America In The Eyes Of The World — A Guest Post By Colette

Today I have another guest post in response to my plea for readers around the globe to share with us their views of the U.S. in today’s world.  Colette has generously taken the time to write a thoughtful analysis of how the U.S. fits … or doesn’t fit … with the rest of the world today, and how our policies and leadership have affected the rest of the world.  Thank you so much, Colette, for this excellent and sobering analysis!


How did America Lose its Way in the World?

The USA, for many decades, maintained leadership in the world of economics, politics and living standards.

In 2008, that all changed when a poor economy, during the end of the Bush administration, triggered job losses and foreclosures on newly purchased real estate. The Prime Rate Mortgage scheme unravelled spectacularly, as people walked away from their homes. Financial Institutions holding the debt load across the world, fell like dominoes, crippling the world economy. The Bush administration had allowed for a scandalous mortgage scheme to exist. Outrageously, Senator John McCain exonerated Republicans by falsely pinning the blame for the financial fallout on the Democrats. Trust was lost in America.

Then, the rise of Chinese, Russian, Brazilian, and Indian (BRIC) economies created the global financial growth once enjoyed by the USA. They, and the fifth member, South Africa, have developed enormously. These nations are forming stronger inter-development alliances with interested parties and no longer depend on the EU and the US economies for survival.

America, despite the best efforts of Barack Obama to rebuild confidence, has lost the respect of other nations. With the loss of trust in America, came the loss of safety for political allies. America was no longer a major player in the World. Barack Obama was unable to adequately rebuild those fractured relationships. There were no viable Democrats waiting in the ‘wings’ who had a definitive strategy for bringing back jobs and rebuilding the economic status that the American public wanted. A political void existed.

I don’t like Donald Trump. I read his ‘Art of the Deal’ when it was first published in 1987. It didn’t take me long to realise that the man could use spin to sell any abhorrent idea to anyone. I also noticed how he manipulated officials to win planning permission for constructing his ostentatious buildings.

I thought Donald Trump to be the perfect TV host of the American version of ‘The Apprentice.’ His bullying, bellow of ‘You’re Fired!’ to contestants was an accurate personification of his real self. Donald Trump is not the perfect man for the position of President of the United States.

Trump, fresh from his instant TV stardom, rode in like a cowboy with guns blazing. Mowing down friends and foes alike, he boasted to his TV audience, “We’re gonna Make America Great Again!” It was a terrible ‘John Wayne’ imitation, but it was enough to mobilise poor-town Americans into lifting their heads up from dusty bars across the Nation. They recognised Trump from his appearances on their living room screens as someone who knew business and how to make money. As a collective, they put their fists in the air and said, “Yeah, we’re gonna make America great again! They were not seemingly aware of the debts that Trump had incurred in his own dealings, nor of his use of tax avoidance and double dealing tactics.

My husband, a financial man for much of his working life, saw a visionary Donald Trump providing hope for a better economy. His view, was to give the man a chance! He tells me that Donald Trump, whether you like him or not, has made progress on his pre-election promises.

I don’t really think my husband knows Trump’s full history, nor do I think that he cares, so that may also be true of Trump’s many supporters.

Unfortunately, Donald Trump is full of old ideas, old philosophies, and old tricks. And he believes that he, ‘The Donald,’ is above the law, above the Constitution, and above any need to be diplomatic with other nations. He plays the Presidency as he did his own empire. He believes that his only hindrances are the Democrats and a few million Hispanics on his southern border. He does not personally like or feel any compassion for economic migrants because he is a covert racist and doesn’t want them in ‘his’ America.

The lack of trust in America has extended into the very real issue of world climate change. There is hesitation on global action as America, under Donald Trump’s instruction, has now left the bargaining ‘table.’ Other nations mumble verbal commitments, but their trust in American leadership has been abused yet again. Suspicion and hostility about how the Paris Agreement might work without US involvement has ground proceedings to a halt.

I watched a May 2018 interview with ‘Stephen Fry,’ a British actor. How did he see America today? He dropped his head saying, “Oh it’s terribly unfortunate! ” He also went on to say that Donald Trump used gangster and criminal tactics to force his agenda. He says Trump’s popularity is driven by ‘clickbait’ issues posted on social media, that is then reiterated over and over again, in televised news.

Stephen Fry also predicts that Donald Trump will run a second term, and so does my husband. Why? Because Donald Trump commands attention. He keeps his fingers working on his Twitter account so that he makes world news every day! A certain percentage of Americans see Donald Trump’s constant barrage of media blustering as ‘the real thing.’ They are fooled into believing that ‘America IS Great Again! ” So, they will vote him in again because Trump’s fake news fiasco is working!

Donald Trump tosses out outrageous propaganda which the media just gobbles up and feeds to us wholesale. Stephen Fry said that if nobody listened, and nobody clicked on the social media links, all the propaganda would disappear, and so would Donald Trump’s success.

Brits in general, feel that they hear far too much about American politics, especially during elections. And in truth, not many ordinary people on this side of the pond care what Donald Trump does, but those same people lap up the articles written about Trump because they reinforce some parallel issues that arise with Brexit.

Trump’s firings of his staff, the withdrawal of troops, the detention and degradation of migrants, the threat to keep the government in lock down, and his never-ending tirade about the ‘wall,’ all invoke fear. Trump hopes to trigger a state of emergency in a paralysed nation fearful of attack. These are the ‘plays’ of a man desperate to have the rest of the world take notice of America and see her power. Trump wants to build the economy using the steel industry to build the ‘wall’ and to create an arsenal of new weapons (in the event of a war that he will likely instigate). It is so unfortunate for the American people who must endure the consequences of the lies churned out by Trump. They may see the economy build, but it is not building for them.

The sinister side to all of this, is that Trump may eventually use his bullying tactics one too many times with China. It could backfire spectacularly in 2019 as a China/Russia alliance becomes a mega joint strategy against the perceived US threats. Donald Trump is playing with fire. His military commanders know it, and so do his allies. Other countries are quickly backing away from Trump’s influence as he drags the good citizens of America down a very dark black hole whilst chasing his own empire.

 ‘Trust’ and ‘Safety’ no longer exist in my vocabulary for describing Donald J. Trump’s America. And the consequences of Donald Trump’s flawed plans could herald a change of leadership on the political world stage. If so, it will not be the United States of America in that lead role.

America In The Eyes Of The World – A Guest Post by Gary Metcalfe

Today I am happy to present the second guest post in response to my plea for friends outside the U.S. to give us their insight about how they view the U.S. today.  This one is by Gary Metcalfe, who blogs as bereavedandbeingasingleparent, or as I call him, Bereaved Dad.  Thank you, Gary, for taking the time and effort to write this illuminating piece!


IS YORKSHIRE CLOSER TO WASHINGTON OR PARIS

Geography doesn’t really come easily to a simple Yorkshire chap like myself. I’m lucky to find my way round the house never mind circumnavigate the globe.  But distance wise I am pretty sure we are closer to France than America. It has always puzzled me if I should call America – America or is it the USA? Let’s go for America. So, although we are physically closer to France, in terms of relationships are we closer to Washington or Paris?

This is such a difficult question given the fact that my own country has clearly gone barking mad. So badly divided over Brexit. Increasingly violent and seeing the worrying rise of extremism. Less tolerant. Without any effective leadership. Obsessed with the cult of personality over substance. A country with ever widening inequalities. Happy to criticise others yet reluctant to cooperate or make any meaningful international contribution.  Occasionally sending a few war planes into the Middle East does not really count as a constructive policy.

To be fair if Washington and Paris had any sense they would distance themselves from the UK. I suspect the leaders in Europe secretly can’t wait to get rid of us. When I worked for the NHS I went to a conference and the Secretary of State for Health started slagging off our European partners. He held up a European Competition Framework and complained that it was 300 pages long and was a clear sign of European bureaucracy gone mad. Unfortunately, he failed to mention that the vast majority of the bureaucracy in that document had been inserted at the request of the U.K. to protect our own interests. That document will be much slimmer when we have left.

Although we talk as if we are European we have historically seen our closest ally as America. America is often portrayed as vibrant, modern, yes a bit brash but also so very inclusive. Yes, we have seen things which make us shake our heads. The obsession with guns … what is all that about. Wouldn’t an obsession with something like Tea or Old Car Restoration be an awful lot safer for your kids. But still we could trust America. Then Obama came along and suddenly our closest ally became a real beacon of hope.

In 2011 the American President said a few simple words that resonated (he had a brilliant talent for that):

“We should do everything we can to ensure this country lives up to our children’s expectations”

 The words came at such a tragic time for the American People, but Obama was the leader we all wished we had. Intelligent, caring, passionate and someone who understood he had obligations to the upcoming generations. That’s a great look for country and certainly a friend we can work with.  Then the hope appeared to fade, stagnated by a divided country. Principles had to be compromised.  But still America was a trusted partner. Someone we could turn to when we fell out with Europe.

 Then we all got trumped.

 When Trump received his nomination it never really sunk in. We knew of him. A billionaire, a golfer, luxury hotel owner, someone who appeared in Home Alone 2 and the winner of the WWE Battle of the Billionaires with Vince McMahon – didn’t get his head shaved. That was it.

We didn’t focus on him too much as obviously Hillary would win, as obviously the UK would vote to stay in Europe. Then even after he won he wasn’t taken that seriously. He won’t last long, people started placing bets on how long he would be President. Most people seemed to think anywhere between 6 months to 1 week. But he stayed.

For the first period of his presidency it appeared from the U.K. that if you just ignored his frequent twitter rants then things would be ok. He hadn’t blown anything up. Apart from the noise nothing seemed to be happening. Yes, the revolving door approach to presidential appointments seemed vaguely amusing. Moving the White House engine room to a golf course (as clearly a golf course is where a President can do his best work) was not really a surprise. In fact, all we really heard was how much time he spent playing golf.  But slowly the news of the what trumping really meant started to filter across the pond.

  • Apparently dangerous links with Russia and certain Middle East tyrannies existed. But we couldn’t lecture on this as we have equally close links with Saudi Arabia.

  • The Paul Manafort saga (too confusing to really follow as we only heard about snippets of the story) but it clearly implied incompetence or something more sinister. Whatever the underlying cause it’s not a great example to the world of American Ethics.

  • The handling of the Puerto Rico natural disaster was just really insensitive, self-centred and despicable.

  • The apparent haste to fall out with your historic partners like Canada, France and Germany. But you have found a new buddy in North Korea.

  • He bizarrely started to openly condemn his own Intelligence Agencies and the FBI. Yet he didn’t seem as willing to condemn the Extreme Right operating in his own country.

  • The Complete disregard for international climate change commitments. It really felt like he was saying ‘stuff you’ to the world and future generations. Maybe he thinks it’s not my problem as I will be gone by the time the world burns. Contrast that with Obama’s approach. Monumentally stupid or colossally selfish.

  • Favouring the interest of the NRA over child safety. Seriously arming teachers….

  • Attacks on the Free Press and attempts to stifle debate. These are particularly worrying as some of our politicians are clearly starting to copy Trumps strategy. What happened to the Leader of the Free World role.

  • That Wall. That Magic Wall which will solve all of America’s problems. The Wall which is so precious that it’s worth freezing Government for. That must be some Wall. But the sight of a modern Leader seemingly taking personal delight at the shutdown. Probably thinks it makes him look like a big man. We are talking about people’s lives here being sacrificed for a few bricks.  Kids are dying on the border. Oh, I forgot they are just migrants. Are the golf courses still open?

To the vast majority in our country your President appears to be at best a misguided clown at worst a dangerously unbalanced self-obsessed bully. Either are not a good look for a leader and certainly not as a leader who we are trying to forge a partnership with. Many in our country feel that Trump has gone too far. That we should be distancing ourselves from him. But our PM is desperate, she sees an American trade deal (regardless of how bad it is) as a way of saving her job. So, unless we get a new government it’s going to happen.

Where does that leave us across the pond. Rapidly burning our bridges with Europe. Yet looking on at America with increasing consternation and alarm. At a time when we should be embracing closer links with Washington we see a dangerous superpower. Potentially a threat. Yes, a threat. And yet. And yet. As our country careens out of control into a world with few friends, our government views Trump as someone we might be able to quickly do business with. He clearly hates Europe as much as our Brexiteers. But at what cost. Is an unbalanced trade deal really worth further opening up our beloved National Health Service to Trump’s golfing buddies. Are we really that tainted as a country that we are prepared to sacrifice our moral principles for the price of a document which Trump could declare void at any stage.

So back to the big question. Are we closer to Washington or Paris? The answer is sadly neither.Text dividers

♫ Eve of Destruction ♫

I’ve played a lot of great music the last few weeks … a lot of Motown and the sort of music that makes you tap your toes and just feel good.  Tonight I must veer for just a bit …

Released in 1965, this song was an anti-government protest against racism, hypocrisy and injustice at a volatile time in American history.  Sound familiar?  I’m really surprised that this song hasn’t made a huge comeback in the past year or so, for it is every bit as apropos today as it was 50+ years ago.  In some ways, the issues today are different, but in other ways … not so much.  Today, instead of Vietnam we have climate change and a clown in the Oval Office, Brexit and election manipulation.  But racism is still alive and well, but today we have no Martin Luther King.  Hypocrisy?  Oh yeah, in spades, my friend.  And Injustice is the name of the game here and around the world.  I could name 100 reasons that this song is as relevant today as it was then. Different faces, same ol’ song.

Eve of Destruction
Barry McGuire

The eastern world, it is explodin’,
Violence flarin’, bullets loadin’,
You’re old enough to kill but not for votin’,
You don’t believe in war, but what’s that gun you’re totin’,
And even the Jordan river has bodies floatin’,
But you tell me over and over and over again my friend,
Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.

Don’t you understand, what I’m trying to say?
And can’t you feel the fears I’m feeling today?
If the button is pushed, there’s no running away,
There’ll be no one to save with the world in a grave,
Take a look around you, boy, it’s bound to scare you, boy,
And you tell me over and over and over again my friend,
Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.

Yeah, my blood’s so mad, feels like coagulatin’,
I’m sittin’ here, just contemplatin’,
I can’t twist the truth, it knows no regulation,
Handful of Senators don’t pass legislation,
And marches alone can’t bring integration,
When human respect is disintegratin’,
This whole crazy world is just too frustratin’,
And you tell me over and over and over again my friend,
Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.

Think of all the hate there is in Red China!
Then take a look around to Selma, Alabama!
Ah, you may leave here, for four days in space,
But when your return, it’s the same old place,
The poundin’ of the drums, the pride and disgrace,
You can bury your dead, but don’t leave a trace,
Hate your next door neighbor, but don’t forget to say grace,
And you tell me over and over and over and over again my friend,
You don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.

No, no, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.

Songwriters: P. F. Sloan
Eve of Destruction lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG Rights Management

On Being Found Wanting

Today, our friend Roger wrote a post that I have to share with you all. In the politically divided world we find ourselves in today, it is altogether too easy to wake up one morning and find that ‘we’ have become ‘they’, that our own voices are just as toxic as those with whom we disagree. Several times in the past year I have written a post, then scrapped it after a 2nd reading, realizing that it was more vitriolic than informative. Roger’s post speaks of his own struggles to remain above the fray, and his words, spoken from his heart, have value for us all. Many thanks, Roger, for sharing your thoughts and for your kind permission to re-blog.

Raging from the Lectern

Citizen present yourself before the tribunal….. 

Back in the good (that’s irony for all you humourless folk out there, of whatever political stripe) old days of Communist Rule, the powers in charge were very big on Critical Self-Examination. This meant some hapless person who had fallen out of favour got hauled up before a tribunal to confess whatever they’d been told to confess to if they really cared for their family or hoped they might get out in one piece. Having said they had been very, very wrong for whatever it was they had been told they had done wrong they would be shunted out to a firing squad, prison camp in the back of beyond, or if it was being blamed for the demise of the Committee’s potted plants simply sent to clean sewers with their bare hands for a while. No one considered ‘Not Guilty’ as an option.

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From ‘Alternative Facts’ to Rewriting History in Trump’s White House

Just two days ago, I wrote a post about ‘alternative facts’, aka lies.  I didn’t plan to revisit the topic this soon, but I came across an excellent editorial written by Jon Sopel, the North American editor for BBC, that confirms my take on the subject and provides some additional food for thought.  I share with you his words …

jonsopelIt is time we sit and talk about truth and transparency.

Every now and then a few disparate things collide, and suddenly you see a pattern. And I don’t want this blog to come across as faux naïve. I’ve covered politics for long enough to know that politicians will try to shape and mould truth to best suit their purposes, to allow them to weaponise the facts that will give them greatest advantage.

And I know that politicians love transparency when it best suits them. But in the past two weeks, a line has been crossed.

Let me start with something seemingly minor. I was listening to the president and Theresa May at their news conference in the Chequers garden when Donald Trump, talking about Brexit, suddenly made the statement that he had predicted the result when he was at his golf course in Turnberry for the opening of his wonderful golf course the day before the EU referendum in June 2016.

I sat up with a jolt. I had been there with him on that trip.

We didn’t arrive until the day after the referendum. He wasn’t there on June 22nd. He was there on June 24th. I pointed this out on Twitter, saying it was a bit bizarre.

Now I can see as a bit of storytelling it works better to claim to have been the visionary who saw what was coming; I can also see that when you’re 72-years-old you might misremember dates and times. Who doesn’t do that occasionally? – although maybe not on something as fundamental as that.

Anyway back to my tweet saying the president was factually incorrect. Straight back shot Stephanie Grisham, who is the first lady’s director of communications, but more importantly at the time was Donald Trump’s press person for the trip to Turnberry.

She told me on Twitter the president was right to say what he had said – and she had the photos to prove it.tweet-1So we produced the tweet from the president on the 24th saying “Just arrived in Scotland…” and from her saying that she had just arrived in Scotland.

Someone else found the flight manifest, confirming that the Trump private jet had arrived on the 24th. I fully agree a storm in a teacup. This is not the sort of thing on which world peace hinges.

But I struggle to fathom Steph’s motives. Why did she go wading in to defend a lie? And why when the proof was provided that she was incorrect did she not just say “fair enough – my mistake”.tweet-2.pngPsychology has a rather good word for this – “gaslighting”.

This is the Wikipedia definition of it: Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilise the victim and delegitimise the victim’s belief.

From Chequers we now go to Helsinki, and another extraordinary news conference this time with Vladimir Putin. The whole thing was slightly surreal, made more so by the guy sitting next to me being yanked out by the Secret Service after it became clear to them he was planning some kind of protest during the news conference.

During the course of the Q and A, Jeff Mason from Reuters was called to ask a question. He wanted to know whether Putin had wanted Donald Trump to win the 2016 presidential election and had directed any of his officials to help him do that?

Vladimir Putin didn’t hesitate: “Yes, I wanted him to win because he talked about bringing the US-Russia relationship back to normal.”

It was quite a moment. But then I saw a tweet that Donald Trump put out yesterday to protest about how tough he was with Russia, which read:

“I’m very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election. Based on the fact that no President has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don’t want Trump!”

So I referred back to what Putin had said in Helsinki a week earlier. But here’s where it gets super murky. All reference to that exchange between Mr Mason and the Russian leader has been omitted from the official White House transcript. In the official record it doesn’t exist.

Just a clerical transcription error? Well maybe – there is some confusion over the translation, but maybe it would be good to correct the record.

Now for another random event which happened yesterday. The White House has said that it will no longer provide information about when the president holds conversations with foreign leaders, as it has always done hitherto.

The accounts of the chats may have been anodyne and terse, but they were a useful tool to keep track of foreign policy priorities. And it was always useful to compare and contrast what, say, the Kremlin would have to say about the conversation compared to the White House. Now we will no longer be able to do that.

And so to the final thing. Donald Trump was speaking at a rally in Kansas City. And he came out with a memorable phrase that sounded as though it had been lifted straight from George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984. He said: “Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening.”

Or it is. There is just a concerted – and sometimes it would seem – systematic effort to make you think otherwise.

Forget alternative facts. This is rewriting history.

If anything … anything at all … that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth is true, then I am the Queen of England.  ‘Nuff said.

The “president” is a Son-of-a-Bitch

Let’s start with a simple question:  If you are invited to visit a friend, and your own house is in a shambles, dirty because you haven’t cleaned it in months, are you likely to harshly criticize your friend’s housekeeping skills when her house if nearly immaculate?  And to do so publicly, announcing to the neighborhood at large?  I think not.  Why? Because you are sensible, kind and truthful.

Who does Donald Trump think he is?  He was, though only by the minority and not the majority, elected to be the president of the United States.  He was not elected Prime Minister of the UK.  He was not elected President of NATO.  He was only elected to be the president (no caps) of what is fast becoming the most despised nation on the face of the earth.

I won’t even bother addressing just now his abhorrent performance – yes, that is what all his public appearances are, performances – at NATO on Wednesday and early Thursday, but will skip right on to his epic failure in the UK yesterday afternoon.

Donald Trump decided to give an interview to one media outlet in the UK, The Sun. First off, guess who owns The Sun?  None other than Rupert Murdoch, the very same Rupert Murdoch who owns Fox News and The Wall Street Journal, among others.  It is considered Britain’s most right-wing newspaper, or actually more of a tabloid.

The SunThe interview had been done on Wednesday in Brussels, and was strategically scheduled to be published during Trump’s first evening in London.  There can be no doubt … no doubt at all that it was an attempt to add insult to injury as Ms. May is struggling to maintain her position in light of the opposition to the soft Brexit deal she announced earlier this week.  Trump also praised May’s antagonist, Boris Johnson, and alluded to him as a future Prime Minister, further indicating his attempt to influence the fate of Ms. May’s government.

A few of his most obnoxious remarks from the interview (and of course I could not resist adding my own commentary):

“I would have done it much differently. I actually told Theresa May how to do it, but she didn’t listen to me.”  (And why should she listen to the words of a dishonest ‘man’?)

“The deal she is striking is a much different deal than the one people voted on.” (He didn’t even know what Brexit was in early 2016!)

“If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the U.K., so it will probably kill the deal.”  (A mind is a terrible thing to waste)

“I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London. I used to love London as a city. I haven’t been there in a long time. But when they make you feel unwelcome, why would I stay there?”  (You’re finally getting the message — they don’t want you, Bozo!)

On London Mayor Sadiq Khan: “Take a look at the terrorism that is taking place. Look at what is going on in London. I think he has done a very bad job on terrorism. I think he has done a bad job on crime, if you look, all of the horrible things going on there, with all of the crime that is being brought in.”  (Not your place to judge, Donnie boy — you don’t even understand your own job, so don’t try to tell someone else how to do theirs)

“I have a lot of respect for Boris [Johnson]. He obviously likes me and says very good things about me. I was very saddened to see he was leaving government, and I hope he goes back in at some point. I think he is a great representative for your country. I am just saying I think he would be a great prime minister. I think he’s got what it takes.” (Just proves that Johnson is a lousy judge of character)

Last month, Trump very rudely and using false pretenses offended Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after the disastrous G7 summit where Trump should have been put outside with the canines, based on his behaviour.  And this month, he has gone beyond simply insulting the Prime Minister of the UK, but has attempted to undermine the job she is working hard to do.

Trump-May.jpg

What the heck is Melania wearing — the curtains???

Although I did not vote for Trump and have never supported him in any way, I still feel I owe all my UK friends a humble apology.  Please forgive us, our nation, for being too stupid to see what an ignominious jackass our so-called president is and allowing him to remain in office.  I’m sorry.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who I actually defended recently, saying that she didn’t deserve the public embarrassment she was subjected to when she was asked to leave a restaurant, went above and beyond her usual dog-and-pony show lies:

“The President likes and respects Prime Minister May very much. As he said in his interview with the Sun she ‘is a very good person’ and he ‘never said anything bad about her.’”

Bullpoop.

His behaviour and his interview with The Sun were abominable.  Extremely unprofessional, un-presidential, crass, rude and whatever other adjective you can think of to insert.  Make no mistake — this is a serious diplomatic blunder for the U.S., and one that will likely have long-reaching ramifications for both the U.S. and the UK.  I do not see how it can possibly fail to erode the relations between our two nations.  Donald Trump has absolutely no right to interfere in the negotiations between the UK and EU regarding Brexit.  It is not his fight.

It is worth noting that Trump is not capable of taking care of his own house, is doing a terrible job at home, and yet here he is trying to tell all of NATO what they must do, and now trying to tell the Prime Minister of the UK how she should do her job!  As I said in the beginning, the United States is well on the way to becoming the most despised nation on the earth.  All because of one ‘man’.  Well no, wait, actually the blame must be shared by 62,985,115 others.  The 62,984,828 who voted for him, and the 287 republicans in Congress (51 in the Senate and 236 in the House of Representatives) who have been slavishly licking his boots every day since 20 January 2017.  Thank you all for making our nation the worst it has been since 1865.  Each and every one of you deserve what’s coming your way.  Sadly, the other 265,134,207 of us in the U.S. do not deserve the abomination you have unleashed on us, and the rest of the world does not either!

Vive La France!!!

Tonight I am pleased … almost giddy, as it were!  The French exhibited great common sense and showed Ms. Marine LePen the door, electing Emmanuel Macron by a decisive margin … 66% to 34%, according to the Guardian.  This despite Putin’s efforts to rig the election in favour of LePen, as he did for Trump in the U.S. election last year.

French elections-2Macron’s victory speech was somber and gracious.  He said he accepted that many had voted for him even though they disagreed with his programme to “defend the republic against extremism”. When he mentioned those who had voted for Marine Le Pen, there were boos and whistles from the crowd. “No, don’t whistle them. They have expressed today their anger and dismay – and sometimes convictions. I respect that. But I will do everything I can in the next five years so there is no reason to vote for extremes. Tonight, there is only the reunited people of France. The world is watching us. Europe and the world. I will serve you with love.”

macron-3The man has class.  Mssr. Macron understands the divide the populist movement has wrought upon his nation and I believe he plans to do everything in his power to help heal that divide.  He said he was speaking to all of France’s citizens, not just those who had voted for him. His primary task over the coming five years, he added, was to “calm people’s fears, restore France’s confidence, and gather all its people together to face the immense challenges that face us”.

Unfortunately, on the other side of the channel, they were not so gracious about Macron’s win.  Had LePen won, it was likely that she would have advocated for France leaving the European Union, a Frexit, if you will.  Britain’s own Nigel Farage had set up a group to advocate for just such an eventuality, and that group was more than a little put out, apparently, by the results of yesterday’s election.  A tweet from the group read that that the French people had once again “rolled over” just as they had done in 1940 – except this time they saved Germany “the bullets and the fuel”.  Farage himself got in on the act, tweeting: “A giant deceit has been voted for today. Macron will be Juncker’s puppet.” 

Hillary Clinton, having herself been the victim of Putin’s election interference, tweeted this:

“Victory for Macron, for France, the EU, & the world. Defeat to those interfering w/democracy. (But the media says I can’t talk about that) 4:32 PM – 7 May 2017”

Donald Trump, who had supported LePen, saying she was “strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France”, congratulated Macron and said he looks forward to working with him.  Theresa May of the UK said, “we look forward to working with the new president on a wide range of shared priorities”.  The aforementioned Nigel Farage tweeted, “@EmmanuelMacron offers 5 more years of failure, power to the EU and open borders. If @MLP_officiel sticks in there, she can win in 2022.”

Reactions from other world leaders:

  • “Your victory is a victory for a strong united Europe and for the Franco-German friendship.” – Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany

  • Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, said the result made him “… happy that the ideas that you defended of a strong and progressive Europe that protects all its citizens will be those that France will cherish under your presidency”.

  • Guy Verhofstadt, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said: “We supported him from the very start. I am relieved by his defeat of demagoguery and populism. I am also proud of his commitment to a social, liberal European project.”

  • “The citizens of France entrusted you to lead the country in a difficult period for Europe and for the entire world community. The growing threat of terrorism and violent extremism is accompanied by an escalation of local conflicts and the destabilisation of entire regions. In these condition it is especially important to overcome mutual distrust and join forces to ensure international stability and security.” – Vladimir Putin, Russian President

Predictably, there were the naysayers, primarily in the ranks of LePen’s supporters, some responding with vitriol, mocking Macron’s wife, his platform, and whatever else they could think of, but that, I am coming to realize, is the mentality of the masses and exists in every venue.  Overall, I think the western world had been holding its collective breath, and yesterday breathed a sigh of profound relief.  I know I did.  Vive la France!

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And Now It Is France’s Turn …

This Sunday, the people of France will head to the polls to elect a new president.  I have been following the election, though not as closely as I might have liked, given all the other issues that occupy my mind and time these days.  Though there are eleven candidates in the running, it seems clear that the results of the first round will come down to four: Marine LePen, François Fillon, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and Emmanuel Macron.

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Now, caught up as we are in our own Trumpian-drama here in the U.S., some might ask why the French election matters to us.  The simple answer is that this election may be the deciding factor in whether the EU survives the remainder of this decade. Whether you like the concept of globalization or not, it is a fact of life, it is here to stay, and the peoples of this earth are connected … what happens in France affects the U.S., and vice versa. So let us take just a few minutes to examine the election and the candidates, and what the results might mean, not only for France, but for the world. France is the world’s sixth-largest economy, is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and is a nuclear-armed power. It is also one of the U.S.’ oldest and most reliable allies. So yes, what happens in Sunday’s election matters to the U.S.

With eleven candidates in the running, it is highly unlikely that any will earn a majority of more than 50%, which means the top two candidates will be in a runoff election on 07 May.  Let us take a quick look at the two who are expected to score the highest:

LePen

  • Marine LePen – is rather a female version of Donald Trump, anti-immigration and promising to ‘make the country safer’ and also ‘more French’. She is a far-right conservative who inherited the leadership of the National Front Party from its founder, her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, who is known for his anti-Semitic views. For many, she is the candidate of pessimism, the choice of “unhappy France”, focusing on long-term high unemployment rates and the problems associated with immigration and the refugee crisis. A terrorist attack in Paris that killed one police officer on Thursday may also bolster Le Pen on Sunday, and one has to wonder if … well, I leave it at that.

Le Pen’s platform includes promises of radical, jarring change that starts with   rewriting the constitution; enforcing the principle of ‘national preference’ for French citizens in hiring as well as the dispensing of housing and benefits; reinstating the franc as the national currency rather than the euro, pulling out of NATO’s integrated command structure; and slashing immigration to one-tenth of its current annual level. In addition, she proposes to hold a ‘Brexit-like’ vote to remove France from the European Union (EU).

Yet while Le Pen has many ideas for the future of France, she has few plans for how to implement them.  If she does win the final vote, some say France should prepare for an administration defined by “constant crisis,” paralysis, and brutal economic blowback. Sound familiar?

Macron

  • Emmanuel Macron – is an independent centrist and the founder of the progressive En Marche! (On the Move!) party. He has been dubbed by some the “French Obama”, due to his charismatic style. Although Macron appears to be slightly leading the pack, his roles as an official in the Hollande government and as an investment banker have led to attacks that he is an elite globalist, deeply entrenched within the status quo. He is viewed as a centrist who wouldn’t radically alter the status quo.

Macron’s platform includes exiting the coal industry and focusing on renewable energy sources, job training, a reduction in the unemployment rate, reductions in corporate income tax rates, flexibility of labour laws, education reform and federal spending cuts.

Though Sunday’s results are largely anticipated to end in a runoff between LePen and Macron, it is worth a brief glance at the other two leading contenders who are not far behind in the polls:

Fillon

  • François Fillon – represents the  center-right Republican Party. Although Fillon led early polls, his popularity sunk amid corruption allegations. He refused to withdraw his candidacy despite calls from figures in his own party demanding he move aside. Fillon, seeing the potency of LePen’s platform among frustrated French voters, has taken an increasingly firm stance on the threat of importing terrorism — a move that could steal votes from Le Pen.

Melenchon

  • Jean-Luc Mélenchon – is the radical far-left creator of the France Unbowed movement. Often compared to former progressive presidential candidate U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Mélenchon fights for economic socialism, higher taxes on rich French, and an increased scope for government programs.

Around the globe, the ‘populist’ or ‘nationalist’ movement is gaining momentum.  Its two wins thus far have been Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.  Both Austria and the Netherlands have rejected populist candidates Norbert Hofer and Geert Wilders.  How France will vote remains to be seen, but the main fear is that if LePen wins the election, the changes will lead to chaos, not only for France, but for the European continent and the U.S. as well.  We have seen the chaos created by both Brexit and Trump, and my hope is that the French will look at the UK and US and decide to reject the far-right, sticking with a more moderate candidate.

On Thursday, France suffered a terrorist attack whereby one police officer was killed and two others wounded.  Daesh quickly claimed responsibility.  It is interesting timing, coming just three days before the election, and leads to a few questions, since LePen is, similar to Trump last year and Wilders earlier this year, advocating a ban of Muslims and strong anti-terrorist measures, and an attack so close to election day may enable fear to influence the votes of some.  I will leave the questions to your imaginations.  The Guardian published an editorial titled The Guardian view on the French presidency: hope not hate, calling for voters to keep a cool head, not letting Thursday’s attack influence their vote.

The issues facing the candidates in France’s election are far more complex than I can cover here, and the candidates far more in depth, but I have tried to summarize briefly.  The election will certainly be worth watching, even for those who have no vested interest, but rather an indirect one.

Survival Guide: Keeping Your Sanity Intact

A month or so ago, a new reader somehow came upon my blog, and has since become not only a regular reader, but also a friend. In addition to being knowledgeable on most any topic and having a unique sense of humour, he has a positive outlook, and that is what made me decide to share this post on my blog tonight. I found this post to be calming in the midst of the storms surrounding us all these days. Please take a few minutes to read this post by Roger, writing as heroicallybadwriter (although he is actually a quite good writer!) And thank you, Roger, for the implied permission to re-blog!

heroicallybadwriter

As we know in this day and age in the light of events recent and not so-recent you cannot help but wonder…..’WHAAAAAAAAT!’

Now I know most readers will think I’m going down the road of the USA Presidential Elections or the UK British Brexit referendum, which would be rational, however they are but two examples.

Let me just cite a few in my recent experience both personal and witnessed.

The ‘religious forum’ I gave up on. The fundamentalist atheist who argued I had no business believing in science and a God and had a closed mind for doing so (no kidding…It’s E=MC2 or nothing in his world)

The british comic who in his temper-tantrum (no satire, just a foul-mouthed tirade) over the US elections (his followers thought he was being witty) ranted “Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not against Americans. I like overweight mass-killers as much as anyone” (The…

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Brexit, Anyone? or … Divorcing the EU

It is rather like a divorce between a couple with decades of shared history, not to mention a home, cars, personal belongings, household furnishing, cars … and kids.  I am referring, of course, to Brexit, the vote from last June 23rd, whereby the Brits voted to give up their membership in the European Union (EU).

On Tuesday, British Prime Minister Theresa May gave a long-awaited speech (full transcript here)   indicating what the country could expect in the negotiations as the UK moves out of the EU.  The entire process is expected to take about two years, and I think will cross many hurdles and roadblocks along the way.  Many in the EU, as well as those in the UK who were not in support of Brexit last year (Scotland and Northern Ireland voted against), hoped that May would opt for what is known as a ‘soft Brexit’, whereby while not a member of the EU, and with no seat on the European Council, it would nonetheless keep unfettered access to the European single market.  This would mean free trade with nations in the EU, and exports not subjected to border controls.

However, P.M. May opted for the ‘hard Brexit’, saying that to do otherwise would go against what the people voted for when they voted to leave the EU.  A requirement of remaining in the single market is contribution to the EU budget, and also recognition and acceptance of what is known as the Four Freedoms:  freedom of movement of goods, services, capital and people.  The last is the one, presumably, that gives P.M. May pause, as the most oft-stated reason for Brexit was to stop the flow of immigration into the UK.

I cannot begin to delve in this single post into all the complexities that are likely to be disputed during the negotiation process, but there are a couple of points that should be understood.  First, P.M. May stated during her speech:

“… we will pursue a bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement with the European Union. This agreement should allow for the freest possible trade in goods and services between Britain and the EU’s member states. It should give British companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate within European markets — and let European businesses do the same in Britain. But I want to be clear. What I am proposing cannot mean membership of the Single Market.

So we do not seek membership of the Single Market. Instead we seek the greatest possible access to it through a new, comprehensive, bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement. That agreement may take in elements of current Single Market arrangements in certain areas — on the export of cars and lorries for example, or the freedom to provide financial services across national borders — as it makes no sense to start again from scratch when Britain and the remaining Member States have adhered to the same rules for so many years.

And because we will no longer be members of the Single Market, we will not be required to contribute huge sums to the E.U. budget. There may be some specific European programs in which we might want to participate. If so, and this will be for us to decide, it is reasonable that we should make an appropriate contribution. But the principle is clear: the days of Britain making vast contributions to the European Union every year will end.” 

I don’t presume to be a scholar of international law, however this seems to me to be asking to have the strongest benefits of EU membership without the obligations and responsibilities required by other EU nations.  Somehow, I don’t think this is going to work! It is rather like, in my original analogy of the divorcing couple, the wife saying, “And I want to keep the house, but I will not contribute to the mortgage payments, taxes, or insurance … you pay all that!”

Yes, well … then there was this:

“We want to get out into the wider world, to trade and do business all around the globe. Countries including China, Brazil, and the Gulf States have already expressed their interest in striking trade deals with us. We have started discussions on future trade ties with countries like Australia, New Zealand and India. And President-Elect Trump has said Britain is not “at the back of the queue” for a trade deal with the United States, the world’s biggest economy, but front of the line.

I know my emphasis on striking trade agreements with countries outside Europe has led to questions about whether Britain seeks to remain a member of the EU’s Customs Union. And it is true that full Customs Union membership prevents us from negotiating our own comprehensive trade deals.

Now, I want Britain to be able to negotiate its own trade agreements. But I also want tariff-free trade with Europe and cross-border trade there to be as frictionless as possible.”

Again, P.M. May appears to believe that she can, as the saying goes, “have her cake and eat it too”!  Again, there are many other issues in her speech that I could address, but I am running out of time and viable space, and I would like to address one final topic:  the reactions around the world. EU Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt said: “I think it creates an illusion that you can go out of the single market and the customs union and you can cherry pick and still have a number of advantages. I think this will not happen. We shall never accept a situation in which it is better to be outside the single market than be a member of the European Union.”  I suspect he is correct.

Predictably, while Britain’s biggest newspapers cheered Theresa May’s Brexit speech, their continental counterparts rolled their eyes. “Steel of the New Iron Lady,” the Daily Mail (UK) said on its front page, comparing the prime minister with Margaret Thatcher. The Sun, Britain’s biggest-selling paper, likened the prime minister to Moses, with the headline “Brexodus”. The Times led on “May to EU: give us fair deal or you’ll be crushed”.

Germany’s Die Welt says Prime Minister is ‘leading Great Britain into isolation’. Italian daily La Repubblica led with the headline, “Brexit, London gets its wall, ‘away from the EU and the common market”‘. Le Monde (France) splashed on “Trump against Europe”, a bullet point added: “Trump’s support for Brexit is welcomed by Theresa May, who looks to tighten links with her favoured ally”.

Among the best articles I found if you are interested in learning more about Brexit, the complexities, and the process that will ensue, is this user-friendly, easy-to-understand BBC article.  For my U.S. readers, some of whom may be wondering what the heck this has to do with you, remember that our economies are linked, for better or for worse, and the predictions are that, once Brexit is a fait accompli, Britain’s economy will take a tumble. Additionally, there are security issues to consider, and a host of other factors that will have a global effect.  Brexit is, to some in the UK, what Trump’s election was to the majority of us here in the U.S.  It is to be hoped that the negotiations can find common ground that will be the least divisive, most beneficial for all sides, but if P.M. May’s speech was any indication, it is going to be a difficult process for the UK and the EU.  Filosofa will continue to write about this on occasion, as I do the situation in Turkey, as I find them both fascinating in their own ways. International Relations is, after all, my first love, and every now and then it beats the heck out of writing endlessly about da trumpeter!

I especially hope to hear some opinions from my EU/UK friends … Jack?  David?  Choosing? Memoirs of a Husk? C’mon … I need some perspective from those who are closer to the situation!

“The eurosceptic genie is out of the bottle and it will now not be put back,” he said. “EU’s finished, EU’s dead.” – Nigel Farage, UK Idiot Extraordinaire

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“The Dutch people deserve a referendum as well. The Party for Freedom consequently demands a referendum on NExit, a Dutch EU exit,” tweeted Dutch anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders.

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