want to see women wearing the veil in the streets."

To bring back the franc
"Marine Le Pen is the only one who defend our monetary sovereignty. In this economic crisis France needs to be able to devalue its own currency to boost exports," said 25-year-old Alexis Robert from the Champagne region of eastern France.

All those reasons...
Franz Pfifferling a 30-year-old carer.
"There’s not just one reason to vote for Marine Le Pen, there are many. Everything is linked. Migration, security, the economy. We need to control our borders not close them like 95 percent of all the other countries in the world.

"They have made a waste of this country. When you think of those people who fought for the country in two wars. If they could see the France of today…"

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Mother of All Marches - Venezuela Unravelling

GM says plant in Venezuela has been seized

Automaker calls it an illegal seizure of assets

LONDON (CNNMoney) - General Motors says it will immediately halt operations in Venezuela after its plant in the country was unexpectedly seized by authorities.
GM described the takeover as an "illegal judicial seizure of its assets."

The automaker said the seizure showed a "total disregard" of its legal rights. It said that authorities had removed assets including cars from company facilities.
"[GM] strongly rejects the arbitrary measures taken by the authorities and will vigorously take all legal actions, within and outside of Venezuela, to defend its rights," it said in a statement.

GM's subsidiary in the country -- General Motors Venezolana -- has operated in Venezuela for nearly 70 years. It employs nearly 2,700 workers and has 79 dealers in the country. GM said it would make "separation payments" to its workers.
Venezuela has been beset by protests this month after President Nicolas Maduro's administration barred opposition leader Henrique Capriles from holding any political office for the next 15 years. Several people have been killed in the protests.

Venezuela's economy shrank by 18% last year -- its third year of recession. Unemployment is set to surpass 25% this year.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Minimalist Poetry by the Donald


Hmmm. The content isn't great, but it works quite well as minimalist poetry.

“We are sending an armada,
very powerful. 
We have submarines,
very powerful, 
far more powerful 
than the aircraft carrier,
that I can tell you. 
And we have the best military people 
on Earth. 
And I will say this.
He is doing the wrong thing. 
He is doing the wrong thing.”

Donald Trump's North Korea 'armada' gaffe 

was dangerous buffoonery | Richard Wolffe

Carl Vinson strike group
‘The only problem is that the Carl Vinson armada wasn’t sailing towards North Korea.’ Photograph: Us Department Of Defense Handout/EPA

Thanks to Donald Trump, the international community now knows that the United States is a force to be reckoned with.

Gone are the days when dictators and allies alike disdained a professorial president who preferred nuclear diplomacy to nuclear war. If only Barack Obama had played more golf at luxury resorts, his successor would not have to bring such golden luster to such a copper world.

Less than 100 days into this presidency, it is blissfully clear what kind of leader Trump is. He has made the awesome transition from a neophyte candidate into a neophyte president; from a man who bluffed and blustered his way in TV debates to a man who bluffs and blusters his way through international crises.

Here is a small-time businessman who knew nothing about foreign affairs, who has grown into a nuclear-armed president who knows nothing about foreign affairs. He used to fire B-list celebrities on TV; now he just fires off tweets and Tomahawks after watching TV.

To put it mildly, it is troubling for any White House – at a time of high tensions with a rogue nuclear state – to act as dumb or duplicitous as Donald Trump. Machiavelli argued that it is better to be feared than loved. It’s also better to look like something other than a fool. 

Because that’s what you look like when you misstate the mission and location of an entire aircraft carrier group: specifically, the USS Carl Vinson, a Nimitz class, nuclear-powered beast of the seas, accompanied by a strike force of two destroyers and a cruiser.

How does such confusion begin? In an epic interview with Fox Business Network, President Trump made it clear he was getting tough with North Korea. But he was also cunningly mysterious about what he was doing.

“You never know, do you? You never know … I don’t want to talk about it,” he told his interviewer before, you know, talking about it. 

“We are sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier, that I can tell you. And we have the best military people on Earth. And I will say this. He is doing the wrong thing. He is doing the wrong thing.” 

As an explanation of a nuclear crisis, this is right up there with his February press conference, when he spilled the secrets about his classified briefings on nuclear war with Russia: “Nuclear holocaust would be like no other.” 

The only problem is that the Carl Vinson armada wasn’t sailing towards North Korea. It was sailing away from Pyongyang. A long, long way away: more than 3,500 miles away to the Indian Ocean for a joint exercise with the Australian navy.

In any kind of standoff with a rogue nuclear power, it’s helpful to avoid this kind of buffoonery. Vice-President Mike Pence traveled to the Korean peninsula to warn the North not to test Donald Trump. He declared ominously that “the era of strategic patience is over” in what was surely the most reckless formulation of words since “the axis of evil” left the lips of George W Bush. 

Now we know that the era of strategic impatience needs to wait a little longer for the aircraft carrier to sail 3,500 miles back to the hot zone. Do not test Donald Trump’s resolve or, for that matter, his naval knowledge.

The problem with this kind of chest-thumping is that it spills across the whole team of once professional adults. Defense secretary Jim Mattis and national security adviser HR McMaster played their own part in leaving the impression that the aircraft carrier was steaming towards Korea. Serving a clueless boss, their reputations are growing tarnished on a daily basis, like that of the United States itself.

The nuclear standoff with North Korea has already been compared to the Cuban missile crisis. So it’s worth recalling that when JFK wanted to win over France’s General DeGaulle, he sent Dean Acheson to show him the photographic proof that was leading the world to the brink of nuclear war. DeGaulle said he had no need to see the photos because he trusted Acheson, and the United States, to tell the truth.
This kind of credibility is in desperately short supply in the hands of a president who explains his first military intervention in these terms, in his now infamous Fox Business interview: “I was sitting at the table. We had finished dinner. We’re now having dessert. And we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen and President Xi was enjoying it. And I was given the message from the generals that the ships are locked and loaded, what do you do?”

What indeed? Like a wonderful ganache, this is a story that is so delicious it is sometimes hard to recall every crumb of detail. “So what happens is I said, ‘We’ve just launched 59 missiles heading to Iraq and I wanted you to know this.’ And he was eating his cake. And he was silent.”

If you were the Chinese president sitting opposite a nuclear-armed president who couldn’t tell Iraq from Syria, you too might remain silent and savor every bite of the last chocolate cake you might encounter on this planet.

Based on his extensive viewing of Fox News, Trump had thought the North Korean crisis would be pretty simple to fix: a bit of pressure on President Xi to cut off North Korea’s economy, and hey presto! But it turns out this whole Asian thing is a bit harder to game out, as he explained to the Wall Street Journal. 

Thermonuclear war possible ‘at any moment’, warns North Korea

“After listening for 10 minutes, I realized that it’s not so easy,” he explained about trade across the North Korean border. “A lot of goods come in. But it’s not what you would think.” 

This is sadly not a once-in-a-blue-moon gaffe. It is a pattern of behavior that is only understandable among teenage students who prefer to play video games rather than tackle their homework.

After all, this is how our president explained the North Korea crisis to another incisive interviewer on the wonderfully named show Fox and Friends: “I hope there’s going to be peace, but they’ve been talking with this gentleman for a long time. You read Clinton’s book and he said, ‘Oh, we made such a great peace deal’ and it was a joke … You look at different things over the years with President Obama. Everybody has been outplayed. They’ve all been outplayed by this gentleman, and we’ll see what happens.” 

Perhaps all North Korean leaders look alike to President Trump. But Clinton’s deal with North Korea was with the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il, the father of the current leader Kim Jong-un. 

George W Bush may have lost all credibility by invading a country for non-existent weapons of mass destruction. But at least he knew which country he was invading, and which direction his ships were sailing in. He knew the difference between Saddam Hussein and King Hussein. 

The world is facing a unique challenge as Trump grapples with Kim. In a standoff between two unpredictable and vainglorious nuclear-armed leaders who are obsessed with pop culture and conspiracies, the only sane course of action is clear: focus on your chocolate cake.