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Magician or Con Man: Trump Addresses U.S. Congress

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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If a headline for the State Of the Union (SOTU) address was expected to be:  “A Truculent Trump Traduces Democrats”, it now could be “Trump Triumphs — Credits American People for Year of Successes.”  The speech was a litany of success stories, economic and military illustrated by tales of valor, grit, hard work, forbearance in the face of tragedy, the actual individuals involved all present, and, when mentioned, asked to stand to be applauded.  It was enormously upbeat with one sour note — the Democrats looking surly, determined not to applaud … not even the universalities of Congress, certainly not the tax bill on which they caved.  If truth be told, both sides have the same pay masters.  The speech itself a magician’s illusion, a glass not half empty or half full, but appearing full yet without content when turned over.

The Democrats’ response talked of chaos, and the negatives they could muster without seeming to realize that if Trump had credited the American people for the year and its successes, the Democratic response was indirectly blaming the same people for the failures.  It fell flat.  Attention focused on the white drool collecting on both corners of the speaker’s mouth, morphing Joe Kennedy III into a frothing-at-the-mouth, angry young man vandalizing the beautiful portrait painted by the American people and  displayed by the President.

Does this mean Mr. Trump has been a good president?  No, of course not.  He is temperamentally unsuited to the job.  In one year, the Union of Concerned Scientists have moved their doomsday clock twice:  each time a half minute closer to midnight.  It is now at two minutes to, the closest to doom since 1953.  They cite increased danger from nuclear weapons, that is proliferation, increased expenditures, improved accuracy and thus greater usability of tactical nuclear weapons, the absence of arms control talks and a general instability.  To that they add the calculated failure to combat climate change, a charge clearly leveled at the Trump administration.

Mr. Trump has also been lucky.  The world is in a synchronous economic boom, for the first time since 2010.  He is adding to it with a regressive unfunded tax-package contributing to the stock market’s record highs.  For the tax cuts, the bill will come later — perhaps on the backs of the same middle class whose paychecks will have more take-home money from February as the president proudly pointed out.

Some congressional representatives touted left-leaning credentials by announcing  their decision to boycott the SOTU address.  It achieved little, and might be considered a slight to the office of president.

If truth be told, most of our elected representatives are no longer responsive to the needs of the ordinary voter.  Election victories correlate with political ads on TV, and these cost money.  Fundraising is the name of the game, a time-consuming, lucrative activity that also makes politicians beholden to major donors.  It is a fact Donald Trump was able to exploit by declaring he was not bought as he was using his own money — and it struck a chord with many voters.  Of course, his tax bill will allow him to keep more of it, perhaps even more than he spent in the election.

Not a bad deal.  But then did he not claim to have written ‘The Art of the Deal’, a runaway best seller?

Dr. Arshad M. Khan is a former Professor based in the US. Educated at King's College London, OSU and The University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. Thus he headed the analysis of an innovation survey of Norway, and his work on SMEs published in major journals has been widely cited. He has for several decades also written for the press: These articles and occasional comments have appeared in print media such as The Dallas Morning News, Dawn (Pakistan), The Fort Worth Star Telegram, The Monitor, The Wall Street Journal and others. On the internet, he has written for Antiwar.com, Asia Times, Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Countercurrents, Dissident Voice, Eurasia Review and Modern Diplomacy among many. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in its Congressional Record.

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Macron, Trump and Iran’s future

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The incident of the city of Strasbourg in France was a very primitive scenario for facing the deep social and political crisis that the Macron government is facing.

As predicted, French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner announced that the “terrorist”, who “apparently” was responsible for the shooting in Strasbourg, at 9 p.m. on Thursday, December 13th was killed in a street clash with three policemen. Shortly thereafter, ISIS released a statement, claiming responsibility for the shooting and killing of Strasbourg.

The extent and depth of the crisis in France is such that it does not allow the creation of a tense security and repression under the pretext of “terrorism”. Contrary, the scenario of Macron and Castaner, which, regardless of its tragic human dimensions, resembles Louis de Funès comedies, adds to the severity of the crisis.

On the other hand, on Thursday, the United States Senate unanimously condemned Mohamed bin Salman for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and called on Trump to end support for the Saudi war in Yemen.

This is a major change in the US policy that occurred in the final days of the 115th Congress, a congress that is run by both the Senate and the House of Representatives under the control of the Republican Party. The incident shows that Trump will be greatly affected by the start of the 116th Congressional Congress on January 3, 2019, where the House of Representatives will be controlled by the Democratic Party.

Robert Muller’s investigation on Russia’s role in the 2016 US presidential election is also underway.

In addition, there is concern over the US stock market. The current Inverted Yield Curve shows that the number of short-term bank deposits is more than long-term deposits. Financial analysts consider the Inverted Yield Curve a serious indication of the probability of a recession and a financial crisis because it reflects lack of confidence of Americans in the future of their bank savings.

Accordingly, some conservative analysts, such as Michael Wilson, senior strategist at Morgan Stanley Bank, predicted a 50 percent market downturn in 2019. If so, the “golden age”, which began in the second semester of 2009, with the first year of the Obama Administration, ended in the first two years of the Trump Administration. Such conditions will have serious implications for US foreign policy.

In the turn of events, this incident will once again provide Iran with a historic opportunity to work alongside its dynamic and tactful foreign policy, with the advent of fundamental domestic reforms, to modernize the economic system that was launched forty years ago.

First published in our partner MNA

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American (And Global) Oligarchy Rapidly Moving Towards Monarchy

Rahul D. Manchanda, Esq.

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Many people do not realize that the proverbial “noose” of civil rights, civil liberties and property rights are rapidly coming to an end, in large part because of the unholy alliance by and between government and the global oligarchs (international banks and major corporations).

For example, people don’t realize that current U.S. federal law permits all banks and credit unions (such as Chase Bank owned by CEO Jamie Dimon) to close any account, at any time, and for any reason, even when their own employees commit fraud, make mistakes, commit unethical acts or otherwise screw the banking customer over for personal or political reasons, and that customer then files a legitimate complaint.

The financial institution is not required to divulge the reason(s) for account closure to the customer.

Now, when a business account is closed by a bank, the bank can (and will) retain the funds in the account for 90 to 180 days in order for checks, debits, chargebacks, etc. to post to the business account before the bank will mail the business customer the remaining proceeds from the account.

However the account holder is of course not allowed access to their own hard-earned funds at all.

What this means is that these banks and credit unions have been given a universal right to steal any and all monies placed within their coffers by anyone at all, which can then be “confiscated” for any reason.

It is even so absurd that these banks and credit unions, even after they have seized or stolen your money/property, do not even have to give you a reason, and can then ban you for life from ever getting your money/property back.

This same reasoning applies to nearly all of the major businesses and corporations, wherein due process has gone the way of the extinct “dodo bird.”

This is what it means, when an administration (in this case Republican) talks about “bank deregulation.”

In many ways, Democrats had the right idea over Republicans when they created and enacted such banking regulatory agencies such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”), recently gutted and decapitated by the Trump Administration and his coterie of bought and paid for Republican conservatives.

The problem is that the same global Oligarchs and International Banking Cartels that controlled the Democrats, and enacted even more stifling Communist type regulation to further control, cull, and choke off the American (and global) population (think Obama’s “Operation Chokepoint”), simply use Republican “deregulation” as another mechanism to screw over, steal from, and rob the working and middle class, by allowing these international banking cartels, credit unions, and corporations to completely do whatever they want, to anyone, for any reason, in the absence of any regulation.

Herein lies the rub, and there has to be a middle ground, but only if the American people (and their global population counterparts) push back and vociferously tell their elected leaders to take legal and equitable action against these global thieves and criminals.

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War, Anniversaries and Lessons Never Learned

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entered the Second World War.  A war of horrors, it normalized the intensive, barbaric bombing of civilian populations.  If the Spanish Civil War gave us Guernica and Picasso’s wrenching painting, WW2 offered up worse:  London, Berlin, Dresden to name a few, the latter eloquently described in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughter House Five.”  Against Japan, the firebombing of Tokyo, and above all the revulsion of Hiroshima and Nagasaki radiated a foretaste of ending life on the planet.

Reparations demanded from Germany had led to the rise of Adolf Hitler and a thirst for revenge.  Thus Hitler demanded France’s 1940 surrender in the same railway carriage where the humiliating armistice was signed in 1918.

If the war to end all wars — its centenary remembrance a month ago — killed 20 million plus, the successor tripled the score.  Disrupted agriculture, severed supply chains, fleeing civilians, starvation and misery; civilian deaths constituting  an inordinate majority in our supposedly civilized world.

One of the young men baling out of a burning bomber was George H. W. Bush.  He was rescued but his crew who also baled out were never found, a thought that is said to have haunted him for the rest of his life.  He went on to serve eight years as vice-president under Ronald Reagan and then four more as president.  Last week he passed away and was honored with a state funeral service in Washington National Cathedral.

His legacy includes the first Iraq war and the liberation of Kuwait.  While he avoided the hornet’s nest of ethnic and religious divisions in Iraq itself, the war’s repercussions led to the Clinton sanctions and the deaths of half a million children.  The UN representative overseeing the limited oil-for-food program, Irishman Denis Halliday, resigned in disgust.  Not to forget the infamous answer by Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.  Asked by Leslie Stahl if it was worth the lives of 500,000 children … more than that died in Hiroshima, she answered:  “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it.”  (CBS 60 Minutes program, May 12, 1996).

Note the “we” in her answer.  Who else does that include but our “I-feel-your-pain” Bill Clinton.  Hypocrisy, arm-twisted donations to the Clinton Foundation while wife Hillary was Secretary of State in the Obama administration; her shunning of the official and secure State Department email server in favor of a personal server installed at her request and the subsequent selective release of emails.  Well who cares about verifiable history these days anyway as the following demonstrates.

Yes, there was another anniversary this week for a different kind of war.  This time in India.  After securing freedom from the British, a secular tradition was proudly espoused by the patrician Nehru and the epitome of nonviolence, Gandhi.  It is now in the process of being trampled in a war against minorities.  The communal war includes the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat for which Narendra Modi was barred from the U.S., a ban lifted only when he became prime minister.  He, his party and his allies have been also responsible for the destruction of the Babri Mosque.  An organized Hindu mob tore it down on December 6, 1992; hence the shameful anniversary.  Built on the orders of the first Mughal emperor Babur, its purpose was to cement relations with Hindu rajas by also sanctifying for Muslims a place holy to Hindus and held traditionally to be the birthplace of Rama — famous from Hindu epics for fighting evil with the assistance of a monkey god’s army … although one is advised to avoid close contact with temple monkeys when visiting.

As the first Mughal, Babur’s hold on India was tenuous and he actively sought alliances with Hindu rulers of small states against the pathans whose sultan he had just defeated.  That affinity continued during the entirety of Mughal rule and one manifestation was frequent intermarriage with Rajputs.  Several emperors had Hindu mothers including Shah Jahan the builder of the Taj Mahal.  In the end, Babur’s fears were warranted because Sher Shah Suri did marshal those pathan forces and throw out his son Humayun, the second Mughal ruler.  It was only Sher Shah’s untimely death during the capture of Kalinjar (a Hindu fort then held by Raja Kirat Singh) that made Humayun’s return possible.

The destruction of the mosque was a historical wrong if ever there was one, but then Mr. Modi has never been bothered by history.  He is also not bothered that his party’s fairy tale revision of school history books is a scandal.  For similar reasons, Indian history on Wikipedia is too frequently tarnished, requiring verification from other sources to be properly informed.

The wrongs of communities, just as the wrongs of war, can lead to repercussions unanticipated and cataclysmic.  Yugoslavia is an example in living memory.  Clearly, any ruler of a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural country contemplating a path of communal dominance must take note before he is hoisted with his own petard.

Author’s Note:  This article first appeared on Counterpunch.org  

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