Trump or Kim: Who Really Knows the Art of the Deal?

How do we grade the Trump-Kim summit? For a meeting that was supposedly aimed at reaching an agreement, people are hungry to know who “won.” Unfortunately, we may not know for some time how sincere Kim’s talk of denuclearization was, but that isn’t stopping some people from declaring that Kim trumped Trump.

A dictator who has ordered the murder of his own family members, and who oversees a gulag comparable to those of Hitler and Stalin, was able to parade on the global stage as a legitimate statesman… President Trump offered Mr. Kim a major concession, the suspension of U.S. military exercises with South Korea… Mr. Kim, meanwhile, did not commit to the “complete, verifiable and irreversible” denuclearization the United States has demanded — nor to any other change in his regime’s criminal behavior.

Trump said Tuesday he trusted Kim to hold up his end of the agreement. But he added: “I may be wrong, I mean I may stand before you in six months and say, ‘Hey I was wrong.’ I don’t know that I’ll ever admit that, but I’ll find some kind of an excuse.” Kim doesn’t need an excuse. He returns home to North Korea more in charge of his country than ever before. The world’s cameras and TV screens showed him shaking hands with the American president. Even if Trump’s earnest effort at ending the conflict on the Korean peninsula fails, Kim can walk away happy.

So far both leaders are getting what they want out of the exchange. Kim carefully orchestrated the exchange to create the illusion that he’s an equal power to the leader of the free world… For his part, Trump gets to revel in a characteristically bold moment on the international stage that had eluded his predecessors — never mind that they had intentionally not granted North Korea an audience until it had shown more progress in ending its nuclear program.

In Trump’s America, Who Is a Friend and Who Is an Enemy?

Trump has a very unique vision for American foreign policy. Whether this is beneficial or detrimental for the United States is a matter of opinion. Here are three takes on Trump’s unique approach to American allies and American enemies:

Trump’s betrayal of South Korea and eruption at Trudeau are not one-offs, or events you can write off as simple quirks of the president’s personality. It is part of a broader slate of Trump policies and diplomatic efforts that have, put together, fundamentally weakened America’s ties with its traditional allies — in ways that could have potentially disastrous consequences for the world.

Mr. Trump thinks Israel is a smarter and better ally than Germany. He listens to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu more than he does to Mrs. Merkel because he thinks Israel’s aggressive defense of its national interests reflects a better understanding of the world, and because he thinks cooperating with Bibi brings more political benefit at home and more effective assistance abroad than anything the Germans are willing to provide.

I find it very strange that President Trump has such a hard time getting along with the leaders of the world’s major democracies but feels very comfortable with despots and authoritarian leaders like Putin, Xi Jinping, Duterte and Mohammad Bin Salman.

Is Israel’s National Anthem Offensive to Arabs?

Tel Aviv University has decided to remove Israel’s National Anthem, HaTikvah, from its graduation ceremony due to concerns that it may be offensive to Arab students. Debates over the exclusively Jewish nature of Israeli national symbols are common and cut to the core of other cultural debates in Israel as well, but does this mean that a public university ought to make the judgment call on which national symbols it employs?

To be sure, to look at Israel through an American, Jeffersonian lens is to see a strange country. But that’s precisely the point. Israel was never intended to be a liberal democracy in the American mold. It’s an ethnic democracy, something entirely different. The first words of the Declaration of Independence that Jefferson wrote are “When in the course of human events,” while Israel’s declaration begins, “In the land of Israel, the Jewish people was born.” Everything else is commentary.

Niv Nabha, a second-year student, said: “As a student studying in the Humanities Faculty, I am ashamed by the university’s actions but am not surprised. This is merely another episode of the university’s continuous and unjust capitulation to the Arab student population.” Sapir Yadid, a third year student, said: “Hatikvah is the national anthem of both Jewish and Arab citizens living in Israel. The university’s premise that it is only exclusive to Jews only widens the gap between us. Whoever is unhappy about our anthem is welcome to study elsewhere.”

There is no point in picking a public fight with the professors who decided to eliminate the national anthem from a university ceremony. The arguments are tired, the debate is tired. There are faculties and institutions that cannot be convinced and must be reformed.

Israel has the means to reform faculties of pretentious imbeciles. And it ought to use these means brutally, without much fanfare, and without being apologetic. Tel Aviv university must pay a heavy price for its decision. A price that will make it shudder before it once again eliminates national symbols from its ceremonies while relying on the goodwill of the nation supporting it.

Is Erdogan Losing Control of Turkey?

Snap elections will be held on June 24th in Turkey. Recent polls show that President Erdogan’s victory is far from a sure thing, but factions and splintering among the opposition could bolster his bid. Furthermore, Erdogan is still the man in charge, and some people are skeptical that a fair election will even take place. More at Wall Street Journal.

Power is a complex concept in Turkey. Erdogan looks almighty from afar, but here, he seems anxious to hold onto power through new electoral alliances, government handouts, nationalism and the use of Turkey’s security apparatus to stifle dissent. Demonstrations and political protests are banned under a state of emergency, and members of the pro-Kurdish opposition party are in jail. The new election law also allows members of the security forces to be stationed at polling stations or move ballots for “security reasons.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s campaign is fighting to overcome the hurdles that have turned his election from a first-round lock into a nail-biter… A poll commissioned by Bloomberg showed Erdogan winning in the first round with 50.8 percent — the president has deepened his partnership with the Nationalist Movement Party, known by its Turkish initials, MHP. Anticipating the loss of Kurdish support, Erdogan escalated his nationalist rhetoric and forged a formal coalition with MHP. But in the process, he also lost some mainstream support.

Unfortunately, the Turkish opposition remains weak and in disarray although there are signs that they have come to realize the gravity of the risks of limiting political space and appear to be finally getting their act together in challenging Erdoğan’s rule. It would be a miracle if the opposition alliance manages to win the June 24 elections, which looks less likely given that the election campaign is neither free nor fair under a renewed state of emergency. Even if opposition parties show strength at the ballot box, it will be Erdoğan’s people in the judiciary and election commission to certify and validate results that will certainly be distorted amid mass fraud. There is no longer an honest broker to insure a level playing field.

Should It Be a Right to Opt Out of Union Fees?

The Supreme Court will soon issue a decision for the case of Janus v. AFSCME. If Janus wins the case, government unions will no longer be able to charge non-members a mandatory fee for representing them. Proponents of Janus say that opting out is a matter of freedom and choice, but are other motivations at work? More at Chicago Sun-Times.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Janus, any “fair share” fees will evaporate. Unions will continue to represent those workers, provide the same support through grievance procedures, and offer the same collective bargaining benefits. They’ll just have fewer resources with which to do it. Janus says he’s not anti-union: He opposes the fees on First Amendment grounds, as do the conservative groups that agree with him. Being a part of a union, because of its implications for state budgets and taxation, is a political act; paying fees, therefore, an act of speech.

This case is really a political attack on working people by big-money, corporate-funded groups like the Illinois Policy Institute itself. Its litigation arm (the Liberty Justice Center) brought the case, which its national parent (the State Policy Network) says is meant to “defund” unions. State employees like me know that the Illinois Policy Institute and its leaders have argued that all state workers should be laid off, pushed for a government shutdown, advocated to cut our pay, hike our health insurance costs and wipe out our pension.

If Janus prevails, AFSCME and the many other government unions across the 22 states that mandate union fees for all public workers will also have the freedom to choose. Will they respect our First Amendment rights and return to the earlier union model of voluntary unionization that won the allegiance of their members through acts of genuine service? Or will they persist with activities that disregard and ultimately undermine the interests of workers they’re charged with representing?

Are Drugs the Cause of (and Solution for) Depression?

According to recent data, suicide and depression are on the rise in the United States. Could side-effects from common and legal prescription drugs be the problem? Could psychedelic drugs be the solution? More at ABC News.

Many of the drugs are commonplace and not associated with a risk of depression despite the evidence showing their effects. Earlier research from the same team showed that hormonal birth control is linked with a 70% higher risk of depression… The list of potential side effects that accompanies most prescription drug may seem farcically long, and it can be easy to assume that the ill effects won’t impact you. But the research shows that even seemingly innocuous drugs can have serious harmful effects.

About 200 prescription drugs can cause depression, and the list includes common medications like proton pump inhibitors (P.P.I.s) used to treat acid reflux, beta-blockers used to treat high blood pressure, birth control pills and emergency contraceptives, anticonvulsants like gabapentin, corticosteroids like prednisone and even prescription-strength ibuprofen. Some of these drugs are also sold over-the-counter in pharmacies. “There’s been an increase in suicide, that we know,” Dr. Muskin said. “Does it correlate to the use of these medications? The honest answer is we don’t know. Could it play a role? The honest answer is yes, of course it could.”

Like ketamine, psychedelics have shown promise in the clinic for treating neuropsychiatric diseases. The DMT-containing herbal tea known as ayahuasca produces fast-acting antidepressant effects within a day, psilocybin eases the anxiety of terminally ill cancer patients and MDMA can reduce fear in those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Our recent papers suggest the intriguing possibility that psychedelic compounds and ketamine might share a common therapeutic mechanism.

Today’s Hot Issues

Trump or Kim: Who Really Knows the Art of the Deal? In Trump’s America, Who Is a Friend and Who Is an Enemy? Is Israel’s National Anthem Offensive to Arabs? Is Erdogan Losing Control of Turkey? Should It Be a Right to Opt Out of Union Fees? Are Drugs the Cause of (and Solution for) Depression?