Tuesday, July 24, 2018

THE RULE OF THE DON (TRUMP)

There are more Russians in Trump's closet than there are terracotta warriors in Xian. The former were supposed to protect the first Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang in afterlife. The latter were supposed to see that their candidate, Donald Trump, was elected. Under every stone of the brick road that lead to the White House there hides a Russian. Nevertheless, Trump continues to deny the evidence. The dirt, the corruption, the vulgarity and the president's Erdogan -like behavior are becoming more ominous by the day. This administration is acting like other "non rule of law" actors, Turkey, Russia, the Caucasus...sending out malware and disrupters.  Steve Bannon, formerly Trump's Svengali, is landing in Brussels now, with the overt aim of launching an AltRight crusade against the EU.

The truth is that this "non-ideology", this package of resentment, inferiority complex and cultural tabula rasa is winning now. The war against all social and intellectual/moral achievements is stoked by this Trump "putsch", which finds its troops in the Neanderthal reserve of the country wherein the tribes roam free with their rifles, their bibles and their bile. A Trump rally is like a Diane Arbus photo-op, a Daguerreotype of freaks.  Maybe, the "elites" in the West and East coasts had it too good, forgetting fast food America while feasting on bons mots and canapes. After the elections President Obama is supposed to have said that he might have misread America, that his administration might have been over-optimistic regarding the socio-cultural changes in the fly-over states.

Indeed one lived in a bubble, believing that the reign of the multiple had arrived. Some spoke of a post-racial golden age, of absolute equality shared by all, of non-discrimination, of a new intellectual dawn, more rooted than the Kennedy sparkle, mobilizing the LBGTQ community as never before. The White House became a rallying point for creativity and intelligence.  Alas, now it is just another funeral parlor where ideas and truth are massacred under the angry eye of the Harpya/spokesperson from hell.  Soon abortion might be excommunicated because the operating room is needed to abort truth, courtesy and manners. The ghosts of the White House must feel sick in the stomach...another John Corigliano opera?

The daily, almost hourly occupation of the media by this Dr. Frankenstein's monster is relentless. This permanent invasion of the living space (why do the correct media let this happen?) is relentless. This Twitter drip drip war of attrition, the FOX Kulturkampf , and the coalition of all frustrations led to this real catastrophe. Few saw it coming but all (almost) misjudged Trump's grasp of the momentum. Like no other, he was able to weaponize the insecurities of people who saw in Obama not the man who lifted the country up but were freaked out by this messenger of an unwelcome change. Trump became inevitable after his campaign was just about deconstructing almost everything--including the Republicans who look now like former royals with no clothes- .  As a consequence he can (and will) further sabotage order, not out of strategic choice but because this is what he is about, since ever, from his casino days, to his hotels, to his bankruptcies, to his sex life, and one can go on.

Putin looks and acts as always, composed, distant, in control, while the American looks like some face-lift in free fall, botched.  Surrounded by his cabinet--who are those "revenants" by the way?-- like a Mafia boss by his lieutenants he looks the Corleone part (minus the savoir faire). Some wonder what might be on the Cohen tapes? Dirt!  What else?

Friday, July 20, 2018

21 JUILLET....DE LOIN

Il est un privilege d'etre Belge !

BELGIQUE : 21 JUILLET, SA MAJESTE ET MONSEIGNEUR...

Le prince Laurent, frere du roi, attaque l'Etat belge devant le Conseil d'Etat. Il a bien choisi son moment, celui de la fete nationale et du cinquieme anniversaire de l'avenement du roi Philippe.

La Belgique se porte plutot bien. Le gouvernement Michel a la quote, le moral est bon et la machine tourne. Les equilibres restent neanmoins toujours aleatoires.Il faut se garder de gestes et propos a risques. Le roi l'a bien compris. Il paye pour la sagesse politique un profil oblige gris, qui, au demeurant, merite d'etre reamorce.

Son frere est un caractere fragile mais fondamentalement genereux et abruptement intelligent. Il n'a pas la maitrise de ses emotions. Il faudrait qu'on lui suggere de ne pas attirer sur sa personne des regards qui pourraient rapidement devenir critiques, voir meme fragiliser l'institution monarchique en Belgique. Celle-ci a deja du mal a passer le test du "contemporain". Il faut eviter que des accidents de parcours  ne viennent renforcer une image de comportement atone. Les royals neerlandais, scandinaves  et, en premier lieu, anglais, donnent la demonstration qu'il est possible de concilier style et pertinence cool.

Les moindres faux pas sont a eviter. Il faut esperer que le prince Laurent adhere au principe de la subordination de la frustration personnelle au sens de l'etat. Certains regards frustres et vengeurs (n'est-ce pas monsieur Bourgeois et madame Homans ?) n'attendent qu'un derapage pour en faire un plat !

(clavier americain, sans accents)

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

ABJECT

Trump's spokesperson said that the president "considers" letting Russia question former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, who served under the Obama administration.

Everybody is by now used to these White House transgressions, but coming after the president's in and post-Helsinki lies, this might be, even for Republicans, a step too far.

Everybody knows by now Trump's disregard for ethics, morals and truth.  The "consideration" of another escalation in transgression, rather than the immediate "rejection" thereof, speaks for the absolute absence of norms in this Mafioso White House.

Trumps coup d'├ętat may backfire this time and meet its (diplomatic) match. Sarah Huckabee Sanders might have to choke over her pearl (?) choker in her next press briefing...or not, since this is the place where truths come to die.

TRUMP OVERDOSE

This American president is an unstoppable train-wreck. He continues to booby-trap America while he also torches the world order. He disrespects truth both home and abroad and becomes ever more the Manchurian villain or the undercover "mole" set to destroy the fabric of the accepted Western value system. He is alienating allies and stoking divisions which might well finish the American experiment.

The Republicans act like lemmings. The Democrats look lost. Former values are under daily attack by a Ponzi-scheme president hooked on undetermined spite. This ignorant man may well bring the US down, out of pathological unpredictability. No doubt countries are looking for the exit from the Trump- made panic room. Europeans and Asians are now actively considering alternative routes since they find the former trusted highway no longer desirable. The qualitative and quantitative colossal trade agreement between Japan and the European Union is a "marker" in this respect.

The Helsinki meeting was a good gauge to measure how things have changed in the last two years. Putin rules the waves and basks in his post-World Cup glory. The images of Crimea and Ukraine made room for Moscow as a place of fun, sophisticated staging and beautiful people. Trump's America by contrast is all about fury, immigration made into hell and friends scorned. The press conference after the summit showed again Trump's descent into unconditional denial of facts. Putin, who could afford to look benign, must have relished this moment of American descent into slavish sycophantic unction.

For the Europeans there are few good choices left.  While it is difficult to remain stoic or committed to the defunct FDR or JFK-type of grand Western alliance, they have to find both a way to stick  to their "difference" with the US while not getting trapped in Putin's strategy (aided by Trump's disregard for legitimacy or history).  It is absolutely imperative to reject any form of European "Finlandization" or to let this American's histrionics get in the way of sober assessment. NATO remains a strategic added-value for both the Americans and the Europeans. Putin will continue to test and tease the Alliance as a whole, but also ad rem in the Baltic states. Every deterrent must be used to show resolve against the Russian Machiavelli. Trump is too superficial and too lazy to think in conceptual terms. Nevertheless he is certainly tempted by the (vague) inductive idea of some World Directorate together with Putin and President Xi Jinping. Europe must remain alert and speed up its forward-looking outreach to third parties (India, Japan, Brazil, Africa).  Europe is the benign alternative to a fundamentally non-enlightened governance, be it by stealth. Only a proactive form of European diplomacy can achieve both the enhanced continuity of NATO and an alternative to the rise of a non-liberal world order.

Trump is an unreliable player.  His nefarious gut instincts cannot be brought under control. He can even count on the servile or willing support of some in the more unsuspected corners. Nevertheless Europe can deflect some of his "punches" by occupying political, cultural, trade, military territories before he makes his own impetuous advances. One should not underestimate the allure of a Western model embracing pluralism and rejecting ostracism. To make the choice simple:  pick one of the alternatives...  Trump's Access Hollywood tape ("locker room talk") or the EU's Hymn to Joy (thank you Beethoven) and see who will salute.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

PUTIN REX

World Cup : Putin wins

NATO meeting : Putin wins

Helsinki Putin / Trump summit : GUESS ?!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

THE KOREAN FARCE : ACT 2

Trump came back from his Singapore summit with Kim Jung-Un with nothing to show for, other than having given the North Korean leader a pass to "normal". Since then, the Korean tomcat sits puring, observing, while the American president is in his usual incoherent overdrive on all fronts. His secretary of State was sent on some errand to Pyongyang and is on his way back with nothing achieved. All this was predicted but, in the mad president's court, truth and professionalism are unwelcome guests. Given that the bluff will be hard to disguise, one could hope for a sobering regrouping. Not with this White House. Next week will lead up to another summit, with President Putin, which will be a sort of repeat of the Canossa formula wherein the Holy Emperor Henry IV made his submission to Pope Gregory VII.  Likewise Putin will receive Trump's penance for...for what? Nobody knows the roots of the Freudian slips the American president continues making when confronted with the name or the presence pf Putin.

Trump will otherwise be busy, giving the Supreme Court the kiss of death, snubbing NATO in Brussels and receiving the cold shoulder in London. All those events will lead to the Helsinki summit, not a great omen since Finlandization stands for all that the Russian side wants, and for all that Western Europe fears.  Putin and his counselors are highly informed, skilled and professional. They will have in front of them a team of bible freaks, lazy truth haters and a historical tabula rasa. To leave Trump alone with Putin is playing with more than fire. It is a one-way ticket to disaster. The American ambassador to Russia, who is remarkable for once, must wish this nightmare to pass.

It has been said may times, here and by others, that in the Trumpisphere there is always room for worse to come. Trump is on a quasi-permanent campaign trip in his heartland wherein he can be himself, killing vocabulary, steering the presidency away from the high ground and giving his lamentable base an overdose of vitriol, trade wars, immigration dirt, personal attacks, hate and lies. He has given up on culture, responsibility, reliability and rules over this 40% of Americans who he feeds with his home-made spam. He kisses the flag but in reality the flagpole stands empty in the wind and the clanking sound is all there is.

In Brussels, the Europeans will be polite even if he chooses not to be. Anyway, all attention will be with the World Cup. In London an inflated Trump balloon is readied for shaming the unwelcome visitor.  Her Gracious Majesty will certainly teach the real estate joker some manners. Maybe he will even leave his red tie home and close the buttons of his jacket for once. If only he could also close his mouth.

Monday, July 2, 2018

POBRE MEXICO, TAN LEJOS DE DIOS Y TAN CERCA DE ESTADOS UNIDOS (PORFIRIO DIAZ)

The victory of Manuel Andres Lopez Obrador (AMLO) was expected. His win came easy because the other candidates were unconvincing and repetitive. Not that AMLO is a great personality. He is not. He is even dubious, but Mexico overdosed on corruption, drugs  and violence and he was able to play the part of the White Knight.

The country is more complex than the usual Sicario representation. It is a cultural wonder. Its middle class is growing. The economy is becoming a major player in Nafta's northern hemisphere. Unfortunately, structural inequalities remain unattended and the drug cartels are able to control a narco shadow economy which bribes and controls part of the population.

The new president has a murky record. He has also shown he can be a pragmatist. After all, when mayor of Mexico City he made a deal with Carlos Slim regarding the restoration and preservation of the historical center.  Overall, the USA will have a touchy neighbor at their southern border.

Mexico had extraordinary presidents in the past (Gortari, Zedillo) who came from the PRI. Only Fox (PAN) was able to put an end to this political one-party rule. Unfortunately he was an unconvincing president.  Obrador's leftist credentials lack intellectual stamina (Cardenas) or ruthless brio (Gortari). His program is high on old populism and low on new ideas. The majority of Mexicans who felt, rightly so, stuck in stagnation in the midst of a economical/social vortex benefiting others, will certainly feel vindicated.  It is doubtful that Obrador will roll back the uneven progress achieved for the sake of reforms which rest on old ideological frustrations. He might better cleanse the judicial and police apparatus, local government, education and health services. However this new president has shown in the past that he is more stubborn than political/intellectual savvy.

In this Western Hemisphere Mexico made the historical choice to be a North American country first, a Latin American country second. It has a hard time asserting itself with formidable contenders like Argentina and Brazil. The pendulum in the Southern Hemisphere is also unpredictable. Colombia turned right, Bolivia left. Mexico lost its former influence in Venezuela and Cuba. When Fidel Castro visited Mexico City, the street went for the Cuban, embarrassing President Fox.  Obrador's populist message is paradoxically not all that different from Trump's. Both are vindictive, demagogic personalities. The overall  loathing of everything the American president stands for might still create a danger zone for the US at its southern border.

AMLO will certainly follow a "Make Mexico Great Again" path which will have socio/cultural consequences. There might be a return to more Mexican-rooted accents in most forms of creativity and antecedent.  Frida Kahlo will have a comeback. The Jumex-type of global art dialogue is not in line with a more narrow inward- looking pattern. The narrative will dwell more on differentials than on parallels. Mexico will revisit again the lost magic of J.M. Le Clezio (The Mexican Dream) rather than attempting to be a protagonist in the world civilizations of Carlos Fuentes (Destiny and Desire).

The United States will be kept at arms length whenever possible. Europe will receive the usual cultural embrace, albeit with sub-titles. The winner, here as in other parts of Latin America and the Pacific, will be China again. The Chinese are the suitors who bring gifts without asking much in return. They have already a network of agreements with almost all countries in Latin America and they will be too happy to oblige AMLO. The Monroe Doctrine is long since forgotten but the Chinese will undoubtedly relish rubbing another geopolitical win in America's face.