Putin Conjures Vision Of New Cold War, Or Worse

 “No one listened to us….Listen to us now.”

At a speech today in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin asserted Russia now has developed an array of new nuclear weapons, including a cruise missile that’s capable of reaching any target in the world and cannot be stopped by any existing missile defense system. It would do this, according to Russia’s President, by flying close to the ground, in an unpredictable path.

Putin also seemed to key in on recent talk in the U.S. of deploying small nuclear weapons for “limited” nuclear strikes, emphasizing  any nuclear attack, of any size, would result in an immediate response.


Russia’s President Putin addressing lawmakers in Moscow this morning


There is no doubt some political posturing going on; his speech today is the equivalent of the “State of the Union”, and while Putin is pretty much guaranteed to win a Presidential election in about 2 weeks, it would look bad if he was unable to rally the Russian populace behind him.

Still, the announcement came as a shock to many Russia-watchers, which itself is something of a shock, since Putin rolled out a series of sophisticated computer animations of the new weapons as he was speaking of them.



“Respect 2nd Amendment!”: Trump This Morning Sets The Record Straight On Where He Stands On Gun Control

For a little while, many were wondering if the President might actually be trying to do the right thing on gun control. We were among them. So was the New York Times which ran this headline: “Trump Stuns Lawmakers With Seeming Embrace Of Gun Control“.

That was after a bipartisan meeting of legislators at which Trump berated Republicans hard for being unrealistic and too fearful of the N.R.A., while seeming to embrace even Senator Dianne Feinstein’s proposal to reinstate a ban on assault rifles. 

Not so fast. Trump this morning appeared to take it all back, in a Tweet that mentions only one of the many proposals discussed: improving background checks (and doesn’t even outright endorse it), and alludes to what seems to be his favorite plan: arming teachers, while asserting many other ideas in the meeting were “not so good”.

Which immediately reminded us of what happened last time he did the same type of get-together, to discuss immigration and within hours did a 180 and pulled his support from all the bipartisan ideas he appeared to validate.

What the President originally did: turning a contentious discussion about guns into a public spectacle carried live on TV for all the world to see was jaw dropping: providing a stunningly unfiltered look into the way the President operates.

The one new idea Trump seemed to improvise during the meeting was one that we’d agree is “not so good”, in fact it’s terrible: eliminating due process.

“Take the guns first, go through due process second”. Which very literally and ironically would mean Trump just wants to be able to come for people’s guns. Here’s Trump explaining it to Vice-President Pence. (Click on photo to play).


A few other choice moments:

• Chiding Pennsylvania Republican Senator Pat Toomey for being “afraid of the N.R.A.” because he didn’t include raising the minimum purchase age for rifles to 21 in his bill intended to strengthen background checks. Here’s video of that:


• Asking West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, who’s co-sponsoring that background check bill to add in other measures, including Dianne Feinstein’s outright ban on assault weapons. (It’s worth watching the clip for her reaction alone).


• Shutting down House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who’s still trying to sneak in a measure that would allow anyone who has a gun license from any state to carry it into any other state, regardless of what the gun laws are there. Trump saying, sensibly: “if you add concealed carry to this, you’ll never get it passed”.

Here’s that clip:


So what’s going on?

As the President likes to say, who the hell knows?



Big Corporations, Perhaps Somewhat Surprisingly, Continue To Lead The Way On Gun Control


As you’ve probably heard by now, Walmart, the biggest retailer in the country, is expanding common sense gun sales policies, announcing it’ll stop selling guns of any kind and ammunition to anybody under the age of 21. Walmart stopped selling semi-automatic rifles a year and a half ago, but did so quietly, saying it was purely a business decision due to a decline in consumer demand. The announcement follows a similar move by Dick’s Sporting Goods, which we reported on yesterday.

Now you all know we’re very cynical, and when corporations make moves like this, it’s usually because they’re trying to head off the possibility of being put in a legislative straightjacket. But all the legislation on the table right now is so lame compared to what the retailers are doing on their own.

Still, Corporate America doesn’t typically tend to have a conscience. (Although if that is the case here: if executives were truly moved, we won’t take credit away from them).

But for argument’s sake, assuming they haven’t grown a conscience, what going on here?

Maybe it’s because capitalism, and America, does work sometimes the way it’s supposed to. And why with all our faults America proves time and time again to be the best system and best country around. (Not to mention we still have freedom of the press, and many “Democracies” with Constitutions guaranteeing it now don’t). 

When the tide here turns — which sometimes does take a painfully long time. When a small group of students, for instance, creates a sea-change in public sentiment, corporations are often the first to sniff it out and react because the risk of not doing so could result in negative publicity and deep, fast harm to their overall financial well-being.

It’s still premature to say that’s definitively what’s happening here, but we’d like to think so.




One Of Trump’s Closest Confidantes In The White House And Longest-Serving Members Of His Team (Other Than Family Members) Is Leaving


White House Communications Director Hope Hicks is resigning. The New York Times, which broke the story, would have us believe the move’s been long planned.

But the timing is curious, coming just one day after she testified behind closed doors to the House Intelligence Committee, and reportedly admitted working for Trump sometimes requires her to tell “little white lies”. (Although she said she never told any of those lies about Russia). CNN reports Trump was furious at that “little” revelation.

Hicks is one of the few people in the White House who joined Trump’s team prior to his deciding to run for President, at first doing public relations consulting for his daughter, Ivanka. Jonathan Swan of Axios says “reporters like me…know her as the person who understands Trump the best.”

Here’s GQ’s excellent profile of Hicks.


White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, after 9 hours of House Intelligence Committee questioning earlier this week



Trump’s Long Promised Trade War With China Could Start Today


Reuters reporting the White House has invited up executives from American steel and aluminum manufacturers. Trump’s been talking about slapping tariffs on imported steel and aluminum of as much as 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum. This would be applicable to imports from all countries, but China is the world’s biggest producer of both. At the same time, the move could be a slick negotiating gambit by the President, because Chinese trade officials are also due at the White House today to meet with Trump’s top economic team.


We’ll tell you tomorrow how it plays out.