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.

Wisma Putra and the North Korean Murder Snafu


February 28, 2017

Wisma Putra and the North Korean Murder Snafu–A Message to Foreign Minister Anifah Aman

by Dato Dennis Ignatius

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The heinous assassination at KLIA of Kim Jong-nam, half-brother of North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un, by North Korean agents grabbed headlines around the world. It was another reminder of the depravity, recklessness and ruthlessness of the regime in Pyongyang.

The assassination, however, also put the spotlight on Malaysia once again with the international media converging on Kuala Lumpur to cover the story. As is usual in such situations, our policies, personalities and processes come under scrutiny as well.

Wisma Putra’s role

Although the case is still ongoing, one thing is already clear: we would benefit from a more coherent and coordinated response particularly when dealing with a fast developing issue in the full glare of the world.

While the Police rightly took the lead in investigating the crime, Wisma Putra, which should have stepped in to cover the diplomatic and international dimensions of the case, was largely aloof, at least in the days immediately following the incident.

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Indeed, sources within the international media lamented privately that no one in Wisma Putra was willing to speak to them on or off record or answer questions relating to the case.

It was only after the North Korean Ambassador launched his unfounded and outrageous broadside against the government’s handling of the case that Wisma Putra finally found its voice and even then only to rebut the Ambassador.

Perhaps that was what Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Rahman Dahlan, was hinting at when he said, following last Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, that Cabinet wanted Wisma Putra to be more proactive on the matter.

Diplomatic immunity

Wisma Putra’s lack of intervention has also contributed to the ongoing confusion regarding the status of diplomatic personnel caught up in such cases. As late as yesterday, senior Police officers were still insisting that a North Korean diplomat either cooperate with the Police or face arrest.

The Vienna Convention (1961), of which both Malaysia and North Korea are signatories, is very clear on this – under no circumstances can a duly accredited diplomat be detained or interrogated unless his own country formally revokes his immunity. The only recourse that is available in such cases is to declare the offending official ‘persona non grata’ and insist that he leave within 24 hours.

This is basic diplomatic practice which no country would want to ignore, no matter how justified the circumstances, because it puts its own diplomats everywhere at risk. Certainly, Malaysia would not want to violate such a sacrosanct principle of inter-state relations.

Need to get our act together

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Wisma Putra needs to be professional and proactive

The fault, however, has as much to do with Wisma Putra’s failure to provide clarification in a timely fashion as with the way government agencies operate in times of crisis and the manner in which inter-agency cooperation is managed; there are simply no clear-cut rules for determining who takes the lead in such cases.

Clearly, we have learned little from previous experiences like the MH370 saga about the critical importance of putting in place a well-defined crisis response team together with a central spokesperson, someone who is trained, professional, knowledgeable and fluent in English to handle the press, serve as the main conduit for information and speak on behalf of the government as the situation develops.

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Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak is always in La Laland, instead of getting down to the serious business of government

This is pretty standard operating procedure in other countries; there is no reason why it can’t be done here as well.

A muddled Foreign Policy

The assassination also brought home the incoherence of Malaysia’s current policy towards North Korea.

That North Korea is a rogue nation, a serious threat to international peace and stability and a horrifically abusive regime is no secret. The real question is why Putrajaya has allowed North Korea to turn Malaysia into one of its most important bases of operation in the region from which to carry out clandestine activities, circumvent UN sanctions and engage in all sorts of illicit enterprises to earn hard currency for the regime.

A recent UN report noted, for example, that North Korea has flouted UN sanctions by relying on middlemen and front companies in Malaysia [and China]. It cited specifically the case of a Malaysia-based front company controlled by North Korea’s Reconnaissance General Bureau which is tasked with overseas operations and weapons procurement.

North Korea also uses cities like Kuala Lumpur to access the international banking system in violation of UN sanctions.

Because of the relatively lackadaisical attitude towards North Korea, Pyongyang has gradually expanded its operations in Malaysia to the point where there are now about 1000 North Koreans operating in Malaysia, one of the largest North Korean expatriate communities in the region.

Given that North Korea is a highly regulated Stalinist-like state with no free enterprise and absolutely zero individual freedoms, it would be naïve to believe that North Koreans living in Malaysia are merely private businessmen, entrepreneurs or simple students. They are all agents of the state sent here on one sort of mission or another.

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The lack of proper oversight and surveillance of North Koreans in Malaysia also makes it doubtful whether any one actually knows what all these North Koreans are really up to. It was reported, for example, that one of the North Koreans implicated in the assassination came in on a work permit two years ago but never worked at the designated company.

Even before the assassination, Malaysia, with its generous visa-free regulations and lax visitor controls, had already garnered a reputation as an international haven for all kinds of shady people and activities. As was widely reported at the time, al-Qaeda, for example, held an important meeting in Kuala Lumpur prior to the 9/11 attacks.

The North Koreans are now exploiting this vulnerability for their own purposes.

Naïve and gullible

There is also obviously a certain amount of naivety, even gullibility, on the part of our officials when it comes to dealing with countries like North Korea. During the 13th Malaysia International Branding Showcase event last year, one of our senior trade officials gushed that “North Korea is now looking at using Malaysia as a gateway to Southeast Asia markets as it finds the country business friendly with pro-business policies.”

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Kang Choi, North Korean Ambassador to Malaysia

North Korea, which has hardly any exports worth talking about, was certainly looking at using Malaysia as a gateway but not for the kind of activities that our trade officials had in mind.

BERNAMA (the national news agency), meanwhile had discussions with North Korea to enhance cooperation in information-related areas while one private Malaysian university–HELP University–even awarded Kim Jong-un an honorary doctorate in economics, apparently for his “untiring efforts for the education of the country and the well-being of its people.”

One has to wonder what motivates such patently misguided and fatuous decisions.

Stung by the North Korean Ambassador’s undiplomatic and unwarranted criticism of Malaysia’s handling of the case, many of our ministers have now joined the chorus of condemnation against North Korea.

Our Minister of Tourism, Nazri Aziz, for instance, warned Malaysians not to travel to North Korea noting that with North Korea one could never predict what would happen. “They do all sorts of unimaginable things,” he cautioned.

He is, of course, quite right but then North Korea has always been unpredictable and unsafe. What the minister should be explaining is why North Korea was even allowed to open a tourism office in Kuala Lumpur and why Air Koryo was allowed to fly into KLIA until 2014 when the service was suspended due to UN sanctions.

For all the wrong reasons

The decision in 2003 to establish a resident diplomatic mission in Pyongyang was also baffling. Bilateral trade is almost non-existent and there are no pressing bilateral matters that require sustained engagement with North Korea.

How establishing a resident mission could ever be justified under such circumstances is a mystery.

It does suggest perhaps that we seem to establish diplomatic and consular missions too hastily and for all the wrong reasons. Instead of concentrating our limited manpower and financial resources to where it can make the most difference, we spread ourselves out across the globe – 111 diplomatic and consular posts in 85 countries – in the mistaken belief that diplomatic missions automatically translate into greater influence, respect and international standing. Singapore, by comparison, has no more than 45.

Reviewing relations with North Korea

For all these reasons, the Cabinet’s recent decision to review relations with North Korea is long overdue.

It’s time that Malaysia ally itself with all those, including China, South Korea and Japan, who are deeply concerned with North Korea’s egregious behaviour and the threat it poses to peace and security in the region.

Once the investigations into the assassination are completed, Malaysia should, therefore, move to downgrade relations with North Korea. Among the actions that can be considered is closing our diplomatic mission in Pyongyang, expelling the North Korean Ambassador (for his undiplomatic behaviour) and all other North Korean diplomats implicated in the assassination, revoking the visas of North Koreans working in Malaysia, ensuring strict compliance with all UN sanctions against North Korea and suspending all bilateral cooperation agreements.

While Malaysia is too far removed to be directly engaged in dealing with the North Korean problem, we can play a small and meaningful part in making UN sanctions against North Korea more effective, depriving it of an important base of operations in the region and helping further isolate the rogue regime in Pyongyang. And Malaysians would certainly be the safer for it too.

Trump’s Interview with The Times and Germany’s Bild


January 17, 2017

Trump’s Interview with The Times and Germany’s Bild

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/full-transcript-of-interview-with-donald-trump-5d39sr09d

Michael Gove and Kai Diekmann, right, interviewing Donald Trump in his eponymous tower in New York– Daniel Biskup

This is the full transcript of Donald Trump’s interview with Times’ Michael Gove and Kai Diekmann, former chief editor of the German newspaper Bild.

Mr President-elect, your grandfather is from Germany, your mother is from Scotland. As you know, Michael is Scottish, I am German. How will you manage relations with our countries?

Trump: Well, it’s similar. We have great love for both countries. These are great countries, great places. It’s very interesting how the UK broke away. I sort of, as you know, predicted it. I was in Turnberry and was doing a ribbon cutting because I bought Turnberry, which is doing unbelievably, and I’ll tell you, the fact that your pound sterling has gone down? Great. Because business is unbelievable in a lot of parts in the UK, as you know. I think Brexit is going to end up being a great thing.

So do you think we will be able to get a trade deal between the US and the UK quite quickly?

Absolutely, very quickly. I’m a big fan of the UK, uh, we’re gonna work very hard to get it done quickly and done properly — good for both sides. I will be meeting with [Theresa May] — in fact if you want you can see the letter, wherever the letter is, she just sent it.

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UK’s Theresa May–The Midwife of BREXIT

She’s requesting a meeting and we’ll have a meeting right after I get into the White House and it’ll be, I think we’re gonna get something done very quickly.

Why do you think Brexit happened?

People don’t want to have other people coming in and destroying their country and you know in this country we’re gonna go very strong borders from the day I get in. One of the first orders I’m gonna sign – day one – which I will consider to be Monday as opposed to Friday or Saturday. Right? I mean my day one is gonna be Monday because I don’t want to be signing and get it mixed up with lots of celebration, but one of the first orders we’re gonna be signing is gonna be strong borders.

We don’t want people coming in from Syria who we don’t know who they are. You know there’s no way of vetting these people. I don’t want to do what Germany did.

And I’ve great respect for Merkel, by the way, I have to say. I have great respect for her. But, I, I think it was, I think it was very unfortunate what happened.

And you know I have a love for Germany because my father came from Germany and I don’t want to be in that position. You know the way I look at it, we have enough problems.

You said during the campaign that you’d like to stop Muslims coming to the US. Is that still your plan?

Well, from various parts of the world that have lots of terrorism problems.

There will be extreme vetting, it’s not gonna be like it is now, they don’t even, we don’t even have real vetting. The vetting into this country is essentially non-existent as it is, as it was at least, with your country.

Are there any travel restrictions that could be imposed on Europeans coming to the US?

Well, it could happen, I mean we’re gonna have to see. I mean, we’re looking at parts of Europe; parts of the world and parts of Europe, where we have problems where they come in and they’re gonna be causing problems. I don’t wanna have those problems. Look, I won the election because of strong borders and trade. And military, we’re gonna have strong military.

You mentioned you have German ancestors. What does it mean for you to have German blood in your veins?

Well, it’s great. I mean, I’m very proud of Germany and Germany is very special Bad Dürkheim, right? This is serious Germany, right? Like this isn’t any question — this is serious Germany. No, I’m very proud of Germany. I love Germany, I love the UK.

Have you ever been to Germany?

Yes, I have been to Germany.

When Obama came for his last visit to Berlin, he said that if he could vote in the upcoming election he would vote for Angela Merkel. Would you?

Well, I don’t know who she’s running against, number one, I’m just saying, I don’t know her, I’ve never met her. As I said, I’ve had great respect for her. I felt she was a great, great leader. I think she made one very catastrophic mistake and that was taking all of these illegals, you know taking all of the people from wherever they come from. And nobody even knows where they come from. You’ll find out, you got a big dose of it a week ago. So I think she made a catastrophic mistake, very bad mistake. Now, with that being said, I respect her, I like her, but I don’t know her. So I can’t talk about who I’m gonna be backing — if anyone.

When are you coming to the UK as President?

I look forward to doing it. My mother was very ceremonial, I think that’s where I got this aspect because my father was very brick-and-mortar, he was like, and my mother sort of had a flair, she loved the Queen, she loved anything — she was so proud of the Queen. She loved the ceremonial and the beauty, cause nobody does that like the English. And she had great respect for the Queen, liked her. Anytime the Queen was on television, an event, my mother would be watching. Crazy, right?

Is there anything else you take from having a Scottish mother?

Well, the Scottish are known for watching their pennies, so I like to watch my pennies — I mean I deal in big pennies, that’s the problem.

Is there anything typically German about you?

I like order. I like things done in an orderly manner. And certainly the Germans, that’s something that they’re rather well-known for. But I do, I like order and I like strength.

In your campaign you said Angela Merkel’s policy on Syrian refugees was insane. Do you still think so?

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Germany’s Outstanding Chancellor, Angela Merkel

I think it’s not good. I think it was a big mistake for Germany. And Germany of all countries, ’cause Germany was one of the toughest in the world for having anybody go in, and, uh, no I think it was a mistake. And I’ll see her and I’ll meet her and I respect her. And I like her but I think it was a mistake. And people make mistakes but I think it was a very big mistake. I think we should have built safe zones in Syria. Would have been a lot less expensive. Uh, get the Gulf states to pay for ’em who aren’t coming through, I mean they’ve got money that nobody has.

Would have been a lot less expensive than the trauma that Germany’s going through now — but I would have said — you build safe zones in Syria. Look, this whole thing should have never happened. Iraq should not have been attacked in the first place, all right? It was one of the worst decisions, possibly the worst decision ever made in the history of our country. We’ve unleashed — it’s like throwing rocks into a beehive. It’s one of the great messes of all time. I looked at something, uh, I’m not allowed to show you because it’s classified – but, I just looked at Afghanistan and you look at the Taliban – and you take a look at every, every year its more, more, more, you know they have the different colours – and you say, you know – what’s going on?

Who do you blame? Obama, Pakistan? Who do you blame?

Afghanistan is, is not going well. Nothing’s going well — I guess we’ve been in Afghanistan almost 17 years — but you look at all of the places, now in all fairness, we haven’t let our people do what they’re supposed to do. You know we have great military, we’re gonna have much greater military because we’re gonna have — you know right now it’s very depleted, we’re gonna have great military, but we haven’t let our military win.

Boeing and Lockheed Martin are you know big contractors for this country and we have an F-35 program that has been very, very severely over budget and behind schedule. Hundreds of billions of dollars over budget and seven years behind schedule. And, uh, they got to shape up.

And what’s your priority for the military as Commander-In-Chief?

Isis.

And how are you going to deal with Isis?

Well, I’d rather not say, I don’t want to be like Obama or others where they say — I always talk about Mosul, you know Mosul’s turned out to be a disaster — brutal.  So Mosul, so they announced four months ago we’re going to attack Mosul — I said, “Why do you have to announce it?”. Like you said, “What’s going to be your priority?”. When are you going to attack? When are you gonna, how are you gonna do it? What kind of weapons are you gonna use, right? What time of the day?

You think Obama telegraphed his punch?

Mosul turned out to be a disaster because we announced five months ago that we were going into Mosul, in five months. In four months we said, “We’re getting ready”, by the time we get in, it’s been so much talk — and it’s been very hard to take — you know that, right?

Do you think that what’s happened in Syria now with Putin intervening is a good thing or a bad thing?

Nah, I think it’s a very rough thing. It’s a very bad thing, we had a chance to do something when we had the line in the sand and it wasn’t — nothing happened. That was the only time — and now, it’s sort of very late. It’s too late. Now everything is over — at some point it will come to an end — but Aleppo was nasty. I mean when you see them shooting old ladies walking out-of-town — they can’t even walk and they’re shooting ’em — it almost looks like they’re shooting ’em for sport — ah no, that’s a terrible — that’s been a terrible situation. Aleppo has been such a terrible humanitarian situation.

Talking about Russia, you know that Angela Merkel understands Putin very well because he is fluent in German, she is fluent in Russian, and they have known each other for a long time — but who would you trust more, Angela Merkel or Vladimir Putin?

Well, I start off trusting both — but let’s see how long that lasts. It may not last long at all.

Can you understand why eastern Europeans fear Putin and Russia?

Image result for Vladimir PutinThe Tough and Enigmatic Russsian

Sure. Oh sure, I know that. I mean, I understand what’s going on, I said a long time ago — that NATO had problems. Number one it was obsolete, because it was, you know, designed many, many years ago. Number two — the countries aren’t paying what they’re supposed to pay. I took such heat, when I said NATO was obsolete. It’s obsolete because it wasn’t taking care of terror. I took a lot of heat for two days. And then they started saying Trump is right — and now — it was on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, they have a whole division devoted now to terror, which is good.

And the other thing is the countries aren’t paying their fair share so we’re supposed to protect countries but a lot of these countries aren’t paying what they’re supposed to be paying, which I think is very unfair to the United States. With that being said, NATO is very important to me.

Britain is paying.

Britain is paying. There’s five countries that are paying what they’re supposed to. Five. It’s not much, from 22.

For decades now, Europe has depended on America for its defence. Will that guarantee be there in the future as well?

Yeah, I feel very strongly toward Europe — very strongly toward Europe, yes.

Do you support European sanctions against Russia?

Well, I think you know — people have to get together and people have to do what they have to do in terms of being fair. OK? They have sanctions on Russia — let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia. For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially, that’s part of it. But you do have sanctions and Russia’s hurting very badly right now because of sanctions, but I think something can happen that a lot of people are gonna benefit.

Will you rip up the Iran deal?

Well, I don’t want to say what I’m gonna do with the Iran deal. I just don’t want to play the cards. I mean, look, I’m not a politician, I don’t go out and say, ‘I’m gonna do this — I’m gonna do —’, I gotta do what I gotta do. But I don’t wanna play. Who plays cards where you show everybody the hand before you play it? But I’m not happy with the Iran deal, I think it’s one of the worst deals ever made, I think it’s one of the dumbest deals I’ve ever seen, one of the dumbest, in terms of a deal. Where you give — where you give a $150 billion back to a country, where you give $1.7 billion in cash — did you ever see a million dollars in hundred-dollar bills? It’s a lot. It’s a whole — it’s a lot. $1.7 billion in cash. Plane loads. Of, of — think of it — plane, many planes. Boom. $1.7 billion. I don’t understand. It just shows the power of a president — when a president of this country can authorise $1.7 billion in cash, that’s a lot of power.

And you think that money is now funding terror?

No, I think that money is in Swiss bank accounts — they don’t need that money, they’re using other money, I think they’ve taken that money and they’ve kept it for themselves. That’s my opinion.

What did you think of Obama’s approach towards the UN Security Council resolution on Israel just before Christmas?

I think it was terrible. It should have been a veto. I think it was terrible.

Do you think the UK should have vetoed it?

Well, the UK may have another chance to veto if what I’m hearing is true, because you know you have a meeting as you know, this weekend. And there are a lot of bad stories being circulated. The problem I have is that it makes it a tougher deal for me to negotiate because the Palestinians are given so much — even though it’s not legally binding it’s psychologically binding and it makes it much tougher for me to negotiate. You understand that? Because people are giving away chips, they’re giving away all these chips.

And do you think the UK should veto any UN Security Council resolution on Israel put forward this week so that you are in a stronger position to get the right deal for the Middle East?

Well, I’d like to see the UK veto. I think it’d be great if they veto because I’m not sure the United States is gonna veto, amazingly. They won’t, right? You think the United States is gonna veto? I’ll have friends who are Jewish have a fundraiser for Obama and I’ll say, “What are you doing? OK — what are you doing?”

Is it true you’re going to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?

Well, I don’t want to comment on that, again, but we’ll see what happens.

You know that famous saying by Henry Kissinger: “Which number do I dial if I want to talk to Europe?” Which number are you going to dial?

Yeah, well I would say Merkel is by far one of the most important leaders. ’Cause you look at the UK and you look at the European Union and it’s Germany. Basically a vehicle for Germany. That’s why I thought the UK was so smart in getting out and you were there and you guys wrote it — put it on the front page: “Trump said that Brexit is gonna happen”. That was when it was gonna lose easily, you know, everybody thought I was crazy. Obama said to go to the back of the line. Meaning, if it does happen — and then he had to retract — that was a bad statement to make.

And now we are at the front of the queue?

I think you’re doing great. I think it’s going great.

What is your view on the future of the European Union? Do you expect more countries to leave the European Union?

I think it’s tough. I spoke to the head of the European Union, very fine gentleman called me up.

Mr Juncker?

Yes, ah, to congratulate me on what happened with respect to the election. Uh, I think it’s very tough. I think it’s tough. People, countries want their own identity and the UK wanted its own identity but, I do believe this, if they hadn’t been forced to take in all of the refugees, so many, with all the problems that it, you know, entails, I think that you wouldn’t have a Brexit. It probably could have worked out but, this was the final straw, this was the final straw that broke the camel’s back.

I think people want, people want their own identity, so if you ask me, others, I believe others will leave.

As a successful businessman, do you trust the European currency?

Image result for Trump and The US Dollar--I trust the Dollar

“I trust the dollar”. –Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States (w.e.f. January 20, 2017)

Well, it’s doing OK. I mean, you know. What do you trust? I trust the dollar, I’m gonna trust the dollar a lot more in four years than I do now, but sure I mean it’s a currency, it’s fine. But I do think keeping it together is not gonna be as easy as a lot of people think. And I think this, if refugees keep pouring into different part of Europe. I think it’s gonna be very hard to keep it together cause people are angry about it.

What is better for the United States — a strong European Union or stronger nation states?

Personally, I don’t think it matters much for the United States. I never thought it mattered. Look, the EU was formed, partially, to beat the United States on trade, OK? So, I don’t really care whether it’s separate or together, to me it doesn’t matter. I can see this — I own a big property in Ireland, magnificent property called Doonbeg, what happened is I went for an approval to do this massive, beautiful expansion — that was when I was a developer, now I couldn’t care less about it — but I learnt a lot because I got the approvals very quickly from Ireland and then Ireland and my people went to the EU to get the approval — it was going to take years — that was a very bad thing for Ireland.

Do you think that the EU is holding back all its member states? Is it an obstacle to their growth and prosperity?

Well I can tell you from the environmental standpoint, they were using environmental tricks to stop a project from being built — I found it to be a very unpleasant experience. To get the approvals from the EU would have taken years — I don’t think that’s good for a country like Ireland so you know what I did? I said forget it I’m not gonna build it.

People in Europe and beyond have expressed concern that America may have a protectionist trade policy that will hurt America’s friends. What would you say to them?

Well, I can tell you that in the last … I think I’ve done more than any president-elect ever — Many factories now, many car plants, that were going to be built-in other locations are building in Michigan and Ohio — ya know Ford announced a big one, Fiat Chrysler announced a big one, General Motors is announcing, they’re all announcing and I’m not just talking about cars I’m talking about other things, there will be many other things — you can’t allow companies to leave our country, fire all of its employees, move to Mexico, make whatever the product is, and then sell it back in with no tax — and there will be a very substantial border tax for companies that do that. And when people hear that — they say we’re gonna stay here or we’re gonna build in the US — so they’ll go and they’ll build their car plant or they’ll build their air-conditioning plant and they’re gonna sell their air conditioners but they’re gonna pay 35 per cent tax . . . there’s not gonna be any tax because they’re not gonna leave — see there’s not gonna be any tax — but the conservative theory is open borders, open borders is all fine. First of all it’s bad for security — for trade it’s fine — the problem is the US is always taken advantage of — we have hundreds of billions of dollars of trade deficits with China — we have $805 billion in trade deficits with the world — ya almost say, who’s making these deals when you’re losing that kind of money, right — we actually have almost $800 billion — almost $800 billion in trade deficits with the world — so you say, who’s making these deals?

Well, Germany is obviously benefiting because we are the world champions at exporting?

Well you’re very good at export — we buy lots of your cars.

Do Europeans have to fear something similar to what you might announce for China — higher custom duties?

It’s going to be different — I mean Germany is a great country, great manufacturing country — you go down Fifth Avenue everybody has a Mercedes-Benz in front of their building, right — the fact is that it’s been very unfair to the US, it’s not a two-way street. How many Chevrolets do you see in Germany? Maybe none — not too many — how many — you don’t see anything over there — it’s a one-way street — it’s gotta be a two-way street — I want it to be fair but it’s gotta be a two-way street and that’s why we’re losing almost $800, think of it, $800 billion a year in trade so that will stop — ya know we have Wilbur [Ross, his choice for commerce secretary] as one of our guys, ya know Wilbur . . .

And I will say most of it . . . most of it is China ’cause China is a tremendous problem.

You just mentioned Mercedes, BMW, even VW — do you expect them to build more plants in the US? For example, BMW wants to open a plant in 2019 in Mexico . . .

I would tell them, don’t waste their time and money — unless they want to sell to other countries, that’s fine — if they want to open in Mexico, I love Mexico, I like the President, I like everybody — but I would tell BMW if they think they’re gonna build a plant in Mexico and sell cars into the US without a 35 per cent tax, it’s not gonna happen, it’s not gonna happen — so if they want to build cars for the world I would say wish them luck — they can build cars for the US but they’ll be paying a 35 per cent tax on every car that comes into the country . . . so what I’m saying is they have to build their plant in the US, it will be much better for them and what we’re doing — maybe more importantly, is we’re lowering taxes — corporate taxes — down to from 15 to 20 per cent and were getting rid of 75 per cent of the regulations — from 35 down to 15 to 20, we haven’t picked the final but from 15 to 20, and we’re also gonna let the companies bring back their money with the inversion, corporate inversion.

That will affect people like Google?

Well, we’ve got five — I think it’s five, they say it’s 2.5-3, I think it’s five, but it’s $5 trillion over there and they can’t bring back their money so that’s part of our tax bill, the money comes back.

Given your views on free trade, would you say that you’re a conservative?

I’m pragmatic, look I go in front of crowds — I had the biggest crowds anybody’s ever had for a presidential election and that’s tough and when I was fighting with Jeb Bush, ya know “low energy” Jeb, he would say, ‘Donald Trump is not a conservative’, so I’d go in front of 25,000 people and, like in Michigan, where there’s massive — 32,000 people — and I’m screaming, ‘Jeb Bush says I’m not a conservative’, they’re screaming, ‘Who cares?’, and I said, ‘What do you want? Do you want conservative or a good deal?’ And the reason, because Jeb Bush said I’m not a conservative because I don’t believe in free trade — well I do believe in free trade, I love free trade, but it’s gotta be smart trade so I call it fair trade — and the problem, so I said to the people, ‘Do you want a conservative or do you want somebody who’s gonna make great deals?’, and they’re all screaming, ‘Great deals, great deals’ — they don’t care, there are no labels — ya know there’s some people, he is not — Jeb Bush would stand up — ‘He is not a true conservative’ — who cares — I am a conservative, but I’m really about making great deals for the people so they get jobs . . . the people don’t care ya know when you’re talking — they don’t care, they want good deals — ya know what? They want their jobs back.

Do you have any models — are there heroes that you steer by — people you look up to from the past?

Well, I don’t like heroes, I don’t like the concept of heroes, the concept of heroes is never great, but certainly you can respect certain people and certainly there are certain people — but I’ve learnt a lot from my father — my father was a builder in Brooklyn and Queens — he did houses and housing and I learned a lot about negotiation from my father — although I also think negotiation is a natural trait, I don’t think you can, you either have it or you don’t, you get better at it but basically, the people who I know who are great negotiators or great salesmen or great politicians, it’s very natural, very natural . . . I got a letter from somebody, their congressman, they said what you’ve done is amazing because you were never a politician and you beat all the politicians. He said they added it up — when I was three months into the campaign, they added it up — I had three months of experience and the 17 guys I was running against, the Republicans, had 236 years – ya know when you add 20 years and 30 years — so I was three months they were 236 years — so it’s sort of a funny article but I believe it’s like hitting a baseball or being a good golfer — natural ability, to me, is much more important to me than experience and experience is a great thing — I think it’s a great thing — but I learned a lot from my father in terms of leadership.

Your policy platform of America First implies you’re happy to see the rest of the world suffer. Do you?

I don’t want it to be a disruption — I love the world, I want the world to be good but we can’t go — I mean look at what’s happening to our country — we are $20 trillion — we don’t know what we’re doing — our military is weak — we’re in wars that never end, we’re in Afghanistan now 17 years, they told me this, really — 17 years, it’s the longest war we’ve ever been in.

Given what’s been reported this week, what does that say about your relations with the intelligence community?

Well, we have to have, ya have to have the right people and as you know Pompeo — who’s really been received, did a good job yesterday, head of the CIA — might I think we have some very great people going in — I think we have some great people — ya know I have a lot of respect for the intelligence but a lot of leaks, a lot of fake news coming out, a lot of fake news.

It’s been reported that a British former diplomat was involved in this whole thing — do you think that we, in Britain, need to look at our intelligence services?

Well, that guy is somebody that you should look at, because whatever he made up about me it was false — he was supposedly hired by the Republicans and Democrats working together — even that I don’t believe because they don’t work together, they work separately — and they don’t hire the same guy — what they got together? See the whole thing is fake news because it said the, whoever it was, intelligence, the so-called intelligence, said he’s an operative of Republicans and Democrats — they don’t work together, they don’t work together.

Who do you think, then, is behind it all?

I think probably could be intelligence or it could be, it could be, the Democrats.

When I just heard it — I ripped up the mat . . . if I did that in a hotel it’d be the biggest thing — they’d have me on the front page of The New York Post, right? And the other thing, I can’t even, I don’t even want to shake hands with people now I hear about this stuff — ugh.

It’s fake news, it was totally made up and I just got a letter from people who went to Russia with me — did you see that letter — very rich people, they went with me, they said you were with us, I was with them, I wasn’t even here when they said such false stuff.

I left, I wasn’t even there . . . I was there for the Miss Universe contest, got up, got my stuff and I left — I wasn’t even there — it’s all . . . so if this guy is a British guy you got a lot of problems.

How is being President going to change how you operate?

Ya know this is a very, very big change — I led a very nice life and ya know successful and good and nice and this is a lot different — but ya know my attitude on that is when you’re president, you’re in the White House which is a very special place — you’re there for a limited period of time — who wants to leave? Like I’ve liked President Obama, he’s been very nice, yeah he’s been nice one on one, but maybe not so nice in other ways — but who wants to leave the White House to go to some other place and be away on a vacation? The White House is very special, there’s so much work to be done, I’m not gonna be leaving much — I mean a lot of work to be done — I’m gonna be in there working, doing what I’m supposed to be doing — but who wants to leave the White House?

They say Camp David is very nice.

Yea, Camp David is very rustic, it’s nice, you’d like it. You know how long you’d like it? For about 30 minutes…

When you’re President will you still tweet? And if you do will it be as the Real Donald Trump, as POTUS, or probably as Real POTUS?

@realDonaldTrump I think, I’ll keep it . . . so I’ve got 46 million people right now — that’s a lot, that’s really a lot — but 46 million — including Facebook, Twitter and ya know, Instagram so when you think that your 46 million there, I’d rather just let that build up and just keep it @realDonaldTrump, it’s working — and the tweeting, I thought I’d do less of it, but I’m covered so dishonestly by the press — so dishonestly — that I can put out Twitter — and it’s not 140, it’s now 140, 280 — I can go bing bing bing and I just keep going and they put it on and as soon as I tweet it out — this morning on television, Fox — “Donald Trump, we have breaking news” — I put out a thing . . .

. . . You were tweeting a lot this morning?

I tweeted a little bit, yeah.

And you do it on your own?

I tweeted about the intelligence agencies because it all turned out to be false information.

And you do it on that phone there?

This — I have numerous, I have numerous — I have iPhones, I have . . .

But nobody else knows how to log into your Twitter account?

No, I do — I have one or two people who do during the day I’ll just dictate something and they’ll type it in.

So, Steve Bannon or someone else?

No, not Steve, but I have people who do it. But ya know the tweeting is interesting because I find it very accurate — when I get a word out and if I tell something to the papers and they don’t write it accurately, it’s really bad — they can’t do much when you tweet it and I’m careful about, it’s very precise, actually it’s very, very precise — and it comes out breaking news, we have breaking news — ya know, it’s funny, if I did a press release and if I put it out, it wouldn’t get nearly — people would see it the following day — if I do a news conference, that’s a lot of work.

Although the media have been better lately, which is shocking, shocking — in fact today they have a front-page story saying that Trump’s people will never leave him — ya know all of the voters that I have will never leave — which is very interesting cause we have great support in the country, tremendous support, I was very surprised at that story.

What role will [your son-in-law] Jared [Kushner] play?

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Harvard educated Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump and 45th POTUS

Oh, really . . . Ya know what, Jared is such a good kid and he’ll make a deal with Israel that no one else can — ya know he’s a natural, he’s a great deal, he’s a natural — ya know what I was talking about, natural — he’s a natural deal-maker — everyone likes him.

And will [your daughter] Ivanka play a big role in the administration?

Well, not now, she’s going to Washington, and they’re buying a house or something, but ya know she’s got the children, so Jared will be involved as we announced — no salary, no nothing. If he made peace — who’d be better at that than Jared, right — there’s something about him . . .

Are you looking forward to meeting our prime minister?

Well, I’ll be there — we’ll be there soon — I would say we’ll be here for a little while but and it looks like she’ll be here first — how is she doing over there, by the way, what do you think?

Theresa?

Yeah, May.

She’s got very strong approval ratings.

Popular. How are they doing with the break-up? How’s the break-up going?

Well, the PM wants to get a strong deal with the US.

Well, we’re gonna get a trade deal. Well, how is our Nigel doing? I like him, I think he’s a great guy, I think he’s a very good guy and he was very supportive. He’d go around the US — he was saying Trump’s gonna win. He was one of the earliest people who said Trump was gonna win. So, he’s gotta feel for it. Michael, you should’ve written that we were gonna win.

Well, at least let me give you a copy of my book on how to fight terrorism.

Good, I’d love that. That’s fantastic — how to fight terrorism, I can use that.

 

Davos elites struggle for answers as Trump era dawns


January 16, 2017

Davos elites struggle for answers as Trump era dawns

By Noah Barkin

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-davos-meeting-preview-idUSKBN14Z07V

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DAVOS, Switzerland – The global economy is in better shape than it’s been in years. Stock markets are booming, oil prices are on the rise again and the risks of a rapid economic slowdown in China, a major source of concern a year ago, have eased.

“The state of global politics is worse than it’s been in a long time.At a time when we need more coordination to tackle issues like climate change and other systemic risks, we are getting more and more insular.”–Ian Goldin, Oxford University

And yet, as political leaders, CEOs and top bankers make their annual trek up the Swiss Alps to the World Economic Forum in Davos, the mood is anything but celebratory.

Beneath the veneer of optimism over the economic outlook lurks acute anxiety about an increasingly toxic political climate and a deep sense of uncertainty surrounding the U.S. presidency of Donald Trump, who will be inaugurated on the final day of the forum.

Last year, the consensus here was that Trump had no chance of being elected. His victory, less than half a year after Britain voted to leave the European Union, was a slap at the principles that elites in Davos have long held dear, from globalization and free trade to multilateralism.

Trump is the poster child for a new strain of populism that is spreading across the developed world and threatening the post-war liberal democratic order. With elections looming in the Netherlands, France, Germany, and possibly Italy, this year, the nervousness among Davos attendees is palpable.

“Regardless of how you view Trump and his positions, his election has led to a deep, deep sense of uncertainty and that will cast a long shadow over Davos,” said Jean-Marie Guehenno, CEO of International Crisis Group, a conflict resolution think-tank.

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Moises Naim of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace was even more blunt: “There is a consensus that something huge is going on, global and in many respects unprecedented. But we don’t know what the causes are, nor how to deal with it.”

The titles of the discussion panels at the WEF, which runs from January, 17-20, evoke the unsettling new landscape. Among them are “Squeezed and Angry: How to Fix the Middle Class Crisis”, “Politics of Fear or Rebellion of the Forgotten?”, “Tolerance at the Tipping Point?” and “The Post-EU Era”.

The list of leaders attending this year is also telling. The star attraction will be Xi Jinping, the first Chinese President ever to attend Davos. His presence is being seen as a sign of Beijing’s growing weight in the world at a time when Trump is promising a more insular, “America first” approach and Europe is pre-occupied with its own troubles, from Brexit to terrorism.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, who has the thorny task of taking her country out of the EU, will also be there. But Germany’s Angela Merkel, a Davos regular whose reputation for steady, principled leadership would have fit well with the WEF’s main theme of “Responsive and Responsible Leadership”, will not.

‘Rejoicing in the Elevators’

Perhaps the central question in Davos, a four-day affair of panel discussions, lunches and cocktail parties that delve into subjects as diverse as terrorism, artificial intelligence and wellness, is whether leaders can agree on the root causes of public anger and begin to articulate a response.

A WEF report on global risks released before Davos highlighted “diminishing public trust in institutions” and noted that rebuilding faith in the political process and leaders would be a “difficult task”.

Guy Standing, the author of several books on the new “precariat”, a class of people who lack job security and reliable earnings, believes more people are coming around to the idea that free-market capitalism needs to be overhauled, including those that have benefited most from it.

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“The mainstream corporate types don’t want Trump and far-right authoritarians,” said Standing, who has been invited to Davos for the first time. “They want a sustainable global economy in which they can do business. More and more of them are sensible enough to realize that they have overreached.”

But Ian Bremmer, President of U.S.-based political risk consultancy Eurasia Group, is not so sure.

He recounted a recent trip to Goldman Sachs headquarters in New York where he saw bankers “rejoicing in the elevators” at the surge in stock markets and the prospect of tax cuts and deregulation under Trump. Both Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein and his JP Morgan counterpart Jamie Dimon will be in Davos.

“If you want to find people who are going to rally together and say capitalism is fundamentally broken, Davos is not the place to go,” Bremmer said.

Pace of Change

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Suma Chakrabarti, President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), believes a “modern version of globalization” is possible but acknowledges it will take time to emerge.

“It is going to be a long haul in persuading a lot of people who there is a different approach. But you don’t have to throw the baby out with the bath water,” he told Reuters.

Still, some attendees worry that the pace of technological change and the integrated, complex nature of the global economy have made it more difficult for leaders to shape and control events, let alone reconfigure the global system.

The global financial crisis of 2008/9 and the migrant crisis of 2015/16 exposed the impotence of politicians, deepening public disillusion and pushing people towards populists who offered simple explanations and solutions.

The problem, says Ian Goldin, an expert on globalization and development at the University of Oxford, is that on many of the most important issues, from climate change to financial regulation, only multilateral cooperation can deliver results. And this is precisely what the populists reject.

“The state of global politics is worse than it’s been in a long time,” said Goldin. “At a time when we need more coordination to tackle issues like climate change and other systemic risks, we are getting more and more insular.”

(Additional reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Pravin Char)

 

Dr. Munir looks back at 2016


January 7, 2017

Dr. Munir looks back at 2016

COMMENT by Dr. Munir Majid@www.thestar.com.my

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Not a single Western political leader has had the guts to tell their people they had to accept a lower standard of living, that it was time for a great reset. Build up productivity and capacity again. Meanwhile, if you go to the pub, go only once a month. If you shampoo your hair once a week, do it fortnightly. Taking holidays abroad in countries whose people you come to hate when you get home will have to take a rest. If you work only 35 hours a week, as in France, what do you expect?–Dr. Munir Majid

The descent from globalism to nativism is the defining story of 2016, but the analysis of its cause and projection of the world into 2017 by intellectual custodians of the liberal order are flawed and offer no guide on how to break the fall.

The Brexit vote in Britain in June, the election of Donald Trump in November and the threatening reactionary outcome of elections in France and Germany next year all point to the end of a certain system by which the world has operated, even if what exactly would replace it is less than clear. If the great Western nations of the world change direction, then the rest must.

A broader perspective, however, would recognise the troubles and decisions of 2016 and what might come in 2017 had a gestation period that began at least from the Western financial crisis of 2008, too often called and accepted as the global financial crisis.

What the West continues to grapple with is how to live beyond its means. There was the criminal excess of the banks leading to the 2008 crisis, of course, but underlying it was the ethic of expectation of a certain standard of living, whether or not one worked for it or was productive enough to deserve it.

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Marie Le Pen, Donald J. Trump and Vladimir Putin–The End of Liberal Global Order

If you do not have the means to get what you want you have to borrow to get it, unless of course you stole and pillaged. So Western states and individuals kept on borrowing, or the central banks printed money to keep the economy going, which it always did not as the money kept going out where it could be more productively used.

Not a single Western political leader has had the guts to tell their people they had to accept a lower standard of living, that it was time for a great reset. Build up productivity and capacity again. Meanwhile, if you go to the pub, go only once a month. If you shampoo your hair once a week, do it fortnightly. Taking holidays abroad in countries whose people you come to hate when you get home will have to take a rest. If you work only 35 hours a week, as in France, what do you expect?

Did any of this happen? People may lose jobs as they could not compete, but they get state support and they blame others like the migrant European workers who could work, who took jobs they did not want to do.

Immigration becomes the issue. And when refugees pour in who also bring with them the threat, and execution, of terror, an inflection point is reached. Sociologists now analyse this as a threat to identity, which certainly is used in rousing emotions during political campaigns, but there was at least equally a revolt against the economic and social condition those not doing so well in life were in.

They are now so widely called the under-served. In the case of Brexit, there was no doubt the uprising of the Little Englander, but there was also the let-us-just-bloody-well-get-out-and-see-what-happens attitude.

While some in the shires thought like this, I also know of a few non-white working class Brits who voted to get out just on this basis. When I asked one such person in London, who is a chauffeur to an unbearable boss, why he did such an irresponsible act, he tried to justify it by associating himself with the workers in Sunderland of whom he knows absolutely nothing.

The thing is, who speaks to such people? The academics and intellectuals only talk among themselves in an idiom only they can understand. Even after Trump, when they pronounced there has been a great failure to address the under-served – which the President-elect on the other hand did so well – they are still talking to and being clever with one another.

My friend Francois Heisbourg, Chairman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, beautifully describes Marine Le Pen’s appeal to the French: “Donald Trump makes Marine Le Pen sound reasonable…..Everyone knows she’s not Trump – she knows how to use a noun and a verb and is intellectually coherent about what she wants and doesn’t want.”

What, for God’s sake, are the arguments that can be used effectively with the ordinary Frenchman that they can understand and appreciate in favour of the liberal order? Paul Krugman likens what is happening to America to how the Roman Republic was destroyed by individuals disloyal to it serving only their own selfish cause. Pray, how many among the Americans who voted for Trump know, or care, anything about the history of Rome?

The Economist, that great citadel of the liberal order, makes a clarion call for its defence and for liberals not to lose heart. How and what to do? Certainly not by talking to one another. Or by communicating in a language and idiom a lower order would not understand.

With perfect Euro-centrism an English commentator fears the Syrian conflict may turn out to be like the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). Has he not heard of the Palestinian struggle which has spawned much of the bloodshed in the Middle East and beyond?

There are three gaping holes in the defence of the “global” liberal order. First there is a blind spot about having to have a lower standard of living unless you earn a higher one. Second, an inability among liberal intellectuals to communicate except among themselves. Third, a reflection on the threat through western eyes only.

The second weakness is endemic. It is a truly global malady. Intellectuals, whether in the West or Malaysia or anywhere else, should not disdain populism, which is the bad word now in all the commentary on the threat to the global liberal order. They will not stoop so low – as Trump did – to gain support. Well, stoop less low or in a different way. Dirty your hands. Reach out.

We don’t communicate simply, when there are simple terms that convey meaning. We think we are so high and mighty.

Actually if you think about it – and this is especially for the blinkered Western intellectuals – the exemplar of populism, and darned effective with it, is UMNO. You may wince at the kris-wielding antics and other forms of political theatre, and you may not agree with some or most of the policies propounded, but you have to admit they rabble rouse their way to considerable support.

Yucks… but that was the yucks that caused Donald Trump to win. You have to get popular support. You do not do so talking to one another from university pulpits, in the parlours of Georgetown in Washington DC, in Hampstead or indeed at the Royal Selangor Golf Club in Kuala Lumpur.

Now, why do Western intellectuals particularly not talk about having to accept a lower standard of living? Well, they too will have to do so. The levels of income of the journalists and professors and consultants actually are very high, and they do a lot of talking outside their paid job for which they are paid more. Can they look the lowly worker in the eye and say you have to be paid less?

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Farewell and Thank You Mr. President for keeping the world  safe, despite setbacks . We in Asia will miss you for your engagement with us.

There has been a historic transfer of savings from countries with a lower standard of living to those higher so they stay there. As these poorer countries need and want rich country currency – particularly the dollar – for their economic life in their global liberal order, the rich not only get the savings from the poor to sustain their economic life in that global liberal order. They also are able to print money for the extras they might want.

They would be risking their own interest if they began to start talking to under served workers in their domestic economy about income levels that can be sustained by actual production – which is what developing countries have to live by, global liberal order or not.

Now the most important main benefit poorer countries obtain from that order is being threatened – their ability and success in producing goods and services which can reach any consumer in open global competition.

Donald Trump is breaking the rules for America because the US cannot otherwise compete. So he wants to protect the American market against better able, more efficient and cheaper producers – the developing countries.

While enjoyment – and denial – of these goods and services is one thing, and while undoubtedly there will in the immediate-term be a rebound of the US economy, who in the medium and long-term is going to hold Western debt so that the high standard of living in rich countries can continue? They do not save to finance the economy. They do not efficiently produce many of the goods and services they enjoy. They need also to take advantage, through trade and investment, of the real growth in developing regions such as in East and South-East Asia.

Therefore on this score alone – the need for an open and competitive global trading system – there is true convergence of interest in the world. The poorer countries will have to take it, warts and all. And the rich Western nations, with their proponents of the global liberal order, will certainly want to keep it all.

The skewered balance in the global liberal order is sustained by an intellectual convention which is Euro-centric but commanding across the globe. Leaders in politics and thought in non-Western countries only have themselves to blame for this.

They accept almost carte blanche what Western liberals submit. Don’t get me wrong. There are so many good things about western liberals and the liberal order.

I don’t think there has ever been in history such a constituency of liberals as there are in the West who would fight for the rights of the victimized and the downtrodden, like refugees, non-whites and Muslims, as there is in the western world today. Even as extreme and violent Muslims blow them up. The adherence to the value of love against hate, and of tolerance against incitement, is of the highest human order.

The other thing developing countries could imbibe from the Western liberal order is the rule of law. This is the strongest defence and guarantee of individual rights there has ever been in human history.

Image result for Lee Kuan YewSuccessful leader: Lee Kuan Yew made Singapore economically successful as a result of the purely utilitarian benefit of the rule of the law

When the laws are applied and enforced without fear or favour, there is faith in the social contract that underlies the polity. This is the main failing of most developing countries, which they would do well to learn from the West, beyond the purely utilitarian benefit of the rule of law that drove Lee Kuan Yew to make Singapore economically successful.

But, despite all this truly profound contribution of liberals and the liberal order of the West, it does not mean we must accept everything from them hook, line and sinker, especially every bit of the analysis of what has gone or is going wrong with the world.

Or the selling of expertise on how to get things right. Their record on that score is poor. We have too many such offerings, in Malaysia for instance, of how to develop our financial system and to train our financial practitioners. We must not be stupid to give money for old rope.

As we go into the new year, we should not be overwhelmed by analyses of what happened in 2016 and why. We must have a clarity and sense of perspective of the causes leading to it. And we must look forward to 2017 without the colonial mentality which makes us slaves to Western thought.