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The Matrix We Live In

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] D [/yt_dropcap]o you want the blue pill or the red pill?” Since the election, social media has exploded with a special type of visceral hate by people on both sides of the political spectrum. While the situation appears to be worsening with each president, this post-election devolution is of special note.

While the right to protest is essential and inherent in any true democracy, the rioting accompanying some of the protests has rendered the intent of the protest futile. While the protest of unconstitutional actions is justified, it begs the question where were such protests when President Obama were in office doing things much worse than President Trump has done thus far.

Political ideology has become further divided and more partisan. The lack of ideological empathy is non-existent. The attempt to understand the other side or compromise is no longer an option; it is almost heretical for anyone to attempt to be moderate. The last couple of decades have led to the disenfranchisement of Americans due to globalization, the great economic recession, 9/11, wars, etc. Trust has been lost in governmental and non-governmental institutions. Today, the culmination of all these events has created a pseudo-matrix reality for many of us in America. In the West, we are engaged in a neo-tribalism that in some part transcends race and religion but more focused on ideology regarding the economy, government, and social policy. Perhaps, it is our natural predisposition towards tribalism that has been ingrained into our genetic constitution over tens of thousands of years.

The coup de grace for me was seeing the implosion of everyone on Facebook and devolution of civic conversation into ignorant vitriol arguments that possess no substance but purely ad hominin. If there is a supposed debate about anything political, it is typical parroting of what the mainstream media spews to the public without an actual conversation taking place. When was the last time you truly questioned something you believed in? When was the last time you sought out more evidence for your belief, perhaps even a contrarian point of view on that topic?

Politics Awry

Democracy is the Schrodinger’s Cat of politics. It is simultaneously perhaps the greatest system ever bore and yet perhaps the worse. In theory, the former is witnessed by the fact that the will of majority is implemented to lead the country instead of one or a few people. It can be a debilitating and regressive system as witnessed here in the US. If that same majority is not well-informed and willing to engage in debate, the outcome is that the pragmatic few can use the supposed mandate of the majority to curry the system to their own favors.

Instead of electing well-informed and true leaders, our system has crumbled into career politicians who enrich themselves off the tax revenue of the public and further increase their wealth after they leave Washington thanks to the incestuous relationship that exists between politics, the media, and big corporations. In the recent decades, the political arena has reached new lows. Our election system is now nothing more than a popularity contest akin to high school. Whoever is the “coolest”, best dressed, and best looking is most likely to win, superficiality has officially outdone substance. This failure in the electoral system is no one’s fault but ours for allowing the status quo. The level of cognitive dissonance is unreal. A recent Gallup poll found that public support for Congress is near an all-time low yet incumbents are reelected at its highest rate, hovering around 90%+. This paradox demonstrates not only a discord in our understanding of politics but even hypocritical in some aspects.

Perhaps the bifurcation of the political system into two parties and furthermore into two rigid ideologies has created this “us versus them” mentality that reaches into the inner tribal nature. The fact that these two parties have oversimplified the principles and beliefs of people by compartmentalizing them into black and white touches at the heart of the issue. While some people can adhere to the entire platform of either party, which there is nothing wrong with, the majority of Americans do not. We are complicated and intricate beings, who cannot be boxed in here or there, instead perhaps we are blurred in the middle somewhere. The relegation of political power in the hands of these two parties essentially ensures that power always resides in both of their hands at all time. One will be a party in power and the other will be the only opposition in town, thus power is balanced. These two parties have done everything to ensure no rival third party can emerge. As a result, money and influence has help create a further veneering of the parties and their ideology relative to everyday Americans.

Due to the insulation of our political system, influence of corporations in the mainstream media, and the continued ignorance towards researching our political decisions, most Americans live in an alternative reality.

The Liberal Matrix

The fallout of the 2016 election has culminated in almost unprecedented level of protest and anti-Trump demonstrations. The foundation of any true democracy is the ability of its people to coalesce and protest, albeit peacefully. The protesters believe Trump epitomizes racism, hate and ignorance. They see Trump as the catalyst that will not only make the US regress but empower the fringe minority that spews hatred and disgust. The ascension of Trump, in their eyes, is the downfall of the Republic.

Liberalism is a political philosophy that predates the conception of the US as a nation. It is built upon many facets but most importantly the pillars of liberty and equality. Liberalism has deviated somewhat from its classical definition within the American experience. Liberals in the US still stress the notion of equality, the need to enshrine civil liberties as well as individual and human rights. Most importantly, liberals in the US view the government as a means to every end. While liberals claim to hold such principles as their raison d’être and as a result their much vocal and sometime violent opposition to Trump, they could not display a greater show of cognitive dissonance than in their actions against both President Bush and now President Trump.

The Bush administration’s 2003 invasion of Iraq perhaps opened the greatest tidal wave of instability for the region, the world and the US. The great and immeasurable toll it took on human life and catastrophe is markedly one of the larger events that will go down in history. From that illegal and unwarranted invasion unravels the world we see today around us. The long-term economic ramifications of the wars will be perhaps the more detrimental effect to the US. The combined wars of Afghanistan and Iraq, which was inconspicuously expanded by Obama despite promising to the contrary, will cost us about $10 Trillion dollars, more than half of the current national debt. This daunting amount as well as the ramifications on our way of life is lost on almost everyone in the country including the supposed experts.

As a result of the buildup to the war the public protested, rightfully so, yet, almost ¾ of the country supported this action, albeit falsely misled. Yet similar protests by this same anti-war faction are no longer visible. Under the 8 years of President Obama, such opposition that is visibly viewed today against Trump was absent. This is what I call hypocrisy. Although the true principled opposition still continued their grievances against President Obama, nevertheless that faction drastically was reduced. Many were sad to see President Obama depart, why? The following actions by President Obama should have raised the ire of so called liberal-oriented Americans more so under Obama, who falsely disguised himself a progressive and champion of change, than Bush who never campaigned on such things. President Obama was not only to a large extent a continuation of the Bush administration, it became the Bush administration on steroids. The following points demonstrate how liberals are either ignorant or hypocritical of how both Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama are perhaps anathema to their ideology than champions:

•Guantanamo Bay – Despite claiming that the site was a stain on America’s image and credibility and he would eliminate the prison, President Obama didn’t do anything. While he claimed that Congress impeded him from doing so, in reality President Obama could have employed executive action to justify the closure like he had done for his endless covert wars.

•War – Today many fear the rise of Trump in on part that he will cause the US to engage in more wars. Yet under the tenure of President Obama, at least 7 conflicts were initiated by the Nobel Peace Prize winning president who promised to sow peace for a nation distraught in war.

•Drone – One of the most horrible, amoral and perhaps least discussed policies by the media, is President Obama’s drone war. President Obama essentially outsourced his entire War on Terror campaign to drones whereas it was intended to be supplementary to an actual war plan. To put it in perspective, for every drone strike Bush had done, Obama carried out ten of them. Despite violating international law, the worse fall out from all this is that it has been reported that 90% of those killed as a result of drones tend not be the target, but mainly civilians. Aside from the tragic fallout, such a policy has been creating more terrorist than reducing it. In 2016, Obama ended the year with dropping 3 bombs every hour.

•Economy – During the 2008 presidential campaign, President Obama claimed that adding nearly $4 trillion dollars to the national debt was unpatriotic. He was referring to the enormous growth to the national debt under President Bush. Yet, 8 years later President Obama doubled the national debt and added nearly $10 trillion dollars. Despite claiming reduction in the unemployment number and helping the economy “grow.” President Obama, similar to his predecessors, used statistical voodoo to conceal the real state of the economy. President Obama helped further inflate the already bubble economy.

•Social Policy – Despite claiming to be a progressive administration that will represent all Americans, President Obama reneged on many policies he had initially promise to support. Whether it was immigration, marijuana legalization and civil liberties, President Obama became one of the most regressive presidents in some of these categories. Especially in the civil liberties arena, Obama took Bush’s Patriot Act and put it on steroids creating the NDAA, curtailing American civil liberties in all aspects. While appearing to be forward-looking and progressive, President Obama was perhaps one of the most Foucauldian presidents making the country more like his philosophical panopticon.

•Transparency – One of Obama’s most signature claims was that he would be the most transparent administration ever, yet he ran one of the most opaque administrations. He punished whistleblowers more harshly than his predecessor. In some cases, it was grossly punitive.

While liberals continue to protest about the Trump presidency, they need to come to term that living in a democracy has such consequences like losing in elections. While protesting policies and actions one disagrees with is an important aspect of any democracy, it is also necessary to reconcile principles with actions such as coming to term with respect to those who they prefer such as Barack Obama or Hilary Clinton, whose nearly decade in power brought destruction and ruin to many places around the world including further deterioration to the US. Liberals need to escape the matrix that they have encapsulated themselves in.

The Conservative Matrix

The 2016 election results have given new vigor to the Republican Party and Republicans everywhere. To many conservatives, the past 8 years has been what they see as the end of America and Western Civilization.

Conservatism is a political ethos that believes in free markets, individual liberty, limited government, and traditional American values. Government, according to conservatives, is a necessary evil that should be utilized only to help individuals pursue their own goals.

The Trump administration and his atypical approach whether to the presidency or the party, will redefine how the presidency is viewed and potentially redefine the party going forward. In the same vein that liberals miss the target, conservatives extend support for candidates or policies that stand in direct contradiction to their principles. The following points demonstrate how conservatives either are negligent about what they are supporting or “selective” in how they choose what they stand for.

Guantanamo Bay – The notorious torture camp came into being under the Bush administration. While the camp contains terrorists guilty of heinous crimes, it also contains many innocent people who were picked up under false pretenses. The approach by the administration to offer money to anyone that can bring a “terrorist” resulted in many innocent people being picked up. The prison symbolizes the antithesis to what it means to be American and all its values. The Supreme Court in Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld affirmed that the prisoners are entitled to basic protection per the Geneva Convention. In addition, the lack of habeas corpus defeats the main premise upon which this War on Terror is being predicated upon, preservation of Western values. All these reasons run contrary to core Republican beliefs, yet 84% of Republicans have expressed support for continuing the site. President Trump had vowed to continue to operate the facility and fill it up.

Economy – Republicans always tout the importance of being fiscally responsible and ensuring a balanced budget. However, under the Bush administration the national debt almost doubled, increasing by $4 trillion dollars. The government deficit grew and nothing was done to help curtail fiscal irresponsibility. The Tea Party arose from the fact that President Obama’s policies would result in financial ruin. While such protest and gripe was legitimate, surprisingly this same group of conservative protesters never arose during the Bush administration’s heydays, when the unlimited spending spree of the government was taking place.

War – While conservatives stress a strong national defense, historically unnecessary or offensive war has led to the enlargement of government. This is the biggest threat to what it means to be conservative. In the last couple of decades, the party has been hijacked by neoconservatives who have been bent on expanding American regions of influence. This has led to a division in the party. On one side are those who support the war hawk agenda because they see it as a necessary means to safety; peace through strength. On the other side, are the old Eisenhower Republicans, who are not pacifists but believed in a strong America not an imperial one. Nevertheless, it appears the majority of Republicans support the former, offensive war to supposedly ensure national security, which in itself is contradictory. As demonstrated, the last couple of wars have made us weaker in all aspects of being a nation.

The Constitution – Republicans position themselves to be staunch advocates and defenders of civil liberties and the Constitution. Under the Bush administration, the beginning of a new America came into being. It was no longer the in statu pacis that existed prior to 9/11, instead it was a hybrid war and police state. The War on Terror combined with the Patriot Act and other similar laws helped normalize a state that would have been unacceptable to most Americans prior to 9/11 as well as those who stood for defending civil liberties and the Constitution. But politicians used the fear that Americans had to pass laws that ran contradictory to what the Constitution wanted. Yet the continuation of the Patriot Act that evolved into a more stringent law, the NDAA under Obama, continues to this day unimpeded by the majority of Republicans.

Government – The underlying governing principle for any conservative is government by its nature is inherently evil, thus ensuring that it is as small as possible is the best way to impede the bureaucracy from swallowing up progress. Conservatives always aim to minimize government and not allow the leviathan to grow. While Republicans were up in arms over the ever-expanding Obama government, they were moot when President Bush not only raised government spending through the roof, he helped create additional layers of bureaucracy as well as an entire new department. Now President Trump appears to be on the same path to expand the government through social works program like FDR, no major conservative group has thus far voice any concerns with that plan.

Where Do We Go From Here?

The famous Greek historian and political philosopher, Thucydides wrote that it’s a habit of human beings to use sovereign reason to thrust aside what they do not fancy. What he was referring to was confirmation bias. Today, with the advent of the internet and social media, society has become further entrenched into partisanship than before. This blind abyss that we have entered into is what psychologists refer to as confirmation bias. We build these philosophical and intellectual silos to protect us from those whom we do not agree with or notions that we are ignorant of. The internet perhaps contains the greatest tool for humanity to reach its full potential but at the same time it has become a double edge sword. It has also allowed us to fortify this mental prison of confirmation bias even further. We search for sources that will “vindicate” what we consider our truth, the supposed good truth, rather than seeking out sources that will perhaps challenge us and make us reconsider what position we hold.

There is a difference between being a flip flop and someone who has become more knowledgeable on a topic and wants to shift their opinion. What should guide us is not so much positions but principles that act as our guiding compass. Principles should never be forsaken instead we can us them to navigate through the turbulence of the times.

As we go forth under a new presidency, the future for Americans has never been so bleak as it has been for the past couple of decades. Instead of parroting intellectualism, we should attempt to emulate it through challenging every political position and role model we hold dear. Why are you a liberal or conservative? Why are you a Democrat or Republican? Has your party lived up to its political tenets or just satiated with a veneer of claiming so?

Will Trump be the worst or best president ever? Nobody knows. He is like a blind date, yet knowingly or unknowingly he has been a cosmetic bless to rock the political establishment to its roots. No other candidate on either party could have done so much shaking up of the status quo. He has taken the system and turned it upside down and once again reminded them, albeit in an uncouth manner, that the exercise of power in a democracy rests with its people. Ultimately, they must serve at the pleasure of it nation’s citizens or face the wrath of the masses.

While protest is an important pillar of any democracy, those who protest Trump, must take a minute and see what they protest and if that really meshes with what they stand for. Where was their protest when President Obama joined his predecessor and ran this country into insolvency or when he was immorally and secretly initiating wars in at least 7 countries while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize? Where was the protest when the policy of drone strikes reached more than a 90% civilian death rate or when Secretary Clinton and President Obama illegally invaded Libya for no reason and created the state of anarchy and destruction that continues to this day. The same could be said about their tampering into Syria and other Middle Eastern countries resulting into the mass migration crisis we see that that wreaks havoc not only on Europe but has devastated the lives of those afflicted.

Similarly, while conservatives gloat about their victory, they need to watch President Trump and ensure he does not violate the Constitution and values America stands for similar to Republican presidents in the past by increasing the debt or starting wars or infringing upon our civil liberties.

In order for all of us to escape the abyss that we reside in now, we need to realize that the overwhelming majority of us nowadays reside in a mental matrix that we have created and the only escape is becoming cognizant of it first. So do you want the blue pill or the red pill?

Luis Durani is currently employed in the oil and gas industry. He previously worked in the nuclear energy industry. He has a M.A. in international affairs with a focus on Chinese foreign policy and the South China Sea, MBA, M.S. in nuclear engineering, B.S. in mechanical engineering and B.A. in political science. He is also author of "Afghanistan: It’s No Nebraska – How to do Deal with a Tribal State" and "China and the South China Sea: The Emergence of the Huaqing Doctrine." Follow him for other articles on Instagram: @Luis_Durani

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Latin America and China: The economic and debt situation and the U.S. discomfort

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Latin American countries have no relatively good room for fiscal and monetary policy adjustment like China, and basically lack the ability for governmental countercyclical adjustment. This is mainly reflected in their room for fiscal and monetary policy.

From a fiscal viewpoint, the taxation ability of Latin American governments is generally weak. Taxation accounts for 16-18% of GDP, which is obviously lower than the 30-35% level of developed countries.

In terms of monetary policy, since the currencies of Latin American countries are directly correlated to the U.S. dollar exchange rate, the dollar fluctuation also entails the reduction of their room for monetary policy adjustment. These countries have continuously borrowed and cut interest rates. Hence there is little room for further steps.

The Federal Reserve has adopted the policy of unlimited quantitative easing which, in practical and easy-to-understand terms, is one of the unconventional ways by which a central bank intervenes in a State’s financial and economic system to increase the amount of debt money in circulation.

Although the U.S. stock market went into a slump several times, it should be noted that Nasdaq reached a new high. Ultimately, money has become more circulating. Interest rates in Latin American countries, however, have become very low and there is little room for further cuts.

At the same time, their foreign debts are also relatively high. For example, Argentina has recently approved a 70billion dollar debt restructuring plan and its debt accounted for over 50% of GDP.

The first solution to the debt crisis is to delay repayment, and the second one is to cancel interest or partly write off the debt. The creditor has no choice but to be forced to agree if one of the counterparts is unable to repay it. This is an endless cycle that, once the debt restructuring plan is approved, will only alleviate and mitigate Argentina’s crisis.

Argentina’s debt crisis occurred nine times in history, and this is the third time in the new century. Inflation in Argentina has caused its currency to depreciate by over 70%. According to statistics from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America, over 12 million people were jobless in Latin America in 2020. Poor people in Latin America will increase from 118 to 130 million and the extremely poor people will rise from over 60 million to over 90 million.

Faced with some new difficulties and challenges, we need to explain and assess China-Latin America relations at the current historic juncture. The development of China-Latin America relations has shifted from a period of high-speed growth to a period of stable growth. Quantitative and extensive development is shifting to a qualitative and specific one.

Initially China-Latin America relations took off suddenly and even exceeded expectations. Instead, a steady, efficient, stable and effective approach is currently preferred. The orderly progression of diplomatic and commercial relations is more advantageous than a context of actual speed.

This is especially the case in the context of intensified strategic competition between China and the United States. The political situation in Latin America, and the further impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, mean that certain changes need to be made to China-Latin America relations.

Firstly, the U.S. influence on China-Latin America relations needs to be assessed. Sino-U.S. relations are the most important, sensitive and complex bilateral relations in Chinese diplomacy.

Recently, there have been many major changes in Sino-U.S. relations, but one of them is often overlooked: from the Latin American countries’ perspective, the relationship between Latin America and the United States is the most important one. China’s interests in Latin America have not surpassed the United States’ in terms of political and economic development.

Here are some data. In the field of economy and trade, the United States is still Latin America’s main trading partner. The same applies to investment. The United States has great advantage over China.

In 2017, trade between the United States and Latin America exceeded 760 billion dollars, almost three times the volume of trade between China and Latin America. In 2019, trade between China and Latin America was about 270-280 billion dollars, while the volume of trade between the United States and Latin America was almost 800 billion dollars.

From an investment perspective, U.S.A.’s and Latin America’s direct engagement in 2017 was 45 billion dollars, almost double that of China. Therefore the United States outperforms China in terms of trade and investment.

However, benefiting from the advantage of China’s economic growth and the structural complementarity between China and Latin America, the acceleration of China’s economic and trade investment in Latin America is higher than that of the United States. Therefore, China has an incremental advantage in Latin America, but the United States enjoys an ‘equity’ primacy.

For example, outgoing President Trump has never visited Latin America, but this does not mean that the United States does not pay attention to it. Quite the reverse. If we look at the reports on Sino-Latin American relations issued by U.S. think tanks, scholars and experts are particularly worried.

The U.S. Congress holds several hearings on Sino-Latin American relations every year and invites not only local experts, but also experts from Mexico, Brazil and other countries. We can see that the United States attaches great importance to the development of China-Latin America relations.

We wonder, however, why has the United States not taken propagandistically political positions in Latin America as it does towards China, the Middle East, South-East Asia and the South China Sea.

This means that the United States still considerably trust Latin American bonhomie, good nature, patience and tolerance. The U.S. media merely claim that China’s influence in Latin America has increased and its soft power has enhanced but, overall, China’s influence in Latin America is far less than that of the United States.

If we ask in Brazil what they think of U.S.-China, U.S.-Brazil and Brazil-China relations, we get the following answers. The United States is a model for Brazil’s development and the values and ideologies of both Brazil and the United States are close. China is an important trade and investment partner for Brazil. From an economic viewpoint, Brazil’s development should seek to establish a better partnership with China, but in terms of ideology and values, the Forbidden City is further away than the White House.

For Latin America, maintaining stable relations with the United States is a primary interest. After the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in Latin America, China – thanks to some of its medical equipment – did its best to help those countries mitigate the impact of the disease. A Chinese state-owned company responded to the call and promised to build a hospital with an in-patient module in a conference and exhibition centre in Panama to help infected patients, for only a small sum of money from the State.

Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo Cohen, however, rejected the proposal outright. In the end, Panama spent 12 million U.S. dollars and built 100 hospital beds and 26 intensive care units, without taking advantage of Chinese aid.

On April 16, Cortizo presided over the hospital’s opening ceremony, announcing that it was his own decision. Conversely, when former Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela (2014-19) was in power, he visited China, and Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi reciprocated by travelling to Panama.

At the time, President Varela said that the landmark project for the expansion of the Silk Road passed through Panama, as did the 4 billion dollar plan to expand the canal and railway from Panama to Costa Rica.  The new President in power, however, has not followed the philosophy of his predecessor, terrified of displeasing the United States. Unfortunately, this news is not reported in the Italian press.

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Gallup: Trump Globally the Least Respected U.S. President This Century

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On January 15th, the Gallup World Poll issued its preliminary report for their upcoming “Rating World Leaders: 2021” report. It shows the results that have been tabulated for 60 of the 135 countries where they annually sample global public opinion about U.S. leadership. One especially clear finding from it is that when their final report for all 135 countries will be issued, it will show that among the three U.S. Presidencies on which Gallup has internationally surveyed — which are only the three U.S. Presidents in this century — Trump is clearly the one who is globally respected the least, even lower than George W. Bush was respected.

Here are the findings, in each of the 60 nations, and the percentage increase or decrease from Gallup’s last completed survey report, “Rating World Leaders: 2020”:

“Approval of U.S. Leadership Across 60 Countries and Areas”

“Do you approve or disapprove of the job performance of the leadership of the United States?”

%  “Approve”:

  • Dominican Republic, 66% was 56% in 2020
  • Cameroon, 62 was 61
  • Georgia, 61 was 43
  • Zambia, 56 was 26
  • Albania, 56 was 67
  • Philippines, 55 was 58
  • Uganda, 53 was 47
  • Mauritius, 50 was 59
  • Zimbabwe, 50 was 59
  • Ecuador, 43 was 34
  • Colombia, 42 was 41
  • Moldova, 40 was 45
  • Brazil, 40 was 38
  • Japan, 39 was 34
  • Kyrgyzstan, 34 was 32
  • Namibia, 34 was 31
  • Bulgaria, 32 was 26
  • Cambodia, 32 was 49
  • Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China, 31 was 31
  • Poland, 30 was 59
  • South Korea, 30 was 41
  • Bolivia , 30 was 31
  • Australia, 29 was 23
  • Taiwan, Province of China,    28 was 40
  • New Zealand, 26 was 17
  • Mexico, 26 was 17
  • Malta, 26 was 30
  • Ethiopia, 25 was 37
  • Argentina, 24 was 26
  • Ukraine, 24 was 32
  • Greece, 21 was 19
  • Croatia, 21 was 25
  • Morocco, 21 was 22
  • Serbia  , 20 was 19
  • Ireland, 20 was 30
  • Finland, 20 was 20
  • Slovenia, 19 was 20
  • Cyprus, 19 was 27
  • Tunisia, 19 was 24
  • Italy, 19 was 22
  • France, 18 was 23
  • Russia, 18 was 11
  • Netherlands, 18 was 20
  • Canada, 17 was 22
  • Spain, 17 was 23
  • Chile, 16 was 16
  • Estonia, 15 was 17
  • United Kingdom, 15 was 25
  • Denmark, 14 was 24
  • Turkey, 13 was 12
  • Slovakia, 13 was 28
  • Norway, 12 was 15
  • Portugal, 12 was 14
  • Belgium, 12 was 17
  • Sweden, 11 was 12
  • Switzerland, 10 was 13
  • Austria, 9 was 11
  • Iran, 6 was 6
  • Germany, 6 was 12
  • Iceland, 5 was 9

Remarkably, Gallup doesn’t poll in China on this question. (Nor does Pew.)

Notably, Trump is more disapproved-of in Europe than in any other part of the world. (Also, as Pew reported on 16 December 2020, “In Europe, more trust Putin than Trump.”)

Those percentage-changes that we’ve just shown total to a decline, among all 60 countries, of 121 percentage-points (-121%), or, almost exactly, a -2% change from the 2019 findings that had been reported in Gallup’s “Rating World Leaders: 2020”.

Gallup says that “until all of Gallup’s 2020 fieldwork is complete in a few months, it is still too early to say that the U.S. will see its worst ranking in the history of Gallup’s World Poll.” However, Gallup’s “Rating World Leaders: 2020” report covered 135 lands, and the 60 lands that they have tabulated as of now, for the 2021 report, seem to be a representative sampling of all of those 135, and collectively those 60 populations have reduced their respect for America’s leadership by 2%. In the 2020 report, the global level of approval for America’s leadership was 33%. The all-time-low had been the 30% figure in 2017, Trump’s first year, a finding which was based on Trump’s promises, not on his performance. The upcoming final Gallup report “Rating World Leaders: 2021” will — if the results from those 60 lands do turn out to be representative of the global findings — produce a 31% global approval level by all of the approximately 135 lands that will be covered in it. For each of Trump’s four years, then, the global percentages will have been (for each one of his four years) 30%, 31%, 33%, and (now, in his final year) 31%. Each year, it was even lower than the prior record low, of George W. Bush, had been, at 34% in 2008

There was higher disapproval than approval of America’s leadership during the Presidencies of George W. Bush and of Donald Trump than there was approval of either U.S. President’s leadership. Strikingly, however, there was higher approval than disapproval during (and throughout) the two terms of office of Barack Obama. That Nobel Peace Prize winner was/is internationally admired. (Crazy, but true: he was an international charmer.)

Here are summarized (with links to the evidence regarding) the actual chief international achievements of each of these three U.S. Presidents:

George W. Bush: destroying Iraq, and destroying Afghanistan.

Barack Obama: destroying Syria, and destroying Ukraine, while continuing Bush’s destructions of Iraq and of Afghanistan.

Donald Trump: destroying Iran, and destroying Venezuela, while continuing his predecessors’ destructions of Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Ukraine. He also made the destruction of Palestine even worse than it had previously been.

So, the question regarding incoming U.S. President Joe Biden will be whether he will continue this tradition further, or reverse it. Because, it’s really all the same tradition, throughout all three U.S. Presidencies this century. By contrast, global perceptions are that those three U.S. Presidents were drastically different from one another.

On 15 September 290290, Pew bannered “U.S. Image Plummets Internationally as Most Say Country Has Handled Coronavirus Badly” and reported that:

The publics surveyed also see Trump more negatively than other world leaders. Among the six leaders included on the survey, Angela Merkel receives the highest marks: A median of 76% across the nations polled have confidence in the German chancellor. French President Emmanuel Macron also gets largely favorable reviews. Ratings for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson are roughly split. Ratings for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping are overwhelmingly negative, although not as negative as those for Trump.

Right above that was this graph, which shows starkly the false European perception that Barack Obama was vastly superior to George W. Bush and Donald Trump:

Apparently, most Europeans have no problem with a U.S. President who continues America’s use of torture, and who continues America’s legal immunity of prosecution for banksters, and who imposes ethnic cleansing abroad, and who aims for achieving a U.S. first-strike ability to conquer Russia by a sudden nuclear blitz attack. Style is everything, for them; substance is nothing, to them. Why didn’t they like Hitler? Is it only because he did it to them?

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Why won’t Bowdich evoke 9/11 now?

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“Day of fire”. That’s how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi referred to the Capitol insurrection, which happens to be the exact same phrase President George W. Bush used on the occasion of 9/11. That is not coincidental. But why won’t the FBI draw 9/11 parallels now?

In spring last year, when I was running for UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of speech, in a leaked memo to the New York Times, FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich was quoted in a reaction to the Black Lives Matters protests. Bowdich maintained that the protesters should be arrested under an outdated racketeering law from the 1940s. The leaked memo showed that Mr Bowdich considered the social justice movement “a national crisis” comparable to 9/11. The hundreds of thousands of people mourning and marching across the country, unified by the simple thought that no life should be taken lightly, for nothing, were actually similar to terrorists in the eyes of the FBI who wanted to charge them as racketeers. Why won’t Bowdich evoke 9/11 now, when it comes to far-right actual terrorism? We are talking about plans to blow up buildings and assassinate law-makers.

There is evidence appearing now through the courts that the Trump mob indeed intended to capture and assassinate congressmen. A new court filing by federal prosecutors says that Trump supporters intended to “capture and assassinate” elected officials during the Capitol riot.

The FBI has a misplaced terrorism obsession with the progressive left, while lightly ignoring the far-right, which is by far the more violent and much more organized group. The Capitol events security mishandling demonstrated a different attitude when it comes to the latter group.

There is a difference between street clashes with police in social justice protests that have gone overboard and have turned violent, on one hand, and placing bombs at political buildings, plans to kidnap and assassinate politicians, and violent usurping of the certification of a democratically elected president. The difference should be obvious, and yet the FBI is pursuing its obsession with the left voices, largely ignoring the violent extremists and the real violent terrorism threat on the far right, as recently revealed by an Intercept investigation.

In a public statement, the FBI made sure that the public understood its own misguided standard used in the threat assessment in the Capitol attacks by the Trump mob, namely the aspirations vs intentions test. The FBI official explained that the FBI needs to consider that some online activity and planning by the far right could simply be “keyboard bravado”. So, “keyboard bravado” is now the new “locker room talk”.

It is not surprising that the FBI uses different standards to assess the threat on the far-left and on the far-right. Former FBI director Hoover called Martin Luther King “one of the most dangerous negroes in America”. MLK was far from a hero for the FBI. It is not uncommon for the FBI even today to mischaracterize center-left voices of reasonable progressives who are anti-violence, pro-rights and pro-equality as far-left anarchists and communists, magnifying the threat on the left while ignoring the bigger threat on the right. Calling reasonable center-left Democrats anarchists and communists is a classical President Putin move. Let’s recall that ahead of the presidential elections in November, Russian President Putin endorsed Biden and the Democrats as communists whom we would get along with, in order to discredit them.

Let’s look at the actions and the security measures present around the two types of crowds. In a recent interview I wondered why FBI deputy director Bowdich won’t evoke 9/11 now in relation to far-right terrorism, in the context of the methods that the FBI sometimes uses to suppress and deal with progressive voices.

The FBI have opened mow many cases for “domestic terrorism” into the Capitol attack and it is true that they are saying that they are treating these cases as “international terrorism” but where is the FBI public condemnation of terrorism? We have not seen public statements by the FBI director Christopher Wray and FBI deputy director David Bowdich. Why won’t Bowdich come out and evoke 9/11 now, just like he did with the Black Lives Matter movement?

America has a long way to go to recover from the damage that Trump and his cronies spread across the various US agencies have done to democratic principles and human rights. The Trump institutional capture of key agencies such as the FBI and the CIA, let alone DOJ, has led the country into a downward spiral. I myself just launched a $1 UN lawsuit against the Trump circle at the UN, in attempt to clear the Trump circle also from the UN.

The capitol events were an embarrassment for the FBI who failed the due diligence standard of the reasonably expected measures that should have been taken in a similar situation because they were dealing with the President’s supporters. Then, the FBI decided to justify their inaction with the false “keyboard bravado” explanation, which does not explain anything.

The FBI are now running social media campaigns for the collection of evidence on suspects in the Capitol attacks but the truth is that the FBI does not need random people to phone them and point them to the bad guys. The FBI follow these groups and people, they know everything. It’s just a question of choice as to when to bring out the collected over time evidence. The FBI is in a hurry now only because there is public and social pressure to do something. All of America is watching what will happen to the bad guys.

A couple of days ahead of the Capitol events, I noted on Twitter that Homeland Security acting Secretary, Chad Wolf, was on a trip to Cyprus, while America was “burning”.  The Cyprus frictions in the European Mediterranean seem like a holiday now, in comparison to the Capitol events. Several days later, Wolf resigned.

With the news that President Trump intends to issue over 100 new pardons during his last two days in office, the question of justice for the Capitol events is as relevant as ever, as it is reasonably expected that some of the pardons could relate to the Capitol attacks.

It is safe to say that former Attorney General Bill Barr is not missed by many people. The Trump supporters’ cases would not have received fair treatment at the Department of Justice under his watch. The new Attorney General in the Biden Administration, judge Merrick Garland, in fact, might discover that many cases from the Bill Barr time will have to be reopened.

The top security priority now is President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, 20 January, while Trump holds a separate rally. The Capitol events served as a warning.

Looking forward, it is time for American democracy to demonstrate its elasticity. And legal justice necessarily has to be a part of that, ignoring phony calls for “unity” and “healing” made by the criminals themselves who are trying to escape justice now.  There can’t be unity without ensuring justice first.

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