IF a certain certifiable loony now at the helm the United States is true to form, it’s cheerio to MEP Deirdre Clune’s promised air link from the real capital to the US.
As excellently reported by Siobhan Cronin in this newspaper, the United States Department of Transportation granted a licence to a bargain basement Norwegian outfit for a scheduled transatlantic service between Cork-Boston and Cork-New York. But the approval came with an important caveat, a 60-day cooling-off period.
Since then, US trade unions, which are dead nuts against the plan, have been pressurising Trump to show that he genuinely intends to protect jobs. If he doesn’t act on this matter, he’ll stand accused of endangering the jobs of a generation of US airline workers in favour of what the unions term ‘a rogue, foreign airline.’
The powerful Transportation Trades Department of the American Federation of Labour alleges the Norwegian company does not abide by high labour standards and that it fails to honour respective labour laws on both sides of the Atlantic.
The airline strenuously denies that it engages in unfair work practices.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions also has jumped into the controversy. It points out that Norwegian Airlines have created an Irish subsidiary, Norwegian Air International, and it is this company that has sought the permit to fly from Ireland to the US. What’s more, it suspects the subsidiary will operate under loose Irish labour laws and that the long-term objective is to drive down pay and working conditions in the aviation sector.
Liam Berney of ICTU said: ‘Our colleagues rightly point out that if this (the granting of the permit) were allowed to happen, it would give Norwegian Air International a competitive advantage over other employers in the sector, who recognise the right of workers to collectively bargain and who recognise the importance of providing workers with a certain standard of living.’
ICTU does not want a race to the bottom in terms of pay and conditions.
Such niceties, however, have not bothered Ms Clune or, for that matter, Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary whose contribution to the debate was quite basic. It was his opinion that the American Department of Transportation should tell those opposing the project to ‘bugger off.’
O’Leary, of course, has had his own problems in Norway. Back in 2013, his company was accused of using ‘slave contracts’ for cabin crews and of having terms of employment far below Norwegian standards.
O’Leary reminded the Norwegians that Ryanair had to comply with Irish law because it was an Irish airline and that its employees were employed under Irish contracts and Irish labour standards, not Norwegian. He advised the Norwegians that if they disagreed, they should take it up with the European Union or the Irish government.
Is it any wonder that American trade unionists are alarmed at the impact a Norwegian budget airline, operating in the style of Ryanair, will have on their working lives?
Trump a Nazi?
Much depends, of course, on how long Donald Trump he remains president before some cowboy takes a pot shot at him. In the meantime, his ideological closeness to Nazism is disturbing liberal America.
Alarmed critics point to his incendiary use of rhetoric. According to writer Susan Dunn, the slogan ‘America First’ has ‘ugly echoes’.
It was the name of an unpleasant pro-Nazis organisation in early 1940s America and was controversial because of policies that were isolationist, anti-Semitic and conciliatory towards Adolf Hitler.
It boasted of having close on a million members, including the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh. The future American president Gerald Ford and Walt Disney also were members.
Former Mexican president, Vicente Fox, remarked that Trump reminded him of the German Furher while Anne Frank’s stepsister, in an article to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, accused him of ‘acting like another Hitler.’
And a onetime Republican governor of New Jersey, Todd Whitman, said his plan to halt the immigration of Muslims into the US was similar to the ‘the kind of rhetoric that allowed Hitler move forward.’
Potency of gesture
Criticism of his supporters saluting him with an outstretched arm in the manner of the Nazi ‘Seig Heil’ did not embarrass Trump and, indeed, he displayed some amusement when the potency of the gesture was explained to him.
Certainly, his political programme is not sweetness and light: He boasted to ‘take out’ the families of terrorists. He threatened to jail Hilary Clinton, claiming she needed to be ‘drug-tested,’ and he criticised a judge’s ruling because the judge had Mexican heritage.
After arsonists burned a Trump campaign office in Orange County he tweeted: ‘Animals representing Hilary Clinton and Dems in North Carolina just firebombed our office because we are winning.’ There wasn’t a shred of evidence to link Mrs Clinton or any member of the Democratic Party to the outrage but his ‘animals’ description was remarkably similar to Hitler’s depiction of the Reichstag arsonists in 1933 as ‘sub-humans.’
He accused Clinton of plotting the destruction of US sovereignty in order to enrich ‘those global financial powers, her special interest friends and her donors’ – which some commentators saw as code for Jewish bankers.
He advocated revoking the citizenship of those who burn the American flag and he claimed the election was ‘absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hilary.’
And, just as the Jews were the scapegoats in Nazi Germany, Trump has convinced redneck America that illegal immigration is responsible for the financial difficulties of white working class families. To solve the problem, he intends to deport eleven million undocumented immigrants.
But, perhaps, the most chilling aspect of Trump is the readiness with which millions of Americans swallow his lies and exaggerations. In Nazi Germany, something similar happened in the way people accepted Hitler’s lies.
The German-born philosopher, Hannah Arendt, attributed Hitler’s success to the fact that Nazi propaganda concentrated on ‘emotion and fantasy’ and was not meant to convince the public but to impress them. Trump, with his doctrine of ‘alternative facts’ has learned a valuable lesson.
And, as for his battle cry that other countries were stealing American jobs, Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, tried to put some sense into the debate. America’s economic decline, he argued, was because of successive governments failing to use wealth in a proper way.
‘Over the past thirty years America spent 40.2 trillion dollars on thirteen wars. What if they spent a part of that money on building up the infrastructure, helping the white-collar and the blue-collar workers? No matter how strategically good it is, you’re supposed to spend money on your own people,’ he said.
But that’s an argument that doesn’t interest the pathological egotist, obsessed as he is with delusional fantasies, wealth and power.