Friday, January 27, 2017

Special Relationship?




I have to say I greatly appreciate the renewed interest, especially as it is coming from the US and France.  Every other month, I used to get a big uptick in Russian viewers.  Have no idea why that was.  But, readers are always welcome.  Comments are even more welcome!

Theresa May evoked the "special relationship" Margaret Thatcher had with Ronald Reagan in her speech before the Republicans gathered at a  "policy retreat" in Philadelphia.  It was really something to behold as she did her best to appeal to their conservative roots, calling Trump's election victory "a new era of American renewal."  The speech went on for an insufferable 35 minutes.    I thought much longer as no sooner did it appear she had reached an ending point than she started right back up on how much the US and UK have given to the world.

She came across as a schoolmarm trying to appeal to British and American egos at the expense of everyone else in the world.  At least she didn't try to lay claim to Britain creating the EU.  She did in regard to just about everything else.

She claims to be an internationalist, yet here she is presiding over the British withdrawal from the EU, a "hard exit" as she has called it, which would seem to indicate she is not looking for a "special relationship" with Europe.  She is having to deal with a lot of backlash in her own country, particularly from the north as Scotland has threatened to secede once again so that it can remain in the EU.  Hard to say what this will mean for Donald Trump's golf course.

Brits are decidedly cold on Trump.  Only 20 per cent have given him a favorable rating, unlike Russia where his popularity is almost as high as that of Vladimir Putin.  I simply can't understand why Britain is going through with this exit as it was a non-binding referendum, and many Brits have since expressed their remorse.  Americans had no choice in the outcome of the electoral college, which is binding.  Theresa May's political outlook seems to be: if life gives you lemons you make lemonade.  She was neither for Brexit nor do I think she has any special affinity for Donald Trump.

If the Labour Party wasn't so hopelessly in ruins, May might face a much harsher backlash in Britain, but one gets the sense she may come out of this maelstrom like Angela Merkel did the 2005 German elections.  No one gave Merkel any chance, but here she is nearly 12 years later still firmly ensconced in power.

The British PM made her digs at the Labour Party and even her former Tory leader, David Cameron, vowing a new constructive approach to foreign policy, as she decried the failed foreign wars of the recent past, namely Iraq and Libya.  She made it clear though that she strongly supported NATO, highlighting her resolve to protect the Eastern border against Russia.  Not sure how this will square with the "special relationship" Donald has cultivated with Vladimir Putin.

Mostly, it appeared she was just trying to get on Trump's good side, but it is hard to say what the Donald thinks.  He has developed a much warmer relationship with Nigel Farage, who heads the alt-right conservative party UKIP, making for a very odd menage-a-trois.  Add in "Pootie," and it looks like Theresa will be making the coffee.

It is hard to get any feeling of security out of all this.  Folks in Eastern Europe are notably worried and counting on Great Britain to at least hold NATO together.  There isn't much the US can gain from Britain than it already gets, so whatever trade deals emerge from this meeting will most likely be a reaffirmation of what already exists.  Theresa's role appears mostly to convince Donald of the importance of NATO and why the US should continue to supply the lion's share of resources to this alliance.  When it comes to costs, Trump looks at the bottom line.  Right now, only five countries are meeting the minimum requirement of 2 per cent of GDP spent on defense.

It really shouldn't matter to Trump, as the US will spend that amount of money anyway.  He seems to think our military is a "disaster" and badly in need of an overhaul.  I don't think this is a view shared by his generals.  The Donald has said repeatedly he will not honor any agreement unless other countries pay their dues, treating NATO like some kind of country club where you get booted if you don't pay your green fees.  One of the deadbeat countries is Canada, although it has nothing particularly to fear from Russia, unlike the Eastern European NATO members.

Pootie has long wanted NATO to cease and desist its training exercises in Eastern Europe.  He is most upset over the recent mobilization of tanks and troops in Poland and the Baltic countries.  He has repeatedly "buzzed" American warships in the Baltic Sea, claiming they were too close to Kaliningrad, where Russia's nuclear submarine fleet is parked.  He also continually encroaches on the airspace of Baltic countries in response to the NATO fighter jets deployed here.  All this feels ominously like the first stages of war.

One would feel a little more comfort if Donald carried out his foreign diplomacy in a normal manner, not announcing himself via twitter like he did to the President of Mexico.  In a span of 24 hours he had virtually undone a 20-year trade agreement between the two countries, walking it back only slightly.  Since Donald decided to go rogue on NAFTA, a number of top level state department officials have resigned, which doesn't bode well for a smooth transition of power.

You have to wonder what Barry is thinking as he relaxes with his family in the Caribbean.  His Foreign Policy legacy, which he is very proud of, is being shredded right before his eyes.  Even that secret little gift packet for Palestine has been held up by the Trump administration.  Nothing is escaping these guys' attention.

We can only hope that Theresa May provides some kind of calming influence on Donald, who right now feels publicly spurned by the media and seems to be lashing out at everyone.  He couldn't even get through a simple White House interview with ABC's David Muir without castigating the media.  If there is any special relationship between the UK and the US, now is the time to offer some much needed maternal guidance.


Thursday, January 26, 2017

One Nation Under Trump




I couldn't resist another post.  I haven't gotten my new blog up and running yet, at least not the way I would like, so I thought I would offer my initial impressions of Emperor Trump.

We all knew he would hit the ground running, sort of anyway.  He showed at his inauguration parade that walking, let alone running, is not one of his strong suits.  This guy could barely move.  Whatever exercise he gets will obviously be on the golf course.  But, there is no lethargy in his tiny little hands.  He immediately started signing executive orders, putting his imprimatur on the White House.  The only thing he seemed to forget about was a page that allows you to petition him to save the National Endowment for the Arts.  I guess after Sly turned down the job to head the NEA there was no point in keeping it.  The petition had garnered thousands of signatures before the White House caught on and made sure the page no longer responded.

His Trumpness also wants to get rid of a number of other federal agencies, including the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, started by Obama, that works to "sustain American leadership in the transition to a global clean energy economy."  I'm surprised he hasn't removed the solar panels on the roof, but maybe his staff forgot they are up there.  If you remember, that was the first thing Reagan did when he came to the White House, nullifying Jimmy Carter's drive for clean energy.

Mostly, Emperor Trump has been pushing the idea that his inauguration was a really big show.  He inflated the numbers at his CIA rally, claiming up to 1.5 million persons came to see him sworn in as President.  Later that day he had his press secretary scold reporters at the first White House press conference for getting the numbers wrong.  Trump's inauguration was "the biggest crowd ever.  Period!" an angry Sean Spicer shouted.  When he came back Monday in a less grumpy mood, Sean tried to make the case that when you combine crowd size with television and Internet audiences, Trump's inauguration was the most watched ever.  But, these numbers didn't add up either, as the media gleefully reported, noting that at least four presidents had bigger television audiences and Obama had more Internet hits for his 2009 inauguration than Trump had in 2017.  Yet, the Trump administration remains undeterred in its alternative version of events.

As if this wasn't enough, his excellency continues to insist that millions of votes were illegally cast, but so far the only "proof" he has offered is the anecdotal observation of very famous golfer Bernhard Langer.  Apparently he even got this wrong, as Trump was relating a story by some friend of Langer, who apparently wasn't aware that the very famous golfer is a German citizen and unable to vote in American elections.

These and other events the past five days have led Paul Krugman to suggest that Trump is "obviously mentally ill."  Body language experts have also weighed in with their initial impressions of the relationship between Trump and Melania, suggesting it is distant at best.  Needless to say, these incidents have been a field day for comedians, bloggers and pundits, unmercifully poking fun at our new first family.

But, don't let these strange events fool you.  It's all part of a "shock and awe" strategy designed to keep us off guard.  Naomi Klein wrote extensively about this in her book, "The Shock Doctrine."  This administration plans to pour Uncle Milty's supply-side economics down our throats, and unless we stand up to it, we are all going to feel like we are being waterboarded.

So far the Republican leaders in Congress have shown little resistance.  Little Marco was quite vocal in his concerns over Rex Tillerson's close relationship to Vladimir Putin, but ultimately backed away and voted with Republicans to accept the Exxon oil chief's nomination, despite the all too obvious conflicts of interest.  

McCain has voiced his concerns over Trump's threat to reintroduce torture as an interrogation technique, but if the past is any indication, Mackie will probably not put up much of a fight.  The same goes for the TPP, which Trump eliminated with a stroke of the pen, despite all the hard work Congressional Republicans put into it.

It is highly doubtful Trump put much thought into any these actions, or for that matter his cabinet picks.  How does one justify Ben Carson, Rick Perry and Betsy DeVos?  Sadly, these picks will probably all be confirmed as well, ushering in a number of religious conservatives with very specific agendas into his administration.  You might recall, Ben Carson believes the Egyptians used pyramids as grain silos.  Betsy De Vos seems to worry a great deal about grizzly bears, and Rick Perry didn't even know the Energy Department existed until he was nominated to lead it.

Trump Almighty has also decided to gag the National Park Service and the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing any documents that relate to climate change without his approval.  He might as well set up a new agency on Biblical Flood Research given what seems to be a profound disrespect for science, let alone assessing crowd sizes.  He appears to have taken a page from Norman Vincent Peale in projecting his strangely "confident and optimistic thought pattern" to overcome facts all together.  In this sense he is little different from dictators like Kim Jung Un and Gambia's Yahya Jammeh, attempting to impose his will on the nation.  I'm not sure Pastor Peale meant his book to be taken in this way.

Then there is the wall.  He made any re-negotiations with Mexico on NAFTA a non-starter by tweeting out, "if Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting" in Washington, DC.  He also lashed out at "sanctuary cities" for harboring illegal immigrants.

How we deal with Trump is a huge concern.  So much so that Mayor De Blasio and Governor Jerry Brown have vowed to defy him, as has President Pena Nieto of Mexico.  Democratic members of Congress have similar vowed that they will strenuously oppose Trump, but are leaving the door open to trade.  In my humble opinion, no door should be left open.  Every Democrat needs to stand firm against Trump and his loyal Republican minions in Congress.  Trump's view on TPP and NAFTA are purely populist ones, as I seriously doubt he or his administration made any effort to familiarize themselves with these comprehensive trade agreements.

His administration will be all about imposing a new world order.  He is looking to undermine the European Union, giving his support to right-wing fanatics, like Geert Wilders of the Netherlands, who have vowed to break away from the EU, which represents the world's largest trading block.  In this way, his Trumpness can deal with European countries through bilateral agreements, bypassing pesky EU regulations.  It also opens the door for his buddy Vlad to bring back the Eastern European countries into Russia's sphere of influence.  It will be like the last 70 years never happened.

There is also talk of Trump greatly reducing the US's role in the United Nations.  Nikki Haley has to be wondering what her reduced role as UN ambassador will be?  I'm not sure Israel will be too happy with this, as Bibi Netanyahu pitched a big hissy fit when Obama didn't stand up against the latest UN resolution scolding Israel for building new settlements on the West Bank.  Not that Israel has ever heeded a UN resolution, other than the one declaring it a sovereign state.

It is hard to imagine his Trumpness will succeed in his mission, but we shouldn't underestimate his efforts.  After all, he defied all odds in becoming the "Leader of the Free World."

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

So long and thanks for all the phish

It's been fun but I decided to start a new blog with a new host as there just isn't much action in Blogger.  Wordpress, Medium and Tumblr draw much more readership and well, I want to be heard.  Besides, I was never able to get any satisfaction from Blogger in eliminating the embedded viral ads that redirect many readers.  I'll keep this blog up for awhile, as I want to go through the material and see how much is worth keeping.  Feel free to peruse.

I'll post a link to the new blog once I get it up and running for those who are curious.  Meantime, you can reach me at dzimas61@gmail.com