Hoping for the Best Against Trump


January 30, 2017

Hoping for the Best Against Trump

By Ian Buruma

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/hoping-against-trump-by-ian-buruma-2017-01

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Is there any reason for liberals to feel optimistic after a year of political disasters? Is there even a shred of silver lining to be found in the tatters of Brexit, Donald Trump’s election, and European disunity? Christians believe that despair is a mortal sin, so one might as well try to find a glimmer of hope.

In the United States, many liberals console themselves with the belief that the obvious dangers of being governed by an ignorant, narcissistic, authoritarian loudmouth backed by billionaires, ex-generals, peddlers of malicious fake news, and neophytes with extreme views will help to galvanize a strong political opposition. Trump, it is hoped, will concentrate the minds of all who still believe in liberal democracy, be they left or even right of center.

In this scenario, civil-rights groups, NGOs, students, human-rights activists, Democratic members of Congress, and even some Republicans, will do everything in their power to push back against Trump’s worst impulses. Long-dormant political activism will erupt into mass protest, with resurgent liberal idealism breaking the wave of right-wing populism. Well, perhaps.

Others seek comfort in the expectation that Trump’s wildly contradictory plans – lower taxes, while raising infrastructure spending; helping the neglected working class, while slashing welfare and repealing the Affordable Care Act – will suck his administration into a swamp of infighting, incoherence, and incompetence.

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All these things might happen. But protest alone won’t be of much help. Anti-Trump demonstrations in big cities will no doubt annoy the self-loving new president, and the moral glow of joining the resistance will warm the protesters. But without real political organization, mere protest will go the way of Occupy Wall Street in 2011; it will peter out into ineffectual gestures.

One of the most dangerous ideas of contemporary populism is that political parties are obsolete, and should be replaced by movements led by charismatic leaders who act as the voice of “the people.” By implication, all dissenters are enemies of the people. That way lies dictatorship.

Liberal democracy can be saved only if mainstream parties can regain voters’ trust. The Democratic Party must get its act together. “Feeling the Bern” (the mantra of Bernie Sanders’ leftist campaign) will not suffice to stop Trump from inflicting great harm to institutions that were carefully constructed more than two centuries ago to protect American democracy from demagogues like him.

The same thing is true of international arrangements and institutions, whose survival depends on the willingness to defend them. Trump has expressed his indifference to NATO, and US security commitments in East Asia. His election will further erode Pax Americana, already battered by a succession of foolish wars. Without the US guarantee to protect its democratic allies, institutions built after World War II to provide that protection would not survive for very long.

Perhaps there is a tiny ray of hope in this gloomy prospect. Europe and Japan, not to mention South Korea, have become too dependent on US military protection. The Japanese have fairly large armed forces, but are hampered by a pacifist constitution written by Americans in 1946. Europeans are completely unprepared to defend themselves, owing to inertia, complacency, and lassitude.

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It is just possible that Trump’s blustering “America first” rhetoric will galvanize Europeans and East Asians into changing the status quo and doing more for their own security. Ideally, European countries should build an integrated defense force that would be less dependent on the US. And the countries of Southeast and East Asia could construct a Japanese-led variant of NATO to balance the domineering might of China.

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But even if these arrangements came to pass (a huge if), it would not happen soon. Europeans are unwilling to pay higher taxes for their own defense. Germany has neither the wherewithal, nor the will to lead a military alliance. And most Asians, including many Japanese, would not trust Japan to lead such a coalition in Asia. The current Japanese government, under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, would like to revise the pacifist constitution, as a necessary first step toward weaning the country off its total dependence on the US. But Abe’s revisionism is rooted in a nationalist ideology, which is prone to justifying historical atrocities instead of drawing lessons from them. This alone disqualifies Japan from leading others in a military pact.

So, while it might be time to rethink the world order built by the US on the ruins of WWII, the Trump presidency is unlikely to bring this about in a careful and orderly manner. His election is more like an earthquake, unleashing forces no one can control. Instead of encouraging the Japanese to think about collective security in a responsible way, Trump’s indifference is more likely to play to the worst instincts of panicky Japanese nationalists.

Europe is in no shape to rise to the challenge of Pax Americana’s erosion, either. Without a greater sense of pan-national European solidarity, European institutions will soon become hollow, and perhaps even cease to exist. But this sense is precisely what the demagogues are now undermining with such conspicuous success.

If there is reason for confidence, it is not in the liberal democratic world, but in the capitals of its most powerful adversaries: Moscow and Beijing. Trump, at least in the short term, seems to be good news for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. Without credible American leadership, or a strong alliance of democracies, there won’t be much left to restrain Russian or Chinese ambitions.

This might not lead to catastrophe in the next few years. Russia and China are more likely to test the limits of their power slowly, bit by bit: Ukraine today, perhaps the Baltics tomorrow; the South China Sea islands now, Taiwan later. They will push, and push, until they push too far. Then anything may happen. Great powers often blunder into great wars. This is no reason for despair, as we begin the New Year, but no reason to be optimistic, either.

2016–The Harbinger of Troubled and Uncertain Times in 2017


December 20, 2016

2016–The Harbinger of Troubled and Uncertain Times in 2017

by Martin Khor@www.thestar.com.my

Image result for The Destruction of Aleppo, Syria

‘It Is Our Soul’: The Destruction of Aleppo, Syria’s Oldest City : Information Clearing House: ICH
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The year 2016 will be remembered for the West ending its romance with globalisation, and its impact on the rest of the world.

JUST a few days before Christmas, it is time again to look back on the year that is about to pass. What a strange year it has been, and not one we can  truly celebrate!

The top event was Donald Trump’s unexpected victory. It became the biggest sign that the basic framework and values underpinning Western societies since the Second World War have undergone a seismic change.

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The established order represented by Hillary Clinton was resoundingly defeated by the tumultuous wave Trump generated with his promise to stop the United States from pandering to other countries so that it could become “great again”.

Early in the year came the Brexit vote shock, taking Britain out of the European Union. It was the initial signal that the liberal order created by the West is now being quite effectively challenged by their own masses.

Openness to immigrants and foreigners is now opposed by citizens in Europe and the US who see them as threats to jobs, national culture and security rather than beneficial additions to the economy and society.

The long-held thesis that openness to trade and foreign investments is best for the economy and underpins political stability is crumbling under the weight of a sceptical public that blames job losses and the shift of industries abroad on ultra-liberal trade and investment agreements and policies.

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Thus, 2016 which started with mega trade agreements completed (Trans-Pacific Partnership) or in the pipeline (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the US and Europe) ended with both being dumped by the President Elect, a stunning reversal of the decades-old US position advocating the benefits of the open economy.

2016 will be remembered as the year when the romance in the West with “globalisation” was killed by a public disillusioned and outraged by the inequalities of an economic system tilted in favour of a rich minority, while a sizeable majority feel marginalised and discarded.

In Asia, the dismantling of the globalisation ideal in the Western world was greeted with a mixture of regret, alarm and a sense of opportunity.

Many in this region believe that trade and investment have served several of their countries well. There is fear that the anti-globalisation rebellion in the West will lead to a rapid rise of protectionism that will hit the exports and industries of Asia.

As Trump announced he would pull the US out of the TPP, China stepped into the vacuum vacated by the US and pledged to be among the torchbearers of trade liberalisation in the Asia-Pacific region and possibly the world.

The change of direction in the US and to some extent Europe poses an imminent threat to Asian exports, investors and economic growth. But it is also an opportunity for Asian countries to review their development strategies, rely more on themselves and the region, and take on a more active leadership role.

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China made use of 2016 to prepare for this, with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank taking off and the immense Belt and Road Initiative gathering steam. Many companies and governments are now latching on to the latter as the most promising source of future growth.

The closing months of 2016 also saw a surprising and remarkable shift in position by the Philippines (and Malaysia too for a different set of reasons), whose new President took big steps to reconcile with China over conflicting claims in the South China Sea, thus defusing the situation – at least for now.

Unfortunately, the year also saw heart-rending reports on the plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar, and the deaths of thousands of Syrians including those who perished or were injured in the end-game in Aleppo.

On the environmental front, it is likely 2016 will be the hottest year on record, overtaking 2015. This makes the coming into force in October of the Paris Agreement on climate change all the more meaningful.

But there are two big problems. First, the pledges in the agreement are grossly insufficient to meet the level of emissions cuts needed to keep the world safe from global warming, and there is also insufficient financing to support the developing countries’ climate actions, whether on mitigation or adaptation.

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And second, there is a big question mark on the future of the Paris agreement as Trump had vowed to take the US out of it.

The biggest effect of 2016 could be that a climate skeptic was elected US President.In the area of health, the dangers of antibiotic resistance went up on the global agenda with a declaration and day-long event involving political leaders at the United Nations in September.

There was growing evidence and stark warnings in 2016 that we are entering a post-antibiotic era where medicines will no longer work and millions will die from infection and ailments that could once be easily treated by antibiotics.

The world will also be closing in a mood of great economic uncertainty. In 2016 the world economy overall didn’t do well but also not too badly, with growth rates projected at 2.4 to 3%.

But for developing economies like Malaysia, the year ended with worries that the high capital inflows of recent years are reversing as money flows back to the US. The first in an expected series of interest rate increases came last week.

All in all, there was not much to rejoice about in 2016, and worse still it built the foundation for more difficulties to come in 2017.

So we should enjoy the Christmas/New Year season while we can. Merry Christmas to all readers!

Martin Khor (director@southcentre.org) is executive director of the South Centre.

The New Muhyiddin Yassin baptised by BERSIH 5.0?


November 2, 2016

The New Muhyiddin Yassin baptised by BERSIH 5.0?

by Mariam Mokhtar

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for muhyiddin yassin at Bersih .o

Former Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin speaks to the crowd at the Bersih 5 rally in Kuala Lumpur November 19, 2016. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

If ever there was a rousing speech to stir the masses to fight for Malaysia and eject Najib Abdul Razak and his cronies, this had to be it. This was the ‘mother-of-all-speeches’, not just because of its content, and delivery, but more important because of the man who made it.

Who would have thought in their wildest dreams that former Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Muhyiddin Yassin, who uttered the infamous words, “I am Malay first, Malaysian second”, would have become the latest darling of Malaysia?

One could easily argue that the speech, which he made from the back of a truck in the shadow of the Petronas Twin Towers, was the most important political speech of Muhyiddin’s life.

Having worked his way up to the post of DPM, then vilified for his ‘I am Malay first’ speech, then unceremoniously chucked out of Najib’s cabinet for opposing him, Muhyiddin has made a spectacular political comeback.

He said, “I must appeal to all of you (to) set aside all our differences, so that we may face (BN) on a one-to-one basis.We want an honest and clean government.”

His speech was spontaneous and off the cuff. There were no teleprompters. He spoke in English and Malay, sending the crowd wild with jubilation.

Who would have thought that the former UMNO Baru strongman would demand clean elections, and a democratic government?

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Such was his punchy delivery that he overshadowed former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who had spoken before him. The former DPM has undergone a political rebirth from his political pariahdom. His reincarnation has been both elating and confusing.

Some of the nuggets in his speech, were; We must see change happen, in the next general election. The present government does not care about you, they only care about themselves. They have sold our pride. Malaysians must show that we are united, irrespective of where we come from.

Let us hope he has been sincere and is not just spouting platitudes. He spoke about a fair, just government for our children and our grandchildren. “The time is up for BN. We must dictate the future of the country. This is the time for us to work together. Malaysia belongs to all of us.”

“Time is up for the cronies, Riza Aziz, Jho Low and the ministers who speak nonsense. Berani kerana benar.”

A few days before the BERSIH 5 march, the Malay NGO Jaringan Melayu Malaysia (JMM), announced that the Federal Territories Islamic Department (Jawi) should investigate Muhyiddin for his alleged affair.

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You just wonder what goes on in the minds of the JMM office-bearers. Are they obsessed with sex and time-wasting, or are they so obtuse that they cannot see that the nation is undergoing its most serious peacetime political crisis in living memory?

If JMM had any sense, and if they were of any use, they would have demanded that the religious authorities investigate Najib, his cabinet ministers, the zakat and Tabung Haji funds, and the mosque administrations to see the depth of corruption and abuses of public funds that have been allowed to go unchallenged.

Dr M will always be a crowd-puller

The other prominent ‘M’ for BERSIH 5 is former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who rushed home from a conference in Sudan to ensure he was able to participate in BERSIH 5. Mahathir has and will always be a crowd-puller.

Anyone with an elderly person in the family would be worried by Dr M’s gruelling schedule, but credit to the nonagerian, who was able to set aside his tiredness to come before Malaysians and encourage them to demand a clean and fair government.

Again, who would have thought that in our lifetimes, we would see the man, who once opposed protests and dissent, to declare that Najib must be taken down.

What a pity that his efforts to galvanise Malaysians towards reform have been dismissed by Najib, who said that Dr M likes making U-turns.

Finally, the most feared and respected ‘M’ is Maria Chin Abdullah. A fearless defender of human rights, a champion of women’s causes, and a mother of three. She does not present a threat to a clean government. All she, BERSIH 5 and decent Malaysians want are clean, free and fair elections and a return to good governance and democracy.

Locked in solitary confinement, in a 15ft by 8ft windowless cell, with two light bulbs on 24-hours a day, Maria’s comforts are a cold cement floor and wooden pangkin (bench).

So, why would the red-shirt thugs be ordered to terrorise all of Malaysia, and cultivate a culture of fear in the run-up to BERSIH 5? Why was her arrest ordered?

It is because Maria has the secret to the remaining ‘M’ – the largely sleeping dragon, the Malaysian rakyat, which she is trying to awaken.

Maria has the power to unite all Malaysians to oust Najib. That is why Maria has to be locked away in a secret location, detained for 28 days under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma).

She is not a terrorist; she is a freedom fighter. If Maria is free, Najib’s political future is at risk. No wonder Najib is afraid.

 

The secrets to Trump’s shock victory–A Message to Prime Minister Najib Razak and UMNO


November 10, 2016

My message to Prime Minister Najib Razak and UMNO, Do not take us for granted. You cannot stop change when the time is right–Din Merican

I have consistently stated that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the most qualified and temperamentally prepared candidate  ever in the history of US politics for POTUS. I was confident that she would have given her Republican rival a trashing on November 8, 2016 as I watched the event live on CNN at the United States Embassy in Phnom Penh. I was wrong.

I was shell-shocked when she lost to a political novice who will now occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC next January. The American voters have spoken; they want change and they go it.

I respect that and congratulate Donald Trump on his success. To Secretary Hillary Clinton, I say thank you for your gallantry and statesmanship.

If there is any consolation  for me and others who favored Hillary, it is that she won the popular vote convincingly. But in America, the winner must command 270 electoral votes ( Donald Trump got some 280 plus votes) to be POTUS. Not only did Trump become President-Elect but he also helped the Republicans gain control of the Senate and the House of  Representatives. He, therefore, deserves credit for beating the odds.

Let me say a few words about the politics in Malaysia. It is divisive and racist. Our government is dysfunctional. Our leaders in Putrajaya are corrupt and incompetent; our Parliament is a rubber stamp; our judiciary no longer administers justice; our civil service is an extension of UMNO;  our economy is tanking; our foreign policy is heavily tilted towards China for Najib’s political survival; our nation is deeply in debt; the cost of living is rising; and 2017 promises to be a  difficult year for every Malaysian except for Najib and family and the UMNO cronies.

Ignore the signs at our own peril. Of course, there are people like Ramon Navaratnam and other self-appointed apologists like him who think otherwise.

Do not take the rural Malays and other Malaysians for granted. No power in the world can stop change from happening when the time is due.  Change is long overdue in Malaysia. Our patience has been tested to the limit. For optimists like me, change is coming sooner rather than later. All we have to do is to make it happen.

The politics and administration in Putrajaya is as pathetic as that in Washington DC. The Americans have spoken and Malaysians will do the same with Najib Razak and UMNO. Ignore our concerns and you will face defeat and may end up in jail for 1MDB and other misdemeanors.–Din Merican

 

The secrets to Trump’s shock victory

by Nathaniel Tan

http://www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT: Donald Trump wins. My wife puts it best: “We live in the Age of The Kardashians. As long as you can create enough hoopla as a one-man circus, you can make it.”

For some reason, she also always refers to Trump’s “locker room” comments as “catch the kitty”, and seems to think that anything to do with cats always wins.

On more serious notes, let’s speculate and reflect on how Trump won, and what we might learn from this debacle.

Repeating Bush’s victory conditions

My view is that Trump won in circumstances similar to those which propelled George W Bush to victory in 2004.

These men share a number of similarities. They were widely denounced around the world as idiots, they ran a campaign amidst a backdrop of global terrorism, and they faced rather placid, uninspiring Democratic nominees.

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Bush’s chief strategist was Karl Rove, and he had a devastatingly simple approach for 2004.

He said: Look, there are millions of right-leaning Americans out there who aren’t voting. Forget compassionate conservatism and centrism, swing hard to the right, inspire right-leaning Americans to come out and vote (when they usually don’t), overwhelm the opposition.

This ended up working beautifully. Rampant fear-mongering, and positioning Bush as a decisive, hawkish leader opposed to John Kerry’s flip-flopping weakness led to a resounding electoral success – while the rest of the world watched on, dumbfounded.

Twelve years later, we appear to be experiencing very similar disbelief and shock – and likely for very similar reasons.

Voter turnout appears to be reaching record highs this year, suggesting that Trump has somehow inspired a lot of people who don’t usually follow politics to come out and vote for him.

Political messaging – the simpler the better

My guess is that inspiration stemmed from simple political messages. I’d bet that for voters the world over, the primary reason for voting for one candidate or another can be summarised in less than three sentences at most.

The results suggest that Trump’s message that foreigners were ruining America for (mostly white) Americans because of weak leadership struck a simple chord, and gave people a convenient outsider to scapegoat – which is always easier than looking inwards.

Combined with rampant fear-mongering and the IS bogeyman, Trump likely succeeded in selling the story that he was the best candidate available to protect America against the many threats it apparently faced. Indeed, terrorism is in some ways the Republican party’s best friend.

Trump’s anti-establishment attacks probably also resonated, especially against Hillary Clinton’s epitomisation of the established, entrenched and privileged political elite. Bernie Sanders would have likely fared better in this regard, but it’s hard to say whether that would have been enough to beat Trump.

Trump’s criticisms of the establishment were not entirely off point either. The old lumbering structures have developed over time (and not just in America either) to favour incumbents, and to encourage keeping power in the hands of an elite club. Sanders’ defeat is a case in point.

We also cannot discount the possibility that many Americans might not have been ready to vote for a woman president.

Twitter no, nuclear weapons, yes

Whatever the reasons, most people with any progressive leanings are reeling from the results.

Nobody seemed to believe Trump could win. Clinton was already shifting her focus from the traditional swing states and targeting traditionally Republican states in anticipation of some sort of landslide victory.

Even Trump seemed to run out of steam the last couple of weeks, making comments that seemed to lay the ground for post-defeat strategies.

With the votes being counted though, it seems that America’s nuclear arsenal is now being put in the control of a man whose own staff couldn’t trust with a Twitter account.

Global fallout

The global implications of this election are scary indeed. It sounds like Vladimir Putin will be delighted to have an American president that admires him, and around whom Putin can probably run circles.

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It feels like it’s been a season of swinging to the right. Britain votes out of the European Union, fueled by sentiment similar to those espoused by Trump. Rodrigo Duterte is voted into power in the Philippines; called by some the Trump of Asia, he promptly abandons traditional ally America in favour of authoritarian China (and Najib Abdul Razak soon follows suit).

Trump isn’t likely to be someone who truly respects human rights, and probably has more in common with dictators than American presidents of the last century. What scary things these portend for global geopolitics only time will really tell; so far, crashing global markets have expressed their opinion in no uncertain terms.

Perhaps there are some things we can learn from this locally as well.

Exiting our urban bubbles

The most obvious lesson is not to be overconfident of course.Another lesson is to never let our urban bubble prevent us from understanding a demographic as a whole.

The media made it look like the entire world (understandably) thought of Trump as a buffoon. This was probably largely true of many urban Americans; but urban Americans and the America the media imagines (or rather sells to) don’t decide elections.

Malaysia has a similar significant urban/rural divide. All major urban areas have solidly voted opposition in recent elections, but Barisan Nasional remains firmly in power off the back of rural support.

It’s an area and a (much less visible) demographic that the opposition truly does not understand well, and surrounding oneself with like-minded urbanites is unlikely to change this status quo. As an aside, this is also probably the reason PAS’ relevance will be unlikely to diminish anytime soon.

The third-party effect

Worth noting as well is the effect of third-party candidates. After Trump and Clinton, the two most significant candidates for president were Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein.

At at least one point in the night, Johnson and Stein were having a visible effect on the elections. Their combined number of votes at that point in Florida and Michigan – key battleground states – were double that of the difference between Trump and Clinton.

This means that if (a very big hypothetical of course) those individuals voted for Clinton instead of Trump, there’s a good chance the election would have gone to Clinton instead.

As our next general election approaches, I think it is safe to say that three-corner fights will almost certainly result in BN victories.

This is not to say that we should blindly support whichever Pakatan we still believe in. I believe that in the long run, our best hope lies in a movement which does not really exist yet.

In the meantime, while it is foolhardy to say that one on one fights will guarantee victory against BN, I think it is equally foolhardy to imagine that three (or more) corner fights will produce anything but a BN victory.

Bridging gaps

It’s easy to rant and rave about how America will truly elect any idiot whatsoever President.

In the end though, if we don’t want to continue living these realities, we really have to move out of our comfort zones, stretch out our imagination and really develop better respect for those who live far away from us, watch different TV shows, and vote differently.

Only then can we start bridging the gaps we need to in order to make our aspirations come true.


Harvard educated and smart NATHANIEL TAN has only ever caught actual kitties; never metaphorical ones.

Message to Donald J. Tump: Learn to accept defeat when the time comes


October 22, 2016

Message to Donald J. Tump: Learn to accept defeat when the time comes

Austin, Tex. — Richard M. Nixon, the first president to resign from office, was hardly a beacon of moral integrity. Nor was Nixon above demagogy on the campaign trail, infamously fanning the flames of Communist paranoia during the McCarthy era by unjustly painting his opponent in his 1950 Senate race, the California congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas, as the “Pink Lady.”

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But the 37th president, as controversial as he was, offers a good example for Donald J. Trump on the importance of putting the country ahead of one’s ego and personal ambition on Election Day.

When Mr. Trump, amid his claims that the voting process is rigged, was asked in Wednesday’s debate if he would accept a losing result in the coming election, he responded by spitting in the face of American democracy. “I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense,” he said glibly, as though presaging a reality-show cliffhanger. The next day he told an audience in Ohio that he would accept the results of the election — “if I win.”

He would do well to look at the election of 1960, which pitted Nixon, the Republican presidential nominee and sitting vice president, against his Democratic rival, the Massachusetts senator John F. Kennedy. The two candidates waged admirable campaigns, which included squaring off in four substantive, widely watched debates, culminating with the election on Nov. 8.

The outcome was a wafer-thin victory for Kennedy, who garnered 49.7 percent of the vote and 303 electoral votes, versus 49.5 percent and 219 votes for Nixon. Of the 68 million votes cast, only 119,000 swung the election for Kennedy, who had taken Illinois and Minnesota by the slimmest of margins.

But shortly after Nixon’s concession to Kennedy, which he offered in a gracious telegram to his opponent early on the morning of Nov. 9, reports of voting fraud in Illinois and Texas benefiting the Democratic ticket began to surface. In Chicago, in one instance, 121 votes were counted after only 43 people voted, and 6,138 ballots were cast in a Texas county with just 4,895 registered voters.

The Republican establishment challenged the results in the news media and in state-level demands for a recount. President Dwight D. Eisenhower even offered to help Nixon raise money to cover what could easily have been a monthslong fight. Over the following weeks the Republicans relentlessly pursued charges of voting irregularity in Illinois and 10 other states, betting that if they won there, they could force a nationwide recount.

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But in contrast to Mr. Trump’s rhetoric today, they tended to cast their efforts in patriotic terms; Eisenhower insisted that he merely wanted to show that the federal government “did not shirk its duty” when it came to questions about the electoral process. Unlike Mr. Trump, they started from a position of trust in the system, focusing their charges of specific malfeasance, rather than declaiming the election itself as “rigged.”

Nevertheless, Nixon, while agonized by his defeat and its dubious circumstances, opted not to join in.

At least publicly, he played the statesman; he subordinated his own ambitions for the sake of governmental continuity, ensuring that the country was not thrown off balance at a time when the United States was enmeshed in a Cold War with the Soviet Union. “I could think of no worse example for nations abroad,” he said, “than that of the United States wrangling over the results of our presidential elections, and even suggesting that the presidency itself could be stolen by thievery at the ballot box.” (And, of course, he hoped to have a long political career ahead of him; being seen as a sore loser wouldn’t further it.)

Whether Nixon privately encouraged the recount efforts is almost beside the point; unlike Mr. Trump, he understood that unless rock-solid evidence existed to the contrary, the country needed to have faith in the electoral process and the peaceful transition of power, and it needed to hear from the losing candidate that he did, too. (Some argue, however, that Nixon’s experience in 1960 drove his paranoid turn as president, leading directly to Watergate.)

The good of the country, Nixon averred, was more important than the fate of any one man. When Kennedy took office on a bitterly cold January day two and a half months after the election, he sounded a similar theme: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

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In a bizarre twist, Nixon was an early supporter of Donald J. Trump. After hearing rave reviews about the brash developer from Nixon’s wife, Pat, who had seen him on “The Phil Donahue Show” in December 1987, he wrote Mr. Trump an unsolicited letter. “I did not see the program,” he wrote, “but Mrs. Nixon said you were great.” He added, “As you can imagine, she is an expert on politics, and she predicts that whenever you decide to run for office you will be a winner!” One wonders what Nixon, a political sage, would think of Mr. Trump the “winner” today.

But there’s little doubt that if Mr. Trump winds up the loser on November 8, Nixon, despite outsize flaws in his own character, would advocate putting country above self. Doing anything less would take some of the greatness out of America.

Sarawak Report: Tarek Obaid Questioned


September 24, 2016

SARAWAK REPORT

Tarek Obaid Questioned In Saudi EXCLUSIVE

 

Tarek Obaid Questioned In Saudi EXCLUSIVE

Sarawak Report has learnt that Saudi Arabia has added to the list of countries taking an interest in investigating 1MDB, after the Saudi national and shareholder/director of PetroSaudi International, Tarek Obaid, was pulled in for questioning in recent days.

This will surprise those who have expressed the opinion that certain well-connected people related to 1MDB are ‘above the law’ in Saudi, as has appeared to have been the case so far in Malaysia.

Saudi Arabia has been placed in a delicate position by this scandal, ever since the Malaysian Prime Minister chose to claim that the $681 million and other sums which entered his accounts, were a ‘donation’ from an anonymous Saudi Royal.

One BBC report and a UK Telegraph article had indicated that (according to their sources) the ‘donor’ was Prince Turki a seventh son of the previous King Abdullah and co-founder of PetroSaudi.

The country’s Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir had originally given his opinion that this was unlikely to be the case. However, subsequently, during a diplomatic meeting and accompanied by the Malaysian Foreign Minister he told a Malaysian TV team that he now understood the donation to be true:

“We are aware of the donation and it is a genuine donation with nothing expected in return. We are also fully aware that the attorney-general of Malaysia has thoroughly investigated the matter and found no wrongdoing. So, as far as we are concerned, the matter is closed,”

Nevertheless, a recent US Department of Justice indictment has confirmed the longstanding suspicion that the money in fact originated from 1MDB.

PetroSaudi’s “story” – claimed official state backing for ‘Royal’ company

Enjoying the fruits - Obaid partied with fellow Saudis on board a yacht with nude women in July - scandalising Turkish media

Enjoying the fruits – Obaid partied with fellow Saudis on board a yacht with nude women in July – scandalising Turkish media

The Saudi incorporated company PetroSaudi has, of course, played a crucial role in the diversion of much of 1MDB’s missing cash, according to the evidence.

The DOJ referred heavily to the company’s active role, during what it calls the first “Good Star Phase” of the scheme to use 1MDB to steal billions of Malaysia’s public money.

In return for a massive injection of over $300 million into the $100,000 dollar company and also kickbacks sent by Jho Low to Tarek Obaid (initially $105 million), PetroSaudi agreed to ‘act as a front’ for the siphoning out of the rest of the $1.83 billion paid by 1MDB into their ‘joint venture project’.  That money was sent to companies owned by Jho Low, principally Good Star Limited.

The DOJ indictment refers to Obaid (the CEO of PetroSaudi) as having deliberately lied to banks and officials from 1MDB by saying that Good Star belonged to PetroSaudi, thus providing a cover for the misappropriation of the cash by Najib Razak’s nominee Jho Low. In particular the court filing cites an example where Obaid signed a false statement, which assisted Jho Low in siphoning a sum of $330 million into his Good Star account, which had been meant for the joint venture:

“On or about May 12, 2011, the 1MDB-PetroSaudi JV issued to 1MDB a Notice of Drawing (the “Notice”). The Notice was signed by the PETROSAUDI CEO on behalf of the 1MDB-PetroSaudi JV and requested that 1MDB transmit $330 million to the Good Star Account.

Obaid ‘PetroSaudi CEO’ later asked for the money to be sent to Good Star, proving he knew it was not part of the joint venture to which the money was supposed to have been sent:

“On or about May 25, 2011, the PETROSAUDI CEO sent 1MDB a letter on behalf of PetroSaudi and the 1MDB-PetroSaudi JV. This letter confirmed that the account at RBS Coutts in Switzerland had received the $30 million and the $65 million wires referenced in the table above. However, the PETROSAUDI CEO requested that 1MDB send to RBS Coutts a “SWIFT CLARIFICATION” explaining that the beneficiary of these wire transfers was actually “Account No. XXX.2000” (the Good Star Account) and not “Petrosaudi International Limited.”

Separately, it has also been revealed that Tarek Obaid sent a letter in 2015 to 1MDB officials, in order to support their claim to investigators in Malaysia saying that Good Star was a subsidiary of PetroSaudi, clearly now proved a lie.

May 2015 - Tarek wishes to confirm Good Star was owned by PetroSaudi, which the DOJ confirms was a lie

May 2015 – Tarek wishes to confirm Good Star was owned by PetroSaudi, which the DOJ confirms was a lie

Quasi Sovereign’/ ‘Ultimately owned by King Abdullah’

As the Saudi authorities scrutinise this rogue behaviour by their own national, they might also be interested in understanding exactly how the directors of this ‘royally related’ company were peddling its connections on the global stage, presenting PetroSaudi as a “quasi official’ arm of the state.

Indeed, 1MDB Executive Director Casey Tang had informed his board that the company was “ultimately owned by King Abdullah”, which was a lie.

Sarawak Report has been examining documents and emails showing how PetroSaudi’s two key directors, Tarek Obaid and the British/Swiss national Patrick Mahony presented the company to prospective business partners, including former UK Prime Minister and then Middle East envoy Tony Blair.

According to a document they sent to several major companies called “PSI [PetroSaudi International] Story’ the company enjoyed unique and semi-official status, given that Obaid’s fellow shareholder was a son of then King Abdullah. “Governments have been very welcoming to PSI because they feel they are working with a quasi-sovereign entity (given that it is a vehicle of the Saudi Royal Family)”, the document explains:

“PSI’s aim is to approach nations with strong ties to Saudi Arabia and use the friendly relationship with these governments to give it access to oil and gas reserves. Governments have been very welcoming to PSI because they feel they are working with a quasi-sovereign entity (given that it is a vehicle of the Saudi Royal Family) and one that understands them. So PSI has had privileged access to many hydrocarbon regions in the world

The prospectus, which was written in 2009 goes on to brag how this tiny shell company, which as yet barely operated any oil concerns at all, could use the muscle of Saudi Arabia to protect its interests, thanks again to its ‘quasi sovereign’ role:

“…many countries will get a company in but then bully it around once it is there and has sunk billions of dollars in the ground. This will not happen with PSI because these nations do not want to get on the wrong side of the Saudi Royal Family or the Kingdom (many of these countries depend on Saudi aid, they are fellow Muslim nations, etc.). Therefore a partnership with PSI is also good protection on investments made in what can often be difficult operating environments….  Furthermore PSI has full support from the Kingdom’s diplomatic corps when entering and operating in these countries.”

Was the Saudi Arabian Government and the King aware that this seventh prince and his pals were promoting their company in such a way, boasting of guaranteed access and state support?

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With such a pitch it is easy to see why the tiny company appeared to be the ideal front for the scammers managing 1MDB, in particular Jho Low, who sought to present their deal as a ‘state to state’ venture between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

Image result for jho low

PetroSaudi sent Jho Low the story pitch shortly after they agreed to partner in early September 2009.

Mahony sent Jho Low the pitch

PSI Director Mahony sent Jho Low the pitch

Likewise, time and again the directors of PetroSaudi made in plain in their dealings with other companies that their primary asset was supposed ‘unique access’ and guaranteed backing from the crown and state of Saudi Arabia.

Leveraging Royal connections – ‘Access Capitalism’

This was how directors explained their company’s role to China’s Sinochem for a JV proposal in 2009:

“PSI shall be responsible for … leveraging the royal and political connections of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia available to PSI to obtain privileged access to O&G Projects in certain regions in the world….  PSI shall continue to leverage the above mentioned connections to closely manage the politics of the projects to facilitate their smooth operations…”.

And again in July 2010 to the team of Tony Blair, who agreed to become a consultant to PSI, seeking out investors and business partners, in return for $65,000 a month (and a 2% success fee), To Tony Blair Associates PSI explained that the attraction for business partners was the opportunity “to leverage off of the shareholders of PSI’s contacts to access government contracts in infrastructure and other areas in the Kingdom

The fact that PSI was making such claims of unique access and guarantees might come as a surprise to Government and Royal officials in Saudi Arabia.  They certainly didn’t want to broadcast what they were up to – the ‘PSI Story” insisted that their prospective partners needed to “understand the sensitivities around how PSI is leveraging off of the Kingdom’s relationships“.

Yet. in a pitch for investors into Venezuela in December 2009 they elaborated further on their business model:

PSI can capitalise on the political connections of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to get  advantaged access and provide the necessary drilling services…. Venezuela will have “support” from the most important oil producer in the world – KSA.” PSI explained in a power point presentation.

Don’t say Government to Government!

Sarawak Report has already reported the extent to which PetroSaudi were deeply nervous of making any such claims in public.

Image result for jho low

Najib had attempting to make full use of the supposed official connections of PetroSaudi when he was announcing the so-called Joint Venture with 1MDB in 2009 and insisted on the involvement of Prince Turki being included in publicity.  However, Tarek’s brother Nawaf (an official with a job in the Saudi Government) anxiously warned that the press statements must remove any reference to the venture being ‘Government to Government’ in the press releases.

“You have to say it is private” cautioned Nawaf, “as the Malaysians say their company is government!”

Tarek took his brother’s hint he added three words (in bold) to the draft press release

“PSI, based in Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia, is a private company mandated to carry out investments which can strengthen the relationships between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and key countries worldwide.”

Meanwhile, Mahony had expressed hope that the international press would not pick up at all on the PetroSaudi 1MDB joint venture announcement, plainly because it would raise eyebrows that such a tiny company had landed such a big deal amid so much fanfare raised by Najib regarding country to country relations between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

Now officials back home are fully aware of the game being played by Obaid and his PetroSaudi colleagues, as they attempted to exploit their shareholder Prince to raise billions of investment on the promise of ‘access’ in Saudi Arabia. What action they take remains to be seen.

Brother Nawaf's warning email to PetroSaudi's Tarek Obaid at the announcement of the 1MDB joint venture

Brother Nawaf’s warning email to PetroSaudi’s Tarek Obaid at the announcement of the 1MDB joint venture.