Trump a candidate for Nobel Appease Prize?

Remember Lucy pulling the football away just as Charlie Brown was about to kick it? Imagine if Charlie Brown,  instead of being dejected,  ran around the field with his arms stretched high shouting  that he had just kicked the winning field goal.  North Korea’s nuclear threat is gone!! We can now all sleep easily. Mission accomplished!!  Peace in our time!!  That’s Donald Trump’s message  in the wake of the Singapore summit, notwithstanding  The Washington Post’s masterful  compilation of  all the president’s recent fabulist claims.

After months of bellicose rhetoric that frightened the world, it clearly is better that the two mercurial leaders gather to talk genially about creating more peaceful relations. For that we – and millions of Koreans—should be grateful.  One can also appreciate that, in the summit run-up, three hostages were released without facing the fate of Oscar Warmbeir.  But carefully choreographed events aside, the unmistakable message —including the vague wording of the closing statement–  is that Kim got most everything he wanted  and the Master of the Deal got snookered bigly.

That’s the same Trump who excoriated Obama for the Iran nuclear agreement, which included specific verifiable measures, because Obama and his negotiators – unlike Trump- didn’t gleefully prattle on about trusting their Persian adversary. When Ronald Reagan dealt with the Russians, he admonished, “trust but verify.”  None of that applied here.

Prior to the Singapore summit, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States would insist upon a North Korean commitment to “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization.” But photo op-hungry Trump was satisfied with a gauzy undefined commitment toward “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula, without any “verifiable” or “irreversible” measures. Nothing about North Korea freezing plutonium and uranium programs, destroying intercontinental ballistic missiles, allowing inspectors to return to nuclear sites, nothing about North Korea making a full declaration of its nuclear program, nothing about a timetable, verification, nor even any clear pledge to permanently halt testing of nuclear weapons or long-range missiles.

Kim merely “reaffirmed” the same commitment to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula that North Korea has repeatedly made since 1992, notably in the US-North Korea declarations from 1993 and 2005, both of which were breached.

To make matters worse, Trump, apparently without consulting South Korean and Japanese allies, offered troop reductions and a freeze in military exercises—which—sounding like a North Korean propagandist– he disparagingly called  “war games” “expensive” and “provocative”  These concessions long sought by Kim and his Chinese benefactors yielded nothing of substance in return. Surely any negotiator worth the title would have extracted more.

Meanwhile Kim got the international recognition he and other North Korean leaders have long craved. His nation’s flags standing beside Old Glory in equal number, he was elevated to the same stage, with identical pomp and circumstance and interacted with the so-called leader of the free world as a nuclear power peer. More international rock star than Hermit Kingdom pariah butcher, he took selfies in Sheldon Adelson’s Marina Bay Sands Hotel with the Singaporean foreign minister. Kim’s only conciliatory gesture was politely telling Trump in English. “Nice to meet you Mr. President,” while Trump, often tongue tied in his own language, responded lamely with a grin and a thumbs up.  Yecchh!

Sorely disappointed were any who thought Trump should raise human rights concerns or at least not appear to legitimize on the world stage Kim’s forced labor gulags, mass executions, planned starvation, and other atrocities. Though it seemed impossible for our moron-in-chief to make matters worse, he then appeared on Fox and dismissed North Korea’s and Kim Jong Un’s human rights violations, saying,  “Hey, he’s a tough guy… a very smart guy. He’s a great negotiator.” When pressed further, Trump responded: “Yeah, but so have other people done some really bad things. I could go through a lot of nations where a lot of bad things were done.”

Trump could have used the summit to extract a confidence-building gesture to provide United Nations access to his forced labor camps, which could have boosted the credibility of Kim’s pledge to denuclearize. Instead, our president just found another authoritarian leader to admire.

At best, the Singapore  accord is an opportunity to continue discussions building on a declaration  lacking in timetables  or specific steps to verify amorphous commitments. Complete denuclearization may never  be achievable, but constraining the North Korean threat is a worthwhile goal.  But this task will be made harder if, as Trump naively boasts, our national stance is that the North Korean nuclear threat is now passe.’ American pressure to tighten sanctions decreases and  pressure from other countries—notably China– to  loosen sanctions increases.  It is way too soon to put up the “Mission Accomplished” banner.

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The war of the roses

Candide says, “We must cultivate our garden,” and it’s all the more important today as an escape from Donald Trump and the malevolent cacophony he brews. My garden is one reason I shall never move out of our house.  But, really, how does my garden grow?  The answer rests with Peter Rabbit. And Brer Rabbit, Roger Rabbit, Bugs Bunny, and Predator Bunny.  They are intent on destroying my floral sanctuary. And I am just as determined to stop them.

The rabbits relish young shoots, but the foundation for their food pyramid comprises hostas, lilies, and azaleas of any age.  (Whatever the varmints can’t reach on the azaleas, the deer will top off.) Most exasperating is the bunnies’ predilection for roses.

You’d think the thorns would deter them. But they don’t. Hybrid teas. David Austins. Floribundas. Doesn’t matter.  And they amplify damage they inflict chomping on leaves by bracing themselves on lower branches, breaking and leaving them, slain victims on the battlefield.

And war it is. We’ve tried predator pee, which has the side effect of attracting coyotes. Enviro-friendly Repels-All, made of dried blood, egg solids and garlic oil. Liquid Fence, and granular Rabbit Scram, bought in 25-pound drums.  The white-tails hesitated, then signaled, “Bring it on.”  Our most recent effort is Nature’s Mace. Encouraged by the name, we’re into our second drum, the company’s liquid concentrate our remaining back-up weapon.

We’ve tried solar-powered motion detectors, which emit blue light and sounds to scare off the long-eared beasts.  Neighborhood dogs hold back, but not Thumper. This year we’ve planted a Maginot line of perennial geraniums, whose odor repels rabbits. We’re in wait-and-see mode.

We’ve tried garlic, but never found it discouraged garden pests. Take my many attempts to grow tomatoes in pots on our deck. The squirrels and chipmunks would take a bite from each of several tomatoes and leave the others with gaping wounds. A friend suggested garlic cloves in the sprinkling can would help.  After evening watering, garlic cloves would cover the soil. By morning, the pieces would be flung brazenly across the deck, and the tomatoes would be chewed. Next strategy? Garlic powder.  No more luck.  The back of the house smelled like marinara sauce all summer.  By autumn, the cost of the yield averaged $17 per tomato.

For years, the rabbits’ evening itinerary had them checking in around five o’clock for hors d’oeuvres and appetizers.  I’d be standing at my kitchen window aggravated by their audacity.  By end of summer, some are large enough to put saddles on. Sometimes I grab a spray bottle of repellent, run out to my deck and chase after them.  “Take that, you little bastards,” I scream.  They disappear into the neighbor’s yard but return within minutes.  I’m mortified to think the neighbors overhear me haranguing the herd.

I gaze at my garden and admire what’s left of it, the begonias, rhododendron, peonies and daisies. But, wait, who’s that rustling the leaves of young lilies?  Not again. I look to the right. I look to the left.  Which weapon to choose?

This time I head for my office, looking in the closet for my old Rolodex.  Goldman. Governor. Greater Boston Legal Services. Ah, there it is. Gun Owners Action League. 508-393-5333. Maybe this will be the ultimate solution.

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Hand-held cell phone ban for drivers long overdue

I had the right-of-way at 12:30 one day last week, protected by a Yield sign facing cars entering the main road.  Already I can hear you laughing, as in, c’mon, girl. Do you really trust Yield signs? Well, no. But what was particularly irritating about this violator – woman in black SUV, MA license plate 585  DH5, was that, in addition to ignoring the Yield sign, she was obstructing her view of my car because her left elbow was on the window edge and her hand held her cell phone to her ear. She blissfully proceeded, ignorant of everything but herself and the person at the other end of the phone.  If I hadn’t been paranoid and yielded to her, I would have been injured or dead or, at least, dealing with insurance adjusters and body shops.

I started writing about this in 2015, when a Portugese bakery truck nearly ran me off the road in the same kind of situation. The time is long overdue for Massachusetts to ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. The Senate has passed the measure twice, only to have it killed in the House through indifference.  Even Governor Baker, facing increased numbers of accidents due to distracted driving, has reportedly come around to supporting the proposal to require hands-free phones.

As I noted years ago, my former WCVB-TV colleague David Ropeik,  a risk analyst affiliated with Harvard, maintains that hands-free phones are even more dangerous because they create a false sense of security and don’t minimize our distraction.  That’s counter-intuitive to me.  If a driver’s phone hand is not blocking his view of other cars, that’s slightly safer than the bakery truck driver or the woman in the SUV.

Sure, the issue is distracted driving more broadly.  Distractions like  putting on lipstick, sipping coffee, changing radio stations, checking the kids in the back seat, even consulting a GPS.  But inability to eliminate all distractions shouldn’t distract us from controlling a few that would make a real difference in our safety.

House Speaker Bob DeLeo is cool to the hand-held cell phone ban, reportedly because he fears racial profiling. If the cellphone ban were subject to primary enforcement, so police could pull you over for an infraction rather than enforcing the ban only while stopping you for some other violation, the argument is the police would pull over disproportionate numbers of minorities. State Rep. Byron Rushing, a member of the leadership, is vocal on that, and even opposes making failure to wear a seat belt a matter for primary enforcement for the same reason.

There are legitimate concerns.  The ACLU constantly fights the racial profiling under the pretext of traffic violations so police can do more invasive searches for which there is no probable cause. Aware of that concern, the Senate bill would require review of race and ethnicity data in the enforcement of the ban. According to Boston Globe writer Adam Vaccaro, a 2016 Globe analysis found minority status of drivers cited for texting while driving mirrored the state’s demographics.

A February 2018 poll released by MassINC revealed that 79 percent of Massachusetts residents support a ban on the use of hand-held cell phones, with an exception for emergencies. Only 16 percent opposed.  Interestingly, nearly as many supported a ban on pedestrians using their phones while crossing the streets, but that class of stupid walkers is a subject for another day.

Naysayers see this as overreach, the long arm of the law reaching into our personal space. But to me drivers who are holding their cell phones up to their ears while talking, blocking their ability to see other cars, are driving to endanger.  Obviously, shaming isn’t enough to change their habits.  Maybe having to cough up real money in fines would be more persuasive.

Reporter Vaccaro quotes the House Speaker as saying the ban is still “under consideration.”  If you want to up the ante on that level of passivity, call Bob DeLeo’s office at 617-722-2500.  Record yourself in favor of aligning Massachusetts with the 16 other states that have already protected us from drivers like the oblivious woman in the black SUV.   Drivers using hand-held cell phones and moving vehicles are a lethal combination.

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NFL kicks off unpatriotic national anthem policy

photo USA today

The NFL has taken a knee in craven obeisance to the man Illinois war hero Senator Tammy Duckworth calls “Cadet Bone Spurs.”  And Chuck Todd greeted his Meet the Press audience with a cheery “Happy Memorial Day,” reinforcing how synthetic and shallow our sense of patriotism and national remembrance have become.

More people obsess about big-ticket holiday sales and start-of-summer traffic jams than remember Flanders Fields and other battlefields symbolized by red poppies. For years, taxpayer dollars have underwritten “paid patriotism” marketing campaigns, flyovers and flag drapings at NFL games, fostering a counterfeit love of country among players and spectators.

President Trump now suggests national anthem protesters should not even be in this country, ignoring the freedoms many Americans died to preserve and the rights of full citizenship he would happily deny to even those here legally. Wonder what he would have said three years ago if white NFL players had taken a knee during the anthem to protest Obamacare’s individual mandate?

The debate over the NFL’s new anthem policy was never about honoring the flag or real patriotism. It was always about politics, distraction, votes and money.

QB Colin Kaepernick went from sitting to kneeling so as not to disrespect the flag or those who faithfully respond to the pre-game ritual. The object of his protest, the number of unarmed black people being killed by police, would have received less public attention from the millions in the largely white audience had he and fellow players demonstrated against police injustice outside police stations around the country.

Protests are designed to make people uncomfortable and think.  They annoy fans and viewers who prefer to ignore the issue, especially when indulging in entertainment,  along with owners fearing possible revenue loss.  By late last season, cameras turned away and the number of protesting players dwindled. They had made their point as best they could, and there were diminishing returns from sustaining the kneel-downs.

But polls showing a sharp racial division on the protests offered an enticing opportunity for our cynical race-baiting commander-in-chief. Jumping in and attacking “the sons of bitches,” he could gin up his base and distract public debate from more pressing issues. He craftily changed the focus of the debate and the easily-distracted media followed the shiny object.

Did the NFL think its new policy would make the matter go away? It has allowed itself to be weaponized anew by “Cadet Bone Spurs” and his vice president, who proclaimed the decision a “stunning victory for President Trump.”

The League could have used last year’s protests as a chance to address the problem of unwarranted police violence toward blacks. After all, following high-profile incidents of NFL players brutalizing women, the NFL, concerned about losing female fans, spent millions on public service advertising against domestic violence and sexual assault.

Couldn’t Commissioner Goodell and team owners underwrite a similar national awareness campaign promoting better relations between law enforcement and communities of color? Encourage companies and organizations to launch pilot programs supported by teams in cities with NFL franchises?  Provide free tickets and concession food to police officers and black residents to attend games together?  As a Cincinnati sportswriter wrote: “Nothing says police-community relations like flashing video of a kid and a cop sharing a hot dog and soda on the jumbotron a few dozen times during a game.”

Will any of this happen? Unlikely. Respect for the flag was never the issue. How many NFL team concession stands are closed for sales during the national anthem? Requiring players to stay in their locker rooms or face fines is a restriction of speech, both that of the demonstrating players, and, if we correctly read the Supreme Court’s reasoning in Citizens United, the right of the audience to hear their protest, silent or otherwise.

The argument that NFL teams are private employers and, unlike government, have the right to restrict employee speech would be more persuasive if teams were not such eager hustlers for tax dollars for publicly financed stadiums and other benefits. So to those who argue players should sue the NFL for abridgment of their free speech rights, I say go ahead, but realize that litigating this issue now will likely be twisted to Trump’s advantage.

There are better ways to redress the power imbalance where 94% of  owners are white and 70 percent of the players are black. NFL players have one of the worst collective bargaining agreements in sports, and they weren’t even consulted before owners made their anthem decision. Better to fight back against a plantation mentality by threatening to strike if a better agreement isn’t negotiated. The daunting CTE problem could give players added leverage. Meanwhile, those concerned about these matters can do their part by boycotting NFL paraphernalia or even looking elsewhere for their entertainment.

This summer is the 50th anniversary of  Tommie Smith and John Carlos, gold and bronze medal winners in the 200-meter dash, raising their fists in a black power salute during Olympic ceremonies in Mexico City. They were booed then, but honored today.  Fifty years from now, history may heap scorn on Donald Trump and his NFL-owner sycophants.

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Gonzalez brings liberal gubernatorial campaign to Newton

The nickname for any Massachusetts Secretary of Administration and Finance is “Deputy Governor.”  Jay Gonzalez, A & F Secretary under Governor Deval Patrick, wants to remove the “deputy.”   He’s working hard to defeat lifelong activist and minister Bob Massie in the September Democratic primary and go on to beat Governor Charlie Baker (himself a former A & F Secretary) in the November election.  Gonzalez is clearly a long shot, running against an incumbent with the highest favorability rating (71 percent approval) of any governor in the country.

Massie, channeling Bernie Sanders,  has attacked Gonzalez for being old-school, out of step with progressive values. The characterization doesn’t square with what I heard from Gonzalez last Thursday, and the two seem lock-step on the issues.

Gonzalez spoke to a group of Newton Democrats, his tenth such appearance in a city where he acknowledges he is spending a disproportionate amount of time. No surprise, the modest crowd received him warmly, and the reason is clear:  they share a liberal agenda on a wide range of issues, including a living wage, affordable housing, quality public education, smooth-functioning public transportation, paid family medical leave, single-payer health insurance, gun safety, opioid crisis, and affordable day care. No one asked Gonzalez the cost of his program.

The widely held perception is that Charlie Baker is a really good guy, who’s doing a decent job. But is that enough? Gonzalez thinks not.  The challenger gives a highly polished, obviously oft-practiced introductory speech, highly energized and sharply critical.  “Of course you can be popular if you don’t do anything.”

Gonzalez offers an ambitious progressive program so, he says, Massachusetts can actually be a leader again. Gonzalez says that Trump has “lowered the bar so far that we are relieved by mediocrity.”  But he decries what he sees as Baker’s failure to lead. He cites the accomplishments of the Patrick administration that, even in times of financial crisis, focused on upgrading investments in education and infrastructure and received a AAA bond rating.  Baker, by contrast, in good economic times, has seen that bond rating lowered for the first time in 30 years and has not made good on his promise of good management skills.

I like Charlie Baker, but there are legitimate concerns. Under his leadership, for example, the state Department of Revenue suffered a concerning data breach, allowing personal information of thousands who pay child support to go to companies at which they do not work.  The DOR also made personal data from tens of thousands of companies available to other companies, some of them competitors. The Registry of Motor Vehicles and the state police have also been in disarray, albeit for different reasons.  The MBTA hasn’t made the strides we had hoped for.  The Revenue Department and the environmental agencies have been dogged by stories of crony hiring.

Teflon Charlie tends to respond to what would have been dubbed “scandals” in another administration by saying he, too, is “frustrated” and “irritated” by them.  Don’t we have a right to expect more? Ironically, one of the main reasons for dissatisfaction with Baker is precisely that he seems to lack passion and vision.  Deval Patrick had plenty of passion, charisma and vision, but a less proportionate amount of managerial skills (remember the Division of Children and Families’ crisis?). It was Baker’s vaunted management skills that helped him eke out a 1.9 percent margin victory over Democrat Martha Coakley in 2014.

Baker comes across as thoughtful and deliberate, occasionally to the point of reticence.  He is a strong believer in building initiatives from the grassroots up, getting buy-in from local governments and individuals before declaring himself programmatically.  He calls his approach a “distributed decision making model.”  That approach, adopted consistently, leaves a lot of political capital on the table.

One case in point is the UMass Amherst acquisition of the bankrupt Mt. Ida campus in Newton.  At a recent New England Council meeting, I asked Governor Baker about the proper state response.  He expressed compassion for the students and families left high and dry by Mt. Ida, something with which few might disagree, but he ducked the issue of state responsibility and didn’t address the plight of UMass Boston.

When I put the same question to Gonzalez, he echoed concern for the Mt. Ida community but decried the inequality allowing UMass Amherst to spend $75 million for the  satellite when, just ten miles away, UMass Boston struggles with crumbling infrastructure and debt.  That, says Gonzalez, is treating UMB’s 16,000 students, a majority minorities, as second-class citizens. A nice rhetorical point, but Gonzalez, like Baker, failed to provide any specific solution.  This election will test where our chief executive is on the spectrum between vision and passion on one end and managerial competence and practical expertise on the other.

However reasonable the case Gonzalez makes against Baker, it’s a tall order to defeat an incumbent, especially when that incumbent is the nation’s most popular governor and has an enormous war chest. (Baker has $8 million; Gonzalez, $144,000; and Massie, $18,000.) Massachusetts has a long tradition of electing Republicans to the corner office, perhaps as a comforting check on the overwhelmingly Democratic state legislature. We can all benefit if the race provides us a serious debate about the hard issues we face and what more we should expect the governor to do in solving them.

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Saving equal access to the internet

Net neutrality isn’t just an issue for millennials and techies. The Federal Communications Commission’s December decision to change the rules governing access to the internet will affect us all. Your eyes glazing over? Our attitudes won’t be so “whatever” come June 11th when the change takes effect and internet service providers like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast can start to block, slow down and charge more for internet content to some users.  Ending a mandate to provide internet access fairly to all will affect our pocketbooks and our ease of using the internet.

Consumers may have to pay more for higher speed access, worsening the digital divide between rich and poor. Certain programming could come at a higher cost.  The internet and worldwide web would no longer be viewed as the public utility they surely have become in our internet age. Equal access was codified by Obama-era regulations. Obama’s name virtually guarantees that Donald Trump will reverse that protection.

The internet was originally designed as a way for universities to share information. And then it became the intellectual lifeblood of our nation and the world.  Our tax dollars supported university-based researchers through Defense Department and National Science Foundation grants.  Those efforts, viewed as a public good, led to a technological revolution, an explosion of economic activity, and a global embrace that has changed the human condition.

The importance of equal access cannot be underestimated. The public understands that and is strongly opposed  to the Trump administration’s sabotaging of that principle.  All of which explains why Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey and others have called for a vote next week to reverse the December three-to-two FCC ruling and preserve net neutrality.

“Half of all venture capital in the United States went to internet-specific and software related companies.  That’s who we are,” said Markey, stressing the importance of net neutrality.  Thirty-four percent of all jobs in Massachusetts are in the tech sector.

Markey resolved to use the Congressional Review Act to overturn imminent discriminatory pricing of internet access. Under the Act Congress may reject any proposed federal regulation with a simple majority vote. A voted is expected this week. He claims support by all the Democrats plus Susan Collins, with other possible Republicans willing to join in. But even if Markey gets the Senate to approve his resolution, there’s still the matter of the House and the President. There’s little hope there.

Some parts of the country have just one internet service provider. Given the lack of competition among ISPs, it’s not as if we can reject discriminatory pricing and take our business elsewhere. We don’t want to permit ISP’s  to block content to apps they don’t own  or slow down access to users unable to pay higher prices to be in the fast lane. We don’t want to empower ISP’s to censor websites of organizations involved in controversial social movements. Nor do we want providers to be able to quash opportunities for innovation. The possible scenarios are dire.

Net neutrality has broad public support. But the public has not spent the half a billion dollars that Verizon, Comcast and AT&T have put into lobbying the FCC.

Our best hope may be the 22 state attorneys general who are challenging the FCC ruling in court, but the leader of that coalition, New York’s Eric Schneiderman stepped down last week under charges of sexual assault. Others, like MA Attorney General Maura Healy, have to push hard and ensure that internet access is something that everyone has a right to use. There are lots of legal maneuvers left for supporters of net neutrality.  Clearer understanding of what’s at stake could help inform voters in the mid-term elections.

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Iran: Trump kills Plan A without a Plan B

The creepiest image from Donald Trump’s announcement that he was withdrawing from the Iran deal was new NSA chief John Bolton’s looming presence as the president exited the podium. It’s too soon to tell whether Bolton will get the Iran war and regime change he has lusted after, but Israelis were told to open bomb shelters  on Tuesday. Wednesday they were shot at by Iranian missiles  from the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. Today Israel retaliated, all signs there could be serious consequences to what CNN’s Christiane Amanpour described as “possibly the greatest deliberate act of self-harm and self sabotage in geostrategic politics in the modern era.”

In 2015, Israel had considered preemptively bombing nuclear targets in Iran, but hesitated in part because President Obama wouldn’t provide bunker-busting planes and ordnance to soften up the strikes.  Now PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s  jingoist braying and deceptive use of outdated Iranian documents has effectively manipulated Trump. Our infuriating President,  against the advice of both American and Israeli intelligence and military,  but egged on by the Amen chorus led by the Sheldon Adelson wing of the GOP  and like-minded Saudis and UAEs,  is goading Iranians and their allies to make matters worse.

We shouldn’t be surprised if Netanyahu, to distract from his political corruption issues, stages a wag-the-dog attack to boost his right wing coalition. Stay tuned for more Iran-inspired violence. It would be ominous if Russia were to give Syria advanced air defense missiles to undermine Israel air dominance.   Trump’s touted Middle East peace process can hardly be served by his destabilizing the region and abdicating responsibility in Syria.

There was never any question that Iran has been a bad actor using its oil revenues to support terrorist groups, just as it dissembled about its nuclear weapon practices. “The Iranians lie. They cheat,” said former CIA director Michael Hayden said. “That’s why you need to have the best possible verification regime in place.” The deal was far from perfect, but that intrusive oversight is now gone.

Instead of moving forward with a carefully calibrated strategic engagement, we’re rewarding Iranian hardliners and punishing the moderates, including the burgeoning well-educated cohort of young people who are eager to engage with Western culture and business opportunities, and build a future at odds with the theocratic oppression imposed by their aging leaders. But they are proud nationalists who will likely unite with their ideological opposites in the face of new sanctions.

With Trump’s breaking the deal, Iran could return immediately to producing nuclear bomb building materials, fuel and warheads. Or it could hold back for a while and try to effect some new arrangement with the Europeans, Chinese and Russians.  But  punitive sanctions began immediately, with implementation delays for some now doing business with Iran, and sooner or later we will be at loggerheads with our allies who want to continue to honor the  deal.

It’s nice that three Americans held by the North Koreans are now free. The odds that any of the at least five American hostages in Iran will be released any time soon just got a lot worse. And breaking our word with the Iranians is likely to make a sustainable agreement with the North Koreans, including verifiable safeguards, that much more difficult.  Such will be the price of another Trump crisis of convenience.

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