Friday, July 26, 2019


The Democrats hoped that Robert Mueller's testimony last Wednesday would be a bang which might have left the Republicans K.O. In reality his comments were devastating for Trump indeed, but the absence of emotion killed any form of outrage and drama. Mueller, by temperament or deliberate choice, preferred the role of accountant rather than the part of accuser.

It was also noticeable that not a single Republican contested any of Mueller's findings. They ignored rather than engaged. The hydrogen bomb in the White House must feel relieved that the former damage done was not revived and that the Special Prosecutor's halting presentation spoke more of old age than of legal vigor.  In situations as these any faux pas or hesitation  is weaponized.

The Democrats missed a chance. They might try again (Don McGahn, the Kushner duet) but the Republican Stahlhelme should not be underestimated. If the Democrats fight a messy, often incoherent battle for principle, the Republicans follow a disciplined path for gain. Material considerations make for better cement than lofty indignation.

To impeach or not to is now the Democrats' difficult choice,  rendered even more hazardous since the outcome is certain. Under the current circumstances impeachment is dead on arrival. The added value might nevertheless be that the Republicans would be obliged to address the real issue rather than wasting time in mostly gratuitous personal attacks on the four Democratic congresswomen, defined as "the squad". They are loud but certainly not without merit or cause. Mostly they should be seen less as "the quatuor from hell"--as described by the Republicans--and more as individual defenders of rational recrimination.

The Democrats had better rally soon around a candidate and quit this shadow boxing among themselves, which only fires up Trump's glee. Such a candidate should possess Warren's mind, Harris' punch and Buttigieg's self-control...Hard to find.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019


Prof. Samuel Huntington wrote one of the most (alas) prophetic books of the last century:  The Clash of Civilizations. This brilliant projection into the looking-glass suggested the difficult reconfiguration of the familiar world order.  His premonition that "cultural" communities were going to replace former post- Cold War blocs has been confirmed by facts, for all to see. Maybe he did not foresee to what extent those agonizing blocs were also going to fray themselves from the inside, adding  home-grown existential fatigue to the external hybrids that are laying siege.

America's benevolent hegemony (Francis Fukuyama) is no longer.  Yesterday's "grand idea" is now downgraded to a "country", like any other almost, but becoming less desirable by the hour. Its attractive drive has been neutralized by an indigenous right-wing coup, that favors a self-centered, dystopian and basically pessimistic algorithm.  Places other than the US do not fare much better, if the rise of neo- Colbertism and of a nefarious populism is taken into consideration. Indeed, places, countries, no-man's lands, institutions, which were deemed "flood free" are now at the mercy of rising waters. America is no longer at the crossroads, as Francis Fukuyama suggested. It is in free-fall since the 2016 takeover.  Europe and the Middle East do not fare better but are mere nuisances. They follow "band aid" policies, which hide, delay and seldom solve. Europe is no longer a project, it is a repair shop. The Bandung spirit was swapped in favor of the short-term interests of ersatz dictators.  Butchery by proxy, often done in the name of "the One who has 99 names," spreads from Manila to Khartoum. Hence the threat is two-fold, on one hand, tension resulting from painful reconfigurations, on the other, insecurity because of the rift of national consensus.

If the West has lost a higher purpose, the former G77 has lost its cohesion and its claim for a higher "reboot". In between, the Chinese and the Russians follow a strict path of cultural (and strategic) recuperation, which appeals in the West to the Steve Bannon (Le philosophe ringard ) strand of thought. He is able to infiltrate and corrupt thought and means of many who, posing as disenchanted elites, never got over the Obama years, accused of having waged a war against the Commandments of white Western thought. Bannon is no Sartre or Marcuse. Nor is he a charlatan. He remains an American "salesman", unloved but driven. He is indifferent to the "pursuit of happiness" and chooses a place where he does not have to compete with the allure of comity. He respects everything about pluralism other than its uses (paraphrasing Amor Towles.)

Great events lead often to major contributions in the world of creativity. They echo, correct, lament, confirm the strength of the anti-cyclones. Today the shock between negatives does not warrant an easy peak in macro creativity. No Tolstoy or Victor Hugo  appears who could suggest a codex that might arrive at a reckoning of sorts. Maybe painters like Richter and Basquiat come close to understanding the current zero-sum game. No Spielberg will touch the competing requiems of the current days.

The Arabian face-lift dislodged the "spring." The Tour de France totally marginalized the EU makings in Brussels. Boris Johnson puts on his make-up for his Mad Jester entree on the world stage...  Is that where we have ended up?

Still numerous books are published, the French don't have enough cafes to seat their competing philosophes,  the airport-like craze for neurotic architectural reference, dear to Arab and other high-fliers (good for the Jean Nouvel ateliers) flourishes. The new soulless Manhattan Hudson Yards made sur mesure for the rich and for Asian shoppers are bringing China's "new look" to the neighborhood. One used to say:  "This will pass ". Will it? The future shouldn't belong to the handbag.

Thursday, July 18, 2019


Trump is the new Apartheid Hendrik Verwoerd. By attacking the four female members of the House of Representatives--with the right ideas and "the wrong color"--he materialized another sustainable electoral move, making the Democratic Party look like having been taken hostage by a radical fringe.

The strategy now for Nancy Pelosi is to find and consolidate some breathing space for the party as a whole.  Trump has stolen this parenthesis from under her watch. His campaign is already playing the nationalistic card, while the Democrats are pressed to look like the adults in the room.  

True, the majority of Americans are fed up with Trump's non- stop scandals and with the doings of his Cosa Nostra family. Not a day passes without a video, a connection, a corruption, an insult to grammar, to minds and to manners, but many Americans have stopped paying attention since the known presidential daily entertainment has anesthetized them. Chances are that in 2020, a majority will yet again vote against the president but that the constitutional American hocus pocus will deliver the Electoral College in his column. He will come up with every trick to control the news cycle.  We might even see him, more likely in Teheran than in New York (where he is loathed). Everything for a vote...

America is not going to pieces. Yet, given that Trump has set alight the racist brush fire, there is a feeling of an ominous Apartheid-like climate in parts of the country. The same police dogs, not seen since Soweto or Jim Crow, are back. Yes, immigration is a problem. Deportation is not a new phenomenon. What has changed is that the socio-economic problem of yesterday has morphed into a "white purge". This White (!) House has never been whiter. 

It is time to face the music. Notre Dame will rise from the ashes faster than America ever can. The cathedral withstood the onslaught. Before the judiciary, the environment, the psyche  recover in these wounded United States, there will be need for healing first, and much therapy after. 

The Republicans are gone by now. The Epstein/Trump partying in Mar-a-Lago was an indication of the upcoming legions of the vulgar and the rotten. Trump will be a footnote for bad nouveau riche Lebensraum.  Kellyanne might find a remake as Cruella de Ville.  Nosferatu/Miller will be shunned by all. What's next? What about Melania?  She may end up thrown under a bus like her predecessors, but this other immigrant (and her parents) will still do better than the ones who have to hide or run for their lives at the Southern border.

In the future another Lincoln will rise, but America's standing in the world is so low that a Hercullean force will be needed to lift it.

Thursday, July 4, 2019


The EU nouveau est arriveIt could have been more glamorous, but this new team might actually work out well, because of the lack of colliding stars. Madame Lagarde, who is the only heavy weight, is in Frankfurt and will avoid the infamous Brussels turf wars.  The new European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, if confirmed, represents a welcome change after Juncker, Joe Biden's twin. Charles Michel can become a creative power-player as president of the European Council. He must try to coral the populist fringe though. After all he was able as prime minister to make Belgium almost function, so  there is hope!

This latest EU episode marks the beginning of the end of Merkel's rule and of the Franco-German leadership, as we knew it. The new Commission must manage the post-Brexit "mourning" period. The departure of the United Kingdom will have unforeseeable consequences on both sides of the Channel. The contradictory situations created cannot be allowed to overtake lasting common interests. Charles Michel will need patience and creative talent to face the negative headwinds coming mostly from Italy and Eastern Europe. On the other hand, the visceral antipathy versus Trump cannot be allowed to mortgage the alliance with the United States. Russia must be engaged, mostly to neutralize the incestuous double-talk in the Visegrad group. 

The EU was supposed to be more than an economic pool of goods, talent and financial might. It is still a project and an ambition which are now mostly steered by the intellectual force of President Macron. He has a far-reaching political/strategic view on world affairs and of the role of the EU therein. One should hope that Germany could still subscribe to a renewed shared-power with France. Certain Gaullist ideas might even resurface. In the past, one might have been too hasty in condemning the plan Fouchet or in denigrating de Gaulle's misgivings regarding London's intentions. After all, he alone was right about China, Vietnam, Algeria. Impossible men (de Gaulle, FDR, Churchill, Keynes, Mandela, Nehru, Tito, Chou en Lai, inter alia) are entitled to magnanimous hearings.

Brussels is too pedestrian to host men or women with unusual abilities. Baudelaire was merciless and even the Brontes couldn't take it too long. Nevertheless Brussels is there to stay, faute de mieux. The EU is a very big organism in a very small, cluttered capital. It feels sometimes as if the Belgian "proximity" might become contagious and that the Berlaymont absurdity is only rivaled by the Palais de Justice, so cynically described by W. G. Sebald. 

Ursula van der Leyen will need a big broom. Since she was German minister of defense she must be familiar with Clausewitz. In these current times of fragmentation he might be better reading than Robert Schuman, alas. Other newcomers  like Robert Menasses's Die Haupstadt could suggest a road map of sorts. Indeed in Brussels, no one can hear you scream (Danish TV series Borgen).

Tuesday, July 2, 2019


Vlaams Minister President Liesbeth Homans (Cruella Deville) noemde de Belgische vlag een "vod". Dat is haar recht. Haar woordkeuze past bij haar soort "humor" en look (?) .In haar persoon zendt een brok Vlaanderen  zijn "selfie" uit. Gelukkig is er de rest.

Dat de koning deze grove politica hoffelijk heeft ontvangen spreekt voor zijn uithoudingsvermogen.


The border pas de deux between the North Korean and American leaders was Mack Sennett-like. The two have similar bodies, share extravagant hair styles and gaits. They might even go to the same tailor. The young, shrewd one plays Antinous to this vain Hadrian made in the USA, who acted smitten and oblivious of where he was and clueless regarding the meaning of Panmujom. He counted on his usual "charm,"  breaking all normal diplomatic etiquette and again pimping his daughter to play the Mata Hari part in this "comedy of errors", coming after her "performance" in the G-20.

In his unfortunate pattern of behavior, Trump continues to look for takers among the same coterie of authoritarians who haunt today's Cote d'Azur, Panama City or NYC real estate. Has one ever noticed a single intellectual or career diplomat in the president's entourage? True, the owner of a massage parlor found her way (and her customers) in Mar-a-Lago.  There is room for progress after all.

I wish the opposition of the decent Americans would wake up to the scandal of the immigration "summer camps"in the new American Mondo Cane reality show.  Some Democrats like Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris give all hope that the torch is not extinct. For sure there are Republicans who have a conscience, if only they had a voice.

The Korean intermezzo is just the beginning.  As the elections come closer, the more the White House unpredictable yo-yo will become the norm. The coming 4th of July celebration will set the tone of things to come--more Mussolini than Washington. Flaubert argued that universal suffrage was as stupid as divine right, even if somewhat less odious. He might be proven right again in 2020 if one wins because too many prefer not to show up.