Populism is on the rise but the Center can hold in Europe


February 28, 2017

Populism is on the rise but the Center can hold in  Europe

Image result for French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron

The Next French President Emmanuel Macron–The charismatic Emmanuel Macron

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/dont-despair-the-center-can-still-win-in-europe/2017/02/23/8ac10bfc-fa0f-11e6-9845-576c69081518_story.html?utm_term=.e154720eeb7a

by Dr. Fareed Zakaria@www.thewashingtonpost.com

By now it is settled wisdom that we are witnessing the rise of radical forces on the left and right around the globe. Populists of both varieties, who share a disdain for globalization, are energized, certain that the future is going their way. But the center is rising again, even in the heart of the old world.

Consider Emmanuel Macron, the 39-year-old former Rothschild banker who is the odds-on favorite to become France’s next President. Polls indicate that the far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen, is leading the field in the first round with about 25 percent of the vote. But in the second round, which pits only the two front-runners against one another, Macron is projected to beat her handily. Keep in mind that Macron is emphatically in favor of free markets, globalization, the European Union and the transatlantic alliance — and yet he is surging in a country often defined by its strong labor unions, skepticism of capitalism and distrust of the United States.

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Far right Marine Le Pen– A nightmare for France and Europe

Why? Because Macron is, above all, an outsider, a reformer and a charismatic politician, and these qualities appear to be far more important than an ideological checklist. Social science studies have shown persuasively that people connect to candidates on a gut level and then rationalize that connection by agreeing with their policy proposals. There was little difference between the ideologies of Bill and Hillary Clinton. But voters in Middle America felt, at an emotional level, that Bill “got them,” and never felt that way about Hillary.

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Europeans and Americans sense a stagnation in the economics and politics of the West. They are frustrated with business as usual and see the established order as corrupt, paralyzed and out of touch. Macron’s campaign is working because it is brimming with energy. His new party is called On the Move! ; his campaign book is titled “Revolution.”

“Macron is, in some sense, the handsome brother of Marine Le Pen,” says Columbia University scholar Mark Lilla. “Both fill a vacuum created by the collapse of the major parties. All over Europe, the main political parties represent old cleavages between the church and secularism, capital and labor. Macron and his movement are new. He represents start-ups, the young, tolerance, flexibility and, above all, hope.”

We are living through a sea change in politics and watching an outbreak of populism. But this doesn’t mean that there are no other forces and sentiments at work. The world is increasingly connected, diverse and tolerant, and hundreds of millions of people in the West, especially young people, celebrate that reality. Macron champions these ideals, even as he appeals to others who are more nervous about the changing world.

Macron is not an isolated phenomenon. Consider Germany, where much has been made of Angela Merkel’s sagging poll numbers. But Merkel has been in power for more than a decade, at which point almost no Western leader has been able to maintain enthusiastic support. Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and Helmut Kohl all watched their approval ratings spiral down around the 10-year mark. And Merkel’s greatest competition comes from Martin Schulz, a left-of-center former bookseller who is even more pro-European, cosmopolitan and globalist.

“The political order is messy right now,” Lilla says. “It will eventually sort itself out around the new cleavage — people comfortable with globalization and those opposed to it.” But for those of us at the center, who do see globalization as a positive force, we will need to understand the cultural dislocation caused by the large-scale immigration of recent decades.

The center can win. Europe is not inexorably heading down a path of right-wing nationalism that abandons the European Union, economic integration, the Atlantic alliance and Western values. But much depends on the United States, the country that created the strategic and ideological conception of the West. A senior European leader who attended the Munich Security Conference last week noted that, despite some reassuring words from senior American officials, “many of us are convinced that the White House is trying to elect Le Pen in France and defeat Merkel in Germany.” And there is heady talk by White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon about weakening the European Union and destroying the established order.

Image result for fareed zakariaFareed Zakaria with the Enfant Terrible of US Foreign Policy Dr. Henry Kissinger

If the United States encourages the destruction of core Western institutions and ideals, then the West might well unravel. But this would not be one of those stories of civilizational decline in the face of external threats. It would be a self-inflicted wound — one that might be fatal.

To Donald J. Trump, Politicians and their lot around the world, please take Cornel West’s advice to heart or face rejection, humiliation and retribution. Enough is Enough. So lead with compassion and integrity.–Din Merican

“You can’t lead the people if you don’t love the people.
You can’t save the people if you don’t serve the people.”

Image result for Cornel WestCornel West,

American Philosopher, Political Activist, Social Critic

 

Right-Sizing the Malaysian Civil Service?


February 27, 2017

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Note: Yes, Tan Sri, to civil service reform or right sizing (as you call it) but it requires political will. First let us remove top civil servants who are only good at buttering up corrupt politicians. Both the Chief Secretary to the Government Ali Hamsa and Secretary-General to the Treasury Irwan Siregar, for example, should be asked to go on retirement followed by incompetent senior servants (the deadwood) who should be replaced by a new corp of civil  servants  chosen for their competency and courage to speak to power.

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Is this the face of a reformer? Look elsewhere, Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff.

Next, open up the civil service to all Malaysians, not just Malays and then stop recruiting Malay graduates who are not employable elsewhere and finally, disband Cuepecs since this union is an obstacle to any reform.

I bet you Najib Razak is not the man who is likely to take tough action against civil servants since they form the backbone of UMNO’s political support.

So let us not talk about right-sizing the civil service when we know the Prime Minister will not undertake civil service reform since his political survival is at stake. We are a failed state with a dysfunctional political system and a civil service which is performing sub-optimally.–Din Merican

Right-Sizing the Malaysian Civil Service?

by Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim @www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT: There have been a lot of emotional reactions from Cuepacs and Perkasa about my statement regarding the oversized civil service. Perhaps the sensitivity is due to the fact that the civil service is mainly Malay and Malay dependence on the civil service for employment is very high.

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The right-sizing of our civil service through a voluntary separation scheme is badly needed. There are ways of doing it in a humane and caring manner.

First, the government can start with retraining of redundant employees by giving them free courses on skills development: computers, English, basic accounting, corporate law, etc – all the skills needed to make them employable in the private sector.

I am sure once the employees get these skills, many would like to leave as soon as they reach optional retirement age. The government employees will self-separate.

It should be noted that there are thousands of civil servants, where both husband and wife are in the government service. In many cases among the lower level categories, one of them is doing part-time business like selling kain, tudung, kuih, religious books, etc, to earn more money. They probably have business ambitions but cannot afford to leave the government, because they have no capital.

Imagine if an offer is made for a voluntary separation package of RM40,000 for 20 years of service. The chances are one of them will take the package, while the other one will continue to work in the government until retirement to enjoy the medical benefits for the whole family. Thus, the government is helping the Malay wife or husband to become an entrepreneur, a genuine one because they have a track record.

Voluntary separation schemes, like those in the private sector, cannot be forced upon because it is illegal to terminate a worker who has not done anything wrong and has been a loyal employee.

Automation can replace human labour

The scheme should affect those whose functions are no longer needed because automation can replace human labour and because, with technology, there is no more need for sending letters or face-to-face service – ie the human-intensive work is no longer relevant in 21st Century Malaysia.

In the banking sector, there is no need to go to the branch for transactions. That is why banks are closing down their branches and terminating their employees.

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Malaysian Civil Servants pledging to serve the corrupt UMNO regime led by Malaysian Official No. 1.

I believe the government can also look at closing down completely, or partially, certain offices and branches without affecting the quality of service. The redundant civil servants should then be deployed to other functions or retrained to prepare them for the separation scheme.

While the government right-sizes redundant civil servants, it will have to continue to recruit those that are needed for specialized expertise in the fields of finance, economics, research, medicine, education, science, environment, law, etc. This should be encouraged as the civil service must continually upgrade the quality of its staff.

The government should be focusing more on quality, rather than quantity, because this is the way to increase productivity and efficiency in the civil service.

We should have a much smaller administrative service to support the functioning of government ministries and departments. This can be achieved by decentralizing and empowering of authority to reduce the multi-layer approval process.

A lot of progress has been made in recent years to improve the counter delivery services in several departments, with the use of technology and the simplification of procedures. Logically, there should be less need for manpower and the redundant staff can be offered voluntary retirement with an attractive compensation package.

If it takes some years for the government to recover the heavy expenditure of the separation scheme, then it is worth it. We can hope that with smaller government, the economy as a whole will become more efficient and with dynamism and growth in private sector activities, the government will collect more taxes to recover the cost of the separation scheme.

I believe the government should start planning a right-sizing program of the civil service now, so that it can be done in a proper manner, rather than wait until there is a financial crisis, at which time government employees will be retrenched without justice for all their years of loyal service. This has happened in Greece, as I mentioned previously.

Tan Sri MOHD SHERIFF MOHD KASSIM, a former Secretary-General of the Treasurer, is a member of the G25 Group of Eminent Malays.

Recommended READ by Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim:

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2017/02/24/change-the-way-top-civil-service-appointments-are-made/

Racist Politics in Malaysia–Blame the Whole Shebang


February 19, 2017

Racist Politics in Malaysia–Blame the Whole Shebang

by S. Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

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It was obvious that bigotry was never a one-way operation, that hatred bred hatred!”

– Isaac Asimov, ‘Pebble in the Sky’

COMMENT: Readers interested in what I write should consider this a companion piece to my article describing how non-Malay Malaysians (specifically) are a tolerant lot.

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Mahathir’s First Carma (Cari Makan) Journalist–A Kadir Jasin

De facto opposition leader and former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad casually mentioned last week that he was partly to blame for the demonisation of DAP. I suppose this went together with veteran journalist A Kadir Jasin’s admission that he was part of the brainwashing that went, and goes on, in UMNO. They say admitting you have a problem is the first step, but I doubt that the indoctrination of Malay youths will cease any time soon when the opposition is made up of Islamic groups determined to use Islam as a political tool.

I wrote the last part of the above paragraph after the opposition had suffered a setback in the by-election where the current UMNO grand poobah was supposed to receive a black eye but apparently, the opposition punched itself in the face. A reader had emailed and asked if the schadenfreude tasted good, especially since I had predicted the results.

I take no pleasure in any opposition defeat and neither do I take pleasure in a UMNO win. This is the bitter taste of having to choose between the lesser of two evils. Furthermore, when I say “evil”, do not get your panties in a twist because it is an expression and not a description of either political fronts. These days I cannot tell the difference between winning and losing when it comes to “saving Malaysia”.

As I have argued before, a country can recover from corruption scandals, but it rarely recovers from that type of Islam that neutralises the democratic imperative. In Malaysia, where race and religion are not mutually exclusive, the threat from Islamists is coupled with ethno-nationalism.

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The  First Malay Nationalist (or is it Racist?)

The de facto Opposition Leader is right when he says that he demonised DAP as DAP and other opposition parties had demonised him. However, the reality is that these political parties were not only demonising their political rivals, they were demonising entire communities.

So, when you want to win, and you demonise your political opponents, and by extension whole communities, the political terrain becomes a battleground for competing racial interests instead of ideological or policy ideas.

This is why I have always been sceptical of the opposition propaganda about voting across racial lines. In one of my numerous articles about race relations in this country, I wrote: “In addition, this idea that voting across racial lines as some sort of evidence of burgeoning multiracial solidarity is complete bunkum. The real test is when people vote across ethnic and religious lines in support of ideologies that run counter to the interests of their communities and by this, I mean egalitarian ideas that run afoul of constitutional sacred cows and social and religious dogma.”

While the former Prime Minister (and now de facto Opposition Leader) and the system contributed to Malay fear of DAP, the whole political system and voting patterns of Malaysians is also culpable for this sad state of affairs. UMNO succeeded because the majority of Malaysians voted for race-based parties. Racial preoccupations were the currency that sustained BN politics and still does.

The problem is that because we do not have an alternative, BN politics is the only game in town. Non-Malay oppositional voices and voters do not demand an alternative but rather that the system continues but in a more “fairer” manner.

DAP and MCA furiously battle for the Chinese vote. Meanwhile Malay-dominated so-called multicultural parties battle with UMNO and now PAS for the Malay vote. Until the former Prime Minister showed up, there was no central theme that united the Opposition.

While the charismatic Anwar Ibrahim and the late Tok Guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat discovered that populism does not necessarily mean racial or religious preoccupations when it comes to cobbling together a formidable coalition, the emergence of the former Prime Minister as the de facto opposition leader has given the current UMNO regime an opportunity to:

1) Revisit history.

2) Dredge up the financial scandals of the former Prime Minister.

3) Point out that their strategies for securing the Malay vote is based on his strategies that kept him in power for decades.

If anyone is wondering why questions of race always revolves around the Malay and Chinese dialectic, it is because… well, if you are going to ask this question, you have obviously not being paying attention.

All are participants in race game

When I argued that Malaysians were a tolerant lot, the thrust of the piece revolved around how systemic inequalities were a detriment to the non-Muslim population but I failed to emphasise how the non-Malay communities were active participants in the race game in this country.

Voting for race-based parties meant that we did not have to concern ourselves with egalitarian concepts that would have been the basis for a more democratic system. It was not that we were “immature” or “uneducated”, it was just easier to vote for a political hegemon that provided security and stability for decades but not the rights and responsibilities that are part and parcel of a functional democracy.

Image result for UMNO's Grand Poobah Najib Razak

UMNO’s Money Stealing Grand Poobah

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Tolerance may have been a one-way street, it was also the street where we stopped by the sidewalk and spat at the “Malays”. There is the other narrative of non-Malays engaging in subtle and overt racism, all the while supporting racial political parties that claimed inclusiveness.

The majority of us did this to ensure that our racial preoccupations were satisfied by a plutocrat class instead of demanding for an accountable and transparent government, but more importantly demanding for a principled opposition who fearlessly made their positions clear instead of championing communal causes under the guise of “multiracial/culturalism”.

The private sector was (is) dominated by Chinese polity who were perpetuating their own form of systemic inequalities and contextualising this reality as a response to the systemic inequality perpetrated by the UMNO Malay state.

While I think, there is generally “a live and let live” vibe between Malaysians, it would be a mistake to assume that this is some sort of national identity or some form of stable unity. I realise that this is political incorrect to say, but the hard truth is that while race relations have been manipulated by establishment (both UMNO and the Opposition), the reality is that there was always tensions between the various races of this country.

This is why talking about “race” in this country is such a demoralising endeavour. Appeals to emotion replace rational discourse. The fact that our constitution is compromised, the system itself is predicated on maintaining racial and religious superiority, makes any discussion about how the non-Malays react to such a system, their complicity in sustaining the system difficult to articulate.

The fault of UMNO and the Opposition is that nobody offered an alternative and Malaysians never expected anything better.

You know what the big difference is between the corruption scandals of UMNO back in the day and the one now is? The difference is that a vast majority of Malaysians kept voting UMNO-BN back then than they do now. This is a testament to not only the political strategies of Mahathir but also the apathy of the Malaysians. This of course is a boon for the Opposition because Mahathir seems to be the only person who can galvanise the opposition. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

 

Trump, Najib and The Controlled and Free Media


February 18, 2017

Trump, Najib and The Controlled and  Free Media

 

by Dean Johns@www.malaysiakini.com

Prime Minister of Malaysia (PMOM) Najib Abdul Razak must be feeling tremendously superior to his alleged erstwhile golfing buddy and recently-elected President of the United States (POTUS) Donald J.Trump, even without a chance to play a round with him recently.

Because, however many courses Trump owns, and however close to scratch his game might be, he’s competing at world-class level according to US and international rules in full view of a global gallery, and thus has no chance of hiding just how green, gruesomely handicapped and doomed to defeat that he thus far appears to be.

Whereas Najib plays mostly for Malaysia on a minor circuit restricted to such similar small-timers as North Korea and Zimbabwe, who all consider themselves winners because they not only make-up the rules of the game and fake their own scorecards, but also feel free to club anyone who dares criticise or oppose them into silence or submission.

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Or, in some special cases, to death, as in the current case of the alleged hit on a member of North Korea’s Kim family at the KL International Airport 2, or the murder and C4 dismemberment of Mongolian ‘model’ Altantuya Shaariibuu (pic above) in Kuala Lumpur a decade ago.

Image result for Half brother of North Korea's Dictator in Kuala Lumpur

No wonder POTUS Trump is so mightily teed-off at the way he’s thwarted at every stroke as he strives to triumph over obstacles like that mother of all sand-traps, the Middle East, and looming water hazards like the South China Sea, while simultaneously trying to deal with domestic challenges ranging from hostile Democrats and disaffected Republicans to hostile news media and intractable courts.

At least you’d imagine that a golfer as avid as Trump so evidently is would be aware of Theodore Roosevelt’s proverbial advice to himself and successive US Presidents to ‘speak softly and carry a big stick’.

But apparently not, as in the blustering press conference he held recently to praise his own allegedly ‘fine-tuned’ administration’s bumbling, stumbling performance in its first few weeks, he seemed rather to be still resorting to speaking glibly because he’s getting so much stick.

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Najib’s Team of Goofers

And if he’s even slightly sincere in his avowed desire to ‘make America great again’, he can look forward to getting even more stick in the future, in light of the fact that two of the principal principles that have contributed most to America’s self-perception as ‘great’ are the freedom of the press and the doctrine of the separation of powers underpinning the independence of the Judiciary.

And it is right here, of course, where Najib’s UMNO-BN regime, North Korea’s Kim dynasty, Zimbabwe’s Mugabe-figure eaded Zanu-PF gang and the similar dominant players in countless other no-account countries well and truly have the wood on Trump attempts to run the US.

Image result for Golfing Najib and Trump

Because while Trump can only endlessly and impotently repeat his lying refrain about the forces of ‘fake news’ that he claims are so ‘unfairly’ ranged against him, Najib, the Kims and Mugabes can, as they so efficiently have done, abolish independent news media, fake or otherwise, and create fake news in their own favour.

Thus, to refer back to the headline of this column, Najib easily trumps Trump in the management of negative or hostile news and views by the simple expedient of making sure there aren’t any. None that can be printed or broadcast, at least, as  UMNO-BN owns and controls all of Malaysia’s ‘mainstream’, or in other words, traditional news media. In contrast in the United States, freedom of expression is guaranteed by The First Amendment, making the media an independent and countervailing force in American society.

This blacking-out of bad news about Malaysia’s ruling regime is reinforced by an Official Secrets Act so severe as to cover virtually every activity of the government, the public services and crony based ‘government-linked corporations’ (GLCs), and of course backed-up by regime domination of the Judiciary which should by rights be Malaysian citizens’ final bulwark against the misrule of their country by the UMNO-BN ‘kleptocracy’.

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At least you’d imagine that a golfer as avid as Trump so evidently is would be aware of Theodore Roosevelt’s proverbial advice to himself and successive US presidents to ‘speak softly and carry a big stick’.

But apparently not, as in the blustering press conference he held recently to praise his own allegedly ‘fine-tuned’ administration’s bumbling, stumbling performance in its first few weeks, he seemed rather to be still resorting to speaking bitingly because he’s getting so much stick.

And if he’s even slightly sincere in his avowed desire to ‘make America great again’, he can look forward to getting even more stick in the future, in light of the fact that two of the principal principles that have contributed most to America’s self-perception as ‘great’ are the freedom of the press and the doctrine of the separation of powers underpinning the independence of the Judiciary.

And it is right here, of course, where Najib’s UMNO-BN regime, North Korea’s Kim dynasty, Zimbabwe’s Mugabe-figureheaded Zanu-PF gang and the similar dominant players in countless other no-account countries well and truly have the wood on Trump attempts to run the US.

Because while Trump can only endlessly and impotently repeat his lying refrain about the forces of ‘fake news’ that he claims are so ‘unfairly’ ranged against him, Najib, the Kims and Mugabes can, as they so efficiently have done, abolish independent news media, fake or otherwise, and create fake news in their own favour.

Thus, to refer back to the headline of this column, Najib easily trumps Trump in the management of negative or hostile news and views by the simple expedient of making sure there aren’t any. None that can be printed or broadcast, at least, as UMNO–BN either or both owns and controls all of Malaysia’s ‘mainstream’, or in other words traditional news media.

From left: Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, Steve Mnuchin and Sen. Jeff Sessions have all been nominated to high-profile positions in President-elect Trump’s Cabinet. Alex Wong/Getty Images; F. Carter Smith/Bloomberg via Getty Images; Drew Angerer/Getty Images; Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

This blacking-out of bad news about Malaysia’s ruling regime is reinforced by an Official Secrets Act so severe as to cover virtually every activity of the government, the civil services and crony so-called ‘government-linked corporations’ (GLCs), and of course  backed-up by regime domination of the Judiciary which should by right be Malaysian citizens’ final bulwark against the misrule of their country by the UMNO-BN ‘kleptocracy’.

One tiny flaw

Admittedly this game-winning strategy has one tiny flaw, which is that former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the man who devised and from whom Najib has inherited it, was so keen to create a world-class IT complex he grandly conceived as ‘Cyberjaya’ that he promised global players like Apple and Microsoft that he wouldn’t censor the Internet.

Cyberjaya, like so many of Mahathir’s alleged megalomanic projects, never really took off. But at least the Internet has surprisingly remained relatively free in Malaysia, and thus I can write what I like, or rather what my editors deem not so dangerously politically provocative as to get Malaysiakini raided or banned, in this column.

But Najib and his UMNO-BN accomplices and supporters are apparently quite prepared if not happy to tolerate this relatively minor annoyance, as it gives them a pretext on which to pretend they permit at least some slight degree of press freedom.

And in any event they must figure that however much bad news gets out about them, they can keep buying enough voters to keep them in power with money they SK1M from the public purse to fund annual hand-outs billed as BR1M, which Najib recently boasted increases in amount every year.

Or, to put this another way, there are always enough Malaysians prepared to be so D1M as to accept BR1M and in return to pretend that they’re unaware that Najib, like every one of his fellow UMNO-BN members and cronies, is a KR1M.

In short, though Najib Abdul Razak might seem to the embarrassed, embarrassing and deeply-embattled Donald Trump to be a winner in the contest between himself and the essential democratic institutions of truth, transparency and justice, the Malaysian people are the ‘sure-fire losers’.

Just as the American people will be if Trump and his goofers can’t be persuaded or if necessary forced to finally get themselves on the ball, stop playing around like dimwit banana-republic demagogues and realise that there’s as huge a gulf between their performance so far and true world leadership as between hit-and-giggle golf and the real thing.


DEAN JOHNS, after many years in Asia, currently lives with his Malaysian-born wife and daughter in Sydney, where he coaches and mentors writers and authors and practises as a writing therapist. Published books of his columns for Malaysiakini include ‘Mad about Malaysia’, ‘Even Madder about Malaysia’, ‘Missing Malaysia’, ‘1Malaysia.con’ and ‘Malaysia Mania’.

What is Up in Trump’s Washington


February 15, 2017

What is Up in Trump’s Washington after 2 weeks of the 45th Presidency

by Thomas L. Friedman

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The Parting of the Ways–“Mr. Patriotism” and his National Security Adviser, Lt- Gen (rtd) Michael Flynn

Thank God for the resignation in shame by Mike Flynn, President Trump’s National Security Adviser. And not just because he misled the vice president and engaged in deeply malignant behavior with Russia, but, more important, because maybe it will finally get the United States government, Congress and the news media to demand a proper answer to what is still the biggest national security question staring us in the face today: What is going on between Donald Trump and the Russians?

Sorry, Kellyanne Conway, I am not ready to just “move on.”

Every action, tweet and declaration by Trump throughout this campaign, his transition and his early presidency screams that he is compromised when it comes to the Russians.

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Who owns this Make America Great Again Guy?

I don’t know whether Russian oligarchs own him financially or whether Russian spies own him personally because of alleged indiscreet behavior during his trips to Moscow. But Trump’s willingness to attack allies like Australia, bluster at rivals like China, threaten enemies like Iran and North Korea and bully neighbors like Mexico — while consistently blowing kisses to Russian President Vladimir Putin — cannot be explained away by his mere desire to improve relations with Moscow to defeat the Islamic State. And the Flynn ouster gives our government another, desperately needed opportunity to demand the answers to these questions, starting with seeing the President’s tax returns.

We need to know whom Trump owes and who might own him, and we need to know it now. Save for a few patriotic Republican senators like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, the entire Republican Party is complicit in a shameful act of looking away at Trump’s inexplicable behavior toward Russia.

If Republicans want to know how they should be behaving on this issue, they should ask themselves what they would be saying and doing right now if a President Hillary Clinton had behaved toward Russia the way Trump has, and had her national security adviser been found hinting to the Russian ambassador to hold tight because a softer United States policy toward Russia was on its way.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan and  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell–Both should consider impeaching Trump when there is inscrutable evidence to do so, instead of looking away from this traversty. Loyalty has its limits.

House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, what are you thinking by looking away from this travesty? You both know that if the C.I.A., N.S.A. and F.B.I. had concluded that the Russians had intervened to help Hillary Clinton get elected you would have closed the government and demanded a new election. Now it’s all O.K.? So you can get some tax cuts? Gens. Jim Mattis and John Kelly, our new secretaries of defense and homeland security, you are great patriots who both put your lives on the line in uniform to defend American values from precisely the kind of attack Putin perpetrated. Are you O.K. with what’s going on?

We need to rerun the tape. Ladies and gentlemen, we were attacked on December  7, 1941, we were attacked on September 11, 2001, and we were attacked on November 8, 2016. That most recent attack didn’t involve a horrible loss of lives, but it was devastating in its own way. Our entire intelligence community concluded that Russia hacked our election by deliberately breaking into Democratic National Committee computers and then drip-by-drip funneling embarrassing emails through WikiLeaks to undermine Clinton’s campaign. And what have we done about it? Other than a wrist slap against Moscow, we’ve moved on.

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Turmoil beneath  the beautiful and calm Washington DC

I am not arguing that Trump is not the legitimate President; he won for many reasons. But I am arguing that he is not behaving like one. Trump presents himself as “Mr. Patriotism,” wrapped in the American flag. And yet he has used his Twitter account to attack BMW for building an auto plant in Mexico, Boeing for over charging for a government airplane, the cast of “Hamilton” for appealing to the vice president to reaffirm American pluralism, American newspapers for undercounting the size of his inauguration crowd and the actress Meryl Streep for calling him out for bullying a handicapped reporter. And yet “Mr. Patriotism” has barely uttered a word of criticism on Twitter or off about a Russian President who has intervened in our democratic process.

That’s not O.K. The Russians did not just hack into some emails or break into some banks in America. They attacked the very things that make America what it is — that makes it so special: “its rule of law and its democratic form of choosing and changing leaders,” said Nader Mousavizadeh, who was a senior adviser to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and co-leads the global consulting firm Macro Advisory Partners.

I am not looking to go to war with Russia over this. Back in the 1990s, this column was among the loudest voices warning against NATO expansion — that it would one day come back to haunt us, which it has, by making Russia feel threatened. I don’t care about Putin. His regime will fail because he is forever looking for dignity in all the wrong places, by drilling for oil and gas instead of unleashing the creativity of his people. But I am not willing to settle for evicting a few Russian agents and then moving on. We need to get to the truth, look it squarely in the eye and then act proportionately.

Trump and his senior aides have spent their first weeks in power doing nothing more than telling us how afraid we should be of Muslim immigrants who have not been properly vetted by our intelligence and immigration authorities. Well, Putin was vetted by the F.B.I., C.I.A. and N.S.A., and they concluded that he attacked our country’s most important institution — and Trump has acted as if he could not care less.

If the rest of us do the same, we’ll get the country we deserve, and it will not be great.


 

Sorry, President Trump. I agree with you.


February 4, 2017

Sorry, President Trump. I agree with you.

by Fareed Zakaria

Image result for fareed zakaria in davos, 2017

The challenge for the media must be to ensure that we don’t mirror Trump’s attitude of hostility. We cannot absorb and reflect that negativity. We are not the opposition. We are a civic institution, explicitly protected by the Constitution, that is meant to hold government accountable and provide real information to the citizenry. I hope to be able to do that. Along the way, when I have to, I will disagree vigorously with Donald Trump. But just as important, when warranted, whether he likes it or not, I will agree with him.–Fareed Zakaria

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/sorry-president-trump-i-agree-with-you/2017/02/02/95ab9daa-e98b-11e6-bf6f-301b6b443624_story.html?utm_term=.5696d0320c9c

After his spat with Mexico, after the travel ban, this week President Trump did something that surprised me. He put in place a policy with which I agreed. He placed a smart check on ever-proliferating federal regulations. His executive action requires any department that wants to add a regulation to get rid of two existing ones. It might seem gimmicky, but the British government instituted just this “one-in, two-out” rule in 2013 and it has worked well. In fact, while I find much of Trump’s worldview alarming, I generally agree with some important parts of his program — tax reform, infrastructure investment, deregulation, civil service reform. But the larger question I keep asking myself is: Does Trump want someone like me to agree with him?

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The Trump White House has decided that the best way to deal with any institution or group that might stand in its way is to relentlessly try to delegitimize it. This has led to a ferocious strategy of attack on the media, which the president now says is “the opposition party.” His chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, urges the media to “keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while.” Sean Hannity, the Fox News host who has become an unofficial spokesman for the White House, describes the media as “a bunch of overpaid, out of touch, lazy millionaires that have nothing but contempt for the people who do make this country great.”

At this point, one could note that, if we are to listen to America, almost 3 million more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than for Trump (who received a share of the popular vote that was lower than Mitt Romney’s, in fact lower than the share received by most of the losers of recent presidential elections). And as for which of these groups makes America great, I’m not sure what criteria to use, but if it is generating wealth and contributing to gross domestic product, it’s not even close. According to the Brookings Institution, the 500 counties won by Clinton produced 64 percent of U.S. economic output, while the 2,600 counties won by Trump produced just 36 percent of GDP. Use any economic measure — employment, start-ups, innovation — and the areas that score highest voted heavily against Trump.

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The Soft and Beautiful Side of President Donald J. Trump– First Lady Melania Trump

The much-maligned urban elites may be out of touch with the rest of the country, but they still pay its bills. A few years ago, the Economist compared how much each American state contributed to the federal coffers against the funds they received from Washington. The basic pattern is simple: It is blue states, which voted against Trump in 2016, that fund the red states that voted for him. From 1990 to 2009, Clinton states collectively paid $2.4 trillion more in federal taxes than they received in federal spending, while Trump states altogether received $1.3 trillion more than they paid.

Most presidents begin their tenure by trying to reach out to their political opponents, signaling that they want to represent those who didn’t vote for them as well as those who did, and generally trying to bring the country together. Trump has made almost no such effort, simply asserting that the country was divided before he was elected and thus absolving himself of any responsibility for unifying it. In office, he has mercilessly attacked anyone who dares to disagree with him, whether senators, prime ministers or student protesters. It might be a good way to play to his base, but it’s a terrible way to lead the country.

Image result for Quote from Christiane Amanpour

The challenge for the media must be to ensure that we don’t mirror Trump’s attitude of hostility. We cannot absorb and reflect that negativity. We are not the opposition. We are a civic institution, explicitly protected by the Constitution, that is meant to hold government accountable and provide real information to the citizenry. I hope to be able to do that. Along the way, when I have to, I will disagree vigorously with Donald Trump. But just as important, when warranted, whether he likes it or not, I will agree with him.