Sunday Special: Trump-Russia Dossier Reveals Some veracity

An Associated Press review finds that investigations and criminal cases are revealing some truth in a set of controversial memos accusing the Trump campaign of working with the Russian government. But libel complaints argue otherwise, and whether there was collusion remains an open question. The dossier drafted by former British spy Christopher Steele appears to be a murky mixture of authentic revelations and repurposed history, likely interspersed with snippets of fiction or disinformation.
No one has painted a more vivid or lurid portrait of a purported alliance between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia than a quiet, nondescript former British spy named Christopher Steele.
Steele’s once-confidential campaign memos were published just before Trump’s inauguration, unleashing tales of cavorting prostitutes and conniving campaign aides on secret sorties with agents of the Kremlin.
Ever since, the credibility of these Democratic-funded memos — the so-called Steele dossier — has remained the subject of both official investigation and political sniping.
In the 18 months since the dossier’s release, government investigations and reports, criminal cases and authoritative news articles have begun to resolve at least some of the questions surrounding the memos.
As a whole, the Steele dossier now appears to be a murky mixture of authentic revelations and repurposed history, likely interspersed with snippets of fiction or disinformation, an Associated Press review finds.
At the vortex of all the arguments is Steele, often described as a buttoned-down, earnest defender of Western interests, who spied on Russia for the British government and later founded a business intelligence firm built on his network of confidential informants.
Steele’s 17 memos laid out an extraordinarily detailed narrative of how the Russian government supposedly collaborated with the Trump campaign in an elaborate operation to tilt the 2016 presidential race in his favor.
Some of the dossier’s broad threads have now been independently corroborated. U.S. intelligence agencies and the special counsel’s investigation into Russian election interference did eventually find that Kremlin-linked operatives ran an elaborate operation to promote Trump and hurt Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, as the dossier says in its main narrative.
The dossier first told of a clandestine partnership between the Trump campaign and Russian officials in a memo dated June 2016, the month before the FBI began investigating that very possibility.
Steele laid out details of a secret Moscow meeting between the Russians and Trump adviser Carter Page months before FBI suspicions about Page and news reports about just such a meeting forced him to leave the campaign.
The dossier’s portrait of a cooperative campaign also has been bolstered by developments it did not specifically foretell: Legal cases and authoritative reporting have exposed Trump’s son Donald Jr. and another aide as receptive to Russian overtures to supply dirt on Clinton.
However, the dossier makes other sensational, unverified claims. It reports that Trump provided intelligence to the Kremlin on wealthy Russians in the U.S. The Russian government, in return, was said to supply Trump with secrets about his political rivals while collecting compromising information on him, including recording him with prostitutes who supposedly urinated on a bed in a Moscow hotel.
It remains unclear if the Trump campaign, in the end, secretly acquired Russian information, and if so, whether Trump himself was aware and involved.
For his part, Trump has dismissed the memos as “fake news” and turned “no collusion” into the Twitter tagline of his presidency.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied his government meddled in the election.
Four wealthy Russians take more specific exception to the dossier: They say they were libeled.
In four separate lawsuits filed as recently as April, the Russians sued Steele and BuzzFeed, the online news outlet that published the memos in January 2017. Three of the Russians — all owners of a Moscow-based financial-industrial conglomerate called Alfa Group — also have sued Fusion GPS, the research company that enlisted Steele under a contract with a law firm connected to the Democrats.
Russian tech entrepreneur Aleksej Gubarev and the Alfa Group’s owners — Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven and German Khan — all say they had nothing to do with the events described in the dossier. In cases playing out in state, federal and British courts, they say they took unfair hits to their reputations.
The four men are named in two separate Steele memos, both of which are seemingly out of alignment with the rest of the dossier, as their legal teams have stressed in court filings.
Their questionable relevance raises the possibility that they were motivated by someone with a different agenda who perhaps fed false information to the former spy. Indeed, Gubarev’s lawyer has repeatedly suggested his client might have been framed by a competitor or someone looking for a scapegoat in the computer business.
In the Alfa Group memo, the billionaire owners were said to perform unspecified political favors for Putin. Fridman and Aven allegedly sent “large amounts of illicit cash” to Putin in the 1990s when he was still a city official in St. Petersburg.
The Gubarev memo said his business “had been using botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data” in an operation against Democratic Party leaders. He was purported to have been recruited under duress by Russian security agents.
Any actions ascribed to the four Russians have never been independently confirmed by official investigations or authoritative news reports.
The Alfa Group owners do have ties to the Kremlin. Aven is a former Russian foreign trade minister, and Fridman has been said to be close to Putin. Like Fridman, Khan is Ukrainian-born and one of the original founders of the Alfa Group. However, their financial and industrial empire has also waged bare-fisted battles with other powerful Russian interests, leaving adversaries who might want to take them down.
Gubarev, who lives in Cyprus, also is a possible target for scapegoating as the owner of a Luxembourg-based digital services business with thousands of customers, subsidiaries around the world, and business relationships in Russia, the U.S. and elsewhere.
Unlike the other memos, Steele’s Alfa Group write-up concentrates on internal Russian affairs, with no direct connection to the U.S. election. The only tie is an unsupported inference in the memo’s heading that it somehow involves the topic of “Russia/US Presidential Election.”
“Mr. Fridman, Mr. Aven and Mr. Khan have absolutely nothing to do, in any way, with the issue that is the theme of the dossier — alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign,” the trio’s lawyer, Alan Lewis, said in an interview.
Oddly, the memo about Gubarev is dated five weeks after the election.
“Why the heck did he even bother to continue writing this stuff?” Gubarev’s lawyer, Valentin Gurvits, asked in an interview.
Steele has said the Gubarev memo came from unsolicited details that continued to trickle in after Trump’s election, and his lawyers have acknowledged that the memo “needed to be analyzed and further investigated/verified.”
BuzzFeed has issued an apology for publishing Gubarev’s name and redacted it in response to his complaints.
Representatives for both Steele and Fusion GPS chief executive Glenn Simpson declined to comment for this story.
In a filing in the Alfa Group owners’ lawsuit, Steele’s lawyers say that memo “came from a network of vetted sources known to Mr. Steele … and resources developed over a lifetime of Russian intelligence work in public and private service.”
However, testifying to Congress, Simpson quoted Steele as saying that any intelligence, especially from Russia, is bound to carry intentional disinformation, but that Steele believes his dossier is “largely not disinformation.”
Both men deny giving the documents to BuzzFeed.
BuzzFeed’s legal arguments don’t rely primarily on the truth of the memos. Instead, they cast the dossier as something that was under review by multiple layers of government and thus subject to news coverage as an official document, whether true or not. Judges have decided to allow that argument.
BuzzFeed News spokesman Matt Mittenthal said “the fact that these allegations were being taken seriously at the highest levels of government was in itself a real story here.”
BuzzFeed’s lawyers have acknowledged that Gubarev’s involvement could have been tangential, simply “turning a blind eye” to wrongdoing by websites he hosted.
Even before the Steele dossier, a 2014 lawsuit filed against Gubarev’s company in Florida opened a window on how readily associates can become adversaries in the post-Soviet business world.
The suit, dismissed last year, was filed by Depicto Commercial Ltd., a little-known company registered in the British Virgin Islands. The company contended that it lent $627,000 to Gubarev’s business and that he failed to repay as agreed; Gubarev’s side contended it repaid what was owed.
The lawsuit identifies Depicto Commercial’s principal figure as Victor Lukashenko, a Belarusian digital services businessman.
Lukashenko spent time in prison in 2010-2012 in that former Soviet republic, according to his lawyer, Rolandas Tilindis. He said Lukashenko, who is now in hiding, was accused of improperly exchanging cryptocurrency for real money as a service to customers, not realizing the currency was the product of fraud.
Gurvitz, Gubarev’s lawyer, said his client “had absolutely no relationship” with Lukashenko beyond the loan.
The Depicto Commercial lawsuit gives little detail about that company. However, a company with that name has been identified in previously leaked corporate documents from the Bahamas, with a director named Emilios Hadjivangeli. Hadjivangeli runs a corporate services business in Cyprus, Gubarev’s home and a haven for well-to-do Russians and their money.
Hadjivangeli has been listed as an official for hundreds of companies. Many appear to be so-called shell companies, where wealthy Russians and others often list intermediary strawmen as executives to hide the actual ownership.
Hadjivangeli did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Gurvitz said that his client has never heard of Hadjivangeli and that there is no reason to believe that he or Lukashenko was involved in any way with the Steele dossier.

Does CIA Have A Plan to Kill the President?

Jerome Corsi, the old 2004 Swiftboater, is back with a new theory about how far the ‘deep state’ will go to destroy Donald Trump’s presidency. We bet you can guess what it is.
It is not difficult to conclude that we now have a conspiracy theorist as president of the United States. During Barack Obama’s presidency, Donald Trump promised to find proof that he was not born in the United States and claimed that he had sent people to Hawaii to find the evidence. If he really sent anyone, they never came back with the proof Trump expected. Then in March 2017, as president, he tweeted that Obama had ordered a wiretap on his phone at Trump Tower. That too was false.
Of late, Trump has engaged in several “tweetstorms” claiming that a conspiracy by the “Deep State” exists and is doing all it can to delegitimize his presidency and get him removed from office. Trump believes the Deep State was instituted by John Brennan, Obama’s CIA director, and includes all of the intelligence agencies. His latest claim is that before leaving office the Obama team planted an FBI spy in his campaign, tweeting a phrase his supporters would soon repeat: “SPYGATE could be one of the biggest political scandals in history!”
Contrary to being SPYGATE, it is becoming apparent that the FBI source (since exposed as academic Stefan Halper) was not put into Trump’s campaign for political purposes but was part of a legitimate counterintelligence operation investigating Russia’s election interference in the U.S. elections and involved three of his campaign aides, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, and Sam Clovis, whom Halper interviewed. Trump evidently believes that Halper’s interviews were an attempt to entrap his advisers to plant evidence about Russian collusion.
All of this is to be expected, because this is Donald Trump’s modus vivendi. What is more troubling, however, is that many intellectual Trump supporters are echoing the president and are making the same arguments. Roger Kimball, head of Encounter Books and editor of The New Criterion (for which I have written), argues like Trump that it was Brennan who put together a “working group… to stymie Trump’s campaign.”
He concludes that a “cabal of CIA and FBI operatives, including the director of the CIA, John Brennan, along with other members of the intelligence ‘community’ prominently including James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, and various members of the Obama administration, colluded to undermine Donald Trump’s campaign.” The cabal, he believes, still exists. Now, Kimball writes, this group has shifted to “a desperate attempt to destroy his presidency.”
“Up to this point, Corsi’s book reads as a rehash of all the claims regularly made daily about the conspiracy by Trumpists. But he takes this one original, and scurrilous, step further.”
Kimball gives Trump’s tweets intellectual credibility. He goes to the extent of writing that “What is being exposed is the biggest political scandal in the history of the United States: the effort by highly placed—exactly how highly placed we still do not know—members of one administration to mobilize the intelligence services and police power of the state to spy upon and destroy first the candidacy and then, when that didn’t work, the administration of a political rival.”
And another prominent intellectual, the distinguished historian Victor Davis Hanson, writes that “If there is such a thing as a dangerous ‘deep state’ of elite but unelected federal officials who feel that they are untouchable and unaccountable, then John Brennan is the poster boy.” He adds that “Brennan is typical of the careerist deep state.” They operate “the psychological tactic known as ‘projection.’ To square their own circles of lying, our so-called best and brightest loudly accuse others of precisely the sins that they themselves commit as a matter of habit.”
Of course, the real reason for this narrative is, as Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes write in Lawfare, “to protect the president from a properly predicated counterintelligence investigation involving the activity of an adversary foreign power.” What we now have is an assault on the very institutions whose members seek to protect us: the FBI, the CIA and other intelligence agencies.
And rather than protect sources who work for them and believe that their identities will be protected, the president and members of Congress, especially Devin Nunes, out their names—much in the same manner the far leftist rogue ex-CIA agent Philip Agee did in the 1960s, endangering the lives of many brave agents and individuals who cooperate with U.S. intelligence.
No one, however, has gone as far as Jerome R. Corsi, the self-proclaimed “investigative reporter” whose book during John Kerry’s presidential campaign, the “Swiftboating” of his Vietnam War record, badly damaged Kerry’s campaign, although the charges were false.
He is the same man who in 2012 wrote a column claiming Obama is a homosexual. This is the same Corsi who argued he had proof of Obama’s Kenyan birth, and that a pattern on a ring Obama wore proved that he was a secret Muslim. Corsi has a Ph.D. from Harvard and uses that credential to assert that his words have credibility.
Corsi is Washington correspondent for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ Infowars. Recently, he appeared on C-Span’s book show Afterwords, where he talked about his new book, Killing the Deep State. In a nutshell, here is how Corsi describes his thesis: “The central premise of this book is that President Trump is the target of a coup d’état being undertaken by the Deep State, including the CIA, NSA, and other intelligence agencies that maintain a commitment to a globalist New World Order.”
From the moment Trump won, Corsi believes the “deep state” promised to interfere with his presidency, beginning with the NSA and Brennan at CIA placing Trump under electronic surveillance. Brennan, along with John Podesta, Corsi claims, began the story about “Russian collusion” to delegitimize the campaign. Robert Mueller was made special counsel because he is “a partisan deep state operative with close ties to FBI Director James Comey.” The deep state, Corsi believes, is seeking to force Trump to resign. If that doesn’t work, it plans to move to “impeachment or a charge under the 25th Amendment that he is mentally incompetent.”
Up to this point, Corsi’s book reads as a rehash of all the claims regularly made daily about the conspiracy by Trumpists. But he takes this one original, and scurrilous, step further. Should that not work, he claims, the deep state operatives have one measure left to take, and that is “‘executive action’—a CIA plan to assassinate Trump… the deep state’s last resort.”
This Corsi book does not have a mainstream publisher, as one of his earlier ones did. Instead, it has been published by a book division of the far right-wing Newsmax, run by Trump’s friend Christopher Ruddy. The company is carrying on a campaign to push his book, sending out to its lists a 12-page magazine-size flier on its behalf.
The flier says the book proves that there is underway a “coup d’état to take out President Trump,” orchestrated by Obama and his lieutenants. The publisher claims that although the book is a best-seller, The New York Times made a decision to leave it off its list, although for one week it begrudgingly listed it, under pressure, as No. 15, the last number on the paper’s list.
Best-seller or not, Corsi’s narrative is a compendium of all the conspiracy theories put together and is bound to be a basic source for Trump’s defenders, who are taking out the crude edges and using his analysis as the standard for showing why Trump’s presidency must be defended at all costs against the nefarious deep state. In today’s polarized climate, the more that narrative is spread and adopted, the more it poses a serious threat to our democracy.

Saturday Special: Loser Takes All-The New Democratic Strategy

Did you know that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice technically work for the president?
In the current media environment, I would probably get dismissed as a partisan hack for making that statement. But I’m not making it up. The United States government exists because of the U.S. Constitution. And the Constitution specifies that there is exactly one person ultimately responsible for carrying out the federal laws of the United States: the president.
The executive branch of the government is established in Article ii, which states: “The executive power shall be vested in a president of the United States of America.” It establishes that the president, with Senate confirmation, appoints federal officeholders in executive departments for the purpose of assisting him in carrying out his duties. For “such inferior officers as they think proper,” Congress can forgo confirming the president’s appointments, leaving them to his discretion or to the heads of the executive departments or to the courts. Government officers are later mentioned briefly in the 14th Amendment (restricting Confederates from holding office), in the 22nd Amendment (concerning presidential disability), and hardly anywhere else. The Constitution is clear: The one in charge of the executive branch is the one who is elected by the people to be their president.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) and its Federal Bureau of Investigation are not independent entities with their own constitutional mandate. They came along later. (Establishment of the FBI, which began with an attorney general’s memo, was controversial since the founders specifically and intentionally avoided establishing a federal policing force.) Constitutionally, the DOJ and the FBI that it oversees are legitimate entities only because they are part of the executive branch, under the president. Their officers—even their department heads—are unelected bureaucrats. They are accountable to the people of the United States only by virtue of the fact they are appointed by an elected president who is accountable to the people.
Despite the fact that leftists want to leave the Constitution behind, they would probably be stridently making a lot of these same points—if it were President Barack Obama or a “President” Hillary Clinton who was engaged in a power struggle with the DOJ and the FBI. But the target of FBI political bias, investigations, spying and worse is Donald Trump. So never mind the Constitution. Just use whatever means necessary to take down the president.
A Law Unto Themselves
Michael Caputo was a low-level Trump campaign supporter, but because of the DOJ investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged contact with Russia, he has been hauled before committees and prosecutors that are seeking evidence of a crime. His legal fees alone have cost him more than his yearly salary. He insists he knows nothing about any Trump-Russia collusion. But that hasn’t stopped the various Russia collusion investigators from calling him up to be a witness.
In a prepared speech at the end of his testimony with the Senate Intelligence Committee, Caputo basically told the committee that they are ruining his life. He said: And I know I have you to thank for that. Here’s how I know: How many of you know Daniel Jones, former Senate Intelligence staffer for Sen. Dianne Feinstein? Great guy, right? Most of you worked with him. One of you probably just talked to him this morning.
Of course, very few of us in flyover country knew Daniel until recently. Now we know that he quit his job with your Senate Committee not long ago to raise $50 million from 10 rich Democrats to finance more work on the Fusion GPS Russian dossier. The one the FBI used to get a FISA warrant and intimidate President Donald Trump, without anyone admitting—until months after it was deployed—that it was paid for by Hillary Clinton.
Caputo went on to explain that since then, Jones has been raising money to “confirm the unconfirmable” in order to keep the Trump-Russia story in the news cycle.
So how does this process work? Take the story from several weeks ago about Michael Cohen meeting with Russians in Prague. Where did this story come from? Well, Caputo says that Jones would have “tried to sell that to reporters, and they didn’t buy it because it doesn’t check out. So, to get a reporter to write up his line … he gave the documents to the Office of Special Counsel.”
As soon as the Special Counsel has the “evidence,” that gives the news outlets a news hook that they can use to publish it:
Your pal Dan gave [the Special Counsel’s office] more of the Democrats’ dossier, funded by more Democrats, provided again by Russian and British spies. Information no reporter would write up, but now there’s an angle: the Special Counsel has it. Now it’s a story.
That’s exactly the same way it worked when James Clapper and James Comey fooled President Trump into being briefed on the Steele dossier so that the briefing could be used as a news hook for CNN and Buzzfeed. As Caputo said in his statement, “It’s a clever but effective ruse.” It doesn’t matter whether the information is true or not—all that matters is that it has been given to the Office of Special Counsel or the FBI, or that the president has been briefed on it. Then the news outlets have an angle on the story. They’re being briefed on it, so there must be some truth to it!
Take the Steele dossier as an example. Caputo said: “Of course, now we know [Michael] Isikoff’s reference to ‘intelligence reports’ was just him renaming a dossier funded by Democrats and dug up by his longtime pal Glenn Simpson and some foreign spies. Once Simpson gave his Clinton campaign opposition research to the feds, it was news.”
Once the feds get hold of it, it’s serious, it’s an investigation, and it must be factual. It’s all dressed up as Intel when it’s nothing more than salacious gossip and slanderous lies. “This was especially true after Isikoff intentionally labeled the campaign materials as intelligence—just like McClatchy called Dan’s information ‘evidence,’” Caputo said. It’s all in the wording!
Caputo then made a very good point: What America needs is an investigation of the investigators. I want to know who is paying for the spies’ work and coordinating this attack on President Donald Trump. I want to know who Dan Jones is talking to across the investigations—from the FBI to the Southern District of New York to the OSC to the Department of Justice to Congress.
Forget about all the death threats against my family. I want to know who cost us so much money, who crushed our kids, who forced us out of our home, all because you lost an election.
The Constitution has provisions for this kind of corruption. When a department appears to be overstepping its bounds, there are checks and balances written into the Constitution that show what to do. In this case, the FBI and DOJ are within the executive branch, so the president has every right to ask for information on ongoing investigations. And Congress has every right to ask either of these departments for documents to determine if they are going too far. It’s a constitutional obligation!
For months, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has refused to let Congress have non-redacted files about the Trump-Russia scandal. He says that the request is “extortion.” The Founding Fathers would have disagreed. Rosenstein and every other appointee and employee at the DOJ are unelected bureaucrats. Elected representatives in Congress have a constitutional right and duty to check and balance the executive branch, which includes the Justice Department. Rosenstein has been stonewalling Congress for months and now compares the constitutional duty of elected representatives toward his bureaucracy as “extortion.” According to him, it’s Congress that is abusing its power—not the DOJ.
In response, Republican Mark Meadows tweeted, “If he believes being asked to do his job is ‘extortion,’ then Rod Rosenstein should step aside and allow us to find a new deputy attorney general—preferably one who is interested in transparency.”
Congress is trying to investigate the investigators, but the investigators say, “You can’t investigate us! We’re above the law!” In their minds, the unelected bureaucrats of the Department of Justice are their own branch of government!
While claiming to uphold the Constitution and justice itself, these men are ignoring both. Mark Penn wrote at the Hill: This government within the government has now crossed a line that is unacceptable. By gaining the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Rosenstein stepped into the shoes of the attorney general, even though he was not appointed to that role by the president.
Now he believes he is above the law despite the myriad of conflicts he has ignored to authorize these unlimited investigations of the administration he supposedly serves.
These individuals at the top positions of the DOJ and FBI are assuming unconstitutional powers!
It is the president’s right to receive a full briefing of all ongoing investigations! If corrupt agents can withhold vital intelligence from the president, and even spy on him, what can they do to you?
We’re watching a frightening scenario play out. Who could have imagined something like this even just a few decades ago? Even in 2014, the secret FISA court was not really a court, but more of a rubber stamp. The judges almost always gave investigators the go-ahead. At that time, the court had received nearly 40,000 requests since its inception. It had turned down 11.
These commentators all say that the FISA court wouldn’t have approved the wiretapping of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page if there hadn’t been serious evidence of a crime. (Page still has not been indicted or convicted of a crime.) But does 11 out of 40,000 sound like an accountable institution insisting on serious evidence? Does approving surveillance of a presidential campaign based on unverified, salacious research produced by the opposing campaign sound like an accountable institution insisting on serious evidence?
Here’s another dimension. Take a look at the history of DOJ Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s right-hand man in the Trump investigation, Andrew Weissman. In 2017, the New York Times called him Mueller’s legal pit bull, because he had a history of hyperaggressive tactics that put people in jail. Sidney Powell at the Hill wrote in October 2017, “We all lose from Weissmann’s involvement. First, the truth plays no role in Weissmann’s quest. Second, respect for the rule of law, simple decency and following the facts do not appear in Weissmann’s playbook. Third, and most important, all Americans lose whenever our judicial system becomes a weapon to reward political friends and punish political foes.”
This is Mueller’s right-hand man? Weissman’s hallmarks appear to be on this investigation as well, as the probe has resulted in the early morning raid on Paul Manafort’s house and the raid on Michael Cohen’s house, office, hotel and safety-deposit box.
The previous administration assumed that Hillary Clinton would win the election. President Obama’s DOJ lawyers and FBI agents, who we now know was heavily biased toward Clinton, assumed their special treatment of Clinton and other unconstitutional decisions would be easily swept aside after she took office. But then Donald Trump won and threw a wrench into their plan. So now they’re going after him and anyone associated with him—even low-level Trump supporters like Caputo.
Caputo was caught in the crossfire and was made a casualty for the higher glory of deposing Donald Trump. “Clearly these lawsuits after the fact are the new Democratic strategy,” Caputo said. “When you lose, you still win.”
We are getting a hard look at just what the radical left is willing to do in order to seize power and stay in power. They have no respect for the rule of law! They believe they are above the law. They believe they ARE the law.

Turkish Neo-Sultan’s formula: A Dangerous Populist Recipe

The victory of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey’s presidential election is a milestone in the history of illiberal democracy. With this umpteenth win since he first came to power in 2003, Erdogan has reached a level of absolute control with few parallels in contemporary times.
Having methodically chipped away at constitutional checks and balances and tightened his grip over all levers of the state, the Turkish strongman is a classic right-wing populist who has mastered the art of accumulating endless authority through a well-honed bag of tricks.
A combination of factors underpins the Erdogan phenomenon and its longevity. Firstly, the Turkish leader is an Islamist who has carefully cultivated and energised devout rural Turks from the Anatolian heartland by appealing to their deeply felt grievances of being discriminated against by secular urban elites since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk formed the Turkish republic in 1923.
Turkey votes for illiberal democracy. Turkey’s voters have elected Recep Tayyip Erdogan as their leader, yet again, and given his party a near absolute majority in their legislature, ensuring extension of authoritarian rule in that country of eight crore people that straddles Asia and Europe. Last year’s changes to the Turkish constitution gives the president extraordinary executive powers, even to rule without a prime minister. In effect, President Erdogan has been given the powers of a sultan by his people, through the democratic exercise of elections.
The saving grace is that the voters have also given the party of the Kurdish minority about 11% of the votes, one percentage point more than the threshold for the right to take up seats in the legislature. Minority rights cannot be completely ignored, as their voice will be raised in the legislature. However, minority rights can still be curtailed, on the ground that the minority breeds terrorists and are anti-national elements. The attempted military coup in 2016, foiled by resolute action by the government, troops loyal to it and the people, who turned out in large numbers to defend democracy, brought with it widespread repression. Suspected coup-sympathisers have been purged from the judiciary, the civil service, the army, academia, the press, you name it. Many languish in jail, on some charge or the other. The media have acquiesced, the last independent voice was recently sold to a friend of the president.
Turkey joins Hungary and Poland in endorsing strongman politics, which focuses on the leader rather than on the working of the institutions of democracy. Erdogan’s re-election could weaken Nato and hasten crystallisation of a European political posture different from America’s. More definitively, it shows elections can produce illiberal democracy
The hoi polloi from the countryside had for generations felt marginalised by Ataturk and his successors’ military dominated and Western oriented policies. Erdogan, who himself grew up as a discarded ‘backward’ slum dog in Istanbul, has structured incentives in every sphere of socio-economic policy making over the last 15 years to benefit these pious Turks and raise their levels of dignity and political participation.
His Justice and Development Party (AKP) counts on the fealty of these formerly oppressed sections of Turkish society who adore the populist Erdogan for his relentless crusade of revenge against secular forces. But culture wars of ‘us’ God-fearing common folk against ‘them’ deracinated pro-Western upper class aristocrats are not sufficient for Erdogan’s machine to keep rolling over opponents election after election.
Under his rule, Turkey’s per capita income tripled and broadened beyond the mega cities and oligarchs who once owned all levers of the economy. Reducing the number of Turks living below the poverty line from 23% to just 2% and expanding the middle class is no mean achievement for a president who experienced privation and rose from the gutters.
While the mixture of religious revivalism and economic service delivery explain much of why Erdogan has been such a colossus, there is a third and most controversial element behind his repeated triumphs at the ballot box – extreme social polarisation along ethnic and sectarian lines.
Contrary to his self-proclaimed status as a great unifier and defender of the rights of the global community of Muslims, Erdogan has launched vicious military campaigns and crackdowns against Turkey’s Kurdish and Shia Alevi minorities with the instrumental goal of consolidating the ‘nationalist’ vote.
After 2011 he also enabled jihadist Sunni terrorists of various hues, including Islamic State, to assault the Shia regime of Bashar al Assad in Syria and fulfil Turkish nostalgia for the prestige of the Ottoman Empire which had colonised neighbouring Arabs for centuries. Once Erdogan’s early garb of a moderate and ‘zero problems’ diplomacy fell, what Turkey begat was a basket full of problems and conflicts with countries in the Middle East and the West.
This aggressive majoritarian strategy has been used more devastatingly in Erdogan’s later years as PM and president, especially when he is in danger of losing polls or facing internal obstacles. National unity has suffered irreparable loss because of his divide-and-rule game and Turkey has earned the hatred of adjoining Arab countries as a neo-imperial and meddlesome power.
But the new Sultan never cared for his plummeting international image and turned all the liberal criticism on its head, to convince his voting faithful there were myriad foreign conspiracies to sabotage his restoration of lost Turkish glory. His legendary oratory filled his loyalists’ hearts with so much hatred and disdain for all sorts of enemies that he himself cannot backtrack from the mode of perennial confrontation.
The journey of Erdogan holds a mirror to the political future of populists presently surging across the world. Populism sells not only via partisanship and rancour but also by promising uplift of the wretched of the earth. Populists who fail in economics cannot repeat Erdogan’s magic. Populists who do deliver economic goods and sideline independent institutions will flourish, even if it means tearing apart social fabrics and setting back democracy.

Weekend Special: ‘Bad Boys of Brexit’ forged ties with Russia

On Aug. 19, 2016, Arron Banks, a wealthy British businessman, sat down at the palatial residence of the Russian ambassador to London for a lunch of wild halibut and Belevskaya pastilla apple sweets accompanied by Russian white wine.
Banks had just scored a huge win. From relative obscurity, he had become the largest political donor in British history by pouring millions into Brexit, the campaign to disentangle the United Kingdom from the European Union that had earned a jaw-dropping victory at the polls two months earlier.
Now he had something else that bolstered his standing as he sat down with his new Russian friend, Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko: his team’s deepening ties to Donald Trump’s insurgent presidential bid in the United States. A major Brexit supporter, Stephen K. Bannon, had just been installed as chief executive of Trump’s campaign. And Banks and his fellow Brexiteers had been invited to attend a fundraiser with Trump in Mississippi.
Less than a week after the meeting with the Russian envoy, Banks and firebrand Brexit politician Nigel Farage — by then a cult hero among some anti-establishment Trump supporters — were huddling privately with the Republican nominee in Jackson, Miss., where Farage wowed a foot-stomping crowd at a Trump rally.
Banks’s journey from a lavish meal with a Russian diplomat in London to the raucous heart of Trump country was part of an unusual intercontinental charm offensive by the wealthy British donor and his associates, a hard-partying lot who dubbed themselves the “Bad Boys of Brexit.” Their efforts to simultaneously cultivate ties to Russian officials and Trump’s campaign have captured the interest of investigators in the United Kingdom and the United States, including special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
Both inquiries center on questions of Russia’s involvement in seismic political events that have shaken the world order, with the European Union losing a key member and U.S. voters electing a president critical of Washington’s traditional alliances.
In Britain, recent revelations about Banks’s Russian contacts have triggered scrutiny of whether the Russians sought to bolster the Brexit effort. In the U.S., congressional Democrats who recently obtained a trove of Banks’s communications have begun exploring a different question: Did the Brexit leaders serve as a conduit between the Kremlin and Trump’s operation?
Banks rejected the notion that he was a go-between, insisting his contacts were routine business and diplomatic exchanges — and that the investigations are a “witch hunt.” But he acknowledged that the interactions raised reasonable questions about whether the Brexiteers were “a back channel to the Russians,” as he put it.
“The only problem with all of that is that not one shred of evidence has been produced. . . . It doesn’t go anywhere,” Banks said in one of two interviews with The Washington Post in Bristol this week.
Asked whether Russians had been probing them or seeking to win influence or intelligence, Banks conceded, “They may have. But if so, it wasn’t a very good probe.”
Throughout the 2016 campaign, the wealthy insurance executive built a first-name rapport with the Russian ambassador as Banks briefed him on the breakaway campaign — exchanging frequent, chummy texts and emails, and meeting with him in person four times in about 12 months, according to Banks. At the same time, he and other Brexit backers also intently pursued entree to Trump’s world, according to interviews and dozens oAs both relationships deepened, Banks and his associates discussed Trump’s bid and the U.S. presidential campaign with Yakovenko, theBrexit backers acknowledge. At least two of the meetings between Banks and the ambassador came shortly before or after meetings with Trump.
In recent weeks, British parliamentary investigators have sought information about Banks’srelationship to Russia and allegations that he was offered financial inducements, including a potentially lucrative gold-mine deal with a Russian businessman he met through the Russian ambassador.
The interactions between the Brexit leaders and the Trump campaign have also drawn the interest of Mueller as part of his investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign, which is examining contacts between Trump associates and Russians.
Two people — former Trump communications official Michael Caputo and another person, who spoke on the condition of anonymitybecause of the ongoing investigation — told The Post that Mueller’s investigators asked about Farage’s relationship to Trump associates in witness interviews this year, including Caputo just last month.
A spokesman for the special counsel declined to comment.
Meanwhile, congressional Democrats are examining the role of the Brexit leaders after a whistleblower gave a cache of documents detailing Banks’s interactions with the Russian ambassador to members of the House Intelligence Committee earlier this month, according to three lawmakers on the panel.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the top Democrat on the committee, said he has questions about whether Banks and his associates “served as a conduit of information to and from the Russians on behalf of the Trump campaign.” Another committee member, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.) said the material “opens a whole new chapter” in the ongoing inquiry into Russian efforts to intervene in the 2016 U.S. election.
A White House spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. Bannon, who led Trump’s campaign in the final months of the 2016 race, declined to comment.
Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, said he was not aware of any questions from Mueller about the Brexit backers and had seen nothing about the topic in documents he has reviewed. “I never heard anything about the Russian ambassador [to London] nor have I ever talked to the president about this,” he said.
Farage and Banks said they have not been contacted by Mueller’s investigators and disputed the idea that they ferried information for the Trump campaign or the Kremlin.
“There seems to be a culture of throwing hysterical accusations around without any evidence whatsoever,” Farage said in an email response to questions.
Banks said he and his fellow Brexit leaders have sought to be transparent about their dealings with Russia. Shortly after Trump’s election, he said, they reached out to officials from the U.S. Embassy in London in the wake of a report suggesting they were pro-Russian actors.
Banks said he and Farage each met once with American embassy officials to describe their contacts. Their associate Andrew Wigmore said he sat down with U.S. diplomats five or six times and turned over numerous documents.
A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in London confirmed that leaders of the Brexit movement met with American diplomats, including Thomas E. William, a top political officer at the State Department, but declined to discuss the subject of the meeting.
Banks said he was releasing documents to The Post to show he has nothing to hide, and he said he would be happy to speak to Mueller.
“We had so much fun at a parliamentary select committee,” he said, referring to his recent appearance before British lawmakers. “We’d love to be called in.”The connections between the men who would become the Bad Boys of Brexit and Trump’s future inner campaign circle stretch back to 2013, when Farage said he first met Bannon — then at the helm of the far-right website Breitbart. The conservative media executive quickly bonded with the populist politician, who at the time was leading the UK Independence Party, an anti-immigration, make-Britain-great-again force that helped fuel a backlash against the European Union.
Soon, the Brexit leaders also began to forge Russian ties.
In the fall of 2015, during UKIP’sannual convention at the Doncaster racecourse several hours north of London, Wigmore, a Farage confidant, met a Russian diplomat named Alexander Udod, who then helped arrange alunch for the UKIP leaderswith the Russian ambassador, Yakovenko. (Udod was one of 23 suspected Russian intelligence officers ejected from Britain this year after the nerve agent attack against Sergei Skripal, a Russian double agent, and his adult daughter, in Salisbury in south England.)
Banks and Wigmore said they were interested not only in briefing the Russians on Brexit, but also in seeking possible Russian backers for their various offshore investments, including banana plantations in Belize.
In November 2015, the two men had what they describe as a “6-hour boozy lunch” at Yakovenko’s fashionable residence in London.
The two men briefed the ambassador on their Brexit plans, but Yakovenko seemed most interested in hearing stories about Wigmore’s father, who had been involved in one of the last Britain-Russia spy swaps, Banks said.
Over tea at the ambassador’s house a few days later,Yakovenko introduced Banks to a Russian businessman, who pitched him on a potentially lucrative merger of six gold mines. Banks passed on the opportunity, he said, months before the Brexit vote was scheduled.
“I’m a businessman. . . . Why wouldn’t I?” Banks said of his willingness to consider the deal, saying it had nothing to do with Brexit or Trump.

Goodbye, Cat Videos, Welcome Diplomacy

Two shots were seen around the world recently — the unlikely sight of US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shaking hands in Singapore, and the G-7 image of world leaders in a huddle. The G-7 photo was a play of perspectives: in the American version, Trump looked resolute and strong, the German photo had Angela Merkel showing him who’s boss, the French one focused on Macron’s forehead-furrowed thoughtfulness. Both pictures naturally set off a storm of memes.
But it makes you think: since when has an international summit become such a spectacle, such a bag of laughs for the rest of us? Foreign policy now involves memes and gifs — remember Israel’s recent “why are you so obsessed with me” Mean Girls putdown to Iran? International meets provide gossip and hot mic blunders, unscripted moments and mishaps — like what really was up with Justin Trudeau’s ‘fake’ eyebrows? Was Michelle really annoyed when Barack took selfies with the blonde Danish PM? Of course, the internet will devise entertainment out of anything — like the collection of state photos made into the mesmerising ‘Kim Jong Il looking at things’.
The chatter of social media, and the rise of unpredictable populists in many countries around the world, have brought a new drama to diplomatic affairs. International negotiation — once a formal, institutional, slow-moving and closed-doors matter — now looks like a running reality show.
Oh, it was ever thus, you foreign policy sophisticates might say. Diplomacy has always involved some theatre, script and signalling, right from the days of Cleopatra’s pageantry down the Nile. When Richard Nixon tried to look like an unstable madman to throw off the Soviet Union, when Bill Clinton stood nobly between Arafat and Rabin, and when Rajiv Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto laughed together.
The gaze of cameras has certainly changed the conduct of foreign affairs. It used to be called ‘the CNN effect’ — the way that TV coverage affected diplomatic stands, forcing the US government to intervene in humanitarian crises. It meant that governments everywhere adjusted to a more public diplomacy, anticipating and moulding media coverage.
But now, social media has added its own chaos to the mix. Trump tweets his thoughts aloud, to the consternation of diplomats. Aware of their watching voters, leaders use “the world stage” as a platform to magnify their own image. Meanwhile, we micro-assess everything. Heads of state are taken as stand-ins for their nations — Merkel, Netanyahu, Putin, Trudeau — and we see foreign affairs largely in terms of personality and optics and body language. The “chemistry” between leaders is observed as if it has implications for their countries. Once upon a time, Soviet-watchers would try to suss out secret power equations by observing who is seated where, whose designation is capitalised, and so on. Now, we do our own kind of Kremlinology, analysing Trudeau’s socks and Theresa May’s frocks for clues.
And why not? Deliverables are hard to quantify in diplomacy, so we might as well enjoy the show. In an earlier era, we might never have known of Trump’s killer handshakes which left Shinzo Abe cringing in pain, how he grappled with Trudeau, and lost to Macron, whose jaw clenched and knuckles went white, but whose determination did not flag. To seemingly assert dominance, Trump even made a show of brushing dandruff off Macron’s shoulder. Who needs wildlife videos, when bilateral meetings are so gripping?
Then there’s the whole genre of social slights and sick burns to world leaders, which the internet loves. Many Americans were gleeful when Poland’s first lady snubbed Trump, or when Japan’s first lady pretended not to speak English when he was around. Many Indians shared the video where Merkel seemed to evade Modi’s handshake.
No matter how slick your performance as a head of state, jeering by opposition parties is only to be expected. Your own photo-ops are likely to be thrown back at you — remember Rahul Gandhi reminding Twitter and Modi that “I wasn’t the guy sitting on a swing when a thousand Chinese troops had physically entered India”.
But this performative turn in international affairs isn’t just about the media or internet alone — it’s also about the dramatis personae themselves. Much of the world is now led by self-willed strongmen, who are repudiating their predecessors. Trump moonwalks out of global treaties, tears up deals he doesn’t like. Modi is charting his own confusing path with Pakistan and China. Former foes are drawing closer. Given this unpredictable environment, it’s only natural that we fall back on speculation.
“Getting a good picture, everybody? So we look nice and handsome and thin and perfect?” Trump asked photographers at the Singapore summit. Well, at least the pictures looked sharp, even if the outcomes are blurry.

India 2019- A Civilizational- State or a Coalition Country

Will India remain a civilizational-state, post 2019, or continue its march to a unitary, ethno-religious entity?
Coalitions imply transactional mechanisms which have been the essence of the Indian polity and which have been good for federalism and democracy because they limit concentration of power. Coalitions imply transactional mechanisms which have been the essence of the Indian polity and which have been good for federalism and democracy because they limit concentration of power.
Years ago, the late Ravinder Kumar, then Director of the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library, defined India as a civilisation-state, rather than a nation-state, because of its capacity to amalgamate into one coherent whole a large number of cultural influences. This approach — articulated by an historian in a longue durée perspective — has a clear political implication: India is also a coalition-state.
In contrast to some European countries or China, India has never been governed successfully in a centralised manner. During the few, ephemeral phases of unity that India experienced from the reign of Ashoka onwards, the sovereign had to build coalitions of regional satraps and maintain them through a constant bargaining process. The great Akbar spent half of his life traveling across the Mughal Empire to pacify mansabdars turned feudal lords to retain their support and resist the “fitna” syndrome.
Independent India inherited a centralisation legacy from the British Raj, including the steel frame that was the ICS. But when the country became a full-fledged democracy, Nehru had to build coalitions again. He did not travel as much as Akbar, but he sent letters to chief ministers every 15 days. These fortnightly letters showed the extent to which he had to negotiate with regional Congress bosses who not only were often at the helm of Pradesh Congress Committees, but also, after 1956, represented linguistic states that had their own identities. Nehru was against the redrawing of the Indian map according to linguistic criteria, but Mahatma Gandhi had already reorganised the Congress along these lines in the 1920s and state party bosses were adamant — Nehru had to fall in line.
That was a blessing in disguise from his own point of view because federalism and democracy took roots in the 1950s and 1960s also thanks to this power structure that reflected a coalition culture: The prime minister was primus inter pares who recognised the autonomy of the states. In fact, he had no other choice as he would have lost his support base otherwise. This arrangement found institutional translation in the making of the Planning Commission where state leaders met and negotiated under the aegis of the Centre — something the Niti Aayog has not replaced — and laws such as the Inter-State Water Disputes Act (1956).
It is when prime ministers have tried to emancipate themselves from coalitions that the quality of governance has suffered the most. The Indira Gandhi years are a case in point. She won the 1971 election by relating directly to the people, like any populist, and then short-circuited the local party leaders and indulged in overcentralisation. She appointed docile but incompetent chief ministers who were accountable to her alone and had hardly any support base. In the 1980s, she was so determined to rule each and every state, she wanted so much to win all local elections, that she took the risk of destabilising Assam, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir for years — and resorted to President’s Rule in an unprecedented manner.
Paradoxically, after a difficult transition of 10 years, India experienced more stability under coalition governments, from 1999 onwards. These coalitions were different from those of the 1950s-60s because they amalgamated different parties. But the NDA under Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the UPA under Manmohan Singh had one thing in common with the Nehruvian pattern: They forced the Centre to acknowledge the states’ autonomy because the BJP and the Congress depended upon regional forces. In Vajpayee’s NDA, there were 13 state parties; in the UPA, regional parties numbered between 11 and 14.
Coalitions imply transactional mechanisms which have been the essence of the Indian polity and which have been good for federalism and democracy because they limit concentration of power. Coalitions do not include parties representing only provinces, but also social groups. It is more difficult for the Centre to ignore OBCs or minorities when it depends upon parties claiming that they are their spokespersons in the ruling coalition.
One may argue that India cannot afford a coalition government because it needs reforms and strength in a complicated international environment. But some of the most difficult decisions and some of the most ambitious reforms have been implemented by coalition governments since 1991 and the economic liberalisation. Under Vajpayee, the nuclear test was a critical move that was not prevented from happening by the fact that the NDA gathered together more than a dozen parties. UPA I and even UPA II offer a rich report card: The 123 agreement was ratified with the US by a jumbo coalition, India joined the BRICS in the first year of UPA II and became a key member of this new grouping of emerging countries, the Special Economic Zones Act, liberalisation of the FDI policy (regarding retail or financial sectors), reservation of 27 per cent seats in universities for OBCs, Right to Information Act, NREGA, Lokpal Act, Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act. All these reforms were made by coalition governments supported by more than a dozen parties. The policies of coalition governments tend to be more socially inclusive, precisely because the coalitions supporting them comprise a wider array of groups and communities.
But opponents of coalition politics may reject it in spite of its effectiveness — for ideological reasons. Coalition politics may be problematic, in their view, because it implies a recognition and promotion of the country’s territorial and cultural diversity. Hindu nationalists have traditionally considered that India is one and should have a unitary state. In the 1950s, the Organiser fought against the redrawing of the Indian map along linguistic lines. For RSS leaders, that was bound to give birth to mini nations. They believed in Savarkar’s definition of India as a punyabhoomi — how can a sacred land be divided according to cultural lines?
This approach reflects another idea of India, other than the one presented by Sunil Khilnani and before him, Ravinder Kumar, in terms of a civilisational state. In fact, the Hindu nationalist idea of India is more in tune with the European idea of a nation-state rooted in the exclusivist triad, “One country, one culture, one people”. This is not surprising, given the fact that key ideologues like M S Golwalkar cited European (mostly German) authors in the books and articles they wrote in the inter-war period.
The 2019 elections will be an important moment to see whether India can remain a civilisational state cultivating coalition politics as a way to perpetuate the “unity in diversity” formula the federalist way, or it will continue its recent march towards a unitary, ethno-religious state.

For Whom the Bell Tolls in South China Sea

The developments in the South China Sea are pushing the region towards the distinct possibility of a conflict. With little resistance from the International Community, China continues to alter the strategic environment in the South China Sea with the aim of establishing its hegemony in the region through power projection and expansion.
Two recent actions of China (in May and June 2018) have created a highly perilous situation. First, China has accelerated the process of militarisation of the region by deploying highly advanced missile systems on the Spratly Islands. Earlier, China had deployed military jamming equipment designed to disrupt communication and radar systems of other countries in the region.
Second, China’s recent military drill meant to destroy the foreign aircraft flying in the vicinity of its “out-posts” reflects the Chinese determination in this regard. In the past, China had tried to intercept the US aircraft flying in the region.
The deployed advanced missiles have been identified as YJ-12B anti-ship cruise missiles that give the Chinese military the ability to hit ships within 295-340 miles—enough to target US warships that frequently transit the waters in conducting freedom of navigation operations. These missiles are reported to be on four features-Woody, Fiery, Mischief and Subi.
The Missile Defense Alliance (the US based non-partisan organisation) describes this missile as ‘the most dangerous anti-ship missile China has produced thus far.’ There are three distinct features of this missile that gives it advantage over the US defensive systems.
First is its speed. It has the ability to travel at high rates of speed (up to Mach 3). Second is its range. In combination with the Chinese Flanker fighters, it can hit targets as far as 1180 miles. And the third is its manoeuvrability. It is capable to take cork-screw-like turns which would allow it to evade any attack in the final phase.
The US systems like Aegis Combat Systems and SM-2 surface-to-air missiles used for the protection of US carrier strike group ships would find it difficult to identify and engage them. Earlier, China had deployed air defence missiles (HQ9 A and HQ 9B) on these islands.
According to some sources, the new missiles have replaced the old ones, while some other sources say that the new missiles are in addition to the old ones.
The drill was reported to have taken place in June 2018. The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during his visit to Beijing on June 14, 2018, reaffirmed the US concerns about the “building and militarising of outposts in the South China Sea”. Following his visit, the South China Sea Morning Post citing PLA Daily, reported that PLA-Navy practised its responses to an aerial attack on islands in the South China Sea.
Chinese forces targeted three unmanned aerial vehicles flying in formation “at varying heights and directions” as part of efforts to improve the force’s fighting ability. This is reported to be in response to the US military’s nuclear-capable B-52 flyover earlier on June 6.
The recent deployment of advanced missiles in the region and the drill are aimed at enhancing anti-access and anti-denial capabilities by China. The “objective of placement of these weapon systems is tied to military use for the purpose of intimidation and coercion” to quote US Defense Secretary James Mattis. These are worrisome actions by China and could raise substantially the tension in the region.
A look at the developments suggest that so far China has not encountered any united opposition to its expansionist designs. China has made creeping but transformative encroachment in the South China Sea without attracting any strong reactions from the International Community.
This factor has encouraged China to continue with its ‘salami tactics’ to expand in the region. Its audacious efforts to change the geographical features by creating artificial islands and placing its weapon systems have received only verbal criticism.
The counter actions by US are not sufficient to deter China. The US actions have so far included ‘disinvite to the People’s Liberation Army Navy to the 2018 Rim of the Pacific Exercise’, making some diplomatic engagements to suggest its anxiety over the developments in the region and carrying out ‘freedom of navigation’ operations.
The US attempts are merely aimed at ensuring the passage of its ships and aircraft. The problem is different. It is the Chinese creeping occupation of the features and creation of islands. The solution for this lies in compelling China to stop encroachment and implement the International Tribunal’s judgement.
In the absence of any effective strategy by International Community in general and by US in particular, the increasingly defensive other disputants have sought to make peace with Beijing.
Today the Philippines have forgotten about the PCA’s judgement and others are manoeuvring to remain at peace with China. The lone voice is of Vietnam which raises the issue. But ASEAN as a group is only mildly making references to the militarisation and the PCA’s judgement.
China has military and economic power to change the strategic balance. This factor must be kept in view to understand the urgency to address this issue. If the objectives of the Indo-Pacific strategy of enhanced connectivity between Asia and Africa to promote stability and prosperity across the region, China’s efforts to control the entire South China Sea region would have to be dealt with firmly and unitedly.

Marking your expiry date

As I plan to go to the hospital tomorrow, I am ruminating.  Everything in nature has an expiry date. Even the sun. Talk to an astrophysicist and they will tell you when the sun will eventually die. Nothing lasts forever. We know that. Yet, culture is all about ‘built to last’. The obsession with defying mortality, defying nature, being immortal is at the heart of human madness. It is what destroys society and ideology and relationships.
The richest man in the world, the most powerful technocrats of the world, are going to die, even if they are being treated by the best dieticians and gym trainers and doctors. Have they imagined a world after them? Do they imagine a world where they are not remembered at all? Do they accept that the world does not really need them? Are they okay with invalidation?
Not if you follow American schools of management, where it is all about having a dream, a purpose, and leaving behind a legacy. For all our scientific temper, despite historical evidence that some of the greatest empires in the world have collapsed, that emperors have been forgotten, that scientists and their great inventions are no longer meaningful, management gurus still harp of the fiction that of immortality and permanence. For they serve the mortal man’s anxiety, rather than helping us transcend it.
Death, or expiry date, is at the heart of spirituality. Death makes us question the meaning of life, and hence makes us seekers. We turn to holy books and holy men, to gods and prophets, we value ambition and achievement and success. Death makes us anxious. Take away death, usher in immortality, and why would there be stress, for a world without death would be a world without change, without time, without memory or its loss.
It is our obsession with death and therefore questions of immortality that shape the religions of the world. In Abrahamic religions, the solution offered is not to think, just follow the rules, and trust God, who is permanent. In Karmic religions, the monks speak of transcending death through introspection and meditation or surviving through children and family name. The ancient Greeks and Romans genuinely believed that achievement ensures immortality. Bards sing your legacy forever. And this Greco-roman ‘pagan’ thought is at the heart of the American dream – the desire to be a hero who does the impossible despite odds and opposition. It’s the classic rags-to-riches story in Hollywood.
In Hinduism, the concept of expiry date was acknowledged through the concept of ashrama-dharma. Everyone speaks of varna-dharma or India’s ubiquitous caste system, but everyone seems to have forgotten the other half of this system: one that acknowledged that expiry date of your caste, as well as your life. After training (brahmacharya or student), everyman was supposed to do his duties and enjoy caste privileges only till his grandson was born (grihastha or householder). Then he had teach his grandchildren his skills (vanaprastha or retired) ashrama and when they grandchildren had children of their own, he had renounce the world (sanyasa or hermit), free of caste duties and shorn of caste privileges, ready to accept death, having supported life.
In modern corporate management, it means the talent pipeline – not just aspiring to be a CEO (phase 1), or being a CEO (phase 2), but preparing the next CEO (phase 3) and then living without the glamour of the CEO, knowing that every position is temporary, hence a seductive delusion, like life itself. But to let go of a powerful corporate role is tough. Once we have tasted fame and power it is difficult to let go. And it is to stay relevant even after retirement that those government servants, even judges, it is whispered, become more corrupt as the end of term approaches.

DeWashingtonization Needs Questioning

We heard of Destalinization, of DeMaoism and so on, but the sneaky quiet process of demystifying the Founding Father of the US has slowly, but assuredly, taking place and there is nary a talk about it.
In so many ways, George Washington was the founding father of the United States. He was a national hero, a war veteran, and a victorious general. He sacrificed everything for his country. He was unanimously chosen to preside over the Constitutional Convention and was the first to sign the United States Constitution in 1787. He was the only president to lead an army into battle as commander-in-chief. He was the only person to be unanimously elected president, and the electoral college unanimously elected him twice.
He was also a slave owner. And for many people in America today, that fact is the only one that matters. Prager University released a video on April 22 about a study it conducted on the George Washington University campus, asking students whether they thought the name of the university should be changed.
The interviewer asked one young man, “What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say ‘George Washington’?” He replied, “I think about him owning slaves.”
That’s the first thing that comes to mind? This is George Washington we’re talking about. This student doesn’t immediately think “founding father,” “national hero,” “sacrifice,” “Constitution,” “commander-in-chief” or “first president.” He thinks “slave owner”?
After three hours of talking to students all over campus, Prager University found that a shocking 70 percent of the George Washington University students they polled thought the name of their institution should change. These are students not at the University of Missouri or the University of California–Berkeley but at George Washington University!
David McCullough wrote in his book 1776, “Without Washington’s leadership and unrelenting perseverance, the revolution almost certainly would have failed.” In other words, were it not for Gen. George Washington, there would be no United States of America.
However, this is something many today would rather conveniently ignore, instead of honoring the man who is perhaps more responsible than any other single individual for making their freedoms possible. This willful ignorance of history is appalling.
The website for Mount Vernon, Washington’s beloved home, highlights 10 facts you should know about our first president. One of those facts is that, of the 12 presidents who owned slaves before or during their administrations, Washington is the only slave-owning president who freed all of his slaves. According to his will, the 123 slaves that he was responsible for would be freed upon his wife’s death. He wrote to a friend in 1786, “I never mean, unless some particular circumstance should compel me to it, to possess another slave by purchase, it being among my first wishes to see some plan adopted by which slavery in this country may be abolished by law”
This is the little-reported truth of the American founding. The founders considered slavery an evil; most of them considered it a necessary evil and, as Abraham Lincoln said, they placed it “in the course of ultimate extinction.” They feared the political, economic and societal problems of outlawing slavery immediately, but took major steps to restrict and ultimately starve out what Lincoln called the “rattlesnake” of slavery. Prior to independence, colonial legislators tried but failed to ban the importation of slaves. After independence, states began restricting and eliminating the slave trade and slavery on their soil, not on economic grounds (many found it financially advantageous to own unpaid workers), but on moral grounds. Virginia, whose economy relied more heavily on slavery than northern states, passed a law in 1782 allowing manumission (voluntary freeing of slaves), which many used to free thousands of slaves. In 1784, Thomas Jefferson led an effort in Congress to outlaw slavery in all western territories. It failed to pass—by one vote.
Congress also passed the landmark Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Article 6 of that ordinance states, “There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory ….” This law provided for the return of fugitive slaves, but slavery itself was outlawed in the land that eventually became Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and part of Minnesota.
And this law was introduced by a motion by Virginia (which gave up its claims to land in the Northwest Territory), a slave state, and it was led by Thomas Jefferson, a slaveholder!
All this before the United Sates even adopted the Constitution in September 1787. The country was 11 years old. (The Constitution itself, notably, includes a compromise with slavery. But as Lincoln noted, it conspicuously avoids using the term so that when slavery was ultimately abolished, it would remain as unpolluted as possible by the term.)
Slavery had been a widespread practice around the world, but the men who took the bold step of founding a completely new type of republic took the largely unprecedented step of attempting to gradually abolish slavery. Benjamin Franklin owned slaves, but voluntarily freed them and helped found the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. John Jay owned slaves but tried to abolish slavery in New York the very next year after America won its independence and founded the anti-slavery New York Manumission Society. Alexander Hamilton did not own slaves but some of his work with companies and individuals dealt with slaves: He helped found the New York Manumission Society and the African Free School in New York City. James Madison, James Monroe, George Mason and others owned slaves but worked to end the practice. (Many founders did not own slaves.) All sates except one banned the trans-Atlantic slave trade before 1800. Congress outlawed it nationwide in 1807. At that point the country was only 31 years old.
You would think that George Washington University students would understand—or at least be familiar with—this history. But instead they are trained: Hear “Washington,” think “slavery.”
George Washington University was founded in 1821 by an act of Congress. According to gwu’s website, the university’s goal was to “fulfill the vision of our first president and now namesake’s vision that our nation’s capital be an educational center to prepare leaders.” That was clearly written at a time when America took pride in the legacy of its preeminent founder. In 2018, however, the institution’s own students want to erase that history.
That’s why you see campaigns all over the U.S. to pull down statues and stamp out that history. The controversy last summer in Charlottesville, Virginia, saw demonstrators for and against removing a Robert E. Lee statue. One man who supported keeping the statue drove his car into a crowd, killing a woman and injuring more than a dozen. In addition to him, however, as President Donald Trump said at a press conference at the time, there were violent thugs on both sides at the Charlottesville protests.
At that press conference, President Trump also said: “So this week, it is Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”
One reporter shouted out, “George Washington and Robert E. Lee are not the same!” But President Trump responded, “Well now, George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? … Are we going to take down statues of George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? … Are we going to take down his statue because he was a major slave owner? … You’re changing history. You’re changing culture.”
He was right. President Trump had the prescience to see where this trend was going. But at the time, the press jumped on those comments, taking the opportunity to ridicule the president for his “ignorance.” The Washington Post published a mocking piece on Aug. 16, 2017, titled “No, Mr. President, Washington and Jefferson Are Not the Same as Confederate Generals,” which said:
To make an equivalency between two of the Founding Fathers and Confederacy leaders is not only “absurd,” but also “unacceptable for the president of the United States,” said Jim Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association. …
Douglas Blackmon, an author and senior fellow at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, said Trump either does not understand the history of the Confederacy or he’s sympathetic to white nationalist views. “It’s the difference between a monument to the founder of our nation, and a monument to a key figure in an effort to break apart the nation,” Blackmon said. “The most kind explanation of that can only be ignorance, and I don’t say that to insult the president.”
To suggest that association with slavery is the only criteria on whether a historical figure should be honored is an equally faulty argument, Blackmon said, because one would be hard-pressed to find any 18th- and 19th-century leader of great consequence to American life who never owned slaves.
Do you think the Washington Post will come out now and talk about how ignorant 70 percent of the students at George Washington University are for equating Washington with slavery? It seems to me that Donald Trump was right to ask, Where does this end?
Just a few days after that press conference with the president, the Washington Times and the Federalist ran articles pointing out cases that backed up the president’s comments. Even in August 2017, some high-profile leftist commentators were talking about getting rid of the Jefferson Memorial and Mount Rushmore. And now we see that students at George Washington University are on board seven against three in a campaign to literally erase George Washington’s name and history.
For as much as the media hates President Trump, he did point out the obvious. He had the foresight to see where it was going. In California recently, it was a statue of President McKinley that was targeted, because his history offends Native Americans. What’s next? How about the name of Washington, D.C.? How about renaming all the major memorials there after someone else or some sort of vague sentiment?
You would think that if any historical figure would be untouchable, even for radical leftists, it would be George Washington. But our nation’s founders, up to and including Washington, are all targets. We are now seeing the results of what professors and teachers have been teaching their students inside the halls of American universities, colleges, high schools and grade schools. It shows just how truly ignorant Americans are regarding America’s imperfect but inarguably noble history.
Look at the personal history of this founding father—this man who was devoted to the “sacred fire of liberty,” who realized that “the destiny of the Republican model of government” was “finally staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people,” as he said in his inaugural address. He realized that what he was doing as the pioneering leader would resound for generations. He knew that he was setting precedent for how presidents would act for the rest of the existence of America. And he set that precedent in politics, in morality and in character.
Today, many young Americans want to erase the precedents and legacies of Washington and others. They want to start something new and different. They don’t see him as the “indispensable man,” as one historian called him. All that they see when they look at George Washington is slavery.
There are a small few who still hold onto this history. One of those students questioned by Prager University about whether or not gwu should change its name answered, “Absolutely not. … This is one of our Founding Fathers. … If we forget liberty if we forget the intrinsic nature behind the founders’ philosophy of liberty, then what exactly do we have?” That is a probing question worth considering—for that student’s classmates and for young Americans across the country.

Trump- The Knight in Shining Armor- to Rescue Democracy-A Broken System

It has almost become a ritual to see the half-demented paid lackeys of liberals- called journalists-to decry Trumpian nationalism and the president’s methods of rousing mass opinion against the governing elites as indicative of the destruction, self-destruction in fact, of a society born of democratic enlightenment. We all take polemical liberties sometimes and I think the victory of Trump and his gradual success in the principal areas he has focused on — economic growth, deregulation, tax reduction and reform, regularization of immigration, nuclear non-proliferation, equitable burden-sharing in the Western alliance, reduction of the trade deficit and oil imports, and withdrawal from ecological measures based on fear of global warming — are strong evidence of the strength of enlightened democracy in the United States.
I will concede that the rescue process under this administration is inelegantly conducted at times, but rarely in recent American history has substance been so overwhelmingly more important than style. I believe that Jonah Goldberg and others who might be expected to approve most of the policy initiatives and results of the Trump presidency are unduly preoccupied with mere appearances, optics, and atmospherics. When Trump has departed the White House, if he has sharply stimulated economic growth, drastically reduced poverty and illegal immigration and the trade deficit, reduced the crime rate, reconstructed the Western alliance or at least eliminated its addiction to collective fantasy, and kept nuclear weapons out of the hands of completely untrustworthy regimes, perceived stylistic infelicities will be irrelevant and quickly forgotten.
The system Trump attacked had largely broken down. Apart from the leftward shift of the Obama interregnum, which was generally frustrated by a Republican Congress, a Bush-Clinton tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum had passed executive authority back and forth between themselves and was cranked up to do it again with Jeb and Hillary until Donald Trump mounted the stage and interrupted the play. After the indiscriminate militarism of George W. Bush’s seeking to plant democracy on stony ground, and the feckless pacifism of Obama, American foreign policy was in shambles. The resigned acceptance of a perpetually colossal trade deficit was essentially the result of American toleration of being hosted by largely disreputable and uncompanionable OPEC countries, unfair-traders led by China, and the supposed necessity of carrying the Western European allies on America’s back. The Obama climate policy would have been an act of singular self-punishment for the benefit of largely corrupt and flaccid under-developed countries, rewarding them for their backwardness like welfare addicts. Hillary Clinton would have continued this, and the Bush-Romney-McCain Republicans would have been only marginally preferable in policy terms, though probably less grating personally than a Hillary Clinton regime. (Senator McCain is rightly indulged, given his distinguished service and tenuous medical condition; without those mitigations, his public conduct in the last two years would qualify him as a public nuisance.)
The country was in stasis after 20 years of chronic misgovernment: debt-ridden, economically flat-lined on a per capita basis, ineffectual in the world after a horrible economic debacle, the generation of chaos in the Middle East, and an immense humanitarian refugee crisis, all thanks chiefly to legislative and executive blunders in Washington by both parties.
The Trump success, electorally, and so far in policy terms, has been the success of sound, sensible, rather conservative policy dressed up in populist terms.
because it was the only way to clear out the clogged, failed, self-feeding incumbent elites. Trump is arresting the slide to the mortal atomization of society. Donald Trump is proof of the vitality, even imperishability, of a democratic and free-enterprise system, not of its weakness and impending doom. The disgraceful and largely illegal promotion of the malicious scam of Trump-Russian collusion will enable the president to sweep out the stables with a bulldozer — if his defeated enemies had just given him a normal presidential honeymoon, he would not have bothered them. Now, as I have written before, their crimes will be punished.
In this sense of renovation, the Trump phenomenon bears some resemblance to the New Deal. Of course, aspects of the New Deal were too regimental and tax rates were raised excessively, because of Roosevelt’s concern about third-party demagogues such as Huey Long, Father Coughlin, and Francis Townsend. But the entire economic system had collapsed when Roosevelt was inaugurated, including the banks and stock and commodity exchanges. Twenty-five to 30 percent of the work-force was unemployed, and there was no direct federal relief for them. Roosevelt’s program earned about a solid 67 percent grade as policy (almost none of it was repealed by Eisenhower, Nixon, or Reagan). But it was a near-perfect score for catastrophe-avoidance. The failings of the recent welfare system can’t be laid on Roosevelt — he was for workfare and put the unemployed to work for the public good at bargain rates. Roosevelt would be horrified to see what he wrought transmogrified into taking money from those who earned it and giving it to those who haven’t, almost irrespective of merit, in exchange for their votes, even to the point of admitting millions of foreign peasants illegally and taking no great pains to prevent them from voting. It could not go on and it will not, but it would have under the Bush-Clinton-Obama triad, however unceasing the evasive bunk about “comprehensive immigration reform.”
The real danger will be if it appears, not the decline of religious practice, which is much commented upon, but the growth of public indifference to the Judeo-Christian tradition of the sacred value of life, and an insufficient regard for a notion of a superhuman spiritual intelligence. Such regard must remain strong enough to dissuade people from imagining that they themselves are the gods. Alexander the Great and Julius and Augustus Caesar were complicit in their own proclamation as deities; they were very great leaders but not at all gods. Even President Trump’s greatest admirers are unlikely to accuse him of the fault of excessive modesty, but he respects that absolute core of our civilization. That cannot be said with the confidence of some of his more vociferous critics. An agnostic doffing of the cap to religion as useful for public morale, as both James Burnham and Jonah Goldberg have made, is the real recipe for the suicide of our civilization that they commendably have sought to help avoid.


Sunday Special: Comprehending Juche-the State Ideology that Makes North Koreans revere Kim Jong Un

Juche, which roughly translates as “self-reliance,” is an odd blend of several different ideas. It borrows much of its language from Marxism but also draws on Confucianism, 20th-century Japanese imperialism, and traditional Korean nationalism. Its core idea is that North Korea is a country that must remain separate and distinct from the world, dependent solely on its own strength and the guidance of a near-godlike leader.
The doctrine’s meaning has shifted over time, depending on the needs of the North Korean leadership. It’s not actually clear how much of it North Korea’s leadership actually believes and how much of it is simple propaganda. But experts on North Korea believe that the country’s indoctrination into juche ideology is profound and deep, with an unknown-but-significant number of ordinary North Koreans actually believing its loopiest claims.
There are some things about North Korea, as a society and government, that seem almost too strange to be believed. It’s a country where thousands of people celebrate their weddings in front of a statue of its first leader, Kim Il Sung, as a kind of quasi-religious ritual. It is an official belief that the state’s second leader, Kim Jong Il, invented the hamburger (or “double bread with meat,“ as it‘s referred to there). Under Kim Jong Un, the North Korean government has claimed to have developed a wonder drug that can cure both AIDS and Ebola.
North Korea’s repressive government survives in no small part because it has convinced its people of the legitimacy of its government. As hard as it may be for Americans to grasp, millions of North Koreans appear to truly believe their government’s pronouncements. And the tool the state has used to convince of them of these ideas is a unique official philosophy called “juche” (pronounced JOO-chay).
“Of course they [believe it],” says David Kang, a North Korea expert at the University of Southern California. “I always object to putting in terms such as brainwashing, because every society has rituals and cultures and norms and values … when they’re very clear, and everyone else is doing them, you just do it too.”
Grappling with juche, as well as Kim Jong Un‘s innovation on its core ideas, is actually quite important to grasping what Kim wants from the world. And it helps explain why Kim is suddenly trying to play nice with both President Donald Trump and the world.
North Korea’s ideas may be weird. But that’s doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take them seriously.
Juche turns Kim into a godlike figure
From its inception, juche has meant more or less whatever the North Korean government needed it to mean.
In the 1950s, North Korea was in a tough situation both politically and economically. It was a poor Marxist country located near the world’s two largest socialist states: the Soviet Union and China.
Those two countries didn’t always see eye to eye. But Pyongyang couldn’t afford to alienate either of them by seeming to align itself more with one than the other; as a result, it couldn’t fully adopt the Soviet Union’s Stalinist ideology, nor could it take up China’s Maoism.
It also was a young country, with a dubious claim to legitimacy — it was one half of the formerly united Korea — and its new leader actually grew up in the Soviet Union. Juche, as developed by Kim Il Sung and his cronies, was designed to solve both of these problems.
The initial juche ideal of “self-reliance” centered on three elements: ideological autonomy, economic self-sufficiency, and military independence from imperial influence. These ideas were never implemented literally — North Korea‘s economy depended heavily on aid from the Soviets, in particular — but were useful diplomatically. By elevating autonomy as an ideal over all things, North Korea could claim to be fully aligned with neither the Soviets nor the Chinese.
Domestically, juche served to connect Kim Il Sung and the nascent North Korean state to ideas that would resonate with ordinary Koreans. It paired the Marxist language of the country’s communist patrons with traditional Korean nationalism, arguing that South Korea was not a legitimate government because it was the tool of imperialist-capitalist foreign powers like the United States.
It also developed a doctrine of Korean racial purity, drawing on historically Korean beliefs and language used by Japanese imperialists, to argue against opening up to the global economy. Even today, North Koreans are still taught that the first humans emerged there, and that part of the reason they’re superior to other countries is that they’ve preserved their purity while others have become mongrels.
Perhaps most interestingly, juche modified a traditional Confucian doctrine — that human beings can transform the world if they possess the correct mindset — to explain why Kim Il Sung deserved the Korean people’s respect. Juche holds that the only the possessor of truly correct consciousness is the “suryong” (leader) of North Korea. Kim was so uniquely gifted, so incredibly accomplished, that the only way to make one’s life better was to align your own will with that of the suryong’s.
“Human beings don’t need God. They now have the Kim family,” as Don Baker, a scholar of Korean philosophy at the University of British Columbia, summarizes it.
This is why North Koreans visit statues of Kim Il Sung when they get married, and why North Korean state propaganda attributes nearly divine power to its leaders (both Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un have reportedly altered the weather on the country’s quasi-sacred mountain, Mt. Paektu, simply by visiting it).
Juche ideology demands total fealty to the leader. But to convince people they also owe fealty to the state required something even more profound than a cult of personality around the Kims: a set of rituals and beliefs that amounted to a form of religion. State media literally refers to the tomb where Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are interred as the “the sacred temple of juche.”
Because North Korea has such tight controls over the information its people get, most of them have no way of knowing that their state religion isn’t exactly supported by the facts. There is no such thing as an independent media in North Korea, aside from what people can glean from secretly consuming foreign media. With citizens completely in the dark about the world, dependent almost wholly on state-run media for information, it’s quite easy to convince people that the Kim family can perform nearly divine feats.
The vagueness of juche as a political philosophy — self-reliance can mean practically anything — combined with media control and the elevation of the suryong to near-divine status serves to give the Kims incredible policy flexibility. The policies that are necessary to achieve “self-reliance” are entirely up to the will of the member of the Kim family in power.
“I don’t think it’s a series of precepts, like a Bible or something,“ says Kang. “Juche is some kind of loosy-goosey thing that can be deployed however the leader wants.”
You saw this very clearly under Kim Jong Il’s rule. After the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, North Korea lost its primary source of food aid, which led to a massive and devastating famine. So Kim Jong Il developed an addendum to traditional juche, which he called songun (or “military first”).
Songun held that to be self-reliant and independent, North Korea needed a strong military first and foremost. This served as the state’s justification for feeding soldiers before ordinary citizens, something Kim needed to do to avoid risking a military coup.
Songun also served to justify the state’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. Though its nuclear program incurred international condemnation and sanctions that hurt the economy, Kim argued that it was worth it in order to secure the state’s military independence. The Korean people had to suffer for the Korean nation to survive.
Songun didn’t supersede juche, which remains the official state ideology. Instead, it’s more like an interpretation of its doctrines — one tailored to fit the needs of the North Korean government at the time.
Why juche matters for understanding the Trump-Kim diplomacy
Given the fundamental vagueness of juche, and the way it changes based on what the regime requires, it’s tempting to say that juche is mostly irrelevant to North Korean politics.
But the North Korea experts I spoke to say this isn’t quite right. How the current suryong interprets juche, and the ways he explains its precepts to his people, is actually quite significant.
“Every ideology is malleable,” John Ishiyama, a political scientist at the University of Texas, tells me. “There are, however, parameters.”
In 2013, Kim Jong Un‘s second year in power, he developed his own school of juche thought — “byungjin” (“side by side”). The basic idea of byungjin was dual-track development: building up the economy and the military equally, without prioritizing one over the other. This was an abandonment of songun, though Pyongyang would never put it in those terms, in favor of a renewed emphasis on economic development.
Once Kim announced the byungjin line, actual economic development became vitally important. While his father and grandfather argued that Koreans needed to suffer for the nation to survive, thus allowing the economy to remain stagnant, Kim Jong Un argued that the North Korean people deserved higher living standards.
All of a sudden, the basic legitimacy of juche is bound up in the state actually delivering on its economic promises. Even a controlled media architecture can’t convince people that they aren’t starving when they are.
“He’s telling his people a story: I care about you, and you should not be hungry anymore,” Kang, the USC expert, explains. “There’s only so long you can go down that line without it affecting what people want you to do … he’s really staked his claim on being able to move the [economic] needle.”
This doesn’t mean that if Kim fails to secure economic benefits in the near term, there will be a revolt against the government. It does mean, though, that Kim runs the risk of unrest and dissent, even from his own top advisers, if he fails to follow through on his new version of juche.
So Kim has embarked on a project of economic reform, incrementally lifting restrictions on owning private property and foreign investment, to spur economic growth without sacrificing the most fundamental juche ideals of self-reliance and independence from foreign control.
“They want development — but they want it their way,” explains Joshua Pollack, a North Korea expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. “That includes trade and investment but carefully controlled.”
The byungjin line partly explains Kim’s outreach to Trump: The more military tension there is with the United States, the harder it will be to focus on improving the economy. When you get tweets like this, by contrast, it feels like less of a risk for foreign corporations and tourist agencies to do business with North Korea:
The summit also served a second ideological goal: reinforcing to the North Korean people that byungjin isn’t sacrificing self-reliance on the altar of prosperity.
The images circulating around North Korean state media of Trump shaking hands with Kim and literally saluting North Korean generals serve as tangible proof that Kim is following through on some of the core juche ideals.
Kim has, through the strength of his nuclear arsenal, gotten an American president to sit down with him as an equal for the very first time. It shows that the byungjin line, dual military-economic development, is working at both intended goals.
“For him, [the summit was] a great propaganda coup,” says Ishiyama. “He got exactly what he wanted, which was legitimacy by meeting with the most powerful leader in the world face to face. It’s what they’ve been wanting for at least three decades.”
So while the juche ideology may be malleable, it defines the basic conditions under which the government in Pyongyang makes decisions. And, inside those parameters, Kim Jong Un has to view the diplomacy of the past week as a great success.


Strategic Trump-Peace by Piece

It is yet another nuance of politics, that what sent shudders down the spine of nuclear collision months back, ended in a quiet meeting in an exquisite Singapore. The world’s most powerful Head of State, Trump (for the moment it is Putin, with the world of football with him), and the world’s most angry head, nodded in synchrony. That came after talks of nuclear buttons, strafing missiles along the coast of Japan, and missile launch experiments by Kim Jong.
Surely there might have been negotiations behind the scenes, that after the predictable Donald Trump’s denials and shifts of timings and venue, the meetings went on smoothly. Amongst the drama, the one clause the world may like to capitalize on is that the message of de-nuclearization should spread globally, to begin with, where governments are die-hard, or unstable.
It would be naïve, to think that an influential global power, China, that was somewhat linked to the initial threats of North Korea, was not a backhand facilitator. The very omission of its name is a confirmation of its contributions, as may be interpreted by a certain political dialect. Just a benign co-incidence. The Indian PM, Narendra Modi was in Shanghai, negotiating a $100bn trade pact with China, at the same time.
All’s well that ends with the bell! The question arises why North Korea became so instantly belligerent, that too in a globally destructive manner. Why did it have to announce the west coast of US as its chosen target? And finally, the US had to heed to its tantrums, in an ambiance as though nothing had happened. Will a trade treaty be the next- step? Not to be ignored to keep N Korea engaged, and brought in the mainstream of world trade and politics, much like its southern counterpart.
The answer may lie in the instances after WWII. In 1945, at the end of the war, Korea was a Japanese colony since 1910. With instructions to take away Japan’s colonies, Korea naturally came under the Cold War umbrella, with Stalin’s Russia, and the US on a collision course, dividing Korea into its two parts across the 38th parallel. One of the reasons was that Seoul would fall under the southern part.
Skipping an undefined, and indefinite role of the UN (though Chairman KPS Menon’s suggestion of having common polls was set aside), a three – year war between 1950 and 1953 broke out between the two Koreas. The North expectedly was supported by China and Russia, and the South by the US, and around twenty other allied nations and the UN.
Today’s outburst, emanates form many reasons (thankfully settled). Firstly, North Korea’s ruling family’s obsession with nuclear weapons (Kim Jong’s grandfather, father, and him), Next, the perception of a constant threat to North Korea being felt by the economically galloping South. Further economic and trade cut-off with the US being a major adversary. The socio-political diversity of an impoverished population, whose kin in the south enjoy a GDP hundred times over! Lastly, one may add the stark reality of end of family rule the world over.
It is possible that Kim’s threat was a calling attention motion, and the US knew the economic asphyxiation it was undergoing. So, the delay “yes, no” dalliance of the US administration, and finally a promise of denuclearization from Kim Jong, to get into the mainstream of world economics.
To further the analysis, with regard to the timing, it was perhaps China’s OBOR. The wise Xi timed it so startlingly, that the world had no answer but to tow the line for the time being. With the US under pressure for an aggravating trade deficit with China, and so quite a few of western economies, Kim was either prompted or took this opportune moment to recreate its brimming hostilities. It took the winter Olympics between the two nations, a trip by Gen V K Singh, to understand the real issue.
I believe it was at least a month before this extra-ordinary meet, that it was realized that Kim was seeking the de-escalation of sixty years of circumstances of perceived war threats, economic bans, political ostracization, and the need for economic openings. Nuclear threats and contraptions was perhaps all he could do. Though he enjoys an exorbitant popularity amongst his people, hunger weans away loyalties. Probably he knew that the country would soon be scraping the barrel! That he was helped in his nuclear exercises by his old confidants can’t be ruled out. But that is the way politics runs.
Trump’s unpredictably, often shows in his political antics. After a satisfying summit, he immediately announced a 25% excise on Chinese goods. Is it a retort to I wonder if that would last for long. It could be political posturing, that would settle down at mutually agreeable rates. At the same time, it is a stimulus to allied countries, to step up their manufacture to trade with the US.
Medical equipment, pharma are two sectors the US requires at competitive prices, to set-up the Universal Healthcare Program. There is little doubt that he is sticking in every pronouncement to his “America First” theme. No one said that before, but it is well accepted, that the US has greatly profited by immigrant talent!
These are uncertain times regarding governments, and methods of practicing governance. Socialists and pro-Communists are turning soft. The democracies have begun to take a stern stance!
Larger peace is likely to come in further pieces!
“Hone, na hone ka kram, isi tarah chalta rahega/ Hum hain, hum rahengey, Yeh bhram bhi sada palta rahega” A B Vajpayee
(The cycle of being and not being, shall continue the way it does/ That I am, and that I shall stay, this confusion shall also persist)

You Are theProblem in Maldives, Yameen. Don’t Blane Visas

For the last few weeks, President Yameen has been sending some tough messages to Delhi. Firstly, his government refused to extend the visas of Indian helicopter pilots based in Gaan island of Addu Atoll. Secondly, he asked the Government of India to remove the helicopters by the end of this month (June 2018). Then the final blow; all Indians working in the Maldives have been told to get out with clear instructions that their work permits would not be extended. All private employers, resort/hotel owners have been told not to employ Indians since no work permits would be issued to them.
Well, India denied the visa to one ruling party MP Ahmed Nihan Hussain Maniku, in the first week of June, who landed in Chennai on the expectation of getting a routine visa on arrival (which is the practice between the two neighbors), but was denied entry. Now is the Maldivian government retaliating for this?
Perhaps not. It’s more likely that India was reacting to the rejection of work permits to its pilots, who were on Official passports. So, is it just a tit for tat? No, the bad blood goes back much earlier and is far more fundamental in the nature we govern ourselves. And that’s where the itch is.
The simple fact is that Yameen, fully encouraged by his Chinese friends, is pushing us to test the limits of our power.
The downturn in our relations began almost three years ago when President Yameen started treating his opposition leaders as criminals and putting them behind bars with the help of an extremely malleable judiciary. But the worsening of our relations truly began after the events of 1st February 2018, when the Supreme Court ordered the release of all political prisoners including former President and leader of the main opposition party, the Maldivian Democratic Party, Mohamed Nasheed; Jumhoree party leader Gasim Ibrahim, Aadalath party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla and 6 other MPs stating that their trials violated the Maldives Constitution and International Law.
More recently, he got several MPs arrested and jailed them when they tried to attend the Parliament to discuss a No-Confidence motion against the President. But the cruelest cut of all was the imprisonment of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, an 80-year-old patriarch who was head of the united opposition group, and the arrest of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who declared that the imprisonment of Mohd. Nasheed and 9 other MPs was illegal.
While President Yameen was crushing the opposition parties, the Parliament and the Supreme Court, the government of India did precious little, despite repeated calls by the leaders of Maldivian Democratic Party for India to intervene on the side of democracy.
Instead, Delhi reportedly assured China (Indian Express, 28th March) that it would not intervene in the affairs of Maldives and expected similar ‘strategic trust’ that the latter would ‘not cross the lines of legitimacy’. If this is true, then it’s a strange way of executing foreign policy in our own backyard.
It is not clear as to who gave such an assurance and what were the terms of that assurance. Did we assure China that we would not interfere as long as Yameen is giving away military bases to China, or did we also say that we would not intervene even if he throws out all the Indians working in that country? At what point was this assurance going to be ‘time-barred’ or un-bankable? When China is invited by the duly elected government of the Maldives to set-up military bases in its northern atolls, obviously it is not crossing any lines of legitimacy. And who decides the ‘lines of legitimacy’ – obviously the host country and not us.
Yameen is merely consolidating his country’s strategic partnership with China and is asking us to remove the two helicopters from the strategic Gaan island in the southernmost Addu atoll. Do we quietly accept his decision because of our commitment to China? Is this in line with our newly emergent status as an Indo-pacific power? If we cannot protect our interests in the Indian Ocean then there is hardly any chance of us asserting ourselves in the Pacific Ocean.
The simple fact is that Yameen, fully encouraged by his Chinese friends, is pushing us to test the limits of our power. The question is when will Delhi say enough is enough and start tightening the screws on this corrupt and ruthless dictator? He has imprisoned practically everyone who opposes him and has been assiduously working against our interest from the day we condemned his arbitrary ways.
As a first step, we can start identifying all the Maldivians living in Trivandrum, Chennai, and Bangalore and deport them, irrespective of the validity of their visas. By all accounts, there are far more Maldivians living in southern India, either for educating their children or for medical treatment of their family and friends in various hospitals in the three Southern capitals. Visa is always a reciprocal arrangement. You throw out our citizens and we do the same to you. And this move may still not violate our assurances to China, in case we are afraid of that!
Secondly, it’s time we went beyond platitudes and lip sympathy for the cause of democracy in the Maldives. Yameen’s tyranny has exceeded all limits of tolerance. The two former Presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed always considered a democratic India as the best bet in their fight against the dictator. But we have repeatedly let our friends down. It’s time we stood by something worthwhile because any talk of ‘muscular foreign policy’ has become a bit trite now.

Whither Yankee-Canuk Trade War?

The long-term impacts on the Canadian economy if the trade war with the U.S. continues don’t look good. As NAFTA talks drag on into the summer and tariffs continue to be imposed on the U.S. by Canada and vice-versa, experts are warning that the worst case scenarios for Canada are pretty dire. “Further moves by the U.S. to initiate a global trade war would, unsurprisingly, be expected to tip all three countries into recessions,” economists at Scotiabank Economics state in a report, referring to Mexico as well.
It’s not just Canada and Mexico at the mercy of the United States’ trade strategy, either. U.S. President Donald Trump has ordered tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods, to which China has threatened “comprehensive measures” in response.
“No other major economy I’d say is militating for higher tariffs,” says Brett House, Vice President and Deputy Chief Economist at Scotiabank Economics. “It’s very much about the hub-and-spoke relationships between the United States at the centre and its trading relationships with the rest of the world.”
The good news, faint though that light at the end of the tunnel may be, is that we’re not at a global trade war — yet. But if things escalate from where they are now, the consequences aren’t looking good.
What defines a global trade war?
While it may seem the ongoing rhetoric of the U.S. president on Twitter is a sign of an all-out trade war with Canada, we haven’t escalated to that point yet.
“A trade war would really be a case where relatively high tariffs are being imposed on a wide range of goods that account for a significant portion of global trade,” says House. Currently the tariffs that the Trump administration has imposed on Canada are limited to steel and aluminum for now.
In preparation for further measures against the country, Canada has prepared a list of goods that would carry a tariff if imported into Canada from the U.S., including a variety of steel and iron goods, as well as an assortment of household goods and foods like yogurt, strawberry jam, mustard, ballpoint pens, washing machines, mattresses, lawnmowers and dishwasher detergent.
But China is much closer to a full-blown trade war with the U.S. than Canada is. “When you see the U.S. post very high tariffs on its imports, and you’ll see other countries retaliating with tariffs, that’s when you’ll know you’re in a trade war,” says Juan Manuel Herrera Betancourt, economist at Scotiabank Economics. “Now you have the U.S. imposing tariffs on Chinese goods, which could escalate into a trade war between the U.S. and China.”
Any country that is part of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and does not have an existing trade agreement with another nation imposes tariffs based on the Most-Favored Nation clause. The MFN outlines the reasonable tariffs one country can impose on another for the import of goods. “Essentially the trade war scenario means, the United States would be ignoring its WTO commitments across the board,” says House. “And most other countries would respond in kind.”
Recession looms
The bleakest possible timeline would see a full-on trade war with the United States, which would likely result in a recession for Canada.
“Based on our projections, if the U.S. enters into a trade war with the world, that would shrink the Canadian economy by about 1.8 per cent in 2020,” says Herrera Betancourt. “This is compared to 1.6 per cent growth forecast that we have for that year.”
“That recession would actually begin in the second half of 2019, although the overall growth rate projection for Canada in 2019 is still fairly positive,” adds House. “The second half of 2019 would see Canada sliding into recession in that scenario.”
Canada wouldn’t be the only one to fall into a recession, although the news would still be worse for the country. “What a trade war would do is it would push the U.S. economy into a recession,” says Herrera Betancourt. “And Canada gets hit twice, right? On the one hand because all our exports now get a 20 per cent tariff going into the U.S., but on the other hand we have about 75 per cent of our exports going to the U.S. So if the U.S. economy is doing poorly, they’ll buy even fewer Canadian goods, so it’s not good for us.”
The power of the auto sector
The most likely cause for a full-blown trade war would be if tariffs were introduced on automobiles. “The worry right now … is that a move to impose tariffs on automobiles, which would not affect just Canada if the United States moves to impose tariffs on autos on the same rationale that they’ve used for steel and aluminum, they would apply to more countries than just Canadian automobile exports and that would be potentially the trigger that moves us to the all-out trade war scenario,” says House.
The auto sector is currently under investigation by The U.S. Department of Commerce, to see if it can be identified as a national security threat, Herrera Betancourt explains. Much like what happened with the aluminum and steel industries, if the investigation, which takes about 280 days, identifies it as a threat, tariffs could be imposed on those goods around spring 2019.
“[The United States] didn’t take well to the fact that Canada retaliated to the steel and aluminum tariffs and maybe implied the U.S. would come back with a stronger hand,” says Herrera Betancourt. “You never know what this tit-for-tat tariff position will end. So if you impose tariffs on cars, that would probably eventually lead to tariffs on all goods traded.”
The threat of auto tariffs is bad news for businesses in Canada, too. “Right now, I think Canadian enterprises of all sizes are in a worrisome spot, even large companies, with the President’s threats to impose tariffs on the auto sector, it potentially affects companies both small and large,” says Dan Kelly, CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), who is in Washington this week to advocate for independent business owners in Canada.
If automobiles end up hit with tariffs, not only would it likely lead to more widespread tariffs and a bad scenario for businesses, but would also result in the loss of an estimated 160,000 jobs in Canada, a report from TD states.
“This shock thus means there is the potential of losing nearly one in 10 of the jobs in this sector, or one in five in Ontario,” Brian DePratto, senior economist at TD, says.
Seeking a solution
The resolution that business leaders, workers and politicians are looking for is a resolution to the outstanding NAFTA agreement. “We all have strong interests in assuring we can resuscitate the NAFTA agreement,” says Kelly. “We’re still a long way from that, and what I’ve observed from the U.S. President so far is that you can shift from being his best friend to his worst enemy sometimes multiple times per week. We have to take a deep breath here, and hope the rhetoric doesn’t turn into action.”
Benjamin Tal, Deputy Chief Economist of CIBC World Markets, says that at this point, there’s no point in holding out for a perfect NAFTA agreement. The key thing is getting something put in place. “The best case scenario is going back to the table and renegotiating NAFTA,” says Tal. “We were relatively close to some sort of an agreement two or three weeks ago, and then things changed dramatically. If we go back to this point, it would be the best case scenario. Even if, in this case, Canada would be worse off than before, but not significantly worse.”
Another potential outcome could be separate agreements between the United States and Canada, and the United States and Mexico. “The most likely outcome – although clearly, nobody knows – is either we go back and re-negotiate NAFTA in different terms, or you’ll see separate agreements, separate trade negotiations,” says Tal. “Those are two possible, livable scenarios. But at this point it’s very difficult to predict.”
The economists at Scotiabank Economics say they believe the most likely scenario we’ll see is NAFTA negotiators returning to the table and coming to some kind of conclusion as soon as possible. “We would assume in our baseline scenario that the auto tariffs are not imposed, because of the threat that they would imply, setting off substantial retaliation, and that the NAFTA discussions come to what could be a constructive, but at least a benign conclusion, towards 2019,” says House, adding that a ratified deal wouldn’t be likely until next year, at the earliest.
Wasting time
“The greater longer-term danger of these tit-for-tat tariffs is that they could harden the NAFTA countries’ negotiating stances and stretch talks beyond the next year or two,” the Scotiabank report states. “Although both domestic and foreign direct investment numbers in Canada and Mexico remain strong, long-running doubts about NAFTA’s future could dent business investment intentions in both countries.”
Tal says this lack of clarity is the real cost to this ongoing trade dispute and dragged-out NAFTA negotiations. “We’re now frozen, nothing is happening, time is money,” says Tal. “It means the fog of uncertainty is not disappearing. We need some sort of closure on that, one way or another, so CEOs can make decisions. Now it seems that it’s going to last much longer.”
Tal says the worst case scenario is that these talks would last a significantly long time, as it would prevent companies from confidently investing in Canada. “At end of day clearly there would be a winner which would be the U.S., Canada would be a smaller loser, and Mexico would be the biggest loser, because Mexico was the biggest winner [with NAFTA],” says Tal. “That’s the direction, regardless what the outcome is. But until you reach this point, you’ve got major uncertainty that will paralyze CEOs and corporations interested in investment.”
There is hope
Despite all the dire outcomes that are possible, there is still real hope that there will be a satisfactory resolution at the end of the trade discussions. Even the steel and aluminum tariffs that have been levied against Canada are not set in stone forever.
“For perspective, it’s worth remembering that the George W. Bush Administration imposed tariffs on steel imports in 2002, but they were lifted after 20 months following international pushback and mounting evidence that any benefits to U.S. steel producers were outweighed by losses in downstream U.S. sectors,” the Scotiabank report states, adding that even the United Steelworkers union in the U.S. opposes tariffs.
“I’m still optimistic that NAFTA has the possibility of being improved,” says Kelly. “That was the Trudeau government’s position in the beginning, when Trump initiated that NAFTA had to be re-negotiated. Rather than saying ‘no no, we have to keep it exactly as it is,’ the Trudeau government said ‘okay great, we’ve got some changes we’d like to make some changes too,’ and I think that was the right tone to take right off the hop.
“It may not solve every trade deal between Canada and the U.S., but I do think the likely scenario is that we will get to an improved agreement, but it may take some time.”
Beyond America
With 20 per cent of Canada’s GDP coming from goods exported to the United States (and about 75 per cent of our exports heading there, according to Scotiabank Economics), the dent that losing the U.S. as a trading partner would leave is sizable. But the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Canadian-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) are both examples of the Canadian government seeking out new trading partners.
“The current tension puts further impetus on firms to maximize other trade agreements, and for the Canadian government to focus on increasing the number of trade agreements,” says Kelly. “That’s making sure that we are benefiting from CETA, CPTPP, that gets finalized and put in place quickly and smoothly, and the Canadian government helps build capacity for firms of all sizes to maximize the trading opportunities with other countries other than U.S.
“I think this reminds Canadians of the value in diverse markets, and not just putting all our eggs in the U.S. basket.”
There’s a 150-year-old lesson Trudeau should heed in dealing with Trump’s tariffs. How Canada reacted to our first trade war with the United States offers a practical roadmap for today. The Fathers of Confederation resolved that if they could not rely on their neighbours, they would at least guarantee Canadian businesses access to the widest possible markets within a new, united country.
The year is 1865.
How Canada reacted to our first trade war with the United States offers a practical lesson for today. Unfortunately, it’s not one that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is likely to follow.
Back in 1865, the worst came to pass when President Abraham Lincoln abrogated the Canadian-American Reciprocity Treaty, an agreement that had seen cross-border trade double in the decade since it was signed. The reasons ranged from American resentment over tariffs Canada had imposed on manufactured goods in 1858, to retribution for British support for the Confederacy during the Civil War. The result was there would not be another bilateral free trade agreement between the two countries until 1988.
Canadian Confederation
The immediate consequence for Canada was the most important: Confederation. The Fathers of Confederation had learned a hard lesson about the unreliability of international diplomacy and resolved that, if they could not rely on their neighbours, they would at least guarantee Canadian businesses access to the widest possible markets within a new, united country.
So they wrote into the constitution provisions to ensure free trade within Canada, including an explicit free trade guarantee in Section 121 and federal authority to regulate and promote “trade and commerce” across Canada.
Since then, Canadian courts have watered down the free-trade guarantee of Section 121, culminating this April with the Supreme Court of Canada’s refusal to enforce it in the Comeau “beer case,” — a case involving New Brunswick man Gérard Comeau, who was fined for buying beer in Quebec and bringing it back to Tracadie..
Meanwhile, successive federal governments have declined to exercise the full scope of their trade and commerce power. This has left the provinces free to pass thousands of local trade restrictions, giving us a patchwork country of provincial fiefdoms guarded by regulatory walls that, according to StatsCan, amount to a 7 per cent tariff on interprovincial trade.
The self-inflicted cost is staggering. Economists Trevor Tombe and Lukas Albrecht have estimated that full free trade within Canada would add between $50 billion and $130 billion to our GDP each year, or $7,500 per household. To put that number in perspective, $50 billion is twice what the federal government spends on defence. By comparison, a free-trade agreement with China has been projected by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to increase Canada’s GDP by only $7.8 billion by 2030.
Free trade within Canada is also wildly popular, at least in the abstract. In a recent poll conducted by Ipsos for the Canadian Constitution Foundation, 94 per cent of Canadians said they should be able to transport legally-purchased products between provinces and 95 per cent said Canadian businesses should be able to sell their products directly to people in any province.
It’s also constitutional. Although the Comeau decision recently held that provinces may erect some interprovincial trade barriers, the Court added the caveat that laws intended to protect local industries were constitutionally suspect. Moreover, the decision considered provincial trade barriers in the absence of an overriding federal law. The federal government could still invoke its constitutional trade and commerce power to pass federal legislation – a Canadian Free Trade Charter, perhaps – which would supersede provincial regulations that discriminate against goods and services from other provinces or pose unnecessary obstacles to interprovincial trade.
So why isn’t Trudeau even talking about it as part of a national response to Donald Trump’s belligerence? The reasons are, depressingly, similar to why we are having trouble renegotiating NAFTA. It turns out interprovincial trade is not so different from international trade, shrunk to fit our domestic divisions. Within their provincial bailiwicks, our premiers are pint-sized Trumps and Trudeaus, simultaneously demanding fairness from their neighbours and special protections for their own industries.
Supply-managed sectors
And, of course, looming over it all are the provincial supply-managed sectors, those parochial relics of 1970s statism. The scare-tactics they use with respect to free trade with the United States – hormone-laced milk and the need for “food security” – may not apply to interprovincial barriers, but that doesn’t stop them from defending the vital importance of protecting Quebec shoppers from the temptations of Ontario cheese and Manitoba chickens.
No federal government wants to pick a fight with all ten provinces, three territories, and the well-funded agricultural marketing boards simultaneously, so instead they dither and dissemble, hoping we won’t notice that, within our own borders, our leaders are everything that we accuse Trump of being: bullying, blinkered and economically-ignorant.
It shouldn’t be this way. Every other federation — from Australia to Germany to the United States — has figured out the benefits of internal free trade. But until our provincial and federal leaders shake their own Trumpian, zero-sum approach to domestic trade, Canada will continue to be denied a key protection that our founders provided against just the kind of diplomatic uncertainty we now face from Trump.

Saturday Special: Are You Aware that Women Invented These 14 Things

Throughout history, countless women have made invaluable contributions to the world, despite facing gender-based discrimination.
From the simple chocolate chip cookie to the first bulletproof fabric, INSIDER rounded up 14 inventions by women that you may not know about.
Check out their stories below:
Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson’s breakthroughs in telecommunications research led to the invention of caller ID and call waiting.
With a Ph.D. in theoretical elementary particle physics, Dr. Jackson was the first African-American woman to receive a doctorate from MIT in any field.
From 1976 to 1991, Dr. Jackson conducted research at AT&T Bell Laboratories, where she helped contribute to the development of caller ID and call waiting. In 2016, then-President Obama awarded Dr. Jackson the highest honor for scientific achievement in the US, the National Medal of Science.
In 1943, Nancy Johnson created the first hand-cranked ice cream maker.
Johnson’s “artificial freezer” was made up of an outer wooden pail, an inner tin cylinder, and a paddle connected to a crank. To make ice cream, you had to fill the outer pail with crushed ice, fill the inner cylinder with the ice cream mix, and manually crank a handle that churned the mix around.
Her invention was patented on September 9, 1843.
Along with colleague George Hitchings, Gertrude Elion developed some of the first drugs for treating major diseases such as leukemia, herpes, and AIDS.
Elion and Hitchings developed a method known as “rational drug design” that helped revolutionize drug making. Their research allowed them to interfere successfully with cell growth, which led to the development of the first effective drugs for treating leukemia, along with several other illnesses.
Elion also discovered azathioprine, an immunosuppressant that made it possible for people with weak immune systems to receive organ transplants.
Cotton mill worker Margaret Knight invented the paper bag in 1868, but a man named Charles Annan tried to steal and patent her idea first.
Knight’s knack for innovation started at a young age. When she was just 12 years old, she invented a safety device for cotton mills.
During her time at the Columbia Paper Bag Company in 1867, Knight began working on a machine that created flat-bottomed bags. When fellow machinist Charles Anan tried to steal her idea, Knight sued him and won the patent for her machine after a long legal battle.
In 1965, Stephanie Kwolek developed a synthetic fiber that was so strong, it was bulletproof.
When Kwolek started working at the DuPont Company in 1964, her team was focused on finding a strong yet lightweight fiber for tires.
One year later, she made an unexpected breakthrough in her research when she created a a new fiber that was five times stronger than steel. DuPont patented the fiber that same year under the name Kevlar, which is now used in everything from bulletproof vests to military helmets to racing sails.
In 1995, Kwolek became the fourth women to be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
In the early 1900s, Lillian Gilbreth tweaked and designed dozens of inventions that improved people’s everyday lives.
Known for her contributions to office equipment and household appliances, Gilbreth invented the shelves inside refrigerator doors, filed a patent for an improved can opener, helped General Electric design the proper height for kitchen fixtures, and more.
Together with her husband, Frank, Lillian also pioneered several industrial management techniques, designed to increase efficiency and productivity. The couple had 12 children, two of whom wrote a book about their family’s life called “Cheaper by the Dozen.”
Rear admiral Dr. Grace Murray Hopper helped program the first computers.
Considered one of the first three “modern programmers,” Dr. Hopper made trailblazing breakthroughs in the development of computer languages.
A rear admiral in the US Navy, she is probably most well-known for inventing COBOL, or “common business-oriented language” in 1959. By the 1970s, COBOL was the “most extensively used computer language” in the world. It was also the first “user-friendly” computer software for businesses.
In 2016, Dr. Hopper was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the US’ highest civilian honor, for her contributions to the field of computer science.
Elizabeth Magie invented “The Landlord’s Game” in 1904. The game was later copied and sold as “Monopoly” thirty years later.
An inventor and stenographer, Magie created “The Landlord’s Game” to teach people about monopolies, unchecked capitalism, and the “evils of accruing vast sums of wealth at the expense of others.” She was granted a patent for the board game in 1904.
In 1935, an unemployed heating salesman named Charles Darrow became incredibly wealthy after selling a copy of Magie’s game to the Parker Brothers. Magie, on the other hand, sold her patent to the Parker Brothers for just $500 that same year.
In the early 1990s, Dr. Fiona Wood revolutionized medical treatment for burn victims when she created spray-on skin.
In 1993, Dr. Wood began working with medical scientist Marie Stoner on a method to grow skin tissue directly on patients instead of in a culture flask.
The duo launched ReCell, “a spray-on solution of skin cells” two years later. In 2002, ReCell gained international attention after Dr. Wood used it to treat severely burned victims of the 2002 terrorist attack in Bali, Indonesia.
An Alabama native, Mary Anderson came up with the idea for windshield wipers when she visited New York City on a snowy day in 1902.
According to Anderson’s great-great-niece, Reverend Sara-Scott Wingo, Anderson was riding a streetcar that day in New York City. After noticing that the snow caused traffic jams, since there was no efficient way to clean windshields at the time, she began brainstorming ideas for a wiper of some sort.
Anderson received a patent for her “window cleaning device” in 1903.
The first woman to receive a doctorate in physics from Cambridge University, Dr. Blodgett created non-reflective coatings for eyeglasses and “improved lenses used in cinematography.” During WWII, she also made improvements to the smoke screen that helped protect soldiers from toxic smoke exposure.
Josephine Cochrane invented the first commercially successful dishwasher in the 1880s.
Cochrane was a wealthy woman who wanted a machine that could wash dishes “faster than her servants” could. After she was granted a patent for her dishwasher, she marketed the machine to restaurants and hotels. Later, Cochrane founded a company for her dishwashers that eventually became KitchenAid.
When Marion Donovan invented the disposable diaper, she was initially mocked by the men who dominated the manufacturing industry at the time.Donovan’s invention would go on to revolutionize the infant care
In 1946, Donovan designed a waterproof diaper cover using nylon parachute cloth and plastic snaps. The diaper cover, which Donovan called the “Boater,” debuted at NYC’s Saks Fifth Avenue in 1949. It was an instant hit.
Sadly, Donovan’s disposable paper diaper, which she invented in the 1950s, never took off. In fact, it wasn’t until a decade later that Victor Mills, the creator of Pampers, eventually capitalized on her idea.
Ruth Wakefield invented the first chocolate chip cookie under the Toll House brand.
In 1930, Wakefield and her husband bought at a tourist lodge in Whitman, Massachusetts, called the Toll House Inn. One day, while baking cookies, she realized she was out of baker’s chocolate and used a semisweet Nestle chocolate bar instead, thinking that it would melt into the mix.
But the chopped up pieces of chocolate stayed intact, and the chocolate chip cookie was thus born.

US Establishing a Space Force- A force to Reckon With

President Trump has directed his military advisers to create a sixth military branch devoted to the cosmos, but doing so may require an act of Congress.
“When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space,” Trump said. “I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the Armed Forces. That’s a big statement. We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force—separate but equal. It’s going to be something.”
Despite this enthusiastic proclamation, there was no mention of a space force in the space-policy directive the president signed on Monday. So what exactly is Trump saying when he directs Dunford to go forth, to “go get it”?
“It’s unclear to me exactly what he’s directing,” said Richard Wolf, the director of the Air Force Historical Support Division. “It’s always going to be subject to interpretation by the various agencies involved. You never know whether he’ll just forget about it or if he’ll actually carry it out.”
Trump has been talking about establishing a new military branch for space for several months now. The proposed branch would assume the responsibility for military space operations, which currently fall under the purview of the Air Force and some other agencies. The concept usually comes up when the president’s eyes stray from the teleprompter and he starts ad-libbing. He’s even described it as something that came to mind quite suddenly. “I was saying it the other day—’cause we’re doing a tremendous amount of work in space—I said, maybe we need a new force. We’ll call it the Space Force,” Trump said during a speech in March. “And I was not really serious. And then I said, what a great idea. Maybe we’ll have to do that. That could happen.”
It’s not clear whether Trump’s military advisers will actually establish what would be the newest military branch in about 70 years. But if they did, how would they do it?
A straightforward answer is surprisingly elusive, particularly because all five of the armed forces—Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard—formed under different circumstances, not to mention completely different eras. The Army and Navy, for example, were enshrined in the Constitution. The law that established the Air Force reshuffled the country’s defenses in response to World War II. The forces that shaped these services are no longer relevant today.
Wolf was thinking about this question when I called him on Monday. Not long after the president’s rather surprising decree that day, the Air Force’s office of the chief of staff asked Wolf to dig into the country’s history and find out how the United States did it last time: in 1947, with the Air Force. “Things happen quickly sometimes,” Wolf said, dryly.
This is not a feasibility study, Wolf said. The United States hasn’t thought about establishing a new military branch in some time; they could use a refresher. “They just want to know: How did we do it? Who did it? How did they organize?” he said.
During World War I, military aviation operations were carried out by the U.S. Army. After the war, aviators started chafing at their Army management. “It was a growing realization that the people who governed them within the Army didn’t understand what aviators did and why they needed things that were different from the Army,” Wolf said. “The Army is pretty conservative when it comes to changing things, and the aviators were very forthright about wanting to change.”
Politicians in Congress heard them. Between 1926 and 1933, lawmakers introduced 29 unsuccessful bills that sought to grant air operations more freedom outside of the Army, according to Jeffery S. Underwood’s The Wings of Democracy: The Influence of Air Power on the Roosevelt Administration. Their wish came true in 1947, when the National Security Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Harry Truman, reorganized much of the country’s war infrastructure and funneled all air operations into a stand-alone division.
Like the Air Force, a Space Force would require action by Congress to exist. “One would assume that’s how [Trump] would ordinarily handle it,” Wolf said. But “this is no ordinary president. So you can’t say that’s how it will happen, but that’s how it has happened in the past.”
The concept of an armed service dedicated to space first emerged in earnest in 2000, as a recommendation from a military-reform commission led by Donald Rumsfeld, but was quickly forgotten after 9/11. It reappeared in earnest last June, when House lawmakers proposed legislation that would direct the Defense Department to create a “space corps” as a new military service inside the Air Force. The proposed agency would absorb the responsibilities of the U.S. Air Force Space Command, a unit inside the Air Force that supports most of the country’s military operations in space. “The military has not done a good enough job looking after space with all its other distracting priorities,” Representative Jim Cooper, a Tennessee Democrat, argued at the time.
The Pentagon groaned in response. “The Pentagon is complicated enough,” Heather Wilson, the Air Force secretary, told reporters. “This will make it more complex, add more boxes to the organization chart, and cost more money. If I had more money, I would put it into lethality, not bureaucracy.”
The House measure to create a space corps eventually failed, though the bill’s supporters remain optimistic—especially because of Trump’s support. Pentagon officials, meanwhile, have stayed mum about the idea, wary of publicly disagreeing with their commander-in-chief. The more Trump talked about an American space force, the further they have retreated.
Trump’s remarks on Monday garnered a fair share of ridicule on social media from people for whom the sound of “space force” invokes lightsabers and other Star Wars things I don’t know about because I haven’t seen all the movies. But the space around Earth, a place swimming with satellites, can host conflict like any other place humans have inhabited, especially as technology evolves. Humans couldn’t fathom fighting wars in the sky until they took flight, after all. Perhaps in another 70 years, the thought of space-force cadets flying above Earth, patrolling the darkness and dodging satellites, won’t seem so far-fetched

A Canadian Anti-fairy Tale: Pity the Lad, When Trump Trumped & Trampled His Well-laid Plans

As fairy tales start, this also starts with ‘ Once upon a time’, there was a Prime Minister who was excited like an immature kid in a splendid place, where his slightest wish was carried out as if he was the voice of God. Yes, but a nicely smiling kid, he showed his importance everywhere showing his designer socks to one and all. And people thought he had a plan- after all, it 2013. And then a giant ogre came in 2017. The kid’s plan were trumped. Trump happened and he consumes all agendas, domestic and foreign. For the kid, let me call him by his famous father’s last name-Trudeau, and then after one slide came another- it was a crisis that never really seems to end till next year, when he probably, nay, surely, leave the places.
“Canadians sent us to Parliament Hill with a clear mandate,” Justin Trudeau told a roomful of reporters assembled to mark the end of Parliament’s spring sitting. Although that agenda has, in many ways, come to seem more timely — embracing diversity, growing the middle class, fighting climate change — Trudeau’s mandate did not include Donald Trump, at least not specifically.
In the fall of 2015, Trump was a candidate for president, but he had yet to contest a Republican primary. And no one — not event the candidate himself, apparently — really thought he’d win. Two and a half years later, Trump has become Trudeau’s mandate. At times in recent weeks, Trudeau has seemed to become something akin to a wartime prime minister, leading the country into a great international conflict (with tariffs in the place of actual weapons).
The mandate of 2015, Trudeau said, was to “debate and pass legislation that will improve (Canadians’) lives, benefit their families and make their communities even better places to call home.” The PM then proceeded to explain what the government had been up to this spring: attempting to close labour gaps, introducing new firearms laws, reforming environmental regulations, passing new laws to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace, regulating recreational marijuana, and so on.
On that last one, Trudeau’s Liberals have made real history. And the prime minister seemed to be otherwise pleased with how things have been going, boasting that the economy is growing, unemployment is down and wages are up. But everything’s Donald. There was not a word in Trudeau’s prepared statement about Trump. In fairness, the president of the United States was not actually on the government’s legislative agenda this spring. But the president tends to consume all discussion — even more so lately.
Of the 22 questions that reporters asked after Trudeau’s opening remarks at the National Press Theatre on Wednesday, 15 were about Trump. And even the question about the Chicoutimi-Le Fjord byelection was tangentially related to the 45th U.S. president.
What had the prime minister learned this spring about dealing with Donald Trump? What about the president’s threat of auto tariffs? What would Trudeau say to those whose jobs might be affected by auto tariffs? What about NAFTA? Should Canadians boycott American products?
What is Trudeau’s relationship with Trump like now? What about Trump’s attacks on Trudeau? What does Trudeau think were Trump’s motivations for those attacks? Why not suspend the Safe Third-Country Agreement in light of the American policy on separating children from their parents? What about renegotiating it in light of all the asylum seekers who are showing up at the Canadian border?
One has to wonder what Trudeau, and the rest of us, would be doing and thinking about with all the free time we might have if Hillary Clinton had won in 2016. “I think one of the things that we’ve seen from the president is that he prides himself on a certain degree of unpredictability,” Trudeau said.
Perhaps Trudeau has to hope that the normal rules of economic and political self-interest eventually will come to bear on the American president. But it’s hard to guess how long that may take. And Trump’s signature characteristic is his willingness to defy conventional expectations and standards.
Predicting the unpredictable
“I have a hard time accepting that any leader might do the kind of damage to his own auto industry that would happen if he were to bring in such a tariff on Canadian auto manufacturers, given the integration of the auto supplies chain,” Trudeau continued.
But, of course, Trudeau might have said the same thing about steel and aluminum tariffs a few weeks ago.
And what (a reporter asked) if Trump does go further? The Liberal government is already supporting the lumber industry and it might have to provide further assistance to the steel and aluminum industries.
Just as there are no atheists in a foxhole, there might be fewer fiscal conservatives in the midst of a trade war with Donald Trump. That’s surely what Trudeau’s betting on: that if push comes to shove, Canadians will be less concerned about whether the budget is balanced and more concerned with getting through a trade war.
Coincidentally, when Trudeau met with the media yesterday, he had just left a final session of question period during which the Conservatives dwelled on expenses related to Trudeau’s trip to India and one of the PM’s official residences. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was particularly concerned about the amount of money apparently used to install a play structure at Harrington Lake.
Alas, with the House of Commons now adjourned until September, we might be deprived a proper debate about the cost and nature of official home repairs and improvements. (In the current context, a controversy about the cost of a swing set seems like a nice problem to have.)
If Trudeau successfully guides the country through this moment, or if Canadians simply decide they’d rather have him representing Canada in the fight, the play structure debate probably will be forgotten.
But if everything goes sideways — if Trudeau seems to fail — everything else that might be held against him will weigh that much heavier.

Piecemeal Universal Peace- A Chimera or a Reality

It is yet another nuance of politics, that what sent shudders down the spine of nuclear collision months back, ended in a quiet meeting in an exquisite Singapore. The world’s most powerful Head of State, Trump (for the moment it is Putin, with the world of football with him), and the world’s most angry head, nodded in synchrony. That came after talks of nuclear buttons, strafing missiles along the coast of Japan, and missile launch experiments by Kim Jong.
Surely there might have been negotiations behind the scenes, that after the predictable Donald Trump’s denials and shifts of timings and venue, the meetings went on smoothly. Amongst the drama, the one clause the world may like to capitalize on, is that the message of de-nuclearization should spread globally, to begin with, where governments are die-hard, or unstable.
It would be naïve, to think that an influential global power, China, that was somewhat linked to the initial threats of North Korea, was not a backhand facilitator. The very omission of its name is a confirmation of its contributions, as may be interpreted by a certain political dialect. Just a benign co-incidence. The Indian PM, Narendra Modi was in Shanghai, negotiating a $100bn trade pact with China, at the same time.
All’s well that ends with the bell! The question arises why North Korea became so instantly belligerent, that too in a globally destructive manner. Why did it have to announce the west coast of US as its chosen target? And finally, the US had to heed to its tantrums, in an ambience as though nothing had happened. Will a trade treaty be the next- step? Not to be ignored to keep N Korea engaged, and brought in the mainstream of world trade and politics, much like its southern counterpart.
The answer may lie in the instances after WWII. In 1945, at the end of the war, Korea was a Japanese colony since 1910. With instructions to take away Japan’s colonies, Korea naturally came under the Cold War umbrella, with Stalin’s Russia, and the US on a collision course, dividing Korea into its two parts across the 38th parallel. One of the reasons was that Seoul would fall under the southern part.
Skipping an undefined, and indefinite role of the UN (though Chairman KPS Menon’s suggestion of having common polls was set aside), a three – year war between 1950 and 1953 broke out between the two Koreas. The North expectedly was supported by China and Russia, and the South by the US, and around twenty other allied nations and the UN.
Today’s outburst, emanates form many reasons (thankfully settled). Firstly, North Korea’s ruling family’s obsession with nuclear weapons (Kim Jong’s grandfather, father, and him), Next, the perception of a constant threat to North Korea being felt by the economically galloping South. Further economic and trade cut-off with the US being a major adversary. The socio-political diversity of an impoverished population, whose kin in the south enjoy a GDP hundred times over! Lastly, one may add the stark reality of end of family rule the world over.
It is possible that Kim’s threat was a calling attention motion, and the US knew the economic asphyxiation it was undergoing. So, the delay “yes, no” dalliance of the US administration, and finally a promise of denuclearization from Kim Jong, to get into the mainstream of world economics.
To further the analysis, with regard to the timing, it was perhaps China’s OBOR. The wise Xi timed it so startingly, that the world had no answer but to tow the line for the time being. With the US under pressure for an aggravating trade deficit with China, and so quite a few of western economies, Kim was either prompted, or took this opportune moment to recreate its brimming hostilities. It took the winter Olympics between the two nations, a trip by Gen V K Singh, to understand the real issue.
I believe it was at least a month before this extra-ordinary meet, that it was realized that Kim was seeking de-escalation of sixty years of circumstances of perceived war threats, economic bans, political ostracization, and the need for economic openings. Nuclear threats and contraptions, was perhaps all he could do. Though he enjoys an exorbitant popularity amongst his people, hunger weans away loyalties. Probably he knew that the country would soon be scraping the barrel! That he was helped in his nuclear exercises by his old confidants can’t be ruled out. But that is the way politics runs.
Trump’s unpredictably, often shows in his political antics. After a satisfying summit, he immediately announced a 25% excise on Chinese goods. Is it a retort to I wonder if that would last for long. It could be political posturing, that would settle down at mutually agreeable rates. At the same time, it is a stimulus to allied countries, to step up their manufacture to trade with the US.
Medical equipment, pharma are two sectors the US requires at competitive prices, to set-up the Universal Healthcare Program. There is little doubt that he is sticking in every pronouncement to his “America First” theme. No one said that before, but it is well accepted, that the US has greatly profited by immigrant talent!
These are uncertain times regarding governments, and methods of practicing governance. Socialists and pro-Communists are turning soft. The democracies have begun to take a stern stance!
Larger peace is likely to come in further pieces!
“Hone, na hone ka kram, isi tarah chalta rahega/ Hum hain, hum rahengey, Yeh bhram bhi sada palta rahega” A B Vajpayee
(The cycle of being and not being, shall continue the way it does/ That I am, and that I shall stay, this confusion shall also persist)

Weekend Special: The World is Changing- Better or Worse!!

We have made some undeniable progress. So why does it feel like the world is getting worse and worse?
And now, some good news. Did you know that global poverty is going down? Did you know that global literacy is going up? Did you know that violent crime statistics are dropping and IQs are rising? Did you know that child labor and exploitation are decreasing and human rights are increasing?
Our headlines are full of social division, political gridlock, international disorder, increasing militarization, climatic disasters and other problems. Watch the news for half an hour, and it certainly appears that world conditions are getting worse and worse.
But some intelligent people argue that since news coverage inherently focuses on danger, suffering and trauma, we are getting a distorted picture of the world. They argue that the data shows a tremendous amount of human progress. And they make some compelling arguments.
So, is the world getting better and better? Or are we on the brink of World War iii? Or are both of these things true?
Measuring Progress
Harvard University psychology professor Steven Pinker believes that you are too pessimistic. His recent book, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, makes a sustained argument that the world is, in fact, getting better.
In a Ted Talk based on the book, Pinker said, “Many people face the news each morning with trepidation and dread. Every day, we read of shootings, inequality, pollution, dictatorship, war and the spread of nuclear weapons. You can always fool yourself into seeing a decline if you compare bleeding headlines of the present with rose-tinted images of the past. What does the trajectory of the world look like when we measure well-being over time using a constant yardstick?”
He then compared some recent statistics to the same metrics from 30 years ago. It may surprise you to learn that the homicide rate in America has dropped from 8.5 per 100,000 to 5.3. The percentage of Americans below the poverty line (as measured by consumption) has fallen from 11 percent to 3 percent. The percentage of the world population in extreme poverty has plunged from 37 percent to 9.6 percent. Three decades ago, 23 wars were raging; as of February 2018, there were only five. The number of nuclear weapons has dropped from 60,780 to 10,325. The number of democracies has grown from 45 governments over 2 billion people to 103 governments over 4.1 billion people.
Look at a broader timeline: Over the last 200 years, life expectancy for a human being has increased from about 30 years to 71 years. Infant mortality has plummeted from 33 percent to 6 percent. Infectious diseases, undernourishment and catastrophic famines are disappearing, even in poor countries. Poverty is declining: The world is now about 100 times wealthier than it was in the early 1800s.
These are some remarkable developments, and they are indeed easy to take for granted. We don’t tend to think about how much safer, fuller, healthier, wealthier and long-living the average human being is compared to a few generations ago. But what a difference!
Another exciting trend is the rise in literacy. Two centuries ago, only 12 percent of the world could read and write. Today, it is 85 percent. After the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing, literacy is crucial not only to quality of life, but also to intellectual and even spiritual development.
Some specific statistics or trends that observers like Pinker cite might be a matter for debate. But many are legitimately, indisputably worth celebrating. We don’t tend to think about how much safer, fuller, healthier, wealthier and long-living the average human being is compared to a few generations ago. But what a difference!
Many people looking at these measurements are concluding that the world is getting better and better, and we just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing. For example, former U.S. President Barack Obama said in 2016: “The world has never been less violent, healthier, better educated, more tolerant, with more opportunity for more people, and more connected than it is today.”
Yet the question remains: Why, at the same time people are eating better, consuming more and living longer, do so many of us have the sense that we are approaching a global catastrophe? Pinker’s explanation is that media coverage is a major culprit. “You never see a journalist who says, ‘I’m reporting live from a country that has been at peace for 40 years,’ or a city that has not been attacked by terrorists,” he said. “[I]f you combine our cognitive biases with the nature of news, you can see why the world has been coming to an end for a very long time indeed.”
Why Progress?
Observers like Pinker do bring up valid and underreported facts. Many measurements of human development are improving. But the fundamental question is this: What is the cause? Why are people avoiding disease, earning more money, receiving better educations?
Pinker answers the question this way: “Progress is not some mystical force or dialectic lifting us ever higher. It’s not a mysterious arc of history bending toward justice. It’s the result of human efforts governed by an idea, an idea that we associate with the 18th-century Enlightenment, namely that if we apply reason and science that enhance human well-being, we can gradually succeed. … We will never have a perfect world, and it would be dangerous to seek one. But there’s no limit to the betterments we can attain if we continue to apply knowledge to enhance human flourishing. This heroic story is not just another myth. Myths are fictions, but this one is true, true to the best of our knowledge, which is the only truth we can have.”
In a Wall Street Journal article on the same subject, Pinker summed it up this way: “The Enlightenment is working. Our ancestors replaced dogma, tradition and authority with reason, debate and institutions of truth-seeking. They replaced superstition and magic with science. And they shifted their values from the glory of the tribe, nation, race, class or faith toward universal human flourishing.”
He gives a lot of specific examples of how these approaches have produced advancements in medicine, health, food production, public safety, and peace among nations. The effects are improved health, nutrition, wealth, safety, freedom and peace among nations. The basic cause, he says is human ability.
Is it true? Have we just “figured it out”?
Forward Achievement
Many people view human history as a giant ramp, leading from human misery and ignorance upward toward greater human accomplishment and happiness. We have evolved from basic elements to single-cell organisms to more complex life forms. We are evolving to become smarter, more capable and more resilient. We used to write on papyrus, now we communicate with smartphones. We used to build chariots, now we build spacecraft.
Surely we human beings who have developed amazing technology can develop systems to end things like crime and war.
This theory has a couple of flaws.
Look again at the metrics of human progress over the past 200 years, and you can clearly see that most of them have to do with material issues. They deal with matter, with physical elements. They deal less—or not at all—with relationships between human beings.
“Why do we find a world of awesome advancement and progress, yet paradoxically with appalling and mounting evils?” Herbert W. Armstrong asked in Mystery of the Ages. ”Why cannot the minds that develop spacecraft, computers and marvels of science, technology and industry solve the problems that demonstrate human helplessness? … The developed nations have made awesome progress. They have produced a highly mechanized world providing every luxury, modern convenience and means of pleasure. Yet they are cursed with crime, violence, injustice, sickness and disease, broken homes and families.”
The Western world and much of humanity has managed to build an enormous bank of knowledge since the Dark Ages. In the past century, scientific knowledge production has multiplied over and over again. But some human advancements have peaked and are now declining. And some advancements have long-term consequences that have not yet fully come due.
“Why do we find a world of awesome advancement and progress, yet paradoxically with appalling and mounting evils?”
Take for example the decrease in famine. Pinker says we owe this remarkable achievement to crop rotation, synthetic fertilizers, hybrids and machinery. These processes do produce more food, and starvation is dramatically lower because of them. But to achieve this, we have exhausted and depleted our soils of nutrients. If we do not continue applying more and more synthetic fertilizers and industrial farming methods, huge areas will quickly become deserts. Meanwhile, these soils are producing less nutritious foods. Hence the explosion of chronic disease and the mushrooming need for ever-more clinics, medical complexes, hospitals, cancer centers and hospices.
Many of our modern miracle solutions to age-old problems come with similarly high costs. We are effectively buying advancement by going into debt—a debt that we or our children will eventually have to pay.
Pinker highlights welfare programs as another advancement. The legitimate needs these programs fill are accompanied by massive and growing abuses, bloat and political distortion. Nations are literally going into monumental, bankrupting debt to provide these “advancements.” The day of reckoning is coming.
Conditions might be better now than they were 30 years ago. But that does not mean they will be better 30 years from now.
The Reversing Trend
Some of our advancements are already starting to decline. For example, while Pinker says average IQs have risen some 30 points in the last two centuries, a massive recent study showed a 7-point drop per generation in recent times.
More generally, the ideals that Pinker (to a degree correctly) credits with having helped human progress are fading away. Our current generation is actually renouncing some of the basic principles that led to increased stability, opportunity, success and justice for millions of people over hundreds of years.
Paul Bonicelli served in the United States Agency for International Development and the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee. He wrote for the Federalist: ”Although the Enlightenment has indeed been ‘working’ for some time now, ameliorating the human condition all over the world, in recent years it has been definitively rejected by the modern left and by some elements of the right. On college campuses, Enlightenment ideas about the rule of law and freedom of speech have been replaced by campus tribunals and the heckler’s veto. The Enlightenment itself is condemned for being the project of racist white men and the product of societies devoted to empire and colonialism. Even the Enlightenment notion of objective truth is scoffed at by academics and activists alike.”
Our current generation is actually renouncing some of the basic principles that led to increased stability, opportunity, success and justice for millions of people over hundreds of years.
The rule of law, the reliability of rationalism, the fact that there is such a thing as truth—these are vital principles for stability and long-term prosperity that we have taken for granted for generations. But now they are being rejected—even the very idea of democracy.
“The heady democratic expansion of the 1990s has been replaced by democratic stagnation or even recession,” wrote Foreign Policy (Sept. 8, 2016). Freedom House wrote that its Freedom in the World study found for the 12th year in a row that democracy is decreasing around the world: “[C]ountries that suffered democratic setbacks outnumbered those that registered gains. States that a decade ago seemed like promising success stories—Turkey and Hungary, for example—are sliding into authoritarian rule. The military in Myanmar, which began a limited democratic opening in 2010, executed a shocking campaign of ethnic cleansing in 2017 and rebuffed international criticism of its actions. Meanwhile, the world’s most powerful democracies are mired in seemingly intractable problems at home, including social and economic disparities, partisan fragmentation, terrorist attacks, and an influx of refugees that has strained alliances and increased fears of the ‘other.’” The Brookings Institution wrote that some analysts and policymakers believe democracy “has run its course.”
As democracies decay, authoritarians are rising in several countries, including some of the most important nations in the world. Russian President Vladimir Putin has encouraged a cult of personality, made a mockery of Russia’s elections, changed its constitution, crushed dissent, assassinated journalists, started wars, and invaded and annexed territory. Chinese President Xi Jinping has made similar changes to his country’s government, granting himself more power for longer periods and increasing his control over China’s people and military. Other strongmen include Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Saudi leader Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. The next one might take over Germany.
If humans truly are getting better and better, then the Enlightenment, rationalism, the rule of law, democracy and absolute truth were steps up the ramp of progress. Now we are rejecting those principles. By definition, this cannot be another step up the ramp to a better and better world.
An Age of Greater Danger
As we’re seeing the fall of democracy and rise of authoritarianism, we are also seeing an increase in military spending globally. Our advanced world is using its increased education, technology and wealth to produce chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and missiles, jets, ships and submarines that can launch them within minutes. In one sense, these weapons systems are an amazing advancement. In another, they are the world’s worst form of regression.
Jamsheed and Carol Choksy reported for Yale Global Online that 23 nations worldwide either stockpile chemical weapons of mass destruction or have the capacity to produce them: China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Libya, Myanmar, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Sudan, Syria, Taiwan, the United States and Vietnam.
The number of estimated nuclear weapons indeed has fallen from 60,000 to 10,000. The United States is no longer in a race against the Soviet Union to produce a larger stockpile of those warheads. But the U.S., Russia, China, Europe, Iran, other nations and even terrorists are still racing to produce newer, better, more effective weapons.
It only takes one nuclear weapon to incinerate an entire city of human progress. And a nuclear war would not stop with one strike. Nuclear, chemical and biological weapons are in the hands of imperfect, flawed human beings with limited knowledge and capacities. Some of these human beings are some of the most unstable and radical minds on this planet.
We human beings have thousands and thousands and thousands of these fiendish “advancements” just waiting to detonate.
Entire cities of advancements in sanitation, nutrition, health, commerce, thinking, liberty and law could disappear in a moment if Donald Trump, Theresa May, Benjamin Netanyahu, Emmanuel Macron, Narendra Modi, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping or Kim Jong-un presses a button to deploy a nuclear arsenal. Thousands of people have died and will die in inhumane ways if Bashar Assad, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Ali Khameni, Moon Jae-in or others launch biological or chemical weapons.
We human beings have thousands and thousands and thousands of these fiendish “advancements” just waiting to detonate.
We Have Been Wrong Before
Pinker is not the only thinker to present reasoned arguments why the world is getting better and better. In fact, experts throughout history have predicted peace and prosperity—right before war and disaster.
Even without those experts, we tend to presume that peace will continue indefinitely. But beyond our limited perspectives, there are threats that can dramatically change our lives and the lives of everyone on this planet.
British philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote that livestock animals come to expect food when they see the farmer, but in the end the farmer butchers them. Because something happens often, we assume it will last forever. But a catastrophe that ends your world only has to happen once. In fact, it only can happen once. Which is why you must remain vigilant.
Human history records a long list of confident, educated, yet terribly wrong prognostications of peace. “Unquestionably, there was never a time in the history of this country when from the situation of Europe we might more reasonably expect 15 years of peace than at the present moment.” That was the British prime minister in 1792. Less than a year later, revolutionary France plunged Europe into the beginning of the Napoleonic Wars that killed millions of people.
Britain’s undersecretary at the Foreign Office informed the foreign secretary that “he had never, during his long experience, known so great a lull in foreign affairs, and that he was not aware of any important question that he should have to deal with.” That was in 1870. The same day, a new prince was crowned in Spain, resulting in the Franco-Prussian War that killed roughly half a million people.
“We old people will probably not live to see the decisive battles of the coming revolution.” That was a man named Vladimir Lenin speaking in the fall of 1917. Six weeks later, the Russian Revolution began. The ensuing Russian Civil War cost an estimated 10 million lives, the worst civil war in recorded human history.
“My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British prime minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Go home and get a nice, quiet sleep.” That was Neville Chamberlain, after signing an agreement with Adolf Hitler. A year later, World War ii began. It did not end until around 80 million lives had been lost.
Peace and Safety’
How would you sum up this tendency in human nature? You could summarize it with something like this: “When they say ‘Peace and safety,’ then sudden destruction comes upon them.”

Black People Keep Down, Thanks to the Leftist Notions

For several decades, a few black scholars have been suggesting that the vision held by many black Americans is entirely wrong.
Shelby Steele, a scholar at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, said: “Instead of admitting that racism has declined, we [blacks] argue all the harder that it is still alive and more insidious than ever. We hold race up to shield us from what we do not want to see in ourselves.”
John McWhorter, professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, lamented that “victimology, separatism, and anti-intellectualism underlie the general black community’s response to all race-related issues,” adding that “these three thought patterns impede black advancement much more than racism; and dysfunctional inner cities, corporate glass ceilings, and black educational underachievement will persist until such thinking disappears.”
In the 1990s, Harvard professor Orlando Patterson wrote, “America, while still flawed in its race relations … is now the least racist white-majority society in the world; has a better record of legal protection of minorities than any other society, white or black; [and] offers more opportunities to a greater number of black persons than any other society, including all those of Africa.”
The liberal Left continue to push their radical agenda against American values. The good news is there is a solution.
During an interview in December with The Daily Caller, Steele said the anti-Americanism that started during the 1960s and has become mainstream and visible in the black community is “heartbreaking and sad.” That anti-Americanism that so dominates the American black identity has been “ruinous to black America, where we are worse off than we were under segregation by almost every socio-economic measure.”
Some people might challenge Steele’s assertion that in many measures blacks are worse off than during segregation. How about some numbers?
As late as 1950, female-headed households were only 18 percent of the black population. Today 70 percent of black children are raised in single-parent households.
In the late 1800s, there were only slight differences between the black family structure and those of other ethnic groups. In New York City in 1925, for example, 85 percent of kin-related black households were two-parent households. According to the 1938 Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, that year 11 percent of black children were born to unwed mothers. Today about 75 percent of black children are born to unwed mothers.
From 1890 to 1940, a slightly higher percentage of black adults had married than white adults. Today about twice as many blacks have never married as whites.
The bottom line is that the black family was stronger the first 100 years after slavery than during what will be the second 100 years.
What about the labor market?
In every census from 1890 to 1954, blacks were either just as active as or more so than whites in the labor market. During that earlier period, black teen unemployment was roughly equal to or less than white teen unemployment. As early as 1900, the duration of black unemployment was 15 percent shorter than that of whites; today it’s about 30 percent longer.
Would anyone suggest that there was less racial discrimination during earlier periods?
White liberals and the Democratic Party are the major beneficiaries of keeping black people fearful, angry, victimized, and resentful. It’s crucial to both their political success and their efforts to change our nation. Racial harmony would be a disaster for leftists, be they politicians, academic liberals, or news media people.
As for black politicians and civil rights hustlers, Booker T. Washington long ago explained their agenda, writing:
There is another class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs—partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.

Liberal Democrats understood The Communist Manifesto Better than Communists

What may have pleased him a lot is that over three fifths of his recommendations in The Communist Manifesto are already in place in most actually existing democracies. Progressive income tax, national central banks, state run communication services, cultivating waste lands, right to work, eradicating town and country differences, providing free education and, finally, banning child labour comprise the bulk of “communist” policies advocated in the Manifesto. Are we all then Marxists, at least three fifths?
Perhaps we democrats are more Marxist than Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, Ceausescu’s Romania, or Hoxha’s Albania. This is because, unlike these communist regimes which advocated cabal, conspiracy, putsch and coup d’etat, Marx believed in winning over the workers through persuasion. In The Communist Manifesto, Marx said that communists should not form a separate party opposed to other working class parties and not set up sectarian principles of their own. If one were to observe this stricture strictly it would disqualify all communist regimes and most communist parties too.
Take a further step and jump to Friedrich Engels (Marx’s closest associate and interpreter) who said in 1895 that Marxists should realise street fights and gun battles are no longer acceptable. Elections have come to stay and if a fair and just system is what communists are pressing for, that can best be achieved by the ballot, and not, as the cliche goes, by the bullet. This clearly pledges allegiance to the democratic voting system which was for long undermined by established communist regimes as a bourgeois attempt to deflect attention from class struggles. Has Marx gone mainstream?
What stops us from making this final admission is the noisy and crude way The Communist Manifesto was appropriated by Stalin and others of his ilk. Consequently, all the ills of such leaders were transferred to Marx, as if he was the original sinner. Even a person of John Maynard Keynes’s eminence lost his intellectual balance on account of this and went on to say near unprintable things about Marx.
For example, he compared Marx’s Capital with the Koran as being “dreary and out of date”. Interestingly, he does not include the Bible, giving the impression that the Christian holy book stands well above Islamic sermonising. Keynes could have stopped at this red light, but he did not. Instead, he ran through the next one as well when he wrote that Bolshevism was an outcome of the “peculiar temperaments of Slavs and Jews”. If he was careless at first, he was careless on purpose the second time. Such gross political incorrectness gives us a sense of how much prime time hatred Marx excites because Stalin, Mao, and such like, swore in his name.
Today, we take as truism that human beings are products of their circumstances which they alter and, thereby, change themselves. Nobody bothers to footnote The Communist Manifesto when they say, or even imply, this. It does not matter really because this truth is so metabolised in our intellectual system. But somebody had to say this, and Marx said it first, and all of us liberal democrats take this as an article of faith today.
Marx used this method to explain why feudalism carried with it strong sentiments of loyalty, fiefdom and chivalry. In the same vein, The Communist Manifesto showed how capitalism initiated the idea and practice of freedom and how, as a consequence, it made tremendous progress. Marx lavishly praised the bourgeoisie for the huge advances they brought about in a few decades, which would have been unimaginable in the past.
For centuries, the armies of Chandragupta and Tipu Sultan marched at the same pace. Then, out of nowhere, came the steam engine and today we have supersonics. History in a hurry; that is what capitalism is about. Marx was also the first theorist to link capitalism with freedom – a full century before Milton Friedman wrote Capitalism And Freedom.
At the same time, let us face it, some of the arguments in The Communist Manifesto are kind of wild and woolly. This is especially so when Marx stoutly claimed that workers would get more impoverished by the day and would eventually be reduced to barebones subsistence. At this point, not able to bear it any longer, they would rise in animal rage and overthrow the prevailing order. Marx was clearly out of position here and this became apparent even in his lifetime. The Communist Manifesto was written in 1848 when Marx was not quite 30 years old, and occasional rushes of hot blood can be excused.
Roughly twenty years later, when he wrote Capital, he had completely changed his opinion on this subject. Now he was more interested in showing how capitalist profit was made and acknowledged that this did not necessarily mean that workers would get poorer (or purer). It was still important for his analytical understanding of profit that workers produce more than what they consume. While that position held, Marx now acknowledged that the standard of living of the wage earners advances with every progressive stride the bourgeoisie take. The matter, then, was more relative than absolute. Marx had now fully grown up.
Marx never knew Stalin, Mao or others like them and yet their errors are heaped on Marx’s grave; a clear case of the sins of the sons visiting their father.

Trump-Haters, Take Care! Trump Will be Invincible in 2020

The future, Romney predicted, would feature Trump as America’s leader at least for another six years.
“I think that not just because of the strong economy and the fact that people are going to see increasingly rising wages,” Romney said, “but I think it’s also true because I think our Democrat friends are likely to nominate someone who is really out of the mainstream of American thought and will make it easier for a president who’s presiding over a growing economy.”
The remarks from Romney marked a sharp reversal from his original impression of Trump. Romney briefly served as the face of the so-called “Never Trump” movement before the 2016 election. He delivered a scathing speech in Utah before the 2016 election, calling Trump “a con man” and “a fake.”
Yet Romney’s criticism has softened since then. And now, in the midst of a Republican Senate primary campaign, the former Massachusetts governor appears to be embracing Trump and his leadership role in the modern-day Republican Party.
He delivered the remarks on the first day of a three-day, closed-door summit in Utah’s mountains. The Associated Press was allowed to listen to Romney’s remarks during the event’s opening reception.
Dignitaries on the guest list feature included House Speaker Paul Ryan, billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner in addition to actor Seth Rogin, former Starbuck CEO Howard Schultz and former Domino’s Pizza CEO Patrick Doyle.
A recent Harvard -Harris Poll provides some insights as to why President Donald Trump’s support is actually increasing among voters.
A recent Harvard -Harris Poll provides some insights as to why President Donald Trump’s support is actually increasing among voters and offers data to explain why he may be re-elected in 2020. I realize that many people don’t want to hear that but hiding from a noxious reality is neither healthy nor helpful.
The poll of 1,347 registered voters was conducted online May 21-22 and it indicates that more Americans feel the country is headed in the right direction (36%) than when President Barack Obama left office nearly a year and a half ago. While 36% is not a number an impressive percentage at all, the “numbers behind the numbers” are pretty suggestive. For example, men (a keystone of Mr. Trump’s base) are more sanguine than women, 44% to 28%. So too are voters over 65 (42%), whites (43%), Republicans (64%), conservatives (63%), Trump’s supporters in 2016 (70%), and voters with college degrees (40%). In other words, at this point in time, the President is holding his base. Significantly, 38% of 18-34 year olds feel good about the country’s direction – a possible pick up of support from a group that was not happy with his election.
More significantly from the Harvard-Harris survey is how voters view the economy. More (45%) believe that the US economy is headed in the right direction than those who see it going in the wrong direction (40%). Here is where the cross-tabulations by demographics get really intriguing. In addition to stronger numbers within the President’s base – 53% of those 65 and older, 75% of Trump voters, 70% of conservatives, and 69% of Republicans – the view is rosier than one might believe among young voters 43% of 18-34-year olds and 45% among 35-49 year olds), Hispanics and African Americans (32% each), and independents (43%).
More than two in three (68%) tell the pollsters that the economy is strong, while 32% say it is weak – and this includes 76% of men, 61% of women, 64% or more of all age groups, 57% and 58% of Hispanics and African Americans respectively, and 63% of political moderates. And overall, more voters say they are doing better off in their personal financial situation (31%) or about the same (38%) than the one in four (25%) who say they are doing worse off. The “better off” crowd includes the 30% of Hispanics and 33% of African Americans registered in the poll.
As we know, credit and blame always go to the person in charge. In this case, 54% approve of the way Mr. Trump is handling the economy, while 46% disapprove. A whopping 62% of men approve while only 45% of women – but so too does a majority of all age groups approve, 89% of 2016 Trump supporters, as well as 42% of Hispanics and 32% of African Americans.
An equal percentage credit Mr. Trump with stimulating jobs (54%) – with similar demographic support as his approval rating on handling the economy.
What are we to make of all of this? I am a major fan of consultant of James Carville, but I have never bought into the universality of his dictum – “it’s the economy, stupid”. Voters are too complicated to be one-dimensional. There is plenty of evidence in this Harvard-Harris Poll and others to show that Mr. Trump’s style, behavior, ideology, and management are impediments to attaining more popularity. On the other hand, if there is a sense that things are getting better financially for people, that there is at least a growing feeling of optimism, and that this trend can continue, then it may prove harder to make a case that the person in charge has to be defeated. In addition, if the President can put a string of diplomatic victories together – regardless of whether or not his opponents oppose his initiatives, e.g. with Iran – then the President can bolster his creds with both his base and beyond. It will also make it much harder for Democrats to run on a slogan that argues that they can do anything “better”, as their current consultant-driven message suggests.

Changing the Era of Doubt & Mistrust

“Where trust exists and is reciprocated—where there is “confidence” in policies, institutions and systems—economies will achieve more.”
We live in an era of doubts and questions about the global order. We have seen an erosion of trust in bedrock institutions—political parties, national governments, regional authorities, and among international trade and investment partners.
We often throw around the word trust rather loosely. But serious and careful work by Luigi Zingales and several others has defined trust as “civic capital”, meaning “those persistent and shared beliefs and values that help a group overcome the free rider problem in the pursuit of socially valuable activity.”
They find that where trust exists and is reciprocated—where there is “confidence” in policies, institutions and systems—economies will achieve more.
But when it is depleted, when people come to believe that the “system” does not reflect their values, is not under their control, and no longer works to their benefit, economies will underperform.
There are three broad reasons for the erosion of trust:
First, is the reaction to globalization—or, more specifically the dislocations that have occurred in our interconnected global economy. Many people believe that it has not delivered fair outcomes, and that there is a lack of accountability for leaders and those who have gained the most.
Second, the global financial crisis, and the slow, decade-long recovery that followed exacerbated this trend. Governments have been blamed for failing to prevent the crisis and then compounding the difficulties by failing to engineer a swift recovery. For many, the past decade only provided proof that special interests had hijacked institutions, that corruption is endemic, and working people are left holding the bag.
Deep anger was directed at the bankers—although, ironically, recent surveys show that trust in banks is now returning. That no doubt reflects the reform that followed the crisis, which underlines one key lesson: trust can be rebuilt.
The third factor is technology. The rise of automation, AI, big data, e-commerce, and fintech each have huge potential. But they also deepen worries about the future of work, the sustainability of established businesses, the spread of cyber-criminality, and the weaponization of data. It should come as no surprise that we are witnessing a loss of trust in the big internet giants.
The rise of populist political movements and parties and protectionist sentiments may be the most obvious consequence of the trust recession, along with the anger in many countries about income inequality. But there is a deeper tendency at work—a shift as people place their trust in local entities or single-issue entities where citizens feel they can regain a sense of control. This includes civil society organizations, social and political movements, and communities that form online.
While decentralization gives people a sense of belonging and local impact, this fragmentation comes with a fundamental downside consequence. The more trust resides at local and decentralized levels, the less those who are trusted will have the power and authority to address and solve problems that inherently require centralized authority, and, in an increasing number of cases, regional and global cooperation.
For example, trust in some European institutions has suffered from concerns about overreach. Discontent and suspicion of supranational bodies and regulation has generated a backlash in recent elections.
Europe faces additional vulnerabilities as long as elements of the regional construct remain incomplete. With work remaining on banking union and the harmonization of national regulations and practices in the financial sector, the risk is a further erosion of trust. On the upside, progress on further integration there could renew trust. What is proving difficult is contending with risk reduction—the legacies of crisis and national policy indiscipline—while building elements of risk sharing. Unless that balance is properly struck, trust may be hard to maintain, if citizens in some countries see themselves as payers and others as receivers.
On the global level, distrust of global agreements and institutions is most evident in the realm of trade and foreign direct investment—witness the turn toward bilateral negotiations and treaties and the talk of unilateral actions. Cooperation for mutual gain is the only sure way to avoid the risk of damaging escalation in trade tensions. But by the same token, globalization will not receive sustained, broad support unless it is based on free and fair trade and investment practices. That means being willing to update rules and institutions commensurate with the growing sophistication and complexity of the global economy—and as technology changes the economic landscape. All countries need to work to improve their own policies, and work together to take account of the dislocations from globalization and technology.
The IMF is no stranger to distrust. We have been at the center of crisis and controversy. We have faced pressure again and again to reform to meet the changing needs and expectations of the international community. We feel it again now in discussions about the global financial safety net, which is needed as a bulwark against future crises.
Over the past decade, the Fund has taken important steps to make our decision making more reflective of changes in the global economy, with emerging market countries gaining a larger voice.
Our work must continue. We must become better attuned to ideas and grievances coming from all corners of the globe—and that includes addressing corruption concerns. We must demonstrate that we are a learning, evolving, and competent institution. But more importantly, we must prove that there is still reason to work together for global goods that benefit all people and transcend national and parochial boundaries.
It is crucial to prepare multilateralism for a world where trust and authority are more decentralized. Our multilateral institutions are more critical than ever. The way we rebuild confidence is to make sure that cooperation leads to concrete gains that benefit all people, and that these gains are widely shared. We can restore trust in institutions and larger purposes if we set out to regain the sense that something concrete can be achieved by working together.

The Unacknowledged Palestinian “Treason”

The Arabs have victimized the Palestinians. It is an assault on them- willingly or unwillingly. But have the Palestinians been pristinely pure? Have they not been guilty of treachery, dishonesty, chicanery, and deceit? They have been as seen in my earlier article. (  They have been guilty as hell and all the sympathy that they garner for being unwitting victims is lost when we see their perfidy.
The Palestinians’ problem is not with a settlement or a checkpoint or a fence. They have a problem with the existence of Israel in any borders. Palestinians have still not come to terms with Israel’s right to exist, period; this is the essence of the Israeli-Arab conflict. They see Israel as one big settlement that needs to be ripped out
Palestinian leaders have spent the past few months calling for boycotts of Israel and the US. The most recent call came just a few weeks ago, when Palestinian Authority leaders and officials called on all countries to boycott the inauguration ceremony of the US embassy in Jerusalem.
One of the officials who called for boycotting the ceremony was Ahmed Majdalani, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, and a top advisor to President Mahmoud Abbas. Majdalani is also famous for his repeated calls in the past few years for boycotting Israel in all fields. Ahmed Majdalani is now being accused by his own people of promoting “normalization” between Palestinians and Israel.
It seems that Majdalani is being forced to taste the same medicine he has been prescribing for Israel and the US. His efforts to promote boycotts of Israel and the US have backfired. Ironically, the boycotter Majdalani is now being boycotted by his own people. This is what happens when all you preach to your people day and night is hatred, incitement and boycotts. Eventually, you yourself become affected by the same messages of hate and brainwashing. It is worth noting that those who took the decision to ban the PLO official Majdalani from entering Palestinian universities are living under the “moderate” Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, not under Hamas rule.
So what crime exactly did Majdalani commit and why has he become the subject of fierce criticism and calls for boycotting him?
It turns out the senior PLO official and promoter of boycotts has committed two “crimes”: First, he accepted an invitation to attend the annual Herzliya Conference organized by the Israeli think-tank, the Institute for Policy and Strategy. Second, when Majdalani was asked to comment on the criticism from Palestinians for his participation in the Israeli conference, he replied: “My participation in the Herzliya Conference is not different from my participation in events organized, for example, by Bir Zeit University.”
The annual conference is held at the Interdisciplinary Center at Herzliya — a nonsectarian research college near Tel Aviv that was founded in 1994 based on the model of the American Ivy League Universities.
This was not the first time that Majdalani had attended the Herzliya Conference. In the past, he also faced strong condemnations for agreeing to be part of a conference organized by an Israeli think-tank.
This time, however, his critics decided that condemnations were not enough. Majdalani has now been handed a severe punishment; he has been banned from entering or speaking at any Palestinian university.
Dr. Amjad Barham, chairman of the General Workers’ Union at Palestinian Universities, announced on May 22 that his union has decided to boycott Majdalani and not receive him at any university campus. He said the decision would be reversed only if Majdalani, a senior PLO official, apologizes for reportedly equating a Palestinian university and an Israeli educational institution.
Dr. Barham explained that the decision to boycott Majdalani came on the heels of the union’s opposition to any form of “academic normalization” with Israel. “Our union will work hard to hold accountable any official or academic who is involved in promoting normalization with Israel and we will ask all Palestinian universities to boycott him or her,” he said. “Any Palestinian academic who commits the crime of promoting academic normalization with Israel will be punished and banned from setting foot in any Palestinian university.
The Workers Union at Bir Zeit University also issued a similar call for boycotting Majdalani. The union said it was furious with the senior PLO official not only because he had attended an Israeli conference, but also because he had dared draw a parallel between Bir Zeit University and an Israeli educational institution. The chairman of the union, Sameh Abu Awwad, said that any Palestinian who is caught involved in promoting any form of “normalization” with Israel would be subject to punitive measures and boycotts. “We have issued an order banning Majdalani from entering our university,” Abu Awwad said. “There is no room for normalizers [with Israel] on our campus.”
So now the PLO official is permitted to enter any Israeli university, but he is persona non grata at Palestinian universities or other academic institutions. How dare he draw a comparison between a Palestinian and Israeli university? How dare he attend a conference alongside Israeli academics, politicians and experts? An intolerable crime, from the Palestinian point of view.
It is worth noting that those who took the decision to ban the PLO official from entering Palestinian universities are living under the “moderate” Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Those who banned Majdalani from Palestinian universities and report to the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Education, not Hamas.
This is the same Palestinian Authority that receives funds from the US and EU. In other words, Americans and Europeans are funding Palestinians who are opposed to any form of “normalization” with Israel. For these Palestinians, it would be better if Israel simply disappeared than having to engage in any kind of collaboration with it. Anyone who opposes “normalization” with Israel is actually acting against peace with Israel. How can there ever be peace between Palestinians and Israel if Palestinians are staunchly opposed to “normalization” with Israel? This leads us only to one conclusion: that Americans and Europeans are funding Palestinians who seek the annihilation of Israel.
Let us clarify for the sake of clarity. The Palestinians’ anti-normalization campaign against Israel means that Palestinians are not interested in peace with Israel. What they seek is not peace with Israel, but peace without Israel. They want to see Israel gone from the Middle East. They want to see Jews vanish from the region.
The Palestinians’ problem is not with a settlement or a checkpoint or a fence. They have a problem with the existence of Israel in any borders. Palestinians have still not come to terms with Israel’s right to exist, period; this is the essence of the Israeli-Arab conflict. They see Israel as one big settlement that needs to be ripped out.
Back to Majdalani. There is no doubt that from now on this senior PLO official will find himself welcome on campuses in Israel. In fact, he has already spoken at various campuses and other platforms in Israel. But Majdalani knows that from now on he will be putting his life at risk if he ever again sets foot on a Palestinian campus.
Yet, Majdalani has only himself to blame. He has long been promoting boycotts of not only Israel, but also the US. If, day and night, you ram down the throats of your people that Palestinians must boycott Israel, what do you expect your people to do when they see you participating in a conference organized by an Israeli institution?
The controversy surrounding Majdalani’s participation in the Herzliya Conference could serve as a useful wake-up call to the West. If a PLO official’s visit to a conference in Israel is labelled treason, what would happen to a Palestinian who signed a peace agreement with Israel? No education for peace with Israel on the Palestinian side – rather, decades of Palestinian education for war with Israel – translates into an interminable Arab-Israeli conflict. And no wishful thinking on the part of anyone will change that.

Poor Palestinians: Victims of Arab Apartheid

Palestinians proclaim from the house-tops that they have been betrayed and that they are victims- victims of appalling apartheid. victims of inept and harrowing discrimination. Yes, that is all true. But the truth goes beyond that, They are discriminated against; but not by Christians, not by Jews, not even by Hindus. The real villains are the Arabs. And yet, the Palestinians are either asleep or wilfully ignorant. Let us the facts:
Lebanon is one of several Arab countries where Palestinians are subjected to discriminatory and apartheid laws and measures. The plight of Palestinians in Arab countries, however, is apparently of no interest to the international community, and pro-Palestinian activists and groups around the world.
Recently, the Lebanese authorities placed electronic screening gates at all entrances to Ain Al-Hilweh, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. The move has sparked a wave of protests in Ain Al-Hilweh and among Palestinians living in other refugee camps in Lebanon, who are describing the installation of the electronic gates as collective punishment.
Until a few years ago, Ain Al-Hilweh had a population of 75,000. However, with the influx of refugees from Syria, which began in 2011, the camp’s population is now estimated at more than 160,000.
About two years ago, the Lebanese army began building a security fence around Ain Al-Hilweh as part of an effort to combat jihadi terror groups that were reported to have infiltrated the camp. With the completion of the fence, the Lebanese authorities, in a move that has surprised the Palestinians, decided to install electronic gates to screen all those entering and leaving the camp. The Lebanese authorities say the gates are critical to discovering explosives and other types of weapons.
The installation of the electronic gates came during the holy month of Ramadan — a move that has further exacerbated tensions inside Ain Al-Hilweh and drawn strong condemnations from the camp residents and other Palestinians.
Leaders of several Palestinian factions in Lebanon who held an emergency meeting earlier this week to discuss the installation of the electronic gates called on the Lebanese government to ease security restrictions on the camp residents. Some of the leaders claimed that the new gates were part of a US-led “conspiracy” targeting Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. “We fear that the recent Lebanese measures are in compliance with US pressure on the Lebanese government to impose punitive measures against the Palestinian camps [in Lebanon],” said a Palestinian official who attended the emergency meeting. He claimed that most of the terrorists wanted by the Lebanese authorities had left Ain Al-Hilweh in spite of the tough security measures surrounding the camp, and as such there was no justification for the electronic gates.
According to residents of Ain Al-Hilweh, the electronic gates have turned their lives into misery, resulting in long lines and delays as Lebanese soldiers conduct thorough searches on Palestinians leaving and entering the camp. They claim that the gates were placed at all the entrances to the camp, although only after the security situation inside the camp had relatively improved and recently been calm. “Such security measures are unjustified and serve to only increase anger and frustration,” argued Yasser Ali, an official with a group that represents Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. “Why are they dealing with Ain Al-Hilweh as if it were an island full of diseases?”
In the past few days, residents of the camp have staged a number of protests against the electronic gates, and demanded an end to the Lebanese authorities’ harsh measures against Palestinians in Ain Al-Hilweh in particular and Lebanon in general. “We prefer to die than to be humiliated,” and “The people in the camp challenge the gates,” the protesters chanted.
A Palestinian human rights organization condemned the Lebanese army’s decision to place electronic gates at the entrances to the camp. He said the measure turns all the residents of Ain Al-Hilweh into suspected terrorists. “This measure is an insult and humiliation to the camp residents and an assault on their dignity,” the organization said in a statement.
“Such electronic gates are used at airports and international borders, and it is hard to understand why they are being used to screen residents of a camp. Clearly, this is collective punishment that affects tens of thousands of people. The security measures, including the electronic gates and the concrete fence have turned the camp into a real prison. The residents have become prisoners who are permitted to enter and leave only with the permission of the military, which is standing at the entrances.”
Some Palestinians have called out Lebanon’s leaders for their hypocrisy. “In whose interest is it to humiliate the Palestinians in Lebanon?” asked Palestinian political commentator Ahmed Al-Haj Ali. “How can Lebanese officials experience schizophrenia when they talk about liberating Palestine while they are imposing strict measures against the Palestinians?”
On June 13, a delegation representing Palestinian factions met with Bahia Hariri, a Lebanese parliament member who happens to be the aunt of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and appealed to her to intervene to have the gates removed from the entrances to Ain Al-Hilweh. The delegation complained to her that the gates have had a negative impact on the lives of the camp residents and urged her to use her influence with the Lebanese authorities to ease restrictions imposed on Palestinians in Lebanon.
Here it is worth noting that the 450,000 Palestinians in Lebanon have long been suffering from a policy of systematic discrimination and marginalization by the Lebanese authorities in all aspects.
Until 2005, Palestinians were barred from 70 different categories of qualified professions, such as medicine, law and engineering. Although the Lebanese Minister of Labor issued a memorandum in 2005 permitting Palestinians to work legally in manual and clerical jobs, the ban on Palestinians seeking professional employment has remained in place. In 2001, the Lebanese parliament passed a law that prevents Palestinians from owning and inheriting property. In addition, Palestinian refugees have no access to Lebanese government hospitals. As one Palestinian pointed out:
“The Palestinians in Lebanon and other Arab countries are treated as if they are not human beings. The Arabs hold us in ghettoes and deny us basic human rights. In Lebanon, Palestinian refugee camps are like a zoo or a prison. This is shameful that Arabs are capable of treating their fellow Arabs in such a manner. Even more shameful is the silence of the international community and the UN.”
As if that were not enough, in 2007 the Lebanese army launched a large military operation against another refugee camp, Nahr Al-Bared, killing hundreds of people and destroying most of the houses there. Most of the 32,000 camp residents were forced to flee their homes. According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), “the effects of this displacement have compounded the already severe socioeconomic conditions facing these refugees and constitute a chronic humanitarian crisis.”
The residents of Ain Al-Hilweh now fear that the tough security measures around their camp, including the placement of the electronic gates, mean that they could meet the same fate.
That is why they are planning to step up their protests in the coming days and weeks. However, the Palestinians in Lebanon would be mistaken to pin high hopes on the international community or Palestinian leaders.
The international community pays attention to the Palestinians only when it is possible to blame Israel. The only Palestinians who seem to win the attention of the international community and media are those living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and who are in direct conflict with Israel. Palestinians living in ghettos in the Arab world and who are being killed and displaced by Arab armies do not attract any attention from the international community or mainstream media.
No one cares when an Arab country mistreats and discriminates and kills Palestinians. But when something happens in the West Bank or Gaza Strip, the international media and community suddenly wake up. Why? Because they do not want to miss an opportunity to condemn Israel.
The residents of Ain Al-Hilweh would have been fortunate had Israel placed the electronic gates at the entrances to their camp. Then, dozens of foreign journalists and human rights activists would have converged on the camp to document an Israeli “violation of Palestinian human rights.” One can only imagine the uproar in the world were Israel to pass a law denying Arabs jobs or the right to inherit property.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians are now living in a ghetto called Ain Al-Hilweh, and the world seems to be fine with that. In fact, most Palestinians in Lebanon have long been living in ghettos surrounded by the Lebanese army.
There are no protests on the streets of London or Paris. The UN Security Council has not — and will not — hold an emergency session to condemn Lebanon. Of course, the mainstream media in the West is not going to report about Arab apartheid and repressive measures against Palestinians. As for the leaders of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, they do not have time to address the problems of the camp residents. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas are too busy fighting each other and the last thing they have on their minds are the interests and well-being of their people.

WTO: A Achievement of Civilisation or Mere Temporary Experiment

On June 6, the European Union and Canada initiated dispute complaints, under the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU), with the US concerning tariffs imposed by Washington on steel and aluminum imports. US President Donald Trump imposed a 25% import tariff on steel and a 10% tariff on aluminum on the grounds that these imports threaten to impair national security.
According to the International Trade Organization (ITO), US steel imports are four times that of exports and rising. Three-quarters of these imports are from just eight countries, although it imports from 100 countries.
WTO has faced existential crises before. It has found its ability to thrash out consensus being questioned— as exemplified in the stalemate on the Doha Round negotiations crucial for developing countries—or weakened, through mushrooming plurilateral deals and the establishment of Inter-State Dispute Settlement regimes. The current attempt by the US to chip away at the basic structure of international trade by removing all components of predictability and paralysing the system by blocking crucial appointments is unprecedented.
Won’t give an inch
The broad categories of actions are: US imposing ‘safeguard’ duties of 30% on imported solar cells and duties of 20-50% on imported large residential washers under Section 201 of DSU; US tariffs on imported steel and aluminum under Section 232; an action against China following a Section 301investigation of China’s trade practices that ‘discriminates’ against US intellectual property; and aSection 232 investigation into auto and auto part imports that impacts the US auto industry.
Of these, the second category attracts attention because it affects the US’s allies as well as its trade partners. The rarely used law, Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which allows imposing tariffs citing national security primarily because the ‘safeguards’ rules that countries have traditionally whipped up to impose temporary tariffs on imports, are harder to use because of prior WTO panel rulings.
A situation emerged where the affected countries sought consultations, arguing that the tariffs are safeguard measures that come under the globally drawn Safeguards Agreements. Meanwhile, the US insists that these are not safeguard measures but ones that concern national security.
In response to steel and aluminum taxes, the affected countries have announced their intention to exercise their “rights under Article 8.2 of the Safeguards Agreement”, suspending concessions on US imports.
Beijing has unveiled rebalancing tariffs of 128 products, targeting about $3 billion of US imports. India will impose additional duties of 5-50% on 20 tariff lines, totalling $165.56 million June 21onwards.
And the EU, among other measures, will impose a 25% additional tariffs from June 20 on more than 180 tariff lines, with theoretical additional duties of $700 million.
Japan, Russia and Turkey have similar ‘rebalancing’ plans submitted to the WTO’s Goods Council. China has warned that the US action severely damages the stability of the multilateral trading system.
“This institution does not deserve to die through asphyxiation,” Ricardo Ramírez-Hernández, two-term judge on the WTO’s appellate body, said in his farewell speech. The US has been blocking appointments to the spot left vacant by Ramirez and others, to the appellate body, the highest court for trade disputes between its 164-member countries, for over 17 months now.
The current situation has grave implications for WTO. Countries will run with one leg tied to the White House, which will become the epicentre for bilateral negotiations to resolve disputes that should have been resolved at WTO. Trade experts believe that the EU will not be able to hold on to its tough declarations.
The New York Times, citing diplomatic officials, said that there is a possibility of the EU buying huge quantities of US LNG, or support the US in changing the rules of WTO’s dispute settlement system to assuage the Trump administration. This displays the raw might of both private and public actors to ride over consensus-based international rules, where smaller countries don’t stand a chance.
Regardless of how dispute panels rule on the metals tariff issue, the outcome will engender problematic responses. If it goes for the affected countries, then the US may withdraw from WTO or ignore the ruling. And if it goes in favour of the US, then it sets aprecedent for more trade-restrictive nationalistic policies threatening multilateralism.
This may also push countries to take the Article 25 route of expeditious arbitration within WTO as an alternative means of dispute settlement, or the plurilaterals’ route. Both would spell the recalibration of a predictable and rules-based trading system.
As WTO deputy director-general Karl Brauner said at Ramirez’s farewell, it remains to be seen if WTO was an achievement of civilisation, or only a temporary experiment.

Donald Trump: Delivering results? Yes, he can & is doing

Brad Todd’s and Salena Zito’s The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics starts with a telling anecdote. Lifelong Ohio Democrat voter Bonnie Smith had a change of heart and voted for Donald Trump in 2016 because she and her husband believed that the Democratic Party was no longer speaking of their interests. It was a tough decision, but could not just “show up and vote for who my party tells me I had to vote for”. It was this powerful sentiment propelling voters like the Smiths to vote for Trump that was, perhaps, the most under-recognized element of the 2016 election.
So why is this important some 19 months after November 2016? The wild reaction to Trump’s presidency so far by certain sections in the US mirror the hysterics to his election-year slugfest that saw him come from nowhere to win the presidency.
Every attempt has been made to denigrate and downplay his achievements, while playing up his missteps, even the silly ones (remember the brouhaha over ‘covfefe’?).
There was the charge of Trump’s supposed failure to enact legislation and push through policies. Much was made out of the failed attempts to scrap Obamacare. Tax cuts were supposed to bomb, but that was before companies announced bonuses, stepped up hiring and households getting more ‘take home’ money. Then came North Korea.
This has been Trump’s first big foreign policy success. The US, along with South Korea and with a nudge from China, managed to convince an overly sensitive, suspicious Kim Jong-un not only to agree to talks but also to fly to Singapore for a face to-face meeting with the US president. Of course, this summit needs follow-through to show intended results.
Much depends on the concessions offered by the US and whether Kim actually agrees to denuclearise North Korea, considering having nuclear weapons has been, paradoxically, the country’s only strategic trump card.
But much of the US ‘liberal’ mainstream media —of which we are more aware of here in India —has chosen to downplay Trump’s role in bringing about this historic event.
The fact of the matter is that Trump is winning. The US economy is growing and 15,000-20,000 new jobs are being created every month. The confidence of small business is at a 34-year high with many wanting to expand and increase prices. Trump is also reordering the US’ relationship with global major powers.
Whether it will last and fulfil his promises remains to be seen. There are challenges ahead. We don’t know how much the high tariffs will hurt workers and the economy, and whether new trade deals can be struck quickly. Runaway inflation and high-interest rates can wreck growth. All this, while Trump still has to get over the investigations into the alleged intervention of Russia in the 2016 elections and help Republicans win in the November mid-term elections. But the latest polls will tell you that Trump and the Republicans are gaining ground.
In the summer of 1987, President Ronald Reagan urged his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down the Berlin Wall”. Thirty-one summers later, Trump may have set the wheels in motion to tear down the ‘wall’ separating North and South Korea, one of the last vestiges of the Cold War. And that is the real significance of the Singapore summit

Cracking the enterprise valuation code in times of growing digitisation

Valuing an enterprise is a tricky task. Trickier is to arrive at a possible market valuation at a future point in time. Price-to-book has defied the discipline of theorists and practitioners alike. The challenge is in understanding the market value, which could vary from industry to industry and at different points in time. Comparing it with what an accounting, financial or tax regime provides for book value determination and aligning it with strategy could be very complex.
In the era of hard assets with a verifiable and auditable assessment of impairment of assets, physical and financial, fair determination of enterprise value was easy and based on rules. While the book value was quite easy to arrive at, as digital content in activities and life cycles of enterprises became the synonyms of productivity, efficiency, customer connect and revenue generation, mere book value-based accounting principles have increasingly become unreliable indicators of enterprise value.
Let us examine the most valued companies of the world in the last three-five year periods i.e. 2007, 2012 and 2017. In 2007, brick and mortar manufacturing, telcos, oil, and banking companies were preponderant. The top five companies were PetroChina, Exxon Mobile, GE, China Mobile and ICBC. In 2012, the five most valuable companies saw a shift with Apple replacing GE and others like Microsoft knocking on the door.
In 2017, all the top five companies were digital companies namely Google (Alphabet), Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Facebook. In India, as per the analysis of the author, we are probably travelling the same path as the global enterprise value trends with a five-year lag. In 2017, the most valuable Indian companies were Reliance, HDFC, HDFC Bank, TCS and ITC. More digital companies are in top 20 most valuable publicly-listed companies list than ever. At the same time, the digital content of all the most valued companies is increasing. By all evidence, the market values them increasingly on how big a digital powerhouse they are. This therefore merits some analysis.
Many of the digital world companies are valued by the street on parameters that might appear either opaque or disruptive and unconventional at first sight. Some key questions begging answers are — why at all companies like Amazon or Google, whose key and core business areas are negative in terms of bottom line, should be valued so highly. The other question is whether a proven business model as a key anchor of valuation is invalid?
It seems so, if we see the unimaginable value paid for some of the recent digital acquisitions of companies, which are two to three years old. Similarly, whether market values potential based on customer base or supply and value chain management or merely on the disruptive power of the company based on technology, is a guess work. The only common threads appear to be the digital power, digital process, digital connect and digital contextualisation which are driving the values.
If Facebook is a highly valued company, it is not surely based on mere number of customers or number of footprints on the platform, but increasingly the sustainability driven by contextualised offerings and experience given to users. In case of a TCS or Reliance too, it is digitisation of business and operational processes which are driving the value.
Conclusively, the digital content in valuation is becoming sector and industry agnostic. Analysis points that everything in an organisation is getting digitised. Parts of the digitisation like productivity enhancement through process optimisation, deployment of modern technology, etc., gets directly translated into valuation indices like cost-to-income ratio, higher processing power, robust customer acquisition, etc.
However, increasingly, value determinants are getting based on investments made in future digital value and aspirational technologies. The ability of a Netflix to reduce time to market a new user experience through futuristic big data and user contextualisation technologies is contributing to its success more than what it does currently.
Similarly, the investment in integrated Wi-Fi experience with ecommerce and partner boarding readiness is probably driving the excitement around Reliance Jio. So, is there a golden thumb rule to increase digital quotient for better market value? The answer varies from industry to industry. Industries like retail, telecom and banking have a 50:50 ratio between productivity and future ready digitization.
In manufacturing, the ratio is catching up as everyone rides on the bandwagon of digitisation and things digital with initiatives like industry 4.0. However, the markets valuing or discounting a digital investment passes through rapid phases. So, the litmus test shall be determining which part of digitisation is working and sunsetting the ones which are not. In summary, digitisation and value are more directly proportional today than any point in known history.

Diversity- A Major Element That Makes a Community Happier & Healthier- Cannot be Taught

Diversity, health centers, and commuter trains are among the community attributes linked to well-being and quality of life, according to new research.
A new nationwide study of more than 300,000 adults shows that people who live in communities that offer racial diversity, access to preventive health care, and public transportation, among other things, are more likely to report high levels of well-being.
“To improve the well-being of a community, you need to work across multiple sectors and fields, to include the economy and health care and urban planning and transportation…”
Well-being—defined as an individual’s assessment of his or her health and quality of life—is associated with longevity and better health outcomes. Research shows that well-being also varies by region.
To investigate correlations between community attributes and well-being, the researchers examined data on 77 characteristics of counties across the United States related to demographics, clinical care, social and economic factors, and the physical environment.
They also analyzed findings from the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index. The index measures Americans’ perceptions of their daily life experiences, including their sense of purpose, financial security, relationships, and physical health.
Linking the well-being data to specific county characteristics, and using a step-wise process to eliminate redundancy, the researchers identified 12 attributes that were strongly and independently associated with well-being.
“We came up with attributes that explained a large portion of the variation we see in well-being,” says first author Brita Roy, assistant professor of medicine at Yale University. “Several factors were related to income and education, which is expected. But we also found that attributes related to the community environment and the way people commute and variables related to health care were linked to well-being.”
For example, living in a community with a higher percentage of black residents was associated with greater well-being for all. Access to preventive health care, such as mammography, and health centers were linked to well-being. Individuals in communities where they could commute to work by bicycle reported feelings of satisfaction and fulfillment, the researchers note.
While the study did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between community attributes and well-being, the correlations were significant, the researchers say. The findings suggest strategies for policymakers and public health experts who seek to enhance health and well-being in their communities, they say, noting that promoting diversity and better education, transportation, and primary care may make a difference.
“The results of this study represent a step forward in our understanding of how we may efficiently and effectively improve well-being through community-based action,” says study coauthor Carley Riley, assistant professor at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
“To improve the well-being of a community, you need to work across multiple sectors and fields, to include the economy and health care and urban planning and transportation,” says Roy, who points to examples of communities in Richmond, California and Chittenden County, Vermont that have taken this approach to health. “Working across different groups, in coalitions, has the greatest potential to improve health and quality of life.”
Diversity training doesn’t change people’s behaviour
The US government is training every one of its 2.8 million employees to avoid unconscious bias. Starbucks is planning to close more than 8,000 stores for the day to give its staff similar courses. In the UK, the government has already trained 100,000 civil servants, and recommends that every major employer do the same.
The only problem? It won’t work.
Unconscious bias training is often given to managers in charge of hiring and promotion. It’s meant to reveal to them their hidden prejudices and biases, usually towards women or ethnic minorities, and educate them about the impact that bias has on decision-making.
But study after study has shown that while training may raise awareness of prejudice, it doesn’t change people’s behaviour at all. (You can read more about this on Apolitical’s Gender Equality newsfeed. Some of the people working on this are on our global list of the gender equality top 100).
The reason for this is neurological, according to the CEO of hiring platform Applied, Kate Glazebrook: “it’s hard to retrain the brain not to fall prey to the prejudices you have reinforced and trained for your entire life”.
Some studies have even shown that unconscious bias training can backfire. If managers are forced to do it, they can feel accused and become defensive. They can end up reporting more animosity toward minority groups. It can also lead to defeatism: if biases are so pervasive and hard to change, why bother trying?
Unconscious bias training is money ill-spent. But it is just one particularly striking example of a wider issue. There is a lack of evidence about what actually does work to improve gender equality and diversity at work.
Companies spend their diversity budgets on a range of initiatives that promise change, from women’s leadership development programmes to new assessment systems. Many of these investments are done in the dark, and their impact is rarely assessed. They are chosen because they’re easy, fast and popular, not because we know they work.
“What organisations don’t do across lots of training is…systematically measure before and afterwards to see what difference has been made”, says Mike Noon, author of Pointless Diversity Training: Unconscious Bias, New Racism and Agency.
“They want to do something quickly without spending weeks on it, so they go for a two or three-hour unconscious bias session.”
In the UK, all large employers were forced for the first time in 2018 to publish their gender pay gaps on an online portal visible to the public. The new transparency law has made the impetus to improve workplace diversity greater than ever. It has provoked debate throughout the country. Heads have rolled, salaries have been publicly axed and many have been named and shamed. At Ryanair, female employees earn just 33p for every £1 that men earn. At HSBC, a bank with more than 20,000 employees, the mean woman worker earns just 41p for every £1 that the mean man earns.
Many employers have already published detailed action plans about how to close their gaps and promote more women. Others are working on them. But bigger diversity budgets risk being wasted on ineffective policies. Marks & Spencer plans to “[weave] unconscious bias and inclusive leadership through learning and development at all levels”.
Many employers say they will close their gap by mandating diversity on hiring shortlists. But the evidence says that only works under certain conditions. If a shortlist contains just one woman, her chance of being hired is statistically zero, a 2016 study in Harvard Business Review found. If a second minority is added to the pool, the chance of either being hired skyrockets.
The UK government has now realised that pressure without evidence-based solutions won’t help. It has engaged its world-famous ‘nudge unit’, or behavioural insights team, to find out what actually does work to close the gender pay gap. Over the next 18 months, the unit will run experimental field trials with five large UK employers, including the insurer Zurich and a big city bank.
In the shorter term, the unit is publishing a list of dos and don’ts, based on the patchy evidence that exists so far. Do have skills-based assessments and structured interviews for recruitment and promotion. Do have multiple women on shortlists. Do introduce transparency into pay and promotion processes. Do encourage women to negotiate their salaries by clearly indicating upper and lower limits of the salary range.
But don’t offer diversity training, unconscious bias training, or leadership training for female employees, because there’s no evidence that they work. Don’t bother with diverse selection panels. Sometimes they may help female candidates, but sometimes they harm them.
Spreading these evidence-based recommendations is critical. A new wave of money and effort could now be wasted on actions that don’t lead to change. If that happens, momentum may be lost, and employers may just give up trying.

Unvarnished Ignored Truth of US Immigration Brohua-Disastrous, Forgotten 1996 Law: A Factual-Historical Presentation

The US is being torn asunder and the so-called liberal and leftist media egged on by populist slogans is going in for a full throat attack on President Trump. Is the present situation because of Trump, or did it originate in the Democratic reign? Why are the so-called political pundits and investigative journalists closing the eyes to the glaring facts? Sorry, they are closing their eyes. It is a deliberate action to suppress facts, promote fictional narrative to excite people. In fact, in a better-regulated country these actions are termed anti-national and an act of treason.
Let us fact historical facts that are being ignored at the cost of truth, honesty, and integrity. But would these selfish souls ever consider the ethics and patriotic values they pretend to uphold, while the effort all the time is to ensure a rapacious regime of welfare, drugs, crime, and prostitution? The immigration reform Hillary Clinton wants could be limited — or even undermined — by a law her husband signed. Both sides of the aisle agree that the current US immigration system is broken. It’s why immigration’s stayed a hot-button political issue and policy debate, and part of what has made Donald Trump the likely 2016 Republican nominee for president.
But the system hasn’t always been broken. Or rather, it hasn’t always been broken in this particular way. Everyone remembers that in 1986, President Ronald Reagan passed an “amnesty” law. But what most people don’t know is that in 1996 — fresh off the heels of signing welfare reform, and two years after signing the “crime bill” — President Bill Clinton signed a bill that overhauled immigration enforcement in the US and laid the groundwork for the massive deportation machine that exists today.
Both welfare reform and the crime bills Clinton signed have been relitigated during a contentious Democratic primary, but the 1996 immigration bill — the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act — hasn’t.
That’s mostly because Democrats have come a long way on the issue since 1996, and advocates have been happy to let them do it without asking too many questions about the past. Only now are some progressive Democrats trying to raise the issue (32 members of the House of Representatives have signed onto a congressional resolution condemning the 1996 law, introduced Thursday by Rep. Raul Grijalva). If Democrats ever find themselves in a position to pass the comprehensive immigration reform, they might find the past law’s immigration legacy has been too consequential to ignore.
What ’90s immigration reform did: made more people deportable and fewer people legalizable. There was no single provision of the 1996 law that was as dramatic as the 1986 “amnesty” law, signed by President Reagan, which is why he gets credit for the last major immigration reform. But the ’96 law essentially invented immigration enforcement as we know it today — where deportation is a constant and plausible threat to millions of immigrants.
It was a bundle of provisions with a single goal: to increase penalties on immigrants who had violated US law in some way (whether they were unauthorized immigrants who’d violated immigration law or legal immigrants who’d committed other crimes). Most immigration wonks call the 1996 law IIRIRA (pronounced “Ira-Ira”) — and it’s far from beloved by them. Here are some of their most significant complaints:
More people became eligible for deportation. Legal immigrants — including green-card holders — can be deported if they’re convicted of certain crimes (which cover a broad umbrella of offenses, some of which aren’t violent). But in 1996, Congress radically expanded which crimes made an immigrant eligible for deportation. And they made these changes retroactive.
“Overnight,” says law professor Nancy Moravetz of NYU, “people who had formed their lives here — came here legally or had adjusted to legal status, were working here, building their families, had ordinary lives in which they were on the PTA and everything else — suddenly, because of some conviction, weren’t even allowed to go in front of a judge anymore. They were just fast-tracked to deportation.”
It got easier to deport people. Immigrants convicted of crimes weren’t the only ones stripped of the ability to argue their case before a judge before getting deported. So did anyone apprehended within 100 miles of the border. And IIRIRA required the government to hold more immigrants in detention before deporting them — making it substantially harder for them to get lawyers.
These changes drastically reduced the amount of leeway that immigration judges and the executive branch had to exercise discretion in whether or not to deport an immigrant.
“Discretion was taken away from district directors and immigration judges almost entirely,” says Doris Meissner, who was head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service at the time. “And so deportations started to go up, people were deported who otherwise would not have been deported.”
The change to the law was so drastic that after a high-profile deportation of an immigrant over a minor crime led to public outcry, Republican members of Congress — including the lead author of IIRIRA — wrote the Clinton administration asking them to back down.
It got a lot harder for unauthorized immigrants to “get legal.” For much of the 20th century, it was possible for at least some unauthorized immigrants to obtain legal status once they’d been in the US for a certain amount of time. Before 1996, for example, immigrants who’d been in the US for at least seven years could get legal status as long as they showed it would cause them “extreme hardship” to get deported.
These standards weren’t easy to meet. But IIRIRA made them essentially impossible. It limited “cancellation of removal” to immigrants who’d been in the US for at least 10 years. Instead of having to show that the immigrant herself would suffer “extreme hardship” if she was deported, she’d have to show that a US citizen (like her spouse or child) would suffer “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship.” The simple fact that the family would be separated if she were deported wouldn’t count. And the US could only grant this to 3,000 immigrants each year.
That essentially eliminated an existing back door to legal status. But IIRIRA did even more. It locked a front door to legal status, too. Marrying a US citizen or permanent resident makes you eligible to apply for a green card. So does having an immediate relative who’s a US citizen (like a child), as long as the citizen’s over 18. These are true whether or not you already live in the US. And before IIRIRA, it was true regardless of whether or not you were legal to begin with.
Starting after IIRIRA passed in 1996, though, an unauthorized immigrant couldn’t directly apply for legal status — even if he had married a US citizen, or qualified for a green card through a relative. Immigrants were banished for at least three years if they’d lived in the US without papers for six months; the banishment lasted 10 years if the immigrant had lived in the US without papers for a year or more.
You could waive these bars if you could show that your spouse or child would suffer “extreme hardship” — but you had to leave the country to do it, triggering the ban before you found out if you’d gotten the waiver. Many immigrants understandably felt it wasn’t worth the risk. The provision became known as the “3- and 10-year bars” — a technical-sounding term that is so widely known and reviled among immigrants that Hillary Clinton uses it in stump speeches.
This law laid the framework for modern spikes in deportation. “I don’t think people fully appreciated what those laws had done,” says Nancy Morawetz, referring to both IIRIRA and the other 1996 laws that affected immigration. In some ways, they’re “still being sorted out today.”
But one effect was clear: After IIRIRA, deportation from the United States went from a rare phenomenon to a relatively common one. “Before 1996, internal enforcement activities had not played a very significant role in immigration enforcement,” sociologists Douglas Massey and Karen Pren have written. “Afterward, these activities rose to levels not seen since the deportation campaigns of the Great Depression.” This particular law was passed during an era where Congress and the Clinton administration were both working to increase the amount of spending and agents on the US–Mexico border.
And after 9/11, the way the federal government handled immigration changed in two major ways. The bureaucracy was reorganized — and moved from the Department of Justice to the Department of Homeland Security. And the funding for immigration enforcement got put on steroids.
The combination of those gave rise to what Meissner and the Migration Policy Institute have called a “formidable machinery” for immigrant deportations — a machinery that took the US from deporting 70,000 immigrants in 1996 to 400,000 a year though the first term of the Obama administration. But that machine was built on the legal scaffolding of the options IIRIRA opened up. “Both of those things have had so much more force because of this underlying statutory framework that they were able to tap into,” says Meissner. In retrospect, “it was sort of a perfect storm.”
After ’90s immigration reform, the unauthorized population tripled. But even though deportations exploded after the passage of IIRIRA, it didn’t keep the population of unauthorized immigrants in the US from growing. It went from 5 million the year IIRIRA was passed to 12 million by 2006. (By contrast, during the decade between the Reagan “amnesty” and IIRIRA, the unauthorized population grew by only 2 million.) These two things didn’t happen despite each other. More immigration enforcement is one big reason why there are so many unauthorized immigrants in the US today.
A lot of this is because of the increase of enforcement on the US–Mexico border — something that was happening even without IIRIRA. Many unauthorized immigrants used to shuttle back and forth between jobs in the US and families in Mexico. Once it got harder to cross the border without being caught, they settled in the US — “essentially hunkering down and staying once they had successfully run the gauntlet at the border,” as Massey and Pren write — and encouraged their families to settle alongside them.
(This wasn’t the only reason unauthorized immigrants started settling in the US around this time. The types of jobs available for unauthorized workers were changing, with seasonal agricultural jobs being replaced by year-round service-industry ones, for one thing. But it was certainly a major factor.)
But if border enforcement encouraged families to stay, IIRIRA prevented them from obtaining legal status. By this point, a majority of the unauthorized-immigrant population of the US has been here 10 years — more than enough time to qualify for cancellation of removal, if IIRIRA hadn’t made it so difficult to get. Millions of them have children who are US citizens.
The 3- and 10-year bars alone have caused millions of immigrants to remain unauthorized who’d otherwise be eligible for green cards or US citizenship by now. According to Douglas Massey’s estimate, if those bars hadn’t been instituted in 1996, there would be 5.3 million fewer unauthorized immigrants in the US today. In other words, the population of unauthorized immigrants in the US would literally be half the size it is now.
Unlike some of the Clinton-era laws that the Democratic Party has now moved to the left of — like the 1994 crime bill and welfare reform — IIRIRA was not President Clinton’s bill. It was Republicans who’d pressed the issue of tightening immigration restrictions during the 1994 campaign (both in Congress and in California, where Gov. Pete Wilson rode to reelection on a ballot proposition severely restricting unauthorized immigrants’ use of state services like public schools).
When Republicans won the House of Representatives in 1994, they — and especially Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the new chair of the Immigration Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee — came in with a mission. “They were about the business of really toughening up immigration law,” says Doris Meissner, who was head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service at the time. “And that is what they did” — sticking immigration provisions in welfare reform and the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (or AEDPA).
And then there was IIRIRA, which was originally introduced as a comprehensive immigration enforcement bill: seriously tightening the requirements for legal immigration; making it harder to apply for and receive asylum in the US; and increasing immigration enforcement. “Nobody really felt like they had a lot of leverage” against the Republican plan, says Charles Kamasaki of the National Council of La Raza.
Pro-immigration Republicans and Democrats were able to limit the damage by dividing the bill. They blocked the restrictions on future legal immigration and were “at least partially successful in mitigating” restrictions on asylum (in Kamasaki’s telling). But at the heart of the split-the-bill strategy was the recognition that the enforcement provisions against “criminal aliens” were too popular to stop — not only among Republicans but among congressional Democrats and the Clinton White House. “There was a pretty spirited fight on the 3- and 10-year bars” in Congress, says Kamasaki, as well as on a few other amendments. “But the votes weren’t even close.”
The administration certainly didn’t seem to have a problem with the enforcement provisions of IIRIRA. “We all understand the problem of illegal immigrants. We’re all trying to ensure that we have additional enforcement to protect against illegal immigrants,” said White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta at the time. “But I, for the life of me, do not understand why we need to penalize legal immigrants in that process.”
President Bill Clinton, signing an executive order barring federal contracts from going to companies that employed unauthorized workers. But publicly, the White House was enthusiastic — and reinforced the idea that while restrictions on legal immigrants and immigration might be controversial, getting tough on immigrants who’d violated the laws was not. In a press conference after President Clinton signed IIRIRA into law, Panetta crowed: “We were able, I think, as a result of this negotiation to be able to modify — eliminate — the large hits with regards to legal immigrants, while keeping some very strong enforcement measures with regards to illegal immigration.”
The Clinton White House wanted an “opportunity” to demonstrate it was tough on immigrants. If IIRIRA was as terrible a bill as Meissner claims, why did Panetta celebrate signing it? For that matter, why did President Clinton sign the bill at all?
The answer is, essentially, that on some level the Clinton administration really did want to look tough on immigration. And that was more important than vetoing a bill because some in the administration didn’t like its policy provisions. “It’s certainly the case that the administration was enforcement-minded where illegal immigration was concerned,” Meissner says. That started at the top.
Bill Clinton had personal experience with immigration as a political liability: the only election loss of his career (his gubernatorial reelection campaign of 1980) came after he’d agreed to house Cuban refugees in Arkansas after the Mariel boatlift. He was convinced, even as president, that being soft on immigration was a no-go for Democrats — just like being soft on crime or welfare.
So from one angle, the administration painted itself into a corner with IIRIRA: It had to sign any bill Congress offered, and this was the one it got. “The administration was taking a position that immigration enforcement needed to be strengthened,” says Meissner. “Under those circumstances, you’ve got to try to get as good a bill as you can get. But if you veto a bill — it would have been viewed as politically dishonest.”
But the Clinton administration might not have been as reluctant to sign IIRIRA as Meissner implies. In a memo written in November 1996, a few months after IIRIRA was passed, a senior adviser to the president named Rahm Emanuel wrote a memo recommending a series of aggressive steps President Clinton could take in the wake of the law — including “claim and achieve record deportations of criminal aliens.”
“After the Crime Bill passed in 1994, we built a strong record on crime,” Emanuel wrote. “The illegal immigration legislation provides that same opportunity; now that the legislation is passed, we can build up a strong Administration record on immigration.”
Democrats swiftly moved left on immigration since then — and most advocates are happy to leave the past in the past
Despite Emanuel’s prediction, though, immigration and crime have followed totally different trajectories for the Democratic Party over the past two decades. While criminal-justice reform has only recently become a consensus issue among Democrats — and many of them are still less enthusiastic than certain reform-minded Republicans — comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants currently in the US, has enjoyed unanimous support among Democrats for nearly a decade.
The shift started in the years right after IIRIRA’s passage. In 1997, Congress passed a law protecting some Central American asylum-seekers from deportation. In 2000, it passed a law making it a little easier for people to immigrate legally to the US to be with relatives. By 2000, Charles Kamasaki says, with the exception of “two or three” Democrats in each chamber, “it was pretty clear” that the Democratic Party stood with immigration advocates.
Advocates, for their part, welcomed Democrats with open arms. When Democrats who’d previously been “enforcement-minded” on immigration started emphasizing the need to let unauthorized immigrants get citizenship — up to and including Rahm Emanuel, who as mayor of Chicago has been a loud supporter of “welcoming” immigrants — many advocates praised them for “leaning in” on the issue. The harsh words of the past, or the signing of bills like IIRIRA, were only mentioned to point out how much the Emanuel wing of the party had evolved.
This approach had its advantages: It helped immigration reform become a Democratic priority, rather than one that split both major parties. But it also meant there was no opportunity to reckon with the effects of the 1996 law, because no one had an incentive to bring them up.
Immigration-enforcer Republicans could use the 1986 “amnesty” against their colleagues, in a tone of “We tried this once, let’s never try it again.” But immigration-reformer Democrats didn’t have any reason to remind the public that any Democrat had tried enforcement at all.
This isn’t to say that none of IIRIRA’s provisions have come under criticism. In particular, Democrats have started turning against the 3- and 10-year bars — the IIRIRA provision that’s done the most to keep unauthorized immigrants from getting legal.
President Obama made it easier for some immigrants to apply for waivers from the bars without leaving the country. Hillary Clinton has promised to pass a law getting rid of them entirely. But as Bernie Sanders — or rather, Bernie Sanders’s campaign Twitter account — pointed out when Clinton made this promise at a debate, she neglected to mention her husband had signed the bars into law.
The legacy of “felons, not families”
The 3- and 10-year bars might be the single biggest issue with IIRIRA, but they’re hardly the only things keeping immigrants from becoming legal, or dooming them to deportation. “We haven’t seen anybody speak out about the issue of limited discretion and over-enforcement for people who have any kind of criminal issue,” points out Nancy Morawetz. “And that’s a problem.”
Indeed, even the current, more progressive Democratic message on immigration reinforces one of the biggest themes of IIRIRA, and the deportation regime it laid the groundwork for: that immigrants with criminal involvement ought to be deported, with no questions asked. President Obama loves to say that he’s trying to deport “felons, not families.” But as Morawetz says, that rhetoric “ignores the fact that people who might have a felony conviction 20 years ago have families.” Should they be deported? IIRIRA says yes. No Democrat has yet been able to say no.
This continued desire to stay tough on “criminal aliens” has made it harder for Democratic administrations to restrain enforcement — even to bring it back to Clinton-era levels, when the rhetoric against “illegal immigration” was harsher than it is today. “Criminal aliens” were one of the chief drivers of the record-setting deportation rates of Obama’s first term.
After IIRIRA passed, Doris Meissner’s INS managed to stall a program that would have allowed local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws. When cities and counties started asking to get approved for the program, she says, INS “said that we wanted to participate in an across-the-board community discussion” about how they’d use their authority before signing a memorandum of agreement. “After going through maybe three or four of those in jurisdictions, it became clear how complicated it was,” and interest disappeared.
The program was reanimated and given new teeth under the Bush administration, however. And under Obama, local/federal cooperation on immigration law has become the rule — even if local police officers themselves aren’t always involved. Indeed, when President Obama attempted to reform his signature local/federal cooperation program by including, among other things, the input of local stakeholders — exactly what Meissner had done in the late 1990s — it was treated as politically controversial. In other words, the ’90s reform shaped the very framework with which we’re using to discuss immigration reform today.
Will Democrats’ inability to reckon with their past limit the effectiveness of immigration reform? Right now, this is somewhat of an academic conversation: with Republicans controlling Congress and Democrats controlling the White House. But if Democrats manage to retake Congress in 2016 and keep the White House, they may find themselves with a real shot at passing comprehensive immigration reform.
One of the biggest sticking points with comprehensive immigration reform is that everyone wants to impose certain requirements on who can qualify for a path to citizenship — but because the unauthorized population is in the shadows, no one knows exactly how many people would qualify for reform under a given set of requirements.
In 2013, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that only 8 million of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the US would end up becoming citizens under the requirements of the Senate’s immigration bill, which briefly looked like it might actually happen. But it didn’t explain how it arrived at that number, or how many people it thought would be excluded based on the bill’s various requirements for legalization — one of which excluded most people with criminal records.
“Because of the lack of measurable standards to estimate the affected population,” says Jose Magana-Salgado, managing policy attorney for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, “it is likely that criminal bars will inadvertently exclude a larger than expected number of people from relief under immigration reform. And because we’d only find out the breadth of this exclusion after the passage of reform — a once in a lifetime event — those people would remain forever excluded from permanent status and mired in the shadows.”
Of course, it’s very difficult to get politicians to care about something whose effects can’t be measured. That’s one of the bitter lessons of the ’96 law: If the consequences of a law are indirect enough, it’s very easy for people to forget that it’s there.

A Plea Against Anti-Liberalism

The “naughty new people” were mid-20th-century artists, particularly American and European writers and filmmakers, who defied existing conventions of the novel and of narrative in general. In your creation or experience of art, try for a moment to stop asking what it “means,” Sontag advised. Relish the “sensuous surface of art without mucking about in it.” The aesthetic she was celebrating — it amounted to an elevation of form over content — was supposed to be exemplified by the “nouveau roman,” in which plot, character development, and all the empty promises of linear thought were minimized or, better, absent. “What is important now is to recover our senses,” she wrote. “We must learn to see more, to hear more, to feel more.”
Alas, what had appealed to Sontag about that kind of formalism “was mostly just the idea of it,” Acocella observed. “I thought I liked William Burroughs and Nathalie Sarraute and Robbe-Grillet,” Sontag told her, “but I didn’t. I actually didn’t.” And now she had regrets. “Little did I know that the avant-garde transgressiveness of the sixties was to become absolutely institutionalized and that most of the gods of high culture would be dethroned and mocked.” In “Thirty Years Later” (1996), Sontag, reflecting on what she had failed to foresee when she wrote the cultural criticism collected in her book Against Interpretation (1966), recounted that she hadn’t yet grasped that
seriousness itself was in the early stages of losing credibility in the culture at large, and that some of the more transgressive art I was enjoying would reinforce frivolous, merely consumerist transgressions. Thirty years later, the undermining of standards of seriousness is almost complete, with the ascendancy of a culture whose most intelligible, persuasive values are drawn from the entertainment industries. Now the very idea of the serious (and the honorable) seems quaint, “unrealistic,” to most people.
These days I think of Sontag’s late awakening to that tragic loss whenever I hear someone deprecating “liberalism” or gushing over the prospect of its demise and of what he hopes will supersede it. In that regard, our present moment rhymes with 1968, the peak season of the New Left’s assault on “liberals,” of whom Hubert Humphrey, his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention drowned out by a sustained roar of heckles and boos, was made the symbol that year. Of course, as used on the right, the word “liberal” was no less derogatory, although there the constellation of reasons for the derogation was different.
Anti-liberalism is sold in assorted flavors under various labels: “post-liberalism,” “illiberalism,” “integralism” (popular among right-wing Catholics), “the end of liberalism” (see Patrick Deneen), “the Fourth Way” (see Aleksandr Dugin). No two self-identified anti-liberals have exactly the same definition of what they oppose. Some start from an economic idea of liberalism — capitalism, essentially — and then assume that it’s a necessary correlative of a host of legal, political, cultural, and psychological tendencies. They say it’s a package deal. But it isn’t, or doesn’t have to be.
On the right, what half of those who advocate some form of anti-liberalism say they want boils down to — to translate it into plain, boring terms — economic progressivism married to social conservatism. They may think that their case is sexier if they present it as an argument that “liberalism” suffers from a congenital disorder that makes it advisable for us to kill it off or hasten its death, but if they go that route they should point to an existing alternative that most closely approximates what they would like, because otherwise we’re left to wonder whether they mean that America should follow Viktor Orban and take for its model Putin’s Russia, Erdogan’s Turkey, or even Xi’s China.
Approval ratings of Putin in particular are high among Americans and Europeans on the right. From that perspective, Russia is an advanced version of what Hungary and Poland are still in the process of becoming: a state in which the ruling party tinkers with media and the courts to consolidate power and then pulls up the drawbridge to shut out political opponents, though letting them furnish the appearance of a democracy as they grumble on the other side of an impassable moat.
The difference between the American and the European use of the term “liberal” is often remarked. The former refers, on the whole, to the Left; the latter, to classical liberalism, which until yesterday was the political philosophy — free markets, limited government, individual liberty — of the mainstream American Right. The current populist revolt on the right has flushed to the surface a fact that I for one had underestimated: that when Americans who call themselves conservative say “Down with liberalism,” classical liberalism is a large part of what many of them have in their sights.
Christian anti-liberalism — Alasdair MacIntyre, John Milbank, David L. Schindler, the Communio school — enchanted me somewhat until classical liberalism in the flesh began to manifest increasing vulnerability. It has to fend off enemies on two fronts now, the right as well as the left. Like Susan Sontag lamenting over the rapid dumbing down of American culture in the late 20th century, I see my mood has changed. What had appealed to me about MacIntyre, Milbank, and the whole crew of “naughty new people who challenged things” was not the possibility that their pictures and diagrams of anti-liberalism would ever escape from the page and the screen and result in political consequences. The idea of anti-liberalism, that’s all, is what I fancied. The realization of it, or the attempt to realize it, turns out to be messy, even ugly, and it appears to be tending toward the ever messier and uglier.
Deep critics of liberalism insist that many of the pains, deprivations, and injustices suffered by those who live under some semblance of it are features, not bugs. I wonder.
Social conservatives believe in their worldview but don’t explain it well enough for it to move or even make sense to their neighbors who are persuaded by the view that opposition to same-sex marriage is analogous to anti-miscegenation laws under Jim Crow.
Here, for example, is a bug, often mistaken for a feature: In liberal democracies, our natural right to life between conception and birth is for the most part not recognized in law. Most of those on all sides of the controversy call that blindness “liberal” even though it violates the liberal precept that your freedom to swing your arm ends where my nose begins. In the case of abortion, as with slavery before it, we maintain, though barely, the brittle fiction that the nose we punch belongs to an entity that’s only some fraction of a full human being. Some pro-life advocates, especially those who identify as feminists, advance what at first appear to be purely communitarian arguments, according to which the controlling value is that of relationality — between mother and child, then between the two of them (considered as a tight community in microcosm) and the larger society. Relationship, however, depends on the existence of individuals, including, in this case, the unborn child. Were he not an individual, he would be his mother’s property, and the communitarian argument based on the relationship between them would dissolve.
For social conservatives, the argument that liberalism’s fatal flaw is a disregard for the importance of human relationships in the life of the individual runs aground these days most conspicuously at the marriage debate. There they oppose the secular progressive who invokes precisely the value of relationality when he defends the legal right of two people of the same sex to marry. That practice is possible in a liberal society, though not inevitable, just as the traditional understanding of marriage is not inevitable there, though it’s possible. In law, the traditional understanding is now only tolerated, at best, and those who hold to it scramble to preserve at least the toleration. They understand the world in light of a rich, textured story, full of history, ancient wisdom, Biblical allusion, and sublime truth. They believe in the story but don’t tell it well enough for it to move or even make sense to their neighbors who are persuaded by the view that opposition to same-sex marriage is analogous to anti-miscegenation laws under Jim Crow.
Meanwhile, secular progressives continue to revise and refine the different story that they’ve marketed, sold, and established as the touchstone of public discourse. Against it, the worldview of social conservatives appears contrary and backward. They risk losing even the mere tolerance of it by mainstream society if they don’t start articulating better what they know to be true about the sanctity of life and the necessary beauty of sexual complementarity. “If we Americans are no longer sufficiently virtuous” or, I would add, no longer able to see the self-evident, “the fault lies primarily with us, not our founding principles,

How God Looks Like to American Christians

People have always to visualize and personalize the image of God. The Biblical injunction is that God created in his own image, but the man has always tried to see god in his own image- so the creator becomes the creation. And that is why people all over the globe visualize god in a human form with distinct, though, blurry and hazy outlines. It isonlyinIslam that there is no visualization or picturization. Very interestingly, god is seen in a more clear pattern in America. Researchers found Christians saw God as younger, more feminine, and less Caucasian than popular culture suggests.
Psychologists have used a new technique to construct a composite image of what a sample of 511 American Christians think God looks like.
Participants in the study saw hundreds of randomly varying face-pairs and selected which face from each pair appeared more like how they imagined God to appear. By combining all the selected faces, the researchers could assemble a composite “face of God” that reflected how each person imagined God to appear.
God’s perceived face, based on the aggregated responses of surveyed American Christians.god_face_770

The results were both surprising and revealing. From Michelangelo to Monty Python, illustrations of God have nearly always shown him as an old and august white-bearded Caucasian man. But the researchers found that many Christians saw God as younger, more feminine, and less Caucasian than popular culture suggests.
“…people believe in a God who not only thinks like them but also looks like them.”
In fact, people’s perceptions of God tended to rely partly on their political affiliation. Liberals tended to see God as more feminine, younger, and more loving than conservatives. Conservatives also saw God as more Caucasian and more powerful than liberals do.
“These biases might have stemmed from the type of societies that liberals and conservatives want,” suggests Joshua Conrad Jackson, the study’s lead author and a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“Past research shows that conservatives are more motivated than liberals to live in a well-ordered society, one that would be best regulated by a powerful God. On the other hand, liberals are more motivated to live in a tolerant society, which would be better regulated by a loving God.”
People’s perceptions also related to their own demographic characteristics. Younger people believed in a younger-looking God. People who reported being more physically attractive also believed in a more physically attractive God. And African Americans believed in a God that looked more African-American than did Caucasians.
“People’s tendency to believe in a God that looks like them is consistent with an egocentric bias,” says psychology professor Kurt Gray, the study’s senior author. “People often project their beliefs and traits onto others, and our study shows that God’s appearance is no different—people believe in a God who not only thinks like them, but also looks like them.”
Interestingly, however, people did not show an egocentric bias on the basis of gender. Men and women believed in an equally masculine-looking God.

Canada’sTariffs on U.S. Dairy Imports-270% on Milk, 245% on Cheese & 298% on Butter: Is It Fair?

Defenders of supply management say Trump’ is ‘stunningly hypocritical’, given U.S. subsidies. Canadian defenders of the supply management system say U.S. President Donald Trump is “stunningly hypocritical” for attacking dairy supports while politicians in Washington hand out billions in subsidies to American farmers — and levy punishing tariffs of their own on some commodities.

The Canadian dairy industry is at the centre of a brewing trade war between the two allies, in part because of Trump insisting that the decades-old system that uses quotas to ensure dairy supply and stabilize farmers’ income is a “disgrace” that is “hurting our Farmers, killing our Agriculture!”

Prime Minister Trudeau is being so indignant, bringing up the relationship that the U.S. and Canada had over the many years and all sorts of other things…but he doesn’t bring up the fact that they charge us up to 300% on dairy — hurting our Farmers, killing our Agriculture!

“Looking forward to straightening out unfair Trade Deals with the G-7 countries. If it doesn’t happen, we come out even better!” Trump tweeted before touching down in Quebec last week for the G7 summit — a meeting that ended with Trump directing a Twitter tirade against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“Canada charges the U.S. a 270% tariff on Dairy Products! They didn’t tell you that, did they? Not fair to our farmers!”

It’s an issue that’s been irritating the president since the 2016 election campaign — thanks in part to the savvy lobbying efforts of some dairy farmers in swing-state Wisconsin, who have Trump convinced that Canada’s supply-managed dairy system is to blame for hardship in the farm belt.

Bruce Muirhead, an associate vice-president and professor of history at the University of Waterloo, said U.S. woes are not due to a tight Canadian market but rather to massive overproduction that has depressed the prices farmers can fetch for their products.

“They thought they could just produce their way into dairy farmer happiness, which hasn’t happened, of course,” he said in an interview with CBC News.

Traditionally, U.S. dairy farmers focused on producing for the domestic market, but in the pursuit of growth, producers have ramped up production for export, Muirhead said.

“There is an absolute glut of dairy products around the world. It’s a tsunami of milk that is washing over the world and yet the Americans are still increasing production by 1.5 to 2 per cent a year.”

More than 100 million gallons of milk were dumped into American farm fields in 2016. The U.S. government bought more than $20 million worth of cheddar cheese because the market was glutted. Dairy farmers, meanwhile, have been drawing on millions of dollars of support from the Dairy Margin Protection Program, a federal initiative that provides catastrophic coverage at a marginal cost to the producer.

Muirhead said Canada shouldn’t be expected to dismantle its supply management system (which costs government nothing, since it relies instead on consumers paying more for the product) to accommodate the bad business practices of overzealous U.S. dairy producers.Press)

Alfons Weersink, a professor of agricultural policy at the University of Guelph, said the Americans are desperate for further foreign market access — which explains why they have encouraged Trump to turns the screws on Canada.

“U.S. dairy farmers are experiencing low returns and any way to increase demand, however slight, could help their cause,” he said.

These U.S. producers were also wounded by the introduction of new Canadian prices for some products in 2016 — mainly on ingredients used in the production of cheese, yogurt and ice cream. Some American producers have argued the new prices put them at a competitive disadvantage,

“Wisconsin farmers have been particularly vocal,” Weersink said. One major Wisconsin processor blamed that price drop for ending buying agreements with dozens of family farms. “There are political reasons for Trump taking it up.”

But the Dairy Farmers of Canada, the powerful lobby group that vocally defends supply management at every turn, said Canada is simply too small a market to help ease U.S. overproduction concerns.

“Canada already produces enough milk to fill Canadian demand. As Canada has less population than the state of California, and Wisconsin alone produces more milk than all Canadian farms combined, clearly, the Canadian market is too small to make a dent in U.S. overproduction,” the president of DFC said in a statement Monday.

On paper, Canada’s tariffs on U.S. and other foreign dairy imports — 270 per cent on milk, 245 per cent on cheese and 298 per cent on butter — seem steep.

In fact, dairy is a relatively minor trade issue between Canada and the United States, accounting for just a fraction of the $628 billion in trade the two countries do with each other every year, Weersink said.

“In the big scheme of trade overall, dairy is a minor player (with or without tariffs) but it is an easy target now,” he said.

The entire Canada-U.S. dairy trading relationship is valued at just over $750 million a year, according to the latest figures, with American exports to Canada — worth more than $631 million a year — accounting for the vast majority of the goods that cross the border.

In 2016, Canada imported dairy products from the U.S. worth five times more than the small amount it exported.

Muirhead also pointed out that even though Canadian dairy farmers are protected by these high tariffs, imports still make up 10 per cent of the country’s domestic dairy consumption, while in the U.S., imports are restricted to just 3 per cent of the dairy market.

While the United States — historically an ardent free trader — doesn’t levy tariffs on many of the goods entering the country, it has been turning to such measures to strategically boost politically sensitive industries like agriculture since long before Trump launched his “America First” agenda.

“American hypocrisy knows no bounds. They do exactly the same thing … that they accuse us of doing,” Muirhead said.

Take smoking tobacco, for example: it’s slapped with a 350 per cent ad valorem tariff as it enters the U.S. Or unshelled groundnuts (163.8 per cent), or shelled peanuts and oilseeds, which face a 131.8 per cent tariff. Many other farm products face a high tariff wall at the U.S. border: European meats, truffles and Roquefort cheese (100 per cent); processed fruits and vegetables (132 per cent); processed fish (nearly 40 per cent); dates (30 per cent); and asparagus and sweet corn (21.3 per cent), to cite just a few examples out of dozens.

Sugar, too, is sold at double the world price in the U.S. because the industry’s politically connected backers have demanded high tariffs to protect it from a flood of cheap imports from Brazil.

‘They should just leave us Canadians alone’

“In terms of overall farm subsidies, we just do it somewhat differently,” Daniel A. Sumner, an agricultural policy professor at the University of California’s Davis campus, said in an interview. “Canadian agriculture is no more subsidized than agriculture in the U.S.”

The difference is that while U.S. taxpayers foot the bill for farm protections, in Canada, the cost is carried by consumers at the cash register, Sumner said.

Washington spends more than $20 billion a year on subsidies for farm businesses. About 39 per cent of the 2.1 million U.S. farms receive some form of a subsidy, with most of those handouts going to producers of corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and rice.

Those subsidies come partly in the form of crop insurance premiums (the U.S. Department of Agriculture pays 62 per cent of their premiums, on average, for a total cost of $6.7 billion a year). The Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program also provides funds if revenue per acre falls below a certain level, while the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program subsidizes producers if prices sink below a certain benchmark price set by the U.S. Congress. The United States even subsidizes manure remediation programs. Of course, supply management is not without its detractors in Canada.

A hallmark of Quebec MP Maxime Bernier’s nearly successful Conservative leadership campaign was his vocal opposition to supply management, a system he said “protects a small cartel of dairy, poultry and egg farmers at the expense of everyone else” and “drives up grocery bills” while hurting Canada’s reputation as a free trading nation.

Former Liberal leadership contender and MP Martha Hall Findlay has also said supply management has made Canada the “sick cow of global agricultural trade” because, she said, it hurts a majority of Canadian farmers — including beef, pork, grain, oilseed and pulse producers who would benefit from more global trade in agricultural products.

Creativity Stifling Educational System Needs Change

There is a deep mismatch between the skills our education systems nurture and the needs of society.
In a typical Western education system, results indicated that “since 1990, even as IQ scores have risen, creative thinking scores have significantly decreased”. Traditional education does not sufficiently value innovative and entrepreneurial thinking – our system even dumbs down the creative genius that we were born with, according to a test developed by NASA.
Yet creative skills and mindsets are indispensable in a workforce that must be responsive to change and capable of finding new solutions to complex problems. The World Economic Forum itself has identified social abilities such as coordinating with others and persuasion, as well as complex problem-solving skills, as essential in the knowledge-based workplace of the near future.
We live in the times of autonomous cars, reusable rockets and artificial intelligence, yet we are still teaching in an education system that was set up for factory workers some 200 years ago. What we should be doing instead is to focus on skill-building and setting any learner – be it in compulsory education or in lifelong learning – up for success.
Entrepreneurial education as solution
Entrepreneurial education teaches the important skills of innovative and creative thinking, helping people develop a flexible “growth mindset” that can adapt to new problems. It is not about teaching business skills such as accounting and pitching, but what it means to be entrepreneurial – what mindset does an entrepreneur have, how does she stay motivated, how does she solve problems, and get people to see and follow her vision?
These kinds of skills are useful beyond the job market. They give people the tools to be active citizens in a complicated and fast-changing world, and should be a priority in European policy.
According to the European Commission’s new Entrepreneurship Competence Framework, entrepreneurial education includes life skills as well as business skills. It means learners can act upon opportunities and ideas and transform them into value for others, whether financial, cultural, or social.
Despite the importance of this mindset, according to a 2016 Eurydice study, no country has made entrepreneurial learning mainstream within education, no country effectively assesses student learner outcomes, and few countries have embedded experiential learning to develop this mindset and skills.
What would it look like to teach creativity as entrepreneurial skill?
Currently, creativity is often limited to one-off activities such as brainstorming or mind-mapping, rather than a continual emphasis on creativity throughout learning.
Research into creative mindset development indicates a minimum of four to six months’ continuous development is required to develop the neural capacity and enhanced plasticity required to be creative.
Ideally, this learning should extend across the whole age range of formal and non-formal education. Short-term “stun and run” creativity activities such as brainstorming or mind-mapping have limited value. Yet established entrepreneurship education programmes prioritize experience of the business start-up process. These programmes are not demonstrating positive impact in terms of the student perception of their own entrepreneurial capacity or their interest in following an entrepreneurial career.
There is a focus on the process of business development rather than a specific focus on the creativity needed to continually innovate; while this is valuable, it may miss a significant opportunity to equip individuals with the innovative and creative-thinking capacity they need. Education neuroscience indicates that without a sustained deep-learning approach, the levels of creativity will continue to fall as children progress through formal schooling. Prevalence of competition-based formats linked to start up or business ideas is detrimental to learner development in terms of self-belief, entrepreneurial skills and ethics. Entrepreneurship education has coalesced around an understanding that winning is a goal, yet research shows that this is patently not the case.
The impact of teaching creativity
The impact that sustained teaching of creative and innovative thinking has can be broken down into various areas:
Creativity as a skill: learning more is ineffective unless you can relate and link it to something else – if we so wish, we can think of the brain’s neurons as inherently “sociable” in that they wish to contact other neurons that they already know and are comfortable with. But creativity is about creating new connections; by teaching divergent thinking, we enable new connections in unexpected ways.
Creating innovative business models: equips young people with the skills to respond to the business opportunities they identify, equipping them with the competencies to adopt and create innovative business models aligned to their particular product or service.
Contributing to higher youth employment: provide opportunities to consider important but incidental aspects such as drop-out rates and difficulties relating to what teachers often describe as “difficult to teach pupils”; specifically, it responds to the skills gap identified, within Europe and beyond between the needs of employers and those of school leavers
Creating new markets and new jobs: new jobs and new markets are heavily reliant on innovation and spotting opportunities. By teaching entrepreneurial skills such as spotting opportunities, ethical and sustainable thinking and vision as laid out in EntreComp, new ideas for communities and start-ups will emerge, increasing employability of young people and developing the entrepreneurial and innovative skills required by employers.

The Sounds that Enrapture Me

All night the rain has been drumming on the shingles of the roof. There has been no storm, no thunder, just the steady swish of a downpour. It helps me to be awake; at the same time, it doesn’t keep one from sleeping.
It is a good sound to read by – the rain outside, the quiet within – and, although tin roofs are given to springing unaccountable leaks, there is, in general, a feeling of being untouched by, and yet in touch with, the rain.
Gentle rain on a roof is one of my favourite sounds. And early in the morning, when the rain has stopped, there are other sounds I like to hear – a crow shaking the raindrops from his feathers and cawing rather disconsolately; babblers and bulbuls bustling in and out of bushes and long grass in search of worms and insects; the sweet, ascending trill of the Himalayan whistling thrush; dogs rushing through damp undergrowth.
A cherry tree, bowed down by the heavy rain, suddenly rights itself, flinging pellets of water in my face.
Some of the best sounds are made by water. The water of a mountain stream, always in a hurry, bubbling over rocks and chattering, ‘I’m late, I’m late!’ like the White Rabbit, tumbling over itself in its anxiety to reach the bottom of the hill; the sound of the sea, especially when it is far away – or when you hear it by putting a seashell to your ear. The sound made dry and thirsty earth, as it sucks at a sprinkling of water. Or the sound of a child drinking thirstily, the water running down his chin and throat.
Water gushing out of the pans on an old well outside a village while a camel moves silently round the well. Bullock-cart wheels creaking over rough country roads. The clip-clop of a pony carriage and the tinkle of its bell; and the singsong call of its driver.
Bells in the hills. A school bell ringing and children’s voices drifting through an open window. A temple bell, heard faintly from across the valley. Heavy silver ankle-bells on the feet of sturdy hill women. Sheep bells heard high up on the mountainside.
Do falling petals make sound? Just the tiniest and softest of sounds, like the drift of falling snow. Of course big flowers, like dahlias, drop their petals with a very definite flop. These are showoffs, like the hawk-moth who comes flapping into the rooms at night instead of emulating the butterfly dipping lazily on the afternoon breeze.
One must return to the birds for favourite sounds, and the birds of the plains differ from the birds of the hills. On a cold winter morning in the plains of northern India, if you walk some way into the jungle you will hear the familiar call of the black partridge: ‘Bhagwan teri qudrat’ it seems to cry, which means, ‘O God, great is thy might.’
The cry rises from the bushes in all directions; but an hour later not a bird is to be seen or heard and the jungle is so very still that the silence seems to shout at you.
There are sounds that come from a distance, beautiful because they are far away, voices on the wind – they ‘walked upon the wings of the wind’. The cries of fishermen, out, on the river. Drums, beating rhythmically, in a distant village. The croaking of frogs, from the rainwater pond behind the house. I mean frogs at a distance. A frog croaking beneath one’s window is as welcome as a motor horn…


Sunday Special: The Absurd & Real in Outlandish Proposal to Amend the Quran

There is an Arabic saying: “Books are written in Cairo, printed in Beirut and read in Baghdad”. Is this same cultural malaise being adopted by the West? In the West, books and documentaries have been cancelled. In France, recently, a group of intellectuals published a manifesto asking the Islamic world to eliminate anti-Semitic verses from the Koran. The initiative followed the murder of an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, Mireille Knoll. The Turkish Council of Higher Education responded with a moratorium on establishing additional departments of French studies in Turkey. For years, under the presidency of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish culture has been closing in on itself. “Going into a Turkish bookstore is like walking into a psychiatric ward,” according to the British journalist Gareth Jenkins in The New Yorker. Turkey sentenced journalists and writers to prison, and put publishers of foreign novels, such as its most famous translator, Necmiye Alpay, on trial. The problem, however, may not be just Turkish, but, as the author Robert R. Reilly called it, “the closing of the Muslim mind”.
France is home to the largest Jewish community in Europe. Since the early 2000s, French Jews have seen a rise in anti-Semitic acts, and although 2017 saw fewer overall incidents than 2016, those that did occur were more violent in nature. This wave of violence is part of what the manifesto’s signatories call a “new anti-Semitism”—new in that it is perpetrated not by the far right, but by French Muslims. The manifesto denounced what it characterized as the government and media’s refusals to recognize this “Muslim anti-Semitism.” It also labeled as “low-volume ethnic cleansing” the trends that have forced Jewish families to change neighborhoods, leaving suburbs, or banlieues, that are home to significant immigrant populations, and to pull their children from public schools.
Some of France’s most prominent figures, concerned about anti-Semitism, have signed a shocking manifesto aimed at curbing it.
A manifesto published in the French daily Le Parisien on April 21—signed by some 300 prominent intellectuals and politicians, including former President Nicolas Sarkozy and former Prime Minister Manuel Valls—made a shocking demand. Arguing that the Quran incites violence, it insisted that “the verses of the Quran calling for murder and punishment of Jews, Christians, and nonbelievers be struck to obsolescence by religious authorities,” so that “no believer can refer to a sacred text to commit a crime.”
Although it’s not entirely clear whether “struck to obsolescence” means wholesale deletion of verses, the manifesto was perceived as a call to abrogate Muslims’ holiest text. And although pushing for a theological reform of Islam in France is nothing new—everyone from leading imams to President Emmanuel Macron have made plans to restructure Islam—demanding that scriptural verses be deleted is another thing altogether. In Islam, the Quran is considered divinely revealed; because it’s deemed to be the word of God, altering or deleting any part of the text would be blasphemous.
The manifesto came a month after the grisly murder of Mireille Knoll, an octogenarian Holocaust survivor who was stabbed to death in her apartment in an act authorities are calling an anti-Semitic crime. Last year, Sarah Halimi, a 67-year-old, was beaten to death and thrown out of her window, in the same area where Knoll lived. Her attacker yelled “Allahu Akbar!” as he committed the act; Knoll’s reportedly did the same. It took judicial authorities nearly a year to label Halimi’s death an anti-Semitic crime.
The manifesto generated an immediate outcry among Muslims in France and beyond, with critics labeling its usage of the phrase “low-volume ethnic cleansing” hyperbolic and accusing it of homogenizing all Muslims. Days after the manifesto’s release, 30 imams signed a counter-letter in Le Monde. The Observatory for Islamophobia, an organization affiliated with the Egyptian government, described the manifesto as “hateful racism” that proves that “France is not a land that welcomes Islam.” The proposal to abrogate certain verses of the Quran was most controversial of all.
Tareq Oubrou, the prominent French imam who oversees the Grand Mosque of Bordeaux, called the characterization of the Quran “nearly blasphemous.” Viewing the scripture as anti-Semitic, he told me, is the falsified interpretation promoted by the very radicals France seeks to combat: “ignorant Muslims who remove texts from their historical context.” Furthermore, the notion that anti-Semitism is built into Islam is “theologically false,” he added. As monotheistic “People of the Book,” Jews and Christians enjoy a special status in Islamic law. Historically, they were considered protected dhimmi communities, which meant they were allowed to practice their own religions, although they were subject to a tax and various indignities that symbolized their subordination to Muslims.
Rather than calling for absolute violence, Oubrou said the Quran advocates for a “defensive combat, against aggressors, within a historical context.” For instance, one verse says, “Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture—[fight] until they give the jizya [tax] willingly while they are humbled.” The Quran, like many scriptures, is internally inconsistent on this and other matters. Oubrou argued that the problem is not religion itself—it’s that through radical, literalist interpretations of the Quran, “delinquents use the religion as a veneer for cheap crimes.” By demonizing the Quran as a text that contains anti-Semitism, he said, the manifesto casts a shadow on an entire religion, glossing over the role of interpretation and the other factors driving some young Muslims to develop hatred toward Jews.”The Arab world is now publishing only between 15,000 and 18,000 books annually, as many as Penguin Random House produces on its own. Egypt was once the largest producer of books with an output between 7,000 and 9,000 per year. Although its output was previously on the rise, it dropped by a whopping 70 percent after the 2011 revolution, and as of 2016 was only ‘showing signs of recovery’. Greece translates five times as many books into Greek as all 22 Arab nations combined”.
According to a report given at the Frankfurt Book Fair, “the Arab world, with its population of over 362 million people in 2012” produced about the same “number of books produced in countries like Romania (with a population of 21.3 million in 2012) and Ukraine (population 45.6 million) in 2012”. Another report by the RAND center also notes that “the number of public libraries in Egypt is about a tenth of those in Germany, which has a comparable population”. The Economist noted that Arab publishing industry is in “troubled”.
Many great writers in Islam are now foreigners at home. Salman Rushdie, targeted by an Iranian fatwa, has become “the disappeared”. At the age of 82, Naguib Mahfouz, the only Egyptian Nobel Laureate for Literature, was stabbed nearly to death by an Islamist. The Syrian poet Adonis exiled himself to Paris. The most celebrated Algerian writers, such as Kamel Daoud and Boualem Sansal, are treated as pariahs and threatened. Orhan Pamuk, the greatest Turkish writer, was also persecuted. The Lebanese Nobel laureate Amin Maalouf lives in France. And many writers in Bangladesh have been hacked to death. Iran is experiencing a devastating “brain drain” to the West. And images of book-burnings have become sadly popular in the Muslim world, from the historic books burned at the Cairo Institute to ISIS’s destruction at the Mosul library.
Unfortunately, Islam’s cultural changes — as attested to by the lack of producing books and translations — may have severe consequences for the radicalization of the new generations. There are no guarantees that curiosity, self-doubt and freedom of speech will create a more liberal society. But closed-mindedness and censorship, in the Middle East, Europe or anywhere, are not likely to, either.
That response didn’t sit well with the manifesto’s defenders. “The problem is that Islamists refer to the same texts as ordinary Muslims,” said signatory Pierre-André Taguieff, a research director at the French National Centre for Scientific Research who has published extensively on anti-Semitism. Samy Ghozlan, a signatory who formerly served as police commissioner in the Paris banlieues and who founded a hotline for anti-Semitism, defended the manifesto’s willingness to “name the problem,” and its call for theological reform. “In Islam,” he said, “believers are instructed to respect the Quran—there’s no room for commentary.”
That’s not how many imams see it. “The text might be the same, but the way it’s understood varies, as is the case for any text,” Abdallah Dlioueh, the imam of Valence, told me. “The Quran doesn’t tell anyone to be racist or anti-Semitic—in fact it expresses deep respect for Jewish figures such as Moses. But a minority of Muslims fall into a misreading,” he went on. “By promoting one vision of those verses, the manifesto makes the same error as terrorists.”
Oubrou and Dlioueh were among 30 imams who signed a letter in Le Monde voicing indignation with “the confiscation of [their] religion by criminals,” a reference to those who preach violence, from certain Salafi imams to online recruiters associated with groups like the Islamic State. The authors expressed the consternation they feel—as both French citizens and Muslims—as they watch “Islam fall into the hands of an ignorant, disturbed, and idle youth” who have become “easy prey for ideologues” preaching hatred and inspiring anti-Semitic violence.
Although the letter was published amid a heated debate over anti-Semitism, the conversation about Islam’s theological role in driving terrorism isn’t new. As France has struggled to grapple with terrorist attacks—often at the hands of nationals—scholars have clashed over what exactly prompted young men to kill concertgoers at Paris’s Bataclan theatre in November 2015 or drive a truck into a packed promenade in Nice the following July. Are jihadis devout Muslims who see violence as a religious obligation, or are they rebels—petty criminals and dropouts dismayed by their socioeconomic hardships—in search of a cause?
The answer is likely some combination of both; jihadist terrorism neither has nothing to do with Islam—as some have said following attacks while urging against scapegoating of Muslims—nor is it an exclusively religious phenomenon. This debate aside, the Le Monde letter was a recognition that, despite the nonreligious factors driving violence in the name of Islam, religious authorities have a role to play in fighting it.
But that needn’t mean abrogating certain verses of the Quran. Some Muslim scholars encourage believers to approach the Quran through a critical lens, putting it in historical context and recognizing its limitations. “A lack of human intelligence is blocking Islam today,” Razika Adnani, a scholar of Islam and member of the Foundation for Islam of France, told me. “Conservatives promote an idea that everything is in the texts, blocking human thought,” she added, and urged Muslims to “work to make Islam a religion of today.”
Dlioueh stressed the importance of an “enlightened Islam”—and he considers it his daily job to foster that. “Imams are a shield against radicalization,” he said, and “we’re already working to that end—to promote tolerance, on the ground in rough neighborhoods, in our Friday sermons.” Rather than deeming certain verses dangerous, he said, Muslims should consider the entire text open to interpretation, and look to history as a reference for peaceful coexistence among Jews and Muslims (for example, in the Ottoman Empire).
Oubrou promotes what he terms a “preventive theology” that takes into account why so many young people are vulnerable to what he calls “erroneous interpretations of the Quran.” He acknowledges that any religious text can be used to justify violence; the goal is to recognize the source of that manipulation, and why it becomes so compelling.
Yet even if imams successfully promote a critical, contextualized reading of the Quran, the ability to fight anti-Semitism purely on the basis of religion is limited. Although many of the recent perpetrators of violence against French Jews have been Muslim, it would be overly simplistic to chalk the phenomenon up to religion alone. The gang leader who kidnapped 23-year-old Ilan Halimi in 2006, and held him hostage for two weeks, said he did it because “Jews have money,” drawing on the anti-Semitic tropes that have long plagued Jews. Those stereotypes are alive and well in France today: Survey data from 2016 reveal that 35 percent of French people believe Jews “have a particular rapport with money;” 40 percent think that “for French Jews, Israel counts more than France;” and 22 percent think that “Jews have too much power.”
The Quran, Oubrou said, can become a “pretext” to legitimize deeper feelings of disdain for Jews, which themselves can be fueled by a host of external factors—including social exclusion, a sense of being dominated, conspiracy theories, and a misinterpretation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The last one, he said, “has been transformed into a religious cause by both sides,” enabling it to be grafted onto the way Muslims and Jews see each other in France.
“Even if we delete verses that are being interpreted problematically, that won’t eradicate anti-Semitism if those concerned have hatred toward Jews,” Oubrou told me. The challenge, he added, is to “change the perception, not the text.”

Some Canadian Technology Keeps American Safe

Trump calls Canadian exports threats to ‘national security’ but no foreign country has done more to arm the United States than Canada. It’s been a week since the Trump White House slapped Canada with steel and aluminum tariffs on the ground that reliance on our imports was threatening the “national security” of the United States
It’s been a week since the Trump White House slapped Canada with steel and aluminum tariffs on the ground that reliance on our imports was threatening the “national security” of the United States.
If Canadians are particularly galled at this, it might be because no foreign country in modern times has done more to arm and equip the United States than Canada. “I would not be surprised if every single major aircraft or warship in U.S. military service today has Canadian components in it,” said Richard Shimooka, a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.
Below, a cursory summary of some of the Canadian stuff used by history’s most powerful military.
Landing gear
We’ll start with an entry that directly concerns steel and aluminum. Quebec-based Héroux-Devtek is the world’s third largest aircraft landing gear company, and some of that is thanks to a longstanding relationship with the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy. Specifically, Héroux-Devtek is in charge of landing gear repair and overhaul for several large U.S. aircraft, including the heavy-lift C-130 Hercules. Of course, landing gear is made almost entirely of steel or aluminum. So, thanks to these new tariffs, American military procurers are either going to start getting hosed on their Héroux-Devtek contracts — or they’re going to have start getting their landing gear overhauls from a U.S. company that isn’t their first choice.
Armoured personnel carriers
“Canada and the US have been building military equipment for each other since the summer of 1940,” David Bercuson, a military historian at the University of Calgary, told the National Post. “Literally billions of dollars of such equipment has passed the border since then.” The most obvious example is the Stryker. There are nearly 5,000 Stryker armoured personnel carriers in the U.S. military, and all of them were built in London, Ontario. Not only that, but the Stryker is even based on a Canadian design, the LAV III. Coming in at a rock bottom $4 million apiece, the Americans use Strykers for everything: Ambulances, firefighting, missile platforms, chemical weapons defence and mine detection. They even started rigging them up with giant lasers to shoot down enemy drones. Armoured vehicles happen to be a Canadian specialty. While the United States was busy throwing money at big ticket items such as tanks and attack helicopters, the shoestring Canadians have gotten very good at the much cheaper task of simply strapping guns and armour to oversized trucks. And if a U.S. diplomat found themselves touring Iraq in an armoured Toyota Land Cruiser, chances are good they were shielded from bullets and IEDs by Canadian workmanship.
Specialized aircraft
Here again, the United States has it covered when it comes to big ticket aircraft such as fighters or bombers. But the U.S. military will occasionally call up Canadian plane-makers when it needs something quirky. Bombardier has retooled some of its airliners and business jets to act as airborne radar platforms. When the United States Army Parachute Team appears at air shows, they’re jumping out of a Canadian-made de Havilland Twin Otter. De Havilland has also hooked up the Americans with some of its famously rugged prop planes for use in electronic warfare, remote cargo drops or simply moving National Guard troops around Alaska. All told, the U.S. military is flying more planes built in Canada than in any other foreign country.
A U.S. special forces unit is pinned down on a remote Central Asian mountaintop. Surrounded by militants on all sides, it needs an emergency airlift of water and ammunition to even see daybreak. Enter the SnowGoose, an unmanned autogyro specializing in precision deliveries to special forces. The SnowGoose is the U.S. military’s only cargo drone, and it’s an all-Canadian creation. An emerging theme on this list is that Canada is great at building niche military hardware for cheap, and the SnowGoose is no exception. As the drone’s Stittsville, Ont. builders note, it can move cargo across a battlefield at a fraction of the price of other drones.
Nuclear fuel
Uranium is a big part of the modern U.S. military. It has more than 100 nuclear-powered vessels in the navy, and there’s also those 7,000 atomic weapons it still has lying around. Canada has sold a whole lot of uranium to the U.S. military, going all the way back to the initial atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. However, the taps were somewhat shut off in the 1960s, when Canada started limiting uranium exports to “peaceful” purposes. Still, with Canada ranking as the United States’ top uranium dealer, we help keep their uranium topped up enough to have plenty left over for the military. Speaking of nuclear weapons, it might behoove the White House to remember that if a Russian or North Korean missile should happen to be fired in their direction, a Canada-based NORAD station will likely be among the first to let them know.
Making fighter jets last forever
This entry should fill thrifty Canadians with particular pride: We’ve gotten so good at squeezing every penny out of our CF-18s that we’re now globally renowned experts at fighter jet life extension. Among other things, Canada invented “robotic shot-peening,” a method of using robots to restore aging aircraft with a precision never before known. The technology has been exported to Europe, Australia and, in 2013, the U.S. Navy brought in the Quebec aerospace company L-3 MAS to give its jets a makeover.
Battlefield communications
Tactical radios are another niche technology in which Canadian companies have a built a slow but steady reputation with the Americans. In a 2017 report on Canada/U.S. military industrial cooperation, the Center for Strategic and International Studies noted that the U.S. military has been using Canadian radios since the 1960s. Ultra TCS, headquartered in Montreal, remains a supplier of tactical radios to both the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. And these aren’t just walkie-talkies; they’re hyper-advanced networks that can provide email, voice and even video hook-ups to American troops in battle.
That’s right. The Second World War-era Willys Jeep — one of the most American vehicles in history — was manufactured in part by Canada. Ford Motor Company of Canada churned out thousands of Jeeps after the Second World War. In 1952 alone, Canadian factories were making an average of seven of them per day. According to Ford Canada’s website, “these postwar Canadian-made Jeep were shipped to the United States, for the American military forces.”
Space robots
DARPA is the U.S. agency tasked with pursuing military so cutting edge that they occasionally veer into outright science fiction. Last year, DARPA signed a deal with Canada’s MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates to design robots that could be dispatched into space in order to repair U.S. military satellites. And like most times Canada is brought in for U.S. military stuff, the robot space mechanic program is indeed intended as a cost saving measure. Canada has been a leader in space defence for some time. Our beloved Canadarm, in fact, technically qualifies as an early military space robot. Over the course of the space shuttle program 11 missions were sent up to perform classified work for the Pentagon. We still don’t know the specifics of what the Canadarm did for Uncle Sam on those missions, but the arm is a certifiable Cold Warrior.

The Surprising State of the North Korean Economy

North Korea is an incredibly poor country. The secretive, one-party state’s disastrous handling of its economy has left the majority of the country’s 25 million people destitute. Incompetent central planning and the elimination of markets has led to a GDP per capita of less than $2,000, among the lowest in the world.
Yet, there are signs that the North Korean economy is improving. Even in the face of heavy sanctions, imposed to compel Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons program, the state is making small, but real progress. According to estimates from the South Korea-based Bank of Korea (pdf), the north’s economy grew by 3.9% in 2016. That was, by far, its best year for more than a decade. Although the Bank of Korea is one of the best sources of North Korean economic statistics, it is notoriously difficult to collect accurate data on the country, so it is best to take these numbers as approximations.
Although data have not been released for 2017, many experts believe that the economy may still be growing, albeit more slowly. Economist Marcus Noland, a leading researcher on the North Korean economy, told Quartz by email that while sanctions and the end of the global boom in commodity prices have hurt the economy, the liberalization of domestic markets has probably helped the north maintain growth. The relaxation of rules includes giving managers of state-owned enterprises more autonomy and letting North Koreans make private investments in state-owned firms.
Perhaps most importantly, the government increasingly allows individuals to trade basic consumer goods, like food and clothing, with one another. Journalist Barbara Demick, author of Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives of in North Korea, credits current North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for the change. On the podcast “The Ezra Klein Show,” Demick explains that shortly after his father Kim Jong Il died in 2011, Kim Jong Un lifted many of the restrictions on local markets. Demick says this won the young leader significant public support.
From 2009 to 2013 official North Korean trade more than tripled, from about $1 billion to over $3 billion (illegal trade is substantial, but difficult to estimate). The country’s main exports are coal and textiles. Over 80% of North Korean exports went to China in 2016 and 2017.
But in 2017, the world intensified sanctions, and North Korea’s exports plummeted to under $2 billion. The fourth quarter of 2017 was particularly bad, with exports falling below $300 million (pdf), about a third of the amount in the same period the year before. The decline was driven by China’s decision take fewer North Korean exports, in an effort to bring the country to negotiating table over its nuclear weapons.
If sanctions are reduced, and North Korea further opens itself to trade, Noland believes the country’s economy could truly take off. Bordering economic powerhouses China and South Korea, and just across the sea from Japan, North Korea is well placed to take advantage of trade relations with its richer neighbors. Noland’s research suggests freer trade would lead to a huge expansion of the manufacturing and mining industries and, as a result, massive improvements in living standards. The ever-widening gap in average incomes between North and South Koreans would begin to shrink.
Even with the recent improvements, the state of the North Korean economy is dire. The summit between the US and North Korea is pitched as the first step in achieving peace and disarming a rogue regime, but the people with perhaps the most at stake are ordinary North Koreans looking for a chance to prosper after generations of poverty.


Trishanku in America

Trishanku is a famous character in Hindu mythology who hangs upside down between heaven and earth, belonging nowhere. Many (not all) American Hindus find themselves in the same precarious position. Officially American, owing allegiance to the American President, they passionately cheer India’s communal politicians, despite having absolutely no voting rights, or any skin in the game in the reality of India. They insist from the comfort of their homes in New Jersey and San Francisco they understand India’s problem better than any native Indian, and confidently offer simple (often stupid) solutions to India’s very complex problems. It is a symptom of not feeling they belong in their adopted homeland, yet unable to return ‘home’.
In the 1980s, Indian school students were encouraged to write essays on India’s Brain Drain: the phenomenon of the brightest Indian minds who after graduating from the best Indian institutes migrated to United States at the first opportunity for better prospects. This was an economic migration. But it was passed off as a political migration. ‘We never abandoned Bharat Mata; it was escape from Socialist India to Capitalist America,’ they tell their children who subjected to their parents’ relentless glorification of India demand to know, why they left India in the first place.
This problem is not restricted to Hindus, or Indians. It is seen among most migrants from underdeveloped economies from Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia to developed economies of America and Europe. At the recently concluded Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, Kashish, the documentary ‘Abu (Father)’ by Arshad Khan told the story of a Pakistani-Canadian family, and how the parents who were liberals ‘back home’ ended up submitting to the most fanatic form of Islam in Canada, a land that welcomed them, offered them all manner of economic opportunities, but where they felt emotionally disconnected and culturally isolated. Reduced to inferiors in the new homeland, they reclaimed superiority through radicalism and puritanism.
The same thing is seen among many American Hindus. People who were never particular interested in Hinduism or Indian culture before they migrated, enthusiastically and aggressively embraced a very dark form of Hinduism that was against all things modern, from feminism to social justice to LGBT rights. In the ‘real’ India, they tell their children and grandchildren, women knew their place, the poor were adequately subservient, and gay people did not exist. It was a land where everyone spoke chaste Sanskrit, and discussed nuclear weapons, aeroplanes, plastic surgery, and Internet, before the arrival of the Muslims a thousand years ago, Christian Europeans two hundred years ago and Nehru, who chose to be secular, denying his Brahmin roots. Such tales are being legitimized by religious leaders, who have more popularity than education, and who insist that all scientists and historians who do not agree with their version of reality are conspiring to break India.
What was supposed to be a glorious economic migration has ended igniting victim complex and fantastic conspiracy theories. What went wrong? Was it the failure of the American Dream? Was it a sense of cultural isolation? Was it a realisation of one’s own inferiority in a foreign land?
Was it rage at being misunderstood for religious practices that made perfect sense ‘back home’?
Was it fear to move forward and embrace a new culture, and the simultaneous inability to turn back and return where they came from?
Not everyone in the vast Indian diaspora is successful. But everyone expects them to be successful. The pressure is huge. And back home, there are many who have succeeded without having to migrate, without the validation of the West. The envy builds up, and the rage. One needs someone to blame. A scapegoat. So the new homeland becomes problematic hater of their ancient beliefs as does the old homeland that seeks to move away from the past. The Trishanku yells in the hollow vacuum of social media. Finds meaning and purpose as a troll. And entraps himself in an echo chamber of impotent hatred. And ends up as a pawn in a politician’s game.