How a Trump presidency could destabilize Europe

The secret plot to control America, launched from abroad, is an old theme in American pop culture. “The Manchurian Candidate,” a film made in 1962, imagined a Chinese scheme to engineer a coup d’etat. Aficionados of paranoid thrillers may also recall “Lucky Bastard,” a 1998 Charles McCarry novel, which featured a U.S. president controlled by a Soviet case officer who happens to be his wife. Continue reading “How a Trump presidency could destabilize Europe”

The real damage done by Melania Trump’s speech

Listening to faux-outraged pundits talking all day about how Melania Trump’s plagiarized speech illustrates the dysfunction of the Trump campaign and the Republican National Convention, I can’t help but think they have it all wrong. The damage done by her speech has nothing to do with campaign disaster and everything to do with the fact that it reinforced two powerful stereotypes. Continue reading “The real damage done by Melania Trump’s speech”

New cabinet may signal Britain’s retreat as a Western power

In fact, I get the logic. Theresa May’s first set of appointments — Liam Fox will become minister for international trade, David Davis will run the exit negotiations, and Boris Johnson will be foreign secretary — make a lot of sense. She has put hard-line Brexit proponents in charge of negotiating Britain’s retreat from European politics. It will be impossible, from now on, for anyone to argue that voters were cheated. If these three men can’t manage the United Kingdom’s divorce proceedings, then nobody can. Continue reading “New cabinet may signal Britain’s retreat as a Western power”

‘Mommy wars’ enter Britain’s political arena

With customary ruthlessness, Britain’s Conservative Party has dispensed with Prime Minister David Cameron and ended its nine-week leadership “campaign” eight and a half weeks early. Theresa May will take over the party, and the country, on Wednesday. The Camerons will move out of Downing Street, and the Mays will move in. The king is dead; long live the queen. Continue reading “‘Mommy wars’ enter Britain’s political arena”

After Brexit, Britain suddenly becomes European

Boris out. Gove up; Gove down. May saves the day; no, she’s too authoritarian. Leadsom comes from behind; no, she’s too inexperienced. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you weren’t following the minute-by-minute twists of British politics over the past few days. Having lost its leader and the country’s prime minister — David Cameron resigned on June 24, after losing the referendum to keep Britain in the European Union — the ruling Conservative Party must choose a new one. As I watched this baroque process unfold in London, I realized that I just couldn’t write about the backstabbing, the personal betrayals, the resentments and jealousies, some of which date back 30 years to student political debates at the Oxford Union. Continue reading “After Brexit, Britain suddenly becomes European”

What the media gets wrong about Brexit

“The British vote against the European Union represented the revolt of the poor against the rich, the provinces against the metropolis, the losers of globalization against the elite.” I’m sure you’ve heard some version of that general analysis of last week’s Brexit vote. It’s a fine-sounding cliché. But before it hardens into conventional wisdom, please remember that, like so many of the facts sold to the public during this referendum campaign, it isn’t entirely true. Continue reading “What the media gets wrong about Brexit”

Brace yourself for another wave of drowning refugees — unless Europe takes action

“I took hold of the forearm of the baby and pulled the light body protectively into my arms at once, as if it were still alive … It held out its arms with tiny fingers into the air, the sun shone into its bright, friendly but motionless eyes.” — Martin, a volunteer at Sea-Watch, May 27 Continue reading “Brace yourself for another wave of drowning refugees — unless Europe takes action”

The rise of national socialism: Why Austria’s revolution is not over

It’s been highly amusing to watch the international press struggle to describe Norbert Hofer, the candidate who has just lost, by a tiny handful of votes, the Austrian presidential election. Hofer bitterly opposes immigration and uses nostalgic language about “pan-German” culture, views which place him in the “far-right” category of European politics. At the same time, he and his Freedom Party denounce the “neoliberal” economic consensus and deplore the evils of international capitalism — views that place him in the “far-left” category of European politics. Continue reading “The rise of national socialism: Why Austria’s revolution is not over”

Fact-checking in a ‘post-fact world’

You are about to read a newspaper article. Do you care whether all the facts in it are true? If so — what could convince you that they are or are not? A friend? A neutral website? Someone in authority?

If you aren’t really sure, then welcome to the world of fact-checking. In the past several years, as it has become easier to spread misinformation and conspiracy theories on the Internet, politically neutral fact-checking websites have sprung up in response. The Post itself created an early version, the “Fact Checker” column, led by Glenn Kessler, which awards up to four “Pinocchios” for dubious statements made by politicians from both political parties, depending on their level of outrageousness. Others include PolitiFact.com, FullFact.org in Britain, Chequeado in Argentina and StopFake.org in Ukraine. Continue reading “Fact-checking in a ‘post-fact world’”

How the U.S. and Britain help kleptocracies around the world — and how we pay the price as well

Correction: This blog post incorrectly suggested that the Beaurepaire Park estate is owned by Yuri Luzhkov. In fact, the sole beneficial owner of the estate is Mr. Luzhkov’s wife, Elena Baturina, according to records provided by an attorney for the couple.

In the village of Bramley, Hampshire, an English country estate is undergoing a major renovation. A large crane can be seen from the road, along with wide lawns and the old trees of an elegant park. Beaurepaire Park was pointed out to me a few weeks ago by locals who told me the surprising name of their new neighbor: Yuri Luzhkov, the former mayor of Moscow. Continue reading “How the U.S. and Britain help kleptocracies around the world — and how we pay the price as well”