Inflated Expectations

A week or two before Donald Trump visited the UK, some people decided to make a balloon caricaturing him as a baby which they promised would soar over London:

Looks impressive, eh? And it should be given it cost just shy of £18,000. It was actually pretty well designed:

Regardless of what you think of Trump or the protest, it is quite a good caricature and I found it funny. However, having been promised this:

We got this:

As one American put it:

Somewhere in Britain there’s a balloon manufacturer who’s just fleeced a load of dumb lefties out of eighteen grand. A lot of people also recalled this part of the story:

The “Trump baby” balloon is due to fly on the Friday morning, after campaigners raised £16,000 to pay for it and the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, gave permission for it to fly. “The mayor supports the right to peaceful protest and understands that this can take many different forms,” a spokesman for Khan said.

One can understand permission might be required from a city mayor to fly something the size of a WWII barrage balloon at a thousand feet. But a balloon the size of a transit van at twenty feet? A free people, indeed.

For a protest, it seems to have been lame even by lefty standards. Here’s what the organiser had to say:

Leo Murray, an environmental campaigner behind the balloon stunt, said the protest was intended to play on Trump’s psychology. “He’s a deeply insecure man, and that is the only leverage we have over him. If we want his attention, we have to do something that humiliates him.”

The idea that a billionaire who cut his teeth in New York real estate, lives in a skyscraper with his name on, and has married two supermodels is insecure is rather fanciful. They’re so used to craven, grovelling politicians they’ve mistaken Trump’s ability to answer back and stand up for himself as insecurity. I doubt Trump paid much attention to the balloon, and if he did react it would come in the form of trolling which would have the likes of Leo Murray foaming at the mouth. After all, would anyone sane take this seriously?

Somehow, the people behind this stunt believe it humiliates Trump.

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Trump, Schroeder, and Germany

Back in December 2005 I mentioned this story:

Officials including Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov presided over the ceremonial welding of the first section of pipe at Babayevo in Russia’s Vologda region, where the Baltic link will diverge from an existing trunk pipeline and head for the coast.

Gazprom has teamed up with Germany’s E.on and Wintershall, part of BASF, to build the pipeline and is looking for a potential fourth partner, although it will retain a controlling stake of 51% in the project.

The onshore section of the pipeline will run 917 kilometres to the port of Vyborg, close to Russia’s second city of St Petersburg. The 1200 kilometre subsea link will terminate at Greifswald in Germany.

This was the Nord Stream pipeline, which –  unlike several other proposed piplelines carrying Russian gas – actually got built and was commissioned in 2011. This pipeline was highly controversial, not least because of environmental objections but because it was seen by some former Soviet states – mainly Ukraine, but the Baltic states also raised concerns – as a means of isolating them politically from western Europe: if Ukraine could be bypassed for gas supplies, who cares what happens to it?

No sooner was the Nord Stream pipeline approved when the chap signing for the Germans, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, left office and became a director in the Nord Stream consortium. As I said at the time:

This stinks to high heaven. Unsurprisingly, the European press has raised barely a murmur over this. Can you imagine the noise that would be made if the US signed an historic deal to export Alaskan crude to China, and George W. Bush took the reigns of the pipeline consortium weeks after leaving office?

It is absolutely appalling that so little noise was made about Schroeder taking this job weeks after approving the project, but in the 13 years since I’ve realised these sort of ethics are par for the course in Germany, and nobody dares criticise. Remember: what’s good for Germany is good for the EU.

In late 2017, Gerhard Schroeder was elected chairman of Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft. Shroeder also remains on the board of Nord Stream, which has been pushing heavily for a second pipeline bringing Russian gas to Germany. In among all the squawking about Putin’s interference in the US election, supposedly killing people with Novichok in Salisbury, annexing Crimea, invading eastern Ukraine, and his forces shooting down civilian airliners nobody seems to be asking quite what a former German chancellor is doing working for him. Instead, we’re all supposed to be concerned that Trump is Putin’s puppet despite no evidence for this and an awful lot to the contrary.

Gerhard Schroeder was obviously employed by the Russians to wield political influence in Europe – particularly Germany – and they seem to be getting their money’s worth. I could barely imagine the outrage if Tony Blair was working for Putin’s government, engaged in back-door efforts to minimise the damage of sanctions and other responses to Russian aggression, but this is Germany so they get a free pass. Until now:

It was Trump’s mentioning the role of a former German chancellor – Schroeder – that pleased me the most. Everyone knows Germany is freeloading off the US for its defence needs, but few realise quite how embedded Germany is with Russia, the enemy they’re asking America’s help in defending against. If this were France people might not mind so much because France doesn’t self-righteously lecture everyone else and posit itself as the world’s arbiter on sound business practices, environmental legislation, and ethical governance. But Germany does all that, and then some, while engaging in the most brazen, self-serving hypocrisy. Fortunately, Trump’s remarks have been picked up in the US:

If you think Trump’s past business connections to Russian figures are troubling, you probably ought to be livid about how former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s has decided to become the chief lobbyist for Vladimir Putin in Europe.

The Wall Street Journal’s Holman Jenkins wrote earlier this year that Schroeder is exactly the kind of wealthy, well-connected, influential figure acting on behalf of Russia that U.S. sanctions are supposed to target:

Germany’s allies and its European Union partners, including the quietly frantic Poles and Balts, can’t quite refer to Mr. Schroeder as a Putin agent nestled in the heart of Germany’s political and business elite. His name doesn’t appear on any U.S. government list. Section 241 of last summer’s sanctions law required the U.S. Treasury to identify the ‘most significant senior foreign political figures and oligarchs’ behind the Putin regime. These descriptors would seem to apply to Mr. Schroeder but it remains diplomatically impermissible to say so.

Germany is broken, and beyond repair while Merkel remains in charge and the majority population are steeped in anti-Americanism (which long predated Trump). The best thing Trump could do is disband NATO and create a new defence alliance which countries could apply to join if they wished, and be screened for reliability. Germany – as an independent nation – would then have to stump up for its own defence or take its chances with Russia. This has gone on for too long.

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Robin plays Hillary

Ancient readers may remember last year I gave my opinion on House of Cards and wasn’t very impressed:

Somewhere between Seasons 2 and 3 the feminists got hold of the script and effectively made the show all about Frank Underwood’s wife, played by Robin Wright.

The audience, by having it rammed down their throats every episode, is expected to unconditionally accept that Claire Underwood is a brilliant politician, responsible for every success her husband has achieved, desired sexually by every man who meets her, and is easily capable as a president herself (there is a Season 5 on the way).

Unsurprisingly:

The eight-episode final season of House of Cards, expected to drop on Netflix this autumn, will focus on Claire Underwood’s career.

The character became the US president at the end of the last season, a position previously held by her on-screen husband.

I suspect this was the intention long before Spacey quit the show amid allegations he’d been having affairs with young men who may or may not have been wholly enthused with the idea. I’ll not bother watching it, especially now Spacey has gone – one of the few in the show who could act. By contrast, and as I said before, Wright wears the same arse-hugging style of dress or skirt in every shot, manages a single facial expression throughout the entire series, and for each pivotal scene the only thing that changes are the words being spoken.

I can imagine that Season 5 will be a liberal fantasy of what a Hillary Clinton presidency would have looked like, minus the corruption and deteriorating health. I can see why there’s a market for this, and no doubt the media will be gushing with praise at a season which “shows us what is possible”, but I can’t imagine any men will be watching it. Not any that know how to use a torque wrench, anyway.

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

The media on both sides of the Atlantic is getting all giddy over a young Latina who will be the Democrat candidate for a New York congress seat. As the BBC reports:

A millennial candidate has shaken up the US Democratic Party by defeating the incumbent congressman for his seat.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 28, defeated political veteran Joe Crowley, 56, on Tuesday night in their party’s congressional primary in New York City.

She led a progressive campaign, supporting universal healthcare, tuition-free college and criminal justice reform.

Following Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s win, Merriam-Webster tweeted that socialism emerged as their top search item.

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, and I think we’re going to see more of this. As the ZMan pointed out, if you import a lot of people from Latin American cultures pretty soon you’re going to get outbreaks of Latin American politics. Ms Ocasio-Cortez sounds in many ways like Hugo Chavez, promising lots of free stuff while making a big deal about her humble origins:

One of the many new female faces joining US politics this year, Ms Ocasio-Cortez is a Bronx-born Latina, a community organiser and educator from a working-class background.

A community organiser, eh? Where have I heard that before?

Now Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s socialist politics might be daft, but Americans are going to have to take her seriously anyway. A lesson the British political classes ought to have learned from Jeremy Corbyn’s unexpectedly good showing in the last general election is that waving your hand dismissively and saying “Ha, socialism doesn’t work!” doesn’t work any more. People think by pointing to the failures of the Soviet Union they can undermine a candidate’s socialist policies, but you might as well point to the Ming Dynasty for all the relevance that has to a Millenial. To counter someone like Ms Ocasio-Cortez, Americans are going to have to be smarter than Theresa May was when she ran against Corbyn. That means acknowledging that, while her solutions might be insane, she is probably highlighting genuine concerns among her supporters. One of  the few things Corbyn’s detractors are willing to admit is his fans do have genuine grievances, not least a housing market which has been utterly rigged to benefit those older than them.

Republicans and sane Democrats (if there are any left) are going to have to come up with policies to address certain problems ordinary people have, especially feelings of alienation and isolation from an elite ruling class. This stuff is the bread-and-butter of populists and basing a campaign around it is a good way to get elected. In this regard, Ms Ocasio-Cortez is not too different from Trump who tapped into such resentment and suddenly found himself in the White House. The worst thing Republicans can do is ignore where her supporters are coming from and scoff airily about socialism as a concept. Given most American politicians are multi-millionaires and Washington D.C. functions like an imperial capital, hoovering up every loose dollar, redistributing billions along political lines, and enriching the ruling classes in the process, many young Americans might be forgiven for thinking socialism is what they have already so a little more can’t hurt. They’re wrong of course, but a proper case needs to be made as to why. Unfortunately, the American right are as firmly entrenched in the status quo as the left, and presenting alternatives, e.g. a smaller federal government and increased localism, would require a level of introspection and reform they’ve been unwilling to undergo in generations. This is a major reason why the likes of Ms Ocasio-Cortez can find a willing audience.

However, there’s another side to Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign:

She says she decided it was time her New York City district was represented by a young progressive woman of colour after watching the election of Donald Trump as president.

She described her congressional district in an interview with US news outlet Mic during her campaign. “Our median income is around $47,000 a year, we’re about 70% people of colour,” she said. “We’ve had the same representation for a generation.”

Embracing identity politics seems to be the direction in which the left is heading in the US: if you’re black, you vote for a black person. If you’re Latin American, you vote for a Latin American. This is actually how it works in most of the world, i.e. you vote for the person with whom you share an ethnicity. Europe and the US are notable exceptions, but that is rapidly changing. If Ms Ocasio-Cortez believes Latin Americans in the Bronx should vote for her because she’s Latina and this view becomes widespread, eventually white people are going to vote for white candidates. In a generation, a candidate being an old white man might be his greatest asset rather than the liability it is now.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez has burst onto the political scene waving the dual flags of socialism and identity politics. I suspect it will be a matter of time before the Democrats are completely consumed by both, and the America right had better be ready to deal with it.

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Harley-Davidson and Tariffs

There’s an irony here which has largely gone unmentioned:

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday slammed Harley-Davidson Inc (HOG.N) after the motorcycle maker said it would move production for European customers overseas to avoid retaliatory tariffs that could cost it up to $100 million per year.

Trump said he has fought hard for the company and was surprised by its plans, which he described as waving the “White Flag.”

Harley-Davidson, the dominant player in the heavyweight U.S. motorcycle market said earlier on Monday it would not pass on any retail or wholesale price increases in the EU and instead focus on shifting some U.S. production.

So, Harley-Davidson doesn’t like tariffs and will re-arrange its operations to avoid feeling the consequences of them. Fair enough, but:

With an economic recession causing sales of all motorcycles to slide, with even Japanese manufacturers like Honda Motors (NYSE:HMC), Kawasaki, and Yamaha overestimating demand, Harley’s delicate financial condition couldn’t afford the discounting the oversupply was causing. Despite the Japanese bike makers offering to help Harley make it through the crunch by giving it technological assistance and providing tens of millions of dollar in loans to keep it going, Harley instead chose protectionism and petitioned the Reagan administration in 1982 to raise tariffs.

As it had been since the 1940s, Harley-Davidson was the U.S. bike industry, being the lone American bike maker left in the market, although Honda and Kawasaki did have a single plant each located in the U.S. But with Harley’s global market share slipping, the U.S. International Trade Commission determined that Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha had hurt Harley’s business, and advocated a tariff hike. Reagan ended up raising the tariffs from 4.4% to 49.4%, though the rates were to fall by a set amount each year thereafter, with their removal or extension decided after five years.

The article goes on to suggest the tariffs on Japanese motorbikes didn’t save Harley-Davidson, but it did give them a much needed shot in the arm.

However, Harley-Davidson staged a dramatic recovery, with sales rising so fast that after just four years it petitioned the government to lift the tariffs, saying it no longer needed protection, making this a simple success story of targeted trade protection.

I don’t know if Trump is aware of the history of Harley-Davidson and tariffs; if he is, it might explain why he’s rather annoyed with them.

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Changes in the US Supreme Court

The retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy from the US Supreme Court aged 81 has sent liberals into meltdown, with some reacting as if he’d committed high treason. The reason for this is Donald Trump gets to nominate his successor, and he’s likely to choose someone conservative. That the Supreme Court is seen as divided between conservatives and liberals, and such importance is placed on what sort of judge is appointed by a sitting president, strongly suggests that it’s simply another political branch of the government rather than an impartial arbiter of the law. Indeed, a lot of liberals are now worried the balance of the Supreme Court is going to lean towards those who interpret the constitution faithfully, as opposed – presumably – to those who imagine what the document’s authors would prefer were they around today.

This most recent session of the Supreme Court has been interesting, but also rather worrying. Two cases – Janus v. State, County, and Municipal Employees and Trump v. Hawaii – were ruled 5-4, and when you read  the dissents it’s clear some judges are simply political operatives. The two worst offenders are Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, both appointed by Barack Obama. Janus concerns the practice of forcing all non-unionised public sector workers to pay union dues regardless of membership, on the grounds that non-members receive the benefits negotiated by the union. It’s long been the case that unions have used these funds to campaign politically, almost always on behalf of the Democrats, and now the Supreme Court has ruled the compulsion unconstitutional. Here’s what Elena Kagan said in her dissent:

Basically, she’s dissenting not on the grounds of law and constitutionality but because public sector unions, on whom the Democrats are dependent for funding, will now lose money. The best that can be said about this is it’s at least refreshing in its honesty. Here she is again in the same dissent:

That’s right: the Supreme Court should not strike down “citizens’ choices” which are unconstitutional (i.e. illegal), and the First Amendment was supposed to make governing easier and help public sector unions.

Trump v Hawaii concerned the so-called Muslim Ban, a term Trump’s opponents used to convince people that the temporary restrictions he placed on people from 6 countries with no functioning government (Iran excepted) was motivated by anti-Muslim bigotry. Never mind that citizens from Indonesia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh – the three countries with the largest Muslim populations – were not affected, the mud was slung and it stuck, and it appears even Supreme Court judges bought it. The SCOTUS ruled – sensibly – that restrictions on immigration falls within the constitutional authority of the President regardless of speculation as to his motives, but Sonia Sotomayor – the self-described “wise Latina” – dissented:

Reading Kagan and Sotomayor’s dissents in these recent cases reminds me of Andrew Adonis, the mate of Tony Blair who was appointed to the Lords and is now vociferously campaigning to overturn the Brexit vote. All three are intellectual lightweights appointed in turn by intellectual lightweights, and none appears to fully grasp the positions in which they now find themselves. And this is the problem with liberals and the left in general: to people of this bent everything is political, it never stops being political, and their political goals must come before anything else be it the law or the expressed will of the people.

So now it’s been established that the Supreme Court is merely a political debating chamber, Kennedy’s resignation and the looming prospect of a conservative replacement puts things into a whole new perspective. As the BBC says:

Shortly after Mr Kennedy announced his retirement, Supreme Court analyst Jeffrey Toobin tweeted that “abortion will be illegal in 20 states in 18 months” – an indication that he believes Mr Trump’s nominee will join a majority in reversing Roe v Wade, the 1973 decision legalising abortion throughout the US.

Anti-abortion advocates have been trying to scale back the broad constitutional guarantees of the Roe decision in the decades since, and now – without Mr Kennedy on the court – they could be poised for a breakthrough.

The problem the US has with abortion is, unlike in most European countries, they didn’t permit the practice by following the normal legislative process. Instead of a political party running on the platform of allowing abortion and implementing the legislation once in office, they simply got the Supreme Court to declare it a constitutional right – and they did the same thing with gay marriage. They took this route because they knew full well any politician running on a pro-abortion or pro-gay marriage ticket would likely lose, so the ruling classes implemented it via the courts. Only now we’re discovering these so called fundamental, inalienable rights are heavily dependent on how 5 people on the 9-body Supreme Court think, and when the judges change so do the rights. Which proves, if this were in any doubt, that rights do not exist in a vacuum and must ultimately be upheld by individuals who come with their own prejudices and biases.

I doubt Roe v Wade or the gay marriage decision is going to be overturned during a Trump administration, but those in full-blown panic mode have only themselves to blame. If you choose to be ruled by appointed judges instead of elected representatives – which all those who supported these two cases did, at least in part – you can’t complain when new judges come along and make decisions you don’t like. I can see this is going to plague American politics for decades to come, and Presidential elections will become more important for the candidates’ potential Supreme Court nominations than for their actual policies. Indeed, it could be argued many conservatives voted for Trump in 2016 purely to stop Hillary packing the Supreme Court with liberals (aside from Kennedy, Ruth Bader Gingsburg  is 85 years old; if Trump wins a second term, he’ll almost certainly get to nominate another).

What the US needs to do is clamp down hard on activist judges, and refrain from putting people in the highest courts who use their position to achieve defined political outcomes rather than interpret the law. For all Trump’s faults, his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to  the Supreme Court seems to be an inspired one in this regard. The trouble is, as I’ve already said, for the left – and probably a few on the right as well – everything is political, and the courts are simply another weapon to be deployed in the struggle to achieve political goals. I expect much misery will have to be endured before Americans realise the importance of an impartial, non-policised judiciary again.

(If anyone is interested, my thoughts on the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision as I wrote them at the time are here.)

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A Sign of the Times

Writer Helen Dale makes an interesting observation on Twitter:

This struck me as an interesting juxtaposition of ultra-permissiveness and authoritarian nannying and control. There is something very confused about a city authority that encourages people to let it all hang out while monitoring the same people for transgressions.

Since New Labour, successive governments have sought to run the country with an increasingly long, confusing, and ever-changing checklist of what people ought to do and what they musn’t. None of this is based in any logic, principle, or coherent ideology; these people have no idea who they are trying to be or what they want to achieve. Rainbow coloured signs warning people they’re being monitored is one of many indicators of a fearful establishment ruling with increasing desperation over a population they no longer understand.

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Turkey Decides

Well this is disappointing, for me anyway:

Turkey’s long-standing leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan has won a new five-year term after securing outright victory in the first round of a presidential poll.

Election authority chief Sadi Guven said the president “received the absolute majority of all valid votes”.

State media reports put Mr Erdogan on 53% with 99% of votes counted, and his closest rival Muharrem Ince on 31%.

Had Erdogan got less than 50% of the votes he’d have been forced into a second round; I’d hoped the result would at least have been tight enough for this to happen. Whatever claims of rigging and suppression of the opposition there are, this is a rousing endorsement of Erdogan and his policies. It’s worth noting that some 2m people took to the streets in advance of the election in support of Erdogan’s rival, so while he is happy to throw politicians, journalists, and judges in prison Turkey is not some sort of totalitarian police state, at least not yet. The result takes on an additional importance because:

President Erdogan will assume major new powers under Turkey’s new constitution. The changes were endorsed in a tight referendum last year by 51% of voters, and are due to come into force after the election.

They include:

– Directly appointing top public officials, including ministers and vice-presidents

– The power to intervene in the country’s legal system

– The power to impose a state of emergency

The job of prime minister will also be scrapped.

Like it or not, this is what the majority of Turks appear to want. Sure, the educated middle classes are distraught but they had the run of the place for decades, airily dismissing what are now Erdogan’s core supporters as backward and unworthy of their attention. As I said before:

The chattering classes in Turkey had no problem ridiculing Recep Erdoğan during his slow rise to power either, confident they could contain him while dismissing his supporters as backward reactionaries that could be defeated by sophisticated discussions among themselves. At no point did the elites in Ankara and Istanbul listen to his supporters to figure out why they were voting for him, and look at ways to persuade these millions of people to come on board with their own policies. Perhaps they believed that beating him at the ballot box wasn’t necessary and they could just remove someone who didn’t do their bidding by other means? And look how that worked out.

What the majority Turks seem to want is a country run along Islamic principles led by a strongman who isn’t going to get pushed around, can be relied upon to bash Israel, and will keep his boot on the necks of the Kurds. Anything else – the economy, secularism, relations with the west, and ensuring Turkey doesn’t become an oppressive, theocratic basket-case like Iran – is of secondary importance. One would be forgiven for thinking this is all rather normal for the Middle East, and historians may look back on Ataturk’s secular nation as being little more than a quaint experiment held in place largely by force. I have heard some Turks despairingly say that Ataturk put too much faith in the Turkish people, but he had the sense to ensure Islamist strongmen couldn’t take over by having the army step in when necessary. Then the EU stuck its beak in and, waving false promises of membership, told Turkey this safety-valve was incompatible with democratic norms and must be abolished. They complied, and now they have an Islamist strongman at the helm. Well done, Brussels! One can hardly blame this on Ataturk’s lack of understanding of his people; it suggests he knew exactly what would happen if every Turk got a say.

I suspect things will have to get a lot worse in Turkey before Erdogan is turfed out, and who knows what the place will look like by then. As I implied earlier, my guess is in ten years it will look a lot like contemporary Iran. The best thing the western powers can do is let them get on with it – it’s their country and they have decided this is the direction they want to go in. The last thing Turkey needs is western meddling in its internal affairs. However, they should seriously evaluate Turkey’s continued NATO membership; the Cold War is over and Turkey no longer holds the strategic importance it once did. Fears like this I believe are overblown:

Russia and Turkey share a distrust and rivalry for one another which goes back centuries; whatever relations Moscow and Ankara enjoy now are of convenience only. The next time Erdogan starts ranting about the west and invoking holy wars, the Americans should withdraw their military support, kick them out of NATO, and tell them to take their chances with the Russians. It won’t happen any time soon, but eventually they might not have a choice.

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Lunatic Asylum

I don’t know if this is true:

If so, it’s insane. Firstly, domestic violence is an extremely complex issue at the best of times, so much so that police in every country avoid it like the plague. By its very nature it is something to be handled as locally as possible, preferably by other family members  or the immediate surrounding society. Failing that, local authorities and police are the next-best placed to intervene, then the national government who one would hope understands the societal nuances surrounding domestic relations in whatever country we’re talking about. The idea that the US government is in a position to evaluate claims of domestic violence in Guatemala is ludicrous.

But that’s not all. If the conditions for asylum have widened to women who are “unable to leave their relationships” you might as well do away with the borders altogether. There was a time when wealthy, organised societies granted asylum to those fleeing war, famine, and appalling persecution; now it appears to include women who’ve made poor relationship choices (one wonders if men fleeing punitive alimony payments can also seek asylum in the US). Any society taking this approach is not going to remain wealthy and organised for very long, after which it won’t be in a position to take in asylum seekers of any sort. Perhaps that’s why Trump’s administration is looking to change it?

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Trump and the Freeloaders

We should have seen this coming:

A war of words has erupted between the US and its G7 allies, hours after the group had put on an apparent show of unity at the end of a tense summit.

US President Donald Trump has continued his personal attacks against Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, tweeting that he “acts hurt when called out”.

Germany’s Angela Merkel said Mr Trump’s decision to reject a joint communique was “sobering” and “depressing”.

There’s a pattern forming whereby Trump stops the US cooperating with a supposedly international effort leaving the other countries high and dry and looking entirely impotent. He did it with Paris Agreement and the Iran “deal”, and he threatened to do it with NATO. He also fired a warning shot across the bows of the UN by reminding them how much America contributes to their operations, and he did a similar thing with the Palestinians. Now he’s gone and done it with the G7.

I don’t think this is so much about trade, just as those other occasions weren’t about the headline causes either. Rather, I think Trump is reminding everyone else what they have long forgotten: without the US on board, these international efforts are non-starters because nobody else wants to pay for them. In terms of both funding and cost impacts, the US is doing the heavy lifting in almost all cases. Now I don’t think the Americans minded this per se, but it’s been going on so long that now nobody else wants to contribute much at all. Worse, these freeloaders see fit to hurl abuse at the US president, declare the US and its people are a problem, and cosy up to their enemies.

What Trump is doing is reminding his supposed allies that without American support  their grand projects are nothing but hot air. The G7 would be better named the G1+6; if Britain or Canada had rejected this joint communique, nobody would have cared but because it was the US the whole meeting has now been a waste of time. Frankly, it’s about time an American president did this, and told other countries to either dial-down the anti-American rhetoric or start getting used to doing things on their own.

I am sure all these actions have considerable support among the US population, who must surely be reaching the end of their tether of being insulted by freeloaders on a daily basis. I am equally sure not a single one of the other western leaders will understand the message Trump is giving them, and continue on much as before. Hopefully the American people will continue to elect leaders who won’t stand for it.

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