On Tuition Fees, Theresa May is Charging into a Doomed Battle

Jeremy Corbyn to the left of her, John McDonnell to the far left of her, boldly rode into the Valley of Death Theresa May. Perhaps not since the famously immortalised Charge of the Light Brigade has a leader gone so willingly into a fight in which the option lose is the most optimistic of scenarios. If we constructed an elaborate analogy where tuition policy was a paper bag and the prime minister were inside that bag fighting to get out, the money would be on the bag to win. So, is the Maybot once again malfunctioning? Yes and no. Observers are still working out what happened at the last general election but everyone agrees that something happened. Whether it was a case that Labour’s pledge led to a full-throttled charge to the polling booths by young voters or was just enough to entice them to listen to the party, something happened.

America, Guns and Living in Fear of Machines We Could Control

Few challenges we face as a society are more confusing than the threat of public shootings. Crime rates in America have been declining for years. We recognize that as a win. We understand causality — for example, we have chosen to recycle and drive greener cars so that we can enjoy a clean living environment. But we still haven't seen enough gun violence to take a stand against this problem. In the aftermath of the horrific recent shooting at Florida school Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, citizens are once again asking — how far does this have to go? How many must die before we actually do something?

The Week on Planet Trump: Trapped by Mueller, POTUS Rants at FBI as Florida Survivors Demand Gun Control

During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump told the “forgotten men and women of our country” that he would champion them. As evidence that he was a different kind of Republican, he promised not to cut Medicare, Medicaid and other programs that benefit poor and middle-class families. On Monday, President Trump proposed a budget that would slash spending on Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, transportation and other essential government services, all while increasing the federal deficit.

Votes at 16: A Bold and Democratic Move or an Irresponsible Idea Without an Argument?

One measure to improve democratic participation is compulsory voting, as in Australia and Belgium, but this is objected to on civil liberties grounds. Lowering the voting age to 16 would not only expand suffrage, but it would be a bold move to encourage the long-term political engagement of new generations. It would require a more rigorous teaching of politics in schools and colleges. This would be academically influential, ingrain a sense of responsibility and might inspire young people - from all backgrounds - to become representatives themselves.

Tweet Checking: Was Jeremy Corbyn a Czech Spy, or Just Incompetent and Naive?

Not writing leaves a writer listless. Supressing the need to write leaves a writer unfulfilled. That does not mean that writing comes easily. Great writing - and I make no claims here - is often achieved by complete accident, but basic competence is always a hard acquired skill. Self-editing can take up to four or five times as long as the writing itself, and even then is no guarantee of avoiding textual errors. Every writer knows it’s going to take time to get better, and even then there’s no further guarantee of any tangible success. My point in talking about the writing process is that a lot of these people simply don’t seem to take the time to think about what they’re tweeting.

Brexit Britain from Abroad: Boris Johnson Challenges Theresa May on Hard Brexit

How far can the United Kingdom deviate from the rules of the European Union (EU) without losing its free access to this market of 500 million inhabitants? While Theresa May fails to answer this crucial question, her foreign minister , Boris Johnson, has added a layer of fog and challenged the prime minister again by delivering a long speech on Tuesday, February 14 in London. Certainly, the former leader of the pro-Brexit campaign considers the divorce with the Twenty-Seven as "a considerable opportunity" and "a manifestation of the national genius" British. But he also admitted that "in terms of European standards for washing machines or hairdryers (...), it might be wise for us to stay aligned".

Reform or Die: Charities Must Embrace Transparency and Democracy to Survive

The Times report that Oxfam aid workers in Haiti had used their positions to pay for sex from locals has stunned and appalled in equal measures. What has been more distressing has been the allegation of a cover up. There will always be rotten apples in any organisation. That is, sadly, not surprising. Is it surprising that senior executives of a major international charity saw fit to pretend, effectively, that none of this happened? Some would say yes. I am not so sure. The latest revelations follow the collapse of Kids Company a few years back after years of mismanagement that trustees did not spot. It also follows recurring stories of impropriety in the charity fundraising world where outsourcing to private companies put charities beyond the Charities Commission.

The Week on Planet Trump: White House Fights Democrats on DACA and DOJ Memo

Vice President Mike Pence heads to Japan and South Korea this week, stepping into what has become an increasingly comfortable role for him, that of President Donald Trump's interpreter in chief. With all eyes on South Korea ahead of the opening of the Winter Olympics on Friday in PyeongChang, Pence will carry an uncompromising message towards Kim Jong Un and will deride any notion of normalizing North Korea's relationships with the outside world when he leads the US delegation at the Olympics. North and South Korea agreed to send a North Korean delegation to the Olympics. Both countries' athletes will march under a unified flag during the opening ceremony on Friday, athletes from the two countries will train together before the Olympics begin, and a joint North and South Korean women's ice hockey team will compete during the games.

I Agree with Vince: On Brexit Will Cable Be Jeremy Corbyn's Sage or Kingmaker?

The Conservative government has left the National Health Service in a humanitarian crisis. Their flagship welfare reforms - Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payments - are in disarray and being reversed in the courts. Homelessness is on the increase, partially due to the lack of a serious housing policy. Theresa May is being held hostage by her party’s hard-right. Boris Johnson openly challenges the prime minister’s authority. To appease the hardliners May has backtracked on forming a post-Brexit customs union with the EU. This threatens damaging trade barriers and puts Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement in jeopardy. Cabinet ministers rebuffed May’s compromise to remain halfway in the European single market. A wide majority of voters disapprove of May’s handling of the EU negotiations.

Tweet Checking: Unearthing the Cheddar Man Conspiracy Theory (and other idiocies)

Well, we’re now on the tenth column in the “Tweet Checking” series, and let me tell you people, it doesn’t get any easier. As Poe wrote: “Misery is manifold. The wretchedness of earth is multiform.” I’ve found that I’ve concentrated on anti-Semitism much more than I intended to, not because I necessarily find it to be the worst problem affecting society, but perhaps because it is so often assumed not to be problem at all in contemporary society, making it actually very easy to get away with and slip under the radar. People are so imbued with the idea that anti-Semitism is only delivered by swastika-engraved jackboots but anti-Semitism, like any form of bigotry, can come in multiple forms, from across the political spectrum.

US Citizens Can Either Be Loyal to Trump or to Democracy and Freedom, Not Both

Every day of Donald Trump’s reign as US President seems to bring a new drama, with the details of his misdeeds being poured over. Public scrutiny and the rule of law are, of course, crucial aspects of a healthy democracy. In this case, though, there is a grave danger of missing the wood for the trees. Clearly, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia must continue unhindered to its conclusion. But the legal process is also inadvertently diverting political attention from what is already known about Trump’s actions. The US law enforcement agencies established beyond doubt a year ago that Russia interfered massively in the 2016 Presidential election.

Brexit Britain fromn Abroad: Antisemitism Allegations Stain Brexiters

George Soros is being talked about again. This time not in Hungary, where the Hungarian-American investor has long been made by the ruling Fidesz party to a dominant campaign theme - but in the UK. The conservative British daily The Telegraph on Thursday reported that the billionaire is supporting an anti-Brexit campaign. The initiative "Best for Britain", which is calling for an exit from the Brexit and a new referendum, have therefore received in recent months, a sum of 400,000 pounds (about 450,000 euros) on Soros' foundation "Open Society Foundation". With funding from Soros and many other donors, "Best for Britain" plans to launch a publicity campaign in the coming weeks to mobilise the public against Brexit and convince British parliamentarians against the finalized Brexit treaty to vote. According to Telegraph, Soros recently met the spokesmen for the campaign at his home in London's Chelsea district

Ignoring Syrian Refugees in Lebanon May One Day Come to Haunt Us

Lebanon is now close to breaking point. If people in the UK complain about the supposed impact of just a few incomers on housing, employment and public services such as health and education, imagine the strain created by a sudden influx equating to one-fifth of the total population. In the case of Lebanon, this pressure is being placed on a small country with far weaker and less well-established public institutions than Britain.

I'm Disgusted With the USA Gymnastics Board

For years, the USA Gymnastics Board was aware of allegations of sexual misconduct against Dr. Larry Nassar, a former doctor for USA Gymnastics and professor of sports medicine at Michigan State University. They knew that the mental and emotional lives of young women were at stake. The allegations were so sweeping in scale they had every reason to launch a full investigation on their own.

The Week on Planet Trump: Open War with Justice Department Overshadows State of the Union Address

The day after he fired James Comey as director of the FBI, a furious President Donald Trump called the bureau's acting director, Andrew McCabe, demanding to know why Comey had been allowed to fly on an FBI plane from Los Angeles back to Washington after he was dismissed, according to multiple people familiar with the phone call.

Tweet Checking: Why is the Truth About Antisemitism and Iran So Hard, Mr Corbyn?

Continuing to read Umberto Eco’s Travels in Hyperreality (hey, I’m a slow reader, sue me), I reached the essay “Falsification and Consensus”, which is perhaps the most prescient piece in the book. As a semiotician, Eco is fundamentally interested in what signifies the difference between the “real” and the “fake”, but this has become an increasingly harder task because people have ceased to either care about the difference, or may in fact prefer the fake to the real; falsifications become the only means of discourse, and the only way to react to falsifications becomes “other falsifications, spreading false news about everything, even about the falsifications”, vengeance against the original lies.

Brexit Britain from Abroad: May Besieged at Home and Abroad by Brexit Wars

Bulgaria, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, warned British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday about any plans to offer different residency schemes to EU nationals after Brexit. Lilyana Pavlova, Bulgarian Minister for the EU Presidency, said she was "worried" about May's statements in an interview with AFP. Mrs. Pavlova, a close friend of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, hopes that "in the end, support for citizens will be considered more important than popularity". "The European acquis (laws, ed) should be applied during the transition period, it should be followed completely," insisted the minister.

The NHS Needs More Money, but it Also Needs a Community Revolution

In 2017, Britain’s National Health Service was beset by a “humanitarian crisis” that saw Red Cross volunteers stepping in at overcrowded accident and emergency units. At the beginning of 2018, we have witnessed a system not just at breaking point but practically snapping at the seams. Scheduled surgeries have been cancelled en masse due to bed shortages. Hospital corridors have become makeshift wards lined with untreated patients abandoned on trollies and sleeping on floors. Ambulance staff, forced to monitor patients, are unable to attend other emergencies - contributing to numerous preventable deaths. Even cancer treatment is now subject to rationing.

Throw Off the Cowardly Sackcloths! The BBC Must Be Biased Towards Democracy

The creation of the BBC is one of the greatest political achievements of the 20th Century. It ranks up there with the formation in the NHS. BBC Radio 4 is Britain’s great cultural contribution to the world. The esteem in which it is held is seen by the trust of voters. It is not perfect. It can be infuriating. The BBC does get things wrong - just not in the sense that people usually think. On Tuesday, Iain Duncan Smith appeared on BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show to discuss the leak of the government’s Brexit impact reports that showed every form of Brexit left the country worse off. Duncan Smith’s whole purpose was to poo poo experts. “What did economists know about economics?” was his thesis. They were wrong before, they will be wrong again, said the sage of Chingford.

When Casting Around for Blame, Theresa May Should Look to Herself

I like to think that should anyone declare that Theresa May were her own worst enemy, Boris Johnson, a handful of Tory backwoodsmen, and 90% of Twitter - echoing Ernest Bevin - would declare: “Not while I’m alive she ain’t.” Maybe even Jeremy Corbyn would join in. Yet there is a good case to be made that the prime minister more sins than is sinned against. After all, this crisis in her leadership began when she called an unnecessary election for which she was woefully unprepared. It is less than two months since she negotiated Britain into Phase Two of Brexit talks, aided by a nervously sympathetic European Union. Despite losing her deputy to a sex scandal, she went into the Christmas period with her authority ebbing back. So what changed?

The Week on Planet Trump: Jerusalem and Davos Visits See America Shrink on the World Stage

The US will open its embassy in Jerusalem by the end of 2019, US Vice President Mike Pence said Monday in Israel's parliament, confirming that the controversial move is speeding up after officials earlier said it could take three to four years. Pence told Israeli lawmakers that Jerusalem was "the capital of the state of Israel," reiterating President Donald Trump's change of policy last month. The US' recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has prompted concerns that it could derail any attempts to restart a peace process, and cast further doubt on the likelihood of any two-state solution being reached. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly condemned and rejected Trump's decision, saying, among other things, that it would aid extremist organizations to wage holy wars.

Tweeting Checking: Richard Spencer, Trump and the Toxic Ideals of Knuckle-Dragging Masculinity

Reading the Italian philosopher Umberto Eco’s 1986 book Travels in Hyperreality, I was struck by how much the essay “The Return of the Middle Ages”, despite being written in the late ‘70s, essentially describes the situation we have today: postmodernity has come to resemble a hyperaccelerated medieval era. Former superstates have become fractured and reduced to the same level as the trading guilds—or corporations as we call them today. People walk around preaching apocalypse or the need for a new crusade or pogrom (and as you’ll see in this week’s selection, the targets are still the same). Fanatics terrify us but we can do little to stop it before they do severe damage—try for example comparing the Munster rebellion with the short-term conquests of the Islamic State (even if the former is technically a Renaissance-era event).

Trump's Freak Show Might Get Top Billing in Davos But Power Lies With China

This week, Donald Trump will become the first sitting US President to attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos since Bill Clinton in 2000. There could be no clearer symbol of the failure of the assembled plutocrats and their political enablers during the intervening years. At the turn of the century, Clinton was the evangelist-in-chief for globalisation as the path to future prosperity for all. Trump is the product of the damage the Davos crowd’s job off-shoring, tax dodging and bonus guzzling ways have done to Clinton’s optimistic vision. The attention-hungry organisers of the WEF appear untroubled by this or Trump’s assorted outrages. All publicity is good publicity remains the rule for them.

“In my Beginning is My End.” How Project Corbyn Will Fall Apart

Political original sin. We should talk about it more. You do not have to believe in God to believe in political original sin. In fact, it is probably better if you do not. David Cameron was its most dramatic victim. In 2005, when he stood for the leadership he was a no hoper. Cameron won, not only by astonishing with an energetic conference speech but by promising to take the Tories out of the EPP. His admonition about the Tories “banging on about Europe” was one given as he fed the eurosceptic beast. Eleven years on, one could see the fear etched into Cameron’s face as he campaigned against his own party to remain in the European Union. Win or lose, his sin had caught up with him.

After a Lost Decade, Time for our Leaders to “Raise Their Game”

The Prime Minister has been given a warning. Nick Boles, the former minister and modernising Tory, has told her that she needs to raise her game. In a tweet, he accused the government of timidity and “lack of ambition” Six months on from the disastrastrous Brexit general election, few could disagree. A sense of perspective is needed. Brexit could play out to be disastrous for the country both in the short-term and the long-term. Many of the portents issued by worried Remainers might turn out to be understated. However, it is too early to describe Theresa May’s ministry as “the worst government ever”, as some have done.

The Week on Planet Trump: Unpopular POTUS Celebrates First Year with Government Shutdown

President Trump told reporters late Sunday that "I am not a racist” and denied reports that he referred to Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries.” Trump made the denial as he arrived for dinner with House majority leader Kevin McCarthy at his Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla. Asked if he is a racist, Trump said: "No, I'm not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed." Trump denied making the “shithole countries” comments during discussions about whether to include immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti and African countries in an immigration bill on Thursday.

Obstetric Assault Is a Serious Issue

Imagine being in the hospital, about to have a baby. This special day should go down in your memory as a magical, wonderful time, and ideally the birth of your child is a dream come true. Then imagine that dream turning into a nightmare as the healthcare professionals you turn to for help in delivering your baby assault you. While this may seem unimaginable, obstetric assault is an all-too-common and real issue. Obstetric assault blankets several types of obstetric violence, both verbal and physical. Obstetric assault can occur at any time during a woman's pregnancy, but some of the most egregious examples of this sort of violence take place during childbirth. Verbal obstetric assault may include slurs, put-downs and humiliation.

Tweet Checking: Yes, Paul Mason, Clement Attlee Did Represent the Workers and the Poor

The French philosopher Jean Baudrillard theorised the theme park — Disneyland in particular — as a place of ‘hyperreality’, where the boundary between reality and the simulation of it can no longer be fully distinguished, becoming impossible to separate in the mind of the subject. On the other hand, George Saunders, whose CivilWarLand in Bad Decline contains four theme parks or resorts, somewhat reverses this: the bizarre theme park becomes the direct representation of the worst of our reality rather than something separate or transcendent of it. The theme park is a camp of corporate exploitation, worker pitted against worker, humanity commodified, false advertising (or fake news?), and the embodying of an artificial reality (which we know is fake, but give into anyway).

Brexit Britain from Abroad: Strongman Macron Warns Weak May on Single Market

French president Emmanuel Macron has told Britain that its financial services sector cannot enjoy full access to Europe unless it accepts the jurisdiction of European courts and other single market rules. Speaking during a joint press conference with Theresa May at the Sandhurst military academy on Thursday, Mr Macron said the choice lay in Britain’s hands. “I’m not here to punish or reward. I want to make sure that the single market is preserved because that’s very much at the heart of the European Union. So the choice is on the British side, not on my side. But there can be no differentiated access for financial services. If you want access to the single market, including financial services, be my guest. But it means that you have to contribute to the budget and acknowledge European jurisdiction,” he said.

On Doubt

Before they made any great decision, the city states of ancient Greece would famously consult the oracle at Delphi. According to Plutarch, originally the oracle could only be consulted once per year on the 8th Bysios. In time, this changed: the first recorded year we can prove year-round consultations was 480 BCE - the year of Xerxes’ invasion and when the Athenians were advised to trust the “wooden walls". The role of oracles has always been one of mystery. But, whether intentional or not, it had one effect: decision-making became slower. Yet if the ancient world was impossibly slow by our standards, is it not the case that the world we inhabit is impossibly fast?

Which theory of “rights” will dominate in the 21st century?

The most formidable critique of the concept of human rights comes from the German reactionary (and avowedly Nazi) legal scholar Carl Schmitt who insisted in his book, The Concept of the Political, that the politicising of the concept of “humanity” in an attempt to transcend the idea of the “political” (sovereign power) meant that the modern liberal state relegates its enemies to a status of non-humanity: “At the expense of its opponent, it tries to identify itself with humanity in the same way as one can misuse peace, justice, progress, and civilisation in order to claim these as one’s own and to deny the same to the enemy.” The consequences of the monopolisation of “humanity” subsequently has “certain incalculable effects, such as denying the enemy the quality of being human and declaring him to be an outlaw of humanity; and a war can thereby be driven to the most extreme inhumanity.”

Tweet Checking: Corbynstas Embarrassing Brexit Denial

Goethe famously wrote in his Elective Affinities: “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” It’s an aphorism worth keeping in mind; however, the flipside to remember is that those who believe themselves hopelessly enslaved— even if they are relatively free — will end up following any messiah who promises freedom, regardless of the cost. Political-ideological cults, just like religious ones, make people believe and do irrational things, as we will see…

The Week on Planet Trump: 'Shithole' President Under Siege at Home and Not Welcome Abroad

Anticipating that special counsel Robert Mueller will ask to interview President Donald Trump, the president's legal team is discussing a range of potential options for the format, including written responses to questions in lieu of a formal sit-down, according to three people familiar with the matter. Lawyers for Trump have been discussing with FBI investigators a possible interview by the special counsel with the president as part of the inquiry into whether Trump's campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election. The president has continueed to insist publicly that he is not under investigation and has described the Justice Department investigation as a "hoax" and a conspiracy cooked up by the FBI in concert with his political opponents.

#Oprah2020 Isn’t the Way for Democrats to Succeed

At Sunday night’s Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey received the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. On a night where actresses wore black to protest sexual assault, Oprah gave an impassioned speech, promising girls that a “new day is on the horizon” and warning abusive men that their “time is up”. She was dignified, poised and…well, presidential. Sure enough, #OprahForPresident and #Oprah2020 were soon trending. Some comments were tongue-in-cheek; many people, though, were genuinely stoked by the idea of Oprah in the White House. Realistically, though, is that the best way of defeating Trump? I get it – American politics is pretty shameful right now. All we see from the Oval Office are tantrums and grandstanding from a man who would be an autocrat if only he had a little more intelligence.

A Hideous Pageant of Cruelty and Torture: The Yulin Dog Meat Festival Must End

Recently, my father sent me a link to a petition. Signing it is not enough, he said with that kind of familial authority parents manage to convey even electronically. The petition he shared concerned the so-called Lychee and Dog Eating Yulin Festival, China. The festival is “celebrated” annually during the summer solistice in June. Over ten days, dogs are carried through the city in crates and metal cages after which they are skinned alive and boiled for consumption by residents and festival goers. Estimates of the numbers killed range from 10,000 to 15,000 to a staggering 50,000. These dogs are not just stray dogs taken from the streets. Some are domestic pets stolen from homes to be slaughtered. They are kept before the festival in wire cages without space or even access to food or water. Thousands die before the festival of starvation and dehydration.

The Week on Planet Trump: "Stable Genius" Potus Reacts to New Book with Threats, Fire and Fury

So far, Trump has proposed reducing U.S. contributions to the U.N. by forty per cent, and pressured the General Assembly to cut six hundred million dollars from its peacekeeping budget. In his first speech to the U.N., in September, Trump ignored its collective spirit and celebrated sovereignty above all, saying, “As President of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries, will always and should always put your countries first.” China’s approach is more ambitious. In recent years, it has taken steps to accrue national power on a scale that no country has attempted since the Cold War, by increasing its investments in the types of assets that established American authority in the previous century: foreign aid, overseas security, foreign influence, and the most advanced new technologies, such as artificial intelligence

Tweet Checking: What Does "Elite" Owen Jones Mean When He Says "Elite"?

Despite the Christmas break, the tidal wave of vicious stupidity on Twitter continued. The agents of appeasement and whataboutery were in full force this week as Iranians erupted into protest about economic deprivation and political oppression (“Iranians don’t have souls of their own! This is obviously a Zio-CIA plot to distract us from the BDS protest at Arizona State!”). The empty words “elite” and “establishment” were yet again tossed around with gay abandon (I think they might both mean “I disagree with you and you have some ill-defined power so therefore you’re wrong and evil.”). Old conspiracies about the powers of Freemasonry were unearthed, giving people who would otherwise be attacking Jews something different to hate this week.

The Absolute Disgrace of Toby Young’s Shameless Sexism

Christmas is over. I had a break, ate my bodyweight in cheese and drank a whole lot of booze. Now I’m back and, surprise surprise, I’m mad as hell again. The subject of my ire this time will come as little surprise to anyone who has spent more than five minutes in my company. Yes, its Toby Young. I’m not here to deride the personality of a man I’ve never met. I’m not going to dwell on general concerns about the apparent Tory croneyism at play: others have done an admirable job. I’m not even going to go into the fact that there is hardly any student representation in this new ‘Office for Students’. No, I’m going to talk about Young’s shameless sexism.

On Tackling Maternity Discrimination the UK Lags Behind Europe and the US

Pregnancy and childbirth are supposed to be some of the most amazing and awe-inspiring events in a woman’s life, but for working mothers, this milestone is often at the cost of their position at work or even their entire career. This is due in large part to maternity discrimination. Many women are penalised or treated poorly for making the choice to have children, even if their pregnancy does not affect their job performance, and they may find that their position has been made redundant or even eliminated entirely upon their return from maternity leave. Why are these behaviours continuing to rise, and what can we do to help to eliminate maternity discrimination?

The Ghost of Future Politics: Disclaimer Predicts What May Be

One thing is certain in 2018: hysteria. There will not be a setback for the government where someone does not predict a snap election or the collapse of the government. The prime minister will not stumble without a chorus of “Crisis!” Every Remain-inclined poll will be met with predictions that the tide has turned and every government negotiating concession with warnings of betryal. For all the noise, what really changed in 2017? A divided country remains divided. A government intent on Brexit is still intent on Brexit. His supporters call him Prime Minister Corbyn but what has this esteemed prime minister actually achieved? The truths that stood in the way of the hysteria remained and will remain despite the hysteria.

This Week on Planet Trump: Defeat in Alabama and Russia Investigation Provokes Crisis

Special counsel Robert Mueller is trying to piece together what happened inside the White House over a critical 18-day period that began when senior officials were told that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was susceptible to blackmail by Russia, according to multiple people familiar with the matter. Multiple sources say that during interviews, Mueller's investigators have asked witnesses, including White House Counsel Don McGahn and others who have worked in the West Wing, to go through each day that Flynn remained as national security adviser and describe in detail what they knew was happening inside the White House as it related to Flynn.

Tweet Checking: Calling Out Brexiter Logic, History and Economics (and Dan Hannan)

Khalek in my experience has a history of tweeting an article with an inflammatory comment before moving onto the next tweet, while the article linked tells a different story. The minister in question, Sigmar Gabriel, is not so much concerned with general opposition to Israel as an event related in the article itself: some 2,500 demonstrators marched through Berlin's Neukölln district burning “flags with the Star of David”, supposedly in “protest against the United States' decision last Wednesday to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.” Here is the full section from the article dealing with Gabriel’s comments:

The Week on Planet Trump: Jerusalem Decision Sparks Bloodshed While Tax Bill Promises Fall Apart

House conservatives are already indicating that they're prepared to block some of the key legislative promises that Senate Republicans demanded in exchange for their votes on tax reform legislation. Those promises materialized in the frantic final hours of the tax debate last week, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) gave Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) assurances that some of their personal legislative priorities would be dealt with in exchange for their votes. Collins said she received a promise that the Senate would consider two bipartisan pieces of legislation that would ostensibly mitigate the negative effects that could come from the tax bill’s repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate.

Brexit Britain from Abroad: May Bows to the Inevitable

Subjected to an ultimatum breaking EU Theresa May sold on the main outstanding issues to be able to announce on Friday 8 December at dawn from Brussels, an agreement was concluded for a crucial advance for future of the British economy: the opening of negotiations on future trade relations with the European Union . "I very much welcome the next move to the next phase of the Brexit trade and security talks ," said the British Prime Minister with a smile that had not been seen in recent days . The EU had given until Sunday to M me May to makenew proposals, after the humiliation she suffered Monday when the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland had torpedoed the announcement of an agreement.

Tweet Checking: Are Remainers to Blame for The Brexit Mess? (Clue: No)

Given the nature of the payments between Russian state institutions and people tied to Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner’s investment ventures to spread propaganda through Facebook and Twitter, it seems perfectly prudent to check Trump’s personal bank records. We also know Kushner got emails regarding WikiLeaks and a “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite” before forwarding them on to another official in the Trump campaign. Direct ties between Trump and Russia are now so well-documented they have their own Wikipedia page. This goes down to the level of Trump Tower being a place for Russian organised crime to congregate, and this appears to extend to enterprises in Panama.

Punishing Putin - He'd Better Get Used to It

Kremlin spokesmen have described Russia’s banning from the 2018 Winter Olympics as a “humiliation”. For once, they are telling the truth. They should try to get used to the pressure because the underlying fragility of President Putin’s regime could soon be exposed. The Olympic ban is the punishment for Russia’s massive state-sponsored doping programme at the last Winter games, which it hosted in Sochi. A World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) investigation uncovered the scandal. It proved that Russia’s athletes were given performance-enhancing drugs in accordance with a strategy directed by government ministers.

Both Brexiters and ‘Regional Nationalists’ are Making the Same Mistakes

In G.K. Chesterton’s neglected 1904 masterpiece The Napoleon of Notting Hill, an insane civil servant called Auberon Quin rises to the office of King, and divides London into dozens of competing quasi-independent statelets, which fosters a growth of bizarre micro-nationalisms. In attempting to analogise its most extreme proselytiser, Adam Wayne’s passionate patriotism for his native Notting Hill, Chesterton says: “All this he knew, not because he was a philosopher or a genius, but because he was a child. Any one who cares to walk up a side slum like Pump Street, can see a little Adam claiming to be the king of a pathing-stone. And he will always be proudest if the stone is almost too narrow for him to keep his feet inside it.”

What Will Leo Varadkar Do Next?

Before the EU referendum, pollsters found that immigration was the number one concern for voters. The economy, public services and British sovereignty were frequently mentioned. One topic that received scant discussion, though, was the Irish border. As negotiations have progressed, however, it’s rearing its head, to become one of the thorniest factors in our withdrawal from the EU. As the failure to reach a deal in Brussels this week on “sufficient progress” demonstrated, Theresa May’s situation is impossible. Adopting a hard Brexit – i.e. leaving the single market and customs union – requires a border between the UK and other EU member states. That might not be a concern for mainland Britain thanks to our island status, but across the sea it will result in a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Deal or No Deal, The EU Prefers The Brexit Devil It Knows

As talks collapsed between the EU and Britain, it was the most dramatic day in British politics since the general election. Close to a deal, May’s hand was forced by the DUP and she walked away. The wording of the leaked text infuriated the DUP whose ten MPs the Conservatives need for their majority. However, Corbyn should not be shining his shoes in case of a call from Buckingham Palace. Nor will May be losing much sleep over the prospect. To use her words: “Nothing has changed.” Rhetoric is slowly converging with reality. The impossibility of maintaining a soft border between the North and the Republic of Ireland while also leaving the Customs’ Union etc. is becoming clearer. EU understands that May’s government is pathetically weak, but that does not mean it will collapse.

We Need #MeToo More than Ever. But Let's Never Forget #TrumpToo

The last two quarters of 2017 are proving monumentally important for women right now — both women of the past and those of the future. And of course, important for any men who have sexually assaulted or abused a woman in their lives. Since the initial few allegations were made about movie producer Harvey Weinstein, including his shocking sexual assaults on women in the industry, hundreds of further reports have been made against other men, both in and out of the public eye. And so sprung the #MeToo movement. It’s sort of ironic that the discourse on women and society’s apparent ownership of their sexuality is shifting, but it’s shifting under a president who himself is a prime example of what the fight is against. The fact Donald Trump was elected despite the sexual abuse and harassment allegations made against him says the unthinkable about society’s view of women and highlights why we need #MeToo more than ever.

The Week on Planet Trump: Far-Right Retweets, Tax Cuts for the Rich and a Breakthrough for Mueller

President Donald Trump will not travel to Alabama to campaign for Roy Moore ahead of the December 12 special election, the White House said Monday, citing conflicts with his schedule. With a little more than two weeks left in the race, the President has sought to boost Moore's Senate bid, citing his denials of accusations that he sexually assaulted women as young as 14 years old when he was in his 30s and criticizing his Democratic opponent Doug Jones. In recent days, Trump has cited Moore's denials when asked if having an accused child molester in the seat is better than a Democrat not aligned with his agenda. Trump has also accused Jones, who successfully prosecuted members of the Ku Klux Klan who killed four young girls when they bombed a black church in Birmingham in 1963, of being "soft on crime."

Tweet Checking: Tommy Robinson's BBC Bias Stupidity... and More

The term “Eurabia” is coming back again after going AWOL for a few years—it seems that ethnic slurs go in cycles. It is one of those Alt-Right (formerly just Hard Right) myths that just will not die, no matter how many times it is debunked. This particular way of putting it—a way popular amongst Leavers in the run-up to the referendum last year—makes a strange assumption: that pretty much every single Turk in Turkey, upon accession to the EU, will up sticks and move to Western Europe. Well, you can hardly blame them given that the whole of Poland and Romania have emptied out and…oh wait. That didn’t happen. The only example I can find of an entire population voluntarily leaving its homeland to move to another country is (allegedly) that of the Angles.

Brexit Britain from Abroad: UK Failing to Have Its Cake and Eat It

The proposition that Britain could have its cake and eat it during Brexit, as the foreign secretary Boris Johnson once said, was always dismissed as a fiction by opponents. On Wednesday, it was quietly interred by the government as it capitulated on the amount it will have to pay for a divorce settlement. And this was not Britain’s first capitulation over Brexit, nor — almost certainly — will it be the last, analysts said. What Mr. Johnson was saying was that Britain could secure the economic benefits of membership in the European Union without paying a penalty or being subject to its rules, particularly on the free movement of labor within the bloc. On Wednesday, Britain reportedlyagreed in principle to a divorce check of around $47 billion to $53 billion in the hope of securing the start of talks on a future trade arrangement with the 27 nations.

​Labour Needs to Bring Corbyn’s “Straight Talking” to its Brexit Policy

Michael Gove told us to ignore the experts, but it turns out they were right to be anxious about a vote to leave the European Union. The impact of Brexit is already proving palpable, contributing to an economic downturn of worsening living standards, sluggish productivity and stagnant wages. Philip Hammond made his party’s priorities clear by allocating £3 billion towards Brexit in the budget. Yet Hammond is a hate figure among Conservative backbenchers for his ideological impurity, while MPs who want to moderate their party’s position are derided as traitors. A divided government provides easy pickings for the opposition. But Labour has also been criticised for a lack of clarity. Jeremy Corbyn once argued that Brexit requires leaving the European Economic Area - the single market and customs union that harmonise European trade and free movement - ruling out a so-called “Soft Brexit”.

To Ban or Not to Ban? Toxic Trump Has Theresa Trapped

Why is anyone surprised that this president of the United States retweets misleading videos purporting to show Muslim violence against white Westerners? This is a president who has attacked London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, while London was still under terrorist threat; he has drawn equivalence between alt-right, white supremacist protesters and those protesting against them; one of his central election pledges was a ban on travel into the United States from Muslim countries and he has proposed a US register of Muslims residents. He has talked about sexual harrassing women. He has defended an alleged sexual predator who is standing for the US Senate. He, and his presidential campaign, is under investigation for crimes that might amount to treason.

Why Aren’t Labour Further Ahead in the Polls?

This government is a shambles. Since losing their majority, May & co. have presided over a dumpster fire of u-turns, uncertainty and warring egos. They’re bound together by little more than a fear of Labour, and are riven apart by the nauseating helter skelter of Brexit negotiations. Why, then, do they have such a solid standing in the polls? Labour have maintained momentum since bouncing back in June with the biggest poll surge in modern political history. They’re constantly campaigning, and style themselves – not unfairly – as a government-in-waiting. And yet, according to YouGov, 41% of voters would still vote Conservative; only 2% less than Labour. ICM pegs both parties at an even 41%. If the Tories really are so weak, why aren’t Labour 20 points ahead?

Male Entitlement, Sexual Violence and the Case of Cyntoia Brown

When Cyntoia Brown was sixteen years old she shot and killed 43 year-old Johnny Allen. In her own words, she executed him. Brown ended up in that room with a man more than twice her age because her abusive ‘boyfriend’ Garion McGlothen prostituted her. In between raping her and getting her high, he also choked her and threatened her with guns. Allen waxed lyrical to her about his career as a sharp shooter in the army, after he had driven her to his empty house and showed her his gun collection. She has never denied what she did, stating that she thought he was reaching for a gun and so she killed him in self-defence. After being judged fit to be tried as an adult in Tennessee, she was held for two years waiting for trial.

Tweet Checking: Giving the Actual Facts to Dan Hannan, Donald Trump and Others

Twitter may have helped bring about such radical transgressions as the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement, but it’s also helped birth some of the worst reactionary calamities to have struck Western civilisation in the past two years. “Post-truth”, “post-factual”, “fake news”, “MSM”, “establishment”, and many more buzz-phrases are bandied about even more and more while meaning less and less. As such, there is an overbearing need to rigorously defend the actual facts in a cybernetic public sphere that has become utterly senseless. Unfortunately, that means digging through the webbed muck to find the most egregious examples of bite-sized disregard for truth (and feasibility).

The Week on Planet Trump: Republicans Become the Party of Debt, Racism and Sexual Abusers

On Sunday, it was LaVar Ball, father of LiAngelo Ball, one of three UCLA basketball players who were arrested in China on shoplifting charges. Trump had helped secure their release during his recent trip to China, announcing his involvement in a tweet. “Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!” Not content to go after just one famous black person, President Trump started his Monday with a jab at NFL player Marshawn Lynch.

#MeToo Has Shown Global Misogyny. #NotAllMen Once Again Makes the Debate About Men

Oh dear. It begins. The inevitable backlash of women defending men. Lena Dunham has accused a woman of lying about rape. Don’t believe the hype in her retraction. Dunham, in a published statement said: “Our insider knowledge of Murray’s situation makes us confident that sadly this accusation is one of the 3% of assault cases that are misreported every year … We stand by Murray and this is all we’ll be saying about this issue.” Well, obviously, it wasn’t all they were going to say once the hail of women’s justifiable fury started raining down on this dangerous and cruel statement.

Vile Bodies and Fantasy Politics: On Brexit Labour Offers an Equal Chaos

When commentators claimed that 313,000 Labour members and affiliates were holding British politics hostage, they meant that so long as they sustained their support for Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, British politics would remain a one-party game. It turned out differently. In fact, it turned out worse. Labour are not holding British politics hostage, they are keeping it in a fantasy land. Two simultaneous events occurred on Monday night. BBC Two screened The Summer That Changed Everything, a documentary clearly commissioned with Labour’s demise in mind. The film turned out to be a moment when Corbynistas could relive their moments of vindication when the pundits called it wrong.

This Week on Planet Trump: Outwitted Abroad He Fails America, At Home His Tax Plans Fail Voters

President Trump, in Manila on the last leg of his tour of five Asian nations, only briefly touched on the question of human rights with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has waged a deadly extra-judicial war on drugs that has left thousands dead. Duterte's brash demeanor and untempered language have earned him the nickname "Trump of the East." Trump, in turn, has praised Duterte — telling him in an April phone call that he was doing an "unbelievable job on the drug problem." Duterte took the stage for an impromptu duet with local pop star Pilitia Corrales, which he later said he had done "upon the orders of the commander-in-chief of the United States."

Scottish Labour Shifts Left with Richard Leonard. Jeremy Corbyn Will Count on His Success

In a widely expected result, Richard Leonard has been elected as the leader of the Scottish Labour Party. Yorkshire-born Leonard - a GMB trade union organiser who entered the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in 2016 - defeated former deputy leader Anas Sarwar with 56 percent of the vote. The Glaswegian Sarwar was described as the centre-left candidate, but both MSPs praised Jeremy Corbyn and promoted him as a future UK Prime Minister. Leonard is considered a Corbynite but he refuses to be pigeonholed as such. Upon his victory Leonard praised Sarwar and in the spirit of unity pledged that his adversary will play a “vital role” in his leadership. Leonard is taking on a tough job.

Brexit Britain from Abroad: With May so Weak, EU Prepares for a Car Crash Brexit

Talks between officials from Britain and negotiators for the European Union have progressed slowly, and are now at a near-stalemate. The EU has given Britain a deadline of two weeks to agree on a figure for the so-called "divorce bill" -- the money May's government must pay into the EU budget as part of its membership obligations. As negotiations with the EU reach the crunch point, May's government is finding itself in ever-deeper trouble over its attempts to push through the legislation that will allow leaving the EU to happen at all. Lawmakers from all parties have put forward hundreds of amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill, and debates and votes are expected to take a month.

The Worst Government Ever? Then What Do You Call Corbyn’s Labour?

A narrative has formed over the last few months. Theresa May spends her time clinging to the curtain rails of 10 Downing Street, in permanent fear that one day a metaphorical pearl-handled revolver will be delivered and she will be told to do her duty. Michael Gove and Boris Johnson have formed a government within a government; the same Johnson is a diplomatic without the powers of diplomacy nor compensating decency; the Chancellor of the Exchequer is at loggerheads with just about everybody; the EU - already exasperated at Brexit chaos - is preparing for Theresa May to fall. They do not just have rebels, they have mutineers! That is how bad they are. This is the worst government ever.

Putin Smiles as Hard Brexiters Become his Willing Fools

Russia wants Britain to leave the EU - and it would be delighted if more countries would follow. It is easy to see why. The Kremlin has long viewed the union as an existential threat, one that has empowered Russia’s former satellites and substantially reduced Russia’s own sphere of influence. To a country that still sees the world in terms of ‘great powers’ and the need for national prestige, it should not be surprising that there is a lack of harmony between Russia and the EU. Along with NATO, the EU is one of the main players that have thwarted Moscow’s ambitions by arguing and promoting sanctions. After Russia’s the illegal annexation of the Crimea, it was the EU that took the lead in travel bans, asset freezes and restrictions on investment, financing and trade with Russia.

This Week on Planet Trump: A Year On from His Election, Democrats Enjoy Their Own Upsets while President Tours Asia

Even though 26 people were gunned down at a church in Texas Sunday, there was to be no change to President Donald Trump’s scheduled golfing and negotiating in Asia. Trump was two days into a five-country trip when an armor-clad gunman walked into First Baptist Church in the rural town of Sutherland Springs and fired an AR-15-style assault rifle, killing 26—around half of them children, including one as young as 18 months—and injuring at least 20 more. The largest gun-rights lobbying group, the National Rifle Association, was the biggest outside donator to Trump’s campaign for president. And, in stark contrast to his predecessor, Trump has rejected any calls for even a debate about gun control in the wake of mass shootings.

Aggressive and Controversial, Will “MbS” Bring the Fall of the House of Saud?

King Salman of Saudi Arabia and his son, the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (widely known as “MbS”), are being accused of a palace coup following their arrest of dozens of fellow royal family members and other Saudi establishment figures. Until now, Saudi Arabia has always been an ultra-conservative state, both in its attitudes and resistance to change. Although an absolute monarchy, successive kings have ruled through carefully calibrated consensus between different factions of the sprawling Al-Saud royal family and the religious, tribal and business elites. This cautious system has been vigorously shaken since the 81-year old King Salman acceded to the Saudi throne in 2015 and controversially appointed the 32-year old MbS as the de facto ruler of the country.

Brexit Britain from Abroad: Broken Britain, Weak May and Stalled Talks

Officials say Brussels is preparing contingency plans for May leaving before the new year and Britain holding early elections months later. An unnamed European leader told the British newspaper The Times, “There is the great difficulty of the leadership in Great Britain, which is more and more fragile. Britain is very weak and the weakness of Theresa May makes negotiations very difficult.” Talks between British and EU negotiators were resuming Thursday in the sixth round of talks over Brexit. May is hoping her negotiators can secure a breakthrough and persuade the EU to start moving on to talks about a future trade deal even before there is a final deal on the rights of EU citizens living in Britain, what will become of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and the “divorce bill.”

Harvey Weinstein’s Unmasking is Forcing Cultural Change. It Also Highlights Grave Injustices

In Britain this has resonated across the corridors of power, leading to a raft of MPs facing complaints of sexual misconduct - including Conservative Cabinet ministers. Labour and Liberal Democrat chiefs stand accused of attempting to cover-up the rape of party activists. We must face up to the likelihood that these are only the beginning of the revelations from Westminster, which has been plagued for years by a toxic culture of bullying and chauvinism. No longer can it be tolerated. Britain is already well-acquainted with the likes of Weinstein. The actress Emma Kennedy compares him to Jimmy Savile, the BBC personality who preyed on adults and minors for decades.

Voters Have to Realise They are Not Impotent. So does Theresa May

When you think about it, it is quite extraordinary. The state of British politics had never been worse. Then, Westminster was struck with numerous allegations of improper sexual conduct by MPs. In both parties, senior MPs have had the whip removed, or become the subject of investigation. Or both. Still reeling, the Guardian published leaked documents about the tax arrangements of the super rich. From the Queen to the stars of Mrs Brown’s Boys, they are (it seems) all at it: investing their wealth in offshore portfolios to avoid domestic tax.

The Week on Planet Trump: White House steps up conflict with Mueller, North Korea and Climate Scientists

Initially, Trump felt vindicated. Though frustrated that the media were linking him to the indictment and tarnishing his presidency, he cheered that the charges against [Paul] Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, were focused primarily on activities that began before his campaign. Trump tweeted at 10:28 a.m., “there is NO COLLUSION!” But the president’s celebration was short-lived. A few minutes later, court documents were unsealed showing that George Papadopoulos, an unpaid foreign policy adviser on Trump’s campaign, pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI about his efforts to broker a relationship between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump’s ”America First” White House Page Reveals His Grotesque Agenda

One of President Donald Trump’s first — albeit superficial — orders of business after taking over the White House was eliminating nearly anything on the official site that could be tied back to the Obama administration. This included information related to climate change and the LGBTQ community, which is concerning. Many feel the new WhiteHouse.gov page is unrecognisable, with discussions about some of the most essential modern issues disappearing entirely from view. Long before he was elected, Trump made it clear he believes climate change is a “hoax”, and he also has some rather damaging views on energy independence.

Brexit Britain from Abroad: Amid the Political Chaos, Bank Gives Brexit Warning

The potential panic phase of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is effectively history. That appeared to be the message delivered by the Bank of England as it lifted interest rates on Thursday for the first time in a decade, tightening credit in the world’s fifth largest economy. But if the risk of a precipitous plunge is now safely in the rear view, a trudge through confusing terrain remains ahead as Britain pushes on toward Europe’s exits — or Brexit. It is a journey that will almost certainly entail pain and lost treasure, the central bank explicitly warned in a statement accompanying its rate hike.

Whataboutery, And the Politics of Bigotry and Hypocrisy

Although the catalyst appears to be have been the revelations about Harvey Weinstein in Hollywood, this has been a long time coming. The worlds of journalism and politics have changed radically in the past few decades. Their culture has not changed to reflect that reality. Perhaps it should be no surprise that Westminster is one of the places that has most struggled to keep up. Perhaps it is to be optimistic to see this as a shock to the system that will change behaviour and attitudes. From Jared O’Mara to Damian Green, misogyny and bigotry is not a party political matter. However, it is inevitable that political people try to treat it as such. We wear spectacles with rosey-hues. Sometimes we do not realise it. Those condemning Theresa May for appointing ministers with present and past sexual indiscretions should consider that O’Mara was approved as a Labour candidate despite well-known stories of unacceptable behaviour.

By Ripping Up the Nuclear Treaty, Clumsy Trump Will Only Embolden Iran

While working as a diplomat at the British Embassy in Moscow in 2006, I often visited the massive Stalinist “wedding cake” building that houses the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Once, as I exited into the snow and gales, I clattered one of the huge, heavy wooden front doors into the petite figure of Iran’s chief negotiator in the nuclear treaty talks, Ali Larijani, who was coincidentally coming in the other direction with his delegation. Mercifully, Mr Larijani was unhurt and a diplomatic incident to destroy the delicate discussions (in which I was also involved in a very minor role) was averted. President Donald Trump’s move towards withdrawing the US from the Iran nuclear treaty is about as clumsy as my inadvertent assault on Larijani and no more likely to produce a positive outcome.

As Indictments Bring Chaos to Trump’s White House, Vladimir Putin is the Only Winner

There will be nerves in the White House as the news reverberates of the indictments of Paul Manafort and Richard Gates. Although it appears the twelve criminal charges against Manafort and his deputy are not directly related to Trump’s 2016 campaign, they are a stunning accusation that senior Trump advisers were paid agents for pro-Russian interests. “Do something!” Trump had tweeted prior to the Monday indictments. The desperation was revealing perhaps. Once the news broke, he attempted to distract by questioing why Mueller was not focussing on “Crooked Hillary, insisting that the allegations concerned events years before his campaign before crying: “Also there is NO COLLUSION!” Like many of Trump’s tweet it was disingenuous at best.

This Hollow Declaration of Independence is Not History But Political Calculation

Whatever this was, it did not look like the birth of a nation. After a fortnight of political tussle, Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, finally declared independence. Despite the cries of joy from nationalist supporters that evening, the crowd before the Catalan parliament had largely dispersed by 11 o’clock. In Spain (including Catalonia), that is when real parties get going. Having previously briefed that separatist parties would seek elections within the existing constitutional framework, Puigdemont then changed his mind and a day later called a vote of the Catalan parliament. It was a meeting boycotted by pro-Spanish parties, in which MPs voted 70-10 in favour of independence.

The Week on Planet Trump: Republicans Breaking Ranks as Mueller Prepares to Prosecute

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday pushed back on the idea that the controversy over a Niger ambush that left four Americans dead is a "defining moment" for the Trump presidency. "I would not say that this is the defining moment," Sanders said during a George Washington University panel discussion about Trump's first year in office, which also included several White House reporters. Sanders's remarks fall on the heels of a drawn out controversy over Trump's delayed Niger response after four U.S. soldiers died in an ambush earlier this month, as well as a disputed account of the contents of a phone call the president made to one of their widows. Trump attacked Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson (D) on Twitter last week after she blasted the president for telling the widow of one of the soldiers that he “knew what he signed up for.”

Brexit Britain from Abroad: Divided, Weak With an Increasingly Struggling Economy

Theresa May seemed anxious to the President of the Commission, despondent and discouraged. A woman who hardly dares anybody but is not ready for an act of liberation. May’s facial expressions spoke volumes. Juncker later described it to his colleagues. Everyone can see this: the Prime Minister is tired from the struggle with her own party. Under her eyes she has deep rings. She looks like someone who does not sleep at night. Laughing you can see them only rarely, clearly, for the photographers it must be. But it looks tormented. Previously, May could literally pour out laughter, her whole body then vibrated. Now she brings out the utmost force to avoid losing her temper.

The JFK Files Show that Reality Can Be Just as Strange as Conspiracy Theories

The 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy has been a source of intrigue and fascination for over half a century. The conclusion of exhaustive investigations was that the former army rifleman Lee Harvey Oswald carried out the killing on his own initiative, motivated by fame and his resentment of Kennedy’s anti-communism. Conspiracy theorists have put forth numerous alternative plots usually involving multiple gunmen. It is no wonder that a grand scheme to kill Kennedy - a strident president who made many enemies during a time of Cold War paranoia, bitter social divisions and powerfully organised crime - was suspected in the murder’s aftermath.

Oh! Jeremy Corbyn Did Not ‘Win’ the Election After All

In May 1997, the new foreign secretary, Robin Cook told the world that from then on Britain would have an “ethical foreign policy”. So infamous is this that during the recent election, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry invoked Cook’s spirit to state that Labour would return to the Cook Doctrine and embrace his “ethical foreign policy”. The only trouble? Cook said no such thing. What he actually said was that Labour’s foreign policy should have an ethical dimension. Yet every time the government was found to act with less than Augustinian purity, the mythology of Labour’s ethical foreign policy was thrown back at them. Politics is full of myths that have assumed near-factual status

Labour Needs to Prove It Can Deliver on Housing. Send for David Lammy

Theresa May went into her keynote speech at the Conservative Party conference with low expectations. In a now-infamous spectacle with a P45 prankster, her lost voice and a crumbling set, the Prime Minister managed to plunge below these expectations beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. But had May’s conference speech not been a calamity it would have simply been forgettable - it was a thin gruel on policy. Its flagship initiatives were a cap on consumer energy prices - decried as ”Marxist” when pitched by Ed Miliband - and a “revolutionary” house-building scheme that will construct a paltry five thousand homes per year. Furthermore May’s plans to expand the help to buy scheme will only serve to inflate house prices.

The Week on Planet Trump: Struggling POTUS Falls Back on Spin, Compromise and Conspiracy Theory

President Donald Trump's cancellation of Obamacare’s cost-sharing reduction payments will increase premiums by 20 percent, cost the government $194 billion in higher subsidy payments, widen the deficit, destabilize insurance markets, increase the number of uninsured Americans, and cause chaos in health markets in the runup to the 2018 election. There is literally nothing in the health care system it makes better; it's pure policy nihilism. So why did Trump do it? Like the Republicans who came before him, Trump is trying to gain leverage by sabotaging the governance of the country; unlike the Republicans who came before him, Trump is responsible for the governance of the country, and so he is sabotaging himself.

Brexit Britain from Abroad: Progress… But is it Enough?

The last time Jean-Claude Juncker and Theresa May had dinner together was in April in London, a little before the formal start of the Brexit negotiations, and the meeting was disastrous. On Monday evening, October 16, their impromptu dinner - in Brussels this time - took place in a visibly more cordial atmosphere. "Aimable and constructive," according to a Commission statement released Monday night. The two leaders said they had "looked at the progress made so far" since the opening of the negotiations for the United Kingdom’s EU exit, and "agreed to accelerate efforts in the coming months " for an agreement on Brexit. However, the British prime minister did not get the assurance that at the EU leaders' council on Thursday 19 and Friday 20 October in Brussels his twenty-seven colleagues would give a go-ahead for a transition period, that is, a two-year extension for a gentle Brexit.

By Refusing to Delay the Universal Credit, the Tories are Failing the Poor

Before the 2010 election, David Cameron set a benchmark upon which voters should judge his government: ”The test of a good society is you look after the elderly, the frail, the vulnerable, the poorest in our society. And that test is even more important in difficult times, when difficult decisions have to be taken, than it is in better times,” he declared. Seven years later, to many that might seem like a poor joke. Since attaining office, the Conservatives - at first in coalition with the Liberal Democracts, the alone - have instituted a public sector pay cap so that since 2013-2-2014 all but the lowest incomes have risen by 1%. This cap had affected 5.1 million workers, 1.6m of whom work in the NHS alone.

Banish the Omnishambles! Britain Needs a Sensible Budget Process

It was just a tweet. Maybe I am being optimistic. I acknowledge that when Philip Hammond becomes the voice of sanity, we are in dodgy territory. However, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is proving to be one of the more thoughtful members of the government. No wonder there are calls for him to be sacked. Forget the gaffs (and there are many). Forget the sombre (depressing?) tone. First, Hammond has stood out against a “no deal” Brexit and has tried to edge Theresa May towards a negotiation strategy that puts the economy first. Now, it appears he has taken his Budget proposals to Cabinet, accepting suggestions and provoking discussion. Perhaps Britain is one step closer to ending the absurd Budget theatre it endures every year.

Young Labour’s Armchair Diplomats Are Wrong. NATO Remains One of Labour's Finest Achievements

Too often it is too tempting to rise to the bait. Had people rolled their eyes and moved onto more important news, Moggmania might have remained in well-deserved obscurity. Instead, hardly a day goes by without the Member for the Nineteenth Century being asked his views on the hot topics of the day. So perhaps the appropriate reaction to the Young Labour Conference should be an eye roll and then a look at some serious politics. After all, youth movements in UK politics do not have a healthy track record. In the 1980s, Norman Tebbit was compelled to disband the Federation of Conservative Students who had made a name for themselves by supporting extreme positions. Alongside rejecting a two state solution in Israel/Palestine and voting against free movement of people, Young Labour - in a motion of breath-taking inaccuracy and muddled thinking - voted for Britain to leave NATO.

The Week on Planet Trump: NFL Stunts, Legislative Sabotage and Diplomatic Chaos

A mockery was made of the national anthem all right. But it wasn’t by the San Francisco 49ers. Vice President Mike Pence turned the anthem into a prop Sunday, co-opting it for a stunt that served no other purpose than to sow division, further enrage the administration’s conservative base and try to cow NFL owners. That it likely deflected attention from yet more neo-Nazi protests in Charlottesville was all the better. This isn’t about patriotism or love of country or any other garbage excuse. This was a carefully orchestrated PR move — one staged at no small expense to taxpayers, given Pence flew to Indianapolis from Las Vegas on Saturday night and was heading back out West to Los Angeles later Sunday.

It’s a Case of Legitimacy. Why Voters and Politicians Need Proper Debate

On Wednesday, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer was taken by the kind of intellectual inspiration that captures only a lucky few. With a need to share his profundity with British voters, John McDonnell took to Twitter: “Labour stands ready to take charge of the negotiations and deliver a jobs-first Brexit deal that works for the many, not the few.” Several hundred supporters decided to share McDonnell’s message. Why? What does this intervention in the debate reveal? What McDonnell is doing is spouting slogans. In no way is he making a case. For all the good it will do politics, you might as well share toilet paper. This is not an argument about how social media dumbs down politics. This is an argument about the fact that in politics we are no longer having arguments.

Back From the Abyss, But Democracy Has Not Been Thwarted in Catalonia

The look on the faces of the crowd standing outside the Catalan parliament said it all. The elation as Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, appeared to declare the birth of an independent republic was quickly followed by dejection when, in his next sentence, he said the birth would be immediately postponed to allow for dialogue with Madrid. In making such an ambiguous and tentative start to the birth of a nation, Puigdemont was trying - to borrow a phrase - to have his cake and eat it. He stepped back from the abyss, but he has only bought himself a limited amount of time. In response, Spain’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy has triggered the now infamous ‘Article 155’ of the Constitution to give Puigdemont until next Monday to spell out whether or not he has declared independence.

Brexit Britain from Abroad: Talks Deadlocked, Disappointing… Doomed?

The European Union's chief negotiator on Brexit talks says negotiations with the United Kingdom are stuck in a state of deadlock. Key points: Concern mounts that the parties might run out of time for a deal British proposals on expatriate citizens' rights and the Irish border fail EU test EU negotiator remains confident "decisive progress is within reach" The EU wants to know what divorce bill Britain is prepared to pay before talks go any further. British officials, on the other hand want to begin trade talks now, before they commit billions. Britain's Brexit Secretary David Davis insisted talks were going well but the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said a lack of agreement on a divorce bill was very disturbing for many Europeans.

To Regain Authority, Theresa May Must Risk Office and Sack Boris Johnson

In November 1990, having failed to win the Tory leadership, a wounded Margaret Thatcher saw her Cabinet one by one to secure their support. Famously, she later described their candor as “Treachery. With a smile on its face”. Three ministers deviated from the script. Alan Clark who said she should fight a second ballot against Michael Heseltine and go down in a blaze of glory; Ken Clarke allegedly threatened to resign should she fight on; and Tom King who offered a compromise whereby Thatcher preannounced her resignation to stayed in office until the potential in the Gulf had been resolved. Thatcher proclaimed that such a compromise would leave her without a shred of authority and she would not remain in office for a day without authority.

The Week on Planet Trump: America's Biggest Mass Shooting but Still Trump Refuses to Act

What has President Trump done with his power to tweet? The most important use of this medium has been to stir social and political divisions, aggravating deeply rooted cultural tensions within the national psyche. We have seen this at numerous points in this presidency, including recently with his tepid response to white racist protesters in Charlottesville and his blasts against African-American players protesting racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem. These are not "dog-whistles," but megaphones, which he uses to get across his message loud and clear. And in his latest tweet about Puerto Ricans, he appears to be comfortable using his words to reinforce obvious social stereotypes about their being lazy or "uppity" that are extraordinarily damaging.

Deluded, Cowardly and Self-Absorbed, Our Political Parties Are Creating Homeless Voters

Rarely have the two annual conferences of Britain’s main political parties provided such a vivid contrast. Labour in Brighton were energised and confident; the following week in Manchester, the Conservative party’s conference was confused and lacklustre. Party conference season is very much like going to the cinema on a sunny afternoon. The sun is banished by the darkness of the theatre; the drama requires a suspension of disbelief. However, when the film ends the audience returns to reality. And so it was this year. While applause sustained Theresa May as she gave her already notorious speech, the Tory conference was very much a B-movie affair: applause could not disguise how that this was a tired party whose confidence has vanished.

Brexit Britain from Abroad: Cursed Tories Zigzag Towards a Cliff-Edge Brexit

German companies are watching the zigzag course of the British government and the very difficult Brexit negotiations with the EU with nervousness. Great Britain is one of the most important trading partners in Germany. German companies have recently exported goods worth around one hundred billion dollars to Great Britain. German companies employ around 400,000 employees in the United Kingdom. "The unbundling of one of the closest allies of Germany is inevitably associated with high economic losses," warns Lang. Basically, the German economy is preparing itself in working groups for all possible scenarios, according to the BDI.

Left of Eden? Beware the Bromide of a Universal Basic Income!

There’s no denying it. A Universal Basic Income was what God wanted for us. Humanity, both examples of it, was secure in its Eden UBI. It wasn’t that basic either. All wants supplied- food, shelter, diversion and companionship -albeit companionship rather cis-gendered and heteronormative to the modern eye. But then came that unpleasantness with the fruit*, and the first job interview ever. It was a shocker. “The ground is cursed because of you,” said the First Boss. “You will eat from it by means of painful labour all the days of your life.” So, mankind came off UBI and has been off it ever since. Hard boss that one. And we can see that, from the first, employment was never meant to be easy or fun.

Using America's Political Train Wreck for Entertainment is the Definition of White Privilege

The majority of us will doubtlessly have had an exasperated discussion about America's current political situation at one point or other since the 2016 Presidential Election. Let's face it, very few of us could have imagined this outcome and the train of events this year. It has brought with it a sense of bewilderment — for some despair and for others even hysteria. Naturally, we talk about it to try to make sense of it and come to terms with the international realm's new, unknown borders of reality. So far, no names have been mentioned, so putting cards on the table, Trump is the central focus of the world's – particularly the Western world's – scrutiny, derision and ridicule.

May’s Conference Speech: Renewing the ‘British Dream’ for a New Generation

The worse thing Theresa May could have done is declare her mantra that she was “getting on with the job”. What actually happened was a close second. Plagued by a cough and then a comedian who handed her a P45, Theresa May’s speech was pretty much a disaster. Clearly nervous, her final humiliation came when the lettering of the conference logo began to fall from the wall. No leader can cope with such humiliation. Especially a female leader. There was a general irony here that this was by far the most personal speech the Prime Minister has given: she talked about her diabetes, and her sadness at not having children. She referenced Alexander Paul who influenced her stop and search policy. Yet, for all the humanity the script showed she was unable to show her human side as everything went wrong around her. All she could do was keep going.

The Week on Planet Trump: Puerto Rico Suffers and a Tax Plan for Rich...

As of Saturday, the death toll rose from 7 to 9 fatalities linked directly with Maria, Rosselló confirmed. Among them, two sisters swallowed by water and muck in their backyard in Utuado. The number is still on the rise. According to the National Weather Service some areas of Puerto Rico received more than 38 inches of rain by Saturday, and the deluge went on, producing harsh conditions and complicating rescue work. Many prayers were focused on Quebradillas, a coastal municipality whose almost 90-year-old river dam started to crack, provoking the evacuation of 80,000 people who never knew their lives were in danger. Governor Rosselló had warned early on there might be a blackout for four days. But on the fifth day little had improved.