Watching and Ignoring

What We're Watching

Trump vs Bannon — What happens if the White House really finds itself at war with political arsonist Steve Bannon and ascendant conservative media outlet Breitbart? This story isn’t just Washington gossip. Someone is going to lose support from millions of Americans, and there are a lot more people loyal to Trump than to Bannon.


The guy who writes the weather report — From Wednesday’s Washington Post: “Bomb cyclone to blast East Coast before polar vortex uncorks tremendous cold late this week.” In the article’s first three sentences, we get “unforgiving cold,” “punished,” “assault,” “monster storm,” “hammer,” “exploding storm,” “winter hurricane,” “battering,” “damaging winds,” and “blinding snow.” That’s good stuff.

American lawnmowers — Another telling stat: Britain’s Royal Statistical Society informs us that two Americans are killed on average each year by immigrant Muslim terrorists, while 21 are killed by “armed toddlers,” and 69 are killed in lawnmower accidents. #KnowYourEnemy

What We're Ignoring

Trump’s Big Button — North Korea’s Kim Jong-un warned this week that he has a “nuclear button” on his desk. President Trump responded that he has one too and his is bigger. We’re ignoring this boast because Trump does not have a nuclear button. The president authorizes a nuclear strike via an order to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest-ranking US military officer. The chairman then passes the order to an airbase in Nebraska. The order is then sent in coded form to “on the ground” teams. The button on the president’s desk brings a Diet Coke, not Armageddon.

Burglary instructions — Contents of an unidentified Chinese burglar’s personal notebook got laughs across China this week. Among his notes, “Take different ways of escape based on the value of goods. Keep in mind to run first if the value is high. Escape quickly, hide, take cover and run far away.” We’ve seen this notebook only because the would-be thief was arrested with it in his pocket. And as he surely knows by now, sucking at burglary will kill your credit score.

The Eurovision Song Contest — I stopped watching in 1976 when “Pump Pump” by Finland’s Fredi and the Friends finished in 11th place. Watch for yourself and judge the scale of the injustice.

The Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace launched in 2018 with the commitment of signatories to stand up to cyber threats like election interference, attacks on critical infrastructure, and supply chain vulnerabilities. Last week, on the first anniversary of the call, the number of signatories has nearly tripled to more than 1,000 and now includes 74 nations; more than 350 international, civil society and public sector organizations; and more than 600 private sector entities. These commitments to the Paris Call from around the world demonstrate a widespread, global, multi-stakeholder consensus about acceptable behavior in cyberspace.

Read More at Microsoft On The Issues.

What changes now that the U.S. softened its position on Israeli settlements?

Well, I mean, not a lot. I mean, keep in mind that this is also the administration that moved the embassy to Jerusalem, from Tel Aviv. Everyone said that was going to be a massive problem. Ultimately, not many people cared. Same thing with recognition of Golan Heights for Israel. This is just one more give from the Americans to the Israelis in the context of a region that doesn't care as much as they used to about Israel - Palestine.

More Show less

Bolivia's polarizing interim president: After Bolivian president Evo Morales and his deputies were pushed out of office for rigging last month's presidential election, little-known opposition Senator Jeanine Añez took office as interim leader. Añez has promised to guide the country toward a "national consensus" ahead of new elections in January, but she's already risked deepening political divides. On day one, she lugged a giant bible into office, in a perceived swipe at Morales, who had elevated popular indigenous traditions that the ultra-conservative Ms. Añez once called "satanic." She's also abruptly reoriented the country's foreign ties toward Latin America's conservative governments. On her watch, at least eight pro-Morales protesters have been killed by the authorities. Morales himself, exiled in Mexico, says he's the victim of a coup and wants to run in the elections. Añez says he's barred, but his MAS political party still controls both houses of congress and has to be a partner for any smooth transition. Some compromise is necessary, but things don't seem to be going that way.

More Show less

2,887: Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has now broken a century-old record to become the longest serving PM in Japan's history, at 2,887 days. It's a stunning feat for a premier who made a political comeback after quitting in 2007 due to a series of embarrassing scandals.

More Show less