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The Trump Tweetstorms’ Pooper Scoopers

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] O [/yt_dropcap]nly fifty or so days after president Trump’s inauguration we are at a point when it seems to be a new normal to be confronted daily with tweeted statements for which there is no discernible evidence. They simply seem to jump out of a mind that is unable to discern facts from imagined fiction. It all began with the assertion a couple of years ago that President Obama was not born in the US.

As long as he was a private citizen, Trump was not held accountable for the bombshell he regularly exploded on Tweeter. Now he is president and, in principle, he is responsible for what he tells the American people. But now he has an entire staff of White House assistants, counselors, spokespeople, press secretary, to defend, justify and explain away his habitual misstatements, impugn the credibility of his critics, and create distraction from additional inquiry. I have dubbed them “the White House Pooper-scoopers.”

It is not a pleasant job, literally or metaphorically. That’s because the usual base of Trump’s messages revolve around the cable news he happens to be watching at the moment. For a whole moment there wasn’t even a communication director coordinating the administration’s messages. Sean Spicer, the press secretary, filled that role at first.

When challenged on the veracity of the president’s bombshell, Spicer now has a ready-made answer: “The president’s tweet speaks for itself.” In other words, no further context is required to the 140 character messages dispatched by the August emperor Caligula. His word is almost equivalent of the law. Not once has he admitted that the White House might have made a mistake on anything.

One example is quite revealing: a Trump tweet blamed Obama for releasing prisoners from Guantanamo back to the battlefield. When confronted by the mathematical truth that the great majority of those released prisoners were under President George Bush, Spicer, rather than apologize and correct the record said that Trump “meant in totality the number that had been released on the battlefield” under both presidents.”

One of the “pooper scooper” is of course vice president Pence who finds the misstatements of Trump “refreshing” to the American people because “he always tells you what’s on his mind.”

But there is a cadre of pooper scoopers, former campaign surrogates and staffers, always at the ready to test the pliability and relativity of facts and of truth itself. These have managed to defend those three preposterous claims: that millions of people have voted illegally, that there is an imminent national security threat requiring an executive order restricting travel from seven majority-Muslim countries, that President Obama personally ordered an illegal wiretap on Trump’s campaign. So far, there has been no legitimate evidence to support any of these claims and little movement to even begin an investigation.

Then there is Kellyanne Conway who on January 22 coined the famous slogan “alternative facts” in an attempt to defend the false claim of the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration. She also invented the “Bowling Green massacre,” plugged Ivanka Trump’s fashion products incurring into ethics’ violation and then asserted, hours before he resigned, that Michael Flynn had “the full confidence of the president.” This open lying reached a point that Morning Joe TV show and CNN cut back on her appearances on the shows, not to speak of policy adviser Stephen Miller who called the voter fraud claim “a known secret in some states.”

Also at the ready on reserve there is Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy press secretary and daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Her special tactic is that of citing mainstream outlets who allegedly have already reported what Trump has tweeted, which when fact checked turns out to be false.

When everything else fails there is always this one as expressed by Secretary of Security Kelly: “there is always a good reason for the president saying what he is saying.” That takes the price. Indeed, there is always a good reason why some people have contempt for the truth and why they speak as deranged individuals defending the indefensible and the outrageous.

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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U.S. seeks to add India in NATO plus

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There was a message received a few days ago: “In a significant development ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States, a powerful Congressional ‘Committee has recommended strengthening NATO Plus by including India.

NATO Plus, currently NATO Plus 5, is a security arrangement that brings together NATO and five aligned nations — Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel and South Korea – to boost global defence cooperation. Bringing India on board would facilitate ‘seamless intelligence sharing between these countries and India would access the latest military technology without much of a time lag.

The House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), led by Chairman Mike Gallagher and Ranking Member Raja Krishnamoorthi, overwhelmingly adopted a policy proposal to enhance Taiwan’s deterrence, including through strengthening NATO Plus to include India.

“Winning the strategic competition with the Chinese Communist Party and ensuring the security of Taiwan demands the United States strengthen ties to our allies and security partners, including India. Including India in NATO Plus security arrangements ‘would build upon the US and India’s close partnership to strengthen global security and deter the aggression of the CCP across the Indo-Pacific region,” the Select Committee recommended.”

The news is commented by M.K. Bhadrakumar, Indian Ambassador and prominent international observer:

“Indian lobbyists daydreaming about a military alliance with the United States are excited over the breaking news that the US House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the US has adopted a policy proposal to enhance the deterrence of Taiwan, which inter alia included strengthening of NATO Plus by the inclusion of India. Indeed, NATO Plus is a privileged group under the alliance umbrella comprising AUKUS members, plus Japan.

The breaking news on the Hill may have something to do with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming State Visit to the US — call it kite-flying or pressure tactic (or both). More likely, it undercuts India’s newfound enthusiasm for leading the Global South at world forums, which is posing headaches for Washington.

What has India got to do with ‘deterrence of Taiwan’, an entity we don’t even recognise?

Where’s the beef in NATO Plus which has neither an Article 5 nor can be an asset for Modi’s vision? Perhaps, the United Kingdom’s experience as the US’ closest ally provides some clues. Considering the word limit, let me quote just a few lines from a UK House of Commons Committee report dated March with recommendations to the Rishi Sunak government:

“The UK-US relationship in defence, security and intelligence is strong and enduring. Our Armed Forces have fought alongside in many campaigns post-1945 and continue to work together on development of both equipment and doctrine. Both countries benefit from the relationship: the UK benefits from US resources and economies of scale; the US from British niche capabilities, the UK’s global reach and its willingness to defend its values. However, defence industrial co-operation is often limited as a result of US defence export controls. Any failure to consult Allies before taking action can also have negative consequences, as was demonstrated by the Afghanistan withdrawal. Nevertheless, the joint approach in response to Russian actions in February 2022 demonstrates the value of the UK-US relationship.”

The analogy is patently insufficient since the UK lives and survives as world power thanks to the US, which is not the case with India.

Nonetheless, realism is needed. There is nothing like a free lunch in the US way of life and ‘interoperability’ within any NATO format will inevitably translate as living off US military hardware and dittoing US global strategy. Europe has learnt the bitter truth that nothing grows under a banyan tree. European defence remains a chimera, occasional captivating speeches by Emmanuel Macron notwithstanding.

Conceivably, the House Select Committee is a doormat for the US arms manufacturers. The paradox is, this move comes only a fortnight after the Indian Navy successfully test-fired the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile from its frontline stealth guided-missile destroyer INS Mormugao — that is, within 18 weeks of BrahMos air version being successfully test fired from the supersonic fighter aircraft Sukhoi 30 MK-I and within 15 weeks of India sealing a $375 million deal with the Philippines for supplying three batteries of BrahMos missile in what is by far the single most prestigious export order India’s defence industry ever secured.

NATO Plus will mean sudden death for India-Russia defence cooperation, notes M.K. Bhadrakumar.

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South Africa, President Putin and the ICC

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Image source: kremlin.ru

South Africa will grant diplomatic immunity to all international officials attending the BRICS summit in August, a move that will allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to avoid arrest.

South Africa’s International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor issued a gazette notice extending its Diplomatic Immunity and Privileges Act to the summit delegates.

“In accordance with the powers vested in me by Section 6(2) of the Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges Act, 2001, I hereby recognise the BRICS ministerial meetings to be held in Cape Town, South Africa, from 1 to 2 June 2023 and the 15th BRICS summit to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa from 22 to 24 August for the purpose of granting the immunities and privileges provided for in section 6(1) of the said Act as set out in the attached notice,” the gazette reads.

South Africa, which has close ties with Russia, has faced a diplomatic dilemma since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against Putin in March over alleged war crimes in Ukraine.

A signatory to the ICC, Pretoria is obliged to arrest Putin if he lands in South Africa.

Clayson Monyela, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation spokesperson, defended the move, saying such notices are issued every time there is an international meeting in the country.

The government notice, released on Monday, followed Deputy President Paul Mashatile’s announcement that he would meet with the inter-ministerial committee tasked with seeking solutions concerning South Africa’s options for Putin’s visit.

“This is a standard conferment of immunities that we do for all international conferences and summits held in South Africa irrespective of the level of participation,” said the department.

“The immunities are for the conference and not for specific individuals. They are meant to protect the conference and its attendees from the jurisdiction of the host country for the duration of the conference.

“These immunities do not override any warrant that may have been issued by any international tribunal against any attendee of the conference,” added the ministry.

Initially, President Cyril Ramaphosa had announced that the ruling party had resolved that the country would quit ICC before backtracking hours later citing a “communication error”.

South Africa, which has strong economic and trade relations with the US and Europe, has been walking a diplomatic tightrope over the Ukraine conflict, choosing to maintain a neutral stance on the Russia/Ukraine conflict.

The International Relations Department said it is also looking at a legal opinion on handling the ICC’s arrest warrant.

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Authoritarian regime to strengthen in Poland

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This autumn the elections will be in Poland. The ruling party clearly understands that it can lose the vote, so President Duda signed a law that allows him to start political repressions against the opposition. This is a reminiscent of the situation in the 30s of the last century, when authoritarian regimes began to strengthen in Europe. Now a similar process is starting in Poland. The opposition fears he has ‘set off a Polish civil war.’

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda said he will sign into law a controversial bill creating a commission to “investigate Russian influence on Polish politics that could ban people from public office for a decade,” writes POLITICO.

Duda and the Law and Justice (PiS) party government say it’s an effort to root out the Kremlin’s agents in Poland, but the opposition warns the commission is aimed at harassing political rivals — especially Donald Tusk, a former prime minister and European Council president who heads the opposition Civic Platform party — ahead of this fall’s pivotal parliamentary election.

The decision is likely to worsen already fraught relations between Warsaw and Brussels, with the European Commission freezing billions in EU pandemic recovery cash over worries the Polish government is backsliding on the bloc’s democratic principles.

The commission law was narrowly approved by the Polish parliament after a heated debate; Duda’s decision to rapidly sign it into law dashed hopes that he would distance himself from the law.

Duda did say he would also send the law to be examined by the Constitutional Tribunal — a top court dominated by PiS loyalists — but that won’t prevent the commission from beginning work.

“People have the right to know,” Duda said in a broadcast to announce his decision, adding: “The public should form its own opinion on how… those elected in general elections… understood the interests of the Republic of Poland, whether those interests were actually properly executed.”

The opposition denounced the commission as a political weapons designed to cow PiS’s rivals ahead of an election it might lose.

“President Andrzej Duda has seriously weakened our country today, internally and externally; he has decided to set off a Polish civil war,” said Szymon Hołownia, head of the Poland 2050 opposition party.

Borys Budka, one of the leaders of Civic Platform, warned that anyone joining the commission should face prosecution.

“This commission is not supposed to explain anything, decide anything, judge anything, it is only supposed to be a hammer against the opposition,” he said.

The Left opposition party called for Duda to be put before the State Tribunal, a body that is supposed to judge politicians.

The commission has also been noted by the United States, Poland’s key NATO military ally.

“The U.S. government shares concerns about laws that could appear to allow for the preempting of voters’ ability to vote for the candidates of their choice outside of a clearly defined process in independent courts,” U.S. Ambassador to Poland Mark Brzezinski told Polish television.

The nine-member commission will be chosen by parliament where PiS has a slim majority; several opposition parties have said they will boycott the procedure.

It will examine actions that were taken “under Russian influence” from 2007 to 2022 — a period covering the 2007-2015 governments of the Civic Platform party led by Tusk as well as the current PiS administration.

Critics say the commission violates the constitution as its functioning isn’t precisely defined, its verdicts are final, and members of the commission are shielded from any criminal responsibility. All of the country’s intelligence, police, prosecutors and other official bodies are mandated to cooperate with it, and there is no set procedure for deciding who it will investigate.

It can decide to ban people for 10 years from jobs involving the spending of public funds — which would block them from running for office.

“Duda has signed a law allowing the parliament to create a commission that will usurp the functions of courts, prosecutors and special services,” tweeted Ben Stanley, an associate professor at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Warsaw.

Tusk has called for people to hold a mass protest in Warsaw on June 4 — the anniversary of the 1989 partially free election that ended communist rule in Poland.

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