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Cold War II: America vs. China

Wednesday, 10 October, 2018

A year ago, the President of Interpol, Meng Hongwei, was the pride of China — local boy done good, sort of thing. Then, while visiting his homeland last week, he vanished. Gone Guy. As far as we know, he’s being held under a new form of detention called liuzhi, or “retention in custody.” Under liuzhi, people can be denied access to legal counsel or families for as long as six months. Within that time frame, the thugs of the National Supervisory Commission will extract the desired confessions. Most in the West are still in denial about the true nature of the so-called “People’s Republic,” but one man has decided to speak up. He’s Mike Pence, the US Vice President.

Mike Pence Announces Cold War II” was the headline on an opinion piece yesterday in the Wall Street Journal by Walter Russell Mead. Snippet:

Imperialism and all reactionaries are all paper tigers, 1965 “The Trump administration’s China policy swam into view, and it’s a humdinger. Vice President Mike Pence gave a guide to the approach in a speech last week at the Hudson Institute (where I am a fellow). Denouncing what he called China’s ‘whole of government’ approach to its rivalry with the U.S., Mr. Pence vowed the Trump administration will respond in kind. He denounced China’s suppression of the Tibetans and Uighurs, its ‘Made in China 2025’ plan for tech dominance, and its ‘debt diplomacy’ through the Belt and Road initiative. The speech sounded like something Ronald Reagan could have delivered against the Soviet Union: Mr. Xi, tear down this wall! Mr. Pence also detailed an integrated, cross-government strategy to counter what the administration considers Chinese military, economic, political and ideological aggression.

In the same week as the vice president’s speech, Navy plans for greatly intensified patrols in and around Chinese-claimed waters in the South China Sea were leaked to the press. Moreover, the recently-entered trilateral U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement was revealed to have a clause discouraging trade agreements between member countries and China. The administration indicated it would seek similar clauses in other trade agreements. Also last week, Congress approved the Build Act, a $60 billion development-financing program designed to counter China’s Belt and Road strategy in Africa and Asia. Finally, the White House issued a report highlighting the danger that foreign-based supply chains pose to U.S. military capabilities in the event they are cut off during a conflict.

Any one of these steps would have rated banner headlines in normal times; in the Age of Trump, all of them together barely registered. But this is a major shift in American foreign policy.”

China is a mortal enemy of democracy and freedom. It’s time for people to shout this from the rooftops.

Imperialism and all reactionaries are all paper tigers, 1965


Trump’s winning week

Sunday, 7 October, 2018

It began with the USMCA, the new “NAFTA” trade deal between the USA, Canada and Mexico, which the markets loved. Then came the 3.7%, stat, confirming the lowest unemployment rate in the US since 1969, and the icing was put on the cake yesterday evening with the confirmation and swearing in of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. This is President Trump’s second Supreme Court confirmation of his administration, after putting Neil Gorsuch on the top bench last year.

They call it winning.


Bret Easton Ellis on annoying liberals

Sunday, 12 August, 2018

The American fiction writer Bret Easton Ellis is best known for books such Less Than Zero, The Rules Of Attraction and American Psycho. The latter assured notoriety and brought with it the prosperity that allows Ellis to enjoy a “fuck you” attitude of speaking his mind without being terrified of the PC mob. A week ago, he spoke to Rolling Stone about politics and other stuff. Snippet:

Q: You tweeted that you were done discussing politics with liberals at dinner. Is it because everyone plays the role of knee-jerk shock and outrage?

A: Completely. I live with a Trump-hating, millennial socialist. I am not, as my boyfriend will tell everyone, political. I’m interested in the theater of it, how each side plays the game, and how the media has morphed with it. I have never seen liberals be more annoying than they are now. These last few weeks really were a flipping point for me, with the depression over the Supreme Court and the way the detention centers were being spun by the liberal media. It’s obviously a game. Here’s Rachel Maddow crying on TV, and pictures of Trump detention centers. My stepfather, who is a Polish Jew, had his entire family wiped out when he was an infant. Throwing around words like Nazi, Gestapo and comparisons to Weimar Germany is like, “Really guys? You’re going there?” I’ve had enough. I think there’s a reason why the #WalkAway movement is getting it’s ten seconds of fame, because there’s a real reaction toward the stridency of how Democrats are expressing their disappointment. It’s turning a lot of people off.

Q: As a gay man, what if your right to marry is suddenly taken away? Doesn’t that anger you on a primal level?

A: That is suggesting that I believe in identity politics, and that I vote with my penis. It’s suggesting that immigration, the economy and other policies matter so much less than whether I can marry a man. It’s not something that I worry about, or is on my mind. That’s the problem with identity politics, and it’s what got Hillary into trouble. If you have a vagina, you had to vote for Hillary. This has seeped into a bedrock credo among a lot of people, and you’ve gotta step back. People are not one-issue voters. I am not going to vote as a gay man, and I don’t think the idea of us not being allowed to marry is going to happen. Pence has his issues, but Trump is not an anti-gay president in any way, shape or form. I also have gay friends who support and voted for Trump, based on certain policies. It’s not just about being gay and being able to marry.

So true. If you want more, check out The Bret Easton Ellis Podcast. It discuses film, television, music, pop culture and, now and again, politics.


Defining populism, philosophically

Tuesday, 31 July, 2018

The latest book by the English philosopher Sir Roger Scruton is titled Conservatism: An Invitation to the Great Tradition. He spoke about it with Madeleine Kearns of the National Review in a Q&A headlined “What It Means to Be a Conservative.” Snippet:

Kearns: You mention neither Donald Trump nor populism in your book. Why?

Scruton: Trump is an interesting phenomenon, but not an interesting thinker, supposing he is a thinker at all. ‘Populism’ is a word used by leftists to describe the emotions of ordinary people, when they do not tend to the left.


Trump, NATO, Gatsby and Montenegro

Saturday, 21 July, 2018

US President Donald Trump raised eyebrows in an interview with Tucker Carlson of Fox News earlier this week. “Why send our kids to fight in exotic foreign lands?” was the tenor of Carlson’s question. Specifically: “Membership in NATO obligates the members to defend any other member that’s attacked. So let’s say Montenegro, which joined last year, is attacked. Why should my son go to Montenegro to defend it from attack?”

Trump’s response: “I understand what you’re saying. I’ve asked the same question. Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people… They’re very aggressive people. They may get aggressive, and congratulations you’re in World War III.”

Naturally, all those suffering from TDS (Trump Derangement Syndrome) viewed this answer as an attack on the very essence of NATO and a complete misunderstanding of the alliance and its role in the world. Others, a minority, it has to be said, saw in the president’s answer a deep understanding of international conflict and a nuanced appreciation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, The Great Gatsby. In Chapter IV, Gatsby speaks about the horrors of war and… Montenegro:

“In the Argonne Forest I took two machine-gun detachments so far forward that there was a half mile gap on either side of us where the infantry couldn’t advance. We stayed there two days and two nights, a hundred and thirty men with sixteen Lewis guns, and when the infantry came up at last they found the insignia of three German divisions among the piles of dead. I was promoted to be a major, and every Allied government gave me a decoration — even Montenegro, little Montenegro down on the Adriatic Sea!”

Montenegrin medal Little Montenegro! He lifted up the words and nodded at them — with his smile. The smile comprehended Montenegro’s troubled history and sympathized with the brave struggles of the Montenegrin people. It appreciated fully the chain of national circumstances which had elicited this tribute from Montenegro’s warm little heart. My incredulity was submerged in fascination now; it was like skimming hastily through a dozen magazines

He reached in his pocket, and a piece of metal, slung on a ribbon, fell into my palm.

“That’s the one from Montenegro.”

To my astonishment, the thing had an authentic look

“Orderi di Danilo,” ran the circular legend, “Montenegro, Nicolas Rex.”

“Turn it.”

“Major Jay Gatsby,” I read, “For Valour Extraordinary.”


Great get from The Sun

Friday, 13 July, 2018

It’s the lead story on Bloomberg, the BBC, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and lots of other global media outlets. It’s President Donald Trump’s “world exclusive” interview with Tom Newton Dunn of The Sun. This is classic tabloid stuff filled with one-sentence paragraphs that snap, crackle and pop:

In an extraordinary intervention timed to coincide with his UK visit, Mr Trump said Theresa May ignored his advice by opting for a soft Brexit strategy.

And he warned her any attempts to maintain close ties with the EU would make a lucrative US trade deal very unlikely.

Mr Trump said: “If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal.”

The Sun


The Kavanaugh Judgement

Tuesday, 10 July, 2018

The grandmaster of reality TV, President Donald Trump, choose primetime to announce his nominee for the US Supreme Court seat being vacated by Anthony Kennedy. The prize went to Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

It’s a solid pick, but as comedian Dennis Miller anticipated on Twitter: “Just to keep things in perspective, or not, Trump could nominate either Amy Coney Barrett or Vladimir Putin tomorrow and the headlines would be exactly the same.” This is so true and it reflects perfectly the derangement that now grips the president’s opponents.

Long before President Trump had presented his nominee, Democrats were promising to oppose whoever got the nod because they desperately need a win before the midterm election and they crave revenge after the Senate’s refusal to confirm President Obama’s appointee, Judge Merrick Garland, in 2016. They’ll have a hard time with Kavanaugh, though. He’s gold plated. Consider: He’s a graduate of Yale Law School and a former law clerk to Justice Kennedy, and he was hired to teach at Harvard Law School by the then-Dean, now Justice, Elena Kagan. Done deal.

Judge's robes


A German writes about Germany and Trump

Wednesday, 20 June, 2018

Jochen Bittner, a political editor with the German weekly Die Zeit, addresses the enormous hypocrisy of Europe and, especially Germany, in a New York Times op-ed titled What Trump Gets Right About Europe. Snippet:

“Mr. Trump’s anger at America’s allies embodies, however unpleasantly, a not unreasonable point of view, and one that the rest of the world ignores at its peril: The global world order is unbalanced and inequitable. And unless something is done to correct it soon, it will collapse, with or without the president’s tweets.

While the West happily built the liberal order over the past 70 years, with Europe at its center, the Americans had the continent’s back. In turn, as it unravels, America feels this loss of balance the hardest — it has always spent the most money and manpower to keep the system working.

The Europeans have basically been free riders on the voyage, spending almost nothing on defense, and instead building vast social welfare systems at home and robust, well-protected export industries abroad. Rather than lash back at Mr. Trump, they would do better to ask how we got to this place, and how to get out.

The European Union, as an institution, is one of the prime drivers of this inequity. At the Group of 7, for example, the constituent countries are described as all equals. But in reality, the union puts a thumb on the scales in its members’ favor: It is a highly integrated, well-protected free-trade area that gives a huge leg up to, say, German car manufacturers while essentially punishing American companies who want to trade in the region.

The eurozone offers a similar unfair advantage. If it were not for the euro, Germany would long ago have had to appreciate its currency in line with its enormous export surplus.”

What sort of lives do people/nations, who pose as being moral, lead? Jochen Bittner has posed the question and answered it, too.

Language note: The word “hypocrite” came to English from the Greek hypokrites, which means “actor” or “stage player.” Hypokrites is made up of two words that translate as “an interpreter from underneath,” and that makes sense when you know that actors in ancient Greece wore masks to represent the characters they were playing, and so they interpreted the story from underneath their masks.

Hypokrites took on an expanded meaning to refer to anyone wearing a figurative mask and pretending to be someone they were not, and this meaning was imported into medieval French and then into English, where it appeared with the spelling, ypocrite, in 13th-century religious texts to refer to those who pretend to be pious to deceive others. By the 16th century, hypocrite had gained its initial h-.


History: The Singapore Summit

Tuesday, 12 June, 2018

The foreign policy elites have hated Donald Trump ever since he announced his candidacy for the White House. And that simmering hatred reached boiling point at the weekend when the US President slapped down the Canadian boy-band frontman Justin Trudeau at the G7 Summit in Quebec. But as Michael Mandelbaum documented in Mission Failure, the same elites that adore Trudeau and despise Trump have failed totally since the end of the Cold War in their efforts to prevent North Korea and Iran from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

Irony of history: What neither Clinton, nor Bush nor Obama could do, Trump can do and that’s why the potential success of the Singapore Summit is especially feared by those who should welcome it. Their Juju is in danger of being exposed for what it is.

The Singapore Summit


The Good Hat: Ms Bowen and Mrs Trump

Wednesday, 25 April, 2018 0 Comments

First lady Melania Trump wore a dramatic white hat yesterday as she and her husband Donald hosted French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron for a White House state visit. The wide, flat-brimmed creation was designed by Hervé Pierre and not since Pharrell Williams wore a 10-gallon item to the 2014 Grammys has a “tit for tat” (Cockney rhyming slang) created such waves. Social media users immediately compared the look to Beyoncé’s black “Formation” hat.

Talking of hats, in 1950, the great Anglo-Irish writer Elizabeth Bowen provided an introduction to The A B C Of Millinery by Madame Eva Ritcher. Snippet: “For centuries, Woman has desired that her head-covering — be it cap, bonnet or hat — should in itself be a thing of beauty. A thing which shall at once express and flatter the wearer and be, gaily, in tune with her own time.” When she was right, she was right.

Bowen concludes her introduction: “My advice to readers who cannot hope to embark on the actual making of hats is this — take what you’ve learned from these pages to heart when you go shopping. No longer will you, in show rooms, find yourselves adrift, depressed and confused. Let this book be your guide to the Good Hat.” Chapeau!

Flotus with hat


Fish on Trump

Thursday, 19 April, 2018 0 Comments

“Verbal fluency is the product of hours spent writing about nothing, just as musical fluency is the product of hours spent repeating scales.” So wrote the great Stanley Fish in How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One. Today, the literary theorist, legal scholar, author, newspaper columnist and intellectual Stanley Fish will celebrate his 80th birthday and we wish him health and happiness for many years to come.

Stanley Fish wrote his final New York Times column in December 2013, but he returned to the paper’s pages in July 2016 with a warning to academia titled Professors, Stop Opining About Trump. According to Fish, historians “are merely people with history degrees, which means that they have read certain books, taken and taught certain courses and written scholarly essays, often on topics of interest only to other practitioners in the field.” It’s not degrees, says Fish, but the strength or weakness of the arguments that tells in the end. Fish returned to Trump later that year in his book Winning Arguments: What Works and Doesn’t Work in Politics, the Bedroom, the Courtroom, and the Classroom. Snippet:

“And yet that performance has a method. Trump’s artlessness, like Mark Antony’s, is only apparent. Listen, for example, as he performs one of his favorite riffs. He begins by saying something critical of Mexicans and Chinese. Then he turns around and says, ‘I love the Mexican and Chinese people, especially the rich ones who buy my apartments or stay at my hotels or play on my golf courses.’ It’s their leaders I criticize, he explains, but then in a millisecond he pulls the sting from the criticism: ‘they are smarter and stronger than our leaders; they’re beating us.’ And then the payoff all this has been leading up to, the making explicit of what has been implied all along. Stanley Fish ‘If I can sell them condominiums, rent space to them in my building at my price, and outfox them in deals, I could certainly outmaneuver them when it came to trade negotiations and immigration.’ (And besides, they love me.)

Here is the real message, the message that makes sense of the disparate pieces of what looks like mere disjointed fumbling: I am Donald Trump; nobody owns me. I don’t pander to you. I don’t pretend to be nice and polite; I am rich and that’s what you would like to be; I’m a winner; I beat people at their own game, and if you vote for me I will beat our adversaries; if you want wonky policy details, go with those losers who offer you ten-point plans; if you want to feel good about yourselves and your country, stick with me.

So despite the lack of a formal center or an orderly presentation, Trump was always on point because the point was always the same. He couldn’t get off message because the one message was all he had.”

Stanley Fish was, and is, sharp.