Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Complexities of Brexit and British Prime Minister Theresa May

Prime Minister Theresa May and the Complexities of Brexit 71.8% of United Kingdom voters went to the polls on June 23, 2016 in a referendum on the European Union. Polls strongly showed they would vote to stay in the UK and reject Brexit. Polls in the United States presaged an overwhelming victory for Hillary Clinton. The UK and US polls were wrong. Both ballots reflect a rejection of the status quo globalism of the establishment. British voters were motivated by three main concerns unaddressed by the establishment, overlapping those in the United States. First was economic. The professional class and finance industry in London were prospering, but the traditional working class was left behind and ignored. Second was the edicts and regulations, especially on employment and environment, coming out of Brussels. Anonymous, unelected bureaucrats in the EU were telling Britons what to do. England, which had successfully defended its independence since 1088, was losing its sovereignty. Third was the edict to accept masses of refugees. England, like France and Belgium, was overwhelmed by the refugees, some of whom engaged in terrorist activities. A backlash was growing throughout the EU over the refugees. The vote to leave was 51.9% to exit and 48.1% to remain. The British were dived. England (53.4% - 46.6%) and Wales (52.5% - 47.5%) to exit, while Scotland (38% - 62%) and Northern Ireland 44.2% -55.8%)voted to remain in the EU. Major divisions exist within the EU with the risk the Scots would opt out of the UK. The establishment, led by Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, strongly pushed for retention in the EU. He resigned shortly after the vote. Theresa May, his successor, also opposed Brexit, but vowed to implement it. A complete break with the EU may sound easy, but it’s not 1776. Complexities exist. The first is the currently open border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. That border would have to be closed under a total Brexit. Second is the custom free trade within the EU. Many UK manufacturers, such as the auto industry, depend on just in time inventories with parts imported from throughout the EU. The free movement of goods between the EU countries and lack of tariffs would end, causing supply bottlenecks and disruptions. The third is the problem of expatriates. An estimated 1.2 million UK citizens live in other EU countries and conversely 3.7 million EU citizens reside in the UK. Can they stay, who will continue to pay their pensions, and cover their medical expenses? The fourth is the European financial industry, which is currently centered in London, and is a large provider of jobs and economic wealth in the UK. The fifth is that of the 28 countries in the EU only three, Cyprus, Ireland, and the UK are common law countries. The other 25 are civil law countries. The laws and constructs vary greatly between the two legal systems. The sixth is that the British Establishment still opposes Brexit, and the Prime Minister is, at best, lukewarm about Brexit. The British are very upset with decisions by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), especially in terrorism cases. The ECHR though is based in Strasbourg, France and is independent of the EU in Brussels. A split with the EU would not affect the relationship with the ECHR. The European Court of Justice is part of the EU. She has been frightened by the Apocalyptical tales of economic disaster if Britain withdraws from the EU. She wants to keep the UK economy closely tied to the Continent’s. The Conservative Power, Tories, are split over Brexit. The establishment members are “Remainders,” remain in the EU. Then comes the hard Brexiters, for whom out means out. In between are the soft Brexiters, out for some purposes, in for others. A soft Brexit is not a full Brexit, perhaps a ¼ - ¾ Brexit, but probably closer to a “remainder.” The idea would be to selectively keep the best of the EU and ditch the rest. Article 50 of The Treaty on European Union requires a two year notice for countries to withdraw from Brexit, but is silent on the terms of withdrawal. Parliament gave notice. The UK will leave the EU at 11PM, London time, on March 29, 2019. Preliminary negotiations with the EU reached agreements on three points. 1) The amount the UK owes the EU- £39 billion; 2) UK expatriates in the EU and EU expatriates in the UK; and 3) Northern Ireland borders. In addition, an agreement was reached to include a 21 month transition period to December 31, 2020. Prime Minister May originally said “Brexit means Brexit.” She said she wanted “a clear exit.” She made a major political mistake by calling a snap election for June 8, 2017. She expected the Tories to increase their majority in the House of Commons. Instead, they lost their majority and rely on the 10 votes of the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland to form a coalition government. She expected to strengthen her hand in negotiations with the EU. Instead she holds a weaker hand with reduced leverage. The Prime Minister summoned the Tories to Chequers, the country home of the Prime Minister, two weeks ago. She announced on Friday, June 30 an agreement by the MP’s. She had laid down the law to the MP’s. Either they were united in supporting her proposal for leaving the EU, or they could welcome Jeremy Corbyn, the Labor Party leader, to 10 Downing Street as the next PM. She basically said “It was her way or the Corbyn Way.” She proposed a soft Brexit, centered on keeping the UK in the EU single market and the EU Customs Union. She argued her plan was “the best way to honor” the Brexit vote. Prime Minister May proclaimed “it would take control of our money, our laws, and our borders.” She said the UK would no longer be subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. The Prime Minister called it a reasonable and credible proposal.” She has said to the British people “I will not let you down.” She exclaimed with her proposals: “They voted for us to take back control of our money, our law, and our borders. That is exactly what we will do.” Or not? The devil is always both in the details and what the EU will ultimately agree to.. Her plan includes a common rule book on industrial and farm products, but become independent in services. The common rule book for trade will not be from London, but from Brussels. She proposed a non-regression clause. The existing EU rules on climate change, environment, social and employment, and consumer protection will be adopted by law in the UK, subject to the right of Parliament to later change them. Defections quickly followed Unity was short lived. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, the flamboyant former Mayor of London and perhaps future PM, called it a “turd,” hardly a proper term for a high government official. Boris was one of the leaders of the Brexit campaign and a strong advocate for a full Brexit. He said the proposals amounted to a “semi-Brexit” with the “status of a colony. He added “The dream is dying, suffocated nu needless self-doubt.”” Boris Johnson and David Davis, Brexit Minister, quickly resigned from the Cabinet, as did several other hard Brexit officials. Ian Duncan Smith, a former Tory leader, stated “I voted to leave, not to half-leave.” The government subsequently issued a White Paper, “The Future Relationship Between the United Kingdom and the European Union.” It proposes an “Association Agreement” between the UK and EU. 1) The UK will follow common rules on trade in goods; 2) The UK will collect duties at the ports on foreign goods entering the UK in commerce and duties on goods in transition between the UK and EU. The UK will thereby be a partial tax collector for the EU, with duties often different between the UK and EU tariffs. 3) Commitment to ongoing harmonization with EU regulations 4) UK-EU disputes will be decided by an independent arbitration panel 5) Payments to the EU It leaves open four areas for future cooperation: 1) An economic partnership between the UK and EU; 2) Security cooperation; 3) Future cooperation in areas, such as aviation and nuclear power; and 4) An “institutional framework to enforce the agreement.” A possible “reciprocal’ with the EU for payment of limited benefits and social security. Dominic Raab, the new Brexit Minister, called the White paper ablueprint for a “principled, pragmatic, and ambitious partnership between the U.K. and the E.U.” The Prime Minister said the White Paper “delivers on the Brexit people voted for.” She’s not putting it to a new referendum though. Many opponents of the PM’s proposals view them not at Brexit or soft Brexit, but as Brino, “Brexit in Name Only.” The strum and drang is not even about an actual bill. It is simple an opening negotiating proposal, for which the EU will respond. The “White Paper” is simply an opening offer to the EU. Rumors are that the EU powers are unhappy with it, but are holding off formally responding. They believe time and leverage are on their side. Prime Minister Theresa May wants to selectively pick and choose the parts of the EU she wants to continue. The EU officials may be quiet now, but they previously indicated that approach is unacceptable. The UK will not be allowed to pick the best parts and walk away from the remainder. Yet the U.K. has leverage. We should assume that in these troubled times for Europe that its leaders would not welcome the chaos involved in a hard, drop dead Brexit on March 29, 2020. The UK is too big an economic market currently integrated into the EU to ignore. The PM’s negotiating posture seems to be that of President Obama; 1) Start with strong words; 2) Follow them with a soft proposal; 3) Give them the money in advance, and not use as negotiating leverage; 4) Respond to objections by the other party to softening them more; and 5) Basically concede to the opposing party. Presidents Obama and Trump have unsurprisingly taken opposite positions on Brexit. President Obama received little criticism for intruding in the British electoral process, while President Trump, unsurprisingly, had been roundly criticized by the American media. President Obama warned the British voters prior to the Brexit vote that if Brexit passed, the UK would then be “at the back of queue” of future trade talks with the United States. President Trump criticizes the Prime Minister’s negotiating technique and warned that if her proposal is approved then there would be little chance of a bilateral trade agreement between the UK and US. He said her plan is not what Britons voted for. The British survived and proposed for 1,000 years, including building a great empire, by retaining its sovereignty independent of Continental Europe. Much of the global market lies outside Europe. The European Union is not a unitary body. Norway has an “association” participation and 9 of the 28 members, including the U.K., retain their own currency. Successfully navigating Brexit through both the U.K. and the E.U. would be a challenge for the greatest of politicians. It’s a long road to March 29, 2020. We will see if the Prime Minister is up to the challenge.

Monday, July 9, 2018

How Not to Spend the 4th of July in London: Have Your IPhone X Stolen

I gave a talk in Brighton, England Saturday. We came to London early to enjoy the greatness of the City How though do you spend the 4th of July in England? The 4th is certainly not a Holiday for the Brits. They do not want to commemorate the loss of their first empire in North America to some unsophisticated Colonials. They have a memorial in St. Paul’s Cathedral to General Cornwallis but it doesn’t mention his inglorious surrender at Yorktown. Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne, the bon vivant playwright politician general with four children by a mistress, lies in Westminster Abbey, which leaves out his surrender at Saratoga. England has so many heroes in the glorious history of its empire that it need not recognize the losers. The British are proud of their empire. They are proud that they peacefully granted independence to Australia, Canada, India/Pakistan, New Zealand, South Africa, Egypt, Iraq, and the scores of other colonies, dominions and protectorates. They are proud that most have remained in the British Commonwealth of Nations, and that a few have even stayed as British territories. They are not proud of having been kicked out of the 13 colonies and having the mighty British Army humiliated twice by the Americans, including Andrew Jackson’s crushing Wellington’s best at New Orleans in 1815. Yes, they kissed and made up, but they don’t forget. Jorge Carro, a Cuban refugee who became the Law Librarian at Ohio Northern and then at the University of Cincinnati, said many times in his inimical Cuban accent “Ye may forgive, but ye never forget.” The British have not forgotten. The 4th of July goes unmentioned by the Brits, even in their multitude of newspapers, on the 4th. Why discuss the 4th when there’s Wimbledon and the World Cup? We could go to the American Embassy for their 4th regalia and spectacular, but weren’t invited. So I got snarky. Why not wear a cap with the American Flag and the words United Sates? The Brits would not understand the meaning, but it was the 4th! I knew; my wife knew. Mistake, the Empire struck back against this non-British descendant colonial. To use a British phrase, “Blimey, my IPhone was pinched.” I realized it within 100 yards, but it was too late. It was already in use elsewhere with busy signals. Contacted Apple, contacted AT&T. The phone is now dead. Both were very helpful. They said to file a police report. The London Metropolitan Police were very sympathetic. I apologized for bothering them with a stolen IPhone when real crime is being committed. They wished me well with the remainder of the stay. It’s amazing the information they could pull up on this colonial. Went to the insurance company on line. Very helpful; a new phone will arrive once we return. It’s amazing what they could pull up about me online. Another manifestation of my warning to Torts students: “Very little is private today. The less privacy we have in the computer age, the more we desire.” We have become wedded to our cells. Yes, we feel naked without our cell, but the loss of a phone is only inconvenient, especially while traveling. It’s only an inconvenience – not tragic; a new phone became available in a few days. It’s a blimey inconvenience to change a ton of sign-ons and passwords, but that’s an inconvenience that should be periodically performed anyway. The real loss is the hundreds of pictures, which had not yet made it into the Apple Cloud. There’s still memories and photos on the Nikon. A lesson I learned today is that the dead phone had life after death, chewing up GB’s of usage. The Sim card was still alive in another phone. AT&T confirmed today that the activation of the replacement IPhone with a new Sim card killed the old sim.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Why the Kerfuffle Over the Supreme Court Appointment?

Roe v. Wade Pro-choice v. pro-life Roe v. Wade is the litmus test for Democrats. Other issues are affirmative action, environmental protection, immigration, labor rights, LGBTQ rights, police actions, social justice, and voting rights, but Roe v. Wade is the ultimate litmus test. No political leeway is allowed on that issue. The jurisprudential debate is simple. The liberals believe the Constitution is a living document, to be changed with the times - by judges if necessary. The plain words of the Constitution are no longer binding. They are activist judges. The conservatives follow the Justice Scalia perspective. It’s called originalism: follow the words and intent of the drafters to the greatest extend possible. The United States is governed by the Rule of Law, not the Rule of Man (Woman). If the Constitution means whatever five justices want it to be, then we are no longer governed by the Rule of Law and our liberties can easily disappear rather than expand. The path to changing the Constitution is through the Amendment Clause rather than by judicial legislation. The amendment process is very difficult; only 27 amendments have been ratified in 229 years. The amendments include freeing the slaves (13), granting citizenship to the feed slaves (14) and the voting rights to African Americans (15) and women (19) the right to vote, eliminating the Poll Tax (24), the direct election of Senators (17) and the first ten amendments, known as The Bill of Rights. The 18th Amendment, Prohibition, was a bad one, being repealed by the 21st Amendment. The 16th Amendment provided for the income tax. The 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18. The 22nd Amendment limited the President to two terms of office. The constitution is not a declaration of social justice, but justices, such as Justice Sotomayor believe it is. Thus it can be stretched and rewritten as they wish as long as they can win a majority vote of the panel, five out of four on the United States Supreme Court. Justice Kennedy was the fifth and deciding vote in many cases this year. The Warren Court dramatically rewrote the Constitution by creating new rights. Democrats realized that they could achieve through the judiciary that which is impossible legislatively for human rights, social justice,and victim compensation. Five Supreme Court justices can rewrite the Constitution as shown by a series of 5:4 decisions. Five Supreme Court justices can affirm the Constitution as adopted. A change in justices can turn a 5:4 decision into a 4:5 decision and vice versa. What goes around, comes around in politics. The Democratic Senate under Senator Harry Reid eliminated the filibuster for district court and court of appeals judges so that they could stack the lower courts with liberal justices. This Republican Senate under Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has eliminated the filibuster for supreme Court justices. Thus Democrats have to mount a vicious full court press in an attempt to deny a ninth justice, a conservative justice to the Court even before they know who the nominee is. Justice Anthony Kennedy recently served as the swing vote in many critical decisions. Many thought he was unpredictable, but in fact he was a strong adherent of First Amendment Rights, personal liberties, and often the environment. Thus his strong support of Roe v. Wade and gay marriage. It is widely believed that Justice Kennedy would have joined the conservative block in striking down capital punishment. Elections have consequences. The last four Supreme Court confirmations did not change the composition of the Court: two liberals for two liberals and two conservatives for two conservatives. The sturm and drang was political posturing those times. This time the belief is that an appointment of another justice like Justice Neil Gorsuch will change the balance, perhaps for decades. The fear is also that another justice, probably one of the liberal justices, will leave the Court during the next 2½ years, giving President Trump an even greater chance of changing the Court. That works both ways though. Liberals are concerned that a majority of the Court will routinely reverse some of the liberal interpretations that stray from the meaning of the Constitution. The standard for Supreme Court appointments was deceptively clear not that long ago. The President would appoint the best qualified person, usually from the President’s party. That meant a white male Protestant. The Court is now diverse by ethnicity , gender, race and religion. In fact, the present Court has only one Protestant, Neil Gorsuch, who was raised Catholic, but attends Episcopalian services. The standard now is the best politically qualified appointee who can most likely be confirmed. Conservatives do not want another Justice David Souter on the Court. He was billed as conservative, but was in fact liberal all the way. Someone did not do due diligence. President Eisenhower called Chief Justice earl Warren his worse appointment. He could also not have been too happy with Justice William Brennen. The odds are that President trump is not going to ask the candidates their view on abortion. Nor are they likely to volunteer it. They will probably talk about their judicial philosophy – that of Justice Scalia. My view on Roe v. Wade is that of Professor Ruth Bader Ginsberg. She liked the outcome, but believed it was wrong for the Court to do so. I believed then, as I believe today, that issues as contentious as abortion and the right to life should be decided by the body politic, be it by the legislature or a referendum of the people, as can be done by voters in California. Judicial legislation does not resolve these issues. A different problem exists in the Court reversing Roe v. Wade. The decision is based on Griswold v. Connecticut, which granted a right to privacy in the marital bedroom, and since been expanded. It will be difficult, but not impossible for clever jurists, to reverse Roe v. Wade without impinging on Griswold v. Connecticut. Even Judge Robert Bork in his confirmation hearings said he would not reverse Griswold v. Connecticut. His nomination was still defeated, with Senator Kennedy launching a vicious attack on him. The attacks on the distinguished judge became known as “Borking.” Their nominees will be closely scrutinized by both sides, looking for even a single word or past act that might endanger their nomination. This nominee, he or she, will be Borked. It will probably make the hearings on Justice Thomas seem mild. Too much is at stake for the Democrats. They must fight to the end on this nominee.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Explain the Country Known As England to Me: It just doesn't Make Sense

England should not exist as a country. It makes no sense. They can’t even agree on a name. Is it England? Britain? Great Britain? United Kingdom? UK? Isn’t England the UK? Five names for the same island nation? Or should be go back to Britania? They have several choices for a national anthem: God Save the Queen, Land of Hope and Glory, or the popular Jerusalem. Is England different from the UK? Is their flag the Union Jack while the Navy flies the St. George’s Ensign? England, back to England, has no constitution, but an unwritten constitution which Parliament can change at any time. The Monarchy is a constitutional monarchy, but there’s no constitution! The Queen, the Monarch, is the head of state, but can only approve legislation passed by Parliament. She can’t veto or change proposed legislation. The purpose of the Crown seems to be Pomp and Circumstance, dedications, a source of material for TV shows and movies, and marketing royal marriages to commoners. The Crown recently married off a Prince of the Realm to an older divorcee, who’s an African American actress. The country made it through centuries with no formal Bill of Rights, but has adopted the Human Rights of the European Union, which it is about to drop out of. Brexit? Are they in? Are they out? Are they maybe in or out, or partially in or out? Does the Prime Minister, who opposed Brexit but now supports it, even know? The country is similarly mixed up on measurements, sometimes using metric and sometimes Imperial Units. They speak English funny, drive on the wrong side of the road, drink warm beer, and enjoy a bland cuisine featuring fish and chips. They’re not even sure if Shakespeare was Shakespeare or even know if Robin Hood existed, but they fervently believe the Lock Ness Monster, “Nellie” as they affectionately call her, exists. They’re puzzled by Stonehenge, a collection of rocks. Their greatest hero, James Bond, has been portrayed by Australian, Irish, and Scottish actors. Fleet Street still publishes real, large size newspapers, an oxymoron in today’s world. They play a boring form of football, often ending in 1-0 scores. The women wear those gaudy hats, which look like they came out of a menagerie. Vangelis, a Greek, composed the theme to the The Chariots of Fire movie about their greatest Olympic champions, Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell. They celebrate the 803 year old Magna Carta as the birth of British rights, but it simply resolved, temporarily, a tiff between lords and the despised King John. It had nothing to do with the rights of the common man or woman. Only three provisions have meaning today. Parliament is the ultimate law giver. It’s an historical anomaly. Power rests with the House of Commons, the elected lower house. The increasingly eviscerated House of Lords can delay but not blocked a bill. The Lords, once hereditary, now mostly appointed can propose legislation and send back to the House of Commons, but that's it. Why keep the House of Lords? King Richard, the Lionheart, acclaimed as their greatest king, hardly ever sat foot in England after his Coronation at Westminster Abbey, probably couldn’t speak English, and is buried in France; yet a 30’ statute of him sits in front of Parliament. Parliament Square contains statues of famous Brits as well as foreign leaders. One is of Jan Christian Smuts, a South African leader who became commander of a large Boer unit during the Second Boer War. The British Army never defeated him. Smuts became Prime Minister of South Africa, a Field Marshall in the British Army, and an advisor to Winston Churchill. He lost reelection after Word War II, just as Winston Churchill. Churchill's lost led to Britain's socialism and Smuts' loss tragically gave rise to Apartheid. British history has many great leaders starting with Queen Boudica in A.D. 60. The greats include royalty, prime ministers, and military. The greatest of all was Winston Churchill, who was only half British. His mom, Jenny Randolph, was American. The Brits claim a special relationship with America, a people who kicked them out on July 4. 1776, and then mauled Wellington’s best at New Orleans in 1815. They adore Queen Victoria, who reigned for 63 years as the British Empire reached its apogee. Yet when her husband, Prince Albert, died in 1861 she became a recluse. Scotland Yard is the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Service. It has nothing to do with Scotland. Scotland Yard still can’t solve after 130 years the greatest cold case in its history: Jack the Ripper. England has several great universities. Two, Cambridge and Oxford, collectively known as Oxbridge, which sounds like a town in the Midlands, are always ranked among the world’s greatest. They don’t even make sense. They are both public and private universities, but their individual colleges are legally independent entities. You can’t even apply to both colleges for undergrad, and, if admitted, aren’t necessarily admitted to the constituent college of your choice. Bus drivers are in a league of their own. They love double decker busses, but the tour bus drivers seem to underestimate the height of low lying bridges, scraping the top off their busses. They sold London Bridge to Arizona and the Queen Mary to Long Beach. That's apparently a manifestation of the special relationship. Its great car marquees, Bentley, Jaguar, Range Rover, Rolls-Royce are foreign owned as is the world famous Harod’s Department Store. On the other hand the country retains the non-marble Elgin Marbles and Gibraltar. How could a tiny island with a small population create a global empire covering ¼ of the planet and ¼ of world’s population – totally unfathomable How could a country of shopkeepers establish an global empire? How could the great empire exist in a country of rampant poverty. Obviously it was to see the world, to escapement confine on a dreary, wet island. Ironically while the natives fled the island, expatriates from the former colonies have flooded England. The Scot Irish in Ulster want to remain in the United Kingdom, but the Scots in Scotland want out. The country took 400 years to create the greatest empire in the history of the world, and dismembered it in a decade. Explain to me why ????? is a country

Friday, June 29, 2018

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won a Great Victory Tuesday, But ..................

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez upset by a wide margin Congressman Joe Crowley Tuesday. It is being portrayed as a great win for the Millennial Progressive Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party. She is being held forth as an exemplar of the future, now present, progressive Democratic Party. The 28 year old defeated the number 4 Democrat in Congress, the Chair of the House Democrat Caucus. The Democratic Socialist ran on a platform of Free Tuition, Free Medical Care through Medicare, guaranteed federal jobs, and the abolishment of ICE, meaning free admissions to all to the United States. Note the emphasis on “Free.” Free! Free! Free! That’s not socialism – that’s rank redistributionism. She proclaimed housing to be a basic human right. Alexandria is honest in calling herself a Democratic Socialist. Many Democrats hide behind the label “Progressive” when they are pursuing the same socialist goals as hers. Margaret Thatcher famously said “The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” Alexandria was a campaign organizer for Senator Bernie Sanders, one of the army of his fervent young supporters. Socialism is seductive to the human spirit, especially the impressionable young. Yet it fails in the real world. The history is plain to see. If you look closely at Senator Sander’s life, you will discover that his great success is in the public sector. The private, productive sector did not work for him. A large segment of her generation is ignorant of both economics and history. Ms, Osacio-Cortez was an economics major at Boston University, but missed the lessons on economic history, if they were even offered. Pre-Marx socialism failed with the Pilgrims in America. They quickly discovered that the free-loaders were sapping the drive and spirit of the workers. The redistributionism was a disaster. If she studied the Communist (advanced socialism) countries of China and Vietnam she will quickly learn their great economic success is by adopting capitalism. India is similarly achieving great economic success by abandoning its early flirtation with socialism. If she looks across the Caribbean she will see that the socialist paradise of Venezuela can’t even provide toilet paper to the people. Cuba is still in poor shape. The other Latin American and African countries that have practiced socialism or quasi-socialism have not prospered. Another lesson from history. George Orwell’s Animal House tells us an important lesson about socialism: All animals are equal, but some animals are most equal than others.”. The leaders often become corrupt. The only way socialism can make people equal is to ensure equality at the lowest common denominator; i.e. equality in poverty, economic and spiritual. The socialist empire called the Soviet Union was economically bankrupt when it collapsed. she should look at the eight years of President Obama. He claimed to be a “Progressive,” but his Administration was as socialist as he could be She won for a number of reasons. Her platform played a role, but the election was actually hers to lose. 1) Congressman Joe Crowley was running for reelection in a new district. He was redistricted into a district where most voters did not know who he was; 2) The “old” Democrat ran a lackluster campaign against a young, telegenic, energetic opponent 3) He is part of the old undynamic leadership of Congressional Democrats; Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader is 78. Steny Hoyer, the number 2 Democrat is 79, and number 3 James Clyburn is 77 4) He ran TV ads; she ran an old style grassroots campaign of door to door, doorbell by doorbell meeting with the voters 5) He ran expensive TV ads; she skillfully used social media 6) Demographics: the new 14th Congressional District is 49.8% Hispanic, 18.41% White; 16.24% Asian, 11.39% Black, .45% Native American, and 3.71% other. In short a vibrant Latina was running in a district that is 80% of color against a diffident white 7) Turnout: The turnout was less than 12% of the registered voters in the District. She got her voters out, but that was only 15,897 votes (57.48%). He only received 11,761 votes (42.52%). By way of comparison 67,372 votes were cast in the 2014 primary compared to 27,651 this year. The voters imply were enthused by the campaign. 178,132 votes were cast in the 2014 Congressional election 8) Joe Crowley represents the status quo; voters of both parties are clamoring for change. Republican voters tossed out the Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader, four years ago 9) Republicans turned to Donald Trump and Democrats to Bernie Sanders Democrat Conor Lamb won a House seat in Pennsylvania by 750 votes in March. The young, telegenic, grass roots campaigner defeated the 60 year old, unenthusiastic Republican Rick Saccone. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won by marshalling a coalition of 16,000 Millennials and voters of color. That is not a national call for change. The real upset is if she loses to a Republican in November in this heavily Democratic District. Warning to Republicans and America.: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Conor Lamb are the face of the New Democratic Party.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Erdogan Won; Turkey Lost (?)

Erdogan won his election as all powerful President of Turkey. Of course he won. The ballots were barely closed before it was announced that with 97 % of the ballots counted the President won 52.4% of the vote. Votes were counted quicker in Turkey than in American elections. Of course he won He won before the ballots were cast. He won because he was never going to lose. He won because he could not, would not lose. He has never lost an election. Reccip Tayyid Erdogan has won every election. He is a consummate politician, an indefatigable campaigner, with great personal skills. He connects with his base just as President Obama does with his. He won because he built a record of success, starting as Mayor of Istanbul. We visited Istanbul five years ago. It was a great, vibrant city. It wasn’t 1994 when he became Mayor of Istanbul with 25.2% of the vote. That Istanbul had too little water and too much pollution. Traffic was a disaster. Mayor Erdogan cleaned up the city, built water facilities, as well as roads, bridges, viaducts, and tunnels. The President has always had big infrastructure dreams. Mayor Erdogan reached out to the poor of Istanbul. They stand behind President Istanbul. The poor of Anatolia stand with President Erdogan. President Erdogan is a devout Muslin. The Muslins stand with the Islamic President rather than the secular candidates. The President won because he controlled the state controlled media; little independent media is left in Turkey as hundreds of journalist are imprisoned. He won despite the presence of monitors; observers were allegedly attacked at about a quarter of the voting stations He won because Selahatin Demirtas, the Kurdish candidate, languishes in prison. The Kurd won 8.4% of the vote. His party won 67 of the Parliament’s 600 seats. However, 9 Kurdish Parliamentarians from the previous Parliament also languish in prison. President Erdogan survived a military coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The failed coup is an object lesson in how not to mount a coup. Some cynics believe the coup was actually staged by President Erdogan to solidify his power, but no evidence has surfaced to support this conspiracy theory. Over 55,000 of his opponents are Imprisoned while another 110,000 have been fired from their jobs. The newly unemployed include judges, prosecutors, police officers, and teachers. Erdogan won. So did his corrupt son. A tape was released years ago of him talking to his son about favors. Inflation won. It’s up 12.5% this year. Turkey lost. The Turks lost. President Erdogan wants to grow the economy with foreign investment. 12.5% inflation and a declining Lira will not do it. The Kurds lost; President Erdogan will continue his war against them. He declared in his victory speech that he will act decisively against terrorism. That means fighting the Kurd in Turkey, Syria and Iraq. The Kurds will fight back. Secular Islam lost. Turkey’s women lost Ataturk recognized the rights of Turkey’s women; it’s fair to say he unleashed the power of Turkey’s women. President Erdogan wants Turkish women to stay home and begat three children. The Turkish Lira continues to plunge, down 20-25% this year alone. The merchants lost. The Turkish tourist industry lost, Turkey’s workers lost. NATO lost big. Turkey is still negotiating with Russia for an aerial defense system. Erdogan is playing footsie with Russia, Turkey’s eternal enemy The EU lost. Freedom of speech and of the press, whatever smidgeon remained after the past few years, lost. Human rights and civil rights lost. He’s canned hundreds of judges and prosecutors. Fethullah Gulan lost. He remains heavily guarded in Pennsylvania as the United States continues to reject extradition The environment lost. The President loves large projects: a third airport for Istanbul, a giant mosque overlooking the Bosporus, and a grandiose palace on 50 acres in the Ataturk National Park in Ankara. He’s completing a rail tunnel under the Bosporus, connecting Europe to Asia by rail. Erdogan feels free to build his new 25 mile “canal” in Thrace, paralleling the Bosporus. A coup attempt failed in July 2016. He responded by exercising emergency powers. He imprisoned over 50,000 Turks and dismissed over 110,000 from their jobs. President Erdogan had served as Mayor of Istanbul prior to being elected Prime Minister of Turkey. He ran as a devout Muslim. He quickly became popular by taming inflation and igniting an economic boom. He favors big projects. Turkey’s military took an oath to protect the secular nation. They imprisoned him for 4 months on a 10 month sentence in 1999. He was barred from further holding political office. The Turkish military pulled coups in the past. Prime Minister Erdogan learnt from the past. The military would not stop him. He joined with the Cemaat supporters of Fethullah Gulan in defanging the Turkish military. They framed the high-ranking military officers in 2010 in the Sledgehammer and Ergenekon cases. Incriminating documents purporting to be dated 2003 were prepared on a 2007 Microsoft program. The remaining 235 suspects were acquitted in 2015, but not restored to office. President Erdogan grasped the nationalist spirit of the Turks. The Turks are a proud people with a great heritage. They justly feel they get little respect from the European countries. He is willing to stand up to the foreign governments. A combination of economic success, nationalism, and religion is tough to beat. Yet almost 48% of the voters rejected him. The great Ataturk brought Turkey into the 20th Century. Sadly, President Erdogan dreams of the Turkey of the Ottomans, a spent force by the end of the 19th Century. Nostalgia for the past is not always a plan for the future.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

History Lesson: February 15, 1942: The Fall of Singapore and the Collapse of the British Empire

The British Empire died on February 15, 1942 when the Japanese captured Singapore. The British just didn’t know it at the time. India was the Jewel in the Crown. The British did everything they could to protect the Raj by controlling the land and sea routes to India, and by engaging in The Great Game with the expanding Russian Empire until a modus vivendi was reached between the two countries. The British fortified Singapore, calling it “the Gibraltar of Asia,” or so they thought. They placed 12 large 15” cannons on Sentosa Island (the site of the recent Trump-Kim Summit) to ward off any sea invasion., but left the Malayan Peninsula undefended. The British were defeated by a well-trained, well-prepared, experienced army with aerial superiority. The British were defeated by their own arrogance and poor leadership as well as poorly trained, inexperienced soldiers. Many of the units in a military sense could be labeled “raw.” The French never thought the Germans could attack through the Ardennes. They were wrong – twice! The British never thought an attack on Singapore could come by land because the Malayan Peninsula was mostly an impenetrable swamp. They refused to erect defensive fortifications on the Peninsula. The British were wrong. The Japanese attacked the Malay Peninsula one hour before the attack on Pearl Harbor The Japanese 25th Army marched down 640 miles and captured Singapore at the end of a 70-day campaign. The British forces retreated to the Island of Singapore on January 27. The siege of Singapore only lasted a week from February 6 – February 15. The British believed tanks could not proceed down the Peninsula. The Japanese had 200 light tanks for which the British had no defense. The Japanese kept out-flanking the British position through a simple secret weapon – the bicycle! Roughly 138,708 British Empire (English, Australian, Indian, Malaysian, New Zealand) troops were killed or imprisoned by the Japanese. The Japanese 25th army was roughly 30,000 strong. The British Plan for protecting Singapore was to send a fleet and rely on the Royal Air Force (RAF). The Japanese quickly achieved air superiority. Britain’s Force Z taskforce sailed into Singapore on December 2. It consisted of the battleship HMS Prince of Wales, the battlecruiser HMS Repulse, and four destroyers. Force Z sallied force to attack the Japanese transports. A fleet without air cover is target practice for an enemy. The Japanese discovered the ships and in a very short period Japanese torpedo plans and bombers sank the two large ships on December 10, 1941. The British army now lacked both air and sea support. They lacked leadership on land. The large cannons could pivot to shoot inland, but their trajectory was too high and most of the shells were armor piercing to be used against ships rather than fragmentation shells. The Japanese destroyed many of Singapore's big guns. Many of the units fought bravely, but it was not to be. Fortress Singapore was not much of a fortress. Winston Churchill called the surrender of Singapore “the worst disaster and largest capitulation in the history of the British Empire.” The British were able to successfully defend India after also losing Burma. They regained control of Singapore at the end of World War II. The British though were a spent economic, military, and political force. The population of the United Kingdom was 46 million in 1940. Yet this small island nation’s empire covered almost ¼ of the planet (24%) and ¼ of the population (460 million). India alone had about 378 million people. The only way England could rule such a domain was through the will of the people. The quick fall of Singapore signaled England had lost the aura of invincibility; a white army had been destroyed by a much smaller Asian army. The Jewel in the Crown was gone. England no longer needed, nor could afford, much of the remaining British Empire without India. About 2,500,000 Indian soldiers fought for Great Britain in World War II. Some fought for the Japanese. Others rebelled. They yearned for freedom. England did not have the ability in 1945 to suppress any mass revolt, unlike the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. Great Britain had peacefully granted Dominion status (essentially independence) to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and the Irish Free State prior to World War II. It was headed that way with India with the 1935 Government of India Act, giving India more autonomy. Further developments were suspended by World War II. England’s response after World War II was to precipitously pull out of India in 1947, giving way to the Bloody Partition. The Empire had died seven years earlier. The only British surrender comparable to that of Singapore was at Yorktown freeing the 13 colonies. The supreme irony of the British surrender is that the Japanese forces were almost out of supplies, especially artillery shells at the time of surrender. ______________________________________________________________________ Why did I write this blog? I’m in Singapore and I love history.