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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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Russia in Venezuela

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Russia´s interests and presence in Latin America is not new. We should remember Russian activities in Cuba during the Cold War, which almost generated a nuclear war between Moscow and Washington. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it was quite clear that Central and South America were not among the top priorities of the Russian Federation.

Anyway, at the beginning of the 21st century Russia returned to that region and Venezuela and other Chavist anti-imperialist (mainly understood as anti-American) populist governments were eager to deep their diplomatic, economic and military relations with Moscow.

From the Russian side we can identify a general objective, which is to gain influence in Latin America at the expense of the United States and a particular one: to secure lucrative economic opportunities in the oil and gas sectors.

A marriage of convenience between Venezuela and Russia was born at that time. Moreover, it lasts until today.

In the case of Venezuela, after the death of Hugo Chavez in 2013, his successor, Nicolás Maduro, the reduction of the international oil prizes and the mismanagement of the national economy generated a crisis that began as economic, then social and finally political.

In this situation of institutional weakness, foreign powers as Russia, China, and the United States intended to gain influence and to get benefits for their companies. However, since Maduro continued its anti-American rhetoric were mainly Russian and Chinese companies those that obtained the lion´s share. It is important to note that according to international studies Venezuela has larger oil proven resources than Saudi Arabia, which helps to understand the interest of those extra regional powers in that south American country.

The regional and international pressure on Maduro´s government and the growing domestic opposition lead to a political and economic isolation of Venezuela. As a consequence of that the government increased its dependence on Russia and China.

Russian oil and gas companies are very active in Venezuela and the main interest of Putin´s administration is to secure their interests and protect their investments. More than investments, Venezuela is highly indebted to Moscow and Beijing since during the last five years those two countries were the only external creditors to Maduro´s government.

Behind the so-called strategic partnership, there is pure economic and geopolitical interest.

The main problem that face Russia (and China) is how to convince to the Venezuelan opposition, headed by Juan Guaidó, to recognize their position in the case of changes on the government. Due to the determined support received from Washington it is not clear that Moscow and Beijing will get what they want. Washington want a new beginning, to begin from scratch and not any kind of compensation or share with Russia and China. From our perspective, those are extreme positions (Russia and China from one side and United States on the other side) and diplomatic channels could open the ground for negotiations and compensations.

Russia´s deployment of troops has to do with media more than with a military need. We can argue that those forces are there to protect Russian interests (Russian infrastructure and investments) not Maduro´s government.

Any military clash would be hard to sustain for Russia due to the impossibility to maintain a logistic chain and the financial costs involved. It is more rational to consider the deployment of troops as an insurance for its interests and a leverage for any potential negotiation.

At that moment, nor the United States nor any other South American country (mainly Colombia and Brazil) is eager to a violent regime change in Venezuela and a military intervention. If Washington (and Guaidó) recognize the interests of Russia and China, Maduro´s government will lose its main political and economic supporters and will be open to a transition. In the meantime, the Venezuelan people is trying to survive. Venezuela has generated more refugees than Syria. Just to note it.

Russia’s deployment of troops in Venezuela has caused a new standoff between the U.S. and Russia with the U.S. accusing Russia of intervening in Venezuela’s internal affairs. But is the U.S. really in the “moral high ground” of such accusation given its history of intervening?

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The Only Way To Solve America’s Immigration Border Crisis Without Losing Its Humanity

Rahul D. Manchanda, Esq.

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The United States of America is under unprecedented turmoil these days over its border crisis problem with Mexico, more with the political forces at work both for, and against, erecting a wall, cracking down and jailing and removing illegal aliens, giving more authority to local law enforcement to work with federal law enforcement in these efforts, as well as more scrutiny and hammering down of immigration applications of all types.

Truly there is a fury of activity within the United States with allegations of “racism” and “xenophobia” being thrown around, responded to with “national security” and “safety” being hurled back.

There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight because the Republicans and the Democrats are locked in a fight to the death, with neither side willing to budge or even negotiate a way out of this mess.

Suffice it to say that one of the main origins of this now boiling over immigration border crisis lay with the people that elected Donald Trump to be President – more commonly known as “Nationalists,” or “America Firsters.”

These people are characterized as being staunchly against Globalism, or Internationalism, and share many commonalities with their cousins across the Atlantic in the United Kingdom, otherwise known as the supporters of “Brexit,” who wanted to pull away from both the European Union and the globe in general.

But the problem lies in the fact that for at least the past 70 years, the United States and Europe have literally operated on an “Ordo Ab Chao” (“Order out of Chaos”) approach, destroying and starving other nations and their sovereignty with outright war, terrorism, election overturning, sanctions or just cutting them off from the global economy.

The “blowback” of these interventionist policies of the past 70 years has resulted in incidents such as September 11 and other terrorist acts in its most violent form, but also in mass illegal immigration as another form of blowback, albeit much less violent but still just as disruptive to the economy, safety, health, and cohesion of the United States.

This is also happening in Europe wherein the people of those countries that they destroyed, are now flowing back into theirs, through the millions of refugees created by the unforgivable, wilful, wanton, and intentional destruction of their infrastructure, waterways, electrical grids, arable land, cities, hospitals, schools, everything.

One of the major reasons that the Establishment in both America and Europe were so vehemently against the Presidency of Donald Trump, or the people behind Brexit, is because they were still not finished with that “Ordo” portion of the phrase, only finished with the “Chao” part, wherein they were still right in the middle of massive project finance, foreign loans through the World Bank and IMF, public and private massive investment and international business, as well as other mechanisms designed to replace foreign nations with leaders, infrastructure, and cultures that were more amenable and in line with this Establishment.

Now that Trump is in office, he has surrounded himself with other like-minded people who simply don’t care about the thousands of private and public international agreements, treaties, loans, funding, relationships, or understandings by and between the U.S. and foreign nations/leaders, and simply thinks that these countries can either “take care of themselves,” “save their own people,” “pay their fair share,” and other isolationist principals – but in reality, after 70 years spent destroying those nations and making them promises, this type of abrupt “cutting off” policy, while disallowing them to enter or do business with the USA, is nothing short of a slow motion genocide of the world’s people.

To that end we as a nation, if we are to begin to solve this endless illegal alien immigration crisis, must bite the bullet and forge/build relationships (and even provide funding) to those nations where the majority of these people are coming from, so that this sieve is turned off, as much as possible.

Merely building a wall, while turning away or denying all immigrants their basic human rights, is simply not enough.

The USA (and Europe) has had a significant role in destroying those nations from where these illegal immigrants have come from, and must do more to assist those nations in controlling their own “emigrant” problem, so that the USA (and Europe) does not have to.

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Election News this Week as Assange Goes to Jail

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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The depressing Israeli election is over — a choice between the right and the hard right.  No room for Israeli Arabs or Palestinians who were encouraged to stay away in this “only democracy” in the Middle East.  Of course, Egypt tried to be a real one, but the result was not to its paymaster’s liking.  What can the Palestinians do?  Well, they are not going to get any help from the present Republican occupant of the White House and good chum of Netanyahu.  The latter trying to erase Arab identity through Israel’s new and notorious nation-state law can only work with a manageable Arab population.  Doubtless the Palestinians are aware the best course for them is demographics, as in South Africa.

Another election is underway, this time in India with its colossal 900 million electorate.  Narendra Modi, close buddy of Netanyahu, and fellow nation-state afficionado probably wants a similar declaration where instead of a land for Jews, he wants a land for Hindus — correction, upper-caste Hindus — or a true Hindustan.

Unfortunately for him, the economy is in a mess and his economic growth plan has worked about as well as how the rest of his ideas did in recent history.  Think of 1930s Germany.  Lucky for him he faces an ineffective opposition leader.  India is a parliamentary democracy, so voters will choose representatives to the legislature where the majority will pick the prime minister.

When farmers are angry with low crop prices, the young are facing high unemployment and the economy has lost its high pace of expansion, what is one to do?  There’s always the bogeyman, Pakistan, although its leader a former sportsman keeps talking peace.  No matter, Narendra Modi wants it to be a threat and recalls the ‘success’ of his military adventure that violated past norms — India lost two fighter planes, a pilot who was captured and returned, and a bomb that fell in a forest area (to which reporters were taken recently), but Modi’s successes are defined by him.

As long ago as the 18th century, Samuel Johnson described the situation with his usual brevity when he said, ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.’   In our modern world, the latter is a politician.

To the land of India’s former masters, and Johnson’s too, we have Theresa May the Prime Minister back from a trip to the EU meeting principal leaders.  Germany was kind, France a little less.  In any case, she received a deadline extension to October 31, more than she asked for as she wishes to avoid the EU elections on May 23.  Not much has changed other than her attempts to seek help from the Labor opposition.  If the voting groups in Parliament have not changed, what can we expect?  Hence, the distinct possibility of another referendum.

Also in England and in a blow to whistleblowers, Julian Assange was ejected from the Ecuadorian embassy and arrested by London police.  He was later found guilty of failure to surrender to the court in 2012.  One might recall, Sweden wanted him for a sexual assault charge and the U.S. still wants to try him for ‘conspiring to access classified information’ which can put him in jail for five years.

This is the charge being used by the U.S. to ease extradition.  Other charges like spying and being a foreign agent can put him behind bars for many years more but have been purposely avoided because of British skepticism of American justice.

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