I have no idea how Luka Dončić, point guard for the Dallas Mavericks, got on this planet. I remember the image of this young 18-year-old champion when the Slovenian team won the European championship in 2017. I remember him from photos like the one above; I remember his joy and the forceful expression on his face. After the win in Ljubljana, Dončić went to play in Spain and then last year was drafted to the NBA by the Dallas Mavericks. He was 19 years old when signed a contract for $6.5 million a year. I am sure there are more statistics that could describe and explain the meteoric rise of the young basketball star. But other than some highlights of his playing–the famous back-step jump shot and numerous three-pointers–I haven’t seen Dončić play an entire game. Not even on television. On the other hand, every time I went back to Ljubljana, I noticed his growing popularity in the country that this year celebrates only 28 years of independence. Luka, as they call him in Slovenia, is a child of independence, born into the world without borders, free.
This issue of Yonder is a bit different from the form developed in the last couple of years. I needed to write something lighter and more grounded. One reason: overwhelmingly important global events, like the China-Italy agreement that will have evident consequences for the European Union and the rest of the global community and balance. In the U.S., it’s Mueller time as the special council ended its two-year Russian probe. The first indication of the report that very few people have read indicates that the consequences of this investigation for the sitting president may not be grave, but everybody is being careful to jump ahead with the conclusions since, as usual, the devil is in the details. There is a lot more to be seen.
Without noticing, Yonder has recently celebrated its fourth anniversary. This is the 289th Yonder! I had a short glance of the topics and stories written so far and I am surprised how much more variety there was before Donald Trump occupied the scene. Perhaps for this, but also because of the fourth anniversary, I decided to do a bit of a different issue this time. I was also inspired by the article that Mark Isaac wrote on the importance of the newsletters compared to the rest of social media. A prolific writer, Isaac leads a group of journalists covering technology. Have a good read and let me know what you think.
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The center right-populist Italian government has recently bowed to Chinese flattery, announcing it was ready to sign a Memorandum of Understanding that will secure Rome and Beijing in a modern Silk Road. At the end of a long, slow road of decline and political confusion, Rome is in bad need of fresh investment to boost its impoverished economy. Italy, which in 1957 helped found the European Economic Community, still counts as one of the most important EU members and is turning its back on Brussels in hopes that distant Beijing can solve its problems.
This week’s Yonder post is a quick note on some of the facts that preceded the summit in Hanoi, which most of the mainstream media called a disaster. Here are a few points trying to explain why this is not necessarily the case. It is impossible to resolve a North Korean issue in a few hours and with only two presidential meetings. We may ask ourselves whether President Trump is the right person to undertake this endeavor, but this is another issue, considering the fact that the two dictators like each other.
“Is the pragmatic gene that we saw in Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, and even at the beginning of the Hu Jintao, still alive in China,” asked Susan L. Shirk, a research professor at the University of California, San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy, of the latest China Task Force Report. “Is Xi Jinping motivated and able to modify its policies to reduce the cost China is bearing because of the current backlash? Or, are this kind of overreaching policies–statist, mercantilists and aggressive foreign policies–hard-baked into the Chinese Marxist-Leninist Communist Party rule? Are the Chinese leaders still able to make the changes in a practical, pragmatic manner to reduce their own cost?”
I got myself a $70 haircut across the street at Immortal Beloved, where Michelle Obama used to get hers. As it should be, the men’s barber is in the basement, and at first, I did not like the place. Then my splendid wife, who occasionally uses the upper floor of the salon, told me to try them out. I went across the street and inside, but had to come back a couple of hours later, because in every uppity hair salon there is no such a thing as a walk-in. You’ve got to make an appointment.
My hairdresser was young. He didn’t talk much but, robust as he was, with a baseball hat, long black beard, army pants, he somehow did not fit the place. He said he’d wanted to do something more peaceful after being in Fallujah. We said a few more words, about his daughter, the divorce, how he gave all his money from the army to his daughter. He is clean now, learned this new job. It was the first time in my life that I almost fall asleep while seated for a haircut. It was unusually relaxing, practically moving. What miracles humankind can produce. He went to kill when he was 17, and now, as my wife told me, he cut my hair perfectly. Washington D.C. is a thrilling city.
So the hair was done. Then I put a new shirt on, a blazer and my favorite boots. I was ready. Finally, I went to clean our car a bit more. It was a ritual, my way of saying goodbye to Uber.
How long you must live, how strong your memory must be, to turn back and say, damn it, this world has really changed a lot. Look at the millennials, they seem to be better educated than the boomers, but they are sui generis in their thinking, seemingly inspired and shaped by memes rather than historical experience. The X generation that preceded the millennials was instead suffocated by the boomers, who hold their positions for too long, blocking the regular and continuous passage of power between the generations. Generation Y–the millennials–are equipped with technology and capable of multitasking, and have only recently started to make more decisive steps forward, penetrating the control rooms. The future of the world, therefore, seems dependant on the dialogue between them and technology.
We can all go to bed now. Or, as I wrote last week, we can turn our TV sets off. When it happens, we will hear it. People will talk about it. Perhaps even, on that particular day, we may go out to buy a newspaper. They will write about it. As in the old days, the headlines will read in cubical letters: “President Trump resigns,” and “ Congress Impeaches the President.” Maybe even, “Former President Trump took into custody.” The latter, of course, may only occur if Trump is impeached and stripped of the presidential immunities that protect him from criminal prosecution.
When, two weeks ago, 78-year-old Nancy Pelosi triumphantly lifted the gavel that empowers the new House majority to initiate the process of presidential impeachment, the Assembly exploded with joy. On the same day and the other side of the planet, the Chinese people were silently celebrating their conquering of the dark side of the Moon.
If you ever want to fly to America from Charles de Gaulle Airport, be sure that you are not landing in terminal 2F, as you might miss your flight, or even get arrested before reaching your point of departure, the Terminal 1. But if you are starting your journey towards the U.S. from Charles de Gaulle, then you should be safe. However, my humble advice is to avoid the French capital airport whenever possible.