Please Don’t Worry About World War III

An American EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft prepares to launch from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush on deployment in the Mediterranean Sea, June 9, 2017
An American EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft prepares to launch from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush on deployment in the Mediterranean Sea, June 9, 2017 (USN/Matt Matlage)

It’s been a while.

As balances become clearer, life is better sorted and all that jazz, I find myself pulled, like the United States in the Middle East, back to the fray. Read more

Five Catalan Politicians Jailed, Five Reasons for Russia’s Spy Poisoning

Catalan politician Jordi Turull makes a speech in Barcelona, December 12, 2013
Catalan politician Jordi Turull makes a speech in Barcelona, December 12, 2013 (CDC)

Five Catalan politicians, including the former speaker of parliament and three acting ministers, have been send (back) to jail for their role in the region’s attempt to break away from Spain.

The fifth, Jordi Turull, had been put forward as a candidate for regional president by the largest independence party, Together for Catalonia, but he lost a vote in parliament on Thursday.

A sixth, Marta Rovira, has fled to Switzerland to escape arrest.

Rovira has led the second-largest independence party, the Republican Left, since their leader, Oriol Junqueras, was jailed in December.

Thousands of Catalans took to the streets of Barcelona on Friday night to demonstrate against the Spanish judge’s decision.

The arrests make it even more difficult to form a new government in the region. The separatists have a majority, but all their leaders are now either in jail or in self-imposed exile. Read more

Putin Wins Sham Election, Trump Battles FBI

Russian president Vladimir Putin participates in a videoconference from the Kremlin in Moscow, December 27, 2016
Russian president Vladimir Putin participates in a videoconference from the Kremlin in Moscow, December 27, 2016 (Presidential Press and Information Office)

To no one’s surprise, Russia’s Vladimir Putin won another six-year term as president on Sunday. Against a slew of unimpressive, Kremlin-approved candidates, Putin supposedly won 76 percent support with 67 percent turnout.

Here is the best analysis I’m reading:

  • Robert Coalson: The Kremlin has placed Putin entirely above and outside of politics. His supporters may complain about various policies or problems in their lives, but they don’t connect those problems with Putin.
  • Mark Galeotti: Having turned the law into an instrument of state policy and private vendetta, having turned the legislature into a caricature without power of independence, and having encouraged a carnivorous culture of self-aggrandisement and enrichment, can Putin afford to become an ex-president? Conventional wisdom would say that he cannot; without being at the top of the system, he is at best vulnerable, at worst dead, and he knows it.
  • Torrey Taussig: One of the greatest threats to a personalist regime’s stability is succession. Systems governed around a cult of the individual set up a self-defeating incentive structure. Once power has been consolidated, the leader will seek to eliminate able and ambitious competitors who could threaten his rule. This strategy, while effective in the short term, hollows out the leadership funnel in the long term. Unlike in autocracies run by strong parties, in which leaders rise within the party’s hierarchy, personalist systems have no institutional structure for preparing the next generation of autocrats. Read more

Good, Bad and Ugly in Trump’s Drug Plan, Corbyn Parrots Russian Talking Points

American president Donald Trump gives a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 24, 2017
American president Donald Trump gives a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 24, 2017 (Michael Vadon)

Politico reports that Donald Trump is eying common-sense drug reforms — as well as the death penalty for drug dealers.

Here is the good, bad and ugly in the president’s plan to fight America’s opioid epidemic. Read more

Everything You Need to Know About the Russian Spy Poisoning

British prime minister Theresa May answers questions in the House of Commons in London, England, July 20, 2016
British prime minister Theresa May answers questions in the House of Commons in London, England, July 20, 2016 (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor)

Former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were poisoned with a nerve agent in the United Kingdom two weeks ago. The British government blames Russia for the attack.

Here is everything you need to know about the attack and its consequences. Read more

Dutch Hope for Smooth Brexit, Russians Have Little Faith in Trump

Prime Ministers Theresa May of the United Kingdom, Mark Rutte of the Netherlands and Justin Trudeau of Canada pose for photographs outside NATO headquarters in Brussels, May 25, 2017
Prime Ministers Theresa May of the United Kingdom, Mark Rutte of the Netherlands and Justin Trudeau of Canada pose for photographs outside NATO headquarters in Brussels, May 25, 2017 (Flickr/Justin Trudeau)

Mehreen Khan reports for the Financial Times that the Dutch are lobbying both sides in the Brexit negotiations: They are pleading with the Brits to decide what they want and trying to ensure in Brussels that the United Kingdom is given plenty of room to reverse course or rethink red lines, whether it be on the customs union or anything else.

The reason: close relations across the North Sea.

Britain’s erstwhile continental ally has been a reliable partner on everything from EU budget contributions to the single market but is now uniquely exposed to the economic and emotional side-effects of Brexit.

In France, by contrast, attitudes have hardened. Since Emmanuel Macron’s election last summer, the share of French voters who wish the British would change their minds has fallen. Tony Barber argues that Brexit is now seen as not a loss but a potential gain to France. Read more

Lies and Distraction from Trump, Putin’s Dangerous War in Syria

American president Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, arrive at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 20, 2017
American president Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, arrive at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 20, 2017 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

First the lies:

Just like they don’t want to solve the DACA problem, why didn’t the Democrats pass gun control legislation when they had both the House & Senate during the Obama Administration. Because they didn’t want to, and now they just talk!

  1. It’s the president who unilaterally ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program last year and who is now blocking a compromise. Democrats and center-right Republicans are ready to do a deal.
  2. Democrats tried to get tougher guns laws under Barack Obama. They were frustrated at every turn by Republicans, who turned the filibuster into standard operating procedure in the Senate, as a result of which it now takes sixty votes to get anything of consequence done. When Democrats could briefly muster sixty votes in the early years of Obama’s presidency, they used that opportunity to reform health care. Read more