Europe/Americas update: January 25 2018


The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved us all a little closer to Armageddon on Thursday, bumping their Doomsday Clock from 2 minutes and 30 second to midnight to a flat 2 minutes to midnight due to concerns about climate change, North Korea, and nuclear arms more generally. This is as close as the clock has ever been to midnight and it hasn’t been this close since the 1950s. Personally I’ve always found the Doomsday Clock to be a bit gimmicky, but if you’re the kind of person who pays serious attention to this sort of thing, then you’re either a little more frightened or a little happier today depending on your proclivities. Mostly I included this because I wanted to run this post along with an image of a crappy old clock radio, like so:

yep, that will do



Czech presidential challenger Jiří Drahoš says that fake news is becoming a serious problem as his runoff with Miloš Zeman approaches:

Criticism on the internet and elsewhere has left the sober-mannered Drahoš, 68, complaining of “low blows” and hinting at interference from Moscow to help Zeman, who has gained a reputation for being pro-Russian on international affairs.


Drahoš says he has been falsely painted as a child sex offender on social media, in chain emails and on alternative news sites, as a candidate funded from abroad by a “globalist” elite and as a communist-era secret police collaborator in the former Czechoslovakia, an allegation contradicted by an officially approved certificate clearing him.


Potentially more damaging, Zeman and his supporters have tied Drahoš to support for immigration – a sensitive accusation in a country where anti-immigrant sentiment runs high.

The thing is, while Drahoš is a bit more progressive on immigration and refugees than Zeman, he’s still pretty regressive. So Zeman’s attacks on that score are misleading at best. The other stuff appears to be outright garbage.


The Catalan parliament has put Carles Puigdemont forward as its only candidate to be regional president. Madrid has already begun court proceedings intended to block Puigdemont’s assumption of that office. Just another normal day in the most normal region of Europe’s most normal country.


The 27 remaining members of the European Union have laid out more generous terms than had been previously discussed for the UK’s post-Brexit transition period:

First, on forging new security and defence partnerships without waiting for the transition to end; second, to update the directives depending on progress – a line that diplomats said meant that Britain would not necessarily be shoved off a “cliff edge” in 2021 if a new trade agreement was not ready; and third, that they might agree to let Britain sign new trade deals with others, despite being bound by EU trade rules in the transition.


The annex also contained a statement by the EU executive, the Commission, pledging to set out clear and consistent rules for Britain’s occasional non-voting participation in some EU meetings during the transition when its interests are at stake.



Former and would-be future Brazilian President Lula da Silva says that he will run in October’s presidential election. He’s easily the Workers’ Party’s strongest candidate. There’s just one problem: he’s still a convict. Da Silva was convicted last summer on corruption charges, and on Wednesday not only did he lose his appeal, but the appeals court actually lengthened his sentence, to 12 years in prison. That’s a hell of a loss. Da Silva is now (apparently seriously) comparing himself to Nelson Mandela, but the thing is that Mandela became South African president after he was released from prison. Da Silva hasn’t even gone to prison yet. Da Silva plans to continue fighting his conviction, and in theory he could still run for president while he does that. But the Workers’ Party might want to spend some time thinking about a plan B or at least about giving da Silva a good running mate. Just in case.


In case you had any doubt whether Nicolás Maduro should be considered the favorite in Venezuela’s upcoming (by the end of April) presidential election, his Supreme Court on Thursday barred the country’s fractured opposition parties from holding their own primary and putting forward one candidate to represent them all against Maduro. This…doesn’t seem like something a court should be able to do, but the opposition doesn’t really have any way to seek a second opinion. With virtually all prominent opposition figures either under arrest or abroad and unable to return to Venezuela lest they be arrested, it’s unlikely that the splintered opposition will pose much of a threat to Maduro unless the parties can figure out a way around this court ruling.


Finally, at LobeLog, John Feffer wonders if maybe Donald Trump isn’t even worse than he appears at first glance:

I know about Godwin’s law — that as discussion threads grow longer on the Internet, the likelihood of a comparison to Hitler increases. I’m not going to compare Donald Trump to Hitler. I am also well aware of the dangers of trivializing evil by using it “frivolously,” as the political scientist Alan Wolfe warned recently in The Atlantic. If everything is evil, then nothing is evil.


But I want to take seriously the proposition that we don’t just have an incompetent president. We don’t just have a rude president. We don’t just have a lying president. We don’t just have a racist, misogynist president. Such judgments have become commonplace, shared by columnists of the left and right — for instance in last week’s assessment of Trump’s first year in the Sunday Review of The New York Times — and embraced as well by some prominent conservative politicians like Arizona Republican Jeff Flake.


Let’s go one step further: What if we actually have an evil president?

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