Archive for the ‘OUR WORLD’ Category

SICKENING

I almost tossed my cookies in front of the TV Tuesday. No, I wasn’t sick. It’s just that I saw part of Donald Trump’s live remarks to journalists on CNN. Sickening.

The president told the assembled reporters and government officials that he called the COVID-19 problem a pandemic before anyone else did. I’ll repeat that. B-e-f-o-r-e. So let’s take a brief look at Trump’s record, detailed exhaustively by New York Times columnist Dave Leonhardt.

On March 13, Trump announced a national emergency. Good. That freed up federal funds for a variety of sound uses and streamlined various health care procedures to fight coronavirus. But if Trump recognized the pandemic long before, why did he wait?

And wait he did.

Two days earlier, Trump addressed the nation during a special telecast. “I want to speak to you about our nation’s unprecedented response to the coronavirus outbreak,”he said. Prune-faced, he looked like a man who’d soiled his boxers but was duct-taped to his chair. Unprecedented? That word applies only to ignoring public health advisors and underplaying cases of COVID-19 by not yet declaring that national emergency. Trump wanted to keep the stock market and economic numbers up. And how has that worked out?

But surely, the president had been forthcoming, resolute and far-sighted before that? Well, no. On March 7, Trump stated, “I’m not concerned at all.” Do the math. That’s all of six days before the declaration of a national emergency.

On February 26, three days after the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic—Trump’s judgment obviously having preceded theirs—he said, “We’re [U.S. cases] going down, not up.” At a February 10 campaign rally and in an interview with Fox Business’s Trish Regan—since dismissed from her show—“Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.” By next month? Miraculously?

Let’s go back to February 2. Trump banned most foreigners who’d recently visited China from entering the U.S., something he bragged about last Tuesday. He told Fox’s Sean Hannity, “Well, we pretty much shut it down coming in from China.” Which presumed that coronavirus hadn’t appeared elsewhere. Too little, too late? On January 22, Trump said from Davos, Switzerland “… we have it totally under control.”

Our nation’s response to coronavirus says a lot about how we as Americans see reality. Some of it has been, yes, sickening.

A variety of conservative politicians and pundits have linked coronavirus to domestic and foreign plots. At a February 28 campaign rally, Trump promoted their conspiracy theories. He called coronavirus a hoax and added, “The Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus” to damage him and his administration.

I’m waiting for conservative Christian ministers to declare coronavirus God’s punishment of a sinful nation allowing a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.

I wrote last week that we’ll come through this. To do it, I suggest we replicate the attitude of the Israelites in the wilderness who, in this week’s double Torah portion, Vayakhel-Pekudei, demonstrate the strength of community by all bringing abundant gifts for the building of the Tabernacle.

Our task is to come together and respect fact, science and truth. The big question we’ll face when coronavirus is done: What did we learn? We’ll have part of that answer in November.

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PRECAUTION, NOT PANIC

“These are the times that try men’s souls,” Thomas Paine wrote as America struggled to birth itself. Now, we face the coronavirus pandemic. To strengthen our souls, looking back may offer a clearer picture of the future.

Is the sky falling? Gray clouds have gathered and they’re darkening. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, “It is going to get worse.” At my age, Covid-19 poses a risk, although my health is excellent. Still, the world won’t come to an end.

Am I a Pollyanna? No, a realist. Major events of my 75-year lifetime provide some perspective.

When I was six, Americans were fighting in Korea—wherever that was. At P.S. 174 in Queens, I joined classmates in duck-and-cover drills to protect from a Soviet nuclear attack on New York. Polio still took a heavy toll on children. A friend survived it but emerged with a limp.

Jim Crow was alive and well in the south and practiced unofficially elsewhere. This, too, was a health scare since African Americans’ health was imperiled by being hung from a tree or shot or burned while at home.

The Cold War produced Vietnam. The American toll in Southeast Asia totaled 58,000, including my friend 1LT Howie Schnabolk, an Army medevac pilot shot down on 3 August 1967. Killed and wounded GIs were just part of the story.

The nation was coming apart at the seams. Nightsticks and dogs attacked civil rights marchers. Martin Luther King was assassinated, which led to riots producing death and destruction in urban ghettos. Political unrest forced Lyndon Johnson to forego running for another term as president in 1968. Which gave us Richard Nixon.

American industry took a header. Japanese cars battered Detroit. Then all sorts of industrial jobs fled the Midwest—soon to be known as the Rust Belt—for the American south and then Asia. AIDS emerged in the 1980s. It took the lives of as many as 700,000 Americans, including three of my fraternity brothers.

In the ’90s, the Dot.com Boom lifted a lot of people’s spirits—until the Dot.com Bust sent them plummeting. On 9/11, the Twin Towers fell and turmoil reigned. The nation rose up yet launched a foolish and costly war with Iraq. The stock market soared again until, in 2008, the financial industry collapsed with the market hitting its low point in March 2009.

Yet even recovery from the Great Recession wasn’t enough to calm a deeply divided America. Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016.

I’ve seen a lot, but so did my parents: The First World War, the Spanish flu (1918-20) which killed over 50 million worldwide and more than half a million Americans, the Depression, World War Two.

In time of crisis, I turn to the English writer Rudyard Kipling: “If you can keep your head when all about you / Are losing theirs and blaming it on you . . . you’ll be a Man my son!”

Keep washing your hands. Keep maintaining your social distance. Keep your head on your shoulders and your chin up. Male, female or nonbinary, you’ll be a mensch. And as a nation, we’ll get to sing along with another Briton, Elton John: “I’m Still Standing.”

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QUEENS SYNDROME

I’m not spoiling season three of Amazon Prime’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel when I say I love the show, but one episode offended me.

Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) declares that her son will attend private school on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and not a public school in Queens. With those people. I’m one of those people—P.S. 174, Russell Sage Junior High (J.H.S. 190) and Forest Hills High. I’m no big deal, but many outstanding people (and some less so) come from Queens and the other “outer boroughs”—Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island.

As a kid, I never heard the term outer boroughs. It’s a pejorative used by Manhattanites—many from Ohio, Nebraska, Alabama and California—describing the uncouth working people whose sole function is serving the interests of the educated, taste-making elite living on the only island worth inhabiting. Until rents forced many trendy, stylish citizens to flee to Brooklyn (Park Slope, Williamsburg) and from there to—gasp!—Queens (Astoria, Long Island City).

Actually, I’m not all that terribly put out, but— Okay, I am. Queens Syndrome is typical of attitudes throughout America. Manhattan looks down on Queens. New York City looks down on New Jersey and, well, almost everywhere. The coasts look down on the heartland. The East Coast looks down on the Atlantic shore south of Washington, D.C. excepting South Florida.

Those put down as near-Neanderthals (who were quite accomplished) return the favor. The heartland condemns coastal elites as fake Americans surrounding themselves with dangerous immigrants (to garden, work in restaurants).

Note: Chicago is the hub of the Midwest, but Cook County’s Mexican-American population numbers over 750,000. Then there’s the Windy City’s huge African American population. And history as a Democratic bastion. For many conservatives, Chicago is a city to scorn along with New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle. Faux-heartland cities like Dallas and Atlanta are also upsetting the conservative apple cart.

America’s problem is that many people refuse to look past geography and ethnicity. Different becomes a synonym for bad. Differences exist among varying cultures but also considerable similarities. Still, how can you possibly talk to thosepeople. Those Queensites!

Sadly, America’s divide—hardly new but more public these past three years—has encouraged the rest of the world to widen its own long-standing rifts. It’s okay in Europe to be anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant. Look at the U.S. It’s fine for India’s Hindu nationalists to bar immigrant Muslims from citizenship. (As it stands, India has 200 million Muslim citizens.) And if China terrorizes its Uighur Muslims, so what? Hiding behind security concerns, Donald Trump signed an executive order banning immigrants, refugees and visitors from seven nations, five predominantly Muslim.

Of course, Islamists seek to impose their version of Islam on fellow Muslims. Blood flows. They also target others. Christians in Muslim lands are suffering. Jews—not only Israel—remain objects of hatred. But don’t confuse Islamists with Muslims who wish to live in peace with the world.

Entering 2020, my Queens soul offers bad news and good. The bad: Baseless hatred will continue. Half the world believes I’m going to hell. The good: We can abate such hatred if only we demonstrate the will.

We could start by trashing the term outer boroughs.

In spite of what you just read, Happy New Year!

The post, following this feverish bout of writing, will take two weeks off and return on Friday, January 17.

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IRAN AND INCOMPETENCE

Usually, Donald Trump creates distractions from critical issues facing the United States. This week, the Democratic presidential debates performed that function, if not with the same intent. But let’s keep our eye on the ball—a specific one (of many) ignored at our own peril.

In September 2012, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the United Nations that Iran was close to developing a nuclear weapon and urged a military strike. Barack Obama disagreed. In July 2015, six nations, led by the U.S., plus the European Union signed an agreement with Iran. In return for relief from economic sanctions, Iran would halt its uranium enrichment process. This would postpone—though not permanently eliminate—its development of nuclear weapons.

In May 2018, Donald Trump, again expressing his hate-Obama fetish, withdrew America from the agreement. He imposed more American sanctions on Iran to further choke its oil exports and make life miserable for the Iranian people.

I detest the theocratic-kleptomaniacal rule of Iran’s ayatollahs and Republican Guard, who profit quite nicely despite the sanctions. But Tehran kept to the agreement. Iran still doesn’t have a nuclear weapon. Yet.

Pushed into a corner and proud of its ancient Persian culture, Iran struck back. Tehran’s Houthi proxies continued making Yemen a hellhole. Iran-backed militias have been active in Iraq and Syria, and support Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria.

Recently, Iran started blowing holes in Persian Gulf tankers—not to sink ships but to raise insurance rates and thus oil prices. Then Iran shot down an American drone. Did it fly over Iranian or international waters? We don’t know. We may never know. Trump sought to respond. He screwed up—and dangerously so.

Trump approved a military strike on several Iranian missile/radar sites. At the last minute, he called off the attack because 150 Iranians would be killed. America’s response would be disproportionate. Sounds statesmanlike?

Indeed, killing 150 Iranians would have been foolish, escalating tensions. The issue? Trump and his team’s gross negligence. Reports are sketchy—misleading might be more accurate—but here’s what we have:

Either Trump never evaluated the consequences of an attack when considering his options—he said he learned about the estimated deaths from a general ten minutes before the release of warheads/bombs. Or, according to some reports, he knew of the prospective deaths at the outset and approved the attack anyway. Then, perhaps at someone’s rational urging, he ordered the strike force to stand down.

Trump demonstrated that he is in no way capable of handling the role of America’s commander-in-chief in addressing complex geopolitical challenges. Strategy and tactics are always subject to debate, although perhaps not Tuesday’s threat to obliterate Iran (dumb). But what’s damning is any president’s failure to do due-diligence—evaluate proposed actions, consider their consequences and role play the other side’s responses then yours to them. Only long-term thinking can prevent short- and long-term disaster.

More than Trump’s covering up during the Mueller investigation into the 2016 election (Mueller appears before two House committees on July 17), his response to the drone incident demonstrates a level of incompetence that should send a clear message: Donald Trump should be removed from office via the 2020 electionat the latest. At stake are the lives of Americans and a great many others.

Big Truth: New and Collected Stories, is available at Amazon and bn.com in paper or e-book. Or, ask your favorite bookstore to order a copy. And, please leave a review on either or both sites.

The post will take off next Friday and return July 12.

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HAUNTED BY HISTORY

Old newsreels and propaganda films of World War One can be difficult to relate to. Camera vibrations and slower frame speeds produce herky-jerky images in black and white. But Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies) has completed a documentary that brings the Great War to life. It’s haunting.

The trailer for They Shall Not Grow Old shows how Jackson digitally restored footage from Britain’s Imperial War Museum, adjusting the frame rate, colorizing many clips and transforming some into 3-D. (Read a fascinating overview in The New York Times.)

The documentary also provides voiceovers taken from BBC interviews with British vets in the ’60s and ’70s. Additionally, lip readers determined what some troops were saying, and actors with accurate regional accents dubbed scenes.

Obviously, uniforms and equipment are dated. The number of missing teeth, given the British love of sweets and war’s ravages, is astounding. But these soldiers no longer seem caricatures from an almost mythological past but our contemporaries. Note: Britain and its colonies lost 750,000 troops. The U.S. lost 53,000 after entering the war in 1917. Altogether, World War One took nine to 15 million lives.

Most Americans don’t come close to knowing these figures or the causes of a war that never should have been fought. We long have become a nation—even more so over the last two years—proudly ignorant of history and its impact on our present and future. The vengeful Treaty of Versailles (1919) sowed the seeds of World War Two.

In 1954, the U.S. became the dominant Western power in Indochina following France’s humiliating defeat at Dien Bien Phu. The Eisenhower administration knew little about Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, but Cold Warriors feared Communist Ho Chi Minh becoming a puppet of China. In reality, Vietnam had been hostile to its northern neighbor for 1,000 years. Some historians believe that Jack Kennedy would have withdrawn American advisors. I wouldn’t have bet on it.

Lyndon Johnson feared drawing conservatives’ wrath and sent more advisors until we staged the Gulf of Tonkin incident as an excuse to land major combat forces in the South. Richard Nixon, who won the presidency in 1968 after LBJ chose not to run for re-election, boasted of a “secret plan” to end the war. He waited until ’72—after re-election—to unveil it. Slaughter continued there, riots and societal breakdown here. Nixon’s secret? “Peace with honor.” Translation: Leave. We lost the war and 58,000 troops. South Vietnam fell.

George W. Bush and his handlers knew nothing about the Greater Middle East. Post-9/11, we went into Afghanistan to find Osama Bin Laden. Fine. Then we blew it. He escaped. We stayed. We’re still there. In 2003, we invaded Iraq to destroy weapons of mass destruction and create an American-style democracy. We found Saddam Hussein but no weapons. No matter. Mass destruction followed.

Ultimately, that led us into Syria. Now, we’re reversing course and leaving. I believe this move is premature—and dangerous. Secretary of Defense James Mattis does, too. He resigned yesterday.

They Shall Not Grow Old reminds us of George Santayana’s advice: “Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.” It offers sound advice to each new generation. What truly grows old is our ignoring it.

To those who celebrate these holidays, Merry Christmas and Happy Kwanzaa! To all, Happy New Year!

The blog will take some time off and return on Friday, January 4.

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MBS SPEAKS

My dear American friends: I, Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, wish to offer perspective on the unfortunate passing of Saudi citizen Jamal Khashoggi. Prepare yourselves.

To begin, your CIA is mistaken—again. I told your president I had nothing to do with Mr. Khashoggi’s untimely demise. As he knows, when a foreign leader says “I didn’t do it” (do not see The Simpsons, season 5, episode 12), he didn’t do it. Mr. Khashoggi was strangled and dismembered. We Saudis only behead people—those who offend Islam as we define it, or commit murder (unless blood money is paid), adultery or witchcraft. I know. I not only represent Saudi law, I amthe law.

We seem to have a culture gap. Americans feel uneasy that Saudis (men only) wear beards like the Prophet, Jesus and ZZ Top, while Saudi women conceal themselves in public (eye slits do not restrict vision that much). This leads to confusion, such as Saudi’s “role” in 9/11.

Fully FOUR of the 19 hijackers were citizens of nations other than Saudi Arabia. Do the math. That’s a humongous (I love American slang) 21%. You would be thrilled if your portfolio increased 21% every year so you could experienced something of the financial fantasy enjoyed by loyal Saudi princes.

Also, some people think that as “kingpin” of OPEC, Saudi instigated oil’s rapid price rise in October 1973—and the West’s subsequent economic plunge—to hurt nations that supported Israel after Egypt and Syria attacked the self-proclaimed Jewish state. Fake news. We merely used the marketplace to express solidarity with our Arab brothers and attempt to forestall global warming. We know hot weather. And if we love big, high-performance automobiles, there are only 34 million Saudis among the planet’s 7-plus billion people. Again, do the math. How much pollution can the Kingdom produce?

Finally, do not take this Khashoggi nonsense as personal. It’s only business. My good friend Donald, who also loves gilt furniture and gold toilet seats—has explained that Saudi Arabia will purchase over $100 billion of U.S. weapons. What is a smattering of red blood against blue-collar jobs and corporate profits for white people?

In sum, America needs Saudi Arabia to depress oil prices and increase sales of American arms so we can defend your nation against our treacherous Arab brothers—Yemeni Shiites backed by Iran! Besides, their children would only grow up to be terrorists.

And without us, Jared Kushner’s secret peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians doesn’t stand a chance. Remember, Mr. Trump keeps campaigning to make America great again. Of course, he’s only had two years in office. Until America means something, the Kingdom will protect you.

A century ago, your President Calvin Coolidge said, “The business of America is business.” Would you risk your economy—especially after General Motors announced massive layoffs—by offending my Kingdom? Mr. Trump warns that we will buy arms from Russia and China, each headed by a good friend of his but nonetheless a hard-headed businessperson (I am PC).

I conclude that a so-called journalist lacking loyalty to his country (namely me) fell to a conspiracy of which I, as all-powerful Crown Prince, knew nothing. Actually, I was shocked! So dry your crocodile tears and get down to business by minding your own.

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BLOOD MONEY

In J.C. Duffy’s October 20 comic panel “The Fusco Brothers,” a waitress asks a brother, “How did you get hold of a kid’s menu?” Answer: “You’d be surprised how easy it is to overpower a 10-year-old.” There went the lame Saudi excuse about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Saudis first denied Khashoggi was murdered. Then they claimed he got into a fistfight and died from a chokehold. A 60-year-old man duking it out with 15 security men? The excuse was laughable—except to Donald Trump. But then, Trump thought a 400-lb. guy lying in his bed may have hacked Democratic National Committee emails preceding the 2016 election. Finally, the Saudis conceded the murder—a rogue operation—was premeditated.

Still, what’s wrong with violence against journalists? At a Montana rally, Trump supported Representative Greg Gianforte, who body-slammed journalist Ben Jacobs in May 2017 and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault.“ Any guy who can do a body slam, he’s my kinda guy.”

Yesterday morning, Trump tweeted about pipe bombs sent to the Clintons, Barack Obama, others and CNN: “A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News.” There’s a reason for pipe bombs. Maybe the suspect arrested this morning, Cesar Sayoc Jr., will enlighten us.

Re Khashoggi, Trump was not required to jump to conclusions and demand the ouster of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Sultan (MBS), Saudi’s de facto ruler. But he didhave to publiclyproject America’s concern about the U.S.-Saudi relationship. And mean it.

Trump hedged. So did investment managers who attended MBS’ three-day global investment conference in Riyadh. Some prominent Americans bowed out. They included treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin (who nonetheless went to Riyadh), the CEOs of Blackstone Group, JPMorgan Chase, and American, British and Dutch officials. Attendees remained hungry to do business. Many also seemed embarrassed. Alan Rappeport wrote in The New York Times (October 23): “Bankers kept their name tags obscured behind ties.”

But not too embarrassed. According to Rappeport, Tally Zingher, chief executive of Dawsat, a healthcare start-up, “considered not attending, but decided that she was not prominent enough to make a statement by skipping the conference.” Michael Slater of Northern Trust (disclosure: I wrote marketing pieces for Northern Trust years ago), said of the murder, “It’s just noise to me. The people I need to see are here, and that’s what I care about.” Deals made amounted to tens of billions of dollars.

The Khashoggi murder also seems to be noise to Trump. While acknowledging a serious cover-up, he refrains from halting arms sales of $110 billion to the Kingdom and withdrawing our support from its civilian-targeting war in Yemen. At stake: security (it’s against Iranian proxies), corporate profits (political support) and jobs (votes). To Trump, now a self-proclaimed “nationalist” with its dog-whistle implications, American interests come down to money. That includes blood money.

The world can be nasty. Accordingly, Washington often allies with nations of questionable—or horrible—political and human rights records. But presidents engaged in realpolitik still must advocate principles of law and decency and push nations to achieve them. Otherwise, like Lady Macbeth, they’ll never clean the blood off their hands—and ours.

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CONFESSIONS OF A TRIBALIST

Last May, the author Michael Chabon—himself Jewish—told graduating Reform rabbis and educators they needed to help dissolve Judaism. The goal? A world where everyone’s the same. Amy Chua, the Chinese-American Yale law professor, who authored Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, opposes that view. I side with Chua.

In “Tribal World: Group Identity is All” (July/August 2018 Foreign Affairs), Chua writes, “The human instinct to identify with a group is almost certainly hard-wired…” In that context, she faults U.S. policymakers for underestimating “the role that group identification plays in shaping human behavior.” Tribes are for real.

I’m guilty of upholding my Jewish identity. Some friends brought up as “just Americans” have confided they envy my ethnic identity. Granted, many North American Jews exhibit no particular concern for Judaism and Jewish life, as Chabon would have them do.

The Talmud (Shevuot39a) teaches, “Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh.” All Israel [the Jewish people] are responsible each for the other. I take this to heart.

I read baseball box scores each morning and note the performance of each Jewish player. As of yesterday, the Astros’ Alex Bregman—this year’s All-Star Game most valuable player—had 22 homeruns and 71 runs batted in. The Dodgers’ Joc Pederson hit two home runs last night. The Red Sox’ Ian Kinsler  had three hits. The Orioles’ Danny Valencia, a position player, pitched.  When Orioles relief pitcher Richard Blier—having a great year—went out for the season with an injury, that hurt. Basketball’s Omri Casspi signed with Memphis. Hooray!

It’s not just sports. Last Sunday night, Carolyn and I went to the Jewish Film Festival to see a documentary about Sammy Davis, Jr. As my synagogue’s congregation and Israel’s population attest, Jews display a wide variety of genetics and cultural backgrounds. I believe in Am Yisrael Echad—the people Israel is one. We’re universalists despite our particularism.

Am I offending others, such as Whites, Blacks, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Asians, Latinos, Cat Lovers, and Chocaholics? If so, who determines our universalistic identity? Hopefully, no one. I can see the inevitable outcome: Jews forego Chanukah for Christmas to be “like everyone else.”

Yes, tribalism can be toxic. Witness the Greater Middle East and India, for example. Examine Europe: France’s Jews, who suffered during the Holocaust with French complicity, endure violent anti-Semitism, much at the hands of Muslims. European Muslims don’t have it easy, either. A Muslim friend born in England is achieving great success as an actor yet remains wary. Mesut Ozil, five-time German soccer player of the year, left the national team after criticism for posing for a photo with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan (admittedly not my favorite political leader).“I’m a German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,” wrote Ozil, born in Germany.

The United States offers ample proof that tribalists can be loyal citizens, who take our Constitution and values to heart. The hyphenated American—Jewish-Americans, African-Americans, Irish-Americans, Japanese-Americans and so on—helped make this nation great. When the current political idiocy ends, we will continue to do so. The hyphen enables us to bring varied religious and cultural backgrounds to a common table heaped with bagels, ribs, Mongolian beef, tacos, chicken vindaloo—and respect. All enrich the American experience.

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I, VLADIMIR

I, Vladimir Putin, meet privately with President Trump in Helsinki earlier in week. In private, we discuss many important things. Now, I tell Americans at higher ends of intelligence about what I say to my tovarichDonald.

We start with golf. I love it. Even in deepest, darkest winter, I play 36 holes bare-chested. (Also work at desk bare-chested.) My lowest 72-hole score 45. This is 27 strokes under par. For president of Russia, holes move closer. Donald appreciates.

Women we also love. Donald is my idol. Smart man divorces wife when she stops being hot. Donald does this twice so far. I divorced Lyudmilla after 30 years. She was bad for image. My girlfriend Alina only 30. Even hotter than Melania, though I don’t say this. (Donald Jr. wise to follow father’s example, dump his wife, too.)

We compare popularity. Crowds cheer me everywhere. We have ways to educate people whose hands fail to clap. I say, “Donald, you are rock star.” In speech in Montana early this month, he tells supporters he broke all Elton John’s records. He says Elton John needs organ to draw crowds, not Donald Trump. I nudge his arm. Donald Trump has organ. Not bigger than mine, but huge.

We discuss most serious issues. I tell Donald little green men in Ukraine not Russians, but droids produced by Disney. Crimea always part of Russia. I give Crimea’s Russian speakers chance to come home. Like Donald wishes to make Canada part of U.S., free Canadians from Justin Trudeau and government from foolish burdens like providing healthcare. For Donald’s 2020 campaign theme, I propose “Make America 62 States.” Why not? U.S. took over Mexican territory, lands of native peoples, Hawaii. All Russia asks for is control Near Abroad: Belarus, Moldova, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Georgia. Maybe Syria to protect naval base at Tartus.

We laugh about income taxes. Only fools pay. Giving tax returns to fake media? This not for rich people with money laundered in Zurich, London, New York, Miami. And why should Russians connected to Kremlin reveal loans and equity positions arranged with orange-haired American developers? Private enterprise should be private.

Biggest item is supposed interference in 2016 election. I ask, “How could Russia do or not do this?” I answer, “We are too busy interfering in our own elections.” (I first was elected president in 2000—may Donald serve his people for 20 years!). Is my duty to keep voting process free from outside agitators like university professors, artists, writers, fake journalists, students, housewives, doctors, businessmen who not oligarchs or mafia, grocery store owners and ice-cream sellers. Besides, I say, we know how world works. Interference? Could have been Democrats or anyone.

I remind Donald in last election I receive 92 percent of vote. (We announce lower percentage to show world Russian elections fair.) I tell him this is five more points of popular vote than he says he really received—American vote totals rigged for Crooked Hillary.

Russia and America can be good friends. Man like Donald Trump understands what international relations all about: I grab mine. You grab yours.

I say, “Let us chat soon in Washington.” We will talk about many cultural favorites we share. Song: “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” TV: “The Americans.” Cinema:Manchurian Candidate.

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PIXI(E)LATED

On Wednesday, following his meeting in Singapore with Kim Jong-un, President Trump tweeted that there is “no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” Why am I not relieved?

Two words come to mind. Pixilatedmeans acting in a mentally unbalanced, unstable way. Pixelated—note the “e” replacing the first “i”—refers to the number of pixels on a digital device’s screen. The more pixels, the sharper the image. There’s a connection.

In Singapore, Trump elevated Kim to the world stage before attempts to negotiate a detailed agreement ridding North Korea of nuclear weapons. Standard diplomacy would have members of both leaders’ staffs first work out the fine print. Then the leaders would meet and sign an accord. Trump signed a vague preliminary 400 words that failed to reference verification. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commented that such a term is understood. Really?

What happens if, following Trump and Kim’s mini-love fest, terms are not agreed upon? Brotherly affection could turn to anger and a sense of betrayal. The risk of war, including the use of nuclear weapon, escalates—especially factoring in super-hawk national security advisor John R. Bolton. So, does the Singapore summit reflectpixilated—unstable—thinking? Only in part.

It also demonstratespixelatedthinking—the desire to make a visual splash in the media from standard to social. If a picture is worth a thousand words, endless videos of Trump and Kim smiling and shaking hands surely speak volumes. But volumes of what?

For Kim, Singapore provided legitimacy. No longer the dictator of the Hermit Kingdom, he created a new image of himself as a statesman. Forget North Korea’s prison camps, assassinations and mind control. Despite ruling a small nation of 25 million, Kim has his finger on a nuclear button and must be respected. Or feared. His people—indeed, the world—have seen him hobnob with the presidents of South Korea, China and the United States.

Moreover, Donald Trump stated how very much Kim loves his people—then tweeted that Kim’s “done some really bad things,” but so have other nations. So maybe Kim’s not all that bad. Trump also suggested fabulous real-estate opportunities lying ahead for North Korea. A Trump Resort Wonsan?

For Trump, the digital wave again made him the focus of world attention. He portrayed himself as an aggressive, rule-breaking negotiator. The artist of the deal. “Look at me,” he seemed to say. Or tweet. “I’ve done what no president before me has done. Rank me up there with George and Abe. And don’t forget, I’m the toughest kid on the block. Before Singapore, I kicked ass at the G-7 summit.”

Of course, the other six G-7 governments are America’s allies. Or were. Trump prefers adding Russia to a restored G-8. Since the G-7 won’t allow it, perhaps they’ll become the G-6 opposite a G-2 constituted of the United States and Russia headed by best buds Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Then a G-3 including North Korea.

The future defies prediction. I hope that the U.S. and North Korea reach a meaningful agreement. That the nuclear threat evaporates as the result of strict terms accepted by Kim. But we’ve just witnessed the confluence of pixilatedand pixelated. Down the road, pixi(e)latedcould prove at best meaningless. At worst, explosive.

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