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Meet America’s New Ambassador to the Vatican


Mrs. Tiffany Homewrecker nee Jizzbucket Callista Gingrich.

Meanwhile, her purveyor, Newton Leroy "Definer of civilization. Teacher of the Rules of Civilization Arouser of those who Fan Civilization Organizer" Gingrich, was apparently spending a little of the pin money he picked up for excreting a steaming log of prose called "Understanding Trump" on jug win and Quaaludes.



Because nothing means anything anymore.
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Trump’s Folly is taking shape

Trump's Folly is taking shape

by digby


Oh look, it's Congressman Steve King inspecting the prototypes for Trump's wall:

This is his baby. Until he came along nobody was talking about spending billions to build a fucking wall. He came up with it as a dumb promise at his rallies. He won and now he's doing it.

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Will this intensity translate into votes?

Will this intensity translate into votes?

by digby


Who knows if loathing for Trump will get people to the polls? But it's there:

Gallup asked 2,016 U.S. adults Oct. 2-5, "How supportive are you of Donald Trump on a 100-point scale where zero means you do not support anything he is doing as president and 100 means you support everything he is doing as president?" The average score among all adults is 43 -- slightly higher than Trump's 39% job approval rating for the same four days of polling.

Reflecting the generally polarized nature of U.S. politics today, a majority either dislike most of what Trump is doing (43% give a score of 20 or lower) or support almost everything he's doing (22% give a score higher than 80). About a third of Americans have relatively mixed feelings, neither strongly supporting nor opposing the Trump presidency.

Among Democratic and Republican partisans, the averages for each group fall at opposite ends of the scale:

Among Democrats, the average score is 16. Although a majority of Democrats give Trump's actions a score of 3 or lower, a quarter of Democrats score the Trump presidency a 21 or higher.

Republicans support Trump less wholeheartedly than Democrats oppose him, giving him an average score of 77. About half of Republicans (47%) give his presidency a score of 80 or lower.

Independents' average score is 40. Slightly more than a third (37%) give Trump a rating between 21 and 80.

I don't know if people will get out to vote. There is an encroaching withdrawal and malaise setting in --- there's just so much political horror people can take. But hopefully, everyone will do the one thing that requires just a small amount of effort but will make a huge difference if we all pitch in: vote.

It can be done. The Democrats tossed out the Republican congress in 2006. The Republicans turned round and did the same thing in 2010. It's never been more vital than now.

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Yeah, I know. He’s a liar.

Yeah, I know. He's a liar.

by digby



When I think about the fact that Obama was burned as a heretic at the stake for telling people that they could keep their doctor ...

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Who could be worse for CIA than Tom Cotton?

Who could be worse for CIA than Tom Cotton?

by digby


I wrote about the chilling rumors in DC about who might move into the CIA director's slot if Mike Pompeo is moved over to Secretary of State for Salon this morning:


It may be that it took direct, vicious attacks on the mainstream media for its practitioners to understand the catastrophe of Donald Trump and cover him both factually and, more important, truthfully. They aren't perfect, but they aren't being the lapdogs we all saw during the Bush administration and thank goodness for that. Still, they have yet to kill some stale old tropes that desperately need to be thrown overboard. One of them is this idea that there are "grownups" out there somewhere who will come rescue us from the folly of our democratic choices.

Back in 2001, the entire press corps was delirious over the ascension of George W. Bush after the years of Bill Clinton and his hippie White House. Those so-called "grownups" wreaked havoc, and the press seemed to be chagrined enough by the Bush administration's failures to let Barack Obama's quiet dignity speak for itself. But with the election of Donald Trump and his infantile bullying, this meme has returned in a big way. I wrote about this latest iteration of the "finally, the adults are back in charge" line a few months ago, and it's only become more frequent and more desperate as the administration sheds its original cast of characters in favor of what Trump refers to as "my generals." (It's like a remake of "Seven Days in May" around there these days.)

Well, it just got worse. The much-rumored upcoming departure of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has created lots of gossip about possible replacements, starting with UN ambassador Nikki Haley, known as "the Iran whisperer." The other possibility being discussed is CIA Director Mike Pompeo, a Trump favorite who drives three hours a day from Langley, Virginia, to the White House to personally deliver the president his national security briefing just the way he likes it -- short, sweet and with "killer graphics."

If Pompeo were to be moved into Tillerson's spot, that would open up the CIA job, and word is that Trump is considering Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas for that position. Cotton is only 40 years old and has had one term in the House and three years in the Senate, so he seems a bit young for the job. (In fact, he's the youngest current U.S. senator.) But he's apparently enough of a grownup to join the Trump babysitters' club. Axios reported:

MSNBC and conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt — who talks frequently to Cotton on and off the air, and first floated the idea of Cotton for CIA — told me that Pompeo, Cotton, SecDef Mattis and Chief of Staff Kelly would be "a quartet of serious intellectuals and warriors in the 'big four' jobs." And you could add National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster as a fifth.

Hewitt also said that Cotton and Trump get along well and that he and Pompeo both "like and listen to the president" and "accept his realism in foreign affairs." Trump's views on foreign affairs are not of what is called the "realist" school, nor are they actually realistic, so I'm not sure what Hewitt's referring to. But it sounds as though both men are champion Trump flatterers, which makes the president comfortable and happy.

On the substance, Cotton is a terrible choice. He comes from Arkansas, but he went to Harvard for both undergrad and law school. Then he served in Iraq and Afghanistan as an Army Ranger and worked in management consulting at McKinsey & Company, before embarking on his long-planned political career. (I wrote about him back in 2015, calling him Sarah Palin with a Harvard degree.)

His one term as a congressman was unremarkable, but he flew into the Senate like a whirlwind and immediately embarrassed the entire Republican caucus by catching them all on their way out of town and getting them to sign an ill-considered letter he wrote to the Iranian government telling them that the nuclear agreement wasn't worth the paper it was written on. As former Bush speechwriter and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson wrote at the time:

The document was crafted by a senator with two months of experience under his belt. It was signed by some members rushing off the Senate floor to catch airplanes, often with little close analysis. Many of the 47 signatories reasoned that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s endorsement was vetting enough. There was no caucus-wide debate about strategy; no consultation with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who has studiously followed the nuclear talks (and who refused to sign). 
This was a foreign policy maneuver, in the middle of a high-stakes negotiation, with all the gravity and deliberation of a blog posting. In timing, tone and substance, it raises questions about the Republican majority’s capacity to govern.

Those questions have now been answered. It has no such capacity.

Cotton is clearly an intelligent man, but his instincts are highly Trumpian. It's seems likely that he's among the advisers who pushed the president toward decertification of the Iran deal based on no evidence. As CIA director, he would have no compunction about doing whatever is necessary to "find" evidence to achieve his long-cherished goal of a war with Iran. (It wouldn't be the first time the CIA director declared a "slam dunk" in such a situation.)

According to Molly Ball of The Atlantic, Cotton's Harvard thesis reveals his philosophy:

Cotton insists that the Founders were wise not to put too much faith in democracy, because people are inherently selfish, narrow-minded, and impulsive. He defends the idea that the country must be led by a class of intellectually superior officeholders whose ambition sets them above other men. Though Cotton acknowledges that this might seem elitist, he derides the Federalists’ modern critics as mushy-headed and naive. 
“Ambition characterizes and distinguishes national officeholders from other kinds of human beings,” Cotton wrote. “Inflammatory passion and selfish interest characterizes most men, whereas ambition characterizes men who pursue and hold national office. Such men rise from the people through a process of self-selection since politics is a dirty business that discourages all but the most ambitious.”
On the surface, such a belief would seem to be an odd mix with the allegedly populist Donald Trump and his "alt-right" white nationalist allies, but it really isn't. Trump himself is a big believer in eugenics and Steve Bannon is looking for a few good men to lead his army into the big final battle. Tom Cotton may be just the grownup they've been looking for.
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QOTD: Coach Pop

QOTD: Coach Pop

by digby

The great San Antonio Spurs coach called up Dave Zirin to speak on the record about Trump's latest atrocity:

“I’ve been amazed and disappointed by so much of what this president had said, and his approach to running this country, which seems to be one of just a never ending divisiveness. But his comments today about those who have lost loved ones in times of war and his lies that previous presidents Obama and Bush never contacted their families are so beyond the pale, I almost don’t have the words.”

At this point, Coach Pop paused, and I thought for a moment that perhaps he didn’t have the words and the conversation would end. Then he took a breath and said:

“This man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others. This has of course been a common practice of his, but to do it in this manner—and to lie about how previous presidents responded to the deaths of soldiers—is as low as it gets. We have a pathological liar in the White House, unfit intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically to hold this office, and the whole world knows it, especially those around him every day. The people who work with this president should be ashamed, because they know better than anyone just how unfit he is, and yet they choose to do nothing about it. This is their shame most of all.”

I couldn't have said it better myself.

I don't know how long we and individuals can live with this rage. But as long as I have it I know I am not insane.

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David Brooks: Rotting Down The Bones*

DFB3

Seven years and several lifetimes ago, I raided the Elite Pundit's inner sanctum and vouchsafed to you, dear reader, the secrets of the temple I found therein.   Specifically. I explained in ten short rules exactly how to write a David Brooks column in a post I cleverly entitled "How To Write a David Brooks Column".   And since the final five rules were as follows --
6) Rinse and repeat. No matter what the subject, no matter how false or bizarre the equivalence, just rinse and repeat. Twice a week.

7) Every week.

8) Year.

9) After year.

10) After year.
-- I thought today would be an excellent opportunity to see how well the first five rules still hold up all these years later.

Rule 1:  Pick a subject. Any subject. From Tasseled Loafers to Torture, it literally does not matter.

Upswingers and Downswingers
...
The popular gloom notwithstanding, we’re actually living in an era of astounding progress...

Progress is real, but of course it doesn’t happen in a straight line. Often it happens in what Ruth DeFries calls the ratchet, hatchet, pivot, ratchet manner.
Rule 2:  Quote extensively from one person or group on the subject. It's OK to just more-or-less copy and paste in big hunks of what whatever-you-happen-to-be-reading-at-the-moment to flesh out your 800-word column. Here at the Times we call that "research"! (Note:  Mr. Brooks has slacked off the "quoting people" quite a lot stuff in recent years, often preferring to just make things up out of thin air based on his need for those things to exist to flesh out his Both Siderist column du jour):
During the mid-20th century the West developed a group-oriented culture to deal with the Great Depression and the World Wars. Its motto could have been “We’re in this together.
Rule 3:  Quote from some other person or group on the same subject who appears to hold a different opinion. If no actual opposition exists, just put on your Magic Green Jacket and invent an opposing opinion.
That became too conformist and stultifying. A new individualistic culture emerged (pivot) whose motto could have been “I’m free to be myself.” That was great for a time, but excessive individualism has left society too fragmented, isolated and divided (hatchet). Something new is needed.
Rule 4:   ...try to impute these fictional distinctions to the different hemispheres of the political Universe. So no matter how bigoted, reckless or just bugfuck crazy the Right behaves, you just go right ahead and blandly assert with no supporting evidence whatsoever that the Left is equally and oppositely bad in exactly the same qualities and quantities. Here at the Times we call that "seriousness"!  (Note: emphasis added)
Politics during the hatchet phase gets nasty. It tends to devolve into a fight between upswingers and downswingers. (I’m adapting the words from a deceased Iranian-American futurist who called himself FM-2030.) Upswingers believe in progress and feel that society is still fitfully moving upward. Downswingers have lost faith in progress and feel everything is broken.

Both right and left are dividing into upswinger and downswinger camps...

Among Republicans the upswingers embrace capitalist dynamism, global engagement and the open movement of people and ideas. The downswingers embrace ethnic and national cohesion and closed borders.

On the left it’s between those who believe the only realistic path is to reform existing structures and those who think they are so broken we need to start over.

The downswinger mind-set is similar across left and right. Because of the loss of faith in progress downswingers have a baseline mood of pessimism, protest and anger. They are marked by a deep social distrust and a bent toward conspiracy thinking. They disrespect codes of etiquette that traditionally regulate public life and crack down on opposing speech.

Politics gets nasty in these “hatchet” periods because downswingers have a tropism toward ethnic and identity politics...

Politics also gets nasty in these periods because personal grievance gets intermingled with social grievance...
Rule 5:  Discover in your final paragraph or two that -- amazingly! -- the precise midpoint between those two completely artificial positions on an imaginary spectrum just happens to be exactly the Right and Reasonable answer!
There are moments when society goes into decline. But there are many, many more transitional moments when some people just think society is in decline, when it’s really in a bumpy pivot. This is such a moment. It gets better.
In case you don't remember what was going on way back when I stole the Secret Formula to David Brooks' Success and shared it with the world, seven years and several lifetimes ago...

...the GOP was in full-tilt hysteria mode over the birth certificate of Barack Obama -- a "movement" which would become the racist rocket fuel powering the political rise of a crackpot New York real estate con man named Donald J. Trump...

...despite mountains of fact-checking, "Obama Death Panels Are Gonna Kill Your Sainted White Grandma" was still a thing because Republican voters are reprogrammable meatbags...

...New York Times' bold, new wingnut affirmative action hire and Emergency Backup David Brooks, Cardinal Ross Douthat, was boldly predicted a Return to Normalcy
A Return to Normalcy
...
The Republican midterm sweep delivered the coup de grâce to the liberal fantasy by dramatically foreshortening what many pundits expected to be an enduring Democratic majority. But it also dropped a lid, at least temporarily, on the conservative freakout. (It’s hard to fret that much about the supposed Kenyan-Marxist radical in the White House when anything he accomplishes has to be co-signed by John Boehner
...
This return to normalcy is good news for fans of bipartisan comity and centrism for centrism’s sake. And it might be good news for the country. In the end, some sort of bipartisanship will be required to pull America back from the fiscal precipice, and the productivity of this lame-duck December shows that cooperation between the two parties isn’t as impossible as it seemed just a few months ago...

...the unhinged racist ravings of Glenn Beck were a big thing...

...and mainstream media hacks and Republican collaborators were still giddily, knee-walking drunk on the delusion that the "Tea Party" was some brand new, grass-roots movement of previously-politically uninvolved Real Murricans, instead of the Koch-funded Republican rebranding scam that everyone on the Left knew it to be.


And seven years and several lifetimes ago I also wrote this ("The Persistence of Mediocrity"):

If he were just another local oaf, I wouldn't much care what he was up to, but by no virtue other than where he sits, Mr. Brooks falls into a very small category of multimedia bullshit force-multipliers, and so instead of just fouling his own nest, his words directly influence what a billion Chinese think of our country.

DFB casts a long and terrible shadow which deserves rebuttal.
And I have a strong, sad feeling that seven years from now, if I'm still behind this keyboard, I will be able to write exactly the same god damn thing.

* A reference to Natalie Goldberg's most excellent "Writing Down the Bones"




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I’m just a pill by @BloggersRUs

I'm just a bill pill

by Tom Sullivan

The Washington Post and "60 Minutes" have exposed congressional and industry complicity in creating (and perpetuating the prescription opioid drug epidemic that has claimed tens of thousands of American lives. It is another object lesson in whose interests take priority on Capitol Hill.

The "60 Minutes" report Sunday profiled whistleblower Joe Rannazzisi who once ran the Drug Enforcement Agency's Office of Diversion Control. The office is charged with preventing prescription drugs from reaching the black market. Congress came under pressure from pharmaceutical distributors after Rannazzisi's efforts to prosecute corrupt pharmacists he calls "drug dealers in lab coats" began reaching higher up the supply chain:

JOE RANNAZZISI: This was all new to us. We weren't seeing just some security violations, and a few bad orders. We were seeing hundreds of bad orders that involved millions and millions of tablets. That's when we started going after the distributors.
Industry pushers began pushing back. Rannazzisi found his prosecutions systematically slowed by superiors. "Cases his supervisors once would have easily approved, now weren't good enough," the report explains. The industry began hiring former DEA lawyers to help quash their former agency's prosecutions through lobbying and, in particular, through drafting legislation.

It's easier to slip something by when the industry's drafter knows how DEA investigations work and how to strategically circumvent them.

The Post reports:

A handful of members of Congress, allied with the nation’s major drug distributors, prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to a more industry-friendly law, undermining efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and “60 Minutes.” The DEA had opposed the effort for years.

The law was the crowning achievement of a multifaceted campaign by the drug industry to weaken aggressive DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market. The industry worked behind the scenes with lobbyists and key members of Congress, pouring more than a million dollars into their election campaigns.

The chief advocate of the law that hobbled the DEA was Rep. Tom Marino, a Pennsylvania Republican who is now President Trump’s nominee to become the nation’s next drug czar.

Naturally, Congress is shocked, shocked it was duped into passing an industry-written bill that made the epidemic worse:
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, says he's horrified that a bill everyone approved -- the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016 -- made the epidemic worse.

"They made it and camouflaged it so well all of us were fooled. All of us. Nobody knew!" Sen. Manchin said. "There's no oversight now ... that bill has to be retracted ... has to be repealed."

The law sailed through the Senate last spring. It had the backing of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and was sponsored by members of both parties, so nobody in Congress thought to question it.

Missouri Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill introduced a bill Monday to repeal last year's law. "60 Minutes" asks:
Who drafted the legislation that would have such a dire effect? The answer came in another internal Justice Department email released to 60 Minutes and The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act: "Linden Barber used to work for the DEA. He wrote the Marino bill."
In a not-unrelated post this morning, Paul Krugman takes on the lies used to sell the GOP tax cut plan. He writes:
In fact, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the hope for tax cuts is the main thing keeping congressional Republicans in line behind Donald Trump. They know he’s unfit for office, and many worry about his mental stability. But they’ll back him as long as they think he might get those tax cuts through.

So what’s behind this priority? Follow the money. Big donors are furious at missing out on the $700 billion in tax cuts that were supposed to come out of Obamacare repeal. If they don’t get big bucks out of tax “reform,” they might close their pocketbooks for the 2018 midterm elections.

Money is speech, saith the Supreme Court. And those with the deepest pickets speak the loudest. It is commonplace to hear community activists protesting police violence to chant, "Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?" The rest of us should ask Congress the same thing. Even if the question is rhetorical.

* * * * * * * *

Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

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How to Achieve Your Own Definition of Success as a Freelance Web Designer

In society, success is often portrayed as having pretty close to a singular definition. We think of a successful entrepreneur driving a Tesla and living in the smartest of smart homes. Or we see the opulence of a big shot executive “living the life”, as they say.

But success is a very personal and subjective thing. There is no right or wrong definition because it’s a matter of what is in our hearts. My measure of success may be different than yours. But does that mean we should still take the same approach to achievement?

While traits like hard work and integrity will always be shared factors, how we approach our freelance design businesses should better reflect our personal definition of success. Here are some ways to tailor your business to help you get to your happy place.

Focus on the Right Types of Projects

For some people, part of what defines success involves working on specific kinds of projects. Fulfillment may come in the form of designing websites for non-profit organizations or a favorite sport. Others may not care about industry so much as they care about luring projects that pay big money.

The point is to figure out the types of projects that will get you to where you want to go. From there, it’s a matter of marketing yourself to whatever niche that interests you.

Of course, this is much easier said than done. The realities of running your own business sometimes mean having to take on projects that aren’t necessarily aligned with your vision of success. But that’s okay – so long as you don’t get stuck with something that interferes with your long-term goals.

Indeed, unless you already have industry connections, pointing your business towards a specific type of project is often a process that takes time. But once you get your foot in the door, it can open up all sorts of possibilities.

Think About Where, When and How Much You Work

Success can be greatly influenced by your work environment. When you think about it, this is an area that both affects and defines our success. If you’re cranking out websites from a place you don’t want to be, it’s going to be that much more difficult to do well.

But it also goes well beyond just location. There are a number of scenarios where part of our success is not only where we do our work, but also the time we spending working. Consider three of the most common ones:

Being a Parent and a Designer
Freelancing provides a great opportunity for parents to both make a living and be there for their children. Personally, it allows me to get my daughter to and from school, along with the chance to spend extra quality time with her. So for me, working standard daylight hours at home is the right situation. Weekends are generally off-limits unless absolutely necessary.

This can be a fairly simple arrangement in terms of initial business setup. The biggest challenge is that there are interruptions in the day that can be a bit chaotic. But being at home certainly makes any chaos easier to handle than it would be at a traditional office.

Putting the ‘Free’ in Freelancer
There are many designers who use their freelance career as a vehicle to pursue other passions like travel or volunteering. Therefore, the flexibility to work your own hours is a big deal. It’s also a bit more of a challenge to achieve.

Working odd hours really depends on the type of clientele you have. Some gigs demand that you to be available during “normal” business hours. And being in the office less than the standard 5 days a week can also take some careful planning.

Still, it can be done. It’s all about finding an equation that a) lets you work a personalized schedule; and b) enables you to make a living. If you’re really passionate about something, you’ll find a way to make it all work.

Hitting the Big Time
Those looking for big ticket projects may take a different tact to freelancing than the two scenarios above. For one, higher level projects might mean working with big companies. While some clients may be comfortable with remote meetings, others may prefer to meet you in person. This means either traveling or having a meeting space may be necessary.

The other major consideration here is the amount of extra work involved. Even if you’re managing other freelancers, there could be plenty of nights and weekends filled with work (not to mention the time spent marketing yourself).

If this sounds like your jam, then focusing on process efficiency can do wonders for keeping everything running smoothly. Establish a process for how projects get done on-time and on-budget so that you can keep that money machine cha-chinging.

When Progress is Slow…

One of the best aspects of being a freelancer is the ability to do things your own way. That’s a big responsibility, though. It’s easy to get into bad habits that end up hurting your chances to live and work the way you want.

So, if you’re not seeing the progress you hoped for, it may be time to take a hard look at how you’re running your business. While bad luck can play a role, most often you’ll find that are specific things you could be doing differently.

When it comes to your financial situation, scrutinize how much you charge and how you collect payment. Web design, in particular, is an industry where prices run the gamut. You want to make sure that you’re not charging too much or too little.

As for collection, ask yourself if you’ve made it easy enough for people to both receive invoices and make payments. For example, I noticed that not long after I started accepting online payments, I had a significantly lower number of clients who were late with payment. While online payment processors usually charge a fee for every transaction, I found that this was a worthy tradeoff over being stressed out by unpaid invoices.

It’s also vital to review the services you offer. Are you providing services that don’t fit in with your goals? Do your services set you up for a predictable stream of income? While it may be hard to fully weed out services that aren’t in your best interest, you can always grandfather them out over time. Or, you might structure pricing in such a way that it’s much more worthwhile.

Lastly, review just how organized (or not) you are. If you find that you’re always scrambling to put out fires, you might want to invest some effort into better organizing your average workday. There are plenty of tools and services out there to help. If something makes your life easier and doesn’t require you to sacrifice quality – go for it.

Creating Success on Your Own Terms

Being a freelancer puts you in a unique position to determine your own present and future. It enables you to achieve the kind of success that reflects who you are as a person.

But getting there requires a thoughtful approach. Simply working day-to-day without regards to your goals isn’t enough (I now know that from experience). The key is to find out what it is you want and then implement any necessary changes in order to make it a reality.

It may take some time to get there, but that journey is part of the fun.

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Kim Jong Un understands American politics very well

Kim Jong Un understands American politics very well

by digby



I'm not saying we won't get our hair mussed ....

A North Korean official told CNN the regime first wants to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of going "all the way to the East coast of the mainland U.S." before engaging in diplomacy. North Korea isn't ruling out diplomacy, but it wants to maximize its leverage before coming to the bargaining table.

That's very wise of him. Any closer American cities just wouldn't be that big of a big deal, amirite? He needs the leverage of threatening the east coast where the important people are.
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