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French Fries and Freedom Ticklers: America Loves France Again!

12:40 pm in Uncategorized by JP Sottile

It’s official—America has finally forgiven France.

France's Arc de Triomphe with a reflecting pool lit with a golden light at night.

Why is American foreign policy friendly with France again?

This is big news, particularly after such a messy break-up over America’s infatuation with remaking the Middle East. That fixation on Iraq turned into an international affair when France spurned America’s proposition and then-President Jacques Chirac refused to get sucked into a morally and legally sticky ménage à trois with George W. Bush and Tony Blair.

Despite the infamous French appetite for such things, they didn’t join the aptly-named “Coalition of the Willing.” It seems that the French weren’t willing get screwed by America’s clumsy, juvenile power-play.

But hell hath no fury like an imperialist scorned.

In 2003, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice’s succinctly stated the administration’s policy towards the unwilling—”Punish France, ignore Germany, forgive Russia.” That petty policy quickly became a series of petty punishments. The U.S. “downgraded its participation” in a French air show. It excluded France—officially a NATO member—from some NATO military exercises. French scientists were barred from meetings on Galileo, the European satellite program, and the U.S. blocked selection of France’s leading nuclear institute as the site of a cutting-edge nuclear fusion experiment called the International Tokamak Experimental Reactor (ITER).

The coup de grâce, though, came from those patriot actors in Congress. If you really want to hurt the French, you gotta go after their food, right? So, on March 11, 2003, Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio and Rep. Walter B. Jones, Jr. of North Carolina drew a line in the menu. Upon their direction, both French Fries and French Toast were re-christened as “Freedom Fries” and “Freedom Toast.” And it became a national sensation, with hash jockeys, greasy spooners and burger flippers across the country marching lock-step toward a menu that better reflected their values.

This national outpouring of righteous indignation even reached into condom dispensers in truckstop bathrooms, where patriotic fornicators could purchase “Freedom Ticklers.” Seriously. Freedom Ticklers. The best part of “the “Ticklers-formerly-known as French” was that the package depicted the Statue of Liberty, which was made in France and given to America as a gift. It’s a little irony that was probably lost on the target audience.

But now that’s all in the past. Congress eventually put the French back into their fries and, according to a new Gallup poll, Americans have decided to pull out the Barry White records and kiss and make-up with the apple of Thomas Jefferson’s eye. Although Americans’ favorability toward France plummeted from 79% just after 9/11 to a staggering 34% in March of 2003, it has finally recovered to the historical norm established throughout the 1990s. It took 11 years to recover, but now 78% of Americans sing “Je t’aime” when asked what they think about the French.

To seal the deal, President Obama invited an actual French Socialist—President Hollande—over to the White House for fancy dinner, some drinks and little dancing and then…who knows?

The two leaders were moonstruck enough to plan a big date between NASA and the French National Center of Space Studies (CNES). America and France have decided to go to Mars together. Sure, some will see a nefarious subtext in a European Socialist and President Obama agreeing to go to the “Red Planet,” but this scientific cooperation should put to rest any a lingering resentment over the petty punishments ordered by the Bush Administration.

President Hollande returned the favor by publicly putting to bed his government’s concerns in the wake of the Snowden-NSA spying revelations. “Mutual trust has been restored,” said Hollande, and he reaffirmed his commitment to work together with the U.S. to fight terrorism. And this is where the United States and the French are really getting into bed together—increasingly cooperating around Africa to quell insurgencies, fight jihadists and counter militants.

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The Other NRA

6:50 pm in Uncategorized by JP Sottile

Children are dying.

They are caught in the crossfire between profits and an unassailable national identity, and their numbers only seem to increase with each passing news cycle.

This carnage continues because a well-entrenched interest group refuses to relent, forever unwilling to cede their ideology or their profits. And the perpetual machinery of their power thrives on the artful conflation of one with the other.

But this is not the NRA.

The most powerful “gun lobby” in America is the MIC—the Military-Industrial Complex.

This is not some faceless, shadowy cadre of conspirators. No, those who charge “conspiracy theory” only show their ignorance. In fact, just like the NRA, the MIC is publicly disclosed and highly visible. In touting the accomplishments of the “Top 100” members of the MIC, Defense News wrote:

“The U. S. defense community encompasses the best America has to offer: leadership, innovation, technology and vision. It’s a combination that has helped ensure the U.S. has fielded the best-trained, best-equipped military force in the world for nearly a century.”

There is your leading gun lobby, America.

Note the “best equipped” part of that “journalistic” paean. This translates into trillions upon trillions of dollars spent on guns and weapons and bombs and bullets since the end of World War II.

Meanwhile, little-known massacres pile up overseas, even as they shock and awe us here at home. And while the Bushmaster is debated, the drone and the cluster-bomb and missile fly under the radar and through the budgetary process.

But the fix is in, anyway.

Unlike the NRA, the MIC isn’t limited to just spending money on lobbyists and advertisements and voting guides. Their influence peddlers pass unabated through the ever-revolving door between government and industry. They actually place their people in positions of power and then, in turn, they employ those Congressional aides, policymakers and former generals when they leave “public service” to cash in on their insider status.

The people who plot and plan and execute the wars can easily become the lobbyists who sell weapons of war to their friends and colleagues in Congress, the Pentagon and to regimes around the world. It is a perfectly closed system.

Even the all-powerful NRA cannot boast of such a “total influence,” one that is economic, political and, yes, even spiritual. Nor can it mount the sort of defense that the defense industry can, will and has whenever the idea of cutting the MIC’s budget is simply broached.

While the NRA clings to the 2ND Amendment in the face of one senseless massacre after another, the MIC churns on forcefully and relentlessly despite one senseless war after another.

Big money on Vietnam. On Iraq. And on and on in Afghanistan, despite Osama bin Laden’s death.

The Cold War was the gift that kept on giving, but the Soviets simply couldn’t match America’s appetite for destruction. Enemies like that are hard to come by. Luckily for the MIC, an amorphous and ill-defined specter of terrorism stemmed the budgetary bleeding of that all-to-fleeting moment we called “the peace dividend.”

Finally, there were, and still are, dozens of “shadow wars” around the world, with the MIC funding and arming a motley crew of proxies and dictators and “freedom fighters.”

The world is awash in American arms and ordinance. Sometimes they end up in the hands of both friends and foes. Sometimes they end up in the hands of both sides of the same battle. They can be used to crack down. Or by death squads. And the use of children to fight doesn’t seem to be a problem.

And neither does killing them.

So, as we glare sharply at the NRA and question the availability of guns here at home, perhaps it is time we finally address the fundamental hypocrisy at the heart of it all. This nation has been run by a much more powerful gun lobby for the last sixty years, and many have paid the price for a culture of violence spread the world over by the Military-Industrial Complex.

NOTE: this was originally published on my Newsvandal blog