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The Open Era

You see where the line is between a good tennis player and an Immortal in the first round match between former No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Rogerio Dutra-Silva on the Philippe-Chatrier Stade at Paris’s Roland Garros the other day.

The Brazilian, a veteran player ranked in the top 100 won some excellent points and broke the 2016 champion to even the score at 4-4 in the third set, his last chance to make a serious stand in the first round of this year’s Internationaux de France, aka French Open. Djokovic broke right back, then held serve at 15 and that was that, three sets to nought.

It was a fine match, even as seen on TV, but nothing to write home about. Anyway we would not be writing home because due to certain circumstances involving the law firm of Jauvert & Jauvert, TAS can only provide some long-distance analysis this year, but never mind the details. The question here is: is the great Serb ace back?

The question is pertinent because every tennis commentator queried by Tennis, the voice of the American tennis establishment, says defending champion Rafael Nadal will repeat, on the rational theory no one can beat him. A non-scientific survey of the international sporting press offers the same consensus. Djokovic, one of the few able to beat Nadal, has been in a prolonged slump worsened by an elbow injury requiring surgery as the season began.

With the loss in five sets by 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka to a stubborn and solid Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Nadal has last year’s finalist out of the way. He is leading a tough and able Simone Bolelli by two sets when play is adjourned on Chatrier due to rain. The Italian is up 3-0 in the third, but these rain delays usually favor the champ, who uses them to recharge is fierce competitive drive.

And with the defection due to injury of Australia’s bad boy tennis genius Nick Kyrgios, he has one less of the up-and-coming young men to worry over. He has been in fantastic form, taking titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and Rome to prepare his title defense. Like LeBron James on the basketball court, like Mike Trout (Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, you know what I mean) on the mound, Rafa Nadal is the King. At least on clay. In tennis, surfaces matter; the maestro, Roger Federer, has only one Coupe des Mousquetaires among his 20 Slam trophies.

Moreover, Federer, the Stan-da-Man of tennis in our era, is following last year’s strategy of sitting out the clay season the fresher to be on grass and during the North American summer hard-courts. (He won at Wimbledon, not at Flushing Meadows.) And Andy Murray is out, recovering from injuries that he hopes will be gone in time for the All-England in early July.

Injuries, age; recovery, youth. The beauty of this sport derives from the way it brings out the basics of life in stark simplicity. An individual sport, in which you are upfront and alone: you step up or you do not and there is no team to back you up — or a single star like LeBron James to bail out the team. It is, pace Andre Agassi’s famous quip, not like boxing; you do have to run and you cannot hide.

It is Nadal’s to lose this year, making it likely he will get an unprecedented 11th trophy in a single major tournament. His lean and hungry challengers have fallen short in the endurance tests that are unique to the Slam circuit, or succumbed under Nadal’s clay power game, designed, and perfected for the conditions produced by this surface (limestone and crushed brick, if you ever wondered).

So, not too much suspense here, though y’never know. American men have not done very well on clay in recent years, but Jared Donaldson won his first round match in five sets, showing good form, while Frances Tiafoe and Sam Querrey both have shots at reaching the second week; unfortunately they square off in the first round so only one will (maybe) do it. (Update: it goes to Querrey in three sets; Isner, before the rain, was up two against Tiafoe’s contemporary, Noah Rubin.)

On the women’s side, Venus Williams went down in the first round and her sister goes into action on Tuesday. They have two doubles titles here, Venus has never won the Coupe Lenglen, but Serena has done it three times. The defending champ, Jelena Ostapenko, lost her first round match on an injured foot. Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys easily got through to round two. They are best friends, there was a touching scene when Miss S. beat Miss K. at the final of the U.S. Open last September, real friendship. But still it is a lonely sport.

Ken Rosewall and Rod Laver returned to Roland-Garros 50 years ago, in the inaugural major of the Open era; “Muscles” prevailed over “Rocket” in the finals. He also took the doubles with his compatriot Fred Stolle. Outside the tournament, France was in some turmoil as the cultural revolt known as the May Events continued.

These have been the subject of rather dull retrospectives and remembrances for the past months; for all their charm, you have to admit the French have a predilection for editing their own history rather in the direction of fashion, which is annoying. The fashion is that in the grand scheme of things, the May Events were a Good Thing. As far as I can tell, their main effect was that the French stopped saying “vous” and also gave up on wearing ties and hats. For the past few years, they have been destroying their own grammar, abolishing the gender declensions that charmed (and tortured) students of their language.

The remembrance that came to my mind, perhaps by unconscious association with our Memorial Day weekend when we honor those who gave all for our freedom, was one that no one, to my knowledge, mentions in all the yak-yak. I had in mind a man named Maurice Grimaud. He was the police prefect of Paris, in effect the man responsible for security, and he was heavily handicapped by the fact that his forces were overwhelmingly outnumbered by the thousands of kids who had nothing better to do than skip class, block the entrances to the university so those who wanted to learn could not get in, and instead tear up the cobble stones of the old streets of the Latin Quarter and throw them at the cops, who exercised admirable restraint.

Grimaud, who died ten years ago after a long and distinguished career as a high civil servant, had put out the word that there was to be as little rough stuff as possible, which is why the “revolutionaries” had a field day and for the next half century have been able to compare themselves to the men women and children whom you see in Les Misérables, and who were mowed down by cannon and musket when protesting for actual real reasons, such as having nought to eat. In 1968, the enactors were bourgeois kids, playing at historical drama.

Detachments of CRS and gendarmes (police under military discipline but in this case under Grimaud’s authority) reinforced the Paris uniforms. These were for the most part working class and farm-region boys, young men who had served their country in the last years of the colonial wars and were not exactly impressed with tweed-wearing students who had avoided those bitter wars and had not grown up in the poverty that was still common in those years, yet had the gall to claim they spoke for the wretched of the earth. The young men working overtime to keep the city safe while others spouted verses from Mao and Trotsky must have wondered what future elites the country was going to have, but they kept their cool and, no doubt, had a sense of humor sorely lacking in the feverish brains of bourgeois Stalinists.

In one of the “iconic” photos of the time, the student leader Dany Cohn-Bendit is seen offering a mischievous grin to a stern looking gendarme (who on closer inspection is repressing a sly smile); this has gone down in history as a symbol of the “whole” “liberation” “movement” of the ’60s.

Cohn-Bendit was, in fact, one of the less ridiculous soixante-huitards (in English: hippies, or San Francisco Democrats). He was ferociously anti-communist; the Stalinists and Trotskyists hated him. They piggy-backed the protests he and his anarchist pals started against dorm restrictions on the university campus. But he himself knew he was using sex stuff to kick start the reverse potty training he gleefully wanted to spread all over society. This is why Charles de Gaulle, who was president at the time, referred to the events aschien-lit, dog s….

Dany said they were in it to oppose “imperialism” as well as dorm restrictions, meaning the Vietnam war. What did he know about the Vietnam war? He knew enough to admit, 50 years later, that even then he knew that in Vietnam, he would have ended before a firing squad. Instead, he has a seat in the European Parliament at Strasbourg. It is not clear what they do there, but they get nice perks.

As we know, the year 1968 began with a communist rampage in Vietnam. Known as the Tet offensive, it had as its objectives to shock public opinion in the U.S. and convince our “elites” the war was unwinnable; to hold territory long enough, in such provincial capitals as Hue, to mass-murder civic and intellectual leaders, as well as policemen, who might form the backbone of resistance to their imperialism; and to destroy the Viet Cong cadres in the South, whom the Northern Stalinists did not trust. Although American and South Vietnamese forces, despite taking terrible casualties, threw back the onslaught, these objectives were achieved.

Some commemoration. Better to remember that first Open tournament on the far west side of Paris, on a street named for Gordon Bennett, an American newspaper tycoon and, no doubt, a Yankee imperialist!

The post The Open Era appeared first on The American Spectator.

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The Playlist: George Clinton Reunites With Parliament, and 13 More New Songs

George Clinton reunites with Parliament for their first release together in 38 years, the new album “Medical Fraud Dogg.”CreditTheo Wargo/Getty Images for SESAC Every Friday, pop critics for The New York Times weigh in on the week’s most notable new …

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Spain’s government is on the verge of major upheaval

Most of the news out of Spain lately has centered on their problems with the runaway province of Catalonia and their secession-minded government. The recent Catalan elections didn’t alleviate that situation to speak of so trouble is still brewing in that region. But now, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has a new headache to contend with. Rajoy is the leader of the Popular Party (PP) leading the governing coalition in Parliament. Unfortunately, that party was just found guilty of financially benefitting from a massive graft scheme which channeled hundreds of thousands of dollars to their campaign coffers.

This has led the opposition Socialist Party to file a motion calling for a vote of no-confidence. If the motion carries and Rajoy loses the vote, he could be facing new elections two years early and an exit from his office. (Yahoo News)

Spain’s Socialist Party on Saturday pledged to hold new elections within months if its attempt to unseat Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy with a parliamentary no-confidence vote succeeds.

The country’s biggest opposition party, led by Pedro Sanchez, filed the motion seeking Rajoy’s ouster in the 350-seat lower house of parliament on Friday.

No date has been set for the vote, but the bid is being taken seriously in Madrid where a legislative election is not due for another two years.

The surprise move came a day after Rajoy’s Popular Party (PP) was found guilty of benefiting from illegal funds in a massive graft trial.

“The PP leadership is concerned and does not totally rule out that the number of votes needed to overturn the government could be found,” the La Razon newspaper, considered close to the PP, said on Saturday.

Here’s where things become additionally tricky for Rajoy. The PP coalition majority was never large to begin with and they’ve been losing ground lately. The corruption news sweeping the nation certainly won’t help that. In order to beat the vote of no-confidence, Rajoy may need to get the help of a new block of allies. But one of the only significant voting blocks up for grabs by either Rajoy’s PP or the Socialists is… guess who. The Catalan separatists and Basque nationalists.

How excited do you think the Catalan contingent will be about supporting Rajoy after he’s been busy throwing a bunch of their politicians in prison on charges of sedition following their independence referendum last year? If this motion to hold a vote of no-confidence goes through it’s expected to be tight, but there’s a very real chance that Rajoy could come out on the losing end. One other possibility is that new general elections could be called instead, and some of the other parties in Parliament are indicating they would prefer that choice to a vote in Parliament.

Of course, the last time Rajoy called for new elections they were only for Catalonia. That didn’t work out well for him at all. And after this new graft scandal, national elections might not go much better. It seems that the Spanish have joined the growing club of countries which have lived to see interesting times.

The post Spain’s government is on the verge of major upheaval appeared first on Hot Air.

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Malaysia’s New Leader Indicates Anti-Fake News Law to Stay

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‘It is you who are going to build tomorrow’s Armenia’ – Parliament speaker to school graduates

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Has the Iraqi presidency become a PUK slush fund? – AEI – American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

Political jockeying is well underway in Baghdad, as Iraqi political leaders seek the magic political formula which will enable formation of the Iraqi government. While a Shi’ite will take the premiership, Iraq’s most powerful post, the jockeying is on for other plum positions. Beyond key ministries—Foreign Affairs, Oil, and Defense, for example—two of the top prizes are the presidency and speakership of the parliament.

PUK Iraqi elections

Kurdish supporters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) celebrate after the closing of ballot boxes during the parliamentary election in Kirkuk, Iraq, May 12, 2018. Reuters

For nearly a decade after post-Saddam Iraq’s first elections in 2005, Jalal Talabani held the presidency. While the speakership is more powerful, the Kurds wanted the presidency for two reasons: First, was its symbolic value given the efforts by Arab nationalists in general and Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime in particular to deny Kurds’ cultural identity and their place as equal citizens in Iraq. And, second, a Kurdish presidency for Iraq neatly bypassed one of the bigger problems in Iraqi Kurdistan: the rivalry between Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader Masoud Barzani and Talabani, who broke away from the KDP in 1975 to form the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). If Talabani was in Baghdad, then Barzani could be the undisputed leader in Kurdistan.

That division continued after Talabani’s incapacitation and eventual death. Fuad Masum, a co-founder of the PUK and a long-time PUK functionary, succeeded Talabani as president in 2014. While Talabani made the most of the position—serving as a much needed intermediary among Iraq’s disparate political groups at a time of much tension and violence—Masum has largely been quiet and, on the Iraqi political scene, a complete non-entity.

His quiet, however, is expensive: In the last year, the Iraqi budget allocated the presidency about 51 billion Iraqi dinars, almost $43 million. While some of that covers salaries for immediate staff, at a time of austerity in Iraq caused by years of war and depressed oil prices, it is not clear how that money has been spent. In theory, the presidency is subject to annual audits of its spending and must provide receipts and open its books, but many Iraqis say this has not been done in several years, if ever. Instead, they accuse the PUK leadership of now using the presidency as a cash cow. While Iraqi politicians are prone to exaggeration, some Kurdish officials say that Masum takes home a $50,000 per month salary and Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, Talabani’s widow and controller of PUK finances, assumes control over the rest. In effect, the Iraqi presidency then becomes a slush fund to support the extravagant lifestyle of PUK leaders at a time when many Iraqi Kurds still do not receive full salaries or back pay.

What does this scheme mean for Iraq and the Kurds? Most Kurds voted on May 12 in the hope of achieving the most favorable partnership with the federal government in Baghdad. PUK negotiators, however, appear less interested in legislative influence and power than access to finances. This is why Kurdish negotiators seem so dead-set against swapping the presidency and speakership with members of the Sunni Arab community.

But even if the Kurds decide to push for the presidency, access to what has become a slush fund may be the primary motivation for the position, rather than the best position and a figure able to transform the honorifics of the post into a catalyst for communal peace and reconciliation. The KDP has put party above all else in its apparent push to put Fazil Mirani, a man with a checkered legal and moral past. But Mirani’s nomination is likely more a negotiating ploy than a serious push; Barzani can then extract concessions from the PUK elsewhere conceding. The PUK, meanwhile is reportedly pushing for Latif Rashid, Talabani’s brother-in-law, a move that would put the presidency’s budget even closer under family control.

Corruption is endemic in Iraq, and the election system makes it worse. While most Iraqis condemn corruption and seek to punish the corrupt at the polls, it is the corrupt party leaders which then put together a government based on the numbers of seats won. Instantly, their motivation shifts from change to protection of the status quo.

It is against this backdrop, then, that the Iraqi parliament, integrity commission, and all party leaders should insist that the right to audit be exercised, not only for the forthcoming administration but forensically for the Masum and Talabani administrations. Certainly, not even Qubad Talabani, younger son of the late president, should disagree given his frequent rhetoric about transparency. Simply put, the discrepancy between the official budget and the salaries of staff (at least those who are not ghost employees) appears too high by an order of magnitude. The Iraqi presidency should be about more than lining pockets of relatives or party leaders.

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