Europe/Americas update: October 4-5 2017


I don’t want to spend a lot of time on the Vegas shooting unless/until some actual evidence emerges that ISIS was behind it, but I feel like this kind of thing needs to be rebutted:

Just hours after Stephen Paddock unleashed a hail of bullets on a country music festival in Las Vegas, the Islamic State group issued a flurry of statements claiming the 64-year-old gunman as one of its own. The quick responsibility claim — discounted by FBI officials — is the latest in a series of dubious or seemingly fake IS claims, reflecting the extremists’ eagerness to latch onto global attacks it can tout as its own as it fights for survival in its Mideast base.

The AP was able to cite two recent cases where ISIS appears to have claimed responsibility for attacks in which it played no role even as inspiration–the June casino attack in Manila and Sunday’s knife attack in France. That’s it, because that’s nearly all there is. There’s no “series of dubious or seemingly fake IS claims,” and ISIS does not have “a history of exaggerated, unsubstantiated or false claims” as the AP article later says:

ISIS often gets details about these attacks wrong, but that’s because they often follow and report things after they’ve been reported in the Western media. If the Western media gets something wrong, as it often does in the chaos following a terrorist attack, then ISIS’s Amaq news service will frequently get it wrong–though Amaq has on occasion reliably reported details before they were known in the Western media.

Now, that said, there’s no reason at this point to believe ISIS had anything to do with this attack. There’s no evidence of their involvement, and if there were a shred of evidence in that regard the Trump administration would be shouting about it from the rooftops. ISIS insists that Stephen Paddock converted to Islam “six months ago,” but there hasn’t been a single person come forward to corroborate that and it seems obvious that they deliberately chose that six month timeframe because Paddock’s brother told Western media that he last spoke with Stephen–wait for it–six months ago. Paddock killed himself–assuming the police aren’t lying about that–which is absolutely beyond the pale for a zealous Muslim. And authorities are now saying he spent “decades” stockpiling weapons and ammo–“decades” versus a supposed conversion to violent extremist Islam “six months ago.”



Relations between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots are turning bad again, just months after the two nearly reached agreement on a deal to reunify the island nation. On October 1 Turkish Cypriots began charging customs duties on humanitarian aid–medical aid excepted–sent from the island’s UN peacekeeping force to the small community of Greek Cypriots and Maronite Christians who live in the Turkish-controlled northern part of the country. The Greek Cypriot government may take a complaint over the duties–which are legally dubious since the Turkish Cypriot government isn’t recognized as a legitimate government by anybody other than Turkey–to the UN.


The Wall Street Journal–I won’t link there because paywall–is reporting that Russian hackers were able to steal “highly classified” information from the National Security Agency back in 2015, including details on how the NSA hacks into targeted computer systems and what protections it uses against foreign hackers. So, in other words, details about how the NSA does the two main things that the NSA exists to do. How were they able to pull off this astonishing feat? They, uh, waited for some dipshit contractor to take that highly classified material home with him and put it on his computer. I think I know who that guy was:


Catalan President Carles Puigdemont is pushing ahead with plans to declare independence from Spain next week, or as Madrid puts it, “blackmail.” At least everybody is being civil. On Thursday, Spain’s Constitutional Court suspended the Catalan parliament session scheduled for next week, in an attempt to head off a secession bid, but for obvious reasons that ruling probably isn’t going to be honored. Madrid is now considering measures that would make it easier for companies located in Catalonia to relocate to other parts of Spain, just in case–if they stay in Catalonia and it does seceded, those companies will suddenly find themselves out of the European Union. So to sum up, things are still heading for another train wreck, probably within the next several days. Oh, and this whole movement for Catalan nationalism is apparently increasing feelings of Spanish nationalism, which historically is always a good thing that leads to happy outcomes, the end.


Police carried out a “controlled explosion” of a suspicious package at Angel tube station in north London on Wednesday evening. The package doesn’t seem to have been dangerous after all.

The explosion you may have heard was not, as far as I know, the sound of Theresa May’s political career imploding. May delivered an address at the Tory party conference on Wednesday, and it was…well, she…I mean, the…hey, she’s not going to resign over it, so that’s something. It was as remarkable a political speech as you’re likely to hear, really. Here are the highlights:

One train wreck of a speech is an isolated event. A train wreck of a speech after a train wreck of an election amid a train wreck of a Brexit negotiation…well, it all starts to add up after a while, you know?



The UN is ending its 13 year peacekeeping mission in Haiti and will have completely withdrawn from the country by October 15. The current mission will be replaced with a new operation involving 1300 police officers and 350 civilians tasked with reforming the country’s judicial system. There are concerns that Haiti’s police force is still inadequate to secure the country and that shrinking the UN footprint could prove destabilizing, but on the other hand the UN’s presence in Haiti hasn’t exactly been universally welcomed, what with the cholera outbreak it caused and the accusations of excessive violence and sexual abuses.


Good news everybody: Donald Trump says the US is going to forgive Puerto Rico’s debt!

HA HA HA no of course not. Donald Trump sometimes says stuff, you know? Sometimes he says really incomprehensible and frankly terrifying stuff. But his staff always rights the ship and keeps its laser focus on completely immiserating everybody on Steve Bannon’s shit list. And it’s a huge list.

In reality though, the Intercept’s Kate Aronoff says Puerto Rico actually was on track for massive and desperately needed debt relief before Hurricane Maria hit the island:

Ahead of Maria, the federally appointed fiscal oversight board now in control of Puerto Rico’s finances had developed a plan that would wipe out 79 percent of the island’s annual debt payments, taking a massive chunk out of the payday hedge funds had been hoping to land from the island.


In the wake of the storm, that fight could go one of two ways: Advocates for Puerto Rico are making the case that the devastation means that 79 percent should be ratcheted up all the way to a full debt cancellation. The hedge funds, meanwhile, see an opening to attack the oversight board and reclaim ownership of the process.

Finally, I think we’re on Rex Tillerson Watch. NBC reported Wednesday that Tillerson nearly quit over the summer over, well, basically because he was tired of working for Donald Trump. Tillerson was upset about policy disagreements with the White House, upset about lack of access to the president, upset about Trump’s batshit speech to the Boy Scouts…look, he was just upset. But Vice President Mike Pence reportedly talked him down, and now Tillerson is allegedly in a “suicide pact” with Defense Secretary James Mattis and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin where if Trump cans one of them the other two will quit. This is all very normal, of course, and by the way I strongly suspect Mattis and Tillerson only let Mnuchin in on the deal because they think it’ll be funny to double cross him later on.

Anyway, the suicide pact may be the only thing keeping Tillerson in his office at this point, because included in NBC’s report was the revelation that he’d apparently called Trump a “moron,” which apparently was actually “fucking moron.” As you can imagine, Trump was pissed about the NBC story, enough that he made Tillerson go out and disavow it and say nice things about Trump to the press. Except that Tillerson didn’t completely disavow the story–specifically, he didn’t deny that he called Trump a “fucking moron.” And so now Trump is reportedly quite pissed about that.

This is all hilarious, but we may find that the only thing worse than a Trump administration with Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State is a Trump administration without Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. Neocon vessel Nikki Haley would almost certainly slide into Tillerson’s job if he were fired, and as bad as Trump’s foreign policy has been, it would definitely get worse with her in charge at State.

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