Monday, May 16, 2016

I Can’t Believe This!

The big story this Monday is a NYT article about Donald Trump’s past relations with women:  many accusations, few kudos.
I can hardly believe that in the year 2016, sex having been the main topic in ads, television shows, movies and songs for more than fifty years, America’s so-called newspaper of record pins its anti-Trump campaign on remarks he has made about women’s bodies.
Rating female bodies on a scale of one to ten has probably been going on since that fateful bite of the apple.  In the early fifties, I was married to an upper class (former military) Frenchman who in that respect was no different from the boys I had dated as a freshman in Philly’s high school for high achievers - or the Donald.  As for the bathing suit episode, heavens to Betsey, in 1963, Fidel Castro took a bath towel out in his little house on the beach at Santa Maria, then left me to shower. 
Trump’s crime, after inviting a model to choose a bathing suit, was to proudly showed off her figure to the other guests. Isn’t that what ‘Miss’ pageants are all about? Have pool parties suddenly become the standard for decorum? 
I have my own reasons for worrying about Donald Trump becoming president, but as a woman who wrote the only book that foresaw the reunification of Europe AND the dissolution of the Soviet Union, yet was advised by a so-called ‘progressive’ French publisher, to rather write about my life, I identify with those women who thank Trump for giving them high responsibilities in a man’s world.
Hello, America, sex and entertainment go together, but so do sex and politics: history is full of ‘great’ leaders who were known to be unfaithful, and it’s only America’s Puritan tradition that limits public exposure. Energetic people, broadly speaking, tend to have energetic sex lives. And in the country that literally invented the public worship of women’s bodies, (using and misusing women’s bodies to sell stuff), isn’t it a bit hypocritical to base what should be a story about ‘issues’ on a man’s love of beautiful women, who only retroactively reveal their discomfort?

If the New York Times wants to discourage American’s from voting for Trump, knowing that its foreign policy experts can only simplistically claim his speech is riddled with contradictions, they can call on me.  

Monday, May 2, 2016

Europe Shooting itself with a Turkish Gun

It’s hard to believe that in 2016, part of the world is looking so much like it did seventy years ago - and  yet so different. US-led NATO troops are sitting on Europe’s closest border with Russia: the one with Ukraine, where, during the second world war, German troops began their invasion of the Soviet Union, aided by Ukrainian nationalists seeking independence. In 2014, the grandchildren of those nationalists helped overthrow the elected president of Ukraine, and are part of the government the US shepherded to power, with Neo-con Victoria Nuland playing the role of Deus ex-macchina from her desk in the State Department and on Maidan Square.
There is little chance that the Ukraine will soon join NATO, however, its far-right Ukrainian nationalists are a stark inspiration for far-right groups across Europe, as they gain power and influence in the wake of an unprecedented flood of mainly Muslim refugees. They can teach Europe a thing or two about violence, pushing it back toward the same fascism it defeated in 1945.  The numbers are cause for alarm:
The Austrian Freedom Party won this year’s presidential election with 36.4%. The Alternative for Germany (AfD) party leader, Frauke Petry welcomed the "terrific outcome," and tweeted it could be "a foretaste of positive change in Europe.” Although her party still polls in the twenties, she recently made headlines for saying police should have the power to shoot migrants and refugees trying to enter the country. 
In Italy, where the Prime Minister’s party got 34% and Five Star came in at 27%, Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia got 11%, Fratelli d’Italia 5%, and most significantly, the Northern League came back from the dead with 17%, thanks to “those who would like to stop the spread of a progressive and cosmopolitan worldview; who feel uncomfortable with multi-ethnicity and living with foreigners, as well as homosexual unions.”
The Northern League is close to France’s National Front, which is the third strongest party in France, and could win 28% in next year’s presidential election. Together, Europe’s far-right European parties formed a new group in the European Parliament, the Europe of Nations and Freedom. Its 38 MEPs include the Dutch Freedom Party and Belgium’s Vlaams Belang, and see the refugee crisis and related security concerns as an opportunity to move from the political fringe to real power.
This brings us to Turkey, which in addition to supporting ISIS, has been cast in a dangerous role in Europe.
Most Western Europeans are oblivious of a fact that has long haunted Eastern Europe: centuries-long Turkish domination. The Ottoman Empire’s onslaught was halted at the Battle of Mohacs back in 1687, and the Hungarians still claim they saved the West - incarnated in Habsburg Austria. Current Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s defiant stand against Muslim refugees can be partly attributed to that history - even if that doesn’t make it acceptable in a multi-cultural 21st century. In the mid-19th century, the Crimean war pitted the Turks against the Russians and Europeans.  During World War I, Turkey sided with the Kaiser’s Germany, and in World War II, it sided with Hitler.
In a pattern that would become standard for Washington, of enlisting former fascists in the fight against Communist Russia, Turkey was brought into NATO, partly to counter Greece’s left-wing partisans and partly as the ‘bulwark of Europe’s southern flank’, due to its proximity to the Soviet Union. At the time, Europeans (i.e., Western  Europeans, a label that would stand for Europe as a whole until the fall of the Berlin Wall), paid little attention to what went on beyond the Elbe, other than to vaguely lament an enduring Greek-Turkish standoff that resulted in the division of Cyprus between the two countries.)
Currently, Turkey and Russia are again at odds over the war in Syria, but it’s Turkey’s role in Europe that is most threatening. While Russia, to defend Assad, could wipe Turkey off the map, Europe has put itself at Turkey’s mercy with hardly a backward glance at history.
Having held a secular Turkey at bay for decades in its request to join the European Union, now Europe needs a re-Islamized Turkey’s help to avoid absorbing many more Muslims than those represented by that country’s population. And Turkey is taking full advantage of a disaster that the EU helped bring upon itself by going along with US-led actions in the Muslim world. In return for a hefty financial package and visa-free travel to the EU for its citizens, Turkey will process Syrian refugees and send them on to Europe under safe conditions, while Europe will send refugees who arrive illegally on its shores back to Turkish camps to be processed, and for most, deported back to their home countries.
As if the refugee crisis were not dire enough, it has catalyzed a new and dangerous political situation. Washington is systematically using austerity to eliminate the European welfare state as an intolerable impediment to the 1%’s program of globalization. Laws being debated in the French parliament would turn the labor clock back to the nineteen-thirties, when the Popular Front government first dropped the work week from 48 to 40 hours. In the 1990’s, a socialist government brought forty down to thirty-five, in an attempt to combat unemployment, and no one believes the world has changed so drastically that combatting unemployment now requires increasing the work week. Adding insult to injury, the law would lower the overtime rate from 25% to 10%. 
What started as a laid-back Occupy-type movement, ‘Up all Night’, complete with mic checks and hands wagging approval or disapproval, has spread from Paris to a hundred other cities in France, gradually turning violent. On a continent with a long history of protest (the French Revolution didn’t just erupt out of thin air), anti-worker legislation cannot be expected to pass quietly. Combined with the refugee crisis, it could either bring Europe to a 21st century equivalent of the French Revolution, or back to the nineteen thirties that ushered in World War II. As ISIS threatens Europe with a replay of its sixteenth century Europe’s religious wars, this time emanating from the South, the North is already turning its clock back a hundred years to the struggle between socialism and capitalism. 

As Europe literally disintegrates, allowing everything that made it the envy of the world to be destroyed by a greedy ‘ally’, the question is: who will lead humanity into the twenty-second century? Watch as Washington tries to prevent the BRICS from doing so. In an effort to bring Brazil back into the imperialist camp, it has formally declared itself in favor of having its leftist President impeached. With Cuba once again under US control, this could be the first step in a plan to formally unite the US with Canada and Latin America to vie with the BRICS’ Eurasian project.

France’s Workers Out in Force against Labor Reform

French workers are up in arms over a new labor law that desecrates everything they have gained since the Revolution, and they are all the more indignant that a so-called socialist President is behind it.
You have to know just how big a place socialist history and thought occupy in the French psyche to appreciate the full impact of this neo-liberal betrayal.  There is not one ‘socialist’ trade union in France, but two, as well as a Communist one, all of which have been very powerful for a hundred years.
French workers descend into the streets every time the government tries to pass legislation that could affect their rights and working conditions, and the current proposal goes far beyond what alternating left and right governments have been willing to grant their overseers in Wall Street.
Francois Hollande, considered one of France’s worst presidents, came to the office with impeccable socialist credentials, including a decades-long liaison with the mother of his four children, who is also a well-known political figure.  Now he is trying to hammer the last nail in France’s socialist coffin, moving the country away from collective bargaining toward individual deals between workers and employers, cutting back on overtime pay. (Thanks to strong trade unions, French workers, like the Europeans, typically enjoy more than a month vacation, usually taken in several tranches, many going skiing over Christmas, as Michael Moore truthfully shows in ‘Where to Invade Next’.) While Donald Trump gains plaudits for wanting the Europeans to pay more for their defense, not even Bernie Sanders could dare to suggest that American workers should get double their current vacation time.  
The screws being turned in France are the next phase of the Wall St. campaign to bury the Welfare State that began in 2008, and French workers know that. As if the French government were trying to prove it can walk and chew gum at the same time, the proposal comes amidst a crisis over refugees that has been building for more than a year.  Never since the aftermath of World War II has Europe seen refugees trying to clamber aboard trains, and the appearance of ad hoc tent-filled camps - in Paris under the elevated metro, in Calais near the English Channel train tracks - on the beaches of the Mediterranean border with Italy - could not even be imagined a few years ago.  Europe’s leaders have been paralyzed from the beginning, as refugees took off in rickety boats from Libya, often drowning en route to Italy.  And as soon as they turned their gaze from Ukraine to that crisis, another chapter opened up, with Syrian and other Middle Eastern refugees taking shorter but just as perilous journeys from Turkey to small Greek islands.
France and Germany, the two leaders of Europe, quibbled while Hungary declared it would build a fence along its borders, and as the meme spread to other Central European countries, far-right groups moved from protest to arson and physical attacks.

Meanwhile, French workers have replaced loud marches with night encampments that allow participants to work during the day, and their demands include welcoming the refugees. This was not what Wall St. had in mind when it launched its latest attempt to do away with the Welfare State.