That little fishing boat might just be a weapon of war

Deep-sea fishing charters are a staple of most American coastal marinas — from Miami to the San Francisco Bay. Boats loaded with fuel and fun rock their way out on gentle waves to open waters and ocean sunsets. Summer freedom at its finest.

Now imagine if the million registered floating funhouses in Florida and the million plus in California were suddenly impressed into the U.S. Navy to run offensive operations ramming ships or sent on snooping day-sails. If you can picture this, then you have a sense of other countries’ new hybrid navies. Around the world, fishing boats have become the new warships.

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Fighting on the high seas and in ports of call is always treacherous, but the dangers just got worse. Battling against navy ships and subs trying to sink fleets, stake out seas or show force now also means that every trawler, research vessel, fishing boat and dinghy is also a potential combatant. READ MORE

To Trump, A$AP Rocky has a face. Unfortunately, 10 million Afghans don’t

Rap-artist A$AP Rocky was never on my radar or my musical playlist until the president called Sweden to seek his release. ASAP.

Musician, entertainer, producer, model — the hard-edged A$AP Rocky was heckled and harried, painted as a victim of Sweden’s criminal justice system. His mom said his detention was “unjust,” targeted because he’s African American.

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Circumstances, upbringing, criminal record, character — when we think about a single person’s story, predicament and mother, he becomes humanized. Not so when someone is a one-in-a-million nobody like the globally countless unrecognized victims of injustice or war.

Charged with getting up in someone’s face and violently mixing it up, we learned about A$AP Rocky’s background, music and that he knows Kanye West and his wife, Kim Kardashian. West has friends in high places and is immediately put through the White House switchboard. The result? A real person gets vouchsafed by POTUS. READ MORE

Economics + politics + a dash of presidential ego = potential disaster

Twenty-first century voodoo economic theories pushed worldwide by populist politicians are speeding the world to the edge of a global downturn. One by one, democratically elected leaders are taking down their smart economists and promoting their own questionable — and politically motivated — ideas about interest rates and banking practices.

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Turkey and the United States are the latest nations whose presidents are pressuring or pushing out their reliable economic advisers, replacing them with ideological loyalists. These presidents’ makeshift monetary mumbo-jumbo is aimed at achieving short-term economic and political gain. As a result, corrections and recessions may be temporarily delayed, but continually loom right around the corner.

From Ankara to Washington, heads of state are demanding that their previously apolitical national bankers cut interest rates to grow their economies, spur investment and combat unemployment. The message to central bankers is clear: Drop the cost of money or lose your job. It’s not an idle threat. READ MORE

As the British envoy just learned, loose lips sink diplomats

If the truth can set you free, then the British ambassador to Washington is now free as a bird. Unfortunately for him, he will no longer be soaring over America’s capital or hovering anywhere near the White House. In fact, the president made sure this British goose got cooked.

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Discretion is a key component of diplomacy, and Ambassador Kim Darroch was publicly discreet to a fault. But his private, privileged and personal observations — reserved for his ministry and his masters — now seem indiscreet because they were publicly leaked. Darroch this week resigned his Washington posting.

From Wikileaks to these recent diplo-leaks, timed and targeted news bombshells are blowing up traditional diplomatic relationships as well as politics as usual. Add indiscretion, incendiary responses, hyperventilating social media and a dash of bravado, and you have the makings of a massive diplomatic disruption between allies who for years have enjoyed a “special relationship.” It is not pretty. READ MORE

In a world of populist tyrants, this still was a good week for democracy

Democracy goes through ups and downs, even experiencing recessions like the stock market. This is a particularly tough time for democracies around the world, with some places once judged to have turned the corner on their authoritarian past coming back as bigger, badder, anti-democratic governments. Hungary, Poland, Italy, Russia, the Philippines and several other countries are riding on the edge of populist electoral sentiment.

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This week, however, was a particularly good one for people yearning to be free. It was an especially good week for those wanting to keep or to take back their government. Three nations showed us the way: Turkey, Ethiopia and the Czech Republic.

Let’s face it, democracies around the world are getting challenged by dictators and demagogues. My Hoover Institution colleague Larry Diamond’s new book, “Ill Winds,” assesses this abysmal global state of democracy, finding that these ill winds are whipping up “Russian rage, Chinese ambition, and American complacency.” READ MORE

Political power and electrical power are inextricably linked. Ask Arnold Schwarzenegger

Earlier this millennium, a series of power brownouts and blackouts in California led to the recall of a sitting governor and a special election for his replacement: Arnold Schwarzenegger. Argentina’s leadership is running for reelection this October, and if it can’t keep the lights on, it may not be welcomed back to power.

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Around the world, from Argentina to Venezuela, Bulgaria to California, state and national governments need to deliver citizens electricity or face voter wrath. Argentina is now facing a political challenge more severe than the one in California a generation ago. Electrical blackouts just plunged the entire nation of 44 million people and some of its neighbors — Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil and Chile — into the dark.

One of the most important functions of any modern government is to keep the juice flowing. Electrical power is the driver of modern society, keeping industry chugging along, hospitals working round the clock and refrigerators, air conditioners and computers whirring. In most modern societies, government runs, manages or regulates the power grid. That means that any failure, disruption or collapse of that grid reasonably is pinned on government leaders. READ MORE

Candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg gets foreign policy

Mayor Pete is a breath of fresh air in a crowded field of candidates struggling for oxygen. His youth and wholesome demeanor present a clear contrast to today’s Oval Office occupant, while his military service gives him defense and national security credibility. Overall, the South Bend mayor feels comfortable and looks relaxed talking about foreign affairs and the future.

Unfortunately, while his fluid rhetoric is inclusive, expansive, and forward-leaning, his policy ideas are mostly back to the future.

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Buttigieg’s future-orientation is undermined by overly focusing on present foreign policy failures, as well as a need to restore previous U.S. policies, rather than presenting new ways and ideas for America to engage and lead the world.

At the start of this week, Pete Buttigieg gave a speech that was supposed to be larger than himself, about global themes that have eluded our current foreign policy discourse. Talking articulately, reflectively, intelligently about foreign policy is in and of itself a refreshing change. READ MORE

Americans are real victims of our trade war with Mexico and China

America has declared war on China and Mexico, but it is a new style of warfare. Or at least it seems so. With the latest volley of levied and threatened tariffs on Chinese and Mexican exports, POTUS has thrust the U.S. into a new phase of economic warfare against both competitors and friends.

Americans, however, will end up paying the price.

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Modern warfare is no longer just conducted by guns and bombs. Wars today are ongoing and take place during what seems like peacetime. Just because a financial war appears bloodless does not mean it is also harmless or without victims. In fact, the silent, unseen economic warfare Donald Trump is waging — and threatens to escalate — is highly effective at hurting both people and nations. READ MORE

The Europeans have a different, darker Green New Deal

Continental elections last weekend gave anti-nuclear Green Parties a huge boost, installing the Greens into a European Parliament kingmaker role. As a result, the rest of Europe is likely to follow the lead of Germany’s environmental party and movement, turning further against civilian nuclear energy and, especially, against coal-fired plants. 

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The effect will be not only to clean up local air, but also to hand over Europe’s hard-earned cash and hard fought independence to Russia — a nearby nation with abundant and available natural gas. Tragically, a Europe without nuclear power plants and absent dirty, polluting coal-fired plants is a geopolitically weakened Europe dependent on Russia. READ MORE

Trump and Abe talk North Korea, Iran during Japan visit

President Trump says he isn't bothered by North Korea's latest missile tests. He made the comments during his official state visit to Japan, where he's attending high-stakes meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Markos Kounalakis, a McClatchy News foreign affairs columnist and visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, joins CBSN to discuss the president's trip.

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Trump has traded American values, interests and dignity for the false promise of Putin’s friendship

Donald Trump is likely to go down as the president who lost Russia. Not for lack of trying to make good with Moscow. In fact, it is because he has tried so hard to make it right and to pursue a personal and respectful relationship with Vladimir Putin that his ability to make any meaningful deals with Russia is doomed.

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The result is an American foreign policy that is stuck with a confrontational posture and caught in a tit-for-tat policy trap preventing the pursuit of real U.S. interests with Russia. The reason is an underlying popular belief that President Trump has been incapable, at best, and, at worst, actively curried personal and political favor from Moscow over the years — regardless of what the Mueller report says or how it is interpreted.

From his 2016 campaign fumbles to his presidential summit stumbles, Trump has made an unending string of unforced errors that have caused Americans to question his motivations. That perception and reality actively limit his latitude for dealing with Russia. READ MORE

If we go to war with Iran, blame President Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter may be the one to blame if President Trump goes to war with Iran, thanks to his handed-down Carter Doctrine

The 94-year old ex-president is recovering from a turkey shoot hip injury, but while he was in the White House refusing to pardon Thanksgiving turkeys, he changed the course of America’s Iran policy.

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Carter asserted that any nation trying to control the Persian Gulf or restrict the free-flow of oil through the Straits of Hormuz was acting against America’s “vital interests.” Carter articulated this message near the end of his presidency and at a time when revolutionary Iran held the United States hostage and the Soviets militarily occupied Afghanistan.

The message to Iran and the USSR was clear: Make a move on the neighborhood, mess with shipping, slow the flow of oil and risk going to war with the United States. READ MORE

In Ukraine, a funny thing happened on the way to the voting booth . . .

A funny thing happened on the way to the polling booth in Ukraine. Citizens chose a comedian to be their next president. No joke.

Tired of inauthenticity and hypocrisy, exhausted by unrepresentative leadership and downright cynical about democratic process and outcomes, people are turning to those who seemingly tell-it-like-it-is for insight and leadership. Around the world and at home, voters are looking to comedians to break the cycle of undeliverable political promises.

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Volodymyr Zelensky is Ukraine’s new president. A role he practiced on his popular television comedy, “Servant of the People” — a show where the 41-year old Zelensky plays an outraged teacher who is suddenly thrust into the presidency.

Art imitates life imitates art. READ MORE

Venezuelans will have to fight for their democracy. Trump can’t, and won’t, do it for them

American presidents — and all political leaders — inevitably face trade-offs between conflicting priorities. In Venezuela, President Trump is stuck between a policy rock and a preference hard place, caught between a democratic and humanitarian demand to side with the Venezuelan people and the tough reality that there is very little he can — or really wants — to do.

Trump’s declared “sovereignty doctrine” is now in direct conflict with his desired petro-policy and the reinvigoration of the Monroe Doctrine — and it is all playing out in the streets of Caracas.

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The losers? Invariably the good people of Venezuela. They are victims of “President” Nicholás Maduro and his regime’s continual and cynically systemic use of food and energy resources to keep political friends and allies happy while shunting and starving his opponents. Millions have chosen to leave and live in exile as refugees, while others head to the Venezuelan streets to topple Maduro. They bear the brunt of simmering tensions and escalating violence. READ MORE

The death penalty? Kill it off, around the world

Newspaper columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing is the latest high-profile example of a sovereign meting out extreme justice and capital punishment. CIA analysts concluded that Khashoggi was brutally killed last October inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey.

And, shockingly, it was legal.

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One reason the Saudis have not faced international retribution in the courts or official diplomatic blowback for the killing is simple: Death is a legal form of punishment in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Like it or not, the sentence was handed down, perhaps by Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself, and the cruel execution was conducted within the consulate and on what is arguably Saudi Arabia’s diplomatically sovereign territory. READ MORE

Trump strikes out in rejecting Cuban baseball agreement

Baseball is a colorful sport where bleacher bums spend entire games browbeating umps for making early-inning bad calls. President Trump has made a lot of bad calls during the past two years, but none is likely to incense the general public more than his decision to dump the Major League Baseball Cuban player agreement.

Well, maybe healthcare.

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Unbelievably — and unceremoniously — Trump just struck out with both American and Cuban baseball fans. For Miami, it’s bad enough that the Marlins are dead last this early in the season. What’s worse is that POTUS just shut down the deal that would have brought a few more gifted, big-bat Cubans into the league. As Marlin Stadium habitués might put it: “Throw the bum out!” READ MORE

Trump’s Mar-a-Lago could be ‘Mar-a-Leako’ to our enemies

Friends and foes, foreign born and homegrown, regularly try to breach the tight security that surrounds an American president. No barrier is too big or technological hindrance too intimidating to stop concerted attempts to access the president and his data. While the risks of getting caught are huge, the rewards for success are immense.

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To get the goods — whether snapping a selfie, scoring state secrets or taking a potshot — the determined go to extremes to climb fences, get across gates and search for technological backdoors. Most disturbingly, the president sometimes ushers the ill-suited or ill-meaning through the front door and into the inner sanctum.

It’s time to close the windows, lock the doors, make new keys and develop new protocols. READ MORE

Brexit has become a royal pain. Queen Elizabeth needs to step in and take a stand

Queen Elizabeth II may be the only person who can fix the Brexit mess. She has the power to wave her scepter and declare a solution. It’s a power that the royals have not exercised in years, but at 92 years old and with her nation riven, the Sovereign should step in and decide on the United Kingdom’s sovereignty.

Does she want to continue to cede some of her nation’s power to a mostly faceless European Union based in Brussels? Or should she pull up the island nation’s drawbridge, shut down its borders and add friction to the relatively free trade and capital flows that keep London’s coffers overflowing? What to do?

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Dear Queen,

Here’s some advice from a mere commoner living in a former colony: If the current Brexitprocess and eventual vote do not provide a clear decision, shine up that crown, warm up your voice and take a stand. My presumptuousness ends there — I’m not going to advise you what Brexit direction you should take. That’s your burden. And your prerogative.

In fact, it is known as the “Royal PrerogativeREAD MORE