Europe/Americas update: September 7-8 2017

EUROPE

UKRAINE

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko delivered a speech to his parliament on Thursday. Among other things, he rejected calls for early elections–no big surprise given that polls currently show him trailing potential challenger Yulia Tymoshenko–and said he’s working on “defensive” weapons deals with Western nations.

GREECE

The city of Thessaloniki saw a major anti-austerity protest on Friday, and I can only hope that police were on hand to maintain some law and or-

I’m sorry? What’s that?

The police were the ones doing the protesting? Oh, well, that’s a healthy sign. Austerity: the great uniter? I’m going to have to think about this a little.

HUNGARY

Hungarian Prime Minister and translucent bag filled with store brand mayonnaise Viktor Orbán

viktor_orbc3a1n_2016-02-17
There’s our guy!

says he plans to keep right on not admitting refugees into Hungary even though the European Court of Justice ordered him to cut that shit out earlier this week. Orbán mouthed some stuff about national sovereignty, because I guess nobody explained to the Hungarians how the European Union works back when they joined it in 2004, but the thing about racists like Orbán is that they usually have to let the cat out of the bag at some point, like so:

“We are not an immigrant country and Hungary does not want one to be an immigrant country,” said Orban. The EU “is trying to transform Europe’s traditional population and culture into a continent with a mixed population and a mixed culture.”

Vik, buddy, dog whistles aren’t supposed to be deafening to humans.

GERMANY

Angela Merkel’s decision to back suspending or ending Turkey’s EU accession process has received a bit of a frosty reception throughout the rest of the continent. The governments of Finland, Lithuania, and most importantly France have all come out in favor of continuing negotiations with Turkey, and I would imagine EU members who are worried about a potential wave of migrants being let loose by Ankara would likewise be inclined to keep the negotiations going even if they’re highly unlikely to ever actually get anywhere. Several members seem inclined to maybe stop talking about full Turkish membership while continuing to discuss the possibility of an EU-Turkey customs union.

FRANCE

French President Emmanuel Macron delivered his long-awaited (?) address on the EU’s future from high atop Mount Olympus Athens on Thursday. He didn’t offer anything new, but simply repeated his calls for an integrated eurozone fiscal policy and EU reforms to make the union more democratic and more responsive to its citizens. He did call for debt relief for Greece, which is sorely needed, so that’s something.

SPAIN

As quickly as the Catalan parliament approved an independence referendum for October 1, Spain’s constitutional court has ordered the vote suspended pending a ruling on its constitutionality. I would have to assume it will be found unconstitutional, and the question becomes whether the Catalan government will try to go ahead with the vote anyway. Spain’s chief prosecutor has raised the possibility of issuing criminal charges against anyone in the Catalan legislators who enabled or voted for the referendum legislation, which seems like overkill, but if they try to defy the constitutional court then criminal charges start to look more reasonable.

UNITED KINGDOM

Is Donald Trump going to take Theresa May up on her offer of a state visit to Britain? Does May wish she could take the offer back? Do either of these people seem like they’re competent to run a large nation-state? The answers are: probably but not anytime soon, it depends on the day, and absolutely not.

Hey, Brexit seems to be going about as smoothly as ever:

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has said the UK appears to be going backwards on agreeing a Brexit financial settlement, as hopes of an autumn divorce deal hit rock bottom.

Speaking as the EU published its latest Brexit position papers, Barnier said he was disappointed with the UK position he had heard at the latest round of negotiations. “It seems to be backtracking on the original commitment of the UK to honour its international commitments,” he said. “There is a problem of confidence here.”

This problem was a moral one, he said. “You cannot have 27 countries paying for what was decided by 28.”

The Brexit secretary, David Davis, acknowledged in July that the UK had obligations to the EU from its 44 years of membership, but his officials spent last week’s negotiating round dismantling the EU’s calculations without offering any clues on what the UK might pay.

There were more harsh words for the UK on Thursday from the European parliament’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, who warned that if the government adopted the immigration policies contained in a Home Office document leaked to the Guardian this week, it would make a transition deal impossible.

“As a sovereign country, post-Brexit and after any transition period, the UK will be free to execute its own discriminatory immigration policy, no matter how economically damaging this might be,” the MEP said in a statement released to the Guardian. “However, a number of the leaked proposals would breach EU free movement law if implemented during any transition period, for example the proposal to discriminate between ‘high-skilled’ and ‘low-skilled’ workers.”

Nice to see everybody getting along. Oh, and Ireland also appears to be rejecting Britain’s plans for the post-Brexit Northern Ireland border, so that’s more great news. All these complications make it highly unlikely that Britain and the EU are going to start talking about their future trade relationship in October, as London wants.

AMERICAS

BRAZIL

Though President Michel Temer has escaped its grasp for now, Brazil’s omnibus corruption investigation continues to sweep up new targets:

Brazil’s top prosecutor on Friday charged six lawmakers from President Michel Temer’s Brazilian Democracy Movement Party (PMDB) with forming a criminal organization, the latest in a barrage of charges in the country’s sprawling corruption scandal.

Those accused by prosecutor Rodrigo Janot in a filing with the Supreme Court include former senator and president Jose Sarney, the government’s leader in the Senate Romero Juca and four other current senators.

UNITED STATES

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday undercut the Trump administration’s efforts to gut/”reorganize” the State Department, approving a spending package that’s roughly $11 billion more than what the administration wanted and that comes complete with two amendments from committee Democrats that severely curtail just how much “reorganization” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson can actually do. The amendments passed unanimously.

Finally I’ll leave you with an emerging story about the Blob and its efforts to stifle solid academic research that doesn’t comport with its “America Fuck Yeah” conventional wisdom. The Holocaust Museum commissioned a counterfactual study looking at the possibility that a different US policy toward the Syrian civil war (i.e., something other than Barack Obama’s “just enough so we can say we’re Doing Something” approach) could have reduced that conflict’s intensity and its death toll. The study, which has been praised by people who understand social science research methodology a lot better than I do, concluded that there probably wasn’t anything the US could do to seriously influence the course of the war, and that a more muscular US response might have actually made things worse. You can read the study’s research papers here, because somebody leaked them to New York Magazine‘s Jesse Singal.

Yes, leaked. See, the findings of this apparently well-conducted study are now being suppressed because influential pro-war types don’t like hearing that US airstrikes aren’t a panacea. So, according to Singal, this is happening:

Instead, the claim is being suppressed altogether — the Museum is pulling is cancelling its planned released. That’s because when word of what the study found leaked, it caused a significant amount of outrage — outrage Tablet captures in the article, which rather heavily promotes the perspective of the study’s critics. The article’s author, Armin Rosen, quotes Leon Wieseltier as saying “Shame on the Holocaust Museum” for “releasing an allegedly scientific study that justifies bystanderism.” In typically colorful fashion, the former literary editor of the New Republic goes on to say: “If I had the time I would gin up a parody version of this that will give us the computational-modeling algorithmic counterfactual analysis of John J McCloy’s decision not to bomb the Auschwitz ovens in 1944. I’m sure we could concoct the fucking algorithms for that, too.” Abraham Foxman, former head of the Anti-Defamation League, doesn’t like the study either. After expressing affection for the Holocaust museum as an institution, he told Rosen, “I just don’t think it’s appropriate for the Museum to issue this kind of judgement—that’s beyond its mandate. This should be a place where one meets to discuss, to debate, to question, to challenge: Could more have been done? Where? How? Not to issue judgment, especially not in this politicized atmosphere.” And according to Rosen, “Some Jewish communal leaders suggested both privately to Tablet, and in conversations with board members and staff at the Holocaust Museum, that the Museum’s moral authority had been hijacked for a partisan re-writing of recent history.” (A Google search reveals the page where the study was listed, and where a PDF presumably would have eventually been posted, but if you go to the page itself now you get an error.) (Note: In this paragraph, I initially referred to Foxman as the head of the ADL rather than its former head.)

You’ll note there’s no criticism of the actual study in there, nothing about its methodology or the people who conducted it. These warmongering pieces of garbage just don’t like the findings, so they want them buried. Wieseltier in particular, a loathsome human being who never met a war in which he didn’t desperately want to send somebody else off to die, tells you all you need to know about his morality by labeling the act of not jumping in the middle of a civil war as “bystanderism.” This is a guy who will never be happy with any decision not to go to war. He’s still pissed at the Obama administration for failing to do enough war, which leads him to the disingenuous position that Obama stayed out of Syria when, uh, there are a whole bunch of US-supplied weapons floating around that country right now for a conflict in which America supposedly did nothing.

This Holocaust Museum study appears to be an important contribution to understanding the world and what part America can constructively play in it. It shouldn’t be suppressed. Instead, we should have suppressed Leon Wieseltier and every other one of these war-humping fuckers after Iraq. Not only didn’t we do that, but we’ve allowed them, for the most part, to continue to run our foreign policy. What the hell is wrong with us?

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Author: DWD

writer, blogger, lover, fighter

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