Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Now I'm Really Freaking Out!

I thought I'd seen everything when it comes to the idiocy of the American mainstream media, but today, Nicole Wallace and her crew almost made me scream:  they're all upset over the fact that someone from the Trump White House met with some Russian covert agent (at least that's what they're calling him...) in what has to be a serious security breach.

Putin, Erdogan and Berlusconi

\Like they don't know that notwithstanding all the mud slinging upon the Kremlin, the US is sort of cooperating with Russia on the Syrian battlefield -- if only to avoid a fatal clash.  President Putin has repeatedly called for this cooperation to be maintained, and with Turkey having entered the fray, it's even more important that the two superpowers keep their lines of communication open.  (Never mind that each is hoping to gain/retain Turkey in their corner as the maybe not so crazy Erdogan plays them against whoever else is around.)

Monday, January 29, 2018


I'm going out on a limb here, but as of two days ago, I'm beginning to think that Donald Trump will resign rather than be impeached or removed for incapacity under the 25th amendment.

It's hard to imagine him sitting down with Mueller.  With his volatile temper, I believe he will throw in the towel alleging that Washington cannot be reformed and that he is not going to allow the hard work of a lifetime in business to be thrown away for a 'basket of ungratefules'.

The 'inability' of both Democrats and Republicans -- each for their own reasons -- to get him out of the White House is just one more nail in the coffin of American Democracy. Imbued with 'litigationitis', by far and away the most often used method for settling disputes in this 'nation of laws', the American political class, obsessed with mathematical 'if...then' reasoning, has tied itself in Gordian knots.

Gordian Knot: a problem solved easily by finding a loophole or thinking creatively.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Run! Don't Walk!

to read Ann Jones detailed account of why President Trump should be wary of bringing in Norwegians!

Grass roots Americans have never really been provided with the low-down on life in Scandinavia. References to cradle-to-grave support are thin, followed by the fact that Scandinavians pay a lot of taxes in bold.  The differences between them and us are profound!

The pictures below illustrate the Norwegian prison system, which focuses on rehabilitation.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


 I do not support Russia Insider's anti-Jewish crusade, and am glad this has not prevented it from publishing by far the best article I have read on Ukraine's Neo-Nazis, by Max Blumenthal.  It confirms evrything I have written here about them since the US-sponsored 2014 coup  that deposed the pro-Russian elected president.

The prominence of Neo-Nazis in Ukraine has a direct effect on the rise of Neo-Nazi parties in Europe and the US -- not to mention the fact that the Trump administration is providing them with arms, as Blumenthal documents.

I strongly urge my readers to click on this link:  ct=t(Russia_Insider_Daily_Headlines11_21_2014)&mc_cid=928ff7d273&mc_eid=5073b9cec1

A New Kind of Convergence?

No one who has ever read fairy tales or cartoons can be surprised at the latest developments in the Trump Presidential Saga: the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been trying to do diplomacy differently, while the press accuses him of mixing his family’s business with America’s most powerful adversary: China.
But what if this was simply the current version of the political notion of convergence, which optimistic foreign policy analysts believed would ultimately prevail with respect to America’s relations with the Soviet Union?  According to this theory, gradually, the US would become more socialist, as the Soviet Union became more capitalist. When the Soviet Union imploded, in 1991, there had been few signs of convergence.  Following that cataclysmic event, Russia, as the largest country in the world was once again called, was introduced to capitalism via shock therapy that nearly brought the country to its knees.  Meanwhile, under Bill Clinton, the United States became charier with its social benefits.  So much for theory.
But eighteen years after the appearance of Vladimir Putin as the head of Russia, with Donald Trump as US president, an as yet unimagined form of convergence may be taking place. America's hundred year love affair with gangsters is reaching a peak, leaving the ‘robber Barons’ in the dust with a new form of personal presidential involvement in the economy. Seen from a different angle, however, after a century of rabid anti-communism, the President’s son-in-law appears to be taking a page from the Chinese form of government involvement in  the economy.
Ever since the death of Mao Tse Tung the father of the Chinese Revolution, in 1976, China has been inching toward a new type of socialism, in which the state increasingly acts like a private company, seeking profit wherever it can find it, allowing private investors to do likewise as along as their initiatives are considered of benefit to the state.

America, on the other hand, has come a long way from gun-toting gangsters riding on Model T running boards, in a unique trajectory: Jared Kushner’s appearance on the front pages is due more to his upending of traditional diplomatic and intelligence practices, than to his position as favorite son-in-law.  Position which, in turn, highlights just how much control the FBI and the CIA exert over America’s relations with the rest of the world. An obsession with secrecy, evidenced in practices such as requiring that government — and even more so presidential personnel —  never meet with a foreigner without a ‘note-taker’ present. .. The media enjoys spotlighting these occasions, as when Trump left his place at a dinner table to talk to Vladimir Putin without an interpreter, an unheard of occurence that was presented as breaking news for days.

While citizens should not tolerate a President’s family mixing its private business with that of the country they are elected to serve, it’s clear from a recent report in the New Yorker that Kushner, a dashing young man who has run a sophisticated, high stakes business, trusts his gut more than Cold War memes.  (  mbid=nl_Magazine%20012218&CNDID=50461342&spMailingID=12793786&spUserID=MjA3NzYwNDgyMjE3S0&spJobID=1322010492&spReportId=MTMyMjAxMDQ5MgS2). The fact that he has still not received an official ‘clearance’ giving him access to classified documents, shows just how hide-bound the US system has become.) If Americans were better informed, they would realize that personal relationships among the leaders of the world’s most important countries had been the norm until they were subordinated to America’s obsession with secrecy, and that in the present state of affairs, they foreshadow the multi-polar world that Xi, Putin, Modi et al are promoting — without the US.
By electing Trump, Americans put into question the democratic guarantee implicit in the principle of one man one vote. However, allowing the family business/government approach to world affairs to continue, they could conceivably free the country from its hateful and onerous role of world cop.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

If You Had Been Watching - I

From time to time I plan to review foreign reporting of daily world events which are absent from the American media.

While America’s television channels hash and rehash the latest presidential tweets and the latest special counsel subpoenas, France 24 (in English) reported on President Macron’s trip to Britain, where he discussed British financial support for the migrant camps that have been set up in Calais, as well as domestic opposition to a proposed law to allow single women and gay couples to adoptchildren, and an interview with the head of an international organization set up to deal with the migrant crisis. 

The extent to which Americans are shielded from — or  shut out of — the world never ceases to amaze me.  They are largely unaware that they could turn to foreign channels to find out what’s going on outside their borders. Until they gain access to the realities that in one way or the other affect their lives, they will thrash about in a sea of ignorance and delusion. 
Let’s take just one headline story, global warming. In an interview, on President Trump’s economic policies on France 24, an American economist defended his decision to leave the Paris Climate Change Accord ‘because the US is being asked to do more than China’.  That interview alternated with news of the most devastating winter storms ever seen in Europe, with the Netherland’s main airport being closed to traffic, and even trains not running due to high winds.
As for President Macron’s negotiations with Britain’s Theresa May over unaccompanied minor immigrants trying to get to Britain, France’s request for greater financial assistance processing these young people who have managed to reach camps such as the one in Calais known as ‘the jungle’ are fueling a rethinking of the Brexit decision. Apparently, one of the main arguments for leaving the EU was the cost of dealing with the migrant crisis: many voters didn’t realize that per a separate treaty, Britain’s ‘border’ is located in France, and vice versa, so leaving the EU changed nothing regarding Britain’s financial responsibilities toward them. Americans who think this particular issue doesn’t concern them, they would need to consider the role Great Britain has played as Washington’s Trojan Horse in that important economic block.

P.S. While Americans know that US unemployment has continued its downward trend which began under Obama, they would have to be watching a foreign channel to learn that China, which is being billed here as slowing down, has gone beyond its projected growth target for 2017.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Great American Circus/Soap Opera

Among the many things American newscasters never mention when seeking to explain the ascension of Donald Trump is the carnivalesque aspect of American presidential elections. I can remember being struck by the difference between the US and France when I first arrived there in the late forties. Elections were serious events, and even after the arrival of television in the fifties, campaigning was limited to interviews, speeches and debates. One of the images I was fleeing when I decided to remain in France was that of the streamers and paper horns that defined American presidential conventions.  
In 2016, America’s circus-like electoral atmosphere morphed into a real circus with the election of Donald Trump. not because county fairs are favorite presidential campaigns stops, but as a result of the 24/7 commercial backdrop to everything on television. In a country that presents itself as the democracy that all should emulate, money was destined to determine events large and small, since early twentieth century businessmen from Calvin Coolidge’s “the business of American is business” to Henry Ford’s “What’s good for Ford is good for America”, let it be known. 

When a country’s business is business, what institutions could possibly prevent business from taking over politics? It was probably inevitable that a huckster would eventually enter the White House.. Donald Trump thought that building a tower in Moscow would lead him there, however he didn’t realize that the shades of McCarthy would intervene to challenge his legitimacy.  No longer “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party”, has morphed into “Have you ever spoken to Russians”?
Money and the media have combined to turn political ideas into circuses before America’s very eyes, but they do not provide solutions: while Palestinians rise up against our president’s decision to recognize Jerusalem exclusively as the capital of Israel, in a battle between a secular government and religious oversight the citizens of Israel’s nemesis, Iran, are presented to Americans as seeking ’freedom’,  while the crisis with North Korea is seen mainly as threatening to weaken American ties to South Korea (indispensable to keeping in check the same China we expect to prevent North Korea from launching a nuclear war). 
As the circus turns into a soap opera —  adding another brick —  or pile of money — to the wall of separation between the US and the rest of the world, each day brings a new ‘episode’ in the battle between the President and the Media, and between the Presidency and the other two branches of government, the Legislative and the Judiciary.  A Special Counsel being considered insufficient to discover ‘the truth’, the House of Representatives and the Senate are each conducting their own investigations, calling witnesses and subpoenaing documents, the press providing daily interpretations of its progress. 
As pundits warn of a ‘Constitutional Crisis’ (which sounds very serious in a staid sort of way), a book entitled Fire and Fury revealing that the chaos reigning in the White House is worse than even the most cynical reporters thought, has taken over the news. However, when it turns out that Steve Bannon, who recently declared himself to be Donald Trump’s political heir, enabled the author’s access to the corridors of the White House over a period of several months,, the media fails to mention that he is the de facto leader of the Alt Right’, which for over a hundred years, was represented by the Ku Klux Klan.  The media only cares about the fact that Bannon is an open admirer of Lenin’s determination to destroy the existing political system, (thereby suggesting that Russia is responsible for his rise).  The fact that he is quoted as accusing the President’s son, Don Junior as ‘unpatriotic’ and ‘treasonous’ for taking that June meeting with Russian lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya is considered much more important.
While the Justice Department, in the person of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, continues its relentless pursuit of any and all crimes that can possibly to attributed to relations with Russians — especially those ‘close to Putin’, Trump’s one-time campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who has pled not guilty to accusations of money laundering related to his work on behalf of deposed Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovich, is suing the Justice Department for enlarging its investigation into Trump-Russia ‘collusion’ to include unrelated matters to which he admitted years ago. (America is known for all sorts of things,  but rarely does one find it described as a lawyers’ paradise…)
If a soap opera writer had proposed a “Trump Presidential Saga” he would have been told to ‘get real’, however the American public may have to wait until 2020 to see a ‘normal’ White House. Moreover, the two likely contenders in the Republican primaries are Mitt Romney and Trump’s VP, Mike Pence (assuming that even Trump’s base tires of him or that Congress somehow overcomes its reluctance to impeach him), while the Democrats’ likely standard bearer could be Obama’s former VP, Joe Biden — all ‘old white men in suits’.

As for the leader of the Green Party, Jill Stein, who represents the only sane approach to governance, but committed the unforgivable crime of sitting at President Putin’s table during the ten-year anniversary of RT, in 2015, she may still be under investigation in 2020.

The ‘Democracy’ that Russia ‘Interfered’ With

The ball on Times Square had not yet dropped when the pundits began talking about ‘probabilities’ rather than programs for 2018. As one news anchor said: “One President has barely been elected that we start thinking of who will run next.” It’s the counterpart to the coming Russian presidential election, in which the incumbent’s only ‘credible’ rival is a man with multiple convictions for fraud who proposed to run on an anti-corruption platform.  
Last-day-of-the-year programs gave short shrift to domestic policies (for example, ‘infrastructure’ or ‘health care’) -and totally ignored America’s plans for the world in 2018.  When I heard that President Putin had sent new years greetings to President Trump, I went to the Russian President’s website, where I saw a short year-end address to the Russian people, encouraging them to be loving toward their dear ones and supportive of their country, and a long list of world leaders to whom Vladimir Putin sent personal greetings.  Clicking at random, I saw that they all expressed satisfaction with the relationship and hope for even more fruitful cooperation in the coming year toward peace and prosperity. Transmitting not the slightest hint of overlordship, they reflected the Russian President’s vision of independent, sovereign nations cooperating to make the world a better place.
President Trump met that gesture with ‘New Year Greetings to all, including my enemies!’
I’ve often written about the lack of ideological literacy in the United States, and it occurs to me that the narrow focus on who is running, who is up and who is down on any given day is designed to fill that void.  Voters in thrall to a 24/7 show are less likely to think about the need for economic as well as political freedom. While Bernie Sanders can at last pen a book called ‘Our Revolution’ without being black-balled, it turns out to be all about his presidential campaign, supplemented with a list of demands, such as health care for all and a higher minimum wage. The closest Bernie gets to political theory is the chapter titled “Defeating Oligarchy”: democracy’s ‘one man, one vote’ is supposed to accomplish that: (“Throw the bums out!”)
Another uniquely American meme is that the Republicans are on the right of the political spectrum, with Democrats their opposite: in reality, while the Republican tent stretches all the way to the far right, the Dems barely cover left of center. The absence of any left political party ensured there was nothing to counter-balance the Republican Party when it was literally high-jacked by the far-right. What in 2010 had been a seemingly harmless Tea Party, had by 2016 morphed into the Alt-Right, while the media built up a clownish figure who theoretically had no chance of entering the White House.  Pointing out that Trump had stolen many would-have-been Sanders voters had the Democratic Party not conspired to deprive him of the nomination hardly ranks as an ideological discussion: would-be socialist voters somehow believed a billionaire was more likely to share with them than ‘yet another Dem’.
Marx has only recently been granted admission into high-end ‘progressive’ publications, his fleeting presence there failing to introduce the American ‘masses’ to notions such as superstructure, relations of production and surplus value that underpin Marx’s view of history and his recommendations for change. Even as his 150 year-old prescriptions adapted to a changing world, they continued to influence progressive thinkers. Meanwhile, American voters have only the hollow choice between ‘fiscally conservative’ Republicans (a euphemism for ‘what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine too’) and ‘progressive’ Democrats, whose wealthy backers forbid them to do anything but talk about ‘entitlements’.

In 2018, this opaque word is still likely to be the closest thing to ideology that Americans have, leaving ‘democracy’ as the be-all and end-all of their political life.

The 25th Amendment and ‘Democracy’’s Comeuppance

On Sunday, January 7th, a constitutional expert explained the 25th Amendment on television, in a sign that the US Congress may at last be thinking about removing Donald Trump from power. Thus far, a reluctance to see Alt-right-leaning Trump replaced by religious fanatic Mike Pence ensured that no real attempt to remove the president has taken place. But as polls increasingly suggest that the Democratic Party could regain the majority in one or both houses of parliament, Americans are at last being tutored in the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the Constitution that spells out how a president unable to discharge the duties of his office can be removed.

“Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

Two things in particular stand out on the American political landscape when compared to those of other prominent nations:  the first is the constant references to the Constitution, written more than two hundred years ago by men who, for all their intelligence and good will, could not have foreseen the twenty-first century. The second, perhaps influenced by that unique prominence of the Constitution, is that the United States is a lawyers’ paradise, in which litigation, rather than than a last resort in cases of discord, is the rule. 

These characteristics guaranteed that the largely unanticipated election of Trump would provoke a fury of investigations and counter-investigations that makes the Watergate look tame.  The only thing people remember of that time is President Nixon (alias ‘Tricky Dick’) declaring: “I am not a crook.”  I remember following the hearings on my car radio as I drove back and forth between two small towns in Massachusetts.  Now I can watch the author of a tell-all book on the Trump White House describe himself ‘sitting on the couch in the West Wing’ and snagging members of the President’s staff as they went by for ‘casual’ conversations about the President’s ‘fitness for office’.

Michael Wolff the author of Fire and Fury, the book that makes the President’s downfall appear inevitable, explains: “When Trump won the election against most odds, most Republicans, aware of his idiosyncracies, thought: ‘Maybe this can work.’ But this is worse than anybody thought.”

Inevitably, discussions of the book involve comments about the most colorful other person in the Trump White House, Steve Bannon, editor in chief of the Alt-Right journal, Breitbart, and Trump’s closest advisor since the campaign, who left in August. Bannon’s Alt-Right agenda is never mentioned, much less the comment that he let slip last year that Donald Trump could be ‘useful’ to that movement.  After Bannon left the White House he was quoted as saying that the Trump ‘agenda’ was dead, suggesting that the President had failed to adequately support the white supremacist movement.

Trump’s fascist tendencies were a constant concern of mine during the campaign, as I wrote, among others, in an August 2017 blog, foreseeing a militarized state but not the Charlottesville Alt-right torchlight march to the chant of ‘Jews will not replace us!,  nor the presence of a General as the White House Chief of Staff, in addition to the National Security Advisor and the Secretary of Defense being generals. (The most troubling member of the President’s immediate staff, Stephen Miller, evokes the characters in the Italian movie about the Mussolini era, ‘The Conformist’, when he takes on the brash CNN news host Jake Tapper, in a verbal sparring match such as I had never seen before, highlighting the image of the ‘fake news’ propagator, to the advantage of the Trump spokesperson. 

It is unlikely that calls by two Republican Senators for a second special counsel to investigate the former British spy who compiled the damning personal dossier on Donald Trump which set off the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election will suffice to derail the dump-Trump campaign getting under way. It may gain impetus from the fact that having Vice-President Pence step into the president’s shoes in mid-term makes it less likely that he would be elected in his own right than if the Republican Party were to dump Trump during the 2020 election, because the public would have already experienced his religious fanaticism.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Macron's Double Whammy in Africa and Asia

The French President is on his first official trip to Asia, praising China for commiting to the Paris Climate Accord, saying "China kept its word, demonstrating your immense sense of responsibility,"
adding, in Chinese, "Cooperation will "show the world that the French and Chinese are capable of making our planet great and beautiful again."

One of the areas of discussion will certainly be China's growing presence on the 'dark continent', which the US worries about in vain, given that Europs's involvement there dates back to the ninettenth century.
France, Great Britain and Germany, as well as Italy and Portugal all colonized large portions of Africa, but France continued to be deeply involved even after De Gaulle granted independence to Algeria in 1962, as the last step in its decolonization, after a long war. The decolonization process lasted until 1977, with the Sahara ( Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republicstill incomplete due to issues with Spain.  Throughout this period, France has continued its involvement across the vast continent, supporting French language and culture as well as security.  When Macron toured West Africa last december, he was probably the first French head of state to address popular opposition to France’s continuing military presence, ephasizing cooperation with local forces against terrorism, in a ‘we can do this together’ tone. 

Most significantly for the future, France did not follow the United States' in ostracizing Mao Tse Tung's People's Republic, welcomes China's initiatives in Africa, which it sees as complimenting its own.

As far back as 1320, a Chinese mapmaker showed southern Africa  on one of his maps, and ceramics dated back to the  Song dynasty were found in Zimbabwe and South Africa.  Some tribes whose physical appearance is oriental-like with paler skin and a Mandarin sounding tonal language claim descent from 13th century Chinese sailors, calling themselves the "abandoned people."
The establishment of modern Sino-African relations dates back to the late 1950s when China "began to offer economic, technical and military support to African countries and liberation movements in an effort to encourage wars of national liberation and revolution. Today, an estimated one million Chinese citizens reside in Africa, some as private entrepreneurs, others operating  health centers, cultural centers, and development projects — including the One Belt One Road initiative that will link Asia and Europe, with a fork into Africa. An estimated 200,000 Africans are working in China, and trade between China and Africa increased by 700% during the 1990s, making China Africa's largest trading partner.

Not surprisingly, Macron launched his visit to Asia in Xian, an ancient city deep in central China which is the eastern starting point of the ancient Silk Route, in a nod to President Xi Jinping’s ambitious “One Belt One Road” initiative aimed at connecting Asia and Europe. The $1 trillion (€0.8 trillion) infrastructure project, known as “The New Silk Road” has sparked both interest and anxiety; but while some countries view it as a symbol of Chinese expansionism,  Macron heartily endorsed the initiative, saying, in an interview with the Chinese website
"It represents a real opportunity to create bridges, through exchange, between countries and civilisations, just as the ancient silk routes once did," While warning that it should be carried out "within the framework of a balanced partnership" -- a reference to France's 30-billion-euro ($36 billion) trade deficit with China -- Macron proposed that France should play a leading role (presumably in persuading other European countries to get on board). Backing broad European cooperation with China, he appealed for a "strategic partnership" with Beijing on terrorism.

The New Yorker has been the first American publication to devote significant space to the New Silk Road Project, with a stunning layout of pictures.  Curiously, however, the article that accompanies the spread hardly mentions the trillion dollar project, "the most ambitious infrastrucgture project the world has ever known", concentrating instead on criticizing the Chinese leadership.