Wednesday, January 31, 2018


In his first State of the Union, Trump, showman on the cheap, gave a demonstration of his dubious but indisputable tricks. His address to Congress was built around the stories of individuals (present around the First Lady) who let themselves be used as props for a demagogic narrative which veered between ego and doom.

Presidents usually attempt to present a coherent strategy in world affairs. In this case, the world at large, from Russia to the EU, was ignored and the usual culprits (North Korea, Venezuela, Iran) were served as appetizers. The Republicans were jubilant and the president's "base" got the red meat it is craving. The Democrats looked "lost" and had their seat belts fastened, ready for the coming assaults on immigration, the cover-up and Robert Mueller's investigation...inter alia.

America has lost its mojo. Allies can only look on in disbelief. Authoritarians and populists have found in Trump a Manchurian dream partner. This administration is no longer ashamed to look Orwellian, it lays claim on its dubious fame. Reliability is on leave and there is worse to come. Efforts to reign in this chaos feel useless. Inside, the Democrats play "defense". Outside efforts to attempt normalizing relations with these United States look pathetic. President Macron's attempts to find some inroads in the pathological workings of Trump's mindset are dead on arrival, despite his planned state visit to Washington.

The Republicans prefer to "collaborate" with this White House rather than to have to go deeper into the collusion/cover-up story before this explodes like a grenade in their midst. The comparison with Watergate is unavoidable, but the Republicans then have nothing in common with their successors now. Brutus is on leave!  As in T.S. Eliot's poem, April might indeed be the cruelest month after all.

Thursday, January 25, 2018


Les livres ont leur saison en enfer. Ce qu'ils representent est sous attaque aux Etats Unis. L'intellectuel est devenu l'ennemi d'une administration inculte.

Les livres, comme leurs auteurs, restent coriaces ...

Il est des livres lus trop tot. Souvent il s'agit d'oeuvres du genre poids lourd, russe, ou de romans francais d'entre deux guerres qui ont mal vieilli (Mauriac et Co.)

Il y a des livres fleuve dont personne n'ose avouer les avoir abandonnes a mi parcours: Marcel Proust, Henry James, James Joyce...

Il y a des livres coupables : genre policier, les sophismes brillants de Roland Barthes, Jean Cocteau, Oscar Wilde, Ian McEwan...

Il reste des oeuvres incontournables : T.S. Eliot, Thomas Mann,  W.G. Sebald, Naipul, Simone de Beauvoir, entre autres.

Il y a l'armee des ombres, celle des ecrivains qui osent etre derangeants . Michel Houellebecq, Christopher Hitchens.

Reste les casse-pieds, souvent historiens, souvent bavards , type Marguerite Yourcenar (Memoires).

Il reste le club des lecteurs mythomanes (nous tous) qui rencontrent Hamlet, Darcy et Madame Bovary sans s'etre suffisamment inquietes d'ou ils sortent.

Le  president des Etats Unis est a Davos. On peut parier qu'il n'a  pas emporte "La montagne magique" dans ses bagages.

Monday, January 22, 2018

TRUMP : Now is the winter of our discontent (Richard III,I.I.I.)

This last year, Trump's first, feels like a "season in hell". The government's current shutdown is the poisonous cherry on this foul-tasting cake. Since January 20, 2017 America has lost its looks and its friends. It is left with broken pieces inside and with an unreliable coterie of occasional accomplices outside. The president runs around the White House like a demented monarch wearing earplugs to protect him both from legitimate outrage or embarrassing vulgar adulation. The former dubious real estate joker has become a pariah.

The damage done is enormous. The United States do not fair better than, let's say, Russia and they score lower--by a large margin--than China. The Europeans are, for the time-being, like a lover on ice. This administration is seen as an unreliable light-weight, while the problems pile up. The "America First" mantra has become a shortcut for overall meltdown. The White House brags about the tax cut, the Wall Street boom and the "home coming" of money and investment that are lured back by the lower corporate taxes. By executive order and deregulation, the fundamental rules and principles of governance are now being dismantled. The constitutional "tripod" is under attack.  America was often greater in attempting than in achieving. Now it is remarkable in failing. All administrations have tried, with various degrees of success, to correct, rebuild, improve the fabric of society. Today, war has been declared against all that lifted people up. Only the Camorra, which has surrounded Trump from his Casino days until now, benefits. The corrupt cloud hangs over the president and the toxic louche whispers permeate the air.

As a result, the Western hemisphere has gotten a black eye. EU countries take advantage of a regained room to manoeuvre given "on the cheap", turning a cold shoulder to the US.  Trump remains basically insecure. He hates proximity, be it in international relations or in the private sphere. He plays the car salesman but despises the customer. He charms (?) who he needs but ends up on his own. He plays his family but would be ready to dump any of them suspected of lese majeste.   He prefers to be flattered ad nauseam, rather than risk the hurt of slight. His fellow "strong leaders" worldwide know too well his craving for flattery ketchup and wisely abstain from lecturing him Kissinger-style, as Europeans usually try, without success.

America has seen it all, but this might be the first time that this extraordinary experiment comes face-to-face with its possible limitations. The majority of Americans feel dejected.  Even the infamous Trump-base might wake up some day to face the music. They were promised coal mine days and in the end they might even get them, and choke on the dust of their gullible naivety. The new oligarchs made in the US prosper but will miss the new economy train which is leaving the station. In this America, as in authoritarian regimes, innovation is becoming the rattle of the privileged rather than the motor of a society as a whole.

When there is a draft one closes the window. The air coming out of Washington is foul.  From California to the EU windows are being secured. Sometimes principle must come ahead of loyalty. Alliances are not set in stone. There is nothing wrong in revisiting them. Europe and the United States loom larger than a bad weekend. Their basic existential raison d'etre should not be allowed to fall prey to a pack of greedy amateurs or foolish outbursts. Unfortunately, the stockholders of the former rock-solid Atlantic idea might lose patience. That Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury is number one on the non-fiction best-seller list says a lot about the current mood in the land. The ridicule has invaded 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, which risks becoming a lonely place.

Sunday, January 14, 2018


The last verbal racist utterances of Trump are still having a ripple effect in the world. The gross vocabulary is less unexpected than his total disregard for the hurt created and for the offense given. One is also entitled to ask questions about the moral sanity of the Republicans in the audience, who heard the same sound bites as the others present but chose to go for a momentary memory lapse instead. That so many were scandalized was to be expected--to a point--because all know that since January 20, 2017 proper manners and vocabulary were packed by Obama's movers. There are few manners left. Does anyone in his or her right mind expect a presidential "sonnet" instead of gutter talk?  Does anyone still hope for truth, or plausibility at least, to come out of this insane administration?  Where is the outrage, where is today's Joseph Conrad? The Heart of Darkness is here.

This commentary pleaded earlier for distance, given that the world at large, be it for different reasons, has nothing to gain from a kow-tow to this grotesque ruler. He might be flattered by some, and snubbed by others, but he should never be allowed to get away with his lies and structural attention deficit. It is enough to let him dismantle his own realm, but he should become infrequentable elsewhere.  Now he has decided to go to Davos, to the contemporary Plato's Symposium. He might even wear his "America First" fool's cap. No doubt he is already reading Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain to get in the mood. One can see him, red tie and unbuttoned coat, with a hair comb-over, looking at the peaks in full Berchtensgraden-mode. 

This permanent nightmare will only get worse. The man should also be awarded a prize for Darwinian survival, not of the fittest but of the unthinkable. His "base" sticks with him and loves its hero from the lucha libre, who wears his mask and cape with the pathological pride of the deranged.  He has been compared to Nero, but this is the ultimate insult to the Roman emperor who would never have followed in the path of a vulgar, corrupt used-car dealer.

The US president has decided not to risk his life and dignity in the streets of London.  That is the only good news that Theresa May received in months. Her Majesty might be equally relieved not to have to share too small a space with too large an infant.

The problems are piling up and the politics, under consideration or being implemented, are radically changing America's psyche. The disrespect for the Constitution, the cynical rollback of essential beliefs and the rule-of-law might take a long time to recover. What is left needs to be defended less by barriers than by barricades. Indeed, America is broken. The question is how long it will take to repair.

Thursday, January 11, 2018


Catherine Deneuve a su creer autour d'elle une aura d'elegance et de classe qui reste inegalee. 

Aujourd'hui elle cru devoir prendre position sur les retombees des affaires de harcellement sexuel, apres les prises de position a l'occasion des Golden Globes. C'est dommage car elle s'est trompee de cible et de generation. D'abord elle ne prete pas suffisamment d'attention au contexte "lieu de travail". On ne drague pas dans l'abattoir. Ensuite sa critique sous-jacente traduit une sorte d'alienation par rapport a un enjeu plus global, qui ambitionne  de mettre fin a des situations de chantage et d'inegalites, dont les femmes ont ete les victimes en premier lieu. Elle semble souffrir d'un complexe de flirt et de metro, sans doute a cause de Truffaut, Depardieu & Co. Il ne s'agit pas ici de penaliser le flirt, mais de sevir contre une espece de droit du Seigneur batard.

Probablement les propos de Deneuve ont donne lieu a des interpretations abusives mais elle en est premiere responsable. Il ne faut pas imiter les Amazones et les decibels declamatoires mais il convievnt de ne pas donner carte blanche a des abus trop longtemps ignores.

Deneuve reste la grande dame du cinema mais elle gagnera davantage a garder sa distance quitte a laisser aux generations qui la suivent la poursuite efficace des transgressions qui sont restees trop longtemps impunies.

Monday, January 8, 2018


The 2018 Golden Globes were a rather subdued affair. Overstated in black, understated in choices that were mostly low-key but quality affairs. The usual royalty--Spielberg, Streep, Hanks--was ignored, with the exception of Oprah Winfrey who made a speech which had almost presidential-aspiring accents. Obviously, with this president even the weather forecast sounds presidential nowadays.

Since the sexual harassment tsunami brought Hollywood to some form of standstill, the culture is being rebooted. It is nevertheless necessary, here and elsewhere (politics, i.a.), to beware of some form of mass hysteria which might end up curtailing the ways of normal human interplay.  For sure, the workplace is not a bedroom, and jobs should be rewarded by equal pay. The workplace should, however, not become a barren environment wherein normal personal behavior cannot still flourish. A flirt can still remain polite. If not, we might as well stop all comedies and forget about Mary Tyler Moore. A Watteau painting must not be replaced by an auto-flagellation Zurbaran.

America often travels from exaggeration to exasperation. In the psyche there seems often to be a deficit of nuance. True, certain situations require a radical moral mobilization. Racial inequality, Vietnam, gender, equal pay, defense of democracy and of acquired added values (environment, Medicare, Justice, education) should indeed activate a "primal scream".  However once the statement has been made, the black dress comes down and the work begins. It is not enough to be anti-Trump or pro-just-cause.  Strategies are needed since the looming overhaul is much more vicious and organized than most people perceive or realize. Better get ready now. 

The Golden Globes wisely abstained from the Trump formula which just adds lies to insults, and thrives on the applause of his mostly older white demented cabinet members who have to appear at regular intervals for some form of embarrassing Sieg Heil ceremonial in honor of the commander-in-chief. That the president was mostly ignored in the Golden Globes event will have made him furious, since to be ignored or being the butt of jokes makes him equally enraged. Clowns are a sad lot. They need the laughs but resent the indignities they have to put up with for deserving them.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018


Trump s'est approprie la maxime "creer c'est detruire". Apres les derniers "Tweets" qui confirment une pathologie inquietante, certains arrivent a se demander s'il ne faudrait pas mieux envoyer l'interesse a Berggasse 19, Vienne, domicile de Sigmund Freud.

Voila que le president risque maintenant de s'autodetruire a cause de ses derniers propos hallucines. Tout le monde est desormais familier de ses insecurites, liees a une libido infantile. ll est vrai qu'il arrive qu'un cigare n'est autre qu'un cigare, ou que le "bouton" nucleaire ne doit pas necessairement figurer comme un ersatz de fantasme"troublant". Cependant, entre les "petites mains" de Trump (qui figurent parmis ses nombreux points faibles) il faut de peu pour que les cigares et les controles nucleaires commencent a evoquer des associations plus phalliques et surtout plus alarmistes. Le maitre de Pyonyang doit s'amuser et joue l'ouverture sicilienne dans le jeu d'echecs diplomatique.

Les evenements en Iran requierent la plus grande prudence. Les causes comme les objectifs restent trop flous pour permettre une analyse autorisee. Il est a craindre que le president suive neanmoins son instinct previsible et qu'il pourrait en consequent saborder l'accord nucleaire, ce qui serait une erreur consequente, quelque soit l'issue des manifestations de rue.

Lundi prochain Trump envisage un evenement "Oscar maison" dont il a le secret depuis son role dans L'Apprentice. Les medias recevront les bons ou mauvais points pour bonne ou mauvaise conduite. Deja les parieurs voient Fox News gagnant et le NY Times et le Washington Post au pilori. Cela promet du spectacle dont sa base est friande.

Enfin Steve Bannon, l'ancien Raspoutine de cette Maison Blanche aurait tenu sur la "famille regnante" des popos acides et l'aurait renvoyee a un Ekaterinbourg bis, trop exigu pour pouvoir abriter fils, fille, gendre et autres comparses occasionnels. Avec des amis pareils, Trump peut se passer d'ennemis.

Dans un blog anterieur, la chronique d'une deterioration acceleree en 2018 a ete annoncee.  Apres ces premiers jours qui annoncent l'annee du chien (horrible symbole astrologique Chinois) on se trouve deja en situation d'alerte. L'etat mental du president n'est plus un sujet de conversation tabou.  Il preoccupe desormais ouvertement les anaystes de tout bords.

J'aime le propos de Jacques Sternberg: " Il n'est pas plus drole d'etre un demi-rate de talent qu'un rate total sans talent".(*)

(*Patrick Rogiers "La traversee des plaisirs") .

Monday, January 1, 2018


The worst years might still end with a requiem, or some form of closure.  Not 2017 which, in the United states, ended in the garbage bin. There is no redeeming quality to be found in these past months. They have been booby-trapped in a  camouflage of lies, noise and, more dangerously, a vile determination disguised under the mantle of chaos. The total parody which has overcome normality might look like a clown's fair but it is in fact an assault against all accepted civilized norms.  The Bannon/Miller duo from hell are an affront to aesthetics and sophisticated norms. They are in fact as brutal as their historical '30s counterparts, willing to punch and dismantle for the sake of a vindictive nihilist agenda. They found in the lazy, inflated, Fox News junky president the perfect vehicle for their "rampage". 

Since most of the world is (still) in some form or another linked to the US, these international relationships have all come into an accelerated vortex.  Most Europeans shrieked from this American chalice, coming so fast after Brexit. Authoritarians everywhere saw a brother-in-arms in the White House,  dislodging everything America stood for in the past. China could hardly believe its luck when Trump quit the TPP and left the keys to Asia under the doormat. Putin counts his blessings. Canada and Mexico are trying to overcome what will be the unhappy ending of the NAFTA threesome. Africa is being returned to the "huts" and Australia is being pushed into China's hands. After less than one year, Trump is the king without clothes, happy to rule over his 35% (now)  deplorables.

Europeans have not come up with a viable alternative for this pathological American leadership.  Neither Germany (for roots in its constitution), nor France's Macron (victim of  Europeans' envy) is able to assume a European alternative that is not mortgaged. President Macron is certainly the most innovative, unusual statesman in the EU. He is likewise admired and resented. He has been called Jupiterian but is probably more Napoleonic (without the wars) in his ambition and reformist zeal, and for his impatience to get things done. Merkel is a more cautious politician and the workings of this indispensable duo will be more difficult than in the past. Age counts.

Nevertheless, a new generational European model will be more attractive than the current Atlantic mariage de raison. It would be self-defeating to turn one's back to America but it would be equally absurd to follow the Trump disaster for reasons of former solidarity.  Everything opposes this American administration to Europe, be it in Asia, the Middle East, Africa or....Europe. The EU needs to speak loud since its philosophical interests do no longer coincide with the short-sighted "America First" of this self-centered, obese America. The EU is certainly not a strategic equal but it can become again an appealing counter-weight in a new world order in the making, wherein other partners are going to play a major role and might opt for distance from the former great power.

The main difficulty will be that in the Trump administration, uneducated impatience has too often won the battle over diplomatic temperament. Many problems were made worse by resorting to brutal, unilateral, poorly improvised measures. Few dispute that Jerusalem is already Israel's capital. This does not preclude a formula wherein the Palestinians can realize their own claims under the umbrella of a shared international guarantee. By recognizing Jerusalem now without a collateral for the future, the tensions become only messier. The Iran deal is far from ideal and there is much to be worried about it. Nevertheless the buffer so created is working and the former personal relationships born in Vienna between the US and Iran  could as well have explored other disputes and human rights abuses, which under the current circumstances, might worsen further. Trump's tweets on Iran today show again the unwelcome outcome of a situation wherein the president finds himself with no real diplomatic alternative, reduced to his game of tweets like some brooding adolescent. Isolation leads too often to misguided appreciations. Revisiting the nuclear deal would split even more the US from its partners in the agreement and would further discourage North Korea from venturing into any arrangement with a volatile partner.The Olympic games might even give Pyongyang an ouverture which outclasses the US.  The list goes on, from trade to climate, from migration to aid, from gender equality to gender diversity, from NATO to the G7, from snubbing allies to karaoking autocrats, from mistaking a Hollywood set-like welcome for an embrace.

No, 2018 will not be a better year.  Probably Mexico will elect AndresManuel Lopez Obrador as its next president. Such a choice would put a clone of Maduro on the most important US southern border. The unrest in Iran comes at the worst possible time, when Trump might have to decide to certify the nuclear deal on life support . The EU will not take lightly the US sympathy for the crypto- fascist undertone which prevails in Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Serbia, Latvia, Croatia and Poland.  Besides, Trump's mendacity regarding NATO's burden-sharing is hard to swallow when one fully realizes that America is in Europe now less for reasons of former solidarity than for the need of a line of first defense (as is the case elsewhere, in Asia or Qatar). The fight against ISIS will be remembered as one of the more indiscriminate and inept. It is hard to celebrate the liberation of cities in Syria and Yemen reduced to rubble with civilians being killed or on the run to nowhere . At least the bombing of civilians in Dresden and the use of the atom bomb in Japan at the end of WWII were seen and felt as a tragedy !

The post WWII order is no longer and what is left needs repair before it becomes irrelevant. Unfortunately its main architect has left the construction site. The Security Council, the IMF, the World Bank need to change if they want to remain relevant. The new challenges, their reach, and their consequences need a direct involvement of  countries involved and ignored. Sometimes the talks in NYC's Security  Council recall more the former Trusteeship Council wherein countries were spoken "over" rather than "to".  Presidents G.W.Bush and Obama shared a common view regarding the new challenges--often in Africa--which figure again too frequently as a footnote in the agenda, wherein the "usual" marginalizes yet again the "urgency".

James Baldwin wrote in the mid sixties :" Domestically,we take no responsibility for (and no pride in) what goes on in our country; and, internationally ,for many millions of people,  we are an unmitigated disaster." Yes, things will get worse before they become better...