Best columns: Europe
Tweeting can land you behind bars
A top Spanish rapper is going to prison for his tweets, said La Razón. The Supreme Court has overturned a lower court’s acquittal of César Strawberry for “glorifying terrorism” and “humiliating victims” in a series of tweets from 2013 and 2014. Strawberry, frontman of the polemical rap-rock group Def Con Dos, had tweeted that a prison guard kidnapped by the Basque terrorist group ETA in 1996 and held for a year and a half should be “kidnapped again.” He also said he wanted to send a “cake bomb” to the king of Spain for his birthday. The Supreme Court ruled Strawberry had caused ETA victims to relive painful memories, and therefore he deserved a year behind bars. But even ETA victims say they are opposed to the draconian sentence. The authorities seem to be coming down hard on the rapper because of the criticism they got for going easy on Guillermo Zapata, a Madrid city councilman who in 2011 tweeted a Holocaust joke about how to fit millions of Jews in a single car. You could call that tweet glorifying genocide, but Zapata wasn’t charged with a crime. Strawberry clearly is not a member of a terrorist group. Locking him away does not make Spain safer. In punishing political speech, it makes all of us less free.
Why we’ll lose to U.S. on trade
The British people will be the losers in the coming trade deal with the U.S., said Ed Conway, and it’s not because President Trump is such a great negotiator. There has always been “a strain of mercantilism running through the American bloodstream.” The Americans wrongly assume that if another country sells them more goods than it buys from them, they are losing and the foreigners are winning. Our American cousins are obsessed with their slice of the pie, ignoring the fact that free trade would make the whole pie bigger for everyone. Prime Minister Theresa May now says she wants to strike an equitable trade deal with the U.S. when the U.K. leaves the European Union, but the world’s only superpower will surely have the upper hand in these negotiations and ask for more than it will give. So would we allow U.S. healthcare firms to run parts of the National Health Service? “Are GM crops welcome on our supermarket shelves?” Can U.S. educational firms set up schools here? Do we harmonize our regulations with those of the U.S. and dump the EU-written regulations we’ve used for years? And if we do that, what would it mean for our exports to Europe, which are still worth far more than those that cross the pond? “You see how tricky this will get.”
How Kushner let down the Jews
Allison Kaplan Sommer
“Shame on you, Jared Kushner,” said Allison Kaplan Sommer. The Orthodox Jewish husband of Ivanka Trump put his reputation on the line last year when he defended his father-in-law against accusations of anti-Semitism. Then–presidential candidate Donald Trump had retweeted a meme that featured a photo of Hillary Clinton next to a Star of David and a pile of cash. Writing in the New York Observer, which he owned, Kushner described his grandmother Rae Kushner’s “harrowing ordeal” in Nazi-occupied Poland and how she lost much of her family in the Holocaust. This background, he wrote, gave him the ability to recognize true intolerance, of which his father-in-law was not guilty. Since Kushner used his Holocaust legacy to promote Trump, it’s fair “to force him to confront the way in which he is now party to inflicting his grandmother’s suffering on others.” The administration in which Kushner serves as a senior adviser has “slammed shut the doors of the U.S. in the faces of vulnerable refugees.” One detail missing from Kushner’s article: Rae and her family were denied entry to the U.S. in the mid-1930s. Had they been allowed in, his relatives might not have been slaughtered. “Gone is any sense of pride” Jews felt at seeing a U.S. president’s family celebrate Shabbat. We now feel shame, “and so should Jared.”
Bringing back our most brutal police force
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Is President Rodrigo Duterte trying to look like a colonial-era dictator? asked the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Having been forced to call off his murderous crackdown on drug users and dealers after rogue police officers kidnapped and strangled a South Korean businessman, Duterte has now decided to go after the bad apples in law enforcement by reviving an abolished paramilitary force: the Philippine Constabulary. “History has not looked kindly on the PC.” Founded by American colonial authorities in 1901, it had an “anti- Filipino role” during the early years of the U.S. occupation and was later used as a “blunt tool of coercion” by President Ferdinand Marcos, who imposed martial law from 1972 to 1981. Duterte claims that the current national police force is “corrupt to the core” and therefore he must create a new, elite unit to police them. Because our constitution allows for only a single police force, he says he will reactivate the constabulary as a military unit empowered to take on misbehaving police. In effect, “he is ready to let one armed group wage war on another.” This is “reckless beyond belief.” We already have a way to rein in corrupt officers—by arresting and prosecuting them, not shooting them.