NY Times Editorial Board reacts to President Donald J. Trump’s Address to US Congress


March 1, 2017

NY Times Editorial Board reacts to President Donald J. Trump’s Address to US Congress

If there was a unifying theme to President Trump’s campaign, it was his pledge to serve America’s “forgotten men and women,” working people forsaken by the economy and Washington.

In his speech Tuesday night to a joint session of Congress, Mr. Trump presented himself as having made an aggressive start at championing the cause of working people, and promised a new era of rising wages, bustling factories and coal mines, sparkling air and water, and cheaper and better health care, all behind a “great great wall.” He told a few whoppers, but largely kept his eyes riveted to his teleprompter and his delivery subdued. He even opened his speech with a long-overdue condemnation of hate “in all of its very ugly forms.”

We heard again the same sorts of gauzy promises and assertions of a future Edenic America, a sort of Trumptopia, that characterized his campaign. He didn’t explain how he would get it all done, much less pay for any of it; indeed, it sounded at times as though he were still running for the job, rather than confronted with actually doing it. Across his first few weeks in office, Mr. Trump has shown little sign of delivering anything for working Americans beyond whatever satisfaction they may derive from watching him bait the Washington establishment and attack the reality-based media.

Mr. Trump likes to describe his chaotic first month as “promises kept.” Really? Remember how he promised during the campaign to “immediately” fix Obamacare and deliver “great health care for a fraction of the price”? He hasn’t even put a plan on the table. On Monday, he complained to the nation’s governors that “nobody knew” replacing Obamacare “could be so complicated.”

As in the campaign, Mr. Trump also promised Tuesday night to accelerate economic growth with a $1 trillion infrastructure plan. “Crumbling infrastructure,” he said, “will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways, gleaming across our very, very beautiful land.” Sounds great. What’s the plan? How will we pay for it? He wasn’t saying. He also renewed his promise of “massive tax relief” for the middle class — but once again there are no details in sight.

It is very early yet in this presidency — though it sure doesn’t feel that way — and Mr. Trump may yet keep some of his proliferating commitments to Americans.

But the plans he has put forward so far, and the few actions he has taken, do not bode well. He proposes to cut the health, disability and job-training programs that working people, as well as the poor, rely upon. Mr. Trump’s first big initiative was a draconian immigration ban, now mired in court challenges, that’s caused problems for businesses from Silicon Valley to Wisconsin. Mr. Trump proudly noted Tuesday that one of the administration’s first orders froze federal hiring, but he seems unaware that those jobs aren’t only in Washington, they’re in communities across the nation.

Mr. Trump has successfully started a national assault on unauthorized immigrants — and it is already tearing families apart and disrupting businesses, and is likely to cost billions without improving the fortunes of the working poor. On Tuesday he dangled the possibility of supporting some form of “merit based” immigration reform that would make struggling families “very very happy indeed.”

Again, that last bit sounds really nice. But it’s hard to escape the conclusion that, so far, the only working people the president has really delivered for are members of his own family, who are using his presidency as a brand-building opportunity, and former campaign officials, who are cashing in as lobbyists in Washington.

Yet Mr. Trump has certainly not forgotten America’s “forgotten men and women.” The White House is assiduously stoking their fears, grievances and prejudices, and selling photo-ops as accomplishments in order to portray an undisciplined, unfocused president as “President Action, President Impact.”

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Steve Bannon–The Strategic Thinker and Ideologue in the Trump White House

Meanwhile, he and his aides have counted on the protests of Americans outraged by his antics to create the appearance of an activist presidency. The cable shows are always on in the West Wing, where Stephen Bannon loves seeing split-screen television images with Mr. Trump meeting business executives on one side and opposition protest rallies on the other.

Mr. Trump closed his address to Congress by recalling the historic accomplishments of “the country’s builders and artists and inventors” and imagining what Americans can accomplish today. It’s time for the American President to do his job as well.

A version of this editorial appears in print on March 1, 2017, on Page A30 of the New York edition with the headline: Visions of Trumptopia.

Read Thomas Friedman’s article as well:

President Donald J. Trump’s Address at the Joint Session of the US Congress–February 28, 2017


March 1, 2017

President Donald J. Trump’s Address at the Joint Session of the US Congress–February 28, 2017

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Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, the First Lady of the United States, and Citizens of America:

Tonight, as we mark the conclusion of our celebration of Black History Month, we are reminded of our Nation’s path toward civil rights and the work that still remains.

Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a Nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.

Each American generation passes the torch of truth, liberty and justice — in an unbroken chain all the way down to the present.

That torch is now in our hands. And we will use it to light up the world. I am here tonight to deliver a message of unity and strength, and it is a message deeply delivered from my heart.

A new chapter of American Greatness is now beginning.

A new national pride is sweeping across our Nation.

And a new surge of optimism is placing impossible dreams firmly within our grasp.

What we are witnessing today is the Renewal of the American Spirit. Our allies will find that America is once again ready to lead.

All the nations of the world — friend or foe — will find that America is strong, America is proud, and America is free.

In nine years, the United States will celebrate the 250th anniversary of our founding — 250 years since the day we declared our Independence.

It will be one of the great milestones in the history of the world. But what will America look like as we reach our 250th year? What kind of country will we leave for our children?

I will not allow the mistakes of recent decades past to define the course of our future. For too long, we’ve watched our middle class shrink as we’ve exported our jobs and wealth to foreign countries.

We’ve financed and built one global project after another, but ignored the fates of our children in the inner cities of Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit — and so many other places throughout our land.

We’ve defended the borders of other nations, while leaving our own borders wide open, for anyone to cross — and for drugs to pour in at a now unprecedented rate.

And we’ve spent trillions of dollars overseas, while our infrastructure at home has so badly crumbled.

Then, in 2016, the earth shifted beneath our feet. The rebellion started as a quiet protest, spoken by families of all colors and creeds — families who just wanted a fair shot for their children, and a fair hearing for their concerns

But then the quiet voices became a loud chorus — as thousands of citizens now spoke out together, from cities small and large, all across our country.

Finally, the chorus became an earthquake — and the people turned out by the tens of millions, and they were all united by one very simple, but crucial demand, that America must put its own citizens first … because only then, can we truly MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.

Dying industries will come roaring back to life. Heroic veterans will get the care they so desperately need.

Our military will be given the resources its brave warriors so richly deserve.

Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways gleaming across our beautiful land.

Our terrible drug epidemic will slow down and ultimately, stop. And our neglected inner cities will see a rebirth of hope, safety, and opportunity.

Above all else, we will keep our promises to the American people.

It’s been a little over a month since my inauguration, and I want to take this moment to update the Nation on the progress I’ve made in keeping those promises.

Since my election, Ford, Fiat-Chrysler, General Motors, Sprint, Softbank, Lockheed, Intel, Walmart, and many others, have announced that they will invest billions of dollars in the United States and will create tens of thousands of new American jobs.

The stock market has gained almost three trillion dollars in value since the election on November 8, a record. We’ve saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars by bringing down the price of the fantastic new F-35 jet fighter, and will be saving billions more dollars on contracts all across our Government. We have placed a hiring freeze on non-military and non-essential Federal workers.

We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption by imposing a 5 year ban on lobbying by executive branch officials — and a lifetime ban on becoming lobbyists for a foreign government.

We have undertaken a historic effort to massively reduce job‑crushing regulations, creating a deregulation task force inside of every Government agency; imposing a new rule which mandates that for every 1 new regulation, 2 old regulations must be eliminated; and stopping a regulation that threatens the future and livelihoods of our great coal miners.

We have cleared the way for the construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines — thereby creating tens of thousands of jobs — and I’ve issued a new directive that new American pipelines be made with American steel.

We have withdrawn the United States from the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership.

With the help of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, we have formed a Council with our neighbors in Canada to help ensure that women entrepreneurs have access to the networks, markets and capital they need to start a business and live out their financial dreams.

To protect our citizens, I have directed the Department of Justice to form a Task Force on Reducing Violent Crime.

I have further ordered the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice, along with the Department of State and the Director of National Intelligence, to coordinate an aggressive strategy to dismantle the criminal cartels that have spread across our Nation.

 We will stop the drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth — and we will expand treatment for those who have become so badly addicted.

At the same time, my Administration has answered the pleas of the American people for immigration enforcement and border security. By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone. We want all Americans to succeed — but that can’t happen in an environment of lawless chaos. We must restore integrity and the rule of law to our borders.

For that reason, we will soon begin the construction of a great wall along our southern border. It will be started ahead of schedule and, when finished, it will be a very effective weapon against drugs and crime.

As we speak, we are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our citizens. Bad ones are going out as I speak tonight and as I have promised.

To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws, I would ask you this question: what would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or a loved one, because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?

Our obligation is to serve, protect, and defend the citizens of the United States. We are also taking strong measures to protect our Nation from Radical Islamic Terrorism.

According to data provided by the Department of Justice, the vast majority of individuals convicted for terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country. We have seen the attacks at home — from Boston to San Bernardino to the Pentagon and yes, even the World Trade Center.

We have seen the attacks in France, in Belgium, in Germany and all over the world.

It is not compassionate, but reckless, to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur. Those given the high honor of admission to the United States should support this country and love its people and its values.

We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America — we cannot allow our Nation to become a sanctuary for extremists.

That is why my Administration has been working on improved vetting procedures, and we will shortly take new steps to keep our Nation safe — and to keep out those who would do us harm.

As promised, I directed the Department of Defense to develop a plan to demolish and destroy ISIS — a network of lawless savages that have slaughtered Muslims and Christians, and men, women, and children of all faiths and beliefs. We will work with our allies, including our friends and allies in the Muslim world, to extinguish this vile enemy from our planet.

I have also imposed new sanctions on entities and individuals who support Iran’s ballistic missile program, and reaffirmed our unbreakable alliance with the State of Israel.

Finally, I have kept my promise to appoint a Justice to the United States Supreme Court — from my list of 20 judges — who will defend our Constitution.

I am honored to have Maureen Scalia with us in the gallery tonight. Her late, great husband, Antonin Scalia, will forever be a symbol of American justice. To fill his seat, we have chosen Judge Neil Gorsuch, a man of incredible skill, and deep devotion to the law. He was confirmed unanimously to the Court of Appeals, and I am asking the Senate to swiftly approve his nomination.

Tonight, as I outline the next steps we must take as a country, we must honestly acknowledge the circumstances we inherited.

Ninety-four million Americans are out of the labor force.Over 43 million people are now living in poverty, and over 43 million Americans are on food stamps.

More than 1 in 5 people in their prime working years are not working.We have the worst financial recovery in 65 years.

In the last 8 years, the past Administration has put on more new debt than nearly all other Presidents combined.

We’ve lost more than one-fourth of our manufacturing jobs since NAFTA was approved, and we’ve lost 60,000 factories since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

Our trade deficit in goods with the world last year was nearly $800 billion dollars. And overseas, we have inherited a series of tragic foreign policy disasters.

Solving these, and so many other pressing problems, will require us to work past the differences of party. It will require us to tap into the American spirit that has overcome every challenge throughout our long and storied history.

But to accomplish our goals at home and abroad, we must restart the engine of the American economy — making it easier for companies to do business in the United States, and much harder for companies to leave.

Now, American companies are taxed at one of the highest rates anywhere in the world.

My economic team is developing historic tax reform that will reduce the tax rate on our companies so they can compete and thrive anywhere and with anyone. At the same time, we will provide massive tax relief for the middle class.

We must create a level playing field for American companies and workers

Currently, when we ship products out of America, many other countries make us pay very high tariffs and taxes — but when foreign companies ship their products into America, we charge them almost nothing.

I just met with officials and workers from a great American company, Harley-Davidson. In fact, they proudly displayed five of their magnificent motorcycles, made in the USA, on the front lawn of the White House.

At our meeting, I asked them, how are you doing, how is business? They said that it’s good. I asked them further how they are doing with other countries, mainly international sales. They told me — without even complaining because they have been mistreated for so long that they have become used to it — that it is very hard to do business with other countries because they tax our goods at such a high rate. They said that in one case another country taxed their motorcycles at 100 percent. They weren’t even asking for change. But I am. I believe strongly in free trade but it also has to be FAIR TRADE.

The first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, warned that the “abandonment of the protective policy by the American Government [will] produce want and ruin among our people.”

Lincoln was right — and it is time we heeded his words. I am not going to let America and its great companies and workers, be taken advantage of anymore.

I am going to bring back millions of jobs. Protecting our workers also means reforming our system of legal immigration. The current, outdated system depresses wages for our poorest workers, and puts great pressure on taxpayers.

Nations around the world, like Canada, Australia and many others — have a merit-based immigration system. It is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially. Yet, in America, we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon. According to the National Academy of Sciences, our current immigration system costs America’s taxpayers many billions of dollars a year

Switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system, will have many benefits: it will save countless dollars, raise workers’ wages, and help struggling families — including immigrant families — enter the middle class.

I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible, as long as we focus on the following goals: to improve jobs and wages for Americans, to strengthen our nation’s security, and to restore respect for our laws.

If we are guided by the well-being of American citizens then I believe Republicans and Democrats can work together to achieve an outcome that has eluded our country for decades.

Another Republican President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, initiated the last truly great national infrastructure program — the building of the interstate highway system. The time has come for a new program of national rebuilding.

America has spent approximately six trillion dollars in the Middle East, all this while our infrastructure at home is crumbling. With this six trillion dollars we could have rebuilt our country — twice. And maybe even three times if we had people who had the ability to negotiate

To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking the Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in the infrastructure of the United States — financed through both public and private capital — creating millions of new jobs.

This effort will be guided by two core principles: Buy American, and Hire American.

Tonight, I am also calling on this Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare with reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and at the same time, provide better Healthcare.

Mandating every American to buy government-approved health insurance was never the right solution for America. The way to make health insurance available to everyone is to lower the cost of health insurance, and that is what we will do.

Obamacare premiums nationwide have increased by double and triple digits. As an example, Arizona went up 116 percent last year alone. Governor Matt Bevin of Kentucky just said Obamacare is failing in his State — it is unsustainable and collapsing.

One third of counties have only one insurer on the exchanges — leaving many Americans with no choice at all

Remember when you were told that you could keep your doctor, and keep your plan? We now know that all of those promises have been broken.

 Obamacare is collapsing — and we must act decisively to protect all Americans. Action is not a choice — it is a necessity.

So I am calling on all Democrats and Republicans in the Congress to work with us to save Americans from this imploding Obamacare disaster.

Here are the principles that should guide the Congress as we move to create a better healthcare system for all Americans:

First, we should ensure that Americans with pre-existing conditions have access to coverage, and that we have a stable transition for Americans currently enrolled in the healthcare exchanges.

Secondly, we should help Americans purchase their own coverage, through the use of tax credits and expanded Health Savings Accounts — but it must be the plan they want, not the plan forced on them by the Government.

 Thirdly, we should give our great State Governors the resources and flexibility they need with Medicaid to make sure no one is left out.

Fourthly, we should implement legal reforms that protect patients and doctors from unnecessary costs that drive up the price of insurance — and work to bring down the artificially high price of drugs and bring them down immediately.

Finally, the time has come to give Americans the freedom to purchase health insurance across State lines — creating a truly competitive national marketplace that will bring cost way down and provide far better care.

Everything that is broken in our country can be fixed. Every problem can be solved. And every hurting family can find healing, and hope.

Our citizens deserve this, and so much more — so why not join forces to finally get it done? On this and so many other things, Democrats and Republicans should get together and unite for the good of our country, and for the good of the American people.

My administration wants to work with members in both parties to make childcare accessible and affordable, to help ensure new parents have paid family leave, to invest in women’s health, and to promote clean air and clear water, and to rebuild our military and our infrastructure.

True love for our people requires us to find common ground, to advance the common good, and to cooperate on behalf of every American child who deserves a brighter future.

An incredible young woman is with us this evening who should serve as an inspiration to us all.

Today is Rare Disease day, and joining us in the gallery is a Rare Disease Survivor, Megan Crowley. Megan was diagnosed with Pompe Disease, a rare and serious illness, when she was 15 months old. She was not expected to live past 5.

On receiving this news, Megan’s dad, John, fought with everything he had to save the life of his precious child. He founded a company to look for a cure, and helped develop the drug that saved Megan’s life.

Today she is 20 years old — and a sophomore at Notre Dame. Megan’s story is about the unbounded power of a father’s love for a daughter.

But our slow and burdensome approval process at the Food and Drug Administration keeps too many advances, like the one that saved Megan’s life, from reaching those in need.

If we slash the restraints, not just at the FDA but across our Government, then we will be blessed with far more miracles like Megan. In fact, our children will grow up in a Nation of miracles.But to achieve this future, we must enrich the mind — and the souls — of every American child.

Education is the civil rights issue of our time. I am calling upon Members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children. These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them.

We want all children to be able to break the cycle of poverty just like Denisha. But to break the cycle of poverty, we must also break the cycle of violence. The murder rate in 2015 experienced its largest single-year increase in nearly half a century.

In Chicago, more than 4,000 people were shot last year alone — and the murder rate so far this year has been even higher. This is not acceptable in our society.

Every American child should be able to grow up in a safe community, to attend a great school, and to have access to a high-paying job. But to create this future, we must work with — not against — the men and women of law enforcement.

We must build bridges of cooperation and trust — not drive the wedge of disunity and division.

Police and sheriffs are members of our community. They are friends and neighbors, they are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters — and they leave behind loved ones every day who worry whether or not they’ll come home safe and sound. We must support the incredible men and women of law enforcement. And we must support the victims of crime.

I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American Victims. The office is called VOICE — Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement. We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests.

Joining us in the audience tonight are four very brave Americans whose government failed them.Their names are Jamiel Shaw, Susan Oliver, Jenna Oliver, and Jessica Davis.

Jamiel’s 17-year-old son was viciously murdered by an illegal immigrant gang member, who had just been released from prison. Jamiel Shaw Jr. was an incredible young man, with unlimited potential who was getting ready to go to college where he would have excelled as a great quarterback. But he never got the chance. His father, who is in the audience tonight, has become a good friend of mine.

Also with us are Susan Oliver and Jessica Davis. Their husbands — Deputy Sheriff Danny Oliver and Detective Michael Davis — were slain in the line of duty in California. They were pillars of their community. These brave men were viciously gunned down by an illegal immigrant with a criminal record and two prior deportations

Sitting with Susan is her daughter, Jenna. Jenna: I want you to know that your father was a hero, and that tonight you have the love of an entire country supporting you and praying for you.

To Jamiel, Jenna, Susan and Jessica: I want you to know — we will never stop fighting for justice. Your loved ones will never be forgotten, we will always honor their memory.

Finally, to keep America Safe we must provide the men and women of the United States military with the tools they need to prevent war and — if they must — to fight and to win.

I am sending the Congress a budget that rebuilds the military, eliminates the Defense sequester, and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.

My budget will also increase funding for our veterans. Our veterans have delivered for this Nation — and now we must deliver for them.

The challenges we face as a Nation are great. But our people are even greater. And none are greater or braver than those who fight for America in uniform.

We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of a U.S. Navy Special Operator, Senior Chief William “Ryan” Owens. Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero — battling against terrorism and securing our Nation.

I just spoke to General Mattis, who reconfirmed that, and I quote, “Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.” Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity.

For as the Bible teaches us, there is no greater act of love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom — we will never forget him.

To those allies who wonder what kind of friend America will be, look no further than the heroes who wear our uniform.

Our foreign policy calls for a direct, robust and meaningful engagement with the world. It is American leadership based on vital security interests that we share with our allies across the globe.

We strongly support NATO, an alliance forged through the bonds of two World Wars that dethroned fascism, and a Cold War that defeated communism.But our partners must meet their financial obligations.

And now, based on our very strong and frank discussions, they are beginning to do just that.

We expect our partners, whether in NATO, in the Middle East, or the Pacific — to take a direct and meaningful role in both strategic and military operations, and pay their fair share of the cost.

We will respect historic institutions, but we will also respect the sovereign rights of nations.

Free nations are the best vehicle for expressing the will of the people — and America respects the right of all nations to chart their own path. My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America. But we know that America is better off, when there is less conflict — not more.

We must learn from the mistakes of the past — we have seen the war and destruction that have raged across our world.

The only long-term solution for these humanitarian disasters is to create the conditions where displaced persons can safely return home and begin the long process of rebuilding.

America is willing to find new friends, and to forge new partnerships, where shared interests align. We want harmony and stability, not war and conflict.

We want peace, wherever peace can be found. America is friends today with former enemies. Some of our closest allies, decades ago, fought on the opposite side of these World Wars. This history should give us all faith in the possibilities for a better world.

Hopefully, the 250th year for America will see a world that is more peaceful, more just and more free.

On our 100th anniversary, in 1876, citizens from across our Nation came to Philadelphia to celebrate America’s centennial. At that celebration, the country’s builders and artists and inventors showed off their creations.

Alexander Graham Bell displayed his telephone for the first time.Remington unveiled the first typewriter. An early attempt was made at electric light Thomas Edison showed an automatic telegraph and an electric pen.

Imagine the wonders our country could know in America’s 250th year. Think of the marvels we can achieve if we simply set free the dreams of our people.

Cures to illnesses that have always plagued us are not too much to hope. American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream.

Millions lifted from welfare to work is not too much to expect. And streets where mothers are safe from fear — schools where children learn in peace — and jobs where Americans prosper and grow — are not too much to ask.

When we have all of this, we will have made America greater than ever before. For all Americans. This is our vision. This is our mission. But we can only get there together. We are one people, with one destiny. We all bleed the same blood. We all salute the same flag.And we are all made by the same God.

And when we fulfill this vision; when we celebrate our 250 years of glorious freedom, we will look back on tonight as when this new chapter of American Greatness began.

The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us. We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts.

The bravery to express the hopes that stir our souls. And the confidence to turn those hopes and dreams to action. From now on, America will be empowered by our aspirations, not burdened by our fears —inspired by the future, not bound by the failures of the past and guided by our vision, not blinded by our doubts.

I am asking all citizens to embrace this Renewal of the American Spirit. I am asking all members of Congress to join me in dreaming big, and bold and daring things for our country. And I am asking everyone watching tonight to seize this moment and —

Believe in yourselves. Believe in your future. And believe, once more, in America.

Thank you, God bless you, and God Bless the United States.

Senator (Vermont) Bernie Sanders’ Response to President Donald Trump’s Address to Congress

North Korea’s spy network in Kuala Lumpur–What’s Up Mr. Najib?


March 1, 2017

North Korea’s spy network in Kuala Lumpur–What’s Up Mr. Najib?

by James Pearson and Rozanna Latiff
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It is in Kuala Lumpur’s “Little India” neighborhood, behind an unmarked door on the second floor of a rundown building, where a military equipment company called Glocom says it has its office.

Glocom is a front company run by North Korean intelligence agents that sells battlefield radio equipment in violation of United Nations sanctions, according to a United Nations report submitted to the Security Council seen by Reuters.

Reuters found that Glocom advertises over 30 radio systems for “military and paramilitary” organizations on its Malaysian website, glocom.com.my.

Glocom’s Malaysian website, which was taken down late last year, listed the Little India address in its contacts section. No one answers the door there and the mailbox outside is stuffed with unopened letters.

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IGP Khalid Abu Bakar–Would you entrust this nincompoop with the safety of your cat? Think again

In fact, no company by that name exists in Malaysia. But two Malaysian companies controlled by North Korean shareholders and directors registered Glocom’s website in 2009, according to website and company registration documents.

And it does have a business, the unreleased U.N. report says. Last July, an air shipment of North Korean military communications equipment, sent from China and bound for Eritrea, was intercepted in an unnamed country. The seized equipment included 45 boxes of battlefield radios and accessories labeled “Glocom”, short for Global Communications Co.

Glocom is controlled by the Reconnaissance General Bureau, the North Korean intelligence agency tasked with overseas operations and weapons procurement, the report says, citing undisclosed information it obtained.

A spokesman for North Korea’s mission at the U.N. told Reuters he had no information about Glocom.

U.N. resolution 1874, adopted in 2009, expanded the arms embargo against North Korea to include military equipment and all “related materiel”.

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Only Emeritus POTUS Barrack Obama trusts him

But implementation of the sanctions “remains insufficient and highly inconsistent” among member countries, the U.N. report says, and North Korea is using “evasion techniques that are increasing in scale, scope and sophistication.”

Malaysia is one of the few countries in the world which had strong ties with North Korea. Their citizens can travel to each other’s countries without visas. But those ties have begun to sour after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s estranged half-brother was murdered at Kuala Lumpur’s international airport on Feb 13.

PAN SYSTEMS

According to the “WHOIS” database, which discloses website ownership, Glocom.com.my was registered in 2009 by an entity called International Global System using the “Little India” address. A similarly named company, International Golden Services is listed as the contact point on Glocom’s website.

Glocom registered a new website, glocom-corp.com, in mid-December, this one showing no Malaysian contacts. Its most recent post is dated January, 2017 and advertises new products, including a remote control system for a precision-guided missile.

Glocom is operated by the Pyongyang branch of a Singapore-based company called Pan Systems, the U.N. report says, citing an invoice and other information it obtained.

Louis Low, managing director of Pan Systems in Singapore said his company used to have an office in Pyongyang from 1996 but officially ended relations with North Korea in 2010 and was no longer in control of any business there.

“They use (the) Pan Systems (name) and say it’s a foreign company, but they operate everything by themselves,” Low told Reuters referring to the North Koreans at the Pyongyang office.

Pan Systems Pyongyang utilized bank accounts, front companies and agents mostly based in China and Malaysia to buy components and sell completed radio systems, the U.N. report says. Pan Systems Pyongyang could not be reached for comment.

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Malaysia’s Home Affairs Minister–He has some explaining to do to Parliament. Does he really care?

One of the directors of Pan Systems Pyongyang is Ryang Su Nyo. According to a source with direct knowledge of her background, Ryang reports to “Liaison Office 519”, a department in the Reconnaissance General Bureau. Ryang is also listed as a shareholder of International Global System, the company that registered Glocom’s website.

Reuters has not been able to contact Ryang.

SMUGGLING CASH

Ryang frequently traveled to Singapore and Malaysia to meet with Pan Systems representatives, the U.N. report says.

On one such trip in February 2014, she and two other North Koreans were detained in Malaysia for attempting to smuggle $450,000 through customs at Kuala Lumpur’s budget airport terminal, two sources with direct knowledge of the situation told Reuters.

The North Korean trio told Malaysian authorities they all worked for Pan Systems and the cash belonged to the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur, according to the two sources.

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Attorney-General Apandi Ali and Head of Malaysia’s Judiciary–Two of a Kind

The Malaysian Attorney-General decided not to press charges because of insufficient evidence. A week later, the trio was allowed to travel, and the North Korean embassy claimed the cash, the sources said. All three had passports assigned to government officials, the sources said.

Malaysia’s Customs Department and the Attorney General’s office did not respond to requests for comment over the weekend.

The Pan Systems representative in Kuala Lumpur is a North Korean by the name of Kim Chang Hyok, the U.N. report says.

Kim, who also goes by James Kim, was a founding director of International Golden Services, the company listed in the contacts section of the Glocom website. Kim is director and shareholder of four other companies in Malaysia operating in the fields of IT and trade, according to the Malaysian company registry.He did not respond to requests for comment by mail or email.

The United Nations panel, which prepared the draft report, asked the Malaysian government if it would expel Kim and freeze the assets of International Golden Services and International Global System to comply with U.N. sanctions. The U.N. did not say when it made the request.

“The panel has yet to receive an answer,” the report said. Reuters has not received a response from the Malaysian government to repeated requests for comment about Glocom.

POLITICAL CONNECTION

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One of Glocom’s early partners in Malaysia was Mustapha Ya’akub, a prominent member of Malaysia’s ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). Since 2014, he has been listed as a director of International Golden Services.

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UMNO Youth’s Dato’ Mustapha Ya’akub

As secretary of the UMNO youth wing’s international affairs bureau, Mustapha fostered political connections in the 1990s with countries, such as Iran, Libya and North Korea. Glocom’s Little India address once housed a company owned by UMNO Youth.

Mustapha, 67, said he had been a Glocom business partner “many years back” and said it has been continuously controlled by several North Koreans, including Kim Chang Hyok, whom he said he knew. He did not divulge his role in the company, and denied any knowledge of Glocom’s current business.

“We thought at the time it might be a good idea to go into business together,” Mustapha told Reuters about his first meeting with his North Korean business contacts. He did not say who those contacts were or what they discussed. He denied any knowledge of Glocom’s current business.

Glocom advertises and exhibits its wares without disclosing its North Korean connections. “Anywhere, Anytime in Battlefield,” reads the slogan on one of several 2017 Glocom catalogs obtained by Reuters.

An advertisement in the September 2012 edition of the Asian Military Review said Glocom develops radios and equipment for “military and paramilitary organizations”.  A spokesman for the magazine confirmed the ad had been bought by Glocom, but said the magazine was unaware of its alleged links to North Korea.

Glocom has exhibited at least three times since 2006 at Malaysia’s biennial arms show, Defence Services Asia (DSA), according to Glocom’s website. At DSA 2016, Glocom paid 2,000 ringgit ($450) to share a table in the booth of Malaysia’s Integrated Securities Corporation, its director Hassan Masri told Reuters by email.

Hassan said he had nothing to do with Glocom’s equipment and was unaware of its alleged links to North Korea. Aside from the North Koreans behind Glocom, clues on its website also point to its North Korean origins.

For instance, one undated photo shows a factory worker testing a Glocom radio system. A plaque nearby shows the machine he is using has won a uniquely North Korean award: The Model Machine No. 26 Prize,” named in honor of late leader Kim Jong Il, who is said to have efficiently operated “Lathe No. 26” at the Pyongyang Textile Factory when he was a student.

(Reporting by James Pearson and Rozanna Latiff. Additional reporting by Nicole Nee in SINGAPORE, Michelle Price in HONG KONG and Ned Parker in New York.; Editing by Bill Tarrant.)

 

Is American Democracy Strong Enough for Trump?


February 28, 2017

Is American Democracy Strong Enough for Trump?

The case against panic.

As an American citizen, I have been rather appalled, like many others, at the rise of Donald Trump. I find it hard to imagine a personality less suited by temperament and background to be the leader of the world’s foremost democracy.

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“The End of History” (Liberal Demorcacy) under Threat

On the other hand, as a political scientist, I am looking ahead to his presidency with great interest, since it will be a fascinating test of how strong American institutions are. Americans believe deeply in the legitimacy of their constitutional system, in large measure because its checks and balances were designed to provide safeguards against tyranny and the excessive concentration of executive power. But that system in many ways has never been challenged by a leader who sets out to undermine its existing norms and rules. So we are embarked in a great natural experiment that will show whether the United States is a nation of laws or a nation of men.

President Trump differs from almost every single one of his 43 predecessors in a variety of important ways. His business career has shown a single-minded determination to maximize his own self-interest and to get around inconvenient rules whenever they stood in his way, for example by forcing contractors to sue him in order to be paid. He was elected on the basis of a classic populist campaign, mobilizing a passionate core of largely working-class voters who believe—often quite rightly—that the system has not been working for them. He has attacked the entire elite in Washington, including his own party, as being part of a corrupt cabal that he hopes to unseat. He has already violated countless informal norms concerning presidential decorum, including overt and egregious lying, and has sought to undermine the legitimacy of any number of established institutions, from the intelligence community (which he compared to Nazis) to the Federal Reserve (which he accused of trying to elect Hillary Clinton) to the American system of electoral administration (which he said was rigged, until he won).

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Dr. Daron Acemoglu–Nations can fail and why?

Daron Acemoglu, an economist who studies failing states, has argued that American checks and balances are not as strong as Americans typically believe: Congress is controlled by Trump’s party and will do his bidding; the judiciary can be shifted by new appointments to the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary; and the executive branch bureaucracy’s 4,000 political appointees will bend their agencies to the president’s will. The elites who opposed him are coming around to accepting him as normal president. He could also have argued that the mainstream media, which thinks of itself as a fourth branch holding the president accountable, is under relentless attack from Trump and his followers as politicized purveyors of “fake news.” Acemoglu argues that the main source of resistance now is civil society, that is, mobilization of millions of ordinary citizens to protest Trump’s policies and excesses, like the marches that took place in Washington and cities around the country the day after the inauguration.

Acemoglu is right that civil society is a critical check on presidential power, and that it is necessary for the progressive left to come out of its election funk and mobilize to support policies they favor. I suspect, however, that America’s institutional system is stronger than portrayed. I argue in my most recent book that the American political system in fact has too many checks and balances, and should be streamlined to permit more decisive government action. Although Trump’s arrival in the White House creates huge worries about potential abuses of power, I still believe that my earlier position is correct, and that the rise of an American strongman is actually a response to the earlier paralysis of the political system. More paralysis is not the answer, despite the widespread calls for “resistance” on the left.

Many institutional checks on power will continue to operate in a Trump presidency. While Republicans are celebrating their control of both houses of Congress and the presidency, there are huge ideological divisions within their coalition. Trump is a populist nationalist who seems to believe in strong government, not a small-government conservative, and this fracture will emerge as the new administration deals with issues from ending Obamacare to funding infrastructure projects. Trump can indeed change the judiciary, or more troubling, simply ignore court decisions and try to delegitimize those judges standing in his way. But shifting the balance in the courts is a very slow process whose effects will not be fully felt for a number of years. More overt attacks on the judiciary will produce great blowback, as happened when he attacked Federal District Judge Gonzalo Curiel during the campaign.

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The Republican TrioU.S. President-elect Donald Trump (centre), U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Destruction of American Democracy

Trump will have enormous difficulties controlling the executive branch, as anyone who has worked in it would understand. Many of Trump’s Cabinet appointees, like James Mattis, Rex Tillerson and Nikki Haley, have already expressed views clearly at odds with his. Even if they are loyal, it takes a huge amount of skill and experience to master America’s enormous bureaucracy. It is true that the U.S. has a far higher number of political appointees than other democracies. But Trump does not come into office with a huge cadre of loyal supporters that he can insert into the bureaucracy. He has never run anything bigger than a large family business, and does not have 4,000 children or in-laws available to staff the U.S. government. Many of the new assistant and deputy secretaries will be Republican careerists with no particular personal ties to El Jefe.

Finally, there is American federalism. Washington does not control the agenda on a host of issues. Undermining Obamacare on a federal level will shift a huge burden onto the states, including those run by Republican governors who will have to balance budgets on the backs of the default from Washington. California, where I live, is virtually a different country from Trumpland and will make its own environmental rules regardless of what the President says or does.

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Image result for Nikki Haley and Rex TillersonGen. James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley–The Counter Trump Trio in the 45th Administration?

In the end, Trump’s ability to break through institutional constraints will ultimately come down to politics, and in particular to the support he gets from other Republicans. His strategy right now is clear: He wants to use his “movement” to intimidate anyone who gets in the way of his policy agenda. And he hopes to intimidate the mainstream media by discrediting them and undermining their ability to hold him accountable. He is trying to do this, however, using a core base that is no more than a quarter to a third of the American electorate. There are already enough Republican senators who might break with the administration on issues like Russia or Obamacare to deny their party a majority in that body. And Trump has not done a great job since Election Day in alleviating the skepticism of anyone outside of his core group of supporters, as his steadily sagging poll numbers indicate. Demonizing the media on the second day of your administration does not bode well for your ability to use it as a megaphone to get the word out and persuade those not already on your side.

While I hope that all of these checks will operate to constrain Trump, I continue to believe that we need to change the rules to make government more effective by reducing certain checks that have paralyzed government. Democrats should not imitate the behavior of Republicans under President Barack Obama and oppose every single initiative or appointee coming out of the White House. It is absurd that any one of 100 senators can veto any mid-level executive branch appointee they want. In some respects, unified government will alleviate some of our recent dysfunctions, which Trump’s opponents need to recognize.

The last time Congress passed all of its spending bills under “regular order” was two decades ago. The U.S. desperately needs to spend more money on its military to meet challenges from countries like China and Russia; it has not been able to do so because the Defense Department was operating under the 2013 sequester that was in turn the product of congressional gridlock.

Or take infrastructure, which is the one part of the Trump agenda that I (and many Democrats) would support. The country has been gridlocked here as well, with the biggest source of opposition being the Tea Party wing of Trump’s own party, who would have stymied Hillary Clinton’s own initiative had she been elected instead. Trump has the opportunity now to break with the Freedom Caucus in the House and push for major new spending on infrastructure, which he could do with help from Nancy Pelosi’s Democrats.

Even so, such an initiative will face enormous obstacles due to the layers of regulation at federal and state levels. It is these small checks that make new infrastructure projects so costly and protracted. Anyone serious about the substance of this policy should see this an opportunity to streamline this process.

It is important to remember that one of the reasons for Trump’s rise is the accurate perception that the American political system was in many respects broken—captured by special interests and paralyzed by its inability to make or implement basic decisions. This, not a sudden affinity for Russia, is why the idea of a Putin-like strongman has suddenly gained appeal in America. The way democratic accountability is supposed to work is for the dominant party to be allowed to govern, and then be held accountable in two or four years time for the results it has produced.

Continued stalemate and paralysis will only convince people that the system is so fundamentally broken that it needs to be saved by a leader who can break all rules—if not Trump, then a successor

So I’m willing to let Trump govern without trying to obstruct every single initiative that comes from him. I don’t think his policies will work, and I believe the American people will see this very soon. However, the single most dangerous abuses of power are ones affecting the system’s future accountability.

What the new generation of populist-nationalists like Putin, Chávez in Venezuela, Erdogan in Turkey, and Orbán in Hungary have done is to tilt the playing field to make sure they can never be removed from power in the future. That process has already been underway for some time in America, through Republican gerrymandering of congressional districts and the use of voter ID laws to disenfranchise potential Democratic voters. The moment that the field is so tilted that accountability becomes impossible is when the system shifts from being a real liberal democracy to being an electoral authoritarian one.

Trump and New World Order


February 28, 2017

Trump and New World Order

Brought to you by Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy featuring Dr. Amitav Acharya

Published on Feb 27, 2017

The election of Donald J. Trump as the US President has caused much anxiety about its damage to the liberal international order. But Trump is the consequence, rather than the cause, of the crisis and decline of the existing order. That decline, as foretold in Acharya’s 2014 book, The End of American World Order, has to do with the liberal order’s own internal limitations – aggravated by a long-power shift in world politics – that a complacent liberal establishment in the West had glossed over earlier. Recognizing the broader and multifaceted nature of those challenges is key to any hopes for building world order 2.0: a decentered and pluralistic Multiplex World, with its own challenges and opportunities.

Amitav Acharya is the Boeing Company Chair in International Relations at the Schwarzman Scholars Program, Tsinghua University, Beijing, and Distinguished Professor of International Relations and the UNESCO Chair in Transnational Challenges and Governance at the School of International Service, American University, Washington, DC.

This talk is moderated by Prof Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS.

Asian ports: Pitfalls of China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative


February 26, 2017

Asian ports: Pitfalls of China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative

http://newsrescue.com/asian-ports-pitfalls-chinas-one-belt-one-road-initiative/#ixzz4Zk0X6z2F

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Troubled ports in Pakistan and Sri Lanka exemplify political pitfalls that threaten Beijing’s ambitious One Belt, One Road project.

By James M. Dorsey

Troubled ports in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, envisioned as part of China’s string of pearls linking the Eurasian heartland to the Middle Kingdom, exemplify political pitfalls that threaten Beijing’s ambitious One Belt, One Road project.

Political violence over the past decade has stopped Pakistan’s Gwadar port from emerging as a major trans-shipment hub in Chinese trade and energy supplies while turmoil in Sri Lanka threatens to dissuade Chinese investors from sinking billions into the country’s struggling Hambantota port and planned economic hub.

The problems of the two ports serve as pointers to simmering discontent and potential resistance to China’s ploy for dominance through cross-continental infrastructure linkage across a swath of land that is restive and ripe for political change.

Chinese, Pakistani and Russian officials warned in December that militant groups in Afghanistan, including the Islamic State (IS) had stepped up operations in Afghanistan. IS in cooperation with the Pakistani Taliban launched two months later a wave of attacks that has targeted government, law enforcement, the military and minorities and has killed hundreds of people.

China is investing $51 billion in Pakistan infrastructure and energy, including Gwadar port in the troubled province of Balochistan that is struggling to attract business nine years after it was initially inaugurated. The government announced this week that it had deployed 15,000 troops to protect China’s investment in Pakistan, a massive project dubbed the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

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For Gwadar to become truly viable, Pakistan will have to not only address Baluch grievances that have prompted militancy and calls for greater self-rule, if not independence, but also ensure that Baluchistan does not become a playground in the bitter struggle for regional hegemony between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

To do so, Pakistan will have to either crackdown on militant Afghan groups with the Taliban in the lead who operate with official acquiescence out of the Baluch capital of Quetta or successfully facilitate an end to conflict in Afghanistan itself.

That is a tall order which in effect would require changes in longstanding Pakistani policies. Gwadar’s record so far bears this out. Phase II of Gwadar was completed in 2008, yet few ships anchor there and little freight is handled.

Success would also require a break with long-standing Chinese foreign and defence policy that propagates non-interference in the domestic affairs of other countries. China has pledged $70 million in military aid to Afghanistan, is training its police force, and has proposed a four-nation security bloc that would include Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

A mere 70 kilometres further west of Gwadar lies Iran’s southernmost port city of Chabahar that has become the focal point of Indian efforts to circumvent Pakistan in its access to energy-rich Central Asia and serve as India’s Eurasian hub by linking it to a north-south corridor that would connect Iran and Russia. Investment in Chabahar is turning it into Iran’s major deep water port outside the Strait of Hormuz that is populated by Gulf states hostile to the Islamic republic. Chabahar would also allow Afghanistan to break Pakistan’s regional maritime monopoly.

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Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa warned Chinese officials in December that public protests would erupt if plans proceeded to build in Hambantota a 6,000-hectare economic zone that would buffet a $1.5 billion-deep sea port, a $209-million international airport, a world-class cricket stadium, a convention centre, and new roads. Protests a month later against the zone turned violent. Similar protests against Chinese investment have also erupted in recent years in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.

In Sri Lanka, the government has delayed the signing of agreements with China on the port and the economic zone after the protests catapulted the controversy onto the national agenda with opposition politicians and trade unions railing against them. A Sri Lankan opposition member of parliament moreover initiated legal proceedings to stop a debt-for-equity deal with China.

China’s Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Yi Xianliang warned that the protests and opposition could persuade Chinese companies to walk away from the $5 billion project. “We either go ahead or we stop here,” Yi said.

“The Hambantota fiasco is sending a clear message to Beijing: showing up with bags of money alone is not enough to win a new Silk Road,” commented Wade Shepard, author of a forthcoming book on China’s One Belt, One Road initiative.

Adding to China’s problems is its apparent willingness to at times persuade its partners to circumvent or flout international standards of doing business. A European Union investigation into a Chinese-funded $2.9 billion rail link between the Hungarian capital of Budapest and Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, could punch a hole into Chinese plans to extend its planned Asian transportation network into Europe. The investigation is looking at whether the deal seemingly granted to Chinese companies violated EU laws stipulating that contracts for large transportation projects must be awarded through public tenders.

The sum total of problems China is encountering across Eurasia highlight a disconnect between grandiose promises of development and improved standards of living and the core of Chinese policy: an insistence that economics offer solutions to deep-seated conflicts, local aspirations, and a narrowing of the gap between often mutually exclusive worldviews. It also suggests that China believes that it can bend, if not rewrite rules, when it serves its purpose.

To be sure, protests in Sri Lanka and Central Asia are as much about China as they are expressions of domestic political rivalries that at times are fought at China’s expense. Even so, they suggest that for China to succeed, it will not only have to engage with local populations, but also become a player rather than position itself as an economic sugar daddy that hides behind the principle of non-interference and a flawed economic win-win proposition.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title, Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and a forthcoming book, Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africa