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British Breakfast and Euro-stuff

This week I’m spreading the net a little wider to take in some pieces which aren’t as directly topical as usual, because a lot of the directly-relevant stuff is merely rehashing what has already been published by the WaPo and NYT and offers nothing much else.

Debate over the violent protests at the G20 in Hamburg continues. Jakob Augstein considers the issues:

In any other place at any other time, setting a car on fire would have been an insignificant act of vandalism. In connection with the summit, this is a political act – accepted by a small minority, rejected by a large majority, but seen in the right context by all. Anyone can put the burning cars at the G20 summit in the context of the militant rejection of this summit. Nobody would understand if they burn at a church meeting. But no one has ever heard of plundering Protestants.

How does this politically motivated violence work? Once accepted, the violators of Hamburg have won. It is assumed that in the foreseeable future such a summit will no longer take place in a German city. Would that be the capitulation of the legal state? Or is democracy a legitimate place for non-state violence?

These questions arise from the monopoly of power of the state – and therefore to the state itself.

Carolin Emcke, the peace laureate, twittered to Hamburg: “Every TV minute devoted to the violence of the Hooligans was a minute in which the decisions of the # G20 could not be criticized.” The question arises whether peaceful protests against the summit would have received just as much attention as the violent clashes. This is the essence of political protest in democratic capitalism: if it adheres to the rules, its effect remains weak. If it breaks the rules, it puts its acceptance at risk.

Now a nice bipartisan piece in La Stampa by Gianni Rotta:

Fate now seeks the break point of McCain, senator of Arizona, and in 2008 the Republican party candidate for the White House, inflicting on him a brain cancer, GBM glioblastoma, which will consume him in a few months. A nemesis of the legends, because the GBM felled, August 25, 2009, Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy: moving, re-reading biographies, discover McCain and Kennedy as twins, even before the hard diagnosis. Both born in the tragic Thirties of the twentieth century, ’32 for Ted, ’36 for John, scattered by historical dynasties.

Both for McCain and Kennedy the White House remained a mirage, Kennedy lost the nomination against Carter in 1980, with the legendary comment “The dream will never die,” McCain, nominated by Republicans 2008 against Obama, advancing to the Lehmann crisis, is then beaten by the young rival. Both of them gain on the field the unmistakable brand of maverick, a loose cannon. McCain has given a twist to President Trump, who hates him (privately calls him “ambushed” for not fighting in Vietnam), Kennedy had been a thorn in Carter’s side.

They both knew the bitter titles of scandals, deaths in a secret incident by secretary Mary Jo Kopechne, after a party for Kennedy in 1969, the case of “Keating Five”, the corruption of the 1989 Savings Cases for McCain. They have emerged, wounded, defeated, for their values, social solidarity for Kennedy, free personal spirit for McCain, rebellious rebels, children of an America who fought for politics-as in the World Tour in 80 days of Verne – but then went to drink a beer together, under the flag. An America that, as Ted and John feared, can now perish because nations as well as men have their point of breaking.

Linking McCain and Kennedy reminds us of when the Senate was a fairly useful deliberative body – before Turtle McTurtleface became leader of the Republican caucus – and politics was relatively sane. There are already 8752 theories about what caused the deterioration, but Nick Bryant has come up with an 8753rd:

It seems entirely fitting that OJ Simpson should reappear at this surreal juncture in American life because many of the trends that culminated in the election of Donald J Trump can be traced back to his arrest and trial.

Consider first of all the impact on the US media of that slow-motion car chase, as “The Juice” headed down the 405 freeway in the back of his white Ford Bronco pursued by a small armada of police cars and a squadron of news helicopters. With viewers glued to their televisions ­that day, Domino’s recorded a record spike in pizza deliveries.

It was the moment arguably that real-time, rolling news truly came of age.

That chase and the gavel-to-gavel coverage of the 1995 trial on CNN and Court TV demonstrated a voracious appetite for cable news. The OJ “trial of the century”, with its blend of tabloid sensationalism and serious analysis, established the formula for ratings success. In last year’s presidential election, the media fixation with Donald Trump demonstrated how that recipe still works now. His candidacy could almost have been tailor made to fit the requirements of real-time cable news and Twitter, its digital equivalent.

Here again there are parallels with the election of Donald Trump, when voters were presented with the same evidence, the same televised spectacle, and reached diametrically opposed opinions. Again America was riven, although the roots of that polarisation were different. With OJ, it was race. With Trump, it was class, education, gender and geography. Yet he, too, tapped into a shared sense of victimhood. He portrayed himself as the victim of the Washington political establishment and East Coast liberal media, essentially telling his supporters that the same elites sneering at him were the same elites sneering at them. Whereas Cochran played the race card, Trump deployed the rage card.

What struck me about last year’s election was how many voters were prepared to overlook Donald Trump’s truth-stretching and falsehoods because of their determination to exact revenge and send a message. Trump’s relied on slogans – Make America Great Again, Build the Wall, Lock Her Up – ­knowing they had more resonance than detailed policies. Feelings were more important than facts. Hillary Clinton became the perfect bogey woman. Someone who personified all that was wrong with the American body politic. Someone who used the “d” word, deplorables, to describe them.

Many of those who voted for Trump felt the political system was rigged against the white working class, just as some of the black jurors in the OJ trial felt the political system was rigged against them.

Getting even more abstract, Andy Martin discusses how POUTS causes good crime fiction:

There was once a cartoon in the New Yorker which featured a 19th-century editor, very Victorian, with long sideburns, and poring over a manuscript on his desk, giving a hard time to a young wannabe writer. “Come, come, Mr Dickens,” he is saying, “it can’t be both the “best of times” and the “worst of times”, can it now? Make your mind up!” It occurred to me at ThrillerFest in New York this week that this could be another of those times, both best and worst.

Worst because of rampant Brexitism and Trumpery. Best on account of the raft of forthcoming thrillers and mysteries in the new season.

The question is: could there be a connection? The worse the state of the world, the better the literature emerging out of our orgy of uncertainty and self-destruction? There is a case for saying that all great works reflect death, horror, murder, crime. Think War and Peace or Crime and Punishment. The Brothers Karamazov just naturally assumes that most sons will want to bump off their father. Turning it around, Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy” is predicated on the belief that guys (and perhaps specifically Ted Hughes) have got it in for her.

They’re all Nazis at heart. Al Alvarez used to make the case that all the best poetry was written on the verge of nervous breakdown. Maybe that’s where we are now.

We have been programmed, in evolutionary terms, to find consolation and reassurance in these narratives that provide both an epistemological and moral pay-off: a puzzle is solved and justice is served. We wander the earth in a moral maze in which mysteries have a habit of remaining mysterious. We rely on the crime novel to bring us clarity and enlightenment where before there was only darkness. Maybe it is all we have left of the sublime.

Which I think explains why these narratives are so popular in the age of Brexit and Trumpery. The novel is more myth than mimesis, an “escape” in that it offers an imaginary solution of the ills that beset us and remains intractable in the real world. It is closer to religion than to nature because it insinuates that there is always Someone On Our Side. But they also suggest why, in turn, Brexiteers and Trump have of late been so insanely successful. It is because their penny-dreadful gospel claims to “save” us from a host of hazy crimes and misdemeanours, “carnage” and apocalypse.

In the Herald Scotland, Alison Rowat also looks at fiction and the current administration:

 WHEN it comes time to make a movie about the Trump presidency, some unfortunate screenwriter is going to find all the best titles have been taken. Creative tinkering will be required, particularly if the filmmaker wants to home in on the true tale of the president’s eldest son, Donald Jr, and his meeting with a Russian lawyer.

Would one plump, for example, for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Numbskull? Eternal Sunshine of the Clueless Mind? Indiana Jones and the Temple of Dumb?

But the Russia story is different, is it not? With several congressional committees already investigating, this matter above all others has the potential to do momentous harm to President Trump. To be accused of accepting foreign help is shocking enough. If such accusations were proven it would amount to a scandal worse than Watergate, a shame that was at least home-grown. It is a delicate situation, therefore. The mother of all fine china shops, the kind of establishment that would bar entry to passing bulls and children. Enter, then, number one Trump son and 39-year-old political toddler, Donald Trump Jr.

 America seems to be suffering from a condition best described as Trump outrage fatigue. It reached a certain plateau after the election, and it spikes now and again, but essentially it continues on the same level. The patient seems unwilling or unable to shrug it off, to find some way to break the fever and move on.

But what does it matter? America has been divided for so long on so many issues the Trump presidency would hardly seem to make much difference. Yet it does. Leaving aside the wider, global harm that could follow from having a distracted and weakened America turning in on itself, there is the damage being done to democracy. Mr Trump was swept into office on a wave of disillusionment with the status quo. That same disenchantment, far from being reversed, is being fuelled further by the Russia claims. How this democratic disaster movie ends no-one, not even Hollywood’s most imaginative minds, knows.

POUTS has been in office for six months now, and a number of outlets have produced reports on what he’s done so far. Here’s the one from the Frankfurter Allgemeine:

Donald Trump has been in the White House for six months. That means a lot of noise, countless Twitter messages, chest-beating everywhere. His popularity is, according to surveys, as low as any other president at this time. Less than 40 percent of Americans say they are satisfied with their president. But politics were also made in the first term of office of the new president.

Thus, Trump withdrew the United States from the Transpacific trade agreement TPP, surprisingly, and tried to re-negotiate with Mexico and Canada the existing North American agreement (Nafta). With other countries, including Germany, he is at war with trade policy.

But the biggest failure of Donald Trump in his first six months in office was administered by his own party. He has not been able to comply with his electoral promise to abolish “Obamacare”, which has been hated by republicans and their voters because of high contributions . It was not because the Democrats had resisted or the constraints had been too great, but rather because his own party, despite their majority in both congress chambers, could not reach a consensus.

The American president also shows repeatedly that he has no experience in political life. In May, he met the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov at the White House and told him that the United States had access to a spy within the “Islamic state”. This has put both the life of the agent at risk, as well as betraying important state secrets, which in the view of the American secret services has taken massive influence on the presidential election.

But along with all these negative things, positive things also happen, at least from the perspective of Trump and his supporters. Thus the White House is boasting that in the first six months of office, more than 860 regulations have been abolished. Most of them came from the Obama Administration and were about, for example, environmental protection. Trump sees these regulations as an obstacle to the economy and wants to reduce the influence of the state on the economy in a major deregulation campaign.

Elaborating on the failure (so far) of Deathcare, Peter Winkler looks at the fallout.

In essence, however, the drama about the health reform has exposed only the old trenches that keep the Republican Party holding its breath. Unlike in Europe, the major American parties are not bound by any program that would discipline their members and leaders. Rather, each deputy and senator herself defines what republican politics mean to her or him.

Radical anti-socialists, security-political hawks against libertarian statesmen, and the  a business-friendly establishment against the tea-party movement’s leaders. These and other schisms also make the party difficult to manage despite controlling all areas of the government. In addition to this, the iron political law for social works: once built, they turn into kryptonite, which is better not touched, because it even robbed Superman of his powers.

The reform of health was supposed to be the legislative project that the Republicans could quickly push through, then turn to other topics. There was, for example, the big tax reform, whose prospects are by no means better after the failure of the reform of the health system, or the law on the renewal of the infrastructure of a trillion dollars, which, as the blog “Politico” aptly describes – shows no signs of life.

Instead, the US once again looks into the abyss of a self-made insolvency if the statutory debt ceiling can not be increased in time. Such scenarios had marked several totally unnecessary power struggles between the Republicans in Congress and Obama at the White House. The diplomatic world then followed with astonishment how, in Washington, the creditworthiness of the United States itself was treated as a political football.

James Kirchik has a long article in the FAZ about how the Republican Party has become the pro-Russia party. It’s not too difficult a read despite its length.

How is it possible that the party which had moral clarity of a Ronald Reagan has turned into that of the moral emptiness that is Donald Trump? Russian intelligence is among the best in the world. I think they have carefully studied America’s political scene, and in the course of the Obama years realized that the conservative movement was ready for manipulation. Their basic counterpart to the “axis of evil” was long past. There only remains an intellectually and morally dried carcass, populated by high-rollers, opportunists, entertainers andcon-men, who operated extremely profitable publishers, radio empires, websites and television stations, and did not spread ideas there, but resentment.

If a political official from the Russian Embassy in Washington had visited the zoo which is the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, he would have seen a “movement” that lauded a ridiculous performance artist like Milo Yiannopoulos as if he were an intellectual heavyweight. When conservative bloggers are ready to accept hundreds of thousands of dollars from the authoritarian government of Malaysia to launch a dirt campaign against a democratic opposition leader, which they do not know the least about, it’s but a small step to the support and defense of an action of a brain dead Dauphin like Donald Trump jr., who is at least attempting collusion?

Why, in the face of this miserable picture, should not Russia try to “reverse” American rights, whose ethical rot is the necessary condition for her repulsive unscrupulousness? It is precisely this ethical decay that makes it possible for Dennis Prager, one of the more flexible professional moralists of the Right, to assert with an straight face: “The new media in the West is a far greater danger to Western civilization than Russia.” Why should a “religious right” celebrating a miserably immoral charlatan like Donald Trump, not close their eyes to the oppressive regime that prevails in Russia – or even expressly approve it like Franklin Graham?

Another long read is provided by Bettina Gaus in taz. I’ll warn you that it’s another examination of POUTS supporters, but it’s written out of curiosity rather than trying to advance an agenda and mercifully doesn’t attempt to come up with a Unified Theory.

Change of location. West Virgina, one of the poorest states in the USA. In addition to some income from tourism, this is mainly due to coal. Not surprisingly, Hillary Clinton did not score with her campaign for renewable energies.

Conrad Lucas is chairman of the Republicans in that state. A year ago he said, “I am 34 and the great hope of my party in West Virginia. If Hillary Clinton moves into the White House and possibly stays there for eight years, then I am 42 and someone else is 34 years old and the great hope of the Republicans. ”

Hillary Clinton has not become president. Lucas is now 35 years old and is considering to stand for congressional elections in the coming year. His family  settled here a few hundred years ago. He is – or seems to be – evangelical, homophobic, reactionary. So has good prospects in his party.

A small problem: He is also funny, sarcastic, intelligent. And he is not allowed to use any of these skills against Donald Trump, who is supported so far by so many Republicans that no candidacy could be successful against his political course. Conrad Lucas does not say a word against the US president. But he can not always resist the temptation to deliver a differentiated analysis. “The transition from a business man to a politician is always particularly difficult,” says Lucas, a graduate of  Harvard University. “There is a wealth of possibilities for action in business life, but only a few goals. There is also a wealth of possibilities for action in politics, and the number of goals is unbelievable. ”

A wise definition of politics, especially of foreign policy. This contains a sharp criticism of Donald Trump. Lucas formulates here the counterposition to the viewpoint of the dignitaries of East Aurora, according to which audacity is enough to achieve what one wants. He calls for a clear prioritization of political goals – that is, the opposite of the uneasy leverage, for which Donald Trump stands.

But does anyone notice this? Who is already interested in foreign policy? The longer and the more frequently you talk to Trump’s followers, the more it becomes clear that the US president is looking inside – and so he is understood. Whether he travels to Saudi Arabia or to the G20 summit to Hamburg, ultimately it is all about domestic politics.

 There’s little that seems to unite the people Gaus interviews beyond being fed up. Some are now fed up with POUTS as well.

The Norwegian ambassador also has some thoughts, as Jostein Matre reports:

Aas believes it is essential to understand that the United States is a divided society, where it is almost impossible for the Republicans and Democrats to reach compromises on the important issues. Thee ambassador points out that this is not new with Donald Trump as president. This was also the case under Barack Obama.

“Congress did not get anything done at all. They sat on each side of the aisle.”

“It was crucial even though other countries might criticize, from the start, we were clearly willing to cooperate with them, and we were clear why Norway is an important partner for the United States,” said Aas.

He refers to things like security and defense with cooperation in countries like Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, as well as the United States Navy Corps on Værnes. But also for work on peace processes, such as Colombia and Afghanistan, trade, the Arctic, our relationship with Russia, and Norway actually contributing to creating jobs in the United States

…It’s just not easy yet. There are still a lot of posts in the various ministries Donald Trump has not been filled up with people. For the Norwegian Embassy, ​​the consequence is that they often simply do not have anyone to address, such as in the Foreign Ministry, the Pentagon and the National Security Council.

– We notice that the political people are not there. That’s how the communication between the political leadership and the career people who now work in political positions often breaks up. It will be a bit more choppy, “explains Aas.

Norway isn’t the only country which has noticed the lack of senior appointments by the administration. Ansgar Graw considers the recent announcements of ambassadors to Germany and Russia:

… many administrators in Washington are skeptical about the unpredictable president and do not want to work in his government. On the other hand, Trump is very suspicious and so he prefers to be with close confidants, if not relatives.
Trump does not have more than 500 confidants and relatives. It is true that the White House has submitted proposals for further 145 top-ranking officials, which now await confirmation by the Senate. But the gaps remain immense.

But that there is so far no regular ambassador among the US representation in Berlin, hardly anyone has registered. Because both countries cooperate closely, contacts have emerged at all levels that work without diplomatic action.

There are direct channels between the Bundestag and Congress, as well as between the Federal Ministry of Defense and the Pentagon , between the Foreign Office and the State Department, between the other Ministry of Defense, between the secret services and, of course, between the Chancellery and the White House.

Ambassadors are much more important in countries that are important to the world, but have less close contacts with Washington. Russia is one of them. Despite the obvious efforts in the Trump environment to establish confidential channels to Moscow, the contacts between the individual ministries or the military are still at the top level, but they are totally underdeveloped at the crucial work stages.

At a second glance, there is much evidence that the President desperately needed to get Huntsman out of DC. For the popular ex-governor of Utah had been considering to stand next year against the 83-year-old Senator Orrin Hatch. Hatch, who belonged to the Senate since 1977, promised in 2012 that the current legislative period was his last. At Trump’s request, however, the influential chairman of the Finance Committee announced another candidature in spring. The 57-year-old Huntsman would have been dangerous to him.

According to a survey conducted by the local newspaper in January, Huntsman led his opponent Hatch by 62 percent to 21 percent. In the Senate, an independent and clever head like Huntsman might have become an offense for Trump. In Moscow, on the other hand, the president can use him.

And that’s your lot for this week. Happy Sunday.

British Breakfast and Euro-punditry

POUTS has been off on his travels again, yet again having to put conversations with foreign politicians ahead of golf. No wonder he’s upset.

First stop was Poland, where he made a belligerent speech in front of a bused-in audience of RWNJs. This prompted Máriam M-Bascuñán to reflect on POUTS’s advisers’ choice of reading matter:

What is relevant in Trump’s speech is his substantialist vision of the values ​​of the West, which he says he wants to defend with relish against potential external and internal enemies as Le Pen already did with his “choix de civilization”: the war of interpretations within The West is served. And it is symbolic that Trump wielded it in Poland, where the government favors an intolerant and fundamentalist populism. Pericles prayed to the fallen in the midst of the war, and Trump turned to the martyrs and heroes of Poland as an example and model of what the struggle for freedom, family, country and God means. His warning is clear, a warning to sailors. Too bad his advisers read so much Thucydides instead of the Kant of Perpetual Peace!

On to Moscow, and a meeting with a Russian bloke POUTS barely knows and has never colluded with, not nohow, nosirree Bob. Maria Georgieva comments in Svenska Dagbladet:

The meeting lasted for more than two hours, much longer than expected, which makes Russia look good.

The Kremlin hoped to inject some clarity in what direction the relationships will take. It is important for Russia that the presidents find a common ground to stand on.

On the whole , it became a good day for Putin, who looked like a real statesman. But despite the expectations of excitement, the challenges remain. Russia still wants Trump to lift the economic sanctions, halt support for Ukraine – something that has not happened so far.

It also seems that the outside world wants to work out which of the presidents is the savannah’s wild lion on the one hand, while on the other hand, conclude that there is a wide-ranging “bromance” between them. Next to each other they looked like two elephants pushing and trying to drink from the same waterhole….

Regardless of what’s going on in the future, the Kremlin wants Putin to appear as the winner of the meeting, to ensure momentum against other world leaders. Therefore, President Putin’s facial expressions will continue to carry on passive expectations.

Then it was the G20. Let’s start with Andrés Rojo:

The G19 distanced themselves yesterday from the White House tenant by including in the final declaration of the Hamburg Summit a point declaring the climate change agreement in Paris “irreversible” and calling for “proceeding swiftly” to its implementation despite opposition from the United States. The delegation headed by Donald Trump included a note stating that the US “would work with third countries to use fossil fuels more effectively and cleanly”, a phrase that was supplemented, on the initiative of the France of Macron, with the addendum ‘and other renewable and clean energy sources’. Finally, the United States was not able to add to its proposal the support of Saudi Arabia or Indonesia (large oil producers) and the Americans were left alone, certifying a paradigm shift in the G20 summits, traditionally led and directed by the tenant of the White House on duty.

The other of the great points where a priori disparity of approaches existed between the US delegation and the rest of the G20 members was the chapter on free trade, which Trump had set afire with its serious charges against German business practices in the steel market against which it intends to raise tariff barriers. Finally, as in Hamburg, a compromise was reached: the final declaration enshrined the principles of global free trade but, at the same time, it recognized the right of states to play Trade defense. This last expression was universally understood to be a concession torn away by the delegation headed by the millionaire New Yorker. In any case, the text approved and signed by the US, China and the European Union proclaims the need for free and fair international trade with open markets and condemns discriminatory protectionism through tariffs or regulations.

Much comment is of a similar nature. The world is adjusting to the USA being out of step. Make America Irrelevant Again was probably not the original idea, but it seems to be working.

There were some pretty violent protests, which led to a lot of Germans asking whether it was worth holding G20s, especially in Germany. Christian Stöcker doesn’t think so:

1. A city like Hamburg is unsuitable as a venue.

Even before the first stone flew and the first car was burning, the summit had begun to paralyze Hamburg. There were hours of traffic jams, the city center was locked up, police cars on every corner and helicopters across the city produced a sense of siege. From the dissolution of the “Welcome to Hell” demonstration on Thursday evening, black-dressed hooligans began to hit the streets in various places in the city, lighting barricades and cars and generally spreading chaos.

If threr must be a G20 summit, then in the future please in the desert, on an island or an aircraft carrier.

2. The “black block” has nothing to do with politics.

The people who came from Europe to riot in Hamburg describe themselves as politically radical, as anti-fascists, anti-capitalists or anarchists. In truth, the past three days have once again shown, they are simply hooligans as soon as they put on the black gear. To light small cars and smash the windows of mom and pop stores with a hammer is not a political statement. And just because you have yelled a few times “Anti-Anti-Anticapitalista!” does not make a political symbol of the plundering of an electronic store. Writing  “Death to the police”  on walls and throwing stones at policemen is not an act of resistance in a democratic state.

4. These peaks bring nothing

The Chancellor’s summit conference was, to put it cautiously, no revelation. The US is still not involved in climate protection, one wants to take care of Africa somehow, all find free trade jolly good. Saying this as clearly as that could have been accomplished much more quickly if the ladies and gentlemen had held a teleconference.

Petra Pinzler disagrees:

Heads of government must be able to talk to each other, for example about climate protection . Moreover, in the months leading up to their meeting, they need to know which topics of international politics interest citizens. Talk about it, argue, write about it. All this would not happen if there were not such conferences. Without the G20 in Hamburg, not many thousands of citizens would have discussed world politics, if scientists had not made any reform proposals for global co-operation, and foundations had not invented new joint projects.

At the G20 in Hamburg, all of this led to the climate being on the agenda. In the end, nothing revolutionary was decided, but the G20 has passed the Trump test and put it at 19: 1 to take the resolutions of Paris seriously and to work on further joint strategies. It does not save the climate any better. Would we could get much more. For example, the Prime Minister of Turkey, Erdoğan, did not want to go on afterwards and wanted more money.

But the world does not consist mainly of friendly, environmentally friendly, democratic governments, with whom one likes to pass polite time by the Alster. That is why small steps in the right direction are already a success. It has been given on the G20 summit, with a few other topics as well. That’s why it was right to go to Hamburg.

Some people were surprised that POUTS didn’t attend some meetings, sending along his daughter instead, which is at least unusual. Matthew Norman discusses it:

In Hamburg, birthplace of his favourite food item, Donald Trump had warm words for his favourite female politician. Oddly, it wasn’t Angela Merkel, his hostess, or our own Lame Duck Boudica, Theresa May.

“I’m very proud of my daughter Ivanka,” declared 45th US President at the G20 summit, “always have been from day one… If she weren’t my daughter, it’d be so much easier for her. It might be the only bad thing she has going, if you want to know the truth.”

Of course we want to know the truth. We always do, though whether Trump is the go-to guy for that is a matter of opinion. George Washington had a stronger reputation in the field (Trump would have framed the cherry tree for suicide), and he was phobic about nepotism.

With America joining Britain in the death-spiral to isolationism, the free world begins to look for leadership to the unfree world, in the unlovely shape of China. However gruesome the paradox, geopolitics abhors a power vacuum, and unless and until the EU becomes a federal superstate, China will be the only candidate to replace the US not just as the world’s largest economy but leading power.

In the meantime, look forward to more nepotistic merriment, with Ivanka winning the $600m contract to supply US Army uniforms, Donald Jnr replacing Ulysses S Grant on the $50 bill, Eric made US Masters champion by executive order after shooting 197 and 212 in the first two rounds at Augusta, and 11-year-old Barron and his two favourite teddies given permanent situation room chairs in place of the National Security Adviser and a couple of four-star generals.

Only that nebbish Tiffany will continue to be overlooked, according to top DC sources. Far from being very proud of her from day one, the President wouldn’t date her even if she wasn’t his daughter.

Although golf was off the agenda, there was plenty of opportunity for POUTS’s other favorite sport, competitive handshaking. Marco Venturini analyses his matches at the G20 (This takes you to the original, where the actual videos being given the expert treatment will play.)

During the G20 there is always some attention on the handshakes , which are often used as a diplomatic message . Sometimes they are avoided, sometimes they are asked, they usually give themselves, formally.

The handshake communicates a lot, in a non-verbal way . In the case of the leaders reveals the relationship they have with each other and what they want to make outside . In many cases, a quick gesture of handshake tells us whether a leader feels submissive or wants to dominate the other.

This time, Trump preferred to avoid embarrassment and immediately stated, not verbally (with a gesture instead of words), his intention to shake hands at the German Chancellor.

We can see from it that Trump gives and opens his hand long before he gets to the point of contact with Merkel. Trump makes several steps with his hand pulled to the German leader .

This formality of handshake with an enemy, however, embarrasses Trump. His gesture was due but not heard . So to relieve tension and prove it has not changed, it breaks the pattern by giving them taps on the right arm as it goes.

The fear of distortion in the eyes of the world with that handshake makes him perform another unpopular gesture in typical Trump style: just before leaving the center of the scene, the provocative president shakes the fist closed in a gesture of exultation towards the photographers. As if he wanted to induce the cheer for him. An obvious discharge of tension at a time of embarrassment.

He went on from the G20 for another bout of handshaking with the current world champion, Emmanuel Macron. Most observers reckon that Macron won the epic 25-second tussle. POUTS was there as the guest of honor at France’s national day celebrations, in which the French naturally pay more attention to what their own President does. This was Macron’s first 14 July, just as ten days earlier had been POUTS’s first Fourth.

So it’s worth having a look at reviews of The Macron Show (with special guest). First, Vadim Kamenka:

Since the beginning of his mandate, the Head of State intends to embody a new foreign and European policy: his own. It is a break with his predecessors, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande. Is it to reconnect with a gaullo-mitterrandian line? For Christian Lequesne, researcher at the International Research Center (Ceri), there is little doubt: “Emmanuel Macron takes the standards. There is a form of rupture with the previous two quinquenniums, which largely based their diplomacy on the question of respect for the great principles and democratic values. There seems to be a tendency in the French president to diplomatically pursue interests. It can be characterized as a kind of pragmatism “according to which” France must be able to discuss with everybody “.

The new head of state would be ready on Syria for military reprisals against the regime in the event of chemical attacks.
France would not hesitate to act alone in order to “respect its red line”, he affirmed, like Donald Trump who ordered a military strike against the Syrian army on April 4th. Macron did not break with Atlanticism at all. And the president goes so far as to invite Donald Trump for the celebrations of July 14, in Paris. A highly symbolic gesture, which the Élysée explains by a determination not to break the dialogue after an “opposition” on COP21.
It remains that Emmanuel Macron break with neoconservatism and interventionism seems overplayed.
The official goal is to celebrate “the 100 years of the United States’ entry into the war with French troops during the First World War”. Unofficially, the Elysee wants to bring the United States back into the process of fighting global warming and work together on conflicts in the Middle East, notably on the Syrian issue and the fight against terrorism.
Emmanuel Macron seems to want to draw inspiration from all the diplomatic lines. A method that could work for a while, but that “could become complicated if the aura surrounding it were to become fragile. For now, his success in the presidential election still serves him, but if his reforms in France become problematic, then he could lose credibility with other leaders, warns Christian Lequesne.

In Le Monde, Marc Semo again underlines that Macron is very much aware of being the new kid on the block and keen to make a strong impression on the world stage:

Mr. Macron loves history and its symbols. He had already shown it by inviting Vladimir Putin to Versailles for the inauguration of an exhibition celebrating the 300th anniversary of the visit of Tsar Peter the Great. The centenary of the United States’ entry into the war in 1917, the start of their involvement in European politics in the name of a certain idea of ​​democracy, is even more important.

“He treats de facto Donald Trump even better than Vladimir Putin, stressing the importance of the alliance with Washington,” analyzes Bruno Tertrais of the Foundation for Strategic Research. Mr. Tertrais noted that the French president “invites above all the President of the United States, even beyond Donald Trump.”

It’s a bet for Mr. Macron. “He is buying Trump down, relying on the fact that the United States remains in any case unavoidable whatever the errors of their president,” notes a fine observer of the diplomatic scene. The unpredictability of the US president, his refusal to engage in the fight against global warming as his protectionist tendency in the name of “America first” complicate his relations with many international leaders, beginning with Angela Merkel. The German Chancellor has often had very harsh words against him.

Macron, for his part, took the lead in a diplomatic counter-offensive to recall the irreversibility of the Paris agreement. But both at the G7, where he still evoked his hope to convince Mr. Trump, that at the G20, the Head of State has multiplied the gestures of kindness towards him. “Personal alchemy works well between the two men,” said a White House official.

“I never despair of convincing, it is a trait of character,” explained Mr. Macron in Hamburg. With his diplomacy of “at the same time”, the French president has willingly posed, since his entry on the international scene, as a mediator taking advantage of the tensions of the last months between Moscow, Washington and Berlin. He is the political leader capable of snapping the wind at Angela Merkel, of talking in firmness with the strong man of the Kremlin and of keeping the ear of the real estate tycoon who runs the United States. The latter, ever more discredited, has everything to gain by displaying a French president with excellent image, including in the United States, whom he salutes as a “trailblazer” (pioneer).

I’ll finish this week’s miscellany with a piece by Slavoj Zizek entitled “Christian conservatives don’t support Donald Trump despite his vulgarity – they support him because of it”. Which is at least an intriguing title:

How to account for the strange fact that Donald Trump, a lewd and morally destitute person, the very opposite of Christian decency, can function as the chosen hero of the Christian conservatives? The explanation one usually hears is that, while Christian conservatives are well aware of the problematic character of Trump’s personality, they have chosen to ignore this side of things since what really matters to them is Trump’s agenda, especially his anti-abortion stance.

If he succeeds in naming conservative new members of the Supreme Court, which will then overturn Roe v Wade, then this act will obliterate all his sins, it seems. But are things as simple as that? What if the very duality of Trump’s personality – his high moral stance accompanied by personal lewdness and vulgarities – is what makes him attractive to Christian conservatives? What if they secretly identify with this very duality?

Exactly the same goes for Poland’s current de facto ruler Jaroslaw Kaczynski who, in a 1997 interview for Gazeta Wyborcza, inelegantly exclaimed: “It’s our f***ing turn” (“Teraz kurwa my”). This phrase (which then became a classic locus in Polish politics) can be vaguely translated as: “It’s our f***ing time, now we are in power, it’s our term”, but its literal meaning is more vulgar, something like: “Now it’s our time to f**k the whore” (after waiting in line in a brothel).

It’s important that this phrase was publicly uttered by a devout Catholic conservative, a protector of Christian morality: it’s the hidden obverse which effectively sustains Catholic “moral” politics.

The important lesson here is that this coming open of the obscene background of our ideological space (to put it somewhat simply: the fact that we can now more and more openly make racist, sexist and generally xenophobic statements which, until recently, belonged to private spaces) in no way means that the time of mystification is over, now that ideology openly displays its cards.

On the contrary, when obscenity penetrates the public scene, ideological mystification is at its strongest: the true political, economic and ideological stakes are more invisible than ever. Public obscenity is always sustained by a concealed moralism, its practitioners secretly believe they are fighting for a cause, and it is at this level that they should be attacked. To paraphrase the old Marx brothers joke, apropos Trump or Kaczynski: you look and act like a vulgar clown, but this should not deceive us – you really are a vulgar clown.

It goes on to theorize that Jeremy Corbyn’s appeal is because he’s so ordinary — he seems like a man of the people because he doesn’t really stand out from the crowd. I think Zizek is on to something, but my view is slightly different: Corbyn is a very nice man. He’s not given to firebrand rhetoric and while as a lefty he can’t entirely avoiding speaking in slogans, he doesn’t talk down to people. Some people can work themselves into quite a lather hating what he stands for, but it would be very difficult to hate him personally. You wouldn’t want to go and have a beer with him, but you’d probably be able to have a pleasant conversation while you sipped your coffee and he his tea in a local cafe.

The thing is, you’ve got to be who you are. Mother Theresa, stung by the criticisms that she’d been robotic about the Grenfell Tower fire, has been telling stories about shedding a tear when she saw the exit polls on polling night, presumably as part of an attempt to prove that she was born rather than assembled. I have to say that it’s not working. Like POUTS, she’s way out of her depth.

Survive Sunday.

Albanian Breakfast and Euro-comment

DCIM101GOPRO

Today is election day in Albania. I spent some time digging around to try and come up with some useful coverage, but I didn’t do very well. They’re obviously aware that almost nobody speaks Albanian, and there are at least four English-language Albanian news sites, but unfortunately all of them are paywalled. Struggling with GoogleTranslate on some other sites, I couldn’t really find much which said what the issues are; the most recent stories are about measures to protect the integrity of the poll, with at least four parties being accused of widespread vote-buying and the Interior Minister threatening severe punishment for anyone doing anything illegal with regard to the election.

However, I did manage to establish that 140 people will be elected to their unicameral parliament on a party-list proportional system in 12 regions. There are three main parties, the Socialists (PS), the Socialist Movement for Integration (SMI), and the Democrats (DP). The SMI was formed by someone who broke away from the PS, but I can’t work out what the differences are between them. There is also a new center party, LIBRA, which just about figures in the polls. (GoogleTranslate manages to render their name variously as Libra, Libya and BOOKS) This piece reports on the opinion polls from 1st June and has some information about what the voters think the issues are; subsequent articles tracking the polls have consisted effectively of updates only and are unenlightening beyond there having not been much movement over the course of the campaign.

Compared to the 2013 elections, the SP and PD have increased their votes. PS 43%, PD 36%. So PS has increased by 1%, while PD has increased by almost 6 points. But what has marked a surge and can be considered a surprise is the SMI. So the SMI has received 12%, which means it has marked a big increase compared to the 2013 elections. Another surprise is Libya, which competes for the first time in an election process. Other parties are below the threshold. Commenting on the polls, survey expert Antonio Noto said that interestingly, he is comparisons with the 2013 elections, where PS has increased by 1.7%, while DP with 6 points. The SMI, according to him, is growing at the national level by 1.5 points. For Libra, he says we can not make comparisons that he was not in the election. While all other parties are below the threshold.

Questions addressed to the respondents: today in Albania live well PS voters answered 66.7%, DP 23: 0% while SMI 32.4%. While questioning that in Albania is “bad”, potential PS voters have responded to 26.3, DP 72.4% and SMI 50.6%. While Antonio Notto explains that determining whether to live well or badly is related to the parties. SP voters say they live well, while DP voters say they live poorly. So it is not an answer that relates to social conditions but to political representation. Analyst Artur Zheji commenting on this said that these results are similar to those that knocked Berisha’s government four years ago. “In 2013, the results of the response to unemployment and corruption are more or less the same as now. Precisely, the response to dissatisfaction and corruption, dropped Berisha’s government and caused the wheel we saw. Meanwhile, with the same index as compared to 2013-2017, then the Rama government should fall. Meanwhile, the answer is; We are better off. We are not worse, “he said. Also the survey expert Afrim Krasniqi emphasized that the trend is not positive for the Socialist Party. “The number of left-wingers who think they are going worse is bigger than the number of DP citizens that things go better.

This is interesting. Second, with the SMI, one thinks that things are going wrong with 50% and when compared to the past 4 years, they almost say the same. It is practically a comfortable position for the third political party, “Krasniqi said. Meanwhile, on the question of what are the three emergent problems that require solutions in Albania, respondents think that unemployment is the main problem with 67%, corruption by 36.3%, and salaries and pensions by 34.7%. Other problems that affect Albanians are the economic crisis, health service, poverty. But in spite of that, Albanians think they live better than four years ago. While Antoini Noto said the electoral campaign has just started, the data we give will not be the data of June 25, but the start of the electoral campaign. “It’s a picture today, dated May 31. There are two surveys, one at the national level. There are 2002 people asked to belong to different ages and gender, but also to different social strata. 52% of respondents are women. The second survey is just for Tirana. 1000 people were asked. The surveys were conducted on May 29 and 30, 2017, “he stressed.

I have also found a piece in the English-language version of the Luxemburger Wort, which appears to be AFP’s:

Albania votes in parliamentary elections on Sunday with hopes that a long tradition of polling fraud, violence, and disputed results will come to an end and propel the country towards EU membership.

The Socialist Party of Prime Minister Edi Rama, 52, appears to have just a slight advantage over the centre-right Democratic Party of Lulzim Basha, 43, according to opinion polls

….Although Basha, an admirer of US President Donald Trump, has officially led the Democrats for four years, his predecessor Sali Berisha, a former Albanian president and premier, remains a powerful and unifying figure on the right.

His party had threatened to boycott the election until a month ago, raising concerns about the vote being unfree and unfair. Although the two sides struck a deal, with the Democrats given key ministerial posts in the run-up to the vote, the rhetoric remains lively.

“Edi Rama has supported a handful of people who… got their hands on the economy, and a handful of criminals who seized power and made Albania a drugstore,” Basha said, referring to Albania’s illicit but lucrative cannabis trade.

Rama retorted that Basha “is an opposition leader who is not ready for the challenge of governing the country”.

On the campaign trail, he lampooned his rival for lacking experience, calling him “a watermelon that one must open to see if it is ripe or not”.

“Everyone is good for something, but Luli (Basha’s nickname) is only good for putting people to sleep,” the premier joked.

Polls will be open from 7am until 7pm CET under the eye of 3,000 election observers, including 300 foreigners.

So that fulfils the request made in last week’s comments at Daily Kos.

With no other elections going on right now, it’s time to get back to European coverage of POUTS and related matters. Beginning with a piece by Moisés Naím:

It is still too early to evaluate the presidency of Donald Trump. However, thanks to his behavior, the results of his management and his constant self-promotion, some things are already clear. For example, there are certain ideas that were commonly accepted before Trump’s arrival in power. No longer.

Truth: Trump, his spokespeople and his allies in the media and social networks (including Vladimir Putin) have shown that for them there are no incontrovertible facts and data. There is no such thing as “the truth”. Any statement, scientific data and even visual evidence such as, for example, photos showing the size of the crowd on the day of the inauguration of the new president can be questioned.

Directing a big company teaches how to run a government: This is a zombie idea: we believed it dead but every so often it revives. It is the belief that to be a good ruler helps to have been a successful entrepreneur.

The US president is the most powerful man in the world. Trump will prove that this is not so. Of course this president has at his disposal enormous resources and thousands of officials — including the best-armed military mankind has ever known. But the forces that limit their performances are equally enormous – if not even more powerful. These limitations to presidential power are domestic and foreign, legal and bureaucratic, political and economic. Despite being one of the presidents with the most pronounced imperial temperament, few of his orders are becoming realities.

The longevity of a democracy protects it from corruption and nepotism. In failing democracies, Congress, judges, or other State institutions fail to prevent a venal president from using the prerogatives of office for the benefit of his private business. Or name their relatives in important public positions for which they are not qualified. To a greater or lesser extent this happens everywhere. In African and Latin American countries these abuses become frequent and extreme, while in the United States or the United Kingdom they are comparatively less serious. Until now.

Political apathy The Trump Government will make it painfully clear to millions of Americans that elections have very concrete consequences on their lives.

Europeans find American healthcare debates very weird, especially when they’re about making a poor and inadequate system even worse. Thorsten Schröder’s piece is entitled “Wholly beyond reality”:

Repeal Obamacare , Obamacare, became the core task of the party.

Now the opportunity is there: The Conservatives represent the majority in the House of Representatives, in the Senate and one of theirs is President. But the draft law, which Senate spokesman Mitch McConnell presented after weeks of secrecy , shows above all one thing: with their old promise, the Republicans themselves have pushed themselves into a corner and thereby are ever further removed from the political will of the citizens. The anger for Obama blinded the party. Because it still regards the fight against the hated Affordable Care Act as a top priority and has to win at all costs, while the rest of the US has long since turned away.

Despite all the reality checks , the conservatives in the congress have gotten into the old plan. The fact that they are now planning to replace Obamacare is only due to public pressure, which was not to be ignored in Washington. If it were up to most Republicans, they would remove Obamacare without compensation, leaving the decision about life and death to market forces. Now they are desperately trying a law that creates the balancing act between their own ideal and the annoying reality. Their ultimate goal seems to be that what comes out in the end does not bear the signature of former President Obama.

… The conservatives do not care about the well-being of their electorate, but are looking at the chance to destroy Obama’s success.

…A defeat for the Republicans would be desirable. Not because of political satisfaction, but because the party would then be forced to wake up at last – and to work with the Democrats to improve the status quo. Even liberals have now seen that the system of Obama is full of holes: the premiums are too high, the costs for insurers in many places hardly bearable, choice in some states hardly exists because the providers withdraw from the market. A return to a world before 2009 is not a solution. Instead of Trumpcare, America needs an improved Obamacare. If the Republicans do not learn that now, then hopefully by the next election.

Exposing splits in the Republican Party is always mildly amusing. Alexandra Endres looks at a Republican group’s scheme for tackling climate change:

Republican politicians in the US are not generally known as friends of an ambitious climate policy. But that just seems to change. For months now, a group that is close to the Republicans, called the Climate Leadership Council, is working on its own, a conservative climate protection plan.

Among the most important members of the initiative, the two Republican granders George Shultz , holders of various ministries under Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, and James Baker , who was under Reagan Finance and George Bush Senior Foreign Minister, and Henry Paulson , Finance Minister under George W. Bush.

[T]he plan of the Climate Leadership Council is intended to protect the climate, while allowing the market to expand freely within clear limits. This fits better into the conservative worldview. Its authors do not call their proposal a climate protection plan – framing is important – but a carbon dividend plan.

First, the state levies a tax on emissions, initially at $ 40 per ton of CO2. Fossil energy would be more expensive, climate-damaging behavior punished….

the second step in the plan – the state would have to return the entire revenue from the tax back to its citizens. “With a tax of $ 40 on each ton, a family of four will get about $ 2,000 in the first year,” the two economists Martin Feldstein and Gregory Mankiw, formerly advising Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush,

In order to protect domestic companies in the competition, the economists suggest climate imbalances on carbon-intensive imports and discounts for US exporters. This is the third step. As soon as the model runs, older climate change rules from the Obama era would be handled: step four and final.

In the New York Times, Feldstein and Mankiw praised the advantages of their proposal in the highest tones: not only climate protection, but also investment security for companies and thus economic growth. Those 70 percent of US citizens who earn less than the richer rest would profit, they write. That would be about 223 million people.

The power in the White House, however, still has other. Trump’s Energy Minister Rick Perry said a few days ago that carbon dioxide is not the most important cause of climate change ; Scott Pruitt, the head of the EPA, would like to put the scientific knowledge on climate change to a complete discussion – and the president himself seems to follow their line. That is why it will probably be years before the idea of ​​a carbon dividend has realistic prospects for winning majorities in the congress.

Killing Obama’s rules is one of POUTS’s objectives, but that hasn’t stopped him coming up with his own great ideas — such as making the Great Wall of Trump out of solar panels. Matthias Auer considers this brilliant concept:

We’re talking about the southern frontier,” Donald Trump said at an event before supporters in Iowa. “A lot of sun, a lot of heat – we think about constructing the wall as a solar energy that produces energy and pays for itself.” The higher the wall, which is supposed to keep illegal immigrants and drug traffickers from Mexico, “Trump said visibly enthusiastically,” A great show, right? It was my idea. “

Element Energy, a solar company based in Portland, estimates that a 1,000-mile-long wall would produce around 2,657 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year, which could currently be sold at around 106 million dollars. At a construction cost of ten billion, the Wall therefore will take a hundred years to recoup its costs.

But even these values ​​are still optimistic. They ignorea number of expensive secondary conditions: the concept of a solar panel with vertical panels is rather unconventional. It is estimated that the efficiency of the panels would drop by half as a result of the vertical installation. In addition, the solar panels would have to be oriented towards the south, ie Mexico. An answer to the question of how the Americans are to clean, maintain and repair their panels cost-effectively on this side of the border wall is still pending.

It is also open to anyone who is supposed to buy the electricity (we speak of electricity for up to 220,000 US households). Just two percent of US citizens live within a 40-mile radius to the Mexican border. They have little need for extra power. In order to find enough customers in the USA, Trump would have to lay long, expensive power lines. According to a study by the British “Institution of Engineering Technology” every mile of transmission line would come to about 8.8 million dollars.

Really thought out, however, the impact does not work. For Trump, he also opens another ideological flank: China produces almost all solar panels worldwide. One can be curious how the “America First” president will sell his voters this windfall to the economic rival.

We now move on to considering Cuba, in the company of Massimo Cavallini:

“In six months, or six years, or whenever it is, Cuba will be free . And when it is, the people of the island will say that the transition began here, in this theater, with a president who has done what must be done to restore freedom in the island of Cuba … “.

It was Marco Rubio , Senator of Florida – yes, that Rubio Rubio, who in the course of Republican primaries, Donald Trump had systematically humiliated by defining little Marco , – to pronounce these wise words, charged with a “historical” consciousness And of hope so pompous in form, as well as pathetically molded in substance.

Donald Trump … has found himself at ease in this atmosphere of unconditional adulation, even enlightened in a climate of generalized ecstasy, from the “happy birthday, Mr. president” (Trump has Reached its 71 years just a few days ago) sung by the whole theater. And it has been in this vaguely North Korean climate that the newly elected president has replied, doing what he knows best. That is, lying . More precisely: giving the most sclerotic part of the Cuban exile the lie which, from him, the latter waited. “The memorandum I came up with – said Trump to applause – is the total cancellation of the bad agreement with the Cuban government.

False.

In essence, Trump’s “new” policy towards Cuba starts from a premise that testifies to an extraordinary ignorance of the Cuban reality…

All that Trump offered last Friday in the jubilant atmosphere of “Manuel Artime” theater is just, when one looks at the facts, a change of rhetorical tones , a verbal return to the past . And this has made everyone happy. Himself, with the illusion of having destroyed another piece of the ” Obama’s legacy “. And the relics of the Cuban exile, ready as all the old descendants to rejoice in this sort of return to the childhood of their anti-Christianism (someone calls it a rebellion).

The problem is that, in politics, words count . And, though piously ridiculous, this return to the past inevitably announces difficult times (and perhaps the end of a hopeless hope) especially for those new sectors of Cuban society that were very marginally and slowly loosening the noose of Castrarian totalitarianism.

Last Friday, history – the story Barack Obama had been trying to set off – made Cuba take a step back . And it was a bad day (another “nasty” bad day) for everyone. For Cuba, the United States and the world.

As we’ve mentioned the ex-POTUS, let’s see what he’s been up to. Frauke Steffens has the goods:

A bodyguard is at the door, hundreds of people block the street, they cheer and take photos. This is how the former American President Barack Obama gets a coffee to take home, for example in February in New York.

Many Americans love Obama , and they don’t begrudge him the fun he is having in his “afterlife”. Whether he is photographed in a tuxedo or khaki shorts, his fans call him and his wife Michelle fashion icons on social networks. They also rejoice when Obama plays golf or with billionaire Richard Branson on the yachting holiday – because he deserved it. Obama can hardly do anything wrong. His popularity is 63 percent approval. The formerly most powerful man in the world does not have to make any unpopular decisions – and he and his wife Michelle look extremely good in photos.

“Nobody in history has managed being a pensioner better,” cheered the otherwise not particularly human-friendly celebrity blog “TMZ”. In the south of Los Angeles, we are discussing whether to name a road to Obama during his lifetime. And the American Association for the Advancement of Science lists nine newly discovered creatures named after Obama – including colorful fish and a bird, but also spiders and worms. Anyway, Theodore Roosevelt only got to seven.

In his role as a former president Obama did not want to interfere with the day-to-day political debates. Instead, he wanted to participate in long-term change processes, he said. To this end, he founded a foundation. In Chicago, where he used to live, an entire Obama center is to be built, with a library, sports and youth facilities. The center is to be located on the South Side. There are many African Americans where the successes of the black American middle class have not grown in recent decades – they suffer from poverty and violence. Obama’s center will mainly help young people. It is to cost up to 380 million dollars, financed partly by public money, which promises a renewal of the area. It is to be inaugurated in 2021.

After becoming aware of the latest bill, Obama decided to attack on his Facebook page. The Republican Bill provides tax relief for high earners, but at the same time higher contributions and self-participation for people who can not pay much. These plans, according to Obama, meant a “massive redistribution to the top”. The Senate now has to step back and understand what is really at stake, he wrote in a long statement. He has never attacked the present government so concretely and clearly.

It is about Obama’s political heritage, but probably not about the most important part of it. For he does not need to make much effort to protect his most lasting legacy: that there has been a black president at all.

Some tragedies, such as terrorist incidents and mass shootings, tend to produce op-eds which are roughly the same as they were after the last one. The Grenfell Tower fire in London, though, prompts some more general thoughts from Fintan O’Toole:

To understand why government in both the United States and the United Kingdom is in such an abysmal state consider the connection between two political utterances. One is very famous, because it brilliantly encapsulates an entire political philosophy in a single, easily grasped sentence. The other is an obscure but quite typical exercise in ministerial verbiage. But one is the offspring of the other, and between them they trace the path towards anarchy in the Anglo-American world.

The first utterance is one of the best-known lines delivered by that consummate performer Ronald Reagan as US president, in August 1986: “I think you all know that I’ve always felt the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

The second is the Conservative minister of state for housing and planning in the UK, Brandon Lewis, explaining in 2014 why he would not make sprinkler systems compulsory in high-rise housing developments: “It is the responsibility of the fire industry, rather than the Government, to market fire sprinkler systems effectively.”

Reagan’s line was funny, folksy and supremely effective – all the qualities for which neoliberals continue to adore him. But it leads, among other places, to the blackened cage of Grenfell Tower that Ed Vulliamy memorably called, in the Observer, “the outrageous crematorium on the skyline” of west London.

It was a clever, insidious sneer at the very idea of public service: to be “here to help” is to be at best a well-meaning bungler. Government does not enable: it interferes. Regulation is redefined as molestation. Public service is a public nuisance. The freedom to live in squalor or to make money from those who do so is the ultimate value.

Never mind either that the neoliberal sneering at the idea of government being “here to help” was as hypocritical as a pious lecher. Right-wingers who venerate Reagan’s mockery don’t care to notice that in the very same speech he goes on to say that “America’s farmers should know that our commitment to helping them is unshakable”.

Tanks and bombs are always “here to help” when neoliberals decide that a foreign regime needs to be changed. Government is “here to help” when banks want to be bailed out with public money or when oligarchs need subsidies. Being here to help is only wrong when “here” is wherever ordinary citizens are struggling to make decent lives for themselves and their kids.

The sneering is no less effective for being so two-faced. Its acid has been corroding democracy in the anglophone world for decades. When government being “here to help” is a contemptible thing you end up with the grotesque reality that, even after a disaster, nobody from government really is there to help.

The right has played with the fire of anarchy, and now both the UK and the US are anarchic states, one in the grip of idiocy, the other of self-destructive fantasy.

Here’s another piece prompted by the fire — very indirectly, because it’s Brian Beacom’s reflection on journalism prompted by a BBC interview of Britain’s worst-ever prime minister.

 You could almost see Emily Maitlis’s fingerprints on Theresa May’s face after the stinging Friday night slap was administered. Across the country viewers cheered, some were stunned. At the very least, a very curious eyebrow was raised.

We’re speaking figuratively of course of Maitlis’s Newsnight interview in the wake of the Kensington fire tragedy, but the moment made its mark.

The usual deference given to PMs went out the window faster than a disturbed burglar. Rarely has the nation seen a journalist attack a senior politician armed not just with a list of demanding questions but a searing contempt.

 Maitlis pushed relentlessly for answers; “Where were you for two days? Why didn’t you speak to the locals? Where was the army? When will people be re-housed?” All valid questions, which were deaf-eared, TM returning time and time again to her press release line.

Then came the stinger. “They shouted coward at you when you left St Clements, Prime Minister.”

This wasn’t a question; it was a public shaming. And while it was not the expected comment it was apposite; Maitlis’s question refracted popular feeling.

Theresa May may well have felt major grief at the news of the Grenfell fire but she didn’t show it.

Maitlis clearly picked up on this. You could see anger, frustration in her face. But it didn’t mean she wasn’t doing her job. Her voice was representational. If anything, she could have gone further and demanded; “Prime Minister, why do you refuse to answer the questions I’m putting to you and in effect worsening your position?”

Maitlis’s questioning was laced with emotion, but it was measured. Her questions distilled a nation’s anger, gave it an outlet. She was uncompromising and ultimately the result was revealing.

And you could argue it was necessary. This is an era of fake news. The media is constantly be harangued by politicians, in an attempt to shape and control, to set the agenda, to set parameters for discussion. To get the answers, the journalist has to pull out all the stops, even if the result is an unleashing of raw emotion.

French writer Marguerite Duras once declared; “Journalism without a moral position is impossible. Every journalist is a moralist.” Maitlis is a moralist. And as such, the face slap was well deserved.

Here is yet another piece prompted by the fire which goes even further afield. Robert Fisk compares May’s remarks with those of Middle Eastern despots:

Could there be anything more ridiculous than hearing Maajid Nawaz, one of the founders of Quilliam – which boasts that it is the world’s first “counter-extremist” organisation – suggesting that extremists in the UK are trying to provoke “civil war”? He says that Isis has declared this as its aim – which is true – but why is Nawaz repeating it all again? It’s good publicity for Isis, unfortunately. It’s also good publicity for the Quilliam Foundation whose “think tank” – how I hate those words – is churning out this stuff.

Inevitably, the Grenfell fire – many of whose victims were Muslims – has become part of the “terror” story, which is just what a MailOnline report did last week. Had most of the fire victims been non-Muslims, I don’t believe this bit of dodgy “conflation” would have been made. On the other hand, it could well be argued that Lady May might have met the victims if they had not been “angry” Muslims. And after the van attack in Finsbury Park, we had to endure Corbyn’s psychobabble about how we must “reach out” to the “pain and stress” of victims.

I’m not sure how you “reach out” to “stress” – though Jeremy seems to think it’s about hugging people. In fact, responding to “terror” – of the Islamist, fascist or fiery variety – is a difficult one for political leaders, especially when one of them – the unsympathetic lady – may soon be out of a job and the other one is busy trying to create “unity” even if he hasn’t been terribly successful in doing it in his own party.

In the Middle East, we’re always suspicious when a local dictator talks about “unity” – wahda in Arabic – because it usually means he’s in trouble. Calls for national unity in Tunisia and Egypt preceded the fall of Ben Ali and Mubarak. Autocrats often try to cement this “unity” with stifling praise for their security forces who protect their “nation” from “foreign plots”. This has faint parallels with the UK today.

All politicians praise the police – whose failure to protect the public often becomes buried in applause for their courage – and Isis certainly fits the “plots” bit, although Cardiff hardly counts as “foreign”. Other parallels are troublingly closer to the mark. The countries which talk most about “unity” – President-Field Marshal al-Sissi in Egypt today, for example – are often those facing Islamist violence. Or nations which have substantial minorities of different faiths. Think Lebanon. Or Syria. Or Iraq. All three endured or are enduring civil wars of the kind which Mr Nawaz is waffling on about.

And “justice”, of course, is exactly what many Arab demonstrators were demanding in the Arab revolutions. Justice, needless to say, was not what the dictators intended them to have – nor did the West, which insisted on claiming that protestors wanted “democracy”. And in London, after the fire, one thing which, I suspect, irked those who demonstrated on the streets was that their original demands for fire-risk-free homes had been largely ignored in an environment in which the poor, the unemployed or Muslim refugees had long been vilified on social media – thus making their warnings unworthy of serious attention. This was the “injustice” they suffered from.

And “injustice” in the Middle East – by us and our satrap dictators and our sale of billions of dollars of weapons to them and our invasion of Iraq and our bombings – has helped to create Isis. It is justice – home and abroad – that Maajid Nawaz and his chums should be discussing. But I guess a UK civil war gets more hits right now.

One doesn’t have to perform many mental contortions to translate the specifics of the Grenfell fire in that piece to, say, Katrina, Ferguson or Flint — as O’Toole pointed out, callous, self-serving responses by government are equally likely in the UK and the USA.

That’s your lot for this week. Have as pleasant a day as you can manage.

French Breakfast

France’s legislature gets elected today. It seems entirely likely that a large majority of the seats will be won by parties which didn’t even exist a couple of years ago. After last Sunday’s first round, we’re into the runoffs, which are first-past-the-post for the 577 seats. Well, not quite 577, because a very small number of first-round contests were won by candidates who got over 50% of the vote and enough people voted for there to be a quorum. (You can’t win a seat which has tens of thousands of eligible voters should you get 66% if only three votes get cast.)

Unhelpfully, this summary may get obscured by adverts depending on your device, but it’s the only intelligible thing I’ve found where the graphics make it through GoogleTranslate. Macron’s La Republique En Marche (LREM)  has allied with Francois Bayrou’s Mouvement Democratique (MoDem), and they are expected to win about 430 seats, with LREM getting 370 and MoDem getting 60. The Republicans are likely to emerge as the largest opposition party with about 100, and the rest are expected to have slim pickings. Marine Le Pen may get in, but even if she does, she’s unlikely to have more than four colleagues, more likely just one. Neither Left group — Melenchon’s hard-left France Insoumise and Hamon’s Partie Socialiste — will do well. They are both on course for numbers in the teens, and you need at least 15 to be recognised as a proper party with automatic rights of representation on parliamentary committees and suchlike. What follows are some pieces about where the parties are likely to go from here. It’s not all that coherent, but I’ve found these bits interesting, anyway.

“Catastrophic” is not too strong a word to describe the PS’s loss of support. At the last general election, they won a big majority, and this time they are struggling even for recognition. Here’s a piece from Le Monde about how they’re taking it:

Throughout the country, socialist leaders and activists say they are waiting for the results of the second round, which could cause their party to lose up to 264 deputies, to think of the “after”. Many are still struggling to assess the consequences of this “major reality shock , as one of them describes.

“When you’re an activist, it’s very hard. I’ve been fighting for fifteen years, and yes, I clearly have a feeling of failure. There we are at the bottom of the hole and we have become inaudible. Someone would have announced this result a year ago, we would not have believed. An explosion of the PS with a siphonage in good standing by LRM, it was not seen coming, “ says Sylvain Mathieu, head of the PS in the Nièvre. …The explanations vary according to local contexts. When some of them rebelled against the local barons who had fallen into disgrace, others pointed to the lack of enthusiasm generated by novice candidates. Everywhere, the bitterness towards the elected officials who took the LRM train as soon as possible is strong.

For many, the PS label doomed the candidates. “We had three weeks of good campaign ,” reminds Mickaël Fernandes, campaign manager in the eighth riding of the North, in Roubaix and Wattrelos . I can not tell you how many times we have heard: “You guys are nice, but the PS, we do not want anymore!” If our candidate had run on the label La France insoumise or La République en marche he would have done better , says the activist, who joined at the end of 2011. Who says logo PS, says Hollande, says Valls, declared decline of nationality

A little consolation, a small sentence comes from those who are looking for renewal: “at least, the situation has clarified” with the verdict of the ballot boxes. The “real socialists” and those who have joined the presidential majority will find it hard to make common cause in the future. Considered a “professional politician” , the first secretary of the Socialist Party, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, incarnates, for the militants of the left wing of the Party, what they “no longer want to see” .

After the second round, there will be time for refounding. All agree on the need to discuss , within the sections, “the orientations that this political party has the vocation to carry” . For some, the PS can not be reborn from its ashes. “The party is dead, it has been too long a party of elected,” says Mickaël Fernandes, judging it useless to “persist” . A long-time socialist activist from Marseilles, more nuanced, considers that “the PS has seen this before” . “It is the party of Blum, Jaurès, Mendes France, Rocard, JospinThe PS is the party of social transformation, that of the defense of employees and public services. We will disappear when the problems of our fellow citizens have disappeared, he believes . There is going to be a crossing of the desert, it is obvious, remains to know how long it will last .

Whatever the degree of bitterness, fatalism or anger, all are convinced. There is a political space available between “the liberalism of Emmanuel Macron and the extreme left of Jean-Luc Mélenchon , for socialism, social democracy. It remains to know how to seize it .

Keeping with PS self-analysis, Lilian Alemagna and Rachid Laïreche examine where the Left might go from here:

A reversal of more than half a century. The wave of the Republic in motion (LREM) in the first round of the legislative elections crushed the French left on Sunday. The Socialist Party, at 7%, falls to its lowest historical; Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s unbridled France lost, with 11%, 8 points compared to its presidential score; Environmentalists are at 4%; The communists to less than 3% … None of these formations should be able, by themselves, to form a parliamentary group. We must go back to the beginnings of the Fifth Republic and the Gaullist scroll to find a weak left in the Assembly.

At the moment, the main PS officials agree on one thing: “We will have to rebuild everything from floor to ceiling,” believes MEP Emmanuel Maurel. But despite this historic defeat, few voices are raised to demand a congress before the end of the year, as the party’s statutes do. “The work that is waiting for us is to rebuild a left of government that no longer exists today,” argues Romain Colas, released Sunday in Essonne. It’s much deeper than repairing April 21. “ ” Considering the state of the party, I do not know if the urgency is to have a congress of clarification in September, “continues Maurel, representative of the left wing . You have to ask yourself, see if you want to stay together … I’m not sure that’s the case. “

No one is asking – for now – the head of the boss, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis. “Why destabilize the boat that has already lost a lot of mossaillons by organizing a putsch against the captain?” Asked former minister Laurence Rossignol. “Cambadélis can no longer remain, it must be clear: to announce the date of the congress and that he will not run for another term, however , decides a member of the management. The crisis is deep and it crystallizes too much. The new generation will attempt an offensive but as none of them won the legislative elections they will calm down. “

After a national office seminar on Monday, a national council is scheduled for 24 June. The strategic question of a formation caught between Macron and Mélenchon should again arise. This is an essential issue, as his parliamentary group, many of whom will be elected to Macron’s mercy, could, at the special session, offer his confidence to the government. “I do not know if the PS can survive, ” said the boss of a large federation. He is caught up in internal contradictions that have been insoluble for too long, and in a stranglehold powerful enough to condemn us permanently to marginality. We lack an incarnation, a political line and a legitimacy. “ Which Mélenchon has built.

According to Mélenchon, this is a kind of witness passage. The former Socialist already imagines himself a leader of the Left. But it lays down its conditions. His spokesman, Alexis Corbière, is waiting for the end of the legislative elections to take stock, but loosens a few tracks: “We were always in favor of the rally, we were ready to welcome the Socialists and we are always ready to do so. But for that, we should not be in the vagueness . “ Understand: the interested parties must leave the PS to join France rebellious.

Faced “to the field of ruins to the PS”, France insoumise has a blow to play according to the political analyst Gaël Brustier. Who warns: “Mélenchon must not confuse the political conflict with excess. And I do not know what he wants, I feel that he is satisfied with what he got. But if he wants to make progress, it’s time for him to speak to a maximum of French people. “

For some socialists, “space exists” between an all-powerful Macron and a “too cleaving” Mélenchon. Drawing lessons from the presidential and wishing to detach themselves from the apparatus PS, many of them want to launch their own company this summer. For Benoît Hamon, it will be July 1 in Paris. Anne Hidalgo is also preparing the sequel under the name “From tomorrow”. Matthias Fekl plans to revive his movement, called “Movida”. All want to involve “intellectuals” and refer to what the Socialists had known before the congress of unity in Epinay in 1971: a multiplication of initiatives. They promise to “converge in due course”.

Brustier analyzed the first round results for Liberation:

The partisan system of the Fifth Republic is dead and buried. The bulk of the political staff of the last ten, fifteen, or thirty years is dismissed ruthlessly. The political parties of the Fifth Republic, that is to say those which have governed since 1958 and alternately since 1981, are suffering a historical setback and are returning to the doorway of our political history. Another organization of political life is being set up. A new parliamentary staff replaces the former, while the fundamentals of the two major parties of government are also those of the LREM majority. The faces change but not the political and ideological heart. This situation is a consequence of the crisis of regime of the Fifth Republic, born of the crisis of 2008. It is this crisis of regime that President Macron has the function of solving. He substituted one political staff for another. The parties of government no longer obtained consent. Tonight, they’re out.

The In Motion Party was designed with this in mind. It is a kind of electoral trust, a party-enterprise which reminds in some respects Berlusconi’s Forza Italia in 1994. The centralization of investitures, the frequent weakness of implantation of candidates, the bet made on the “wave” Macron rendered Winning by the collapse of participation, reveal above all that parliamentarism is not only rationalized, it is also relegated.

Conclusion: We are seeing a strengthening of the fundamentals of the regime. It is more a restoration or a rigidification than an update of the Fifth Republic.

The Macron era opens with an ambiguity: it promotes in fact liberal reforms by adhering to the fundamentals of a diffuse ideology in our society, that of the “national gathering” described by Philippe Burrin. In the name of the unity of the nation, this ideology refuses divisions and conflicts. It is consubstantial with the Macronian discourse. It made the fortune of many political currents before.

On the plateau of France 2 tonight, the outgoing deputy and secretary of state for relations with the Parliament Christophe Castaner delivered a condensed of this ideology. The risk, of course, is to interpret this evening’s result as reflecting the will of a unanimous country. An idealized representation of the unity of a country in multifractured facts, it could have made the fortune of the macronism before, one day, to cause its fall.

En Marche is too new to have traditions not to be faithful to. In fact, it’s too new to have any traditions at all or any kind of detailed policy manifesto. Nor does it have a thriving grass-roots structure: for now at least, it’s going to be directed from the center. It exists, apparently, simply to provide the President with parliamentary votes. What people are going to get is a new bunch of centrist politicians, and it remains to be seen what they will actually do.  Aurelie Delmas looks at the “contract with the nation” the new party’s deputies are signing up to:

The candidate had announced the color during the campaign: he would not accept the divergent voices in his camp. In a speech in January, Macron explained: “No invested candidate will be able to express any disagreement with the heart of our project.” A month later, he again warned France Inter: “Each candidate who will be invested will sign with me “Contract with the nation”. That is to say, he is committed to voting with me the big projects, that is to say to support our project. There are no slingers. “

This concern for discipline obviously did not leave him after his election. The government spokesman, Christophe Castaner, also came to recall after the first round to the future LREM deputies that “when a collective decision is taken, and it will be taken at the level of the group for the National Assembly, it must be the Rule for all “. While admitting that “out of 400 [deputies], there may be one, two, three persons” who act as slingers within the majority. A strict line, evidently dictated by the memory of the Socialist slingers whom Macron met with as Minister of the Economy.

But by looking at the contract, which the candidates had to sign in their application, there are in fact only broad positions of principle, no specific commitments. The text is organized around six “projects”: “education and culture”, “labor society”, “modernization of the economy”, “security of the nation”, “democratic renewal” and ” “.

If Macron defends “clear commitments” , there are no real promises in this text but rather rather vague phrases like “putting the transmission of fundamental knowledge, our culture and our values ​​back at the heart of our project School and our universities “, ” moralizing and empowering public life, renewing national representation “ or ” recreating economic and social mobility through digital, research and innovation, work and entrepreneurship “ .

The text is a little more precise about work, since it promises to “simplify the law, reform unemployment insurance to make it a universal right with new requirements for everyone”, in accordance with the candidate’s program. But nothing really binding, then.

Right-wingers are in a slightly better position than the left. For the moment, the Republicans have held together and retained more seats, and will have a bigger group in the Assembly. For the moment, though, because they are likely to split after the election. Alain Auffray looks at the upcoming schism:

In the coming debacle, the right will find this pattern of relief: Sunday evening, it will finally hit the bottom. In the six weeks between the election of Emmanuel Macron and the first round of the legislative elections, the LR-UDI alliance swept down the toboggan of its ambitions. After May 7, she had sincerely believed she could approach the 289-strong, and thus an absolute majority in the National Assembly.

Ten days later, she felt fortunate to be able to form a large minority of 150 to 200 elected, the level she had reached in 2012. On the eve of the second round, now she hopes to save at best A hundred seats, while recognizing not to be able to exclude to fall below the threshold of the 60 deputies …

Whether the defeat is complete or outright humiliating, the hour will be, from Sunday evening, settling the account and reconstruction. Given the seriousness of the accusations that have been exchanged over the last few months by the highest officials of the party, the question of the split will necessarily be asked. There are the “fierce” who supported Fillon to the end and “the deflated” who brutally let go of him, “the sectaries” who swore an oath of opposition to Emmanuel Macron and “traitors” who joined the President elected with weapons and baggage. Can all these political leaders still live together?

The fate of the LR group will depend on the balance of power between two camps: on the one hand “the constructive”, ready to participate in the presidential majority by voting trust in the government; On the other, the “legitimists,” who were resolved to join in opposition to a majority that remained, in their view, fundamentally left-wing. The former, encouraged by Jean-Pierre Raffarin, could push the likely deputy of Hauts-de-Seine Thierry Solere, a close to the Prime Minister. The latter, supported from outside by Wauquiez and from inside by Eric Ciotti, should be favorable to the recall of Christian Jacob, in favorable ballottage in his constituency of Seine-et-Marne.

Who, constructive or legitimate, will be in the LR group? Difficult to risk any prognosis. Both sides are hoping for at least a score of elected officials and the game will probably be arbitrated by the hesitators, who may decide at the last minute. To put everyone in agreement and preserve the unity of the “family”, some leaders of LR like Bernard Accoyer push the deputy of the Ain Damien Abad, one of the rare LR of his region to have resisted the first Turn to LREM thrust. He proposes himself to make the “link” between the two camps.

If they are a minority, the constructive might be tempted to secede to create a group willing to support the government Philippe. To exist in the future Assembly, they could regroup with the survivors of the rout which obviously will not spare the centrists of the IDU. “This is only a hypothesis,” tempers an elected LR. The unknowns are still so numerous that the equation of the recomposition on the right remains insoluble until Sunday.

Now we’ll move on to discussing other matters. Such as North Korea and POUTS. Here’s a disturbing piece by Sean O’Grady:

The treatment the North Koreans evidently meted out to Otto Warmbler, an American student who fell foul of the authorities, was appalling and utterly disproportionate to whatever minor offence he committed. It is, though, perfectly normal in a nation that routinely imprisons its enemies in the most barbaric and inhuman places….

Many thousands of Korean prisoners have been though what Warmbuer has been though, being abused so badly that it caused brain damage. Maybe the guards did so with added violence because they have been taught that the Americans are sub-humans. They may have murdered an American citizen, and done so with maximum cruelty. The reaction of the American people is rightly distressed; the difficulty is how their president can exact some sort of justice without igniting a regional conflagration.

It is getting more urgent as every missile launch becomes more sophisticated, accurate and longer-ranging. Meanwhile, the North Koreans are also becoming world-leaders at cyber warfare. We know that they have endangered the health of many people in this country too. For we now know it was from inside North Korea that the NHS was brought to its knees using WannaCry ransomware.

All that leaves us with one man who could do something about Kim: Donald Trump. The problem is that every previous policy, from the “sunshine” approach during the Clinton years pursed with the enthusiastic support of the South Koreans, through to the toughest of UN sanctions, has failed to have much effect.

Kim has seen the example of despots around the world, such as Saddam, Assad and Gaddafi, who have either given up their weapons of mass destruction or just been found to be bluffing, and faced lethal changes both to their rule and to the lives of themselves and their families. He knows that the only thing keeps him on his throne is his nukes. The West (that is, Trump) has to persuade him that he will be able to stay there and prosper at the expense of his people without those nuclear missiles, and, indeed, without threatening hospitals in Britain. Even the most dedicated appeaser or deal maker would find that a difficult challenge.

Donald Trump may yet do it. I have written before about the value of an audacious, even reckless, visit to Pyongyang by President Trump to make some sort of breakthrough, whether by bribing, bullying, cajoling or even charming America’s most unpredictable of enemies. That may not be for now, given the rawness of the emotions after Kim’s latest crime against humanity. A world where President Trump is our only hope against the ruthless Kim is not a comfortable place.

It’s salutary to be reminded that the destabilisation of POUTS is not purely a matter of internal US politics. But unstable he certainly is. Frauke Steffens considers his brief excursion into normality following the shooting of Steve Scalise:

“By playing tonight, you show the world: our democracy is not intimidated by threats and violence,” said Trump on Thursday night in a videotape published on Twitter for the Congressional Baseball Game, for which the Republicans had been training in Alexandria before the attack. His reaction to the action in the immediate vicinity of the American capital had until then been praised by his critics. The New York Times wrote that the president had responded appropriately to the severity of the event. In fact, Trump initially dispensed with political blame.
Did he perhaps suspect that he was not well advised to denounce the harsh rhetoric of political debate as a cause of violence, as some Republicans did so quickly?… However, regardless of why the President was reticent, he did not keep the self-imposed restriction for a long time. While Washington was still discussing whether the escalating war of words between Trump adversaries and advocates had instigated the assassin James T. Hodgkinson or whether mental problems were the real core cause of his actions, Trump fell back into tried and tested behavioral patterns. Already on Thursday, the president had turned to Twitter again, on the attack and decried Mueller’s investigation on Twitter as a “witch hunt”, which emanates from bad people.

almost 200 deputies are suing the President on the grounds that he has accepted money from foreign governments through his companies.
But, like Mueller’s investigation, the handling of this lawsuit will take a long time. So Trump can play on time in both cases, even if the examinations accompany him every day of his presidency and encourage him to further outbursts on Twitter and the press. It will depend on whether at least one of the investigations leads to the 2018 elections – and how much weight the voters attach to the results when they choose the members in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Trump’s appeal shows that the President does not have a long-term strategy for disagreements with those who gave him a pass in the election campaign but now want to implement their political goals. The President reacts as usual to these conflicts: times he makes allegations and tries to negotiate like a businessman, sometimes he is angry, threatened and insulted. Neither the attack of Alexandria nor the pressure of the investigation will change anything in this policy.

Even the Senate has done something POUTS probably doesn’t like, having voted 97-2 to extend the sanctions on Russia, a remarkable degree of unanimity. Not shared, however, across the Atlantic, as Angela Merkel is hopping mad about it, as Die Welt reports:

After a bitter criticism by Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) has also sharply criticized plans by the US Senate for an extension of the existing Russian sanctions. It is strange that in punishing Russian behavior the European economy should be the target of sanctions, said government spokesman Steffen Seibert on Friday in Berlin. “That must not be.” Merkel shares Gabriel’s worries. “There is a great consensus,” said Seibert.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Friday when the law came into force and the US president was using sanctions for German and European companies in connection with pipeline systems, “we consider this to be a violation of international law “. The plans were diametrically opposed to German interests.

The bill is actually about the sale of American liquefied gas and the displacement of Russian natural gas supplies from the European market. “Europe’s energy supply is a matter for Europe and not for the United States of America!”

With regard to the sanctions of the West against Russia , the plans, according to the Federal Foreign Office, constitute a break. “For three and a half years we have really pulled together across the Atlantic,” said the spokesman. “With this bill we are in a different situation.” The motive of the decision was no longer just the Russian annexation of the Crimea and the behavior Russia in the east of Ukraine, but the allegations of the influence of Russia on the US presidential election. Therefore, this time there was no agreement with the US Senate.

On the bill in the US Senate, 97 of the 100 senators voted on the bill. The House of Representatives, the second chamber of the Congress, has yet to vote on the expansion. Trump then has to sign it. “There is still time to reverse it,” said the Berlin Foreign Minister. We know that the US government is “not very happy” about the decision. It was hoped that the decisions would be changed.

OK, that’s enough about how France is complicated and POUTS makes the world even more complicated than it already was. What’s abundantly clear is that there’s a lot of turnover going on in the political classes. For instance, the new right-wing PM of Ireland is a mixed-race gay, Leo Varadkar, who’s just 38. Which has got Donald Clarke worried:

What the hell just happened? I doze off in front of Antiques Roadshow for half an hour and wake to find decades have passed. Nothing ages a fellow so much as discovering he is now older than the head of state….

If the heart kept ticking it was inevitable that a Taoiseach would eventually arrive as my junior. I grimly imagined some near contemporary – remembered stuffing ballot boxes at the university, perhaps – taking the ermine and ushering in my generation’s slide towards oblivion.

“Wasn’t he younger brother to that guy who nearly died drinking developing fluid?” I imagined myself saying. “A bright little spark. I always expected he’d claw his way to the top.”

The Taoiseach is supposed to look like a grizzled ancient in the background of a Jack B Yeats painting. He’s not supposed to know who Talking Heads are. When operating a mobile phone (or any other piece of technology that doesn’t run on valves) he’s supposed to suggest a goose looking into a bottle.

Take a breath, old idiots. Get your head around this. Leo Varadkar would have been a little too young to appreciate Super Mario Bros when it arrived. His James Bond is Timothy Dalton. If he has a Dr Who then it’s probably Sylvester McCoy, but the series was in hiatus before he was old enough to care.

Then there’s this mess over in France. Obviously we’d rather have an infant than the latest sprig from a harvest of fascists, but the arrival of Emmanuel Macron heralds another jarring plunge through the generations.

Oh well. Mrs May is closing in on 60. [Actually, she already is, by a few months.] Her most likely successor will be a rival from her own party. David Davis will do nicely at 69. Amber Rudd is a few months older than me. Good stuff. But the favourite, Boris Johnson, is a few months younger.

We have another reason to wish him ill.

For Mrs May will be succeeded, and sooner rather than later. Amongst the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire were the last shreds of the prime minister’s credibility. The Independent’s editorial explains:

The destruction of Theresa May’s reputation has been so rapid and so complete that it is hard to imagine that she could ever recover the minimum respect required to do her job.

After an election in which she was humiliated, punished for failing to engage with the voters, she faced the disaster of the fire in a west London tower block that killed more than 30 people, mostly poor social tenants. This was a chance to show that the caricature of her as an unfeeling  robot was unfair, but instead she made it worse by avoiding contact with residents when she visited the site on Thursday and by a stilted interview on Newsnight last night.

This is not a matter of asking our politicians to emote for the TV cameras, although some acting skills are needed in any leadership position. It is about recognising that one of the tasks of a national leader is to speak for the country and, at times, to feel and to express its pain. Ms May’s inability to do so is not some trivial failing of public relations or media management, but something close to a disqualification for the highest office.

Ms May finds herself, therefore, in a more difficult position than Gordon Brown after he failed to call an election 10 years ago. Her party is still too stunned by the unexpected loss of its parliamentary majority to move against her, and in any case it is not clear how much of an improvement Boris Johnson, David Davis, Amber Rudd or Philip Hammond would be. Meanwhile, she has not yet completed the negotiations with the Democratic Unionist Party that would allow her to govern at all.

Yet the Brexit talks are due to open in Brussels at 11am on Monday. Mr Davis, the Brexit Secretary, and Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, have a lot of preliminaries to get through, but within weeks they will start to hit difficult questions that are going to require decisions to be made.

We are approaching the point at which Ms May will simply lack the authority to make them.

Fun times ahead. Enjoy Sunday.

British election breakfast

 

We had an election in Britain this week. The Conservatives won, though not quite convincingly enough to have a majority in Parliament on their own. Since the seven elected on the Sinn Fein ticket will not be taking their seats (they won’t take the oath of office which involves pledging allegiance to the Crown), the magic number is 322 — and the Conservatives are 4 short of that. For all the praise being lavished on Jeremy Corbyn, Labour are 60 short of that figure, having gained 30 seats. Theresa May continues for the moment as PM, since she’s going to make some accommodation with the Democratic Unionists, a bunch of anti-abortion, anti-gay climate deniers from the Northern Irish Protestant community.

British Breakfast and Euro-comment

This coming Thursday is Britain’s general election. The polls are variable enough that anything from a hung parliament to a 100-seat Conservative majority is possible (the SNP would have to disappear for Labour toget an overall majority), but one thing is certain: the prime minister who will lead the country while the Brexit negotiations proceed will be a fourth-rate incompetent. Jeremy Corbyn is a nicer guy and has been more relaxed and confident on the campaign trail, but would be a hopeless PM, while Theresa May is currently PM and is hopeless at it. Nor can we look round the rest of their parties’ leadership teams for any comfort, since they have both surrounded themselves with talentless morons.

British Breakfast and Euro-punditry

 

POUTS* has gone abroad to terrorise some other people and won’t be able to play much golf for a bit. Sad!

The places he’s visiting are liable to offer him varying welcomes now that his loose tongue has compromised intelligence-gathering, particularly in the fight against ISIS.

But he will be warmly welcomed at least in his first port of call, as Patrick Cockburn lugubriously observes:

Trump badly needs a success. His three-day visit to Saudi Arabia, before going on to Israel, gives him just such an opportunity. He will probably be able to announce a $110bn weapons sale to the Saudis and emphasise that this means more jobs back in the US. He will be given a welcome of imperial splendour in Riyadh, where there is to be an “Arab Islamic American Summit” and two other summits attended by dozens of Muslim leaders. The message is that the US and Saudi Arabia are at one in confronting the evil Iranians.

Events planned for the multiple summits in Riyadh are pretentious and reek of hypocrisy. One of the most distasteful, called “Tweeps 2017” and to be held in the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Riyadh, is designed to appeal to Trump’s addiction to Twitter. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and King Abdullah of Jordan will be there, and there is to be a series of panels on the social media.

This is happening in a country notorious for jailing anybody tweeting the mildest criticism of the government. Amnesty International reports that “the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) in the capital, Riyadh, sentenced journalist Alaa Brinji to five years in prison and a fine, followed by an eight-year travel ban, for comments he posted on Twitter”. In Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, critical tweets lead to draconian sentences, ensuring that Twitter is no longer the public forum it was in 2011.

The phoneyness and extravagance of the events in Riyadh are strongly reminiscent of the infamous celebration of 2,500 years of the Iranian monarchy held by the Shah in Persepolis in 1971. The aim was to put on display the achievements and power of Iran under the Shah, whose officials assembled even more royals, presidents and prime ministers in Persepolis than the 55 leaders and representatives gathered in Riyadh this weekend. It did not do him a lot of good when seven years later, after his overthrow, almost all his ungrateful guests rejected his pleas for a place of refuge.

Christoph Scheuermann also looks at some of his other stops:

Donald Trump really hates traveling. The many people, the unfamiliar food, the foreign culture. He likes to stay in familiar surroundings, his daughter Ivanka once said, in Trump hotels and Trump golf clubs, and watches football in the evening. His journey, beginning today in the Middle East, is the journey of a man who has never been interested in the world.

On his journey, Trump will give two major speeches, in Riyadh and Jerusalem. He wants to show that he can be presidential, that he has the world under control, that he can leave the Russia affair behind him. In Riyadh, he will talk about Islam, which is awaited with great tension. The speech is being prepared by Trump hardliner Stephen Miller, who has already choreographed the ban on immigration by citizens from Muslim countries. Trump had also claimed in the election campaign: “Islam hates America.”

In Israel , a mixture of skepticism and hope awaits him. For months Trump has been talking about creating peace in the region – a deal that has failed generations of diplomats. The problem is that nobody knows what Trump wants and what he stands for. On the one hand, he has appointed as US ambassador to Israel a man who has supported the radical settler movement in the past. On the other hand, he is surprisingly positive about Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The best explanation is: Trump is not interested in how peace comes about, which gift he thinks he will definitely present to the people.

Trump’s staff will sell the trip as a success if he does not make a blunder, does not deviate too often from the script and does not have too many new enemies at the end. Expectations are already lower than for any previous president.

For reasons I don’t fully understand, the above piece in a German newspaper suggests that the G7 summit Trump is due to attend is in Sicily. Since the G7 summit is actually in Hamburg, this piece of disinformation may be designed to confuse Trump about his sleeping arrangements even further. Adrian Arab explains the current mystery surrounding them:

For some time there were speculations about where Donald Trump will be staying in Hamburg during the G-20 summit on July 7th and 8th. Already in April it was clear that Hamburg is going to be difficult. For the luxury hotel “Vier Jahreszeiten”, which was favored by Trump, had already refused his booking, the “Hamburger Abendblatt” reported .

Supposedly Trump had found an alternative: according to “Abendblatt” information should be noted that the Berlin “InterContinental”  will accommodate Trump. But from the hotel near the Berlin Zoo came a denial. “Usually, we do not comment on our guests – in this case we say clearly: No, he does not staying with us,” said a spokeswoman.

If Trump stays in Berlin, he automatically decreases the chances of informal talks between him and other leaders at the hotel bar. Almost all of them stay in Hamburg – 9000 rooms will be booked from 6th to 9th July. Chancellor Angela Merkel will check in with her delegation at the hotel “Atlantic Kempinski”, the Chinese in the “Grand Elysée” at the Rothenbaumchaussee and the Saudis at the “Westin” in the Elbphilharmonie.

However, the same fate as Donald Trump has come to another state leader. Vladimir Putin also tried to book a room in the “Vier Jahreszeiten”, according to Abendblatt’s information. He was not successful and was still looking for a hotel.

Before he goes to the G7, there’s also a visit to NATO. It’s already been reported that people have been briefed to keep their speeches short so that Trump doesn’t get bored, but here’s a piece from Martyn McLaughlin about the fallout from Trump’s intelligence indiscretions and what will come of them there:

If you close your eyes and catch a strong northwesterly breeze, you might just be able to hear the grinding sound emanating from Vauxhall Cross. While outbreaks of bruxism have been sporadic at the headquarters of M16 over the years, a full-blown epidemic has developed since last November’s US election, as security operatives gnash their molars following the latest catastrophe across the Atlantic.Even by President Donald Trump’s meagre standards, his decision to shoot his mouth off about highly classified intelligence in the presence of Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US, plumbs new depths.

The inglorious episode makes two things abundantly clear. Firstly, it offers resounding proof that Trump’s uniquely toxic blend of carelessness, impulsiveness, and vanity renders him the gravest danger to his own country. He may have the power to declassify whatever information he wants, yet lacks the responsibility to make the necessary judgments. Secondly, after just four months of his presidency, the historic alliance of Britain, the US, and their three fellow members of the Five Eyes intelligence network is in serious danger of collapsing.In hindsight, it seems optimistic, if not hopelessly naive, to think of how we searched in vain for a label to anticipate the hallmarks of the Trump administration. It would, many posited, herald an unprecedented merger of state and corporate power; others thought it would pursue a populist economic nationalism. Neither prediction was rash or misguided, yet neither were they true. Both made the mistake of assuming Trump has a plan of any kind. They were expressions of hope rather than expectation.
All of which should make Trump’s itinerary over the next week particularly interesting. In what will be his first foreign foray, he is due in Saudi Arabia this weekend, travelling on to Israel before meetings with Nato leaders and the G7 summit. There will be stern words exchanged behind closed doors.You can be sure that everyone in attendance, with the notable exception of Trump, will choose them wisely.

He’s also visiting the Pope, but perhaps more significant for US-Vatican relations is the new US Ambassador, Callista Gingrich. Die Welt reports:

The story is more than a footnote in fast-paced Washington. It begins on 18 August 2000. Callista, born Bisek, married Newt Gingrich at that time. The prominent Republican is a typical Southern baptist, she is a convinced Catholic. He is known as the former spokesman for the US Congress (1995-1999). The woman by his side is, until then, an untitled page. But she has influence. Especially on Gingrich’s faith. Nine years later the prominent Republican entered the Catholic Church.

Callista’s sense of sentiment may be a reason why the Trump government was considering early the 51-year-old for the coveted post of the US Ambassador to the Holy See . On Friday evening, just a few days before Trumps’ visit to Franziskus , it became official: the White House confirmed the nomination of Gingrich.

The musical Callista, who also plays on the French horn, in addition to singing and piano, went into politics after graduation as an intern. Until 2007 she worked in the Committee on Agriculture. Not exactly the resume for an ambassador to the Vatican.

But ultimately it is about the contacts. And those the diplomatically inexperienced can certainly bring to the Holy See.

Winters tells an anecdote about how a former Vatican ambassador was summoned by the Cardinal Secretary to an emergency meeting. If she could use the phone on his desk, she asked. Two minutes later she had the then US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on the line. This is what the Vatican expects from an ambassador, concludes Winters. And for this, the well-connected Callista is likely to be fully equipped.

While he’s away, of course, investigations continue into Trump, much of which we’ve already seen reported in the WaPo and other American organs. But here’s a report of something which hasn’t appeared in the US media (at the time of writing, anyway) by Luca Ciarroca:

The impeachment of Donald Trump is approaching apace. After the midterm elections of 2018, the worst US president of all time will hand over to his deputy Michael Pence . An easy prediction? Yes, given that, although slowly, the truth is coming to light : Trump’s affiliate partners are convicted Russian and Mafia-style oligarchs. This could put the former casino operator back in a guilty position for a series of serious allegations.

The first episode of this series of investigative reports , produced by Zembla [a Dutch documentarty-maker], succeeds in doing what no US television network has yet done: to undertake an in-depth analysis of ties with organized crime between Trump and his partners in the management of various properties . The links between Trump, Generous Kushner, Netanyahu, Putin , Chabad Sect , Diamond King Leviev, and many other similar characters are documented with impressive accuracy, with a set of charts, interviews, court documents.

The video highlights another remarkable detail: Trump’s former political mayor, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani , has helped create an ad hoc bank account for the purpose of recycling money through a company in the United States Netherlands. The figure: $ 250 million , coming from Bayrock. Everything documented.

Is it the beginning of the end for the American superpower and its out of control capitalism without restraint? We’ll see. Certainly one like Trump was not to be elected to the White House. Now everything is going wrong and complicating global geopolitics.

That last paragraph alludes to an anti-Americanism which is often found in Italy. Some Italians take this so far that they see Trump as an ally. I’ve already introduced you to the extraordinary Giampaolo Rossi, but now you should read his stablemate Marcello Foa:

Trump appears normalized, swallowed by the establishment. And suddenly Russiagate disappears from the front pages, loses intensity and importance. The president announces the withdrawal of the Nafta Free Trade Agreement, but after a few hours everything remains, confirming his acceptance. The revocation of  Sacramento is reversed with the assent of the Republican Party.

Then, however, something happens. Trump is thinking about it, or at least proves to be taking some space, especially diplomatic. After meeting with the Chinese leader XI with whom he establishes a great personal relationship, he actually overrules the State Department, deciding on his visit to the Pope on May 24 alone and, above all, starting a dialogue with Moscow, talks on the phone with Putin and receives the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov at the White House.

The establishment does not like it and starts to shake. Internal polemics resurface, the newspapers begin to describe a split and chaotic White House. When the president decides to dismiss FBI Comey’s head, the Deep State declares a new and probably definitive, war on  Trump. Following the dictates illustrated by Obama’s former advisor, Kupchan, who called for media and public opinion, the friendly press, or the New York Times and the Washington Post, faded on indiscretions and revelations that were heavy, insinuating and, as always, anonymous, but of secure source: secret services, members of the Administration. The other media amplify. And hysteria mounts.

And now? A long-running critic of US policy, unsuspected because he represents the American Left, Dennis Kucinich, reads the situation with great clarity. Remember he has nothing in common with Trump, but in an interview with Fox News, he thinks this campaign is pretext.

“If the information was so sensitive because it was passed to the Washington Post?”

He asks. It’s still:

“” Something is out of control. There is an attempt to break the relationship with Russia. (…) We need to ask: why is intelligence trying to subvert the US president with these leaks? (…) Look, I’m in disagreement with Trump on many issues but there can be only one president on this and someone in the world of secret services is trying to overthrow this president in pursuit of a political line that puts us in conflict with the Russia. The point is: why? And who? We need to find out. “

Kucinich is almost certainly right. Any pretext is useful to pursue the ultimate goal: overruling the will of the people, hunting Trump and maintaining power in the hands of the establishment, within which the political differences between the right and left are annulled, and which governs the US from the Kennedy era.

Foa believes that it’s all a plot to install Pence. Oliver Georgi doesn’t necessarily believe that, but thinks that if he does succeed to the Presidency, he’ll have a huge task:

On Thursday evening, Donald Trump for once said something very true: “The United States is a “divided, confused, non-united country,” he said at a joint press conference with Colombian President Santos in Washington.
Trump (once again) could not be more wrong: it is not the establishment of a special investigator in the Russia affair that “hurts America”, but Trumps unprecedented, chaotic presidency. Above all, however, it is the uproarious “witch hunt” rhetoric of Trump and his “movement”, whose divisive power each new defense attempt only increases.

Should Trump fail or even fall early, he will become a martyr for many of his followers; another victim of the “swamp” in Washington, who successfully resisted his “draining”. Worse still, Trump will have bathed in dragon blood for his fans – and with him, perhaps, will also disappear his view of politics as a big business, where a good deal is more important than morality and righteousness.

The greatest test for America may not be Donald Trump – but the skill of his successor in the Herculean task of reuniting the nation. 63 million Americans voted for Trump in November, and most of them are not radical right-wingers, but  representatives of a deeply insecure stratum that feels disconnected and ignored by the elites. Giving back the lost confidence in the “system” is a challenge that is not measured in weeks and months, but in years.  Who could lead America after Trump? Not only many Republicans have long hoped for Vice-President Mike Pence , who also enjoys a partly hymnic worship in many Trump supporters…. Pence has been remarkably quiet in these chaotic days. An increasing number of Americans, not only in Washington, are hoping that he is getting ready to hit the ground running.

Le Monde has a bit more on the Trump supporters’ views of the scandals:

But in the opposite camp, that of the conservative press or pro-Trump who carried the billionaire to power , it is a completely different story. President Trump can “find shelter on the right, ” summarizes the New York Times , where the “collective judgment” of the Conservative media, the Republican Party and the voters of Mr. Trump is trying to sweep away the suspicions weighing on the president. For this, they use several tactics, according to the liberal daily: the Pavlovian reflex to shout “fake news” , as Mr. Trump himself so often on Twitter , designate another culprit or simply change the subject.

The media are obviously the first accomplices of this conspiracy against the president. Sean Hannity, a star presenter of Fox News, spent the entire week devoted to Donald Trump’s business. But by systematically turning the situation around, with great help from pro-Trump guests. He described on Wednesday an “alliance to destroy Trump” . The day before, he was interviewing a former editor of Breitbart News, a site close to the far right and founded by Steve Bannon. Sebastian Gorka then asked: “When will all this stop? (…) When will we stop endangering national security and doing real journalism?

A Republican strategist interviewed by the New York Times , Alex Castellanos, explains that Mr. Trump’s voters, who wanted to see the ” system” reversed , do not see  the allegations against Trump as evidence that they were wrong — quite the opposite. “When he is attacked, it validates the idea to his supporters that he is the only one who can protect us from the media elite, ” he explains. For most Loyalists, the question is not whether the Trump Presidency is chaotic or not, but whether anyone else could change things as drastically as he promised.

One of the other shady characters active on Trump’s behalf is the odious Richard Spencer, who is well known to Martin Gelin:

In March last year, Richard Spencer arranged a conference for American nationalists in an office building in Washington DC, a stone’s throw from the White House. Trumps face shone from a big screen in the corner of one room, but it was still far from clear that Trump would become the Republican presidential candidate, even less the next president.

Interest in Spencer’s right-wing business was then quite limited. I was one of half a dozen journalists on site and in total there were almost 100 people who went there for the event. In an interview, Spencer told me that he most viewed Trump as a megaphone for ideas that have long been accepted by the outermost right. Spencer described Trump as a rather banal figure, who did not really seem to understand the ideological depth of the right-wing nationalism he flirted during the election campaign. But for Spencer and his comrades in the so-called alternative world, the informal movement of young right-wing extremists whom Spencer turned out to be unofficial leaders, did not deny that Trump was an unusual asset. With Trump as president, you could begin a long-term project to spread nationalistic ideas all over the world. The real goal was, according to Spencer, to save the white race from a safe fall.

“Trump is the first presidential candidate specifically for the interests of white Americans,” Spencer said.

In the interviews I’ve done with Richard Spencer since 2014, he has consistently described himself as an intellectual creator who sits above the trivial jaws of daily politics. Since he started a debate site called Alternative Right, he has become a self-appointed leader for this loosely defined collection of mostly younger right-wing activists who call themselves all right. The movement includes everything from radical system-critical libertarians to neo-Nazis and teens who most consider it a fun hobby to harass the left-wing people on social media.

Ideologically, Spencer has long been more inspired by European philosophers and political thinkers than politicians at home in the United States. The high-extensional nationalism that Spencer promotes led a peripheral existence in the United States before Trump’s election campaign. Several of Spencer’s colleagues in America’s organized alternative world, like Jared Taylor, long described the United States as a hopeless market for their openly xenophobic ideas. In an interview I did with Taylor 2014, he spoke that a nationalist party in the US could get one-fourth of the votes in a national election. But two years later, Donald Trump succeeded in winning a presidential election with an outdated nationalist agenda. Spencer now feels he has the wind at his back for nationalist and often openly racist ideas. It is with this political energy that he arrives in Sweden to launch a new phase in the right-wing internationalism of right-wing extremism.

Spencer has long talked about Putin’s Russia as a model. He describes Russia as the only country that advocates white nationalism right now. His goal is long-term idea creation, rather than engaging in political campaigns. In our previous interview, Spencer said:

“I do not really care much about political choices. I’m not looking for political office, but I want to gain influence first and foremost. The goal … is to change the culture itself. And it takes time. It always takes time. But my goal is that in ten or twenty years, all that I say to you here, whatever media in the United States thinks is controversial or extreme, are such obviousities that people almost get angry when they hear a politician say that.

I’m finishing this week with another interview with a Trump supporter — Nigel Farage. I intend to devote most of next week’s diary to the British election, in which Farage isn’t standing, but he recently gave an interview to Die Zeit which is a) hilarious and b) already translated into English by the paper:

ZEIT ONLINE: Mr. Farage, parliamentary elections are to be held in your homeland in just a few weeks. Why are you sitting here in Brussels in your British socks instead of helping out with the Brexit negotiations back home?

Nigel Farage: If the British government had asked me to help them in any way with Brexit, I would have done that. But of course, they wouldn’t. They will always hate me. They will always see me as an outsider. They will never forgive me for being successful. I don’t mind.

ZEIT ONLINE: Why did you meet with Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London?Farage stops for a moment to think. Following his visit to the Ecuadorian Embassy not long ago, he told reporters directly after his meeting with Assange that he could no longer remember what he had done in the embassy.

Farage: Oh, for journalistic reasons.

ZEIT ONLINE: What? Because you want to write a story about the WikiLeaks founder?

Farage: For journalistic reasons. I will not say anything more about that. But I did it for journalistic reasons, not for political reasons.

ZEIT ONLINE: What do you mean when you say, “journalistic reasons?”

Farage: I will not say anything more about that. If you look at what I do today, I used to do politics 100 hours a week. But now I do politics for 40 hours a week, so I have got a lot of time to do other things. I am a Fox News contributor. I am an LBC presenter. I write.

Farage’s press spokesman interrupts the interview. He says that the interview had actually been arranged to discuss trade relations between the EU and the UK. Neither he nor Farage, the spokesman says, want to talk about Farage’s connections to the WikiLeaks founder or to Russia.

ZEIT ONLINE: You once said you admire Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Farage: In 2013, as a political operator, he was the best in the world. Yes, this is what I said. But I wouldn’t like to live in his country. I didn’t like a lot of things he did. But as a political operator, he is to be admired.

ZEIT ONLINE: One of Russia’s foreign policy goals is dividing and weakening the EU. Could it be that in the case of Brexit, you were directly or indirectly used for this Russian goal?

Farage: It is obvious that the EU wants to expand to the east and threatens Russia. That’s completely mad.

ZEIT ONLINE: What you say isn’t true. It wasn’t the EU that triggered the revolution in Ukraine, but the Ukrainians who wanted better relations with the EU.

Farage: I want the EU to be destroyed and it doesn’t matter if God or the Dalai Lama wants it as well. The EU is an anti-democratic, failing structure. You know, you are the first person who has asked me if Russia supported me. Maybe you have a special German mindset. No other journalist in the world has asked these questions.

ZEIT ONLINE: I just want to understand your role.

Farage: We have no links to Russia.

ZEIT ONLINE: You didn’t meet with the Russian Embassy’s deputy chief-of-mission in London?

Farage: Nope.

ZEIT ONLINE: Not in 2013, before the Brexit campaign was conceived?

Farage: Ah, hang on. He came to the EP office. Or I met with him in London. So what?

ZEIT ONLINE: Why did you meet with him?

Farage: I think you are a nutcase! You are really a nutcase! Brexit is the best thing to happen: for Russia, for America, for Germany and for democracy. And that’s the key point.

Farage’s press spokesman again interrupts the interview. He says that the interview should focus more on trade relations between Germany and the UK. Farage nods.

The whole thing is a scream. Compared to Spencer, who really is a sinister and dangerous man, Farage is almost as clownish as Trump.

But there are a lot of dangerous people around these days. Trump appears to me to be holed below the waterline, and I’m not at all sure that he’s going to be able to do very much of what he wants to do. But he may well be strongarmed into doing things other people want him to do, and those other people are not at all pleasant, since a lot of them are Republicans.

The priority for non-Congressional Democrats is to organize, register people to vote, and build up the campaigns to oust the Republicans. Those in Congress have to resist Trump as well as the awful bills the other side are putting forward, but those outside need to be putting in the work to swell their ranks come November 2018.

 

It Takes A Village – VNV Monday: We the People – 5/15/17



 

HOPE ALL THE MOTHERS AND MOTHERS TO BE HAD A GREAT MOTHERS DAY. Here is The History of Mother’s Day

Meet Anna Jarvis, the founder — and fighter — of Mother’s Day

2 / 29

Laura T. Coffey

 

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The Founder Of Mother’s Day Ended Up Hating It
Anna Jarvis founded Mother’s Day to honor her beloved mother, then spent the rest of her life fighting the holiday’s commercial and political exploitation. She died alone in an asylum.Her story — and the modern-day story of Mother’s Day — began, of course, with her own mother. Here’s how it all got started.

1858

In the beginning

Mother of Anna M. Jarvis, Founder of Mother's Day: Anne Reeves Jarvis, mother of Mother's Day founder Anna Jarvis© Bettmann Archive via Getty Images Anne Reeves Jarvis, mother of Mother’s Day founder Anna JarvisIn 1858, Ann Reeves Jarvis (Anna Jarvis’ mother) organizes Mothers’ Day Work Clubs to improve sanitary conditions and stem her community’s appalling infant mortality rates. In her lifetime, Jarvis has 13 children and only sees four of them live to adulthood.

1868

Foes unite

In the wake of the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis (Anna Jarvis’ mother) coordinates a Mothers’ Friendship Day in West Virginia to bring former foes on the battlefield back together again. The initially tense day goes well, with veterans from the North and South weeping and shaking hands for the first time in years.

1870

Sacred right

Julia Ward Howe: American feminist, abolitionist and reformer Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910)© Getty Images American feminist, abolitionist and reformer Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910)Julia Ward Howe, a mother and another forerunner of modern-day Mother’s Day celebrations, suggests a “Mothers’ Peace Day.” She makes the case that war is a preventable evil and mothers have a “sacred right” to protect the lives of their boys.

1873

Howe’s holiday

The inaugural celebration of Howe’s “Mothers’ Day” takes place in June of this year.

1905

Jarvis dies

Ann Reeves Jarvis dies on the second Sunday in May.

1907

Enter Anna

One of Jarvis’ surviving daughters, Anna Jarvis, organizes a small service in honor of her deceased mother on the second Sunday in May at the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia.

1908

This holiday sticks

The first formal “Mother’s Day” commemoration is marked with another service on the second Sunday in May at the same church in Grafton, and with a much larger ceremony in Philadelphia. Jarvis has white carnations distributed to the mothers, sons and daughters in attendance in Grafton.

1910

It’s official in West Virginia

The governor of West Virginia makes Mother’s Day an official holiday on the second Sunday in May.

1912

Vision for Mother’s Day

While waging a relentless letter-writing campaign to drum up support for Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis creates the Mother’s Day International Association and trademarks the phrases “second Sunday in May” and “Mother’s Day.” “She wanted Mother’s Day to be a very private acknowledgment of all the mother does for the family,” said Katharine Antolini, a history professor at West Virginia Wesleyan College. “It was very sweet.”

1914

National holiday

Woodrow Wilson© Getty Images Woodrow WilsonPresident Woodrow Wilson makes Mother’s Day an official national holiday. Jarvis is gratified by her preferred placement of the apostrophe in “Mother’s Day” — making it singular possessive, not plural possessive, so each family would honor its one and only mother.

1915

Movement spreads

Mother’s Day becomes an official holiday in Canada.

1915

Changing tide

Shortly after 1915, Jarvis begins to sense that she’s created a monster when she sees the florist, card and candy industries cashing in on Mother’s Day and public interest groups using the holiday to make political statements. She rails against exploitation of what was supposed to be a special, reverential day for families.

1922

Battle with florist industry

Jarvis endorses open boycotts against florists who raise the prices of white carnations every May.

1923

Threats of litigation

Jarvis threatens to sue the New York Mother’s Day Committee, of which New York Gov. Al Smith and Mayor John Hylan are members, over plans for a large Mother’s Day celebration. The event is canceled.

1925

Disorderly conduct

Jarvis crashes a Philadelphia convention of the American War Mothers, a group that had its own Mother’s Day commemoration and began using a white carnation as its emblem. The American War Mothers push for Jarvis’ arrest, but charges of disorderly conduct are dismissed.

1934

Commemorative stamp

Jarvis is slighted when the American War Mothers successfully lobby President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Postmaster General James A. Farley to unveil a Mother’s Day stamp. The stamp features a portrait of painter James McNeill Whistler’s mother with white carnations and the words, “In memory and in honor of the Mothers of America.”

1935

Taking on the first lady

Anna Jarvis accuses first lady Eleanor Roosevelt of “crafty plotting” by using Mother’s Day in fundraising material for charities trying to combat high maternal and infant mortality rates.

1940

Increasingly reclusive

Sensing that she can’t contain her creation, Jarvis threatens to end it during the 1940s. “She told me, with terrible bitterness, that she was sorry she had ever started Mother’s Day,” said one journalist who allegedly pretended to be a deliveryman so he could meet the increasingly reclusive Jarvis.

1944

Asylum bound

Jarvis, now 80, is placed in a mental asylum called the Marshall Square Sanitarium.

1948

Jarvis dies at 84

Jarvis dies at age 84, alone and penniless from the various legal battles she waged over the holiday she started. She never made any profit from Mother’s Day, and she never had any children.

2017

Ever since Consumers spend big bucks on their moms each Mother’s Day.

Source: “Memorializing Motherhood: Anna Jarvis and the Struggle for Control of Mother’s Day,” a dissertation by Katharine Lane Antolini
Portrait of mother and baby

CURRENT EVENTS:

THE VAGINA GRABBER IN CHIEF DANCE WITH PUTIN AT A GLANCE:

What we know about investigations into Trump campaign and Russia

Maureen Groppe, Eliza Collins, and Bartholomew D Sullivan7 hrs ago

Comey’s fired. Here’s what we know about probes into Trump campaign and Russia

President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey raises a ton of questions, including how this will affect the FBI and congressional investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections.

Here’s what we know — and what we still don’t know.

Why did Trump fire Comey?

First, let’s start off with the basics.

In recommending Comey’s firing, the Justice Department leadership excoriated the FBI director for his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as secretary of State.

In a letter released by the White House, Trump said he agreed with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and newly-confirmed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that Comey “was not able to effectively lead the bureau.” As Trump told reporters on Wednesday: “Very simply, he was not doing a good job.”

But wasn’t he running the FBI’s Russia investigation?

Yes. Comey in March confirmed publicly the FBI was conducting a counterintelligence investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during last year’s election. Trump has repeatedly denied any connections and has dismissed the Russia story as a “hoax” from Democrats committed to sabotaging his presidency.

White House aides spent all of Wednesday arguing the timing of the firing had nothing to do with the agency’s ongoing investigation.

Where does the FBI’s Russia probe stand now?

That’s what everyone wants to know.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the Russia investigations will “continue whether Jim Comey is there or not.”

“Any investigation that was happening on Monday, is still happening today. We encourage them to complete this investigation so we can put it behind us,” Sanders told reporters Wednesday. “Nobody wants this to be finished and completed more than us.”

But Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., expressed concern on Wednesday that the investigation would continue in full force, confirming reports that Comey had asked for more money for the FBI’s probe of Russia’s interference in the election days before being fired. “I’m told that as soon as Rosenstein arrived, there was a request for additional resources for the investigation and that a few days afterwards he (Comey) was sacked,” said Durbin, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees the Justice Department and FBI.

Durbin said he did not know the details of the request, which The New York Times reported the FBI director made to Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general overseeing the Russia investigation who also recommended Trump fire Comey. Durbin also said he did not have direct evidence that the request was related to Comey’s firing. But he had a general takeaway: “I think the Comey operation was breathing down the neck of the Trump campaign and their operatives and this was an effort to slow down the investigation.”

Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said Comey made no request for additional funding or personnel in meetings with Rosenstein. “No resources — personnel, money or otherwise,’’ Flores said. “That is false.’’

If the FBI doesn’t investigate, who could?

Democrats are unifying around the call for a special prosecutor. If Trump were truly upset with Comey about his handling of the Clinton probe, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said, he could have fired Comey on his first day in office. Instead, Schumer said, the president waited until Congress and FBI investigations into Russia heated up.

“Given the way the President has fired Director Comey, any person who he appoints to lead the Russia investigation will be concerned that he or she will meet the same fate as Director Comey if they run afoul of the administration,” Schumer said. Without an independent special prosecutor, he added, “every American will rightly suspect that the decision to fire Director Comey was part of a cover-up.”

How would a special prosecutor be appointed?

Not easily, it turns out. 

The responsibility would fall to Rosenstein, who wrote Tuesday’s memo justifying Comey’s firing. While Attorney General Jeff Sessions has legal authority to make the appointment, he has recused himself from investigations relating to the 2016 campaign after his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, came to light.

The post-Watergate independent counsel law that gave Congress the authority to call on the attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor lapsed in 1999. And passing a new version is unlikely in a GOP-controlled Congress.

An independent counsel isn’t needed, Sanders said, because Congress is also investigating — and because Rosenstein, who is overseeing the Justice Department’s probe, “is about as independent as it comes.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Schumer said Rosenstein’s role in Comey’s dismissal had cast “serious doubts” on his impartiality. Democrats now say the authority to name a special prosecutor should fall instead to the highest-ranking career civil servant at the Justice Department.

James Comey pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill on May 3, 2017.©

Carolyn Kaster, AP James Comey pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill on May 3, 2017.

So will Congress take any action, then?

There are five key committees looking at aspects of Russia’s involvement in the election.

After the U.S. intelligence community accused Moscow of orchestrating a campaign of cyberattacks against Democratic political organizations, and leaking the stolen information to websites such as WikiLeaks with the goal of undermining public confidence in the election, congressional panels offered to take up the charge.

So far, though, there have been some hearings, but little definitive progress — at least that’s visible to the outside observer.

Here’s where things stand:

Senate Intelligence Committee:

The committee hasn’t held open hearings on its Russia probe since it heard from some academic witnesses on Russian “disinformation” efforts on March 30.

On May 5, committee leaders asked four Trump campaign associates — including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and campaign advisers Carter Page, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone — to provide records of meetings with Russian officials. The committee announced late Wednesday that it sent a subpoena to Flynn for Russia-related documents.

Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., said Tuesday night that he was “troubled by the timing” of Comey’s firing, adding it “confuses an already difficult investigation.” Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., said it was “shocking” that Comey was fired “during an active counterintelligence investigation into improper contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.” He tweeted that the situation “demands the appointment of a Special Counsel.”

But some members of this investigating panel might not support a special prosecutor. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the panel, said Wednesday such an appointment “would probably shut down our ability to do our work because a significant amount of information would now be denied on the basis of an ongoing investigation.” He urged patience in letting the committee continue its work.

Comey has been invited to testify before the committee during a closed hearing next Tuesday.

House Intelligence Committee:

This panel’s effort is stalled, with staff continuing to go through evidence but no hearings scheduled. After Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., recused himself from the probe and handed the matter over to Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, the committee heard from Comey in a May 4 closed session — but that’s about it.

Nunes stepped aside after reviewing evidence at the White House he said proved some Trump associates were inadvertently caught up in surveillance by the intelligence community of legitimate foreign agents during the presidential transition. Nunes shared that information with Trump — before informing fellow committee members, prompting calls for his ouster.

With this as a backdrop, the panel’s top Democrat, Adam Schiff of California, questioned whether the White House was inappropriately interfering in the probe after Comey’s firing Tuesday. “The decision by a president whose campaign associates are under investigation by the FBI for collusion with Russia to fire the man overseeing that investigation, upon the recommendation of an attorney general who has recused himself from that investigation, raises profound questions about whether the White House is brazenly interfering in a criminal matter,” he said.

Conaway spokeswoman Emily Hytha said he has not addressed the Comey firing, adding the committee’s investigation will continue “as planned.”

Senate Judiciary Committee: 

This committee, which has been one of the most publicly active in its investigation, hosted two hearings that provided critical information in recent days.

The hearing with Comey appeared to be part of the impetus for his eventual firing. On May 3, Comey said in his appearance before the panel that “hundreds and thousands” of emails had ended up on former New York congressman Anthony Weiner’s laptop because of Hillary Clinton’s aide Huma Abedin. Comey said Abedin made a “regular practice” of forwarding emails to her now-estranged husband.

But it turned out that Comey misspoke. After ProPublica reported Monday night that his testimony was not accurate, the FBI issued a statement the next day to the committee attempting to clear things up. That was just hours before Comey’s firing was announced.

Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Tuesday it was within Trump’s right to fire Comey after the FBI director had lost the public’s trust. Grassley also criticized the way Comey had provided information to the committee. But ranking member Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., praised the way Comey had worked with the panel, calling a past briefing “comprehensive” and “precise.”

On Monday, Senate Judiciary panel hosted former acting attorney general Sally Yates and former director of national intelligence James Clapper. In that hearing, Yates told lawmakers that she was so concerned that Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence about his communications with the Russian ambassador that she warned the White House counsel he was vulnerable to blackmail and could even face criminal charges. Eighteen days later, Flynn was fired.

House Judiciary Committee: 

In a non-binding list of activities the committee adopted for the year, the panel promised to “continue to conduct oversight into allegations of misconduct” by the executive branch. Other than that, there hasn’t been much public movement.

Following Tuesday’s developments, ranking member John Conyers, D-Mich., said Comey’s firing “obliterates any semblance of an independent investigation into Russian efforts to influence our election, and places our nation on the verge of a constitutional crisis.” Yet Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., pointed to the recommendations of the attorney general and deputy attorney general in encouraging Trump to fire Comey. “The FBI is the premier law enforcement agency in the world and it is critical to have a director who holds the trust of the American people,” he said.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee:

Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and ranking member Elijah Cummings, D-Md., sent shockwaves through Washington when the they announced last month that Flynn may have broken the law in relation to payments he accepted from Russia for speaking engagements. They came to that conclusion after the committee viewed classified documents related to Flynn.

Cummings said the White House had refused their requests for documents related to Flynn’s tenure. There is “no data to support the notion that Flynn complied with the law,” Chaffetz said at the time. A Chaffetz spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Comey’s firing, while Cummings called for “immediate emergency hearings to obtain testimony directly from Attorney General Sessions, the deputy attorney general, and FBI Director Comey” for answers.

“There is now a crisis of confidence at the Justice Department, and President Trump is not being held accountable because House Republicans refuse to work with us to do our job,” Cummings said Tuesday.

Contributing: Fredreka Schouten, David Jackson, Deirdre Shesgreen

 QUESTION OF THE DAY:

By TOM MURPHY, AP Health Writer5 days ago
Fact Check: Rumors, Claims and Context on G.O.P. Health Bill
Pregnancy, sexual assault and domestic violence could be considered “pre-existing conditions” that make it hard to keep insurance coverage under the Republican health care bill, according to a number of news articles and social media posts.The bill doesn’t specifically refer to any of these things, and headlines suggesting that it does are misleading.

But the bill does allow insurers, in limited circumstances, to charge more for a health condition that existed before the patient’s coverage starts if that person has had a lapse in insurance. Because of that, there might be the potential in some states for a pregnant woman to be charged more for coverage.

THE CLAIM: Twitter is overflowing with lists of pre-existing conditions, patient testimonials and posts with the #iamapreexistingcondition hashtag. People living with a host of medical conditions are worried about the future of their coverage if the Republican plan becomes law. Concern has focused in particular on women’s health issues, and especially pregnancy. And claims that rape victims are singled out has stirred outrage.

THE FACTS: One of the bigger changes to health care under the Republican plan is that it would allow insurers to consider the health risk of customers applying for new coverage if they had a recent gap in coverage. This is possible only if states apply for a federal waiver to allow it. The Affordable Care Act, which remains in place, does not permit this.

Carrying a baby also carries some risk, so insurance companies see pregnant women as risker — and more expensive — customers when they apply for coverage. The same goes for a person who was injured or sickened with a chronic illness. They consider medical conditions, not how they got injured or sick. For example, if someone sees a therapist because they have been raped, the condition that the therapist treats might be considered pre-existing but the rape would not.

Insurers have generally considered conditions treated within three months of the start of coverage to be pre-existing, health care industry consultant Robert Laszewski said.

Before the Affordable Care Act, pregnancy was considered a pre-existing condition, and insurers frequently denied coverage because of it.

They can no longer do that. But, under the Republican bill, insurers may be able to charge higher prices for a limited time due to a person’s recent medical history.

British breakfast and Euro-punditry

It’s been an, er, interesting week, to be sure. European views of what’s happening in America are, I’m afraid, not what you might call particularly varied. Despite Herr Drumpf’s Germano-British ancestry, there seems to be a remarkable lack of trust being shown in the US President pro tem. (Although, to be fair, most of the comment from Britain’s serious Right is paywalled, so I haven’t read it.) Indeed, some even go as far as to say that America’s elected President is a teensy bit odd. I realize that this may well be quite shocking to some of you, but you should perhaps be aware that we don’t have much access to the excellent Fox News Channel over here, and are thus somewhat handicapped in the search for knowledge and understanding.

Laboring under this ignorance, people are liable to come up with strange pieces like this one from Nash Riggins:

We live on a planet bound by resolute, scientific principles and concrete facts. Up is up, down is down and blatant lies are blatant lies. It’s all pretty straightforward, actually. But as the days and weeks slowly wither to ash, it’s become increasingly clear that Donald Trump doesn’t live on the same planet that you and I have been occupying all this time.

You see, in Donald Trump’s dystopian and suspiciously orange world, all truths are totally subjective – and everybody is a pathological liar with the memory of a haggard old goldfish. It’s the only possible explanation left after this week’s anomalous FBI pantomime performance.

In fact, our benevolent alien overlord only gave Comey the heave-ho because the US Attorney General made him do it. If Trump had gotten his way, things could have worked out a lot better for everybody.

Or that was the narrative for about half a day, anyway.

By Thursday night, Donald Trump appeared on the ultra-fake NBC News to tell us “this Russian thing” actually played a huge role in his decision to send Comey packing. But then again, maybe it didn’t – because several minutes into the exact same interview, Trump sternly declared the FBI hadn’t even been investigating him in the first place.

Every time Donald Trump utters a single syllable, he tarnishes the integrity of his sacred station that much more. He treats voters like mindless meat bags incapable of independent thought, and whimsically wields his presidential powers like a toddler might curiously pull a cat’s tail. He’s got no clue how the world is supposed to work – and if nothing else, the repulsive duplicity he’s demonstrated over the past four months has proven he doesn’t very much care how it’s supposed to work, either.

In the Irish Times, Fintan O’Toole says something rather similar:

What do you do if you’re a reality TV star and your show is flagging?

Easy: you generate conflict. Get people up in arms, keep them talking about you.

So what if some of them are apoplectic? – apoplectic is good. But what if you’ve already started lots of fires and they’re spluttering out? You do what everyone in Hollywood or TV land does when things are not going well – you revive an old idea that worked before. If it grabbed the ratings last time, why not roll it out again? This is what Donald Trump has done with the dramatic sacking of the FBI director James Comey. He is trying to keep his fans happy by reviving his catchphrase from the Apprentice: “You’re fired!”

To suggest that there is some method in Trump’s madness is not to deny that the firing of Comey is indeed mad. The chaotic implementation of the move – with Comey learning of his sacking from breaking news stories on TV and Trump’s surrogates utterly unprepared for the task of defending his latest outrage – suggests that it was largely impulsive. The impulse in question is the narcissist’s rage that the world is refusing to conform to his desires.

Trump’s instinctive gamble has always been that his fans would be happy to live vicariously through him. His self-gratification gratifies their own desires. He is for them a kind of wish-fulfillment, a figure of untrammeled power who doesn’t have to abide by rules, who can grope anyone he wants and fire anyone he wants.

It’s an absurd gamble but of course it paid off with the presidency of the US. It ceases to pay off, however, the moment he begins to look like a man who acknowledges ordinary limits and common laws.

Decorum would destroy him.

There may be many reasons why Trump fired Comey but two of them loom largest: he wanted to and he could.

He is entirely incapable of doing his job, but it happens to be a job that allows him to fire missiles and fire people.

For as long as he survives, he will never be able to resist the gesture for which his fans learned to adore him: pointing his stubby finger and saying “You’re fired!”

Or this, from Simon Riesche:

It is no secret that Donald Trump is greatly concerned with the results of  research into his person. “I get very good marks for foreign policy”, he was pleased to say this week in an interview with the magazine “Time” . That his general popularity continues to be very bad, the President did not say. About the unflattering result of a recent survey – according to which the top three concepts Americans have of Donald Trump, “idiot” (1st place), “incompetent” (2nd place) and “liar” (3rd place) — he unsurprisingly uttered not a  syllable.

It is always the same pattern, the author and blogger Paul Waldman analyzed a few weeks ago. First, the President said “something ridiculous”. Then his helpers would come together to assure either that what Trump was saying was true, or at least had a true core. Subsequently, most media would then deconstruct Trump’s alleged truths and even some Republicans would distance themselves from the president. At the same time, right-wing commentators would rush to help Trump and hastily spread conspiracy theories. “When it’s over, we all feel disoriented, as if someone has just awakened us from a deep sleep and tells us that we have two minutes to come up with support for 20 lies and solve a crossword puzzle.” And then comes the next tweet.

Waldman also has a name for Trumps alleged Masterplan: “Bombardment of baloney”.

Der Spiegel’s Veit Medick has this to say:

Trump’s Putsch from above is a sign of how serious the situation is for him. The Russia affair is not only still there, it has now become a rather unpleasant problem. Ex-Justice Minister Sally Yates put the question on Monday on the issue of why the president held his first security adviser Mike Flynn in office, even though there were warnings that he had misrepresented talks with the Russian ambassador. In addition, it became known that the FBI has now also taken action specifically against Flynn’s associates. That now needs to be stopped – Trump’s decision was  driven by this desire.

We should be careful with historical comparisons, but at this point it is difficult not to think of Richard Nixon. In October 1973, Nixon, then himself under pressure, fired Archibald Cox, the special investigator in the Watergate scandal in which the president was so deeply involved. The dismissal was the beginning of Nixon’s end. Trump hopes that he will come through by making his decision. And so the matter becomes a great test for the US.

Trump and his rhetoric have long been a burden on the independence of the institutions. If the Republican majority now nods through a successor to Comey, the president will not only erode this independence, but also the confidence in the rule of law in the United States.

However, if a person who is supported by Republicans and Democrats and is beyond any doubt is found, the system of “checks and balances” endangered under Trump may experience a certain revitalization. This also includes the use of a non-partisan special investigator, who investigates the Russian affair to the last detail.

In the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Marie-Astrid Langer says all this is endangering the Trump project:

In the past few days, Trump has not only shown how impulsive and thoughtless he is, but also how much he is ignoring the influence of his advisors. He has demonstrated above all his low opinion against the independence of the FBI. His behavior feeds a well-known narrative. Earlier, he had compared CIA’s foreign secret service with the Nazis and threatened uncooperative judges. Those who still needed proof of how Trump stands on the separation of powers and the independence of the institutions received him this week.

This behavior may shock Washington, partly also disgust, and harms America’s reputation as a democracy. But the fact is: it hardly changes the minds of Trump’s base. None of what the President has revealed in the past few days is new, but follows his pattern. A majority of the electoral districts voted for him nonetheless. What interests Trump’s voters are perceptible reforms, especially economic. That is why they carried him to the White House, and they will measure him or the Republicans in the mid-term 2018 elections.

But Trump could stumble here: the Russia affair with its ever-new episodes threatens his reform agenda. Firstly, scandals such as the recent ones soak up resources in Washington and delay the implementation of electoral promises, specifically health reform or new tax legislation. Both Trump and the Republicans want to whip the Congress as soon as possible, as long as they have the majority there. Secondly, Trump risks his backing among Republican Congressmen. So far, many of them have shut their eyes, but the president is likely to overstretch loyalty, especially when it comes to a red flag like Russia. Only a few Republicans would have to turn their backs on him, and the majorities in Congress would be destroyed.

And there’s a lot more in a similar vein.

But the NZZ in particular has some other articles less focused on the immediate problems of the Trump administration.

Ivo Mijnssen has an article about the crisis of democracy:

Presidential candidates generally praise the virtues of their country. Donald Trump is different. His America is so degenerate that it is no longer a model for anyone. Asked whether he would stand like his predecessors for the promotion of democracy, he simply said: “We have no right to give lessons. We must go to our own door. “ The statement is symptomatic of the crisis of the promotion of democracy, especially in the country which for decades, with messianic self-assurance, stood for freedom and human rights worldwide.

Trump meets the Zeitgeist. The one-time hopes for the unstoppable global advance of democracy and market economy have given way to a skepticism that often slips into cynicism. At best, it derives from legitimate criticism of the trench between Western realpolitik and humanitarian ideals. In the worst, rulers in Russia or China abuse this temporising to pursue their goals. More and more populists in Europe are joining the choir. The democratic promise has become a concept of struggle.

The Copenhagen Criteria of 1993 for EU candidate countries provided clear legal and market-based standards. This gave the Union a strong leverage in the democratization and opening up of the post-communist states in the 1990s. In return for the costs, Western companies opened up new markets. Democratization in the course of the EU eastward enlargement was a success.

However, the EU did not welcome the movement of democracy on its eastern edge with open arms. The Europeans supported many citizens’ initiatives and , at the beginning of the millennium, spent almost ten percent of their development aid on democracy projects – about the same as the US . They did not open up a prospect of accession to the poor and politically unstable states.

The cost, lack of consensus, and the consideration for the reviving Russia, they held back. The non-committal neighborhood policy, without any prospect of EU membership, which offered Brussels, for example, to Ukraine, was not enough to democratically sustain them.

The US under George W. Bush also contributed strongly to the crisis of democratic promotion. They discovered this as a means against terror , which they applied independently of whether the prerequisites for a liberal order were given in a country. The disastrous armed democracy campaign in the Middle East and the excesses of the war on terror damaged the credibility and led to quarrel with the Europeans. This played into the hands of the enemies of democracy in Eastern Europe.

These conspiracy theories and merging strategies are still valid today – even with a Western audience. They serve the Putins and Orbans of the world as a general purpose weapon to deprecate criticism. The discussion is hardly ever about the difficult to justify promotion of democracy with weapons. Rather, the autocrats attack civil society, the free media and the independent judiciary. Cynically, they do not argue openly against a free society. They merely undermine the credibility of their bearers by branding them as artificial, imported, and unpatriotic.

Expanding particularly on Putin, Andreas Rüesch discusses the new Russian offensives:

A sigh of relief went through Europe, when Emmanuel Macron won the election to the top of France last weekend. The horror of a seizure of power by the authoritarian nationalist party of Marine Le Pen seems to be defeated; the second largest economy in the euro zone remains on a predictable course However, the feeling of being able to sit back and rest easy is wrong. This is not only due to Macron, who will hardly be able to fulfill his hopes. It is also a matter of concern that France – like before the US – was the victim of an externally-driven campaign to influence the elections. The pattern was the same as in the previous year with the American Democrats: hackers got themselves using fraudulent emails access to computers of the Macron camp, captured internal documents and revealed these shortly before the election with the goal of putting the favorites in a bad light.

Unlike in the USA, the trick did not work this time. The publication was far too near the election to have an effect. But this is only a weak consolation, because the leaders of the disinformation campaign will not be beaten, but will draw from this error the necessary lessons for their next action. Interferences such as these threaten to become a permanent companion of Western election campaigns.

Disinformation is now one of Putin’s favorite occupations. The modern communications society offers resources, of which he could only dream as a young agent. Geographic distances have become irrelevant thanks to the Internet, online platforms such as Wikileaks help uncover discrediting documents, and robot programs ensure that propaganda is automated and spread over social networks. It is no longer enough for the Kremlin to stifle democracy in its own country, but it also wants to manipulate it abroad. This fits into Russia’s goal of weakening the West and causing fear on the world stage as a great power. Putin has billions of dollars in his hacking brigades and propaganda budgets; However, it is a cost-effective instrument, much cheaper than a conventional military deployment

….
Trump would probably have been elected without Putin’s help. But the goal of weakening America from within has reached Moscow. The dispute over the Russian interference in the election campaign is like a long-term poison, which paralyzes American politics. The de facto dubious dismissal of the FBI chief, who wanted to track Trumps Russia’s intertwines, was another omen this week that Washington could slip into a real state crisis.

Against this background, it is tragic that the traditional preeminence of the free world is governed by a president who has no sensitivity to the danger from Moscow and who constantly lies to his people. Nevertheless, it is necessary to put Putin within limits. It is not enough to equip the western cyber defense system technically and with personnel. It also needs a new concept of deterrence. Russia must be credibly aware that further manipulation campaigns would result in painful retaliation. Finally, the West also has a rich arsenal of nonmilitary resources. It is conceivable to strengthen the persecution of Russian hackers, who are often confused with the criminal underworld, as well as the freezing of assets of the Putin regime in the West. A discussion is needed before the Kremlin continues to intensify its unstoppable attacks on the foundations of Western democracy.

But it’s fair to say that neither combatting Putin nor ousting Trump is going to be accomplished within the next few days. Trump is about to do some real Presidenting, taking a tour of various countries which host the headquarters of major religions other than Trumpism. So if you aren’t worried enough yet, read the redoubtable Patrick Cockburn:

Many people view Donald Trump as the most dangerous man on the planet, but next week he flies to Saudi Arabia for a three-day visit during which he will meet a man who surely runs him a close second as a source of instability. This is deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, 31 – the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia since his father King Salman, 81, is incapacitated by old age – who has won a reputation for impulsiveness, aggression and poor judgement in the two-and-half years he has held power. Early on he escalated the Saudi role in Syria, thereby helping to precipitate Russian military intervention, and initiated a war in Yemen that is still going on and has reduced 17 million people to the brink of famine. Combine his failings with those of Trump, a man equally careless or ignorant about the consequence of his actions, and you have an explosive mixture threatening the most volatile region on earth.

Prince Mohammed, who is also defence minister, is not a man who learns from his mistakes or even notices that he has made them. Less than a year after his father became king in January 2015, the BND German intelligence agency issued a warning that Saudi Arabia had adopted “an impulsive policy of intervention” abroad and blamed this on the deputy crown prince whom it portrayed as a naïve political gambler. The degree of alarm within the BND about his impact on the region must have been high for them to release such a document which was swiftly withdrawn at the insistence of the German foreign ministry, but its predictions have been fulfilled disastrously in the following eighteen months.

Trump has already ordered greater US support for the Saudi war effort in Yemen, but the deputy crown prince will be primarily bidding for US backing for his confrontation with Iran. Words are already turning into action with reports of the US and Saudi Arabia being at one in planning to stir up an anti-government insurgency among minorities in Iran such as the Baluchis in the south east, something that has been done before but with limited impact.

Saudi leaders were overjoyed by the election of Trump whom they see as sympathetic to them and the Gulf leaders whom he will meet after he arrives in Saudi Arabia on 19 May, before going on to Israel. It is a chilling tribute to the authoritarian instincts of Trump that his first foreign visit as President should be to the last arbitrary monarchies left on earth and to a state where women are not even allowed to drive. On the question of confronting Iran, he is unlikely to be restrained by his Defence Secretary, James Mattis, and his National Security Adviser, HR McMaster, both former generals scarred by America’s war in Iraq, where they see Iran as the main enemy.

The White House is doubtless conscious that the one-time Trump has won universal plaudits in the US was when he fired missiles in Syria and dropped a big bomb in Afghanistan. Trump and Prince Mohammed may be very different in some respects, but both know that fighting foreign foes and waving the flag shores up crumbling support at home.

So there we are. If the weather is even halfway decent where you are, I strongly advise going outdoors and seeing something uplifting.