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Lights out on Western Civilization? The Issue may not be Trump but the Media’s Skepticism about Truth

Emanuel L. Paparella, Ph.D.

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I teach beginners’ philosophy at Barry University in Miami. I usually start my courses examining the trial of Socrates as narrated in Plato’s Apology. We discuss the Socratic method and what exactly did Socrates mean by his famous slogan “the unexamined life is not worth living.” We reflect on the concept of Sophistry distinguishing it from philosophy proper. I stress that we have to distinguish sophistry from philosophy.

The former is interested in winning arguments and persuasion; the latter is interested in searching for and finding the truth, even when inconvenient. It’s what distinguishes a Socrates, the father of Western philosophy, from a Protagoras, the father of rhetorical sophistical argumentation. I then ask this question: without a belief in truth is philosophy possible?

Most students will answer correctly. It would be impossible and I, teaching the subject, would be either a fraud (as some sophists were even in ancient times) or an hypocrite. Then I ask another question: does the media believe in truth nowadays? Here again most students answer correctly and point out that the media are interested mostly in polls and ratings, in the balancing of opinions, in utilitarian social goals and purposes, and most of them neglect the truth. I then point out that in effect they have arrived at the modern definition of sophistry. We of course do not call these people sophists nowadays; we call them politicians. Their enablers, we will argue further down, are the modern journalists.

Enter Donald Trump dwelling in the cave of delusions and ignorance. He’s the latest in a long line of American demagogues but he is the one who has come closest to the White House. He may actually become our next president, to the detriment of the nation and democracy. That makes him the most dangerous of them all. There is indeed in American history a long list of demagogues, unscrupulous political opportunists and bigots who feed on fear; it’s like a recurring virus which lies dormant for a while but then it resurges at opportune times and spread very rapidly like a wild firestorm sucking the oxygen out of democracy. Indeed, sophistry is still with us, twenty five centuries after the trial of Socrates.

Those types tend to be swaggering bullies, narcissistic self-promoters full of innuendos, false promises and hatred of others, especially the others with a different race, faith, gender or ethnic background. Today the banner is carried by Donald Trump, but other ignoramuses and charlatans have came before him. One thinks of “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman, the South Carolina governor and senator who led vigilante terror attacks with a gang called the Red Shirts and praised the efficiency of lynch mobs. Also radio’s charismatic Father Charles Coughlin, the anti-Semitic, pro-Fascist Catholic priest who reached an audience of up to 30 million with his attacks on Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Also the New Deal; Mississippi’s Theodore Bilbo, a member of the Ku Klux Klan who vilified ethnic minorities and deplored the “mongrelization” of the white race. One also thinks of Louisiana’s corrupt and dictatorial Huey Long, who promised to make “Every Man a King.” And of course, George Wallace, the governor of Alabama and four-time presidential candidate who vowed, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Lastly, there is McCarthy: an ego-swollen provocateur of the first order. Like Trump he would say that “I have here in hand a list” never showing the list but then later falsely accusing those whom he considered subversives and destroying many lives and careers.

They were all leading under the banner of populism: promising the people what they had been deprived of by the establishment and the rich and powerful and a fairer redistribution of wealth. Funny thing is that Trump belongs to the class of rich people and in fact got rich by exploiting the working class and often leaving them holding the bag via bankruptcy laws favorable to the rich. Superficially this may seem fair, but it came at a price. The price was nativism advocating the building of walls and keeping immigrants out. The xenophobia extends not only to people but to ideas that are deemed dangerous.

In the end, McCarthy was brought down. A brave journalist called him out on the same television airwaves that helped the senator become a powerful, national sensation. It was Edward R. Murrow, and at the end of an episode exposing McCarthy on his CBS series See It Now, Murrow said: “It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one, and the junior senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between the internal and the external threats of Communism. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.”

There also was the brave and moral lawyer Joseph Welch, acting as chief counsel to the US Army after it was targeted for one of McCarthy’s inquisitions. When McCarthy smeared one of his young associates, Welch responded in full view of the TV and newsreel cameras during hearings in the Senate. “You’ve done enough,” Welch said. “Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?… If there is a God in heaven, it will do neither you nor your cause any good. I will not discuss it further.” That was way back in 1954.

And those are just a few examples. To the contrary what prevails nowadays is the indifference of the so called “guardians of the truth,” namely the media. Since the birther movement of three years or so ago, out to discredit the legitimacy of a sitting president, the media has not challenged the nefarious, redolent of racism, false premises of Donald Trump; they have in fact allowed the Frankenstein monster to grow and flourish. The monster now threatens the very existence of the party of Lincoln which is also responsible for the monster. They are now applying a double standard. Rather than use a common standard for all candidates, they are grading Trump on a curve as if he were a dumb third grader, unable to carry on a rational argument. Nevertheless, we are expected to trust him with his finger of the nuclear button.

Where are the profiles in courage of today? Nowhere to be seen. Most of the Republican Party has acquiesced in the nomination of a bigot as its final choice. Should we be surprised? Not really, considering that their years of kowtowing to extremism in the appeasement of their base, have allowed Trump and his nightmarish sideshow to steal into the tent and take over the circus. Once again, the virus has spread through the body politic contaminating all. What is desperately needed is the sunlight out of the cave of ignorance, the clearing torch of truth. But are today’s journalists capable of such a feat? One wonders.

To my knowledge, no journalist has mustered enough courage and integrity to ask Trump outright “Have you no decency, sir?” None has dare to call him what he is to his face: an chronic liar; one that uses lying as a an amoral strategic tool to crush his opponents. None has reprimanded him publicly and to his face for his ignorance, and most disturbing, for glorying in his ignorance.

Lately Trump has taken to praising Putin on Russian TV. And journalists simply acquiesce. We will soon have political debates wherein garbage will be thrown on the wall hoping that it sticks with the moderators doing no fact checking and determine if what was proffered has any connection to reality. Perhaps they’ll assign a Pinocchio nose the next day and Trump will use that to double down on what he said the night before.

The question arises: why do we continue to see these sad scenarios. Well, as a philosophy professor I’d have to say that presently the media seems incapable of rendering objective judgments based on the truth of the facts. Somehow, that is seen as “taking sides” and “being partial,” or not being “fair and balanced.” It all revolves about balance parading as fairness. In reality what we have is an incredible skepticism about truth; a skepticism about the possibility of arriving at truth, a truth which by an and large has become relativistic. Truth is relative to one’s convenience or one’s utility, or one’s “progress” understood materially and instrumentally. This is what every philosophy teacher who believes that philosophy is the search for the truth, has to contend with nowadays. He/she has to contend with the affirmation that reality is biased against one’s opinion, and that opinion is more important than the truth. We are of course all entitled to our opinion but the distinction of opinions based on facts and knowledge and opinions based on ignorance is somehow overlooked. In other words we don’t believe in truth any longer. Like Pilate we ask the question: what is truth? What we expect is a Machiavellian answer based on geo-political relative considerations and therefore relative itself.

In conclusion, the media has to decide if they wish to be in the truth business or in the business of reality shows, polls, ratings, false equivalences to keep everybody happy and consuming their product. If they decide not to decide, that in itself will be a decision. When democracy is finally lost, we will then realize that the issue cannot be avoided: either the truth makes one’s free, or the denial of the truth will makes us slaves while parading our love of country and freedom. Time is running out.

Professor Paparella has earned a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism, with a dissertation on the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico, from Yale University. He is a scholar interested in current relevant philosophical, political and cultural issues; the author of numerous essays and books on the EU cultural identity among which A New Europe in search of its Soul, and Europa: An Idea and a Journey. Presently he teaches philosophy and humanities at Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is a prolific writer and has written hundreds of essays for both traditional academic and on-line magazines among which Metanexus and Ovi. One of his current works in progress is a book dealing with the issue of cultural identity within the phenomenon of “the neo-immigrant” exhibited by an international global economy strong on positivism and utilitarianism and weak on humanism and ideals.

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The World Order that’s Now Emerging

Eric Zuesse

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The Post-World-War-II world order was dominated by the one WW II major combatant that had only 0.32% of its population (the lowest percentage) killed by the war: the United States. The Soviet Union’s comparable number killed by the war was the highest — it was 13.7% — 42 .8.times higher than America’s. The U.S. was the main force that defeated Japan and so won WW II in Asia. The U.S.S.R., however, was the main force that defeated Germany and so won WW II in Europe. The U.S.S.R. suffered vastly more than did the U.S. to achieve its victory. In addition to suffering 42.8 times the number of war-deaths than did U.S., the U.S.S.R.’s financial expenditures invested in the conflict, as calculated by Jan Ludvik, were 4.8 times higher than were America’s financial expenditures on the war.

Thus, at the war’s end, the Soviet Union was exhausted and in a much weaker condition than it had been before the war. By contrast, the U.S., having had none of the war’s battles occurring on its territory, was (by comparison) barely even scratched by the war, and it was thus clearly and overwhelmingly the new and dominant world-power emerging from the war.

That was the actual situation in 1945.

The U.S. Government did not sit on its haunches with its enormous post-war advantage, but invested wisely in order to expand it. One of the first investments the U.S. made after the war was the Marshall Plan to rebuild the European countries that had now become the U.S. aristocracy’s vassal-states. The heavily damaged U.S.S.R. possessed no such extra cash to invest in (rebuilding) its vassals. Furthermore, the U.S.S.R.’s communist regime was additionally hobbled by Karl Marx’s labor theory of value, which produced prices that contained no useful information about demand and thus no constructive information for planners. (Planning is essential regardless whether an enterprise is private or public.) Thus, the U.S.S.R. was doomed to lose in its economic competition with The West, so that the Cold War was actually a losing proposition for them, from the very start of the post-war era. America’s post-WW-II dominance, combined with Marx’s crippling economic theory, and produced the exodus of East Europeans to The West.

America’s aristocracy thus increasingly rose on top internationally. Like any aristocracy, the American aristocracy’s main concerns were foreign trade, and so U.S. international corporations increasingly expanded even at the expense of the corporations owned by its competing, now-vassal, aristocracies, and the U.S. aristocracy’s corporations and brands thus came to dominate the entire capitalist sphere. The growth-bug, if it becomes an addiction, is itself a disease. Out of control, it is a cancer, which can destroy the organism. This is what happened in America. Conquering also the communist sphere was the U.S. aristocracy’s long-term goal, so that they would ultimately dominate every nation, the entire world. By the time of 1980, the U.S. aristocracy’s top goal (world domination) became also the U.S. Government’s top goal. The cancer had spread to the culture’s brain. Growth, backed by “Greed is good” economics, became practically the American religion, viewed as patriotic, and not merely as the nation’s economic model (which was bad enough, with its increasingly imperialistic thrust — such as 2003 Iraq, 2011 Libya, 2012- Syria, 2014 Ukraine, 2016- Yemen, and maybe now Iran).

America’s unchallengeable dominance lasted from then till now, but clearly has now reached near its end. The United States is trying to restore its post-Soviet (post-1991) global supremacy, by intensifying the U.S. regime’s secret war against Russia and its allies, which started on the night of 24 February 1990 and which could reach a crescendo soon in WW III unless something will be done by America’s allies to force the by-now wildly flailing U.S. aristocracy to accept peacefully the end of the American aristocracy’s hegemony — the termination of their, until recently, unchallengeable control over the world. By now, with the Soviet Union and its communism and its Warsaw Pact mirror of America’s NATO military alliance gone since 1991 and yet no peace-dividend but only ever-increasing wealth-concentration into the tiny number of billionaires who benefit from war weaponry-sales and conquests, America needs to abandon its addiction to growth, or else it will proceed forward on its current path, to WW III. That’s its current path.

According to Josh Rogin in the Washington Post on November 14th, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence had just said, as Rogin phrased it, that “the United States has no intention of ceding influence or control over the [Pacific] region to Beijing” and that if China won’t do everything that the U.S. demands, then the U.S. is fully prepared to force China to obey. The same newspaper had earlier presented Robert D. Kaplan, on October 9th, saying, “The United States must face up to an important fact: the western Pacific is no longer a unipolar American naval lake, as it was for decades after World War II. The return of China to the status of great power ensures a more complicated multipolar situation. The United States must make at least some room for Chinese air and naval power in the Indo-Pacific region.” But the U.S. regime is now making clear that it won’t do that.

The U.S. regime appears to be determined to coerce both Russia and China to comply with all American demands. With both of those countries, as with Iran, the U.S. regime is now threatening hot war. Trump, as the “deal-maker,” is offering no concessions, but only demands, which must be complied with, or else. The United States is threatening WW III. But what nations will be America’s allies, this time around? If many European nations abandon the U.S., then what?

Key for the U.S. regime is keeping the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

Rockefeller Capital Management, Global Foresight, Third Quarter 2018  presents Jimmy Chang, Chief Investment Strategist, headlining “Nothing Trumps the Dollar, Yet”. He writes: “The reserve currency status gives the U.S. a significant advantage in handling its finances. American economist Barry Eichengreen observed that it cost only a few cents for the U.S. to print a $100 bill, but other countries would need to produce $100 of actual goods or services to obtain that $100 bill. The world’s need for the greenback allows the U.S. to issue debt in its own currency at very low interest rates. French Finance Minister Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, who later became the president, coined [in 1965] the term ‘exorbitant privilege’ to describe America’s advantage” of the U.S. dollar over any other nation’s currency. That “exorbitant advantage” never went away. Chang concludes: “As for the King Dollar, its short-term outlook appears robust.” However, few other observers now share that view. Increasing numbers of countries are pricing goods in other currencies, and China’s yuan and the EU’s euro are especially significant contenders to end dollar-dominance and to end the advantages that U.S.-based international corporations enjoy from dollar-dominance.

Other than dollar-dominance, the key barrier to world peace is NATO, the military alliance of the northern aggressor-nations. Proposals have been put forth for the EU to have its own army, which initially would be allied with NATO (i.e., with the U.S. regime). On November 17th, Russian Television bannered “EU army: Will it be easy for Europe to get rid of American political diktat?” and pointed to the U.S. vassal-nations that would be especially likely to stay in NATO: UK, Poland, Netherlands, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. Perhaps the other EU nations and Russia could form their own military alliance, which will formally be committed to the independence of those U.S. vassal-nations, and which will welcome individual peace-treaties with each of them, so as to indicate that aggression is only the U.S. regime’s way, and thus to lay the groundwork for peace instead of war, going forward. Clearly, the people who control the U.S. are addicted to invasions and coups (“regime-change”s), instead of to respecting the sovereignty of each nation and the right of self-determination of people everywhere. America’s conquest-addiction threatens, actually, every other nation.

Perhaps a reformed and truly independent EU can provide the new reserve currency, and also in other ways the foundation for global peace between nations. NATO will be irrevocably opposed to this, but it could happen. And if and when it does, it might tame the aristocratic beast that rides the American warfare state, but this isn’t likely to happen anytime soon. A step forward toward it is the courageous statement by “The Saker” at the American news-commentary site, Unz dot com, on November 15th, “Thanking Vets for Their ‘Service’ – Why?” He boldly notes that after World War II, all U.S. invasions have been criminal, and that it’s a remarkably long string of evil — and this doesn’t even include the many coups, which have likewise destroyed some nations.

Nationalism is just as evil in today’s America as it was in Hitler’s Germany. It is hostile to people in any other nation. It demands conquest. And wherever nationalism rules, patriotism dies and is replaced by nationalism.

Only by restoring patriotism and eliminating nationalism can WW III be avoided. Ending dollar-dominance is part of the path toward an internationally peaceful world that focuses more on serving the public’s needs and less on serving the aristocrats’ cravings. But ending NATO is also necessary.

Either these things will be done, or there will be WW III.

Author’s note: This piece first posted at strategic-culture.org

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Trump Quietly Orders Elimination of Assange

Eric Zuesse

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On June 28th, the Washington Examiner headlined “Pence pressed Ecuadorian president on country’s protection of Julian Assange” and reported that “Vice President Mike Pence discussed the asylum status of Julian Assange during a meeting with Ecuador’s leader on Thursday, following pressure from Senate Democrats who have voiced concerns over the country’s protection of the WikiLeaks founder.” Pence had been given this assignment by U.S. President Donald Trump. The following day, the Examiner bannered “Mike Pence raises Julian Assange case with Ecuadorean president, White House confirms” and reported that the White House had told the newspaper, “They agreed to remain in close coordination on potential next steps going forward.”

On August 24th, a court-filing by Kellen S. Dwyer, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Alexandria Division of the Eastern District of Virginia, stated: “Due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure [than sealing the case, hiding it from the public] is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged. … This motion and the proposed order would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter.” That filing was discovered by Seamus Hughes, a terrorism expert at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. On November 15th, he posted an excerpt of it on Twitter, just hours after the Wall Street Journal had reported on the same day that the Justice Department was preparing to prosecute Assange. However, now that we know “the fact that Assange has been charged” and that the U.S. Government is simply waiting “until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter,” it is clear and public that the arrangements which were secretly made between Trump’s agent Pence and the current President of Ecuador are expected to deliver Assange into U.S. custody for criminal prosecution, if Assange doesn’t die at the Ecuadorean Embassy first.

On November 3rd (which, of course, preceded the disclosures on November 15th), Julian Assange’s mother, Christine Ann Hawkins, described in detail what has happened to her son since the time of Pence’s meeting with Ecuador’s President. She said: “He is, right now, alone, sick, in pain, silenced in solitary confinement, cut off from all contact, and being tortured in the heart of London. … He has been detained nearly eight years, without trial, without charge. For the past six years, the UK Government has refused his requests to exit for basic health needs, … [even for] vitamin D. … As a result, his health has seriously deteriorated. … A slow and cruel assassination is taking place before our very eyes. … They will stop at nothing. … When U.S. Vice President Mike Pence recently visited Ecuador, a deal was done to hand Julian over to the U.S. He said that because the political cost of expelling Julian from the Embassy was too high, the plan was to break him down mentally…   to such a point that he will break and be forced to leave. … The extradition warrant is held in secret, four prosecutors but no defense, and no judge, … without a prima-facie case. [Under the U.S. system, the result nonetheless can be] indefinite detention without trial. Julian could be held in Guantanamo Bay and tortured, sentenced to 45 years in a maximum security prison, or face the death penalty,” for “espionage,” in such secret proceedings.

Her phrase, “because the political cost of expelling Julian from the Embassy was too high” refers to the worry that this new President of Ecuador has, of his cooperating with the U.S. regime’s demands and thereby basically ceding sovereignty to those foreigners (the rulers of the U.S.), regarding the Ecuadorian citizen, Assange.

This conservative new President of Ecuador, who has replaced the progressive President who had granted Assange protection, is obviously doing all that he can to comply with U.S. President Trump and the U.S. Congress’s demand for Assange either to die soon inside the Embassy or else be transferred to the U.S. and basically just disappear, at Guantanamo or elsewhere. Ecuador’s President wants to do this in such a way that Ecuador’s voters won’t blame him for it, and that he’ll thus be able to be re-elected. This is the type of deal he apparently has reached with Trump’s agent, Pence. It’s all secret, but the evidence on this much of what was secretly agreed-to seems clear. There are likely other details of the agreement that cannot, as yet, be conclusively inferred from the subsequent events, but this much can.

Basically, Trump has arranged for Assange to be eliminated either by illness that’s imposed by his Ecuadorean agent, or else by Assange’s own suicide resulting from that “torture,” or else by America’s own criminal-justice system. If this elimination happens inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, then that would be optimal for America’s President and Congress; but, if it instead happens on U.S. soil, then that would be optimal for Ecuador’s President. Apparently, America’s President thinks that his subjects, the American people, will become sufficiently hostile toward Assange so that even if Assange disappears or is executed inside the United States, this President will be able to retain his supporters. Trump, of course, needs his supporters, but this is a gamble that he has now clearly taken. This much is clear, even though the rest of the secret agreement that was reached between Pence and Ecuador’s President is not.

Scooter Libby, who had arranged for the smearing of Valerie Plame who had tried to prevent the illegal and deceit-based 2003 invasion of Iraq, was sentenced to 30 months but never spent even a day in prison, and U.S. President Trump finally went so far as to grant him a complete pardon, on 13 April 2018. (The carefully researched docudrama “Fair Game” covered well the Plame-incident.) Libby had overseen the career-destruction of a courageous CIA agent, Plame, who had done the right thing and gotten fired for it; and Trump pardoned Libby, thus retroactively endorsing the lie-based invasion of Iraq in 2003. By contrast, Trump is determined to get Julian Assange killed or otherwise eliminated, and even Democrats in Congress are pushing for him to get that done. The new President of Ecuador is doing their bidding. Without pressure from the U.S. Government, Assange would already be a free man. Thus, either Assange will die (be murdered) soon inside the Embassy, or else he will disappear and be smeared in the press under U.S. control. And, of course, this is being done in such a way that no one will be prosecuted for the murder or false-imprisonment. Trump had promised to “clean the swamp,” but as soon as he was elected, he abandoned that pretense; and, as President, he has been bipartisan on that matter, to hide the crimes of the bipartisan U.S. Government, and he is remarkably similar in policy to his immediate predecessors, whom he had severely criticized while he was running for the Presidency.

In any event, the destruction of Assange has clearly been arranged for, at the highest levels of the U.S. Government, just as the destruction of Jamal Khashoggi was by Saudi Arabia’s Government; and, just like in Khashoggi’s case, the nation’s ruler controls the prosecutors and can therefore do whatever he chooses to do that the rest of the nation’s aristocracy consider to be acceptable.

The assault against truth isn’t only against Assange, but it is instead also closing down many of the best, most courageous, independent news sites, such as washingtonsblog. However, in Assange’s case, the penalty for having a firm commitment to truth has been especially excruciating and will almost certainly end in his premature death. This is simply the reality. Because of the system under which we live, a 100% commitment to truth is now a clear pathway to oblivion. Assange is experiencing this reality to the fullest. That’s what’s happening here.

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Quiet Does Not Flow This Don: A Week Of the ‘Pathetic Inadequate’

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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That the current U.S. president places a premium on loyalty has been evident from the start —  loyalty not to the institutions of government and their legal functions but loyalty to the boss.  Former FBI director James Comey cannot forget a certain memory of Donald Trump’s style recalling for him something familiar.  It took him back to the days when he was investigating the Mafia.  The boss was the dominant center:  the loyalty oaths, serving the boss, the family first … as in this White House, not emphasizing what is right for the country.

It explains some of what happened this week.  In Paris, Mr. Trump was pilloried for foregoing a visit to a First World War cemetery (where Americans are also interred) to pay his respects to the fallen.  He explained it was raining.  The outpouring of criticism included Nicolas Soames, Churchill’s grandson and a Member of Parliament, who labeled Trump “that pathetic inadequate.”

Trump’s tweeting attack on his host, French President Emmanuel Macron, began almost immediately, focusing on his proposal for a European army, his brand of nationalism, even his low poll ratings.  French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux in response noted November 13 as the day of the 2015 attacks when 130 died in suicide bombings and mass shootings, adding Trump’s attacks on the same day lacked “common decency.”

Mrs. Trump had her own cavils.  She wanted Mira Ricardel, Deputy National Security Adviser, fired according to news reports because she was upset by the seat allocations on the plane during her Africa trip and also because she ascribed negative leaks to her.  Mrs. Ricardel in her seven months at the White House developed a reputation for such leaks as well as of a strong personality tending not to suffer fools gladly.  She has been moved to pastures as yet unknown — not fired because anti-Iran policy architect John Bolton the National Security Adviser hired her as his top aide.  Mrs. Trump appears also to be overcome by the miasma of loyalty and who one can trust or otherwise.

But why has Donald Trump soured on his erstwhile friend Emmanuel Macron.  It is true the French leader’s response to Mr. Trump’s ‘America First’ mantra has been to advocate multilateralism but his words were sharper in Paris this time when he stated, “Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism.”  He didn’t stop there.

Responding to Trump’s repeated shaming of Europeans to increase contributions to NATO, he has called for a ‘true European army’ in an interview with France’s Europe 1 radio, adding when Trump abandons “a major disarmament treaty” that resulted from “the 1980s Euro-missile crisis … who is the main victim?  Europe and its security.”  Later he added that Europe’s increased defense expenditures should be with European manufacturers if Europe is to be self-sustaining and truly sovereign.

One can argue that despite this backdrop, Trump was hoping to win over his bro on another matter so pressing for him … Iran.  He clearly got nowhere.  The Europeans continue to prepare for Iran trade via a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), though Austria the country designated to host the SPV has withdrawn from fear of U.S. penalties severing access to U.S. markets.  The new host chosen is Luxembourg.

The stakes are high.  Should the plan fail, Iran might well decide to build a nuclear weapon.  Will Saudi Arabia perceive it as a threat?  Will Israel launch preemptive strikes?  Will the U.S. join them?  These are unsettling questions.

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