Supreme Court Nominations Shouldn’t Be So High-Stakes

United States Supreme Court
Mourners gather outside the United States Supreme Court in Washington DC after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, September 19 (Ted Eytan)

The death of a Supreme Court justice shouldn’t throw a country into crisis. The fact that Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s has underlines that America’s top court has become too powerful.

In no other democracy does the highest court feature so prominently in the public imagination.

Here in Catalonia, Spain’s Supreme Court is controversial for consistently ruling against Catalan interests, but I doubt many Catalans know the names of individual Supreme Court justices. Certainly the average Dutch person or Italian doesn’t.

Even in Poland, where the ruling far-right party has created a parallel legal system to sideline a Supreme Court it considers to be dominated by liberals, the fate of individual justices doesn’t provoke such strong emotions as in the United States.

American justices have been aware of the danger. Antonin Scalia, a conservative, cautioned a year before his death in 2016 that America could find itself governed by a “black-robed supremacy” unless its rediscovered its tradition of “self-rule”. Read more “Supreme Court Nominations Shouldn’t Be So High-Stakes”

Trump Deserves Praise for Ending the Palestinian Veto

Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani Benjamin Netanyahu Donald Trump
Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, join Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and American president Donald Trump at the White House in Washington DC, September 15 (White House/Tia Dufour)

I haven’t been Donald Trump’s greatest fan, but for once he deserves credit: for facilitating the normalization of ties between Israel and two of its Arab neighbors.

In a treaty signed at the White House on Tuesday, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates entered into diplomatic relations with the Jewish state for the first time.

Only Egypt and Jordan had so far. Other Arab states do not accept Israeli passports and do not exchange embassies with Israel.

We don’t know how involved Trump was in the negotiations, and the agreements fall short of what he calls a “peace deal”. The countries weren’t at war.

But it’s a significant step and a welcome departure from previous presidents, who allowed the Palestinians a veto over wider Arab-Israeli relations. Read more “Trump Deserves Praise for Ending the Palestinian Veto”

Biden Outpolls Trump in Swing States

Joe Biden
Former American vice president Joe Biden campaigns in Greenville, South Carolina, August 30, 2019 (Biden For President)

Polls puts Joe Biden ahead of Donald Trump in the states that decided the outcome of the last presidential election:

Trump is narrowly ahead in the swing states Iowa and Ohio as well as once solidly Republican Georgia and Texas. As recently as 2012, Democrats didn’t even campaign or spend money in those two states.

National polls give Biden an average of 50 percent support against 42-43 percent for Trump.

Although the presidential election will be decided state-by-state, national polls tend to be of higher quality and are still useful. Polling guru Nate Silver points out that Biden would need to win the national popular vote by 3 points or more to have a higher than 50-percent chance of prevailing in the Electoral College. Read more “Biden Outpolls Trump in Swing States”

After November: Can US-Africa Ties Be Rebuilt?

Abidjan Côte dIvoire
Aerial view of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, April 1, 2011 (UN/Basile Zoma)

Donald Trump has never been to Africa. At least not as president. Not for six decades, since John F. Kennedy, has an American president even met with fewer African leaders than Trump. During JFK’s time, of course, most African states were still colonial territories. His attitude toward the continent appears to be mired in either indifference or outright hostility, as his “shithole countries” comment and repeated (but unsuccessful) efforts to cut foreign aid demonstrate.

The feeling is mutual. As with the rest of the world, Africa’s view of the United States has declined under Trump’s leadership. Read more “After November: Can US-Africa Ties Be Rebuilt?”

Don’t Defund the Police

Police car Washington DC
Police car outside the White House in Washington DC (Unsplash/Matt Popovich)

It’s exasperating to see yet another black man shot by police in America when he posed no apparent threat. Officers fired seven bullets into the back of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, when he leaned into his car.

Blake survived. George Floyd didn’t. He suffocated when a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, sat on his neck for almost 9 minutes in Minneapolis in May.

Floyd’s death triggered nationwide protests. Blake’s shooting provoked demonstrations as well as looting and riots in Kenosha.

Black men in America are two-and-a-half times more likely to be killed by police than white men. African Americans comprise 12 percent of the population but 33 percent of prisoners. Black men are routinely arrested and prosecuted for misdemeanors and victimless crimes when whites aren’t.

So it’s not hard to understand why “defund the police” has become a popular slogan.

But it’s not a solution. Read more “Don’t Defund the Police”

Republicans Live in an Alternate Reality

Donald Trump
Voters wait outside a convention center in Rochester, Minnesota, where American president Donald Trump is giving a speech, October 5, 2018 (Lorie Shaul)

Donald Trump and the Republicans have been in power for nearly four years, yet everything that’s wrong in America is somehow Joe Biden’s fault.

180,000 Americans have died of coronavirus, because Trump couldn’t be bothered to deal with the crisis. 10 percent of Americans are out of work, more than during the Great Recession.

Nobody mentioned either during the four days of the Republican National Convention.

Trump insisted Biden would be the “destroyer of America’s jobs.” Read more “Republicans Live in an Alternate Reality”

To Trump, Blue America Is Expandable

Chicago Illinois
Chicago, Illinois at night (Unsplash/Max Bender)

Asked about riots in America’s major cities, Kellyanne Conway, President Donald Trump’s outgoing political advisor, told Fox News:

These are Democratically-led cities and most with Democratic governors. It’s not Donald Trump’s watch.

(That didn’t stop Trump from deploying federal troops to Portland over the objections of the city’s Democratic mayor and Oregon’s Democratic governor in June.)

The suggestion that the president isn’t responsible for the whole country, but only to those parts that are loyal to him, is outrageous.

But it is how Trump has governed. Read more “To Trump, Blue America Is Expandable”

What Biden Would Mean for Russia

Joe Biden Vladimir Putin
American vice president Joe Biden meets Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow, March 10, 2011 (White House)

With Joe Biden favored to win the American presidential election in November, Vladimir Putin’s days of comfort may be coming to an end.

Unlike Donald Trump, who has coddled the Russian leader, accepted his denials of 2016 election interference and lifted sanctions on Putin ally Oleg Deripaska, an oligarch who funded pro-Russian political parties in Ukraine (which were advised by later Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort), the Democrat considers Putin a “thug”, a “dictator” and a threat to “the foundations of Western democracy.”

Unlike Trump, who has given up America’s power to shame, Biden insists America should lead “not just by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.” Read more “What Biden Would Mean for Russia”

How Republicans Became the Party of Trump

I don’t think I will ever get used to hearing once-sensible Republicans singing Donald Trump’s praises.

Four years ago, the likes of Nikki Haley, Rand Paul, Tim Scott and Scott Walker knew that Trump was a bully without ideas; a would-be strongman with an unhealthy admiration for Vladimir Putin; a failed tycoon who didn’t grasp the basic principles of economics; and a thrice-married philanderer who had clearly never read a Bible.

Four years later, with the economy in free fall, America’s reputation in tatters, multiple former Trump campaign officials in prison and 180,000 Americans dead as a result of coronavirus, they’re telling the Republican National Convention that Trump is the only thing standing between them and the abyss.

How did this happen? Read more “How Republicans Became the Party of Trump”

Why Germany “Deserves” American Troops

American C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft
Two American C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft fly in formation over Germany, May 27, 2014 (USAF/Jordan Castelan)

Victor Davis Hanson writes in National Review that Germany “cuts deals with Russia, has never met its NATO commitment and is the most anti-American nation in Europe.” So why, he wonders, should the United States anchor its defense?

He could have asked that question at any point in the last seventy years. Read more “Why Germany “Deserves” American Troops”