Tag Archives: observations of an ex pat

Observations of an ex pat: Trouble at NWS 101

There are serious problems in the playground at Nuclear Weapons School 101. There is a new boy—Kim. Nobody likes him. He is loud, obnoxious and into domestic abuse in a big way.

Kim is especially disliked by Donald who is president of the student council, captain of the football, basketball and baseball teams, number one in his class and popular with all the girls. And he has been at the school less than a year.  Donald also controls a big chunk of what Kim regards as his home turf.  In fact, Donald and his family have been calling the shots at NWS 101 since they threw the first and—so far—the  only knock-out punch against Tojo and Hirohito.

Donald is strong. Very strong, and he backs it up with a frightening array of brass knuckles, baseball bats, knives, axes, swords, clubs, machetes and the biggest,  bestest and most frightening array of guns ever developed by mankind.

Some of the other kids in the playground are a bit envious of Donald. They think he has been throwing his weight around too much. This is especially true of Vladimir and Xi. That is why when Kim started building up his rival arsenal they turned a blind eye. They even smuggled some sweets to him. Perhaps, they thought,  it was time that Donald was taken down a peg or two. Perhaps introducing Kim to the playground could persuade Donald to share the captaincy of one of the sports teams or a girlfriend or two.

They don’t want Donald hurt. They need him and—even though he has occasional problems recognizing it—he needs them too.

Kim doesn’t have such qualms. He is anxious to prove his tough guy credentials and is not in the least concerned about who is hurt in the process. He has built up his own arsenal and even though it is nowhere near the size of Donald’s weapons stock, Kim is threatening to attack Donald on his home turf.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 5 Comments

Observations of an ex pat: Crooked or incompetent?

Is the Trump team totally incompetent or crooked? Is it perhaps a combination of the two or an unappealing variation on the political spectrum?

For despite the never-ending stream of White House protestations and presidential tweets, not all of President Trump’s problems are the result of a witch hunt of historic proportions orchestrated by  the Democrats, the liberals, “ the dishonest media,” immigrants, refugees, Muslims, “so-called judges”,  turncoat Republicans, Chinese currency manipulators, Angela Merkel, Mexicans and Canadians.

Next week we may start to learn the answer to the questions posed. It is a major week for the Trump Administration.  Three big names from the Trump campaign—Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort – are all appearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating the Russian hacking scandal.

A bit of background for anyone who has been living at the bottom of a mile-deep Tibetan cave for the past month.  Donald Junior—after initially denying he had met with any Russians—published a string of emails which revealed that in the depths of the presidential campaign he was keen to meet with a Russian lawyer who could dish the dirt on Hillary Clinton.

The White House made much of the fact that Trump Junior released the  correspondence rather than having  it  revealed by someone else. Little was made of the fact that he made public  the emails after the New York Times said they were going to publish them.

Posted in Op-eds | 5 Comments

Observations of an ex pat…The law

The British like to think they invented the law. It is true that thanks to empire and successful European wars, British law is the foundation of many of the world’s legal systems.

It is certainly the cornerstone of the American judicial system and  the old imperial countries. British lawyers rewrote the law books in Germany following World War Two and contributed heavily to the European Court of Justice with which they are currently having so many problems.

Actually, the principle that the rule of law MUST underwrite civilized societies dates back to at least ancient Egypt. It is there  where we find the first allegorical representation of the Goddess Justice holding the scales in which the rights and wrongs of a case were impartially weighed.  The Egyptians called her Anubis.

The Greeks called her Dike, and added the sword to represent the finality of legal decisions.  The Romans provided the moniker Justitia, or Justice, and the Swiss added the blindfold in the 16h century.

Posted in News | 6 Comments

Observations of an ex pat: Minced meat in Hamburg

Stability. Order. Security. That is what these big multinational summits are meant to project.  They are designed to reassure the lower orders (that’s you, me and a few billion others), that Planet Earth is in safe hands as it hurtles around the sun at 66,000 miles per hour.

I am not reassured. In fact, a look at the G20 Hamburg line-up has left me seriously worried.

North Korea now has an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, nuclear weapons and a juvenile dictator with a bad haircut. But Russia, China and America cannot agree on how to deal with him.

Russia, the United States and its allies are on the cusp of coming to blows over Syria and Ukraine. India and China are the same over their border at the rooftop of the world.

Then there is China against everyone over the South and East China seas. Saudi Arabia is trying to squeeze Qatar into submission and under attack for human rights abuses in Yemen and support for Islamic extremism. Russia has a corruption problem, gay problem and human rights problem.

Italy has a potential bankruptcy problem. The UK has a Brexit problem compounded by a leadership vacuum.

Posted in Op-eds | 15 Comments

Observations of an ex pat: Torture

Torture is bad. Well, there is nothing like stating the obvious. Nothing like shouting a truism from the digital rooftop.

Except that for 58 percent of Americans it is not a truism. It is not a position which they support. In fact, they support torture. Perhaps because their president claims “it absolutely works.”

This is despite the opposition of CIA experts and Defence Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis who made it perfectly clear to Donald Trump that he could either have torture or Mad Dog at the Pentagon. But he couldn’t have both.

So the president backed down. Or has he?

This week the Associated Press reported details of what are known as “Black Sites” run by the United Arab Emirates and based in lawless South Yemen. Black sites are secret bases where people are sent to be tortured.

AP reported that there are at least 18 Yemeni black sites and at least 2,000 suspected Jihadists have disappeared into them. The secret prisons are inside military bases, ports, an airport, private villas and even a nightclub.

The means of torture are excruciatingly cruel. There is of course the tried and tested waterboarding and various techniques involving electricity, rape, clubs and fists. In one case the victims were locked for days in a container with the walls smeared with human faeces. One of the favourite techniques is to tie the victim to a spit and roast them over an open fire.

Posted in Op-eds | 6 Comments

Observations of an ex pat: The fight for the spoils

Politics hates a vacuum. It especially hates a vacuum in the tinderbox cockpit of the Middle East where the conflicting issues of money, vital resources, religious extremism , religious conflicts, historic rivalries and the geopolitical link between East and West dangerously clash.

The virtual collapse in 2011-2012 of Bashar Al-Assad’s despotic regime in Syria created such a vacuum. It was filled by the even more despotic Islamic State Caliphate.

Now the Caliphate is on its knees.  The Western half of Mosul is recaptured.  Only a handful of IS fighters remain in the dangerously narrow winding streets of the Eastern half.

The fundamentalists once boasted that their Syrian-Iraqi base would become a springboard from which to launch an Islamic conquest of the Middle East and Europe. They  have retreated to their spiritual capital of Raqqa in Syria for the final battle to the death.

They will lose . But who will win? And what will they win? Assad, Russia, the US and its Western allies, Iraq, the Kurds, Turkey, Iran, a score  or more of rebel forces—all are directly involved in the fighting. Then there are there are the backers—or interested parties: Saudi Arabia, Israel, Qatar, Kuwait, the EU, the United Arab Emirates, Somalia, Afghanistan and the wider Islamic world.

It looks as if Assad will regain and remain in power for the foreseeable future—but he will be a political shadow of his former self.   Neither the Trump Administration nor any of its European or Arab allies have any stomach for removing a secular despot who can be replaced by another fanatic Islamic despot. And besides, he will have the military support of Iran and Russia.

Posted in News | Also tagged | 8 Comments

Observations of an expat: Macronian clouds on the horizon

The new French President is the latest international political darling, man of the hour and flavour of—well at least a month.

He is young, multilingual, charismatic, exceptionally well-educated and bright. When he speaks common sense pours forth as from an intellectually gifted Parisian fountain.

His election has saved—at least for now—the European experiment which was reeling from the body blow of Brexit. And when it comes to the politically important field of economics, Emmanuel Macron is one of the world’s top whizz kids.

BUT, just as every cloud has a silver lining, every blue sky has a thunder cloud over the horizon. In the case of France there are potential thunderstorms—foreign and domestic— which could wash away the new French optimism.

There is no doubt of President Macron’s Europhile credentials. At his first speech as president-elect, he ran onto the stage to the strains not of the French, but the EU’s national anthem Ode to Joy. He is, in fact, more of a Europhiliac than his more experienced German counterpart Angela Merkel. And that is the reason for the first cloud.

As a group, the Germans are pro-Europe. But they have started to baulk at the cost of propping up the poorly run Southern European Eurozone economies. This is despite the fact that the same cost has contributed mightily to Germany’s enviable trade surplus with the rest of the world.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 15 Comments
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