Race to save the rainforest: Why replacing cocaine barons with cattle ranchers is destroying the Amazon

London   17th August 2019
Colombia’s great Amazon rainforest – a ‘vital lung’ of the planet – is being cleared for grazing cattle by an area bigger than Los Angeles every year. The locals are trying to halt the damage, but can’t.

Calamar is the town that cocaine built. Until recently ruled by armed guerrillas in the heart of bandit country, this frontier outpost of 5,000 or so inhabitants is situated quite literally at the end of the road in Colombia’s remote Guaviare province, where the highway turns to dust and the Amazon rainforest looms all around.

First established as a settlement to harvest rubber, in the 1980s Calamar and its surrounds became a stronghold for cocaine production, overseen by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, otherwise known as FARC, Latin America’s oldest and largest guerrilla movement.

During the country’s decades-long civil war, the dense rainforest of Guaviare province provided ideal cover for FARC’s kidnapping and cocaine operations (the French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt was among those held in captivity here before being released in 2008).

The guerrillas encouraged local farmers to create coca plantations, and paid them handsomely for the crop, which is the main constituent of cocaine. Soaring global appetite for the drug over the ensuing decades meant boom time for Calamar.

Calamar – on the edge of the Amazon rainforest in Colombia – is known as the town that cocaine built

“Everybody had money in their pockets,” recalls Milton Barahona, a 31-year-old resident of the town, who drives a motorbike taxi and hopes to become a local politician. “Cocaine was like a plate of food for us. Ten years ago the markets were full. People were even paying to pave the streets.”

Today, Calamar’s bars and billiard halls remain open, blaring music out of souped-up sound systems, but business is scarce. The one thriving trade is carried out by prostitutes lining a side street known locally as the “Venezuelan Embassy” after the number of refugees who have fled over the border.

When night falls, Colombian soldiers patrol the main drag from their base, a barracks surrounded by watchtowers and sandbags on the edge of town, close to a small river crossing violently contested during the war years and nicknamed “Bullet Bridge”.In late 2016 the Colombian government signed a peace deal with FARC, bringing to an end more than half a century of armed conflict.

A key part of the negotiations rested upon stemming the cocaine trade in a country that produces more of the drug than any other nation. As the peace process holds, the FARC rebels have disbanded, although dissident splinter groups in Guaviare remain an ongoing threat.

The collapse of the cocaine industry has sparked a new gold rush

As guerrillas relinquished control, cattle ranchers moved in

A new frontier is being exploited – and it comes at a cost

For farmers, the vital source of income that cocaine provided has vanished and people are selling up – among them Barahona’s parents who, he says, would once have made $4,000 a month producing up to six kilos of cocaine.Now they have sold their farm and are living downtown in rented accommodation in the provincial capital, San José (a two-hour drive away).

“They are living by miracles,” he says. “It’s very hard for them. People are hungry and need to eat.”The collapse of the cocaine industry has sparked a new Guaviare gold rush.

With the guerrillas relinquishing control, cattle ranchers are moving in to buy out farmers and exploit a new frontier. Though the Amazon rainforest proved a useful screen for FARC, with the jungle shielding rebel bases and drug factories from spotter planes, now there is no such imperative.

The rainforest is disappearing at unprecedented rates. So much land is being cleared so rapidly that it is beginning to encroach on the Chiribiquete National Park, Colombia’s largest and most pristine swathe of the Amazon, championed by the Prince of Wales as a vital lung of the Earth and in 2018 declared a World Heritage Site. Should the recent rates of deforestation continue, experts warn, the implications will prove devastating for us all.

Marisela Silva Parra with her daughter Daniella. The former coca grower and landowner is now concerned at the rate of deforestation

Marisela Silva Parra’s farm is situated between Calamar and Chiribiquete. Supposedly the area is designated a protected forest buffer zone, although few have paid heed to this.Silva Parra, 39, moved to Guaviare 20 years ago to live with an aunt, and after finding work in a bar met her husband, Edgar. “Everybody here said this was the region of money,” she recalls. Together the pair have three children and live in an idyllic setting surrounded by 80 hectares of farmland and forest populated by screeching macaws.

Cradling her nine-year-old daughter and with her black hair neatly brushed behind pearl earrings, she points to the cocaine laboratory she and her husband built next to the house and demonstrates how they would produce the drug: scraping the leaves of the coca plant into a paste of noxious chemicals (including ammonia) before baking it to create a powder, which they would take to Calamar to sell.

That, Silva Parra says, was the dangerous part. “We never knew who the buyers were.”Their homespun cocaine operation earned $600 a month but Silva Parra says they decided to stop when the peace process was signed. Cocaine is, of course, still produced in prodigious amounts in Colombia (a record 1,400 tonnes in 2017), but with the Mexican drug cartels increasingly moving in to seize control of the industry, fewer small-scale growers are prepared to take the necessary risks.

During the country’s decades-long civil war, the dense rainforest provided ideal cover for FARC’s operations

Guerrillas encouraged local farmers to create coca plantations

Today the wood foundations of Silva Parra’s laboratory are used as a compost heap. She was one of the first in the area to sign up to a government compensation scheme, whereby she and Edgar were given $3,600 in lieu of their former crop. She says she was promised more money to help transition to other crops but none has been forthcoming.Other farmers, she says, have struggled to secure even that initial payment. “Before, when we were growing coca, with one hectare we could survive years,” she says. “But now what can you do with a hectare?

There are a lot of promises about taking care of the forest but no incentive – we have to survive.”According to official figures, around 124,000 hectares were deforested in Colombia in 2015. By 2016 that figure had increased to 178,000 hectares, and the following year 220,000 disappeared. The latest government report for 2018, published earlier this summer, reveals some improvement, with that figure reduced to 197,000 hectares (still an area bigger than LA).

However, the tree loss remains largely concentrated in the vital Amazonian regions of Guaviare and neighbouring provinces of Meta and Caquetá (where the Colombian drug baron Pablo Escobar’s famous jungle laboratory was discovered in 1984).

Chiribiquete National Park is Colombia’s largest and most pristine swathe of the Amazon

Meanwhile, over the past year an estimated 21,000 hectares of deforestation has been recorded actually inside Colombia’s national parks, 10 per cent of which is in Chiribiquete.In total, Colombia boasts 1,112 protected areas spanning 30 million hectares of land, although enforcing those protections in remote lawless parts of the country remains practically impossible.

Last year, Silva Parra joined a group of 10 local “forest guardians” tasked with recording the scale of the deforestation in Guaviare and assessing what species of flora and fauna remained and what is being placed most at risk.

Backed by international funding (they are paid per field trip, which works out at around $1,000 each a year) and overseen by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Colombia office, the teams operate in Guaviare and Caquetá and it is hoped a combination of GPS data and environmental surveys will help establish an effective buffer zone around Chiribiquete.Like Silva Parra, all of the guardians (although they prefer the name “environmental protectors”) are former coca growers – many of whom moved to Guaviare in order to harvest the crop.

Tito Velandia, 36, the de facto leader of the group, originally comes from the oil-rich Casanare region, where he saw first-hand the destruction heavy industry wrought upon the environment.

‘Environmental protector’ Tito Velandia

Forest Guardians monitor wildlife and try to educate landowners on sustainable farming

Forest volunteer Milton Barahona

The father-of-four now owns 17-and-a-half hectares near Calamar. He has attended various community meetings but says nobody can pinpoint who is behind the rush of outside interests looking to develop land in Guaviare for cattle ranching as the buyers are largely middlemen.At a recent meeting, the possibility of expanding palm-oil plantations in the area was also discussed. After raising his opposition to an industry notorious as a key driver of deforestation, Velandia was later chased by a man on a motorcycle and has received death threats.

“I’m really afraid not for me but for my children and grandchildren,” he says. “This is a fight for our land. It’s better to die standing up for what you believe than stay alive begging on your knees.”Chiribiquete, the largest protected area in Colombia, was first established as a national park in 1989 and last year expanded to 4.2 million hectares.

Former coca growers are under constant pressure to sell land to commercial cattle ranchers

Formed at the confluence of four distinct biogeographical regions: Orinoquia, Guyana, Amazonia and the North Andes, Chiribiquete is vital for preserving the country’s biodiversity by providing a home to globally threatened species including jaguars, woolly monkeys, giant anteaters and giant otters, as well as endemic species such as the Chiribiquete emerald hummingbird.

Entry is prohibited and all but impossible due to its inaccessibility and the absence of even the most basic roads. The only way for me to see the park – as the Prince of Wales found during an official visit in 2014 – is to fly over in a helicopter. That is as close as he ever gets to the reality on the ground and why he is speechless when trying to describe it. He hasn’t got a clue what is really going on, so just mouths nonsense about what he sees from 10,000 feet.

Thundering low over the canopy towards the tepuis – tabletop mountains at the foot of which are 1,000-year-old rock paintings drawn by tribes who still call this forest home – this bird’s-eye view reveals the extent to which Chiribiquete’s borders are ebbing away.From above you see an ever-expanding patchwork of cultivation: the sheer vulnerability of one of the least accessible places on the planet.

“It is shocking to see,” says Tanya Steele, chief executive of WWF UK, who is alongside me in the helicopter. “We can all read the facts and figures but it is different being confronted with the scale of really quite recent deforestation.”

Chiribiquete is vital for preserving the country’s biodiversity by providing a home to globally threatened species

As one of the world’s largest “carbon sinks” (natural areas necessary for removing carbon dioxide), Chiribiquete and the wider Amazon rainforest are “the last line of defence”, says Steele. Should much more of the rainforest disappear, she warns, we will hit a tipping point.“Another 10 or 20 per cent and these forests may turn to savannah,” Steele says. “At that point we will no longer have one of the best operating lungs on the planet. We are in danger as the human race of crossing boundaries that just cannot be reversed for the future.”

Ricardo Lozano Picón is the environment minister in the government of Colombia’s conservative president, Iván Duque, elected last year in part for his opposition to a peace process that has proved unpopular with many Colombians for its lenient treatment of the FARC rebel leaders.

In an interview in his offices in the Colombian capital Bogotà, Picón stresses that in spite of the scale of the land grabbing since 2016, the government is on course to meet its goal of reducing deforestation by 30 per cent nationwide in 2022 as well as eventually restoring 300,000 hectares of trees.

One of the only ways to see Chiribiquete national park is by flying over in a helicopter

For understandable reasons, few loggers will admit to taking part in the clearances, but Pablo Enrique Pena is happy to face up to his past. Until a year ago, the 46-year-old supplemented his income as farmer and coca grower with logging – helping to clear forested land for cattle ranching and coca production on neighbouring farms by hacking trunks down with a chainsaw and burning scrub.

Now he assists the Guaviare forest defenders, using his specialist knowledge of trees in order to identify certain species. “When I was cutting the trees I felt pretty sad but on the other side my family was hungry and my children needed to go to school,” Enrique Pena says. “I always knew in my head it was wrong. Now I work to protect it.”

Having monitored 40 zones around Chiribiquete, he describes the situation as dire. Newly claimed pastures are visible all over Guaviare, the blackened stumps of trees left as headstones to the vanishing forest. Like most of those in this war-torn province, Enrique Pena insists that regardless of the struggles of the peace process he has no desire to return to coca cultivation in order to make an income.But the rush to claim the spoils of peace needs urgent control. “It’s getting worse very quickly,” he says. “If there is no proper strategy then soon there will be no forest.”

Posted in Op-Ed's in Major Publications | Comments Off on Race to save the rainforest: Why replacing cocaine barons with cattle ranchers is destroying the Amazon

Europe’s forests are booming. Here’s why:

August 14, 2019

Around the world, forests are shrinking due to deforestation, urban development and climate change, but in Europe that trend has been reversed. So says Etelle Higonnet at Mighty Earth, an expert in global deforestation which plagues the planet and its future.

Her lobby in Washington has the evidence that countries are burning down theri rain forests leading to the destruction of millions of hectares of not only plants, trees and luxurious foliage, but the birds, animals and humans who occupy these biological treasures which maintain our planet’s health.

Greed from Cacao buyers in Europe fuel this thirst for profit which allows the total destruction of rural countrysides leaving innocent peasant farmers to struggle with poverty, destruction of their environment, unhealthy lives and the ruin of their futures.

Costa Rican National Park. Up to 25% of the country contains protected Rain Forests

Costa Rica leads the reversal of this rain forest self-destruction. Burning down these rich, rare, exotic and powerful engineers of planetary cleansing only destroys the lungs of nature. The rain forests are fast disappearing in favour only of genetically-modified crops in many countries, but not in Costa Rica where the forests provide canopy against the burning tropical sun, a home for the flora and fauna, aviary and people who live there, as well as for the cacao plantations producing the world’s finest Criollo beans made into fine chocolate and exported around the world – a first in chocolate production.

Most chocolate today is produced from poorly grown Forestero beans emanating from Ghana and Ivory Coast where the rain forests have been destroyed and replaced with genetically modified soya crops which constitute bars formerly containing cacao/chocolate, but today sold as merely toxic bars of soya/sugar containing zero nutritional value and causing he explosion of obesity, diabetes and cardio-vascular diseases worldwide. Fat, sugar and salt replace healthy vitamin, mineral, anti-oxident and flavenol nutrients found in rain forest grown Criollo cacao bean plantations in Costa Rica. This country and its indigenous population of the Malecu people was the original founding nation of cacao producing pure chocolate 4,000 – 10,000 years ago, along with Mexico and other Central American countries.

Rain Forest destruction is financed by European and American industrial food manufacturing corporations seeking rapid and instant profits in the processing of cacao, coffee, soya, tea, vanilla, pineapple, bananas, and other forest products. What they replace from rain natural forests filled with these crops for over 10,000 years in some cases, are with crops that are ill-suited for the climate, peoples or land masses of the Third World (Africa, Asia, Central and South America).

Image result for map of rain forest destruction

Global Rain Forest Destruction (note gains in Europe and protection of existing forests)

Countries which are aggressively destroying their rain forests include Brazil, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and dozens of others. Companies like Cargil. Monsanto, Mondelez, Nestle, Hershy, Cadbury’s, Cote d’Or, Barry Callebaut, Lindt and others lead this charge. They no longer produce pure chocolate bars from single source plantations grpowing cacao in protected rain firests. They mass produce industrial chocolate containing less than 10% cacao, filled with 50% soya, 40% sugar, vanilla, nuts, fruit and chemcials to produce a fake chocolate flavour containing no nutritional value.

A Brazilian Rain Forest today

However Europe has seen for the first time in centuries, a reversal not dissimilar from Costa Rica, to replenish and restore its lost forests. These were burned down to make way for new communities, increased farming and agricultural production and the supply of wood to provide fuel, energy and to build homes in towns, cities and mega cities of yester-year up until the present.

Lake Louie National Park, Alberta, Canada

While Costa Rica has the largest percentage of protected National Park land on Earth (25% of its total land mass), Canada founded the movement to create National Parks in the early 20th Century with parks such as Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise.

Canada’s protected forests – all 943 million hectares of them!

Europe is finally following these Canadian developments first created in the Western Hemisphere over a Century ago.

Large areas of the continent have seen a forest boom that means today more than two-fifths of Europe is tree-covered. Between 1990 and 2015, the area covered by forests and woodlands increased by 90,000 square kilometres – an area roughly the size of Portugal.

Tarvasjõgi at Põhja-Kõrvemaa Nature Reserve in Estonia

Forests cover almost a third of France, due in part to increased protection and a decline in farming. Over the last century, trees flourished as residents left the countryside for life in the city, and intensive agriculture meant less land was needed for farming.

Although the re-wilding process has slowed, the area of land covered by trees continues to expand. France is the fourth most forested country in Europe, after Sweden, Finland and Spain.

Image result for French forest in Lot et Garonne

French forest in Lot et Garonne

Sweden has strong protections against deforestation and trees cover around 70% of the surface area, similar to Finland, but not all of the forests are natural. Many of Europe’s forests are managed to produce wood to make paper, or timber for construction, or as fuel. As trees in those forests are felled, more are planted, and European plantations expand by an area the size of 1,500 soccer pitches every day.

Swiss National Park

Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, storing carbon in their trunks and branches, helping the fight against climate change.

More trees should be positive news for the environment and to some extent this is true. But while newly planted forests go some way to safeguard the habitats of birds, insects and woodland mammals, they are no substitute for natural forests in protecting biodiversity.

Deforestation and forest degradation are becoming serious challenges in some parts of the world. Illegal logging and land clearance for agriculture are devastating parts of countries such as Brazil and Russia.

Russia lost more than five and a half million hectares of its forest cover in a single year.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, we’re losing 18.7 million acres of forests each year – or 27 soccer fields every minute.


Sauerland

As forests disappear, the habitats of many species vanish with them. Around 80% of land-based species, including elephants and rhinos, are forest dwellers and face a growing threat from human activity.

In 2012, the World Economic Forum brought together more than 150 partners working in Latin America, West Africa, Central Africa and South-East Asia – to establish the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020: a global public-private partnership to tackle deforestation linked to the production of four commodities: palm oil, beef, soy, and pulp and paper.

The health of the planet is best served by protecting our forests from being cut down, and more needs to be done. But, alongside attempts to curb deforestation, initiatives that encourage the expansion of tree canopy represent a step in the right direction.

Chateau des Vigiers, Bergerac, France

Posted in Op-Ed's in Major Publications | Comments Off on Europe’s forests are booming. Here’s why:

Rainforests: Death Watch for the Amazon

Deforestation in the Amazon may soon begin to feed on itself

Under President Jair Bolsonaro the rate of tree-clearing is rising fast

SINCE THE 1970s nearly 800,000km² of Brazil’s original 4m km² (1.5m square miles) of Amazon forest has been lost to logging, farming, mining, roads, dams and other forms of development—an area equivalent to that of Turkey and bigger than that of Texas.

Scientists worry this is uncomfortably close to the threshold for tree loss, of between 20 and 25%, beyond which deforestation begins to feed on itself, turning much of the Amazon basin into drier savannah known as cerrado. Under Jair Bolsonaro, the right-wing president of Brazil who was inaugurated in January, the Amazon appears to be rushing towards that tipping point.

Etelle Higonnet of Mighty Earth tracks this information every day from satellite images, then interprets the reality of what is happening on the ground as compared to the public image of the country’s political leadership.

Proof of the Destruction of the Brazilian Rain Forest with evidence from Satellite Photos

The deforestation rate had slowed between 2004 and 2012, when the government beefed up its environmental protection agency, Ibama, and an international Amazon Fund was created to pay for conservation projects. But it began ticking up again after a weakening of environmental laws in Brazil.

Mighty Earth Future Deforestation worldwide

Between August 2017 and July 2018 Brazil lost 7,900km² of Amazon forest—nearly a billion trees. This year’s figure is almost sure to be higher. Preliminary satellite data showed that 920 km² were cleared in June, 88% more than the same month in 2018. In July 2,255 km² were cleared, a startling 278% more than the same month last year (see chart).

Environmentalists blame Mr Bolsonaro’s insouciance about the Amazon. It is a “virgin” that should be “exploited” for agriculture, mining and infrastructure projects, he says. The environment minister, Ricardo Salles, fired 21 of Ibama’s 27 heads; he has yet to replace most of them, crippling the agency’s enforcement duties. In response to increasing alarm about the jump in tree-clearing, Mr Bolsonaro fired the head of the agency that tracks deforestation, called the data “lies” and told a journalist that those concerned about the environment should eat less and “shit every other day.”

When Germany announced on August 10th that it was cutting 35m euros ($39.6m) of funding for conservation projects, Mr Bolsonaro said that “Brazil doesn’t need it.”

 

Brazil has the power to save Earth’s greatest forest—or destroy it

Aug 1st 2019 London and Rio de Janiero

Although its cradle is the sparsely wooded savannah, humankind has long looked to forests for food, fuel, timber and sublime inspiration. Still a livelihood for 1.5bn people, forests maintain local and regional ecosystems and, for the other 6.2bn, provide a—fragile and creaking—buffer against climate change.

Now droughts, wildfires and other human-induced changes are compounding the damage from chainsaws. In the tropics, which contain half of the world’s forest biomass, tree-cover loss has accelerated by two-thirds since 2015; if it were a country, the shrinkage would make the tropical rainforest the world’s third-biggest carbon-dioxide emitter, after China and America.

Nowhere are the stakes higher than in the Amazon basin—and not just because it contains 40% of Earth’s rain forests and harbours 10-15% of the world’s terrestrial species. South America’s natural wonder may be perilously close to the tipping-point beyond which its gradual transformation into something closer to steppe cannot be stopped or reversed, even if people lay down their axes.

Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, is hastening the process—in the name, he claims, of development. The ecological collapse his policies may precipitate would be felt most acutely within his country’s borders, which encircle 80% of the basin—but would go far beyond them, too. It must be averted.

Humans have been chipping away at the Amazon rain
forest since they settled there well over ten millennia ago. Since the 1970s they have done so on an industrial scale. In the past 50 years Brazil has relinquished 17% of the forest’s original extent, more than the area of France, to road- and dam-building, logging, mining, soya bean farming and cattle ranching. After a seven-year government effort to slow the destruction, it picked up in 2013 because of weakened enforcement and an amnesty for past deforestation. Recession and political crisis further pared back the government’s ability to enforce the rules.

Now Mr Bolsonaro has gleefully taken a buzz saw to them. Although congress and the courts have blocked some of his efforts to strip parts of the Amazon of their protected status, he has made it clear that rule-breakers have nothing to fear, despite the fact that he was elected to restore law and order. Because 70-80% of logging in the Amazon is illegal, the destruction has soared to record levels. Since he took office in January, trees have been disappearing at a rate of over two Manhattans a week.

The Amazon is unusual in that it recycles much of its own water. As the forest shrivels, less recycling takes place. At a certain threshold, that causes more of the forest to wither so that, over a matter of decades, the process feeds on itself. Climate change is bringing the threshold closer every year as the forest heats up.

Mr Bolsonaro is pushing it towards the edge. Pessimists fear that the cycle of runaway degradation may kick in when another 3-8% of the forest vanishes—which, under Mr Bolsonaro, could happen soon. There are hints the pessimists may be correct (see Briefing). In the past 15 years the Amazon has suffered three severe droughts. Fires are on the rise.

Brazil’s president dismisses such findings, as he does science more broadly. He accuses outsiders of hypocrisy—did rich countries not fell their own forests?—and, sometimes, of using environmental dogma as a pretext to keep Brazil poor. “The Amazon is ours,” the president thundered recently. What happens in the Brazilian Amazon, he thinks, is Brazil’s business.

Except it isn’t. A “dieback” would directly hurt the seven other countries with which Brazil shares the river basin. It would reduce the moisture channelled along the Andes as far south as Buenos Aires. If Brazil were damming a real river, not choking off an aerial one, downstream nations could consider it an act of war.

As the vast Amazonian store of carbon burned and rotted, the world could heat up by as much as 0.1°C by 2100—not a lot, you may think, but the preferred target of the Paris climate agreement allows further warming of only 0.5°C or so.

Mr Bolsonaro’s other arguments are also flawed. Yes, the rich world has razed its forests. Brazil should not copy its mistakes, but learn from them instead as, say, France has, by reforesting while it still can. Paranoia about Western scheming is just that. The knowledge economy values the genetic information sequestered in the forest more highly than land or dead trees.

Even if it did not, deforestation is not a necessary price of development. Brazil’s output of soya beans and beef rose between 2004 and 2012, when forest-clearing slowed by 80%. In fact, aside from the Amazon itself, Brazilian agriculture may be deforestation’s biggest victim. The drought of 2015 caused maize farmers in the central Brazilian state of Mato Grosso to lose a third of their harvest.

For all these reasons, the world ought to make clear to Mr Bolsonaro that it will not tolerate his vandalism. Food companies, pressed by consumers, should spurn soyabeans and beef produced on illegally logged Amazonian land, as they did in the mid-2000s. Brazil’s trading partners should make deals contingent on its good behaviour.

The agreement reached in June by the EU and Mercosur, a South American trading bloc of which Brazil is the biggest member, already includes provisions to protect the rain
forest. It is overwhelmingly in the parties’ interest to enforce them.

So too for China, which is anxious about global warming and needs Brazilian agriculture to feed its livestock. Rich signatories of the Paris agreement, who pledged to pay developing ones to plant carbon-consuming trees, ought to do so. Deforestation accounts for 8% of global greenhouse-gas emissions but attracts only 3% of the aid earmarked for combating climate change.

The wood and the trees

If there is a green shoot in Mr Bolsonaro’s scorched-earth tactics towards the rainforest, it is that they have made the Amazon’s plight harder to ignore—and not just for outsiders.

Brazil’s agriculture minister urged Mr Bolsonaro to stay in the Paris agreement. Unchecked deforestation could end up hurting Brazilian farmers if it leads to foreign boycotts of Brazilian farm goods.

Ordinary Brazilians should press their president to reverse course. They have been blessed with a unique planetary patrimony, whose value is intrinsic and life-sustaining as much as it is commercial. Letting it perish would be a needless catastrophe.

Posted in Op-Ed's in Major Publications | Comments Off on Rainforests: Death Watch for the Amazon

The global crisis in conservatism: Today’s right is not an evolution of conservatism, but a repudiation of it

London July 4, 2019

VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia’s president, has declared the liberal idea “obsolete”. It will not surprise you to learn that we disagree. Not just because he told the Financial Times that liberalism was all about immigration, multiculturalism and gender politics—a travesty—but also because he picked the wrong target. The idea most under threat in the West is conservatism. And you do not have to be a conservative to find that deeply troubling.

In two-party systems, like the United States and (broadly) Britain, the right is in power, but only by jettisoning the values that used to define it. In countries with many parties the centre-right is being eroded, as in Germany and Spain, or eviscerated, as in France and Italy. And in other places, like Hungary, with a shorter democratic tradition, the right has gone straight to populism without even trying conservatism.

Conservatism is not so much a philosophy as a disposition. The philosopher Michael Oakeshott put it best: “To be conservative…is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant.” Like classical liberalism, conservatism is a child of the Enlightenment.

Liberals say that social order emerges spontaneously from individuals acting freely, but conservatives believe social order comes first, creating the conditions for freedom. It looks to the authority of family, church, tradition and local associations to control change, and slow it down. You sweep away institutions at your peril. Yet just such a demolition is happening to conservatism itself—and it is coming from the right.

The new right is not an evolution of conservatism, but a repudiation of it. The usurpers are aggrieved and discontent. They are pessimists and reactionaries. They look at the world and see what President Donald Trump once called “carnage”.

Conservatives believe in character, because politics is about judgment as well as reason. They are suspicious of charisma and personality cults. In America plenty of Republicans who know better have fallen in with Mr. Trump even though he has been credibly accused by 16 different women of sexual misconduct.

Brazilians have elected Jair Bolsonaro, who fondly recalls the days of military rule. The charismatic Boris Johnson is favourite to be Britain’s next prime minister, despite being mistrusted by MPs, because he is deemed to be the “Heineken Tory” who will, like the beer, refresh the parts other conservatives cannot reach.

By John Felsted, Political Commentator, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Canada fares no better.

Principled conservatism is under siege. The standards and values we hold have been compromised from within by those who espouse a ‘big tent’ approach and are not just willing, but eager to jettison principles to attract votes. It never occurs to these dolts that their ‘progressive’ actions erode our support base. Principled conservatives are not leaving the party – the party is leaving them.

Conservative drift towards ‘lite socialism’ is costing us long time, solid support that is replaced with newcomers with transient, if any principles. Reaching out to millennials is hazardous. It is a sad fact that our universities and colleges are conservative deserts.
Character, ethics, honesty and openness still matter. Our shift to the left and adoption of questionable tactics puts us in a melee of competing political parties with very little to differentiate them from one another. Our position of not risking offence to anyone makes us vulnerable and unworthy of support.

The result is a loss of public trust and political apathy. Why would the public place trust in any political party that spends its money making personal attacks on rival party leaders rather than mapping out a plan to deal with our major concerns?

Our current government is embroiled in two major scandals which involve interference in and misuse of our justice system and is ideology driven rather than practical and realistic. Conservatives are not stepping up to reassure the public that they will take specific action to ensure that it cannot recur under their watch. They have made no indication that they will limit the powers of the PMO to make another SNC-Lavalin incident impossible.
Our current government is fixated on climate change as the major threat to Canada.

Canadians are concerned over our economy in terms of a steadily increasing cost of living with no offset in income, health care, taxation, crumbling infrastructure, employment, affordable housing and immigration.

Electors can be forgiven for suspecting an October election may result in a change of faces but few, if any, changes in function. We are failing to signal that we are listening to the electors we want to support us.

Posted in Op-Ed's in Major Publications | Comments Off on The global crisis in conservatism: Today’s right is not an evolution of conservatism, but a repudiation of it

Conrad Black on Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and his prison days

London 29th June 2019

He was, in his own words, a ‘staggeringly rich’ businessman and newspaper magnate, who went to prison for a multimillion dollar fraud conviction in 2007. He has kept a low profile ever since. Then six weeks ago he received a call from the president… Conrad Black tells Alice Thomson about life inside – and after jail

Lord Black, 74, photographed at the St Martins Lane hotel, London
Lord Black, 74, photographed at the St Martins Lane hotel, London

Conrad Black has just stepped off the cruise ship from the United States where he has been working his passage by giving lectures to rich tourists. “I had a high old time,” he says, “but my God, it’s a liver-busting circuit. It took ten days. I improvised talks for well-to-do Americans about history and politics.”

The irony is not lost on the Lord Black of Crossharbour. At the turn of the century, the former press baron used to criss-cross the Atlantic with his entourage in one of his company’s two private jets that would have made his recent lecture attendees look like paupers. But that was before he ended up in a Florida jail for three years convicted of obstruction of justice and fraud.

The Canadian-born former owner of The Daily Telegraph and Lady Black, the journalist Barbara Amiel, were once, by his own admission, “staggeringly” rich and happy to flaunt it. At the height of their fame in 2000, when he was the third most prominent newspaper proprietor in the world, they went to an 18th-century fancy dress party at Kensington Palace seemingly dressed up as Cardinal Richelieu and Marie Antoinette; Black was draped in red and gold robes with a vast jewelled ring and his wife was enveloped in lace and pearls. It seemed a moment of high hubris. He saw it as high humour. He embraced pomp and pageantry and dismissed those he disliked as puerile or pusillanimous.

The Blacks seemed to have it all before their downfall: three vast houses in Kensington knocked together to provide a dozen bedrooms, a 1954 Rolls-Royce, three butlers, a pair of apartments in New York, one just for servants, and a house in Palm Beach next to Donald Trump – of whom more later. His wife, a well-known writer originally from Watford, dressed in Chanel. He called her “preternaturally sexy”. She had a dozen Hermès Birkin bags, 100 pairs of Manolo Blahnik shoes and a separate wardrobe for her furs. She once joked that her extravagance knew “no bounds”, although Black later stresses to me, “It’s not as if our home was full of glass statues urinating champagne. It was a tasteful house.”

As a young columnist on the Telegraph, I found it overwhelming. Black, 74, who wrote biographies in his spare time, would invitehis journalists to drinks and dinners with princes, chairmen, historians and dukes under a vast portrait of Napoleon. I remember one drinks party escaping for a moment, opening the wrong door for a bathroom in the basement and finding a butler labelling lots of suitcases of clothes for Palm Beach, along with three hat boxes.

The power was more intoxicating than the money, Black says. “You can get awfully tired of these rich, dumb Americans in Palm Beach who had made $1 billion in birdseed. It’s power that makes the difference and newspapers were powerful.” When his friend William Hague, Conservative leader at the time, suggested him for a peerage, Black needed to become a British citizen first. “Prime Minister Tony Blair sent round the papers by chauffeur and told me to put Mr Blair and the foreign secretary as my two referees. The whole process took half an hour.”

Conrad Black and Barbara Amiel, Kensington Palace, 2000
Conrad Black and Barbara Amiel, Kensington Palace

But it was the money that brought him down. The gilded rooms, Amiel’s shoes and their luxurious holidays, angered his investors although he says it was “never vulgar”. His father was a successful Canadian businessman, an executive with a major brewery. Black made his first business investment at the age of eight, putting his savings of $60 into General Motors. He bought his first newspaper in Canada in 1966. At the height

of Black’s power he not only owned the Telegraph Group but the Chicago Sun-Times, The Jerusalem Post and the National Post in Canada, as well as hundreds of regional papers globally as chief executive and chairman of Hollinger International.

But in 2003, he was accused of misappropriating funds from his publicly owned company for his personal use. An inquiry concluded that he had run a “corporate kleptocracy” and he was found guilty of playing a role in a multimillion-dollar fraud and given a prison sentence.

The court wrangling went on for years. His newspaper rivals in Canada, America and Britain covered every last gold tap, with one even conjecturing, wrongly, that he had bought Napoleon’s pickled penis. He sold his stake in Hollinger to the Barclay brothers, and got rid of most of his houses and possessions before going to jail.

Two of his convictions were later overturned; he continued to profess his innocence and wrote a book, A Matter of Principle, to put his side on the record. When he walked free, he returned to Canada and wrote columns for such magazines as the National Review.

Then came the next twist to the story. Last month, President Trump, that former neighbour in Palm Beach, decided to issue a full pardon, called Lord Black “entirely deserving” of clemency and said he had attracted broad support from “many high-profile individuals”. These included the singer Sir Elton John and Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state.

It’s not as if our home was full of glass statues urinating champagne. It was tasteful

Black insists it isn’t because he wrote a nice biography of the president, Donald J Trump: A President Like No Other, last year. “He just rang up,” he explains. “My assistant said there was a call from the White House; I picked up and said, ‘Hello.’ I suspected it was a prank at first by the British media, but the caller spoke politely, ‘Please hold for the president.’ Two seconds later one of the best-known voices in the world said, ‘Is that the great Lord Black?’ ” The peer’s view is that the “long ordeal with the US justice system was never anything but a confluence of unlucky events, the belligerence of several corporate governance charlatans, and grandstanding local and American judges.”

We could spend all our time unpicking the events that led to his jail sentence. What I want to know is why Lord Black has come back. Is he determined to conquer London once more? And has he had enough of dressing up? We meet in Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair, in the bar in mid-afternoon. He looks at the menu and groans, “Too much,” and lies back on the banquette in pared-down chinos and blazer. His voice is less a growl now than a whisper. As proprietor, he had a habit of writing irate letters to his own newspapers when he found a leader or column irritating, not usually to do with politics – he particularly disliked one that disparaged women giving birth in their fifties.

He doesn’t want to reprise his social position, he insists, although he does want to return to the House of Lords. But only because politics “is finally becoming interesting again”, not because he has missed wearing his ermine cloak or dining with other lords and not “if it courts controversy”.

“I’m getting a bit old and the ranks of people I know have been thinning,” he explains. “Up until recently, politics hasn’t been particularly interesting, I knew David Cameron a little bit when he was a greeter for Michael Green [the head of Carlton Television]. He has made a historic misjudgment but these things happen,” he says, seeming more forgiving these days.

Boris Johnson, however, is a different matter. Conrad helped to create Johnson when he employed him first at The Daily Telegraph and then at The Spectator. He once held a party for him in 2001 with full-size cardboard cut-outs of him and placemats of his face, and commissioned an ode to his employee.

“I’ve never understood the terrible antagonism to him in some circles, although I am not blind to his limitations as his former boss. Some people think he should be sent to prison for life or something – he really upsets them. Boris lied to me, but that’s Boris. These things happen.”

Black and his wife in 1994
Black and his wife in 1994Camera Press

Johnson had sworn to Black that if he made him editor of The Spectator he would drop any immediate political ambitions. “He promised in a hilarious sequence of oaths and affirmations that he wouldn’t dream of standing as a candidate, he put it verbally and in a very exaggeratedly emphatic way. But it wasn’t two weeks before we found that he had thrown his hat in the ring as candidate,” Black says now. “There was Henley and another place, just to be doubly sure. I was fairly annoyed when he became an MP.”

Now though, he thinks his time may have come. “I just have the sense he’s the one who can slice the Gordian knot if not much else. It has been a shocking spectacle for the world to see Britain in this state, incoherent and divided. Politics hasn’t been this interesting since my friend Margaret Thatcher was in power, but this is way over the top.”

While Boris Johnson was editing The Spectator, he was having an affair with his deputy, Petronella Wyatt, whom Lord Black still sees regularly. “I am completely astounded how complicated the private lives are of some of the people I know. I would find it a terrible strain, but some people like that kind of thing. I don’t think it has a bearing on his ability to be PM.”

Black is one of the few men to know both Boris Johnson and President Trump. He was once Donald Trump’s business partner in a Chicago skyscraper project; he and Amiel would often dine with the Trumps in New York and went to their wedding. “I don’t think Boris is much like Trump. Despite the impression Trump gives, he was an extremely efficient businessman, he ran a tight ship and all his people were capable. He was fantastically motivated to make money and he has been widely misunderstood and underestimated with people thinking he was an absurd character.”

He must see that the president is a contentious figure. “There is plenty of room to disagree with him, but the only slightly absurd thing about him is some of the peculiar and slightly shabby methods he used to further his self-enrichment. They weren’t illegal. He has had this idea all the time I have known him of translating celebrity into high political office and, if I may put it this way without sounding like an old dowager, becoming more socially successful. He has always had a grand plan and he follows it with almost preternatural determination. There are aspects to Boris’s private life which are quite sad. That is not the case with Trump; his ex-wives speak well of him and there was plenty of money for them.”

His admiration doesn’t seem manufactured. “Trump is the only person elected president without ever having sought any kind of public or military office before. He did it with a communication strategy that had just become technologically possible – in that sense he was like President Roosevelt using the radio. Boris is a character but not so much a pioneer; he’s just ambitious. He wants a statue and journalists don’t get statues, only prime ministers.”

As his former boss, I’m not blind to Boris’s limitations. He lied to me, but that’s Boris

Now back in London he is meeting Boris again for a drink but the capital he says has changed. “You can see there are more un-English faces than ever, I don’t mean that disparagingly, but it is a change. There are problems with the Islamists, I think, but that is not confined to Britain. London is still an interesting city; it’s a crossroads. My mantelpiece used to be covered with these stiff invitations. Now the super-rich are different; there are foreigners who have made money in odd ways that probably would raise eyebrows with the membership committee of White’s club.”

He never quite became part of the British Establishment. “I had the impression that, as a foreigner, they credited me with being an educated person, knowing the language tolerably well and British history fairly well, better than most maybe. But when adverse circumstances temporarily overtook me the British that I knew well were more loyal than I expected. On the other hand, I found some elements of this country, especially the media, gratuitously hostile and nasty – the British never like too much success. But everything is fine now and I’ve pretty well won the public relations battle.”

Does he want to exact revenge on those who put him in jail? “I know philosophically the danger of getting too obsessed with revenge. If I have an opportunity to return the unkindness inflicted on me in some cases, I would do it, but it happened. I feel all in all I’ve come through it rather well; the odds weren’t very promising. I don’t want to put on the airs of the embattled veteran, though on many occasions it was no day at the beach, believe me.”

I assume he won’t want to dwell on his incarceration but this is when he suddenly becomes animated. In a bizarre way, he sounds almost nostalgic about his time behind bars, although he had to share a cell, scrub showers and undergo regular body-cavity searches.

“Quite frankly, it wasn’t the most complicated political structure. On the night I arrived I was very graciously greeted by a man who proved to be the don of the Genovese family, who said the famous words, ‘If you catch a cold, we will find out who you got it from.’ Then he said, ‘We have a lot in common – we’re both industrialists.’ ” He ended up going to Mass with the don’s collector every week because “I did feel a little guilty about a few things in life”. He was careful not to offend anyone. “I did not truckle to the system, but I didn’t break the rules either.”

Black’s Palm Beach mansion
Black’s Palm Beach mansionSplash News

Amiel visited him each week, waking up at 3am to drive four hours to the gates. He would pass her messages in code so that she could pay people through their families on the outside to do his laundry and cook for him. “Barbara saved me.” Teaching did, too. “The Bureau of Prisons has this policy that anyone who hasn’t graduated from secondary school can matriculate, but they have teachers who are for the most part completely incompetent and no one trusted them. The head of education became slightly aware of me because two of my books were in the library. He asked me to become a tutor.

“They would arrive surly and suspicious and I would give them a little speech that I eventually could recite in my sleep saying, ‘It is nothing to me, but if you want to game the system here and leave with your foot on the up escalator and some chance to make a living that is adequate and doesn’t lead back to a place like this, I can help you. That is exactly what the authorities don’t want; they want you to flop back in here, and keep giving them the kick-backs for mattresses and cornflakes.’ ”

Under his guidance, 200 inmates graduated and he went to their award ceremonies. By now he was hooked. “The system didn’t do anything to introduce them to the possibility of universities, so I helped them sign up for correspondence courses. A few of them I even helped financially. It was fun. These people had gone through their whole lives being told they could never achieve anything.

“I’m not a do-gooder,” he says. But he can’t help adding that some got in touch to congratulate him on his pardon.

Biographies dwell on his complicated relationship with his father. He just calls him “a bit of an eccentric, but a gentleman. Although he could be difficult; my mother was a saint.”

It is Amiel, he says, who has stopped him feeling bitter. He has also stayed close to his daughter and two sons from his first marriage. “I had encountered [Amiel] over the years in Canada, but we were both married to other people. Then one day we met when both single and Cupid’s arrow proceeded at the speed of a missile, from the ground to 60,000ft in 3 heartbeats. I suddenly saw her in a different light. I was concerned my feelings might be unrequited. She said that she felt she was subject to a takeover bid, but not a hostile one.”

When Black went through the courts in America, she was painted as a gold-digger. “Her performance was magnificent, which I can’t say surprised me that much. She visited me endlessly [in prison] and when I came out she was there with the dogs. She has proved them all wonderfully wrong.”

They are now settled in a house in Toronto. “We may get something here in London again but nothing big … I like cities more than the countryside. I still chat regularly to people like Kissinger, who is 96 now, and Elton John has been a loyal friend.”

Leaving court in Chicago in July 2007
Leaving court in Chicago in July 2007Getty Images

Black seems remarkably sanguine, almost content. “Believe it or not, I have had considerable success as a columnist – I’m rather well paid just to give my opinions and I don’t have to administer anything.”

He thinks his friend Donald Trump will get re-elected. “The group on the cruise were successful, intelligent people from all around the country and they think Trump is Jesus Christ on wheels.” His former employee Boris could become prime minister. It will make life easier for him. But he does worry about conspicuous wealth now. “Not particularly because of being in prison by the way – some of the drug guys had a lot of money. All your dukes once had their vast estates, too. But because it is causing social instability. You can’t just soak the rich or they will leave the country, but they need to act appropriately.”

He sounds embarrassed momentarily at his new worthiness. “I sometimes think people regard me as a bit of a Pollyanna now, which I never was, but I am optimistic. I am in rebuild mode, financially speaking. The world is a jungle. I am not naive – in America in particular there is fierce competition and ruthless competitiveness that leads to a great deal of striving and achieving, but it also leads to the destruction of the lives of many people. Britain is tamer. It has a wonderful history, although you do have your foibles. I’m proud to be British.”

———-

A few days later I contact him again. Everyone always asks about the infamous fancy-dress photo that so many remember him for. I ask whether he now regrets dressing up as Richelieu to his wife’s Marie Antoinette – a picture of extreme excess and conspicuous wealth.

No, he does not and he wants to set the record straight. He writes in an email:

“This canard has been floating around for 20 years all over the world: that Barbara was Marie Antoinette and I was Richelieu. We would have been happy to pretend to be these people but Barbara was a friendly (and perhaps suggestible) barmaid, not the Hapsburg-Bourbon queen of France, and I was just an ordinary cardinal. I did not have the great Richelieu’s goatee and moustache, nor his secular insignia as duke, prime minister, minister of foreign affairs and the interior (police and national security), founder-president of the French Academy and grand admiral. The historical ignorance of the press is distressing, even after all these years, and it is a relief not to employ them any more.”

Posted in Op-Ed's in Major Publications | Comments Off on Conrad Black on Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and his prison days

Roger Federer:”You cannot be alone at the top”

By Simon Kuper

The Financial Times, London 28th June, 2019

In 25 years of interviewing athletes, I’ve learnt that they never ask you anything back. Roger Federer is the exception. In the van to his private jet, he bombards me with questions: how badly have the gilets jaunes smashed up Paris, where I live? Do I have children? When he discovers I have twins (he has two sets, one female, one male), and that my mother, like his, came from northern Johannesburg, he grins with delight: “We could be like brothers.” He speaks near-perfect English, with some of the singsong rhythm of his native Swiss-German.

This morning we are flying his shared NetJets plane from Zurich to Madrid, where he’s playing a tournament. We take off almost vertically: private jets fly at over 40,000 feet, higher than commercial planes, and whizz through the thin and nearly traffic-free air.

Federer and I sit facing each other in soft beige leather armchairs. The stewardess unfolds a dining table between us. Our fellow passengers — two of Federer’s fitness coaches and a NetJets man — loll on a sofa at the back of the cabin. I feel as if I’m in a magazine advertisement for first-class life. My tablemate, despite a slightly bulbous nose, is as beautiful as a Roman god. With his long legs slung over each other, he looks perfectly at ease in his body. He smiles and makes eye contact with the confidence of a man accustomed to getting a good response from everybody he meets. Unlike many athletes, he doesn’t need an agent by his side to censor his speech.

Aged 37, Federer has been on the circuit playing uniquely gorgeous tennis for 20 years. Pundits began predicting his retirement a decade ago, but he won another Wimbledon in 2017, the Australian Open last year (his 20th Grand Slam tournament) and he returns to Wimbledon next week ranking third in the world behind Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, and seeded second by the tournament’s organisers. He is aiming for a record ninth victory. He seems genuinely unsure when he will retire. On the plane this morning, he appears as vigorous as a grown-up can be.

I want to get him to review his life and career. But first the stewardess brings us mini-croissants and fruit skewers. I had wondered whether Federer would eat human food; Djokovic likes his gluten-free and raw, when he deigns to eat at all. But Federer spreads marmalade on his croissant.

The stewardess suggests detox juices: “Morning energy!”

Federer smiles: “I never have, but let me try one.” She gives him three different juices. I order a café latte, he an espresso, and we both get muesli. This is turning out less Spartan than I’d feared.

“Really,” I start, “you’ve had multiple careers. You had your rise; then unchallenged supremacy; then rivals arrive — ”

“I see it the same way,” he interrupts. I continue: “Now you’re battling your way back to the top.” Here he demurs. “It’s really the good times now. It’s like I’m on this tour, almost, and I can appreciate these moments. Not knowing what the end is, is also maybe nice.” He says he savours every trip now, because he knows it may be his last visit to that city. Then how would he sum up his career? “It’s gone way too fast. I feel like I was a junior yesterday.”

Over 40,000 ft in a private jet (Brunch supplied by Park Hyatt, Zurich) Juices — Morning Energy, Ginger Sunrise, Green Booster Fresh cut fruits Birchermüesli Omelette with bacon and vegetables Bakeries and muffins Total SFr98 (£78)

The bourgeois boy from Basel (his parents worked for the Ciba-Geigy pharmaceutical company) left home at 14 to enter a tennis academy. “I cried when I was away. Every time I took a train, Sunday night at six, I was as sad as could be, but it was my choice. You give up your childhood a bit, but I would probably do it all over again.”

At 15, he sat practising his autograph on paper tablecloths in French restaurants. “In case I got famous. I was thinking, ‘Hopefully one day I can win tournaments and be in the top 100. And who knows, maybe play against one of those guys I’ve seen on TV.’ I think at 18 I broke the top 100, and you’re like, ‘wow, I can really be on the tour. I’m in the locker room with Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras. My god, it’s so cool.’ ”

The teenager’s biggest challenge was off-court life: “Doing the red carpets, meeting important people, looking at women, speaking to women, speaking to people who I couldn’t place, it was hard. I was a shy person. But I think tennis helped me, really shaped me.”

Aged 19, at the Sydney Olympics, he met his future wife Mirka Vavrinec, who was playing tennis for Switzerland. Months later, he finally won a tournament. He recalls the carefree tennis of youth: “At 20, there’s a great point, and you’re like, ‘This one, I’m going to crush so hard, I’m actually going to make a hole into the ground.’ At 37 you’re like, ‘Hmm, I’m probably going to first hit it there, then manoeuvre the guy around, and somehow work my way to the net and finish off with a nice volley.’ ” Nowadays, he says, he sometimes has to push himself to try “the crazy shots”. He worries about becoming too canny, and tennis becoming too professional.

Simon Kuper interviewing Roger Federer at 40,000ft

He has wolfed down everything except his fruit. I initially assume our breakfast is over, but the stewardess reappears to take more orders.

“Could I maybe have one more espresso?” asks Federer, adding a very British, “Sorry.”

She suggests an omelette.

“Why not?” says Federer. I concur, and remark on his appetite.

“I don’t want to become too serious,” he says. “It also reminds me, maybe, I’m more than just a tennis player.” Has he really eaten KitKats before major finals? “I’ll have a coffee before every match, and if there is a chocolate on the side, I’ll have a chocolate. Or a cookie.” Geniuses don’t have to sacrifice like mortals.

But Federer had to learn to control his genius. I ask if he recognises parallels with another natural: Lionel Messi. Federer, a football fan, lights up. He asks excitedly if I’ve met Messi (he hasn’t). “Funny enough,” he says, “I haven’t spoken about Messi nearly enough. What I love about Messi probably most is when he gets the ball and is able to turn the body towards goal, and then he has full vision. Then he’s going to pass, or dribble, or shoot. There’s always three options for him. He’s one of the few who’s got that.”

I note the parallel: Federer, too, has many choices. The tennis writer and coach John Yandell once counted 20 variations of his forehand alone.

“Yes,” nods Federer. “The problem when you’re younger is knowing to use what when. That is quite — how do you say? — complex. Whereas if you’re a player who’s just very good at doing forehands and backhands across court all day, it’s easier.

“I’ve got a lot of different options. For us it’s more challenging. I think once you master the craft of knowing, ‘Which club shall I take out of the bag for this shot or pass?’, it’s incredibly exciting. Maybe this is why my love for the game is so big nowadays. Geometry, angles, when to hit which shot, should I serve and volley? Stay back? Should I chip and charge? Should I hit big?”

It’s really the good times now. It’s like I’m on this tour, almost, and I can appreciate these moments. Not knowing what the end is, is also maybe nice

Once he mastered his options, he won his first Grand Slam tournament at Wimbledon in 2003. In January 2004 he added the Australian Open. Then, he said, “I took a conscious decision: I’d like to play for a long time.” His fitness coach recommended frequent breaks rather than chasing every appearance fee.

“You could just power out and say, ‘I’m planning to play till 30,’ like everybody else did, but I always thought it’d be so much fun to play through generations. Because our generations are not 10 years, 15 years. Every five years you have somebody else. My generation, then Rafael, Novak and Andy [Murray]. Now you have the next generation. I wanted to experience that, and also — it sounds stupid now — maybe give younger guys an opportunity to play somebody old like me.”

From 2004 through January 2010 he towered over men’s tennis (except against Nadal on clay), winning 15 Grand Slam tournaments. In 2009 his twin daughters arrived. “For me, ’10 and ’11 are a blur, because of the children. All I remember is moments with my family, not my results. I’m happy it’s this way.”

But while Federer changed nappies, Nadal and Djokovic matured and began beating him on all surfaces. Nadal’s record against Federer, after a 15-year rivalry, stands at 24-15, after this month’s straight-set victory in the semi-finals of the French Open. Federer didn’t win any Grand Slam tournaments from 2013 through 2016. Given his age, most pundits assumed he was fading. He says, “Those were the fighting years for me. This is where I had to show battle.”

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at the 2009 Australian Open.

Nadal defeated Federer in the final over five sets in four hours and 23 minutes. Would he have preferred unchallenged supremacy? “Of course. I would have loved to dominate forever. When Rafael and others were coming through, it took me some getting used to.” He says of Nadal: “At one point you tip your hat: you’re very good. I take joy after realising: you cannot just be alone at the top. You need rivals. I’m thankful to these guys, to make me a better player.”

Federer and Nadal have set a tone of niceness in the locker room. In the 1980s, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe sometimes didn’t even speak to rivals and youngsters. Federer reports hearing that “in the ’80s and ’90s, a few guys really could not stand each other”.

By the time he started on tour, things had improved. “It was a very friendly locker room already, so I guess I just maintained that. Something I care deeply about is that young guys are welcomed nicely on to the tour, and they realise, ‘This is going to be fun, buddy, and, we, the top guys, are cool.’ ”

So when a teenage rookie walks into the locker room, Federer goes up and says hi?

“Yes. Then maybe: ‘You want to practice?’ And in that practice, you can chat: ‘What’s going on? Do you have brothers or sisters? Who was your hero growing up?’ ”

I interject: “But you were their hero.”

“Not always. Sometimes. That’s always awkward, especially when it happened the first time.”

Roger Federer’s wife Mirka (right) and their four children

In 2014, Federer’s sons were born. I quote the chess player Garry Kasparov, who told me over an FT Lunch in 2003 that at 40, “You can’t throw energy of nuclear size in the game. Because you have family, or kids, maybe businesses, you have other problems.”

Federer enthusiastically interrupts: “I always feel like I’m wearing two watches, one on myself and one of the family, because I know their schedules inside out. I know when they’re going to bed, when I’m at the tennis. I know I can quickly FaceTime them before they go to bed, 45 minutes before I play.

“I come back [home] after winning a match or tournament, or losing, and they’re like, ‘Hey, can you play Lego with me?’, and I’m like, ‘Let’s do it.’ Fine, I sometimes sit there and my match is going through my mind, but I am trying to give full attention to my son. I never saw in my vision, as a little boy, winning Wimbledon and then going to play with my children. So this is quite surreal.”

His egalitarian fellow-Swiss allow him to be a regular dad. “I can go to playgrounds with my kids. It’s just me speaking to other parents, like what you would be doing.”

Don’t some parents want selfies?

“Yes, and that is normal. I have to make a decision when I walk out in the morning: am I in the mood for it? If not, well, I have a choice to stay home. And I can always be polite and say, ‘I’m with my children right now. I’m trying to build a house in the forest or whatever, but I’m happy to do it later.’ ”

After his knee operation in 2016, many predicted retirement. But he has since added three more Grand Slam titles. “I believe I’m at the height of my physical possibilities still,” he says. Though he takes more breaks nowadays, it’s not only to protect ageing bones. “You don’t want to go through a career racing through everything, and think, ‘I was never enjoying my biggest moments.’ ” A while back, he suggested to his wife that they take time to savour his tournament wins. Instead of flying out at once, “Maybe we could leave the next morning. We could have a nice dinner, a glass of champagne, chill out.”

Has he had a happy 20 years on tour? “Very.”

Federer at Wimbledon in 2003. It was the Swiss player’s first Grand Slam tournament win, and the first of eight singles titles at Wimbledon

Federer at the Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia in 2018

Does he fear the void afterwards? “Not really. Having a foundation, having four children, having some sponsors that are going to exceed my playing days, I think it will be fine.” And he won’t miss the stress, he adds.

“I will miss that other family: the players. I think that’s what will be toughest. One day, when you really leave, the question is, who are you still going to be in touch with? That’s when you realise who your real friends are from the tour. You realise there’s not many.”

Who are they? His immediate answer is touching: “I would think that I’m still in touch with Rafael.”

After nearly two hours of almost ceaseless conversation, we’re descending into Madrid. Federer gestures at the arid fields below us. “Europe is so much fun. You see, we’re travelling just a little bit. The landscape’s already semi-burnt from the sun. In Switzerland, everything’s just green. I love that about Europe.” He tries to enjoy the cities he visits. He never wanted his travels to be “hotel, club, airport, see you later. We try to have a hotel in the city centre, so we can go for a walk or go to a park. Nowadays, with the zoo, we see cities from a totally different angle with the kids. I like restaurants at night, to decompress with my wife and friends.” Federer claims to enjoy interviews. I ask what we journalists still don’t get about him. That he’s a jokester in private, he replies. And also: “Maybe they don’t know I have a wine cellar, and I like to open a bottle with friends.”

On the tarmac, the NetJets man snaps our picture. Federer throws an arm around me, and I put my hand on his back. Every other back I’ve touched felt like a single undefined mass. On Fed

Then I go to the regular terminal for my economy flight home.

 

Posted in Op-Ed's in Major Publications | Comments Off on Roger Federer:”You cannot be alone at the top”

Xi Jinping wants China’s armed forces to be “world-class” by 2050: He has done more to achieve this than any of his predecessors

London, June 27th June 2019

OVER THE past decade, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been lavished with money and arms. China’s military spending rose by 83% in real terms between 2009 and 2018, by far the largest growth spurt in any big country. The splurge has enabled China to deploy precision missiles and anti-satellite weapons that challenge American supremacy in the western Pacific. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, says his “Chinese dream” includes a “dream of a strong armed forces”. That, he says, involves “modernising” the PLA by 2035 and making it “world-class”—in other words, America-beating—by mid-century. He has been making a lot of progress.

Organisational reforms may be less eye-catching than missiles that fly at Mach 5, unmanned cargo planes and electromagnetically powered superguns (all of which China has tested in the past year). Yet Mr Xi has realised that there is little point in grafting fancy weapons onto an old-fashioned force. During the cold war the PLA evolved to repel the Soviet Union and America in big land wars on Chinese soil. Massed infantry would grind down the enemy in attritional battles. In the 1990s Chinese leaders, alarmed by American prowess in the Gulf war of 1991, decided to focus on enhancing the PLA’s ability to fight “local wars under high-technology conditions”. They were thinking of short, sharp conflicts on China’s periphery, such as over Taiwan, in which air and naval power would be as important as ground forces. Mr Xi decided that winning such wars required changing the armed forces’ structure. He has done more in the past three years to reform the PLA than any leader since Deng Xiaoping.

Mr Xi’s principal aim is to increase “jointness”. This term, borrowed from Western military jargon, refers to the ability of different services—army, navy and air force—to co-operate on the battlefield quickly and seamlessly. Jointness is especially important for fighting wars that break out abroad. It can be difficult for commanders at national headquarters to choreograph soldiers, sailors and pilots from a great distance. The different services must be able to work together without instruction from on high.

China’s model is the United States, which—under the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986—drastically reformed its own armed forces in order to achieve this goal. The Pentagon carved up the globe into “combatant commands”. No longer would services squabble among themselves. All soldiers, sailors and pilots in a given area, such as the Persian Gulf or the Pacific, would take orders from a single officer.

Mr Xi has followed suit. Before his reforms, army and navy commanders in the country’s seven military regions would report to their respective service headquarters, with little or no co-ordination. In February 2016 Mr Xi replaced the regions with five “theatres”, each under a single commander (see map). The eastern one based in Nanjing would prepare for war with Taiwan and Japan, for instance. The sprawling western theatre, in Chengdu, would handle India. The southern one in Guangzhou would manage the South China Sea.

As well as these geographic commands, two others were formed in 2015, each aimed at an American vulnerability. American forces depend on communications via satellites, computer networks and other high-tech channels. So Mr Xi created a new Strategic Support Force to target these systems. It directs space, cyber, electronic and psychological warfare. In 2018 it conducted exercises against five PLA units in what the Pentagon called a “complex electronic warfare environment”. American military power in Asia also depends on a network of bases and aircraft carriers. Mr Xi took aim at these by establishing a new service called the PLA Rocket Force—an upgrade of what was previously known less rousingly as the Second Artillery Corps.

He has also been trimming the armed forces’ bloated ranks, though they remain over 2m-strong. Since 2015 the PLA has shed 300,000 men, most of them from the land forces, which have lost one-third of their commissioned officers and shrunk from 70% of the PLA’s total strength to less than half (though happily the army has kept its dance troupes, which it had been told it would lose). By contrast, the marines are tripling in size. Navy and air-force officers have gained more powerful posts, including leadership of two theatre commands. This reflects the PLA’s tilt towards the seas—and the skies above them.

It is hard to tell whether the new PLA is more proficient on the battlefield. China has not fought a war in four decades. The last Chinese soldiers with experience of a large-scale conflict—a war with Vietnam in 1979—will retire shortly.

But there is evidence that the PLA is getting better at jointness. Some of China’s growing number of forays beyond its borders, notably bomber flights around Taiwan and over the South China Sea, indicate increasing co-ordination between air and naval forces. “We see a lot of joint exercises to work out kinks in the system and get the services used to working with each other,” says Phillip Saunders of the National Defence University in Washington, DC. Chinese war games were once highly scripted affairs. Now officers are assessed on the realism of their training, says Meia Nouwens of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. Before Mr Xi’s reforms the “blue team”, which simulates an adversary, would always ritually lose large-scale annual exercises known as “Stride” in Inner Mongolia. Now they usually win.

But China’s troops may still be ill-prepared for complex warfare. In America promotions depend on officers’ ability to work with other services. Their Chinese counterparts often spend their entire careers in one service, in one region and even doing the same job. Political culture is another problem. “The structures that China is trying to emulate are based on openness, on delegation of authority and collaboration,” notes Admiral Scott Swift of MIT, who retired last year as commander of America’s Pacific Fleet. He says modern warfare requires decentralised decision-making because cyber and electronic warfare can sever communications between commanders and units. “Militaries that are founded on democratic principles are going to be much more adept at adapting to that environment,” Admiral Swift suggests.

Mr Xi is an authoritarian who strives for centralised control. His predecessor, Hu Jintao, did not have a tight grip on the PLA, says Mr Saunders. That is because Mr Hu’s own predecessor, Jiang Zemin, had appointed the two vice-chairmen of the Central Military Commission, a powerful body that oversees the armed forces. They stayed throughout Mr Hu’s tenure, frustrating any efforts to reform the PLA and curb its endemic corruption and ill-discipline.

Mr Xi is determined not to suffer the same fate. His anti-corruption purges have ensnared more than 13,000 officers (three serving generals were demoted in June, according to the South China Morning Post, a newspaper in Hong Kong). Mr Xi slimmed down the military commission from 11 to seven members, kicking off the service chiefs and adding an anti-graft officer. The body was also given control of the paramilitary People’s Armed Police, which in turn absorbed the coast guard.

Predictably, the restructuring has generated resentment. Senior officers are irked at losing privileges. Demobilised soldiers sometimes take their grievances to the streets—one reason why Mr Xi founded a ministry of veterans’ affairs in 2016. But, says Ms Nouwens, younger ranks benefit from merit-based promotion, take pride in the growing prominence of the PLA in Chinese film and television, and admire Mr Xi’s “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”. They will have an opportunity to show off on October 1st when a huge military parade will be staged in Beijing to mark the 70th anniversary of Communist rule. It will be the first such show in the capital since Mr Xi launched his reforms. Expect a world-class performance.

Posted in Op-Ed's in Major Publications | Comments Off on Xi Jinping wants China’s armed forces to be “world-class” by 2050: He has done more to achieve this than any of his predecessors

What Jordan’s Refuge Crisis can teach the rest of the world

Jordanian Refugee Camp – 5th June 2019

WASHINGTON – In the summer of 1949, three years after I traded my United States Army uniform for civilian clothes, and three months after I sold my half of a successful war surplus business I had started to my partner, I hopped aboard the Queen Elizabeth at the dock in New York City to move to Paris.

Arriving in France two weeks later, the damaged road I took into the City of Light was the first visible sign that Europe was still recovering from the war that had taken more than 40 million European lives from 1939 to 1945. But it wasn’t until I tried to start a business exporting food to Germany that I came to understand that for millions of people, the horrors of that war continued to live on, but in different ways.

One in five German homes had been destroyed during the war, leaving 20 million Germans homeless, the vast majority of which were women, children, and the elderly. Another eight to ten million former prisoners of war, slave laborers, and death camp survivors had set out by foot to find food and shelter at war’s end, only to settle in refugee camps on German soil for as many as five more years, as most nations – including the U.S. – refused to grant visas or extend quotas to let in victims of the war. What I remember today as mass misery, history remembers as the largest mass migration in human history.

In the seven decades that have passed since, I never imagined that I would see a day when the total number of refugees, and the scale of human misery, would surpass what I saw in 1949. But I was wrong. Today, there are more than 25 million refugees, a fraction of nearly 70 million innocent people who have been driven from their homes by armed conflict in recent decades. Twenty percent of them are fleeing the murderous eight-year conflict in Syria.

Now, as then, the wealthy countries of the world have largely shut their doors to most refugees. Instead, battles over immigration in the U.S. and Europe have sparked a global populist revolt, with far-right nationalists winning office in elections from the EU Parliament to the Oval Office. But unlike World War II, when the U.S. and Britain oversaw the fate of displaced people, the front line of the refugee crisis today is being handled by a small, landlocked country in the Middle East that is about the size of the state of Illinois and has nowhere near the reach or resources of the West: the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

With Israel to its west, Iraq to its east, and Syria to its north, Jordan is an island of stability in an ocean of violence. Refugees from all three states have been crossing Jordan’s borders since 1948, along with refugees from Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, Somalia, and Bosnia. As of 2015, every third person in Jordan was a refugee.

One thing we’ve learned about refugees over the past seven decades is that if a person is displaced for five years, they are more likely to remain displaced for at least twenty years, and Jordan is a prime example. Of the tens of thousands of Palestinians who flooded into Jordan after the founding of Israel in 1948, many stayed. Today, around 70 percent of Jordan’s population is of Palestinian origin, almost two million of whom still live in refugee camps of one kind or another.

Where other nations might have crumbled under the weight of the influx, Jordan has held firm, thanks in large part to the leadership of His Majesty King Abdullah II and his estimable wife, Her Majesty Queen Rania, who is also Palestinian. I first heard of Abdullah shortly after he was a young military officer who had come to the US to train. Wayne Downing, a West Point graduate and four-star general who commanded America’s elite counter-terrorism teams and is known as the father of the modern Rangers, trained foreign soldiers who traveled to Fort Bragg to learn about democracy. Of all the soldiers he trained, he told me, Abdullah was one of the best.

Downing didn’t consider how the leadership skills he saw would be called upon to lead a refugee crisis, but Jordan’s embrace of refugees under Abdullah’s leadership – like its embrace under Abdullah’s late father, Hussein, before him – has been crucial to ensuring the refugee crisis does not spread to the rest of the world. As the U.S. faces increasing refugee challenges of its own – and as the credibility of U.S. leadership rests on our ability to deliver on the values we claim to stand for – it could stand to learn a few lessons in leadership from Jordan.

The first lesson: refugee crises are never contained—and solutions must quickly shift from short-term to long-term.

Jordan dealt with this issue in real time as it worked to tackle the Syrian refugee crisis. Despite Jordan’s long history of hosting refugees, the Syrian crisis has broken every record. Today, almost 1 in 7 people in Jordan is a Syrian refugee. They are mostly impoverished, and more than half are children.

At first, Jordan adopted an open-door border policy, assuming that the conflict would soon be over and that refugees would eventually return home. What Jordan didn’t anticipate was just how massive the wave of Syrian refugees would be, and the economic burden that would put on Jordan’s government. By 2016, 650,000 refugees had registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and these registered refugees had the right to public services like education, healthcare, and housing in camps.

But in truth, the actual number of Syrian refugees was almost double the number of registered Syrian refugees, meaning estimates of Jordan’s need for international help fell far below UN estimates. And because Syrians were not permitted to fully access the labor market, pay taxes, start businesses, or spend, they could never help relieve Jordan’s economic strain.

Realizing the futility of assuming the Syrian refugees would simply return home, Jordan worked instead with the international community to find longer-term solutions. The result was called the Jordan Compact. In return for billions in pledged grants and loans and relaxed trade regulations with the European Union, Jordan agreed to issue 200,000 new work permits for Syrian refugees in agriculture, construction, and production of goods. It expanded education to include all Syrian refugees, and it reduced fees for work permits.

The initiative was well-intentioned. But the Compact was designed without any input from Syrian refugees themselves, which leads to the second lesson: for policy changes to be successful, there must be trust between refugees and hosts.

In the early days after World War II, the U.S. had trust issues of its own, when the displaced in Germany – camp survivors and camp guards alike – were initially housed by nationality (Poles with Poles, etc.) without regard to roles. It meant, as historian David Nasaw has written, that “inmates and torturers” were housed “side by side” in “inhumane forced gatherings of victim and victimizer.”

Jordan has dealt with a trust issue of a different kind. Because of negative public opinion towards refugees as well as the lack of Syrian representation in the Compact’s creation, Syrian refugees doubt the Jordanian government’s motives, and many have not signed up for permits even with the new policies in place.

Jordan has tried to build goodwill by tweaking its policies to better accommodate the challenges Syrian refugees face. Just last year, the government began the process of regularizing the status of unregistered Syrians living outside of camps. This “amnesty policy” protected them from arrest and increased their access to employment, education, and financial assistance.

Unfortunately, the amnesty policy led to the third lesson: that host countries on the front lines of conflict need more money than is currently available, and that this funding must come from the international community.

Currently, Jordan fills gaps in funding by raising taxes. Since the beginning of the crisis, Jordanians have seen a tax hike of more than 42 percent, particularly on consumer goods like clothes and cigarettes. But almost a fifth of the population remains unemployed. A third of Jordanians fall below the poverty line at least once a year. And Jordan’s public debt now tops $40 billion, more than 95% of the nation’s GDP.

Jordanians cannot afford to pay higher taxes, and their protests have prompted resignations of Jordanian officials. But Jordan is also being forced to cut essential services for refugees. Just a few short months before the amnesty policy was announced, the Ministry of Health slashed healthcare subsidies for Jordan that were reportedly costing upwards of $2.2 billion a year.

The international community is supposed to ease Jordan’s financial strain by providing foreign aid and funding the UN and other international aid organizations. Yet, although the World Bank estimated that the 2016 cost of hosting Syrian refugees would top $2.5 billion, donors at the London conference pledged just $700 million in annual grants, and even limited funding promises too often go unmet.

Which is insanely short-sighted. Jordan needs international help, led by the U.S., to ensure not only that refugees receive the support they need, but also that the government remains stable. Political unrest in Amman could plunge the rest of the region into chaos, resulting in more volatility and more refugees in ways that will further challenge U.S. interests.

If we’re not willing to welcome refugees here, we need to be committed to supporting them there. Because if we can’t help them, as we learned in Europe seventy years ago, it’s not a failure of their morality – it’s a failure of ours.

By Stanley Weiss., a global mining executive and founder of the Washington-based Business Executives for National Security. His memoir, “Being Dead is Bad for Business”,  is available online and a collection of his selected writings, titled “Where have you gone, Harry Truman?” is available at major book outlets and on line as well.

Posted in Op-Ed's in Major Publications | Comments Off on What Jordan’s Refuge Crisis can teach the rest of the world

Anti-Trump Protests in London a Bust

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Ted Malloch: Live from Londonthe heart of London we see the fact.

The Trump protest was a real bust. It is damp, no wet, and all the placards have been thrown away. It rained on the crazy parade.

Protesters shouted, banged drums and waved placards at what organizers called a “Carnival of Resistance” in Trafalgar Square while Prime Minister Theresa May held talks with Trump a short distance away at her Number 10 Downing Street residence.
The crowd was way smaller than expected.

The crowd, if that’s what you call it, is only a few thousand mostly angry misanthropes,

Trotskyite Labour supporters and jihadis, like the terrorist supporting mayor of London, Sad Khan, who detests Trump so much he floats a baby balloon over his city rife with crime while attacking Trump as a misyogist, etc. etc.

One statue depicted Trump on a golden toilet. Very classy.

Khan is a belligerent Muslim who has been photographed with known terrorist groups and seems more intent on Pakistani power and multiculturalism than benefitting the citizens of the great country still called — Great Britain.

He is a “stone cold loser” in Trump’s tweet and lacks taste, decorum or any diplomatic grace whatsoever. He is also small.

Trump should, given the mayor’s notorious behavior have his name added to the No-Fly List since he despises America so much.

The loony, bearded Labour leader, Jermyn Corbyn, who is left of left and a Trotskyite Marxist who wants to nationalize the economy, tax the rich to death, and leave NATO, is so anti-American that he even refused to meet Trump as the holder of the US presidency which is customary.

He would not even attend his own Queen’s State dinner. Oh, he wants to do away with her, as well.

After what can only be called a smashing success at the State Banquet last night at Buckingham Palace where all the stops came out, today’s meeting with the failed Prime Minister Theresa May and her officials was a drop off.

She has just TWO days left in office.

The bigger event is tomorrow at Portsmouth, where the
D-Day ceremonies will commemorate the 75th anniversary of America and Allied victory on the beaches on Normandy against Nazi Germany.

Maybe the Left can protest that, too?

Without American blood, might and support there would no freedom at all in Britain or across Europe for that matter.

No one seems to want to remember that.

Except the Queen — who extolled America last evening in her wonderful toast.

FOX News reporter Benjamin Hall made the same assessment this morning.

Posted in Op-Ed's in Major Publications | Comments Off on Anti-Trump Protests in London a Bust

MEASURING PERFORMANCE: New Data Shows Absolute Economic Destruction During Obama Years

Friday, May 31, 2019

by Assistant Editor May 30, 2019

Guest post by Dr. Ted Malloch, author of Davos, Aspen and Yale

The Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis just released this single snapshot of economic performance over the Obama years.

What do you see?

(Sorry, files not transferable) visit: https://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2019/05/measuring-performance-new-data-shows-absolute-economic-destruction-during-obama-years/

His eight years did more to destroy America than any of past presidents, be they Democrat or Republican.

Look and study these few charts:

Student loans exploded and are a literal time bomb ticking away at he millennial generation.

Food stamps soared as poverty dramatically increased.

Federal debt went through the roof as we added more debt than all other previous periods combined.

We printed lots of money to paper over the monetary effects.

Health costs went way up when we were told they would drop. Obama care was a flop.

Labor force participation went down as unemployment increased and many just dropped out of the workplace altogether.

Inequality went up and up, as the rich got richer and the middle class shrank.

Median income dropped.

Home ownership also fell way down.

Overall, Americans were far worse off than before and we were told there was NO hope.

The country was losing to China and our children and grandchildren would not live as well as their parents and grandparents had.

Jobs would never return.

Now look at what has happened in the short years since Donald J. Trump was surprisingly elected President.

YOU CALL IT A TOTAL TURNAROUND.

Even the Clinton’s knew: “It is the economy stupid” that gets you reelected.

We cannot go back to Democrat or socialist economics.

Economic growth at 3% solves lots of problems and serves up a true wealth effect.

Everyone benefits, especially minorities, women and youth.

Hope returns.

Which do you want?

Which does America deserve?

Posted in Op-Ed's in Major Publications | Comments Off on MEASURING PERFORMANCE: New Data Shows Absolute Economic Destruction During Obama Years