Kim Jong-un Looks Like He Really, Really Wants A Showdown With Trump

North Korea Escalates An Already Rapidly Escalating Nuclear Weapons Program

The North Korean leader today described the July 4th test launch of an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile as “a gift”. The key word in ICBM is “Intercontinental”, meaning this missile could probably hit the U.S., perhaps not the lower 48, but at least Alaska. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed this. There are still questions about whether North Korea could currently deliver the missile armed with a nuclear warhead.

An emergency United Nations Security Council meeting on North Korea’s latest move should convene today.

Trump (who previously promised on Twitter what North Korea just did would never happen,) also responded to the launch on Twitter.

Some questions we have: what does he expect Japan and South Korea to do? Diplomacy? Military action? (The U.S. and South Korea conducted joint military exercises following the launch as a sign of commitment to the South’s defense.) Is there any “good” military option? Almost any move by the U.S. would put Japan and South Korea in peril of an imminent and brutal attack, as the New York Times reports this morning. And what’s a “heavy move” as defined by Trump?

Trump Tweets This Morning Hint At Trade War, But With Whom?

If you read these chronologically, (from the bottom up), since he first refers to traveling this week to Germany, it makes sense he’s questioning continuing trade deals with Germany, since he made it no secret during his last European trip he especially doesn’t like the number of German cars coming into the U.S. (despite the fact that Germany builds more cars in the U.S. than it sells. BMW for instance, builds 34,000 cars a month in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and it sells 26,000 cars a month in the U.S. So actually it’s helping the U.S. grow exports. )

But shortly after talking about cutting off the countries that do not help us, he throws out a number (with no reference) that trade between China and North Korea rose 40% in the 1st quarter…a period during which Trump says Chinese President Xi personally pledged to apply economic pressure. So maybe China’s back on his sh*t list? (This is why we need reporters asking questions, and White House staff equipped to give coherent answers.)

(We still think he’s probably threatening Germany, but who knows?)

It’s Getting All The Build-Up Of A Soviet Era U.S./Russia Chess Match, And We All Know Who The Favorite Is Here…

Later this week, Trump will meet for the first time one of the world leaders he says he knows the least well, Russian President Vladimir Putin. As of now, the Trump/Putin sit down overshadows anything else going on at the G20 economic summit, which will be hosted by German Chancellor Merkel, in Hamburg. The Trump/Putin meeting is set for Friday.

Bloomberg suggests Trump may not have the ‘chops’ to go mano-a-mano with a seasoned pro like Putin. Guess we’ll find out soon enough…

On his way, Trump will stop in Poland. That visit is being viewed by some as a pre-emptive slap-in-the-face to the EU because Poland also has an anti-globalist, populist leader who has been working to undermine the media and political opponents. The New York Times calls the current Polish political system “light authoritarianism.”

Precious Little On The Senate’s Health Care Bill Over The Holiday

While some Republicans did show up at 4th of July parades and at town hall meetings, others took some time off. Some nobly showed up in Afghanistan, others hid. Even those that appeared in public either ran a gauntlet of protestors or scheduled stops in remote areas of their home states. Certainly, it drove home the message that Obamacare repeal in its current form is not popular. Whether the Senators will listen is another story.

Maine Republican Susan Collins presented some guidelines for what she’d be willing to accept. The Washington Post quotes her as saying, “If you have a health savings account that is federally funded, that equals the deductible, that can work, but it has to be designed right.”

Showdown Close For Dramatic Middle East Confrontation: Will Qatar Back Down?

4 Middle East nations, led by Saudi Arabia, say this morning they have a response from Qatar to their demands, ahead of a meeting in Egypt. Qatar has been resisting the demands, which include shutting down the Al-Jazeera global news network, kicking out Turkish military, and paying restitution, as well as promising to discontinue support of terrorism (a charge Qatar denies). Saudi Arabia and its allies moved on Qatar several weeks ago; President Trump has been steadfast in his support of that group.

U.S. interests are high: Qatar is home to 11,000 U.S. military personnel and some of the richest natural gas reserves in the world. CNBC reports Qatar announced today its intention to significantly raise LNG production in the coming years, challenging President Trump’s pledge to support U.S. producers and exports from the U.S. Coincidence?

Editorial: Red, White and Blue Belong To Me And You

Our post-fireworks reflections, 4th of July:

Why is it that Trump supporters–at least for now–have almost fully co-opted the American flag? Why is the outfit of the anti-Trumper becoming black clothing and drab, mostly monochromatic signs? Why has much of the resistance now adopted the color scheme of ISIS? Brave people out resisting couldn’t be doing a better job–at least visually–of playing into Trump’s narrative. And the people protestors are trying to reach are watching like they never have before. But if they see, in the protestors, an America they do not recognize, they will not be stirred. So how about let’s flip that narrative? How? By showing up with stars and stripes on both sides.

Trump does not own the American flag. Neither does Fox News. We fully believe many Trump supporters view themselves as Patriots, and that’s fine. But wouldn’t it be great if the protestors matched them flag-for-flag, and reclaimed the American flag as a symbol of Progressive Patriotism and solidarity?

We are well aware that there are philosophical reasons to be “anti-flag”: on the grounds it stands for war, and fascism and racism (and at various times in history, a lot of other things). And if you hold that belief deeply, that’s fine too. But if you stand up for the national anthem at a baseball game, then it would not be hypocritical for you to reclaim the American flag for the resistance: because you have as much of a right to it as any other American, and it really does stand for a lot more of what you believe in than what you’re against: bringing together and taking care of the people.

Waving an American flag doesn’t make you complicit, doesn’t make you a bigot, doesn’t make you a jingoist. Because the stars and stripes represent the history and struggle of all kinds of people who worked and suffered to lift up their neighbors. To make this country beautiful and amazing. Flawed, but hardly a, nation of “carnage.”

The American flag commemorates our strength, and those who have sacrificed to make this country better. At very least, it communicates that we’re better than this. Much better than this.