Sunday, February 21, 2016


The EU member states have reached an agreement which create the conditions for P.M. David Cameron to defend the UK's membership in the EU on the June 23rd referendum. The outcome of this vote remains, nevertheless, uncertain.  Six UK cabinet ministers will still campaign for a British exit!

The UK achieved a "special status" deal in the 28-nation bloc, insofar as it forgoes all that which doesn't square with London's views, while at the same time still being able to have enough critical mass to weigh-in on the EU's future.  The other members can hide behind the "ever closer union" shield, but this "cover" can hardly hide the underlying frustrations which are piling up.

The EU is becoming unpopular inside and is losing appeal outside.  It is considered a bureaucratic, intrusive aberration while the condescension rules the comments abroad. True, the Brussels, Luxembourg, Strasbourg slow motion process lacks glamour. The many problems relating to governance, policy making, a bankrupt common foreign and defense policy, monetary affairs and immigration have overshadowed the achievements.  Indeed, whereas other less ambitious projects have failed, the EU continues to be a unique and ambitious laboratory which propels adjustments between countries with different and often formerly opposite footprints.  Europe might appear aged, tired--and it is all of that--but it is also a continent which tries to minimize the negatives and to generate a forward looking story-line. This is all the more admirable since it now has to cope (poorly until now) with an immigration wave which endangers its culture, demography, secularism and security. 

The American media indulge too often in generalizations which are often unfair and historically untrue. The EU is neither some Comecon-bis nor a socialist behemoth. From the BeNeLux to Maastricht, giant strives were made to consolidate a new form of solidarity and cohesion.  Even the former enemies, out of ex-Yugoslavia, are slowly returning to some form of normality.

The real fundamental question is if it would have been better to continue with a few like- minded countries or if there is no other way forward than to expand even further. It is clear that the original Treaty of Rome spirit has outlived its former glorious time. The new realities which had to be addressed are responsible for creating a distance and, unfortunately, an indifference between the EU and the citizen. Brussels stands for most of what the man-in-the-street hates:  lobbyists, political expediency in the attribution of responsibilities, profiteering and an almost total lack of transparency. The former family of Six has become a multinational without recognizable face.  The EU, and in the first place the Commission, should follow a path of proximity rather than a repeat of endless Brussels meetings which take place behind the walls of architectural monstrosities.

The UK precedent might have its followers.  Former EU enthusiasts, like the Netherlands, look more to the Atlantic than to Brussels, and they are not alone. Weak states like Belgium see in the EU not an end in se but a life vest against drowning.  The Brussels machine survives but the contradictory motives of its backers weaken its credibility and its conviction capital, which is almost spent. Instead of "lollipopping" first-class member states, Brussels should consider a self-examination and more even policies. Weight watchers have to come in fast to avoid alienating the citizens and risking to be seen as a syndicate of profiteurs.

The UK made a move which was selfish but normal, given the lack of empathy which exists in the British public. The Commission and the Council gave-in because they couldn't find any credible counter-argument to stand their ground.  David Cameron's bet was a good one...on condition that the referendum will confirm it.
Others took notice!   Some day they might even follow .

Sunday, February 14, 2016


It becomes embarrassing still to pay attention to Trump's incoherent gratuitous utterances.
Yesterday he reached his peak. Insult piled up on cheap personal attacks. I hope there will be a backlash.  The other Republicans in the debate, Ted Cruz included, sounded almost sane by comparison.  The winners were Bush, Kasich and Rubio, but their performances won on points rather than on persuasion. Carson has become by now a case for intellectual charity.  It is time for the Americans to wake up and to realize that Donald Trump doesn't fit in a normal polite discourse.  His soundbite is repetitive, his arguments anemic and the style is on leave of absence.  Everybody is aware of the fact that frustration creates a black hole which can take in a lot, but this particular intruder is too much.  I hope the exit will soon follow but I do not exclude that these unsavory games might continue...for awhile, ad nauseam.


La bourse a Bruxelles, devient Musee de la bierre...sans doute parraine par LA MORT SUBITE (nom predestine)...tant pis pour Rodin !
En meme temps, les musees a Bruxelles souffrent du degat des eaux! Le seau chasse le tableau  
( ah si Broodthaers etait encore parmi nous !). On savait nos "temples" de la culture tristes, au regard de ce qui se fait chez les voisins; encore fallait-il les redecouvrir morribonds. On les visitera, parapluie obligatoire ( Magritte...surreel : le mystere de l'ordinaire).
La Belgique bat les records du nombre de ministres par metre carre, ainsi que celui d'institutions inutiles et bancales. Le pays regionalise est devenu est un vaste "Ponzi scheme".
Bruxelles Centre s'offre aussi un pietonnier qui mettra en valeur la catastrophe architecturale qui caracterise la capitale.
Le gouvernenent n'a pas de place pour des Haussmann, Bloomberg ou curateurs du type Rijksmuseum ou  Musee d'art contemporain a Luxembourg. Le tonneau passe avant le tableau. Tant pis si les toitures des musees ne tiennent plus le coup, aussi longtemps qu'on peut boire un 
coup ! Baudelaire avait tout prevu.
Et le palais de Justice ? Et le reste ? Et la police ? Et l'environnement urbain ? 
Bruxelles merite le detour, il faut l'avoir vue de pres pour recevoir la confirmation de ce que le terme "Bruxellisation" implique. Pauvre B !

Saturday, February 13, 2016


The sudden demise of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia sends tremors through all branches of the American political sphere.  He was a man of extraordinary intellect.  He was also a feisty, creative personality, blessed by both culture and wit.  His conservative profile was made out of granite.

In the current poisonous political atmosphere this sad occurrence could not have happened at a worse time.  The Republicans risk seeing the composition of the Supreme Court altered, if the President gets his way, picking up a justice close to his philosophical outlook, which favors the bench over the letter of the Constitution.  The battle will be merciless and the President might find himself blocked by a Republican majority in Congress which will be united for once, rather than being obliged to reward a lame- duck Democratic president with a "farewell" gift.
Likewise, the Republican contenders will have to appear united in "mourning", while remaining at loggerheads elsewhere in the presidential campaign. 

Scalia, who was a great opera lover, must relish the drama he created with the timing of his final curtain call.  He was a Maestro to the end!

Thursday, February 11, 2016


Confronted with a chorus of critics of its foreign policy, the White House witches have come up with the "strategic patience" mantra.  Hence the dictionary of euphemisms was enriched with a new concept.  Meanwhile, everything has gone downhill.  Flawed rules of engagement continue to undermine the US military action against ISIL.  Even the economy is nose-diving because of failing oil prices and the unconvincing handling by the Fed.  The one thing that Obama has going for him is his trade legacy, both with Europe and Asia, but even there the tailwinds do not help, since Hillary Clinton reversed course and spoke out against them.

Which brings us to the campaign.  Seldom has an electoral process felt so long and unbearable. Soundbites and cheap shots have overshadowed mature political discourse.  The worse of the right and of the left marginalizes the better, which is still able to breath under the current circumstances, in a country which seems unrecognizable.

Who is to blame? Unfortunately, the President bears a huge responsibility in this "debacle". The community organizer of yesterday is seen as a detached, patronizing, polarizing leader, of what? The country no longer listens.  Democrats have turned left. Republicans have turned away. The White House is hostage to its virtual self-aggrandizement, ignoring directions. It condescends without further explanations.  Meanwhile, the world continues to veer into a downward spiral. North Korea launches, Iran plays arsonist, Syria is in hell, ISIS grabs, Ukraine flares up, while supposed allies distrust and enemies receive a free-pass. Essential bilateral relations with Europe, China, Russia are ready for the emergency room. There only remains that "Fair is foul, and foul is fair". 

Unfortunately, the post-Obama years do not look promising for now.  In the short term the main Republican and Democrat contenders look and sound equally unprepared and unappealing. On both sides the supposedly more prepared ones, Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, smell more of mothballs than of creative reset.  Trump and, to a lesser degree Cruz, walk out of a Weimar mindset.  Rubio and Kasich sound at times more informed...but the proof is still in the pudding.  The elites mourn the former better "salad days" but if they continue to sulk , American politics will be decided by coleslaw and the pulpit! 

Maybe secular Europe, which can hardly sort out its own problems, should be less contemptuous of the US, but it is hard to overlook the accumulative deficit of a discredited foreign policy of what claims to be the Number One powerhouse. Not only did Obama fail to connect with his own, he ended up undermining his early capital of goodwill and post-Bush feeling of relief worldwide.  This very abstract president became a lonely man, who lost a large chunk of the trust invested in him while pursuing erga omnes an agenda which is no longer backed but by a shrinking "coterie".  The "strategic patience" has become another casualty of a reality check, rejoining the lexicon of "leading from behind" and the infamous "red line", inter alia.

March will be a bumpy road, indeed!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016



There has been much ado about little, lately.  
Every four years this forgotten state pops up because it is the first electoral event in a seemingly endless saga wherein candidates are obliged to kiss babies, look at corn and taste uninviting food, even by American standards.
The caucuses over, Iowa will return to its native irrelevance.

The procedures might look obsolete. The Evangelicals (who seem to favor "nerdy" environments) may appear deranged in Western Europeans eyes, but in the end democracy is the winner.  One can rightly respect both the hauteur of New York or California and the "pedestrian" in Iowa. The primaries in this "fly-over" state are almost a relief after an endless warm-up where intellectual input has become a species in danger of extinction. Generalizations are generally "slippery", but I can't fail to notice that while the United States often excels in creative intelligence, it frequently considers philosophical projection to be a form of snobism.
The candidates tried to undo one another by touting their religious faith in various forms of exaggeration, verging on the insane. This often opportunistic fervor will ebb away, once they reach more composite lands.


The Trump phenomenon is interesting but equally frightening. It is an indication of the current alienation of the voters, regarding everything Washington. One can, rightly, be critical of President Obama but insult and a serial travesty of facts are no substitutes for policy. Trump's Il Duce-like behavior should not conceal a shrewd strategy of slow asphyxiation of the "other'. He appeals to the most primary instincts of the voter who fails to find an anchor in today's American discourse.  Ted Cruz is intelligent but too cold a medium. He inherits the pastor delirium from his father and sometimes seems unable to translate his analytical skills into approachable terms.  Marco Rubio is very good indeed but runs too eager and looks too young almost for making room and time and "gravitas".  Governor Christie is highly skilled but not fit  to occupy the White House until an annex is built to hold his frame.  Jeb Bush has the appeal of a TV screen turned blank, but who knows, he may not be beyond repair.  The others? They rank intelligent (Carly Fiorina, John Kasich), out of place (Carson) or lost in the "gravy" (Huckabee, Santorum).  All share a lack of strategic vision and most are content, in some form or other, of abysmal intellectual bigotry.

The Democrats are two. Mrs. Clinton is the anointed one, by default, on condition that her chances are not overtaken by the many question marks she carries in her luggage.  Bernie Sanders is UK Labor's Corbyn twin with a difference:  he is likable!  Mrs. Clinton has been around (for better and for worse).  Sanders, not (it shows).


First and foremost the best thing about Iowa is that it is over. The caucus state can return, for four years, to comatose stupor.  Regarding the results:  Trump lost face, coming in second; Cruz won, leaving the Republican elites with a hangover; Rubio came in third and might well hope to finish first in the end.  On the Democratic side, Clinton and Sanders finished neck to neck, which is humiliating for the former Secretary of State.  Bernie Sanders talks like a recycled Volkswagen addict from the Sixties, out of Marcuse or R.D. Laing. His chances will diminish with time.  The biggest loser is certainly Trump (who hates losing).  It will be hard for him to regain the former momentum.  Cruz must feel some Schadenfreude, after having been labelled as unlikable by the Republican establishment.  Clinton got stuck between a cranky old socialist and her "Loch Ness" never-ending e-mail story.  Bush almost vanished in irrelevance for now.

Given the accumulation of negatives in the spectrum of candidates on both sides, the persona of President Obama looks almost preferable to all of the above. Unfortunately, this doesn't apply to his policies, but at least his policies exist, for better or for worse, while the current candidates sound devoid of vision. True, Iowa is a bad setting to propose some daring balance of power projection. Dr. Kissinger argued that "America, sometimes to its peril, refuses to learn its lessons."  Iowa proves him right, again.