It needs a stroke of genius to soften the heart for poor old Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Those of us who have always believed that Erdogan is a bit off his rocker must still be appalled that a US president infinitely more cracked than the Turkish variety is trying to impoverish Nato’s second largest military ally. True, Erdogan locked up 50,000 Turks – including an American pastor, of whom more later – after the attempted coup against him two years ago, but hasn’t Egypt’s president/field marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi broken this record by banging up 60,000 supposed Islamists in his own country’s prisons? And what about Haider al-Abadi’s mass hangings in Iraq? Or that nasty little post-death crucifixion in Saudi Arabia this week, not to mention that horrid war in Yemen where kids seem to get killed all the time? Or the Israeli habit of shooting down scores of unarmed Palestinians in Gaza? Or that chump in North Korea who appeals to Trump’s sense of humour?
Category Archives: North America
The US establishment thinks Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is too radical – with an impending climate disaster, the worry is she isn’t radical enough
Now that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has joined Bernie Sanders as the public face of the left wing of the Democratic Party, with others waiting in the shadows to explode on the US national scene, there is no surprise in the wide scope of reactions to the fact the term “democratic socialism” has gained (limited) acceptability in one of the two US main parties. Republican media predictably spread fear: democratic socialists plan to abolish capitalism, introduce Venezuelan-style state terror and bring poverty, etc. In a more restrained way, centrist Democrats warn about the non-intended catastrophic economic consequences of democratic socialist proposals: how to raise money for universal healthcare, etc? (Incidentally, one should recall here how even the most daring proposals of today’s democratic socialists do not come even close to moderate European social democracy half a century ago – a sign of how the centre of gravity of the entire political field shifted to the right.)
I hate Donald Trump’s policies but it’s true – he could go down as one of history’s greatest presidents
A couple of decades ago, a charming publicity spot for a beer was shown on British TV. Its first part staged the well-known fairytale anecdote: a girl walks along a stream, sees a frog, takes it gently into her lap, kisses it, and, of course, the ugly frog miraculously turns into a beautiful young man. However, the story wasn’t over yet: the young man casts a covetous glance at the girl, draws her towards himself, kisses her – and she turns into a bottle of beer which the man holds triumphantly in his hand.
“There is disorder under heavens; the situation is excellent”
Now that yet another week of Donald Trump’s frantic activity is safely behind us and slowly receding into memory, the time has come to think about the chaotic wasteland his visits left behind. Trump visited three places: Brussels, where he met key European leaders; London where he met Theresa May (plus the queen); and Helsinki where he met Putin. Everybody noted the strange fact that Trump was much friendlier to those perceived as American enemies than to its friends. But such facts should not surprise us too much. Our attention should turn in another direction. As is often the case with Trump, reactions to his acts are more important than what he did or said.
Let us begin by comparing what Trump said with what his partners said. When Trump and May were asked by a journalist what they thought about the flow of immigrants to Europe, Trump brutally and honestly rendered his populist anti-immigrant position: immigrants are a threat to the European way of life; they are destabilizing the safety of our countries, bringing violence and intolerance, so we should keep them out. A careful listener could easily notice that Theresa May said exactly the same thing, just in a more diplomatic and “civilized” way: immigrants bring diversity; they contribute to our welfare, but we should carefully check who we let in… We’ve got here a clear taste of the choice which is more and more the only one presented to us: either direct populist barbarism or a more civilized version of the same politics, barbarism with a human face.
In 2008, a Russian tax law expert named Sergei Magnitsky accused Russian officials and organized crime figures of a $230 million tax fraud as part of a scheme to seize assets belonging to his client, the American-born investor William Browder.
Instead of investigating Magnitsky’s allegations, Russian officials arrested him and accused him of being involved in the fraud himself. The following year, Magnitsky died in a Russian prison. He was denied medical care while suffering from acute pancreatitis and had reportedly been chained to a bed and beaten by prison guards with rubber batons.
Strange and terrible things have been happening to people who get too close to the Magnitsky case in Moscow and beyond ever since. In 2010, Alexander Perepilichny, a Russian who had conspired with the Russian officials involved in the massive tax fraud, fled to Britain; he later gave incriminating banking documents to Swiss officials. In 2012, while jogging in his posh gated community in Britain, he dropped dead. Suspicions persist that he was poisoned, and an inquest into his death is still underway.
One of the most important things to understand about Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating the Trump-Russia case, is that he helped nail New York mob boss John Gotti, the gangster known as the “Teflon Don.”
One of the most important things to understand about Donald Trump, the con man and hustler who happens to be president, is that he comes from the mob-tinged New York real estate industry and knows exactly what happened to Gotti and other mob bosses felled by racketeering prosecutions waged by the likes of Mueller.
Trump knows that Mueller is now conducting the same kind of racketeering investigation in the Trump-Russia case, and it frightens him.
They met in Moscow.
Joseph Mifsud saw her for the first time at the Bolshoi Theater. He struck up a conversation, offered to take her picture, and asked her out to dinner. Mifsud, an obscure, middle-aged academic originally from Malta, soon began dating the young Ukrainian woman. He liked to impress her by talking about his ties to important Russian officials. He told her he was friends with Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister.
Soon he was traveling to Ukraine to visit her. He met her family and eventually asked her to marry him. They got engaged; she got pregnant.
And then, last fall, he vanished.
Anna, Joseph Mifsud’s fiancée, whose story — without her last name — was recently told in a well-crafted BuzzFeed News piece, stands at the center of one of the biggest mysteries in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between Russia and Donald Trump: Where is Joseph Mifsud?
On October 30, 2017, Mueller unveiled the first charges in his Trump-Russia probe. That day, his office announced indictments against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates, as well as a guilty plea from George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI in a deal approved secretly three weeks earlier, so it was clear that Papadopoulos was already cooperating with Mueller’s inquiry. The ambitious, young Greek-American Trump adviser was presumably telling Mueller everything he knew about connections between the Trump campaign and Russia.
I find it hard to write about Donald Trump.
It is not that he is a complicated subject. Quite the opposite. It is that everything about him is so painfully obvious. He is a low-rent racist, a shameless misogynist, and an unbalanced narcissist. He is an unrelenting liar and a two-bit white identity demagogue. Lest anyone forget these things, he goes out of his way each day to remind us of them.
At the end of the day, he is certain to be left in the dustbin of history, alongside Father Coughlin and Gen. Edwin Walker. (Exactly – you don’t remember them, either.)
What more can I add?
Unfortunately, another word also describes him: president. The fact that such an unstable egomaniac occupies the White House is the greatest threat to the national security of the United States in modern history.
Which brings me to the only question about Donald Trump that I find really interesting: Is he a traitor?
Did he gain the presidency through collusion with Russian President Vladimir Putin?
One year after Trump took office, it is still unclear whether the president of the United States is an agent of a foreign power. Just step back and think about that for a moment.
Puerto Ricans and Ultrarich “Puertopians” Are Locked in a Pitched Struggle Over How to Remake the Island
Like everywhere else in Puerto Rico, the small mountain city of Adjuntas was plunged into total darkness by Hurricane Maria. When residents left their homes to take stock of the damage, they found themselves not only without power and water, but also totally cut off from the rest of the island. Every single road was blocked, either by mounds of mud washed down from the surrounding peaks, or by fallen trees and branches. Yet amid this devastation, there was one bright spot.
A Solar Oasis
Just off the main square, a large, pink colonial-style house had light shining through every window. It glowed like a beacon in the terrifying darkness.
The pink house was Casa Pueblo, a community and ecology center with deep roots in this part of the island. Twenty years ago, its founders, a family of scientists and engineers, installed solar panels on the center’s roof, a move that seemed rather hippy-dippy at the time. Somehow, those panels (upgraded over the years) managed to survive Maria’s hurricane-force winds and falling debris. Which meant that in a sea of post-storm darkness, Casa Pueblo had the only sustained power for miles around.
Think of it as the most momentous military planning on Earth right now. Who’s even paying attention, given the eternal changing of the guard at the White House, as well as the latest in tweets, sexual revelations, and investigations of every sort? And yet it increasingly looks as if, thanks to current Pentagon planning, a 21st-century version of the Cold War (with dangerous new twists) has begun and hardly anyone has even noticed.
In 2006, when the Department of Defense spelled out its future security role, it saw only one overriding mission: its “Long War” against international terrorism. “With its allies and partners, the United States must be prepared to wage this war in many locations simultaneously and for some years to come,” the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review explained that year. Twelve years later, the Pentagon has officially announced that that long war is drawing to a close—even though at least seven counterinsurgency conflicts still rage across the Greater Middle East and Africa—and a new long war has begun, a permanent campaign to contain China and Russia in Eurasia.