*Lessons on Gaining and Losing Power


“The measure of a man is what he does with power.” – Plato

“For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.” – Noam Chomsky

“We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.” – George Orwell


The Post World War II Global Order is Losing Power: President Trump didn’t just openly berate Canadian hosts and allies at the G7 summit earlier this month, he also privately maligned NATO, calling it “as bad as NAFTA”. His inflammatory remarks were confirmed by two European officials on Thursday and add to worries among US allies about what will happen, not only at the NATO summit in Brussels starting July 11, but thereafter at Finland’s meeting July 16 between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump has certainly never tried to hide his disdain for NATO, often saying the US spends much more than it gets from the alliance. But now European, as well as US state and defense department officials, worry that Trump could make private concessions to curry favor with Putin, much like he did for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un when in a surprise, unilateral move Trump offered to suspend joint military exercises with South Korea. Should Trump lambast his NATO partners and then flatter Putin at their Helsinki meeting, it could trigger a crisis in confidence in the transatlantic alliance.

But some European experts argue that concerns over Trump’s remarks are overwrought. One strategic analyst wrote: “The Trump administration is spending far more on NATO than the Obama administration and (is) greatly increasing the readiness and strength of the forces that the US can supply to NATO.”

Additional reads: “The whole world sees it: Trump is doing lasting damage to the global order that made the U.S. a superpower.” (LA Times) And perhaps the power of the presidency is too great? “The Presidency Is Too Big to Succeed: The problems of presidential gigantism can’t be solved by finding the right giant—the office is dying from its own undisciplined growth.” (Atlantic)


– Newly re-elected president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is facing issues with a disgruntled populace – the main issue: his conflicting economic and foreign policies. The economy has been languishing in recession, and Erdogan has no plans for an economic revival instead focusing only on his super projects. (NYT)

– Emmanuel Macron has declared the reinstatement of France’s mandatory national service. Set to start in 2019, Macron wants the youth of France to value citizenship and feel like they belong to a community gathered around its values. (CNN)

– Two reports by parliament have revealed that British spies knew about the United States’ mistreatment and illegal transfers of militant suspects following the September 11 attacks. Though there is no evidence that British agents partook in any mistreatment, the findings do show that they stood idly by as it happened, which undermines Britain’s claims to formally reject all forms of prisoner abuse. (NBC News)

– Prosecutors have accused two women of being trained assassins following an incident where they rubbed VX, a banned chemical weapon, on the face of Kim Jong-nam, the North Korean leader’s half-brother. The women face life in prison if found guilty, but there is no trace to who may have hired them. All theories point toward Pyeongchang, though they have denied such allegations.

– Congressional Republicans and upper echelons of the GOP, including top aides to President Trump accuse social media giants like Twitter and Facebook of liberal bias and intentional censorship of right-leaning posts, tweets, and news. So tech giants have a new outreach program – they’re schmoozing like their jobs depended on it, participating in everything from secret dinners with conservative media elite to private meetings with the Republican National Committee. Example: the guest list from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s June 19 private dinner at Cafe Milano, a familiar Georgetown haunt for city power brokers, included Mercedes Schlapp, a top communications adviser for President Trump; Grover Norquist, the leader of Americans for Tax Reform; television host Greta Van Susteren, and Guy Benson, a Fox News commentator. (Washington Post)


– A tipping point for climate change occurs when certain aspects of the climate system shift suddenly to new behaviors. Now a team of Norwegian scientists suggests it has watched the climate reach a tipping point. That is, the loss of Arctic sea ice has flipped the Barents Sea from acting as a buffer between the Atlantic and Arctic oceans to something closer to an arm of the Atlantic. (Ars Technica)

– Even if well-intentioned recyclers try very hard to put the right waste in the right blue bin, turns out that’s simply the tip of the giant recycling problem that consumers just can’t fix. (Bloomberg)

– In the 1980s, the Reagan administration helped negotiate a treaty known as the Montreal Protocol. It is widely seen as the most successful global environmental treaty ever, and it included a ban on chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, the purpose of which was to save the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere, something that protects the planet and its people from debilitating levels of cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation. Last month scientists discovered a surprising rise in CFC emissions and set out to find the source of the pollution. The trail of clues now leads to an industrial boomtown in rural China. (NYT)


China’s Path to Power: Remember the Golden Rule? Not that one. The one that says “He who has the Gold makes the Rules.” That’s the one China uses – it has the gold (money/financing) so it gets pretty much whatever it wants, at least when it has someone, or a whole country even, over a debt barrel. It’s how last December, China got Sri Lanka to give them a port and 15,000 acres around it for 99 years. Now China has control of territory just a few hundred miles off the shores of a rival country, India, and a strategic foothold along a critical commercial and military waterway. As an analyst for a think tank in New Delhi pointed out: “John Adams said infamously that a way to subjugate a country is through either the sword or debt. China has chosen the latter.”

It all started when Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected Sri Lanka’s president in 2005. He presided over the last years of a brutal 26-year war, when the country was becoming increasingly isolated by accusations of human rights violations. Under Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka relied heavily on China for economic support, military equipment, and political cover at the UN to block potential sanctions. Rajapaksa was determined to move forward with an ambitious port project, although feasibility studies said it wouldn’t work and other lenders like India refused to finance the project. But not China. That government was happy to loan all kinds of money, on moderate terms at first. But as the debt grew and the 2015 elections approached, large payments from the Chinese port construction fund began flowing directly to campaign aides and activities for President Rajapaksa, who was soon voted out of office.

Sri Lanka’s new government struggled to make payments on the debt the former president had amassed and tried negotiating for more financing and an extended timeline for repayment. But now Chinese demands centered on handing over equity in the port rather than allowing any easing of terms. And that’s how China got a small, vulnerable country hungry for financing to hand over some very valuable real estate.


– The Defense Department has begun planning a military parade, as requested by President Trump four months prior. No budget has been allocated yet, but public opinion seems fairly negative concerning the event. There seems to be little momentum going into the parade, and no real reason – Trump originally planned it after seeing France’s Bastille Day Parade last summer. (NBC News)

– House Republicans and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein exchanged heated words during a voracious hearing about a number of issues. From the text messages of FBI agent Peter Strzok and the Mueller probe to accusations of withholding information from Congress, the fight only escalated the longer it went on. Like kindling added to the fire, every new subject only built onto the heated and tense atmosphere in the room. (CNN)



“It is impossible to escape the impression that people commonly use false standards of measurement — that they seek power, success and wealth for themselves and admire them in others, and that they underestimate what is of true value in life.” – Sigmund Freud


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