Friday, May 29, 2020


The death of George Floyd underscores yet again the causes for the constant state of rage which prevails in the black conscience. Racial tensions are not new, unfortunately. What makes the current mood different is the insensitivity so blatantly for all to view in this White House. The arsonist - president is yet again full of grudge and short on empathy.

The culture war was easy to unleash but is hard to contain or reverse. One might have hoped that President Obama's  Amazing Grace  might have unlocked once and forever the flux of emotion from the shackles of prejudice and hatred. Trump made sure that his nationalistic agenda got implemented instead. The clock was turned back and America finds itself stuck in a rabbit hole.

Black Americans are more than ever frisked, jailed, profiled, discriminated , since justice has been overtaken by the Trump "collaborators". Today, being black and Republican is more than a mistake, it is a deadly sin.

James Baldwin said that he loved America more than any other country in the world and that, exactly for this reason, he insisted on the right to criticize her perpetually. He would be a very busy man now.


China's intrusive policies in Hong Kong go against the "one country, two systems" agreed policy. It was to be expected that Beijing would rather respect the (vague) spirit of the agreement than the (binding) letter. For everyone who has lived in Hong Kong it is self-evident that the people want, above all, to protect the rule of law which is the cornerstone for guaranteeing free  business and finance and an entrepreneurial knowhow, unique in Asia.

The Trump administration is supposedly considering ending Hong Kong's special status, arguing that, under the new mainland rules, a separate, privileged "identity", separated from China is obsolete. As usual this White House favors noisy action over deliberation. 

The EU had better separate the moves under consideration from the usual American uneducated bluster.

China wants to reduce the allure and impact of Hong Kong. It copies nevertheless its sophistication in finance and business, while remaining on guard regarding Hong Kong's soft-power. It would be foolish for the EU to follow the American lead, and in doing so bring about an unwelcome end of a success story. If the United States wants to punish China by depriving Hong Kong of its favored status they risk corroborating perversely the Chinese assertion that Hong Kong and the Motherland are one. The EU should never be an accomplice in deconstructing the Basic Law or in undermining the existing fragile autonomy versus China. 

Hong Kong needs a boost, not a black eye. Here, like elsewhere, the Rambos in power in Washington lack finesse. They are stuck in a Darwinian mindset which privileges the stronger part over the better outcome.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020


The death of Larry Kramer reminds us that there are still heroes in the USA. This often impossible man translated rage into action at a time when Reagan's shining city on the hill felt more like a place where too many died. The AIDS crisis then has never met "closure".  Many, famous, died many times over, because of the disease and also because of the indifference of an administration, yet again adverse to humanity. Many more, anonymous, died ostracized, under the pathetic blanket of their own resignation.

Kramer's indignation ran through America like a brush fire. The flames can still be seen and felt in the parts of the country that did not fell prey to the despicable mindset of today's rulers.


History is often understood in cycles. These are not always accurate but they bring some logic into capricious sequences. Major events can be manipulated to support real or imaginary shifts and trends. In the past, leaders gave their name to quotas of history: the Age of Napoleon, LBJ's Great Society... Now that the present American Fuhrer is busy shooting down all truths and creating fake conspiracies, lies and fabrications have  become the new Twitter normal.  The world has now entered the age of hydroxychloroquine, praised by Trump, forbidden in France on medical grounds. When crisis becomes this president's oxygen we are in for a bumpy ride. He doesn't give a damn about casualties.

America's new war against facts should not benefit from the cowardice or guilty complicity of others. That the usual undesirables look elsewhere was to be expected and that the cynical rejoice in Trump's histrionics is normal. However when  the EU looks clueless, when NATO plays the disappearing act, we are in trouble!  The EU spirit is AWOL. The recovery and support plan of the Commission is a step in the right direction, but it is short on message and political ambition. The Atlantic Alliance feels immaterial. Rogue groupings and unsubstantiated claims are corroding the fabric of bona fide systems. If  institutions or countries become reluctant to reform or to integrate new facts and challenges, they fall out of grace and become relics. When abandoned, the terrain becomes a chagrin. Only lies and fabricated allegations proliferate in the absence of a shared consensus.

The tool of the current pandemic is staggering.  Its aftermath will be colossal. If creative leadership does not live up to the challenge or is unable to congregate solidarity, socio-economic measures and a global relaunch, the situation will be dire. The lunatic fringe in the world prefers to ignore the incoming storm. The absence of the adult, reasonably concerned others would be an existential blunder. 

Europeans are divided, for sure. There is little in common between some of the Eastern and Western halves (wherein the North/South divide was temporarily halted after the Merkel/Macron proposals). The UK is stuck in a neurotic solo act without a foreseeable happy outcome. So, the moral air quality is becoming untrustworthy, and the noble former ambitions could be overtaken by counterfeit. The Covid-19 is fought over by science--and also by lies and obscurantism. Instead of a common strategy for the better we end up in another culture war, with the encouragement of the arsonist-in- chief in the White House. Given the proximity of the presidential elections in the US, this scourge will only increase in volume and distortion. The profiteers will thrive. The middle class will lose savings and jobs which will never return. Trump's base will be fed perks, religion and anti-immigration B.S., like some geese are stuffed in France.

So we have entered the Age of Bluff. The American moral downturn is an unpleasant spectacle. It might still be rebooted in November, but if not, Europe will be without an anchor and might end up losing the fight between good and evil.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020


"The satisfaction gained from the rapturous response and wild applause of cheering crowds must have offered compensation for the emptiness of his personal relations."  One might think Trump? No, it relates to Hitler (Ian Kershaw: Hitler (1889/ 1936 -HUBRIS-pages 133, etc.). The two share the same extreme pathology made up by lies, tirades, fabricated conspiracies and the "branding" or disparagement of  "enemies".

The various continents, as we know them, are the leftovers from an Ice Age catastrophe. The broken world we are  confronted with today is the splintered dysfunctional residue of a fatally wounded post World War II ambition. The main culprit is the new American nightmare. It is burning the books of learning and is waging a war against truth and science, out of frustration and a cultural pessimism which trades empathy for rejection.

The Covid-19 could accelerate the further drifting apart of the tectonic plates. They now follow their own separate routes  instead of mere colliding as before (faute de mieux). The last developments show again how the gap between Trump America and "the rest" (in and outside) is widening. There is a war against "facts"!  Lives and truth are under siege. Everything must just serve the interests of a flawed individual. The larger needs of a country are left to the mercy of opportunistic sycophants.

If Trump is re-elected, the dismantling of the American psyche will accelerate. The emergence of  "the age of Mr. Hyde" will dislodge Jefferson and Lincoln. The good angels are already leaving this ship of fools.

What will become of the the world?  China tries very hard to play the good cop while others (the EU included) just attempt to stay afloat. The Gang of Three (Trump, Bolsonaro, Orban) is busy undermining the foundation of multilateral shared beliefs. It is time to come to terms with what is happening. Otherwise it might be too late to change course and to redirect alliances and priorities which are in the E.R.

One should prepare for a difficult recovery after Trump but remain mindful of a furthering of catastrophic consequences if he were re-elected. Until election day the president and his "base" will be in full attack mode. Nothing and nobody will be off limits. The Republicans will swallow it all for the benefit of yet another tax break for the wealthy. Some still count on the conscience of Senators Romney, Collins & Co. to avoid a new escalation in the mudslinging...fat chance.

Both the pandemic and the current American Spengler-like "finish" are perverse insofar rhat they appear to be free-lancing. The end of the American Century is not like some classical French tragedy, wherein the rules of time, space and action are contained in a logical algorithm. It will be messy and spilling over.  The collateral damage should not be underestimated. Only China appears ready to stay in some form of control, able to continue and to absorb. All others appear mostly lost in trivial pursuit.

The better alternative can only become approachable if the gravity of the situation is finally recognized. The mood of "this too will pass" is a collective suicide pact. To reverse the trend, to reconnect and to repair, will occupy the time-span of a generation, if not more. America's soul and raison d'etre need rescue. If four more years were to added to the previous, the damage might well be fatal.  The pursuit of happiness would be the main casualty.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020


It will be one of the riddles of the future:   Why do governments manage the pandemic as an occurrence, and not as a watershed? Everywhere, the crisis managers do their utmost to alleviate/stop this most nefarious crisis. Nevertheless we will probably arrive at a chaotic finish-line because the winners will be few and the late comers many. Hence, the improved outcome of some will always be hazardous as long as the curse continues elsewhere. The infantile satisfaction derived from a claustrophobic calculus is self-defeating.

In this interconnected world it is a question of life and death to abandon the wreckage of populism for a more multilateral therapy. The post-battle panorama will be one of wounded economies, increased social disparities and crushed expectations. No country can live in the illusion that it can recover by itself. Before travel, transport, investment, research, trade and finance can restart, they will need to benefit from the prior infusions of an international clearing house. A civil war is going on in the United States between reason and "tweets". So be it, but the major--unfortunately grotesque--player should not stand in the way of others who are willing to share and pool the burden. If the US try to sabotage major global agreements, let them. The other parts of the world have the moral, creative intellectual cloud to find ways out of the disaster area  till a change of hearts and minds arrives in Washington.

One has to face the harsh reality that the post-Corona world will be totally different. Besides, it is for now impossible to even attempt projecting a time-frame. It is naive to represent bogus facts as victories, the more so that there is no gain if the plague continues next door or multiplies farther on. The myopic improvements will not make planes flying, trains rolling, people travelling, exchanges and investment restarting. There will not be sufficient means to repair the damage, to compensate for the losses in income and to restart a social recovery in this new Dickens-like urban landscape.

Leaders have approached the calamity with their own temperament: President Macron through ambitious philosophical rhetoric, Chancellor Merkel by smart guidelines, President Putin mostly by absence, President Xi Jinping by hauteur, President Bolsonaro by crimes and misdemeanors, President Trump by lies and insult.

Put together they all look mostly lost in contradiction. Therefore there is need for a global agenda before the situation gets out of hand. What good is the EU for if the internal market risks becoming a thing of the past?  What good is the UN if Manhattan is becoming a forbidden dream?  The same goes mutatis mutandis for Mercosur, the BRICS, the Shanghai Co-operation, the Gulf co-operation, etc.  Another danger is that the Trump administration will use this crisis to further its unpleasant agenda, by stealth.

Since the former master of rapprochement is now absent there still might be a thin chance in November that a change of American administration can stop the spread of an evil agenda. No doubt that President Biden would reclaim the heritage of FDR and pursue the goal for a rebuilding and reorganizing, which will take a generation, before the wounds will heal.

Sunday, May 3, 2020


In the current circumstances some argue that one might have seen the last of globalization. After the many heterogeneous assaults, lately from the populist movements, it is said that the Covid-19 pandemic might have put an end to the multilateral saga. Countries turned inward and the response to the plague has more in common with cacophony than with harmony. As a result, former major players like the UN, the WHO, the EU and others, have been sidelined. America's new unilateralism further undermined a chance to pool information and medical "know how".

The next months will be crucial. All existing strategies and interventions will be tested. In case the situation were to remain confused or if the numbers were to make a U-turn for the worse, the alarm bells will be ringing. Panic might set in, creating a tsunami which could threaten the economy and social fabric worldwide. One hopes for the optimistic scenario  but it is advisable to prepare for the undesirable scenario, in case.

A global strategy is more desirable than incoherent angst. Unfortunately endeavors to arrive at agreed strategies are under attack, for political, religious and financial interests that do not dare to say their reason. The Corona crisis lays bare a tension between the "better society" and opposing interests. Many politicians are more preoccupied with self preservation than with the creation of a new commonwealth of science, experiment and nation rebuilding. They are dragged into the conversation but they will sabotage it if it might go against their interests.

There is a need for a balanced new multilateral approach:  new, because the existing one still carries the DNA for a world which no longer exists (voting rights, representation, mission statement, etc.).  Lately, many countries have chosen to take a separate route because of often legitimate frustrations, and Trump. This current crisis should reignite a renewed interest for a shared "soft-power "alternative. In the late 1980s soft-power came up as another more "friendly" way for domination (mostly by the USA). Today, soft-power could be pooled. The battles about AIDS or Ebola were won by sharing the mantle. 

Populists are rearming for a new war, choosing to reverse the path of progress, science and civil liberties. The (debunked) Laffer curve and the supply-side school of thought are some of the ways in which the conservative mind weaponizes and disguises its objectives. It is bad enough when the inequalities grow as a result but the same mindset dominates the "me first" formula which is already multiplying discord in America (and among European countries) with regard to Covid-19. If this perverse conservative mantra gets traction, the casualties will be more than the usual social, economical tremors, they will be lives.

Friday, May 1, 2020


De column van Hugo Camps in DE MORGEN van 30 April is  bijzonder pertinent. Hij vreest dat het hoofd van de Belgische PM op het hakblok ligt. 

Sophie Wilmes wordt dikwijls gezien als "extra territoriaal", een zakelijke, koele verschijning tussen  weinig aantrekkelijke politici, die lijden aan andro-frustratie. Zij blijven ondermaats en kunnen niet verkroppen dat zij  in die korte volmachten periode worden gemarginaliseerd. Alleen Conner Rousseau (SP.A) en Georges-Louis Bouchez (MR) komen op met een interessant alternatief. Zij behoren tot een jongere generatie en voelen zich niet gebonden door het monsterverbond patroon eigen aan de oude klasse.

De Corona heeft het Belgisch model de weg naar de uitgang gewezen. Ware het niet voor het professionalisme van velen, had het politiek amateurisme het land ronduit belachelijk gemaakt. Premier Wilmes speelt noodgedwongen Snowwhite and the seven dwarfs . De buitenlandse pers maakte onlangs een optelling van de vele ministers, polities, burgemeesters in Brussel, parlementsleden enzv. Het resultaat is meilijk te geloven. Voor wie dan kijkt en luistert naar die grouwe, versleten, out of touch dwerg excellenties, rijzen toch een aantal vragen op. Voor wie daarbij nog het "voorrecht" had deze in het buitenland te moeten begeleiden is de vaststelling niet meer dan  de erkenning van een bekende pathologie.

Er moet worden gesleuteld aan een efficiente decentralisatie en deconcentratie. Een aantal bevoegdheden moeten opnieuw worden gefederaliseerd, mits afslanking en efficiency. Het boulevard theater rond maskers, klimaat, milieu, handel, moet ophouden. De weerstand van de bestaande politieke klasse laat geen twijfel. De opmerkingsgave van de burger mag ook niet worden onderschat. Have been's moeten uiteindelijk rekenschap geven. 

Sophie Wilmes heeft Belgie een enorme dienst bewezen. Angela Merkel voerde aan dat Europa op flinterdun ijs staat. Inderdaad, de Belgische PM was ook daarom the right woman on the right place. Dank zij haar is Belgie niet door het ijs gezakt.

De volgende weken worden cruciaal, voor de burgers in de eerste plaats, en ook voor de redding van de ekonomie, de kunsten, de wetenschap, de financien en voor een beter opvang mechanisme voor de oudere, de zwakken...en de niewe, te slecht geintegreerde Belgen.