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Pope Francis’ Urgent Warning on the Dangers of Populism

Emanuel L. Paparella, Ph.D.

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Hitler didn’t steal power, his people voted for him, and then he destroyed his people… Crisis provokes fear…that is the risk. In times of crisis we lack judgment.”–Pope Francis

Recently Pope Francis has drawn a startling parallel between the rise of populism on both sides of the Atlantic, with its leaders promising a restoration of national identity and wholeness (e.g., Le Pen or Trump), and the rise of the Nazis some 80 years ago.

It’s perhaps worth remembering here that almost a year ago he declared that “a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.” To that statement Trumped replied at the time that only a Trump administration could protect the Vatican from ISIS.

Basically, with the inauguration of a new avowedly populist US presidency, the Pope is now cautioning Europeans against the lure of populism parading as nationalism and patriotism which in the past has led to catastrophes such as World War II.

Some pundits have caustically observed that it was only a matter of time before the “Combed-Over Titan of Twitter, the con-artist of the Art of the Deal clashed with the Man in White.” The collision was all but inevitable when one contrasts the two men: the celibate and the libertine, the mystic and the materialist, the humble and the vain, the ascetic and the ostentatious. But others have pointed out that, for all their differences as exhibited and fought over on the world stage, there are also strange similarities and affinities.

In the first place the two men are similar in their status as outsiders determined to shake up the establishment which they deem corrupt and uncaring of the people and the integrity of the institutions they lead. That is to say, they both exhibit a populist stance against elitism and privilege, although the case can be made that one is genuine and the other is hypocritical and fake. But, in fact, most people do not bother with such fine distinctions.

Alternative facts aside, it is undeniable that Trump has repeatedly attacked Republican elites and broken with Republican party orthodoxy on trade, foreign policy, campaign financing, conflict of interests, pretty much the same way that Francis has challenged the Vatican bureaucracy and traditional, settled Catholic doctrine fueled by the desire “to make a mess,” as the Pope puts it, disregard the tired stale institutions, and start afresh.

Moreover, their rhetorical stratagems seem to mirror each other; they both have a fondness for name calling which is quite rare among popes and presidents. Trump resorts to “low energy,” “liar,” “crooked,” “loser,” while the Pope may resort to more theologically loaded epithets such as “Pharisee,” or “self-absorbed Promethean neo-Pelagian” while occasionally also referring to “whiners,” and “sourpusses.” In any case, they both exhibit a skillful mastery of the contemporary media environment with its provocative unpredictability; an environment where the prevalent currency seems to be having people wonder in shock and amazement if “did he really just say that?” thus attracting immediate attention. It’s the world of the blog and the twit, rather than that of the reflective essay. In some way, both men excel at salesmanship, albeit the Pope has a much deeper intellectual depth.

Both men seem to believe that a bit of troublemaking is the best way to attract attention with the discontented and the disaffected; which, come to think of it, is the essence of populism. Of course their constituencies differ: Trump speaks to the disaffected working middle class who has been feeling left out, never mind that the profits have all gone to the one per centers of the rich and glamorous to which Trump belongs. One way to cover that fact is with the alternate fact of rabid nationalism parading as patriotism. Pope Francis, on the other hand, as a Latin American and a globalist, speaks for the world’s poor. That explains the stark difference in their immigration and refugee policies.

Neverthless, they share a common enemy, not just those who advocate “business as usual” as Republicans or as Catholics, but the wider Western elitist ruling class. Both men promise deliverance from this opportunistic bureaucracy with its unresponsive and inconvenient institutions (such as regulatory offices) while emphasizing novelty and even whim. It is certainly a respite from the dry positivist approach of modern culture.

And this of course is populism’s dilemma and peril: at times it relays not so much on the spirit of reform or renewal but on that of personal charisma, on a dangerous personality cult, what Nietzsche calles “charismatic man” ready to “trans-valuate values” in the quest of making America or the Catholic Church “great again.” It is precisely what makes these populist men and women interesting that can also make them unpredictable and even dangerous.

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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Mexico in the Trump Era: Trying to Deal with and Overcome Social Dominance

Nataliya Warder

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My work with Social Dominance Theory focuses on explaining the most obvious legitimizing myths in maintaining a negative atmosphere between America and Mexico. When it comes to this tension-filled relationnship, there are two varieties of legitimizing myths: hierarchy-enhancing legitimizing myths, which promote greater degrees of social inequality, and hierarchy-attenuating legitimizing myths, which promote greater social equality. Depending on the issue or commodity involved, Mexico is faced with both types of challenges when it comes to SDO conflicts with America. (Pratto, Felicia, James Sidanius, Lisa M. Stallworth, and Bertram F. Malle. 1994. Social dominance orientation: A personality variable predicting social and political attitudes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 67, no. 4: 741-763.)

Ideologies that promote or maintain group inequality are the tools that legitimize discrimination. To work smoothly, these ideologies must be widely accepted within a society, appearing as self-apparent truths. Hence, we call them hierarchy-legitimizing myths. (Social Dominance Orientation: A Personality Variable Predicting Social and Political Attitudes Felicia Pratto, Jim Sidanius, Lisa M. Stallworth, and Bertram F. Malle, 1994, 741)There is substantial evidence that social dominance orientation (SDO) has several consistent attributes: (a) it can be measured reliably, (b) it is stable over time, (c) it is higher among men than among women, (d) it is higher among those who support hierarchy-enhancing ideologies and is lower among those who support hierarchy-attenuating ideologies, (e) it is higher among those who support hierarchy-enhancing policies and lower among those who support hierarchy-attenuating policies, (f) it is higher among those who choose hierarchy-enhancing social roles and lower among those who choose hierarchy-attenuating social roles, and (g) it serves to orient new social and political attitudes. (Pratto, Felicia, James Sidanius, Lisa M. Stallworth, and Bertram F. Malle,1994. Social dominance orientation: A personality variable predicting social and political attitudes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 67, no. 4: 741-763)

In general, America stakes great pride in its reputation for steadiness, reliability, commitment to a positive-sum global order in which all countries that play by the rules can prosper, soft power, identification with the advancement of democratic values, and an image as a dependable ally and country committed to solving the world’s toughest problems.In the past two years, however, the U.S. policy towards Mexico has changed from this course and is now leaning toward support of hierarchy-enhancing legitimizing myths. This contributes to normalizing group-based inequality, which helps to destabilize partnerships. A particularly ugly hierarchy-enhancing legitimizing myth was the campaign rhetoric uttered by now President Donald Trump, who labeled certain Mexicans as rapists, criminals, and “bad hombres.” This rhetoric still degrades and negatively impacts the latest immigration debates in the United States.

On January 23, 2017,Trump issued a Presidential Memorandum Regarding the Mexico City Policy: I hereby revoke the Presidential Memorandum of January 23, 2009, for the Secretary of State and the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (Mexico City Policy and Assistance for Voluntary Population Planning), and reinstate the Presidential Memorandum of January 22, 2001. Along with his earlier ugly verbalization, this order reinstates and dramatically expands the “Mexico City Policy” adopted under previous Republican administrations since 1984. This policy is also widely known as the “Global Gag Rule” due to the restrictions it places on how non-state organizations use their own non-US government private funds.

On February 7, 2017, the US State Department released a “six-month review” of the implementation of this policy, even though it admitted that six months was not nearly enough time to truly assess any effective change. Among the policies meant to be enforced: hierarchy-enhancing legitimizing myths that would make it more likely that Mexican asylum seekers would demonstrate credible fear about returning to their home. Add on to this environment the blunt imagery of building a ‘wall’ along the southern U.S. border with Mexico and it is obvious that current American foreign policy is utilizing these hierarchy-enhancing myths to create an atmosphere where Mexicans are meant to feel subordinate if not outright inferior to Americans. This was only intensified by the failed attempt to achieve a policy compromise on immigration earlier this year where approximately 800,000 ‘Dreamers’ (children of illegal immigrants born in America and having no negative criminal record whatsoever) would be allowed to legally remain in the United States. The White House and Republicans in the U.S. Congress could not ultimately create the compromise they themselves said they were hoping to achieve. Indeed, some of the leading figures on Trump’s team who voiced opposition to strengthening innovations in border security were ultimately fired, creating an administrative environment where people openly felt they had to follow the groupthink or be let go. As a predictable response to all of these political inconsistencies and outright open hostilities, Mexico can theoretically exercise multiple opportunities to establish and maintain closer relations with American economic and political competitors, most notably Russia.

To the detriment of harmonious international relations, the current American policies toward Mexico have comingled human social injustice with the threatened cancellation of The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was originally intended for increased commerce and trade and meant to be a positive for all of North America. NAFTA was originally signed by Mexico, Canada, and the United States in 1994 and has led to greater North American economic/financial integration and stability. The extensive U.S.-Mexican border area, an increasingly efficient supply-chain management industry, and millions of Mexican migrants now living in the United States (legally and illegally), have all contributed to Mexico’s growing positive integration with the U.S. economy. At present, America is Mexico’s largest global trading partner. Mexico is America’s third-largest, behind China and Canada. Mexico supplies approximately one third of America’s crude oil. Thus, Mexico works diligently with many vital U.S. trade/business interests that are have historically been enthusiastically supported by most Republicans. These should be potential negotiation strong points for Mexico, reminding the American Congress that it would not just be Mexico to suffer should relations between the two nations continue to worsen.

Mexico can and must respond to these threats by attempting to redefine its own national interests and economic options with the United States. The dominance of the U.S. in its own regional neighborhood is difficult to overcome. But the current administration, and its continued use of hierarchy-enhancing social dominance position, is clearly a trend Mexico cannot support and must strive to actively undermine. Of the two varieties of legitimizing myths discussed earlier, it is the hierarchy-attenuating legitimizing myths, which promote a sense of social equality have to be embedded within any and all political gestures coming out of Mexico City toward Washington. If Mexico does not find a willing or cooperative partner just to its north when it comes to this benevolent policy, then it will have little choice but to pursue its own Mexican version of hierarchy-enhancing legitimizing myths, casting America in a much less flattering light and seeking to establish Mexico’s own form of social dominance vis-à-vis Americans in general. The fact that this will seem almost implausible to most Americans simply illustrates just how deep the implied assumption of social dominance and inequality has become to Mexico’s neighbor to the north.

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Tom Cotton: What’s the Reason for AIPAC’s $ 4.5 Million Support for the Young Senator?

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In recent months, news sources in the United States have reported the possibility of the appointment of the young Arkansas senator, Tom Cotton, as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), or the US National Security Advisor. 40-year-old Cotton is considered the youngest American senator, and, of course, many of the active Israeli lobbies in the United States count on his role-making in American political-security equations. In April 2015, the New York Times admitted that the Zionist lobbies’ financial support for Tom Cotton was much higher than that for other Republican senators. The New York Times has announced that the amount of this financial assistance was around $ 2 million.This is while some informed sources in the US say the AIPAC lobby has spent $ 4.5 million for Tom Cotton to insure his winning against “Mark Pryor” in the 2014 Senate elections.

In August 2013, Tom Cotton, with AIPAC’s green light and support, entered the political scene against former Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor. In the meanwhile, some prominent personalities and politicians in the Republican Party of America, such as “Marco Rubio” and “Mitt Romney”, by the order of AIPAC leaders, had also fully supported Tom Cotton.

Eventually, Cotton won 56.5% of the vote (against 40 percent of Pryor vote), and thus defeating his rival, entered the Senate. However, the main question is, what’s the reason for this huge, unnatural support of Zionist lobbies, AIPAC in particular, for Tom Cotton? In other words, what capacity did these organizations and lobbies see in Tom Cotton, that they have been willing to use their full power to help him enter the US Senate? Is AIPAC’s goal of such widespread support merely Cotton’s gaining the Arkansas seat in the Senate? The answer to this question is negative.

A security analyst in the United States who didn’t want his name to be revealed told our reporter:

“Given the young age of Cotton compared with other American politicians, and his commitment to Tel Aviv, the Israeli authorities have tried to use him as an influential factor in US domestic security and foreign policy. AIPAC has always named Cotton as a trend-making agent in its calculations. This Zionist lobby’s recent attempts for Cotton’s presence as the CIA Director can also be analyzed in the same vein.”

This analyst added:

“It is likely that the AIPAC lobby would ask Cotton not to run for the Senate in the congressional elections in 2018, so that he can be employed by the US government as the National Security Advisor, or CIA Director in Trump’s government.”

In January 2015, Tom Cotton played an important role in leading and managing the anti-JCPOA movement in the US Senate in the midst of nuclear talks between Iran and the members of the P15+ 1. On March 8, 2015, Senator Cotton wrote and sent a letter to Iranian leaders. In this letter, it was insisted that any nuclear deal without the approval of the US Congress would only be valid until the end of Obama’s presidency in 2017, and the next president may easily cancel it. Another 46 Republican senators also signed the letter.

The existing evidences suggests that such a letter was ordered by the direct order of the AIPAC lobby, and was designed to negatively influence the negotiation process. However, Tom Cotton’s commitment to the AIPAC lobby, and beyond that to Israel, is much more than that.

Accordingly, Cotton is consulting AIPAC before making any decision in the field of US domestic and foreign policy, and asks for the views of the lobby’s leaders. Even in cases which AIPAC doesn’t express its views on critical issues to American senators, Cotton has the duty to indirectly impose AIPAC’s stances on senators and even on key members of the House of Representatives. It is not without a reason that Tom Cotton is named as the main AIPAC piece in the Senate. For the thorough financial and political support of AIPAC leaders and Israeli authorities, Cotton has turned into Tel Aviv’s agent in the Senate (in the current period), and generally in the political scene of the United States.

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Decoding Pompeo’s words at US senate

Mohammad Ghaderi

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The CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who is nominee for Secretary of State, has recently mentioned meaningful words in his hearing at the Senate on Iran and the nuclear deal. In his words, he acknowledged that Iran was not after nuclear weapons even before the nuclear deal, nor will be in the future.

On the other hand, he has announced that he is seeking to fix and correct the nuclear deal with Iran! This is while the US President Donald Trump is scheduled to announce his final decision on Iran’s nuclear deal by May 12. “I want to fix this deal,” Pompeo said. “That’s the objective. I think that’s in the best interest of [the United States].”

At his recent Senate hearing, Pompeo has emphasized that as CIA Director, he didn’t find any evidences that Iran has violated the nuclear deal. At the same time, he believes that Tehran can’t expand its program shortly after the US withdrawal from the nuclear accord. He emphasized that his goal is to correct the nuclear deal with Iran. Pompeo said:

“If there’s no chance that we can fix it, I will recommend to the president (Trump) that we do our level best to work with our allies to achieve a better outcome and a better deal,” he said. “Even after May 12, there’s still much diplomatic work to be done.”

A simple decoding of Pompeo’s remarks suggests that, despite the opposition to the nuclear accord, he is trying to deal differently with this issue as the future US Secretary of State. Some analysts also believe that Pompeo has adopted such an approach to face the US Senators’ relative opposition to the White House’s withdrawal from the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).

In any case, according to Pompeo, Donald Trump may not make a final decision on the nuclear deal with Iran on May 12, and he will continue to consult with his European allies on what he calls “fixing the flaws of the JCPOA”.

Pompeo’s remarks indicate that the White House hasn’t come to a determined and clear decision on how to deal with the JCPOA yet. On the other hand, numerous consultations by representatives of the four countries, the United States, France, Britain and Germany, continues in silence.

Western sources have argued that these countries are consulting on the three controversial issue, namely “the Sunset clauses”, “limiting Iran’s missile power” and “extensive inspections of Iran’s military sites”. These sources claimed that the only remaining disagreement between the four countries is over deletion of the so-called Sunset clauses from the nuclear deal, and thus putting permanent limitations on Iran’s nuclear program.

Pompeo is currently the CIA director, and ironically, he was one of the foremost critics of the Iran nuclear deal when he served as a House Republican from Kansas. Trump fired Secretary of State “Rex Tillerson” over the raised disagreements, and picked Pompeo as his successor in March, just two months before the deadline on May 12 to decide whether to bring back sanctions that former President of the United States waived when the JCPOA was first implemented.

Before this, many Western politicians and analysts saw the nomination of Mike Pompeo for secretary of state by Trump as a sign of Washington’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal. Beyond that, John Bolton’s appointment as US national security advisor also sent a clear message to the international system that Trump is about to pull out of the nuclear deal with Iran.

John Bolton is now silent about the fate of the JCPOA! The silence seems very meaningful at the current time. It’s obvious that John Bolton is one of the main opponents of the nuclear deal with Iran, and he doesn’t even believe in negotiating with the European Troika on maintaining the JCPOA.

The important question, however, is whether Bolton’s silence reflects the continuing paradoxical and vague approach of the US towards the JCPOA? Or did Trump ask him to be silent in this regard and wait for the final results of their talks with Europe?

American senators still don’t have a clear picture of Trump’s final decision about the JCPOA. Meanwhile, some Republican senators like “Rand Paul” and “Jeff Flake” are worried about the costs and consequences of Trump’s decision to refuse joining other members of P5+1.

Most US senators tried not to mention the nuclear deal with Iran in their speeches during recent weeks. This is while some senators such as “Tom Cotton” and “Ted Cruz” strongly encourage Donald Trump’s government to pull out of the nuclear deal with Iran.

First published at our partner Mehr News Agency

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