Barr Cover-Up: Call It What It Is


ttps://www.forbes.com/sites/victorlipman/2019/04/15/the-barr-cover-up-call-it-what-it-is#21396f1d3638April 18,2019

https://www.forbes.com/sites/victorlipman/2019/04/15/the-barr-cover-up-call-it-what-it-is#21396f1d3638Barr Cover-Up: Call It What It Is

 

 

The more latitude AG Bill Barr has to redact, the more latitude he has to protect the president. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

The more latitude A-G Bill Barr has to redact, the more latitude he has to protect the president. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) ASSOCIATED PRESS

Enough already. No more benefit of the doubt.

Having observed this whole process all too carefully, I’m convinced Attorney General Bill Barr’s actions with respect to the Mueller Report are being guided by the following principles:

Take as long as possible, and use every legal means possible, to release as little damaging information as possible.

Translation: Protect the president as much as possible.

Interest in the American public actually seeing anything meaningful in the Mueller Report? As little as possible.

No matter that this pleasant avuncular fellow looks and talks more like a respectable attorney than a fixer. Don’t be fooled: The fix is in.

Consider his actions over the past three weeks. He’s put a chokehold on Mueller-related information. In his measured lawyerly tones he’s promised everything and delivered nothing.

Following are four reasons why I have no confidence there will be much of anything meaningful in his redacted version of the Mueller Report.

His original four-page summary. This was a carefully crafted and misleading document designed to shape public perceptions, and place the president in the most favorable possible light. This was all about management, devious though it may be: managing the message, and attempting to manage public opinion.

His decision to exonerate the president for obstruction. Barr arrogated a decision that should never have been his, given the enormity of the stakes, rather than let the examination of facts, discussion and decision go to Congress, as Mr. Mueller doubtless originally intended.

Stonewalling Congress. He’s persistently refused to let the full report go to Congressional leadership, despite their numerous requests for it.

Redacting more rather than less. Barr says he wants transparency but far more important than what he says is what he does. He’s spent weeks now completing the broadest possible universe of redactions, removing both grand-jury-related material as well as the especially unclear vague references to “peripheral third parties.”  The more latitude he has to redact, the more latitude he has to protect the president. The less the public will know what’s in the full report.

This is all part of a consistent pattern designed to minimize the release of damaging information.

One would hope that the highest law enforcement officer in the land would be more of an honest broker than a spin doctor, but clearly in these hyper-partisan times that’s too much to hope for.

As I’ve noted previously in this space, I’m a registered political Independent, not a Democrat, and no fan of Bill, Hillary and Obamacare. But I am a fan of transparency and finding out what actually happened in this investigation – and this is a strange way to conclude the most consequential political inquiry in decades.

As an interested citizen, and like many interested citizens, I’d like to know exactly what’s in the Mueller Report. Not have an ideologue masquerading as an impartial attorney general tell me what he wants me to know.

Call it what it is, this is Banana Republic stuff. Think about it: The president wanted an attorney general who would protect him. Barr “auditions” for the job with his now-famous 19-page memo. He then proceeds to become judge, jury and evidence keeper, while maintaining a respectable legal facade.

Despite this veneer of objectivity, I believe our attorney general is neither unbiased nor operating in good faith.

Unless someone involved in the investigation leaks the actual Mueller Report (an increasing possibility, given the byzantine way this is unfolding), Democrats should take the gloves off and use every legal means at their disposal to get the document in its entirety.

What other options are available? Welcome to tribalism, 2019 style. The Barr cover-up. Call it what it is.

[Update 2:15 p.m. 4/15/19: The Justice Department announced today they expect to release the redacted Mueller Report this Thursday. This is 25 days after Barr released his summary letter.] 

 

 

Nearly a quarter century of Fortune 500 management experience. Long interested as practitioner in the subject of management, both good and bad, effective and ineffective…

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Razali’s resignation regrettable


April 17, 2019

https://www.thesundaily.my/opinion/suhakam-chairman-razalis-resignation-regrettable-EJ795987

Razali’s resignation regrettable

17 Apr 2019 / 18:22 H.
Image result for razali ismail suhakam

IT is regrettable that Tan Sri Razali Ismail has resigned as chairman of Suhakam a fortnight before the end of his tenure.

 

Razali’s stellar performance in Suhakam is notable as he brought new fervour, feistiness and fame to the human rights cause. Together with his other commissioners he was unstinting and outstanding in championing the cause of human rights in a most repressive environment under the previous government. Suhakam was also constrained by a much reduced operating budget and yet it did perform well.

When the dates for GE-14 were announced, it will be recalled Suhakam more than the Election Commission was determined to ensure that the elections allowed the Opposition to have the space essential to campaign.

Razali was prescient in predicting that the Opposition had a fair chance in that election.

To learn from press reports that he has resigned in a flash is most disturbing. For a man who had served in a public service capacity with dedication and distinction for more than five and a half decades I believe Razali is not being treated fairly.

It is open to speculation that a fortnight before his tenure ended he had not been told about a possible successor. Neither had he received communication from the appropriate authority expressing appreciation for his services.

It has to be presumed that on account of these factors he decided to resign and relinquish his chairmanship. He added a nice parting shot that his resignation would give the government more time to identify his successor.

In the absence of any additional information from an authoritative source this whole episode becomes a subject for unnecessary speculation.

The chairmanship of Suhakam is one of the nation’s most critical appointments especially at this juncture in the new Malaysia that we all are attempting to build. Razali, given his background in multilateral and bilateral diplomacy was a perfect fit for the task.

The current crop of Suhakam commissioners put Malaysia in the world’s human rights map.

This new government may have instituted new procedures including possibly vetting by the security and anti-corruption agencies before nominating someone. If that is the case Razali should have been notified early, at least three months before the end of his tenure.

It does not reflect well on the government that these matters involving key functionaries are not being properly handled.

Datuk M Santhananaban

Kajang

Book Review: Participation without Democracy: Containing Conflict in Southeast Asia


April 16, 2019

Book Review:

Participation without Democracy: Containing Conflict in Southeast Asia

Garry Rodan (Cornell University Press, New York, 2018)

 

Those of us who study politics differ on whether our discipline is rightly termed a “science”. People who weigh in on the “scientific” side tend to emphasise, alongside the permeation of numbers and deductive hypothesis-testing, the stock of knowledge we have accumulated: core concepts and theories, tested and refined over time. With his provocative latest book, Participation without Democracy: Containing Conflict in Southeast Asia, Murdoch University’s Garry Rodan puts years of field research and insight honed over decades to work to prove that such pretensions are more aspirational than well-founded. His argument, taken to its logical conclusion, impugns much of what political scientists study when we study “democracy”. It suggests we have missed the crux both of what distinguishes regime types, and of what sorts of political dynamics spur, constitute, and emerge from transitions. And his argument is convincing.

Southeast Asia—home to a bewildering array of institutional innovations—offers Rodan a trove of variation to mine, as he probes how these states really function. Those readers familiar with Rodan’s extensive oeuvre will note points of continuity with his earlier work: the inseparability of politics from economic forces, the salience of civil society, the crafty ways in which regimes and their leaders sustain dominance. With its rich detail and critical perspective, this book seems something of a capstone as Rodan approaches formal retirement, bringing his rich, career-spanning material on Singapore as well as Malaysia into conversation with a similarly nuanced discussion of the Philippines, and weaving together theoretical threads.

Participation without Democracy places modes of participation (MOPs) front and centre, characterising regimes in terms of both the extent and the type of participation and contestation possible. The book is explicitly oriented toward theory; hopefully the words “Southeast Asia” in the title will not deter readers focussed on other regions. But Rodan builds his analysis with fine-grained evidence, astutely assessed, from his three cases.

He proposes that elites meet the challenges that contradictions of capitalism pose—rising inequality, social disruption and others—by introducing new modes of popular participation. Elites use these MOPs to contain and channel dissent, while deepening concentrations of power and wealth; opponents sometimes hope these same modes offer tools to dismantle elite power. The “central paradox” Rodan traces is the extent to which “expanded political representation—in both its democratic and nondemocratic forms—is serving more to constrain political contestation than to enhance it”. Regimes and the elites at their helm find ways of serving their own interests by strategies that may look participatory on paper but, in practice, narrow the space for contestation and fragment or co-opt challengers.

Political scientists have long placed participation and contestation at the fore of definitions of democracy, but usually with a primarily electoral focus and more as indicators to be measured than as patterns requiring qualitative evaluation. Rodan demonstrates that we need to delve deeper: to ask not just whether participation happens, but who can participate and via what modes, which questions are open to debate and what happens to input gathered. He brings ideology squarely into the frame, not just vis-à-vis neoliberalism—he presumes elites are devout capitalists and popular opponents, less so—but also as shaping how citizens and states engage and pursue their respective interests.

Rodan argues that consultative and particularist ideologies predominate in the Southeast Asian cases he studies. The former favours technocratic, seemingly apolitical problem-solving without political competition while the latter favours discrete communities’ or identities’ rights to specific representation. He also finds germane, though, democratic ideologies (those that facilitate challenges to inequalities inherent to a hierarchical order) and institutionally unbounded (and infirming) populist ideologies. By embedding their preferred ideological frame in institutions—MOPs—elites may fragment or delegitimate challengers and corral the scope of debate. While these ideologies of representation are not mutually exclusive, the “struggle over the permissible boundaries of political conflict” is central to what constitutes politics.

MOPs emerge from relationships within capitalism, developed over time. History matters—especially legacies of Cold War-era suppression of the left and its institutions. Also, the sites of participation under different modes shape the sort of inclusion they allow. On the menu are autonomous individualised political expression, extra-state civil societal expression, collective societal incorporation, and state-sponsored, individual administrative incorporation. This framework shifts our gaze from democratic elections or authoritarian coercion to, for instance, the extent to which civil society is organised and articulated with or independent of political parties, and the breadth of elite-challenging issues and alliances.

Rodan uses two broad initiatives or patterns from each of his three countries to illuminate distinct MOPs and tease apart how each regime functions. Singapore exemplifies societal and administration incorporation, driven by a largely consultative and particularist ideology of representation. Rodan homes in first on the explicitly nondemocratic Nominated Member of Parliament scheme, designed to pre-empt partisan parliamentary opposition by incorporating unaccountable and appointed representatives of sectors and under-represented social segments (who might otherwise find common purpose and/or drift toward opposition parties) for their apolitical expertise. He parses, too, a series of institutions and initiatives for soliciting individuals’ policy feedback, from elaborate ongoing mechanisms to periodic mass “conversations”—albeit with largely pre-set agendas and without necessary influence. This vision of incorporating feedback demonstrates, Rodan explains, a technocratic ideology of politics as the “noncompetitive technical exercise of solving problems”.

In the Philippines, state institutions and capacities serve the interests of oligarchs, who are challenged by opponents ranging from moderate social democrats to anti-capitalist revolutionaries, all with differing visions of democratic representation. Rodan’s first case, the party-list system for electing a share of members of Congress, encourages fragmentation of challengers (as by a three-seat-per-contender cap). The system has been co-opted by forces of traditional politics; it does more to contain than amplify threats to elite privilege.

Meanwhile, proponents of bottom-up budgeting, introduced in 2012, pressed hard-to-reconcile the goals of first, reforming undemocratic institutions via fortified civil societal organisations and second, problem-solving efficiency. That divide served to diminish its role even before Duterte nixed it altogether, and was exacerbated by the program’s ideologically consultative approach of incorporating stakeholders and expertise into cooperative deliberation on elite-defined policy problems.

Lastly, in Malaysia, we find the challenges of a deep-set and structurally reinforced particularist ideology, rendering any sustainable, shared alternative vision elusive. Rodan details how the deep permeation of that ideology has effectively scuttled periodic, carefully delimited initiatives for high-level economic policy consultation and transformation. Any real challenge to extant privilege, as well as critique of the integrity of state institutions, have been put beyond the pale. Last May’s electoral upset may have loosened strictures on the latter front, but to question racial privilege remains, for now, verboten. Over time, these initiatives have disabused many reformers otherwise willing to accept administrative incorporation of hopes of genuine influence. Overall, there are fewer consolidated state-sponsored, extra-parliamentary MOPs in Malaysia than in Singapore or the Philippines, even despite the launch, post-publication, of new consultative initiatives.

The more independent modes that have emerged in Malaysia also face hurdles. Efforts to coordinate within civil society, Rodan argues, as for restoration of local-government elections or broader electoral reform, had made headway even before the 2018 elections. This could be seen most notably in the at least minimal inclusion of nonpartisan local counsellors in opposition-controlled Penang and Selangor after 2008 and the wide-ranging, if more catch-all than coherent, Bersih coalition. But the vagaries of Malaysia’s political economy, as well as NGOs’ preference for prioritising liberal ideological notions of good governance and individual liberties rather than economic issues, intercede. Bersih, for instance, lacks “a socially redistributive reform agenda to address structural inequalities”, without which “UMNO’s particularist ideologies of race and ethnicity would remain seductive for many disadvantaged Malays”. The new government’s embrace of ethnic particularism as a core plank of its campaign strategy in 2018, he suggests, was an unsurprising result.

As Rodan illustrates, these three countries manifest different patterns of capitalist development, including the role of the state and parties, such that they may even adopt similar MOPs with different motives. In all, though, we see starkly the gap between participation and even discursive, or issue-based, representation. In all, we see the balance among and implications of different MOPs as encoding and reinforcing ideas about how power is organised and what it means to be represented—from being permitted to help hone pre-defined policies to being able to change policy agendas, and from participating qua individuals or officially sanctioned categories to seeing promise in and space for novel collective mobilisation. This all presses us to assess regimes less in terms of their institutional structures than per a deeper evaluation of whether those institutions serve more to consolidate elite control or empower outsiders—an issue less of whether the institutions “work” than of how they are designed, and in whose interests.

Rodan’s analysis throws down the gauntlet to scholars of regimes. He offers a trenchant, if polite, rejoinder to more superficial assessments, and ups the ante by concluding with sketches of how an MOP framework helps us to understand contemporary populist challenges or transitions to other institutional forms. He considers how an MOP framework may also assist in making sense of the permeation of depoliticising consultative and particularist ideologies in established democracies such as the UK. The agenda Rodan presents recommends a fundamentally different approach to understanding and classifying regimes—one which will surely call into question the status of most purported democracies by scrutinising how the policy/political process actually works. Illiberalism at home, and pro-market ideologies abroad, are putting pressure on Southeast Asian civil society organisations’ financial health.

Moreover, and in keeping with his intellectual roots, Rodan asks that we not pretend a distinction between politics and economics: it is the “dynamic societal conflicts” economic processes generate that produce political institutions. That said, the language of capitalism’s contradictions seems at times a bit forced. Presumably any other economic order would yield its own contradictions and its own similarly skewed MOPs. Still, given the near-hegemony of capitalism in Southeast Asia and globally, whether state- or market-led, Rodan’s critique of this particular structuring of production, wealth, and interests is understandable.

But it is not just scholarly observers, but domestic reformers, who may find Rodan’s analysis challenging. Rodan stops short of describing what MOPs would enable effective challenges to elites and their privileges—real democracy—or from what quarters we might expect such a push. Which interests understand themselves sufficiently as silenced that they seek another path, and how might institutions be remade (or opposition parties be induced) to engage with those perspectives and preferences more directly? There is an underlying assumption here of a politically neglected non- or anti-neoliberal core in all three states, not just the Philippines, ready to be mobilised.

One might ask, though—particularly given the now-protracted enervation of organised labour, plus mass investment in capitalism (for example, cross-class participation in stock markets), however manifestly inegalitarian—whether alternative ideologies are now more decrepit or discarded than actively suppressed. And are there positive examples operating alongside, and perhaps at cross-purposes to, these institutions: have these patterns of social conflict yielded also more progressive, perhaps even scalable, MOPs? Put differently, where do we go from here, beyond trudging resignedly toward an elitist, contention-stifling future? Uplifting this book is not —but Rodan’s provocative exegesis is not just a good read, but a call to rethink how we study as well as pursue participation, representation and elite-challenging reform.

Meredith L Weiss is Professor and Chair of Political Science in the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy at the University at Albany, State University of New York. She has published widely on political mobilisation and contention, the politics of identity and development, and electoral politics in Southeast Asia, with particular focus on Malaysia and Singapore. Her books include Student Activism in Malaysia: Crucible, Mirror, Sideshow (Cornell SEAP, 2011), Protest and Possibilities: Civil Society and Coalitions for Political Change in Malaysia (Stanford, 2006), the forthcoming The Roots of Resilience: Authoritarian Acculturation in Malaysia and Singapore (Cornell), and ten edited or co-edited volumes, most recently, Political Participation in Asia: Defining and Deploying Political Space (with Eva Hansson, Routledge, 2018) and The Political Logics of Anticorruption Efforts in Asia (with Cheng Chen, SUNY, forthcoming). She co-edits the Cambridge University Press Elements series on Southeast Asian Politics and Society. Current projects focus on “money politics” in Southeast Asia, urban governance in the region, and reform processes in post-GE14 Malaysia.

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Enough of advocacy, says Suhakam chair as he tenders early resignation


April 15,20l9

Image result for razali ismail suhakam

Human rights commission (Suhakam) chairperson Razali Ismail has resigned about two weeks before his tenure was supposed to end.

Assuming the role back in 2016, he was scheduled to conclude his three-year term on April 27.

Razali confirmed that he had tendered his resignation letter to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, and had also informed the commission of his decision.

“I have done three years (at Suhakam). I think I did a pretty credible job and I (now) want to do more than advocacy.

“Doing things like human rights, it’s an advocacy job and it is enough after a while.

“It continues to be what it is, advocacy. It doesn’t make a big difference on the ground,” he told Malaysiakini when contacted today.

Razali added that he had resigned before the end of his term to allow Suhakam more time to prepare for its new chairperson.

The commission is a government body parked under the Prime Minister’s Department. Its chairperson is appointed by the prime minister.

Moving forward, the former diplomat said he plans to move from advocacy to working on the ground.

“I want to do smaller things, look at smaller areas, empower people and help people.

“[…] In all these 40-over years, I have been defining myself as a Malaysian.

“Now, I want to do something on the ground to define myself as a Malaysian and a Malay, and help the Malays who are marginalised,” he said.

Under Razali’s helm, Suhakam has been a frequent and outspoken critic of human rights violations, including those by the government.

Among the things it advocated was the ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd), which Pakatan Harapan initially agreed to before changing its mind following intense opposition from NGOs, UMNO and PAS.

Last December, police advised Suhakam to postpone its annual Human Rights Day celebration to give way to an anti-Icerd rally in Kuala Lumpur.

 

Musings on a nation gone half-mad


April 14, 2019

Musings on a nation gone half-mad

Opinion  |  Azly Rahman

Published:  |  Modified:

 

 

https://dinmerican.wordpress.com/2019/04/14/musings-on-a-nation-gone-half-mad/

COMMENT | Like all of you esteemed readers, I sometimes do not know what to make of the world we are living in. Especially that of our beloved country. But think about it, we must.

The wealthy and the powerful are having a field day, during the remains of their day perhaps, in a world ever changing wherein information wants to be free and the cybernetic world can help the maddening masses bring mad leaders down. In my half-wide awakeness, these past few days, I thought of these:

Malays and the syndrome of Harry Houdini

Reading about the state of things, I see academics continue to sell their soul to the forces of idiocy, to the deep state of decadence guised as traditional authority! Academics loyal to the power of hegemonic-idiocy, possessed, diseased hearts and minds, unfit to be teachers of ethics in society.

But that is their right to be intelligent or to be ignorant. Their right to give advice, to make things better, or to make matters worse. Their right to be ideologues, intelligentsia, or purely intelligent beings who will not sell their soul for any pound of gold. To be a sophist or to be a Socrates.

In my musings, I thought of these: No society will need monarchs to protect it, if each member takes pride in being a natural-born aristocrat with a free spirit.

Malays are too slow in releasing themselves from the shackles of feudal fear and mentality. Move faster. Question authority! Malay feudalism is merely a social construct borne out of a historical accident, lasting as long as the rakyat continue to surrender their mind, body and spirit.

Modern-day slavery continues to define our economic condition. The system of social injustice prevails, like a cultural logic of late capitalism gone illogical.

There is this cultural disease in Malaysia, manufactured. It is self-fear. Like a selfie of a one’s fear. Fear of other races instilled in the Malay mind is for the benefit of the powerful, political, and the feudal. For survival.

Malaysians must understand that today’s war is not about race and religion, but about class: of the powerful versus the powerless. Of the have-a-lots versus have-nots. A long war ahead, to redefine the way of the world and act upon it.

Too much bad history has plagued this most-obedient-people in the world. Only when Malays are taught critical reasoning, critiquing feudal ideology, and “liberation theology” will they be free.

The political and the feudal deep states have been using the old British colonial strategy of divide and enslave in order to maintain the status quo. In the Malay tradition, the idea of blind loyalty to feudalism must be dismantled. It is unfit for Malay intelligence of the Industry 4.0 era, especially.

In all cultural traditions, there are enabling and disabling aspects. Extract, reflect upon, revise and reconstruct those which are useless to the advancement of human cognition and liberation.

There is now a battle of cognition over culture in the Malay psyche. I presume a liberated Malay mind will never kowtow to any monarch, politician, ayatollah, or any master of slavery. We must end this form of mental imprisonment.

We must, especially, set the youth free. But freedom for Malay youth does not mean freedom to join Mat Rempits or neo-Nazi groups. That will be suicidal freedom.

There is this malaise in the south. This idea brought me to a related notion of hegemony and false consciousness. “Bangsa Johor” is an invented “nation” living in an oxymoron: being fearful of feudalism, yet showing absurdist freedom.

Today’s grand hypocrisy

In countries ruled by “Muslim monarchs,” you seldom find true Islam, mostly hypocrisy. Abuse of Islam is everywhere. Look around. In Malaysia, the more politicians claim Malay-Muslim parties will defend and protect Malay-Muslims, the more you find national robbery done nicely. Even the Pilgrimage Fund, the holiest of holy investment body, got robbed holistically, done religiously.

In today’s political chaos, we need a Napoleon with the heart of Socrates, the mind of Plato and Cicero, to return. In today’s politics, the Malay masses is the ageing Hang Tuah, blind-obedient, watching Jebat and the King fight over wealth. People are helpless, drained by the hope they held for 60 years. After a year of regime change, hope is slowly turning into yet another period of hopelessness.

In the case of the recent U-turn decision on the Rome Statute, are you justified to pull out of the Rome Statute when one has always wanted to be known as a “Third World warrior”? Aren’t we tired of claims of political conspiracy and coup d’état when the real issue is of no principle and the leaders involved could not make a stand? However dumb and dumber a president is, at least Americans have two terms maximum to suffer. Malaysia?

Let us take seriously the comical North-South Malaysian Cold War brewing. Today’s Pakatan Harapan–Johor government squabble is opening up an exciting dialogue on the role and responsibilities and limits of the monarchy.

The debate on the balance of power, the nature and future of the monarchy, and the growing voice of the people in deciding who is abusing power and what then must the rakyat do – these are demonstrations of a mature Malaysian democracy. Cultivate this wisely, but surely.

The wealthy and the powerful

Wealth and power have intoxicated those who are supposed to make Malaysia a better democracy. Arrogance will be overthrown. Race, religion, and the royalty will no longer be conveniently used as weapons of disharmony when information is set free.

It’s crucial now that our education system be transformed to teach the history of the people more than the history of the monarchy. In the Age of Post-Humanism, The Age of Kings will give way to The Age of Reason and Malay Enlightenment.

Over the decades, the intelligence and rationalism of the Johoreans have been eroded by this sense of false consciousness. Power and wealth held by the display of the sword, gold, and mental and physical enslavement cannot be sustained.

There was never a “protection of Malay rights”. Only a licence and reason to plunder, propped as an absurd symbol of tradition. The 1MDB fiasco and many others swept under the carpet or yet to be uncovered, are testaments to the magnitude of plunder.

Never in my life have I humiliated my mind by kowtowing to any form of modern and traditional authority. Never will. I

I believe Johoreans should be obsessed with books, and not just with football. The latter can be a passage to mind control and mob mentality. Besides, there is no Bangsa Johor. There is only Rakyat Malaysia.

Our goal as a nation is to treat each citizen with equality under the shadow of the Constitution’s supremacy. Young Johoreans, who do not know history, are cemented with fear, football, and false consciousness. Free them!

Thomas Jefferson revisited

Thomas Jefferson, statesman, author, an admirer of the Enlightenment thinkers and, most importantly, the author of the American Declaration of Independence did not want King and Religion to be foundations of the new nation.

In the case of what is happening in the Islamic world, we see chaos. Islam hates hypocrites. So, why do hypocrites appoint themselves as defenders and rulers of Islam?

In difficult cognitive times like these, I seek refuge in the work of, amongst other philosophers, the humanists such as Rousseau, Montesquieu, Voltaire, Diderot. And Marat and Robespierre.

Will we ever get out of this madness? Like Harry Houdini, the escape artist?

This is the question of our times. We are in a black hole.


AZLY RAHMAN is an educator, academic, international columnist, and author of seven books available here. He holds a doctorate in international education development from Columbia University, New York City, and Master’s degrees in six areas: education, international affairs, peace studies communication, fiction and non-fiction writing. He is a member of the Kappa Delta Pi International Honour Society in Education. Twitter @azlyrahman. More writings here.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

 

 

Who understands our times, Bernie or The Donald?


April 13, 2019

Who understands our times, Bernie or The Donald?

by Fareed Zakaria.com

https://fareedzakaria.com/columns/2019/4/11/who-understands-our-times-bernie-or-the-donald

There are many explanations for Benjamin Netanyahu’s victory in this week’s election that have to do with Israel’s particular situation — its economic boom, stable security climate and the prime minister’s political talent. But he is also part of a much larger phenomenon: the continued strength of populist nationalism around the world — and the continued inability of left-of-center parties to respond to it.

Image result for BERNIE AND TRUMP

 

The case for populist nationalism goes something like this. It’s a nasty world out there. People are trying to take our jobs, undermine our security, move into our country. The cosmopolitan urban elites don’t care; they benefit from these forces. So we need a tough guy who will stand up for the nation and against the liberals in our midst.

In some variant or another, this is the argument made by Netanyahu, Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Narendra Modi, Viktor Orban, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Jair Bolsonaro, the Brexiteers — and, of course, President Trump.

In 1972, the philosopher Isaiah Berlin wrote that nationalism “expresses the inflamed desire of the insufficiently regarded to count for something among the cultures of the world.” He placed the roots of modern nationalism in Germany, a country obsessed with finding its place in the sun. But the sentiment — a kind of victim mentality — can be found in almost all modern variations, even among rich and powerful nations.

Look at Putin’s claim that Russia has been pushed around by the West since the Cold War, the Chinese obsession with their humiliation since the opium wars, the Israeli right’s complaint that the world is biased against Israel and Trump’s constant refrain that all foreigners — from Mexicans to Chinese to Europeans — take advantage of the United States. These leaders promise to rectify the situation and restore their countries’ proper standing in the world.

Trump’s embrace of the word “nationalism” illustrates the simultaneous attacks on domestic elites (with their politically correct language) and on perfidious foreigners. “We’re not supposed to use that word,” Trump said in October. “You know what I am? I’m a nationalist, okay? I’m a nationalist. Nationalist. Nothing wrong. Use that word. Use that word.”

When asked the next day what he meant by the term, Trump responded, “I love our country. And our country has taken second fiddle. . . . We’re giving all of our wealth, all of our money, to other countries. And then they don’t treat us properly.”

Netanyahu, for his part, has long argued that Israel deserves a much better “place among the nations,” a phrase that was the title of his 1993 book that argued for a robust Israeli nationalism that is aggressive and unapologetic. Though Israel’s strength and security have grown immeasurably, as its historical enemies — Saudi Arabia and Syria, among others — have either become buddies or basket cases, the argument that the world is against it has somehow persisted.

In fact, despite the pose of victim hood adopted by most of these populists, nationalism is probably the most widely held ideology in the world today. Which American politician today does not speak up for the United States? The real debate is whether nationalism should be informed and influenced by other values such as liberty and equality and, if these two sets of values conflict, which one should be preferred. That’s why the most ardent capitalists — from Friedrich Hayek to Milton Friedman — have always been in favor of globalization and economic freedom above nationalist protections and controls.

The danger for liberals is that they underestimate the power of these raw, emotional appeals. For centuries, liberals have assumed that nationalism was a kind of irrational attachment that would grow weaker as people became more rational, connected and worldly. In fact, Berlin wrote, like a twig that is bent in one direction and has to snap back, as globalization grew in its reach, nationalism would be the predictable backlash.

Populist nationalists understand the core appeal of their ideology. I recently asked a Bolsonaro supporter whether the Brazilian president’s economic policies (which are free-market-oriented and reformist) or his cultural nationalism was the key to his appeal. The supporter’s answer: Nationalism is the party’s core; the economics is simply about efficiency and growth.

Meanwhile, liberals in the United States still don’t seem to get it. The Democratic Party continues to think the solution to its woes is to keep moving leftward economically. This week, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) revealed his new Medicare-for-all plan, which was immediately co-sponsored by four other presidential candidates. The plan will probably require an additional $2 trillion to $3 trillion in annual tax revenue.At the same time, Trump tweets about the Democrats’ love of “open borders” and insists he will protect the country and enforce its laws. What if Trump understands the mood of our times better than Sanders?

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group