Tag Archives: donald trump

World Review: A president assassinated, a president suing, a president withdrawing and Covid soaring

In this weekend’s review, LDV’s foreign correspondent Tom Arms talks of events in Haiti, a basket case of a country whose presidents tend to come to an untimely end, including this week President Moise.

Joe Biden is continuing to withdraw from Afghanistan. Donald Trump is suing Facebook. Both difficult strategies.

The delta variant of Covid-19 is causing cases to rise rapidly around the world, especially in countries with low levels of vaccination. Vaccinating Africa must become a priority to save lives in the Southern and Northern Hemispheres.

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World Review: Biden bombing, lawyers circle Trump, trade deals, vaccination and Suma

In this weekend’s review, Tom Arms looks at the dilemmas that faced Joe Biden as he ordered an attack on pro-Iranian militia in Iraq. In another dilemma, Biden could hold up any talk of a UK-US trade deal if he thinks that the Good Friday Agreement is threatened or damaged by Boris Johnson’s tactics on Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, prosecutors are getting closer to Donald Trump. The charging of a Trump Organisation employee could provide more information about Trump’s financial dealing. The organisations’ assets will also be frozen and banks are likely to call in their loans. former South African President Jacob Zuma has been jailed for contempt of court. And Israel is providing an object lesson in Covid complacency.

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World Review: Israel, cyber-attacks, Ethiopian elections and Trump trumping his book

In today’s briefing from our foreign affairs correspondent, Tom Arms look at congestion, vaccination and schooling in Israel. The NATO summit allowed Joe Biden to stress that the Trump Era was over and “America is back”. And Biden is prepared to retaliate for any cyber attacks from Russia. Elections are due in Ethiopia on Monday – they are “worthless”. Finally, Tom talks of Donald Trump’s new book. Move over the Bible and the Koran, this will be “the greatest book ever.” Should this “great” book be called “Trump Through the Looking Glass”? Suggestions on a title are welcome.

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LibLink: Christine Jardine – Biden has changed the narrative

Writing in the Scotsman as the G7 summit takes place in St Ives, Christine Jardine breathes a sigh of relief that we have a grown-up in the White House again and looks at how Joe Biden has been a good friend to the UK. Sometimes, she says, your best friends tell you the truth.

She compared this summit to the Atlantic Charter, Churchill and Roosevelt’s vision for the post war world:

Eighty years later, Biden referenced that moment as he cast the other leaders in his shadow to declare that the United States will donate half a billion dozes of Pfizer vaccines to 92 low and middle income countries.

“America will be the arsenal of vaccines in our fight against COVID-19, just as America was the arsenal of democracy during World War Two”, he promised.

This was the statement of intent that the world needed.

A commitment from a US President to those who had begun to doubt his country’s engagement with foreign affairs. Leadership.

The UK and others have made similar vaccine commitments but this was America’s moment to step forward and begin to lay the foundations of a post-Covid international order.

Christine also sees hope in the fact that we now have Joe Biden in power after four years of someone who inspired contempt, protests and blimps.

America got rid of Trump, and maybe we can get rid of our equivalent:

Three years ago, every utterance of the then President brought fresh waves of disillusionment bordering on despair.

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Tom Arms’ World Review: Cheney and Trump – Round One to the Cult of Trump v. the traditional Republican Party

The ousting of Congresswoman Liz Cheney from the number three spot in the Republican ranks appears to be a victory for Trumpists and supporters of the stolen election “Big Lie.” Or is it? It is true that 70 percent of Republicans believe Trump won the election despite the fact that every court and election official (including Trump’s own appointees) rejected the former president’s claim. It is also true that Republican Party grandees such as Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz are four square behind the Big Lie. But, by alienating Liz Cheney, the forever Trumpers have created a formidable opponent who has dedicated herself to the maintenance of the rule of law, the US constitution and ensuring that Donald J. Trump or his ilk never occupies the White House again. And she is one tough lady with impeccable traditional party credentials.

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Observations of an expat: America on trial

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Donald Trump is on trial in the US Senate. The Republican Party is on trial. America is on trial. The likely verdicts are: Not Guilty, Guilty and Guilty.

This will undermine democratic values and the rule of law which underpins it. This is bad for America and bad for the world. The United States is more than a nation. It is also an idealised aspiration.

Trump is accused of inciting an insurrection. He is alleged to have provoked a mob to attack Capitol Hill in order to reverse an election in direct contravention his oath to “preserve and protect  the constitution.”

Prosecutors (aka House Managers) from the House of Representatives have laid before America’s senators what Republicans admit is a “compelling” case against the ex-president. But the smart betting is that they will still vote to acquit the president.

Trump did more than give an incendiary speech on 6 January. His crime was committed over several months. Before the election he prepared the ground for insurrection by claiming – without any evidence – that the mail-in voting system would result in massive fraud.

Then, as the vote went against him, Trump attempted to stop the count in key states. When the result was clear he refused to concede defeat and challenged the vote in 86 different court cases. He lost all but one. Trump still refused to concede and repeatedly tweeted the fraudulent lie that he was the victim of fraud.

He tried to bully Georgia’s top election official into fabricating 11,780 votes in that key state. He failed. Increasingly desperate, Trump demanded that Vice President Mike Pence reject the Electoral College vote when Congress convened on 6 January to certify the results. Pence refused. His oath to defend the constitution was more important than winning an election.

Trump now summoned his supporters – which included violent right-wing militia groups – to a Washington rally on 6 January while Congress met in its certification session.  The president exhorted them to “fight like Hell” to “Stop the Steal” and to “march up Pennsylvania Avenue” to Capitol Hill. His personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said it was time for “trial by combat.”

The mob acted as instructed.  They broke into the icon of American democracy and demanded the death of Vice President Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Five people died and 140 Capitol Hill policemen were injured.

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Observations of an expat: High hopes, low expectations

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Trump is gone. He boarded Air Force One on Wednesday and flew off into the Florida sunset.

Biden is now the President of the United States and has called for an end to the “uncivil civil war” of the last four years.

In his departing speech before a diminished crowd, the outgoing president promised (or was it threatened) that he would be back “in some form or another.”

And he probably will. Perhaps not the “The Donald” personally. His legal and financial problems ranging from the impeachment trial, to tax evasion, to fraud, to money laundering, attempted subversion of election results and massive debts could occupy his attention – and the courts – at the expense of any planned political comeback.

But Trumpism will be back. In fact, it is a solid political factor on the American scene. Donald Trump did not create Trumpism. The conditions for his hate-fuelled politics of anger and fear existed before Donald entered the White House. Trump’s trick was to spot the political advantage in this political undercurrent and exploit it.

In his first day in office, President Biden used presidential decree powers to reverse 17 Trumpist policies. He rejoined the World Health Organisation and the Climate Change Accord. “The Dreamers” were given back their path to citizenship and the Muslim travel ban was lifted. The Keystone XL pipeline and a host of other environmentally damaging Trump pronouncements were scrapped.

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Observations of an expat: Money talks

Money talks. And nowhere does it shout louder than in the political arena of the United States of America.

The roll call of companies turning against the president and his acolytes is impressive. A truncated and growing list includes: American Express, Mastercard, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Stripe, Apple, Amazon, Google, the PGA, Deutsche Bank, Signature Bank, Hallmark, Verizon, Comcast, AT and T, AirBnB, New York City, the Koch Organisation….

Several on the above list deserve special mention. Deutsche Bank has been (now was) the Trump Organisation’s bank for years. It is owed $340 million by the company. But that is not all, President Trump has personally guaranteed every penny of the loan which is interest only. This means that when the loan falls due in 2023 and 2024 he will have to stump up the full amount.

New York City building projects have been a Trump cash cow dating back to the early days of the business his father created. They have simply cancelled all contracts with the Trump Organisation. That will hurt the bottom line.

The Koch Organisation has been America’s leading contributor to conservative causes since Fred Koch financed the start of the ultra-conservative John Birch Society in 1953. Between 2009 and 2016 his sons Charles and David gave a staggering $889 million to the Republican Party, individual Republican politicians and conservative think tanks.

The Koch Organisation started going off Trump a few years ago. But after the attack on Capitol Hill they also turned against his Congressional supporters. They have warned those Republican congressmen and senators who either objected to the Electoral College vote or voted against impeachment that the Koch Organisation’s contributions to their electoral war chests will likely be axed.

They need the money. To run for a seat in the House of Representatives costs an average of $1.6 million and you have to raise that money every two years because that is the length of your term of office. Senators hold their seats for six years, but the average cost of a campaign is $12 million. Elizabeth Warren’s last run for office cost $42,506,349.

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What took you so long, Twitter?

Twitter logoFor years now we’ve rolled our eyes around mid morning when Donald Trump woke up and found his phone and Twitter app. “Oh god, what now?” we would groan as we read the latest instalment of populist bile.

This week, entirely predictably, it all got dangerous and people lost their lives. Families are mourning loved ones whose deaths were entirely preventable. And the events which led up to them were highly predictable.

Twitter, who have for years hosted his most outrageous statements without taking action finally lost patience with Trump, permanently banning …

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Observations of an expat: Banana America

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Donald J. Trump’s political career is very likely over. But Trumpism lives on.

The disrupter-in-chief, conspiracy theorist extraordinaire and the world’s most outstanding example of a self-deluded politician has finally gone too far.

He clearly incited thousands of supporters to march on the seat of American government in an attempt coerce elected representatives into overturning the election result. The assault on the US Capitol while senators and congressmen met to confirm the results of the November vote, was an attempted coup, insurrection, sedition and treason.

Trump’s baseless claims that the election was a fraud were the inspiration behind the riots. His speech – and that of Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump Jr and others – clearly incited the crowd. His actions were a clear breach of his oath to protect and defend the US constitution.

The events of 6 January, and the two months that preceded it, set a frightening precedent which undermines democracy in America. And because the United States is seen as both the cradle and protector and chief advocate of global democratic values, it undermines laudable efforts to make other governments more representative.

The United States now looks more like a banana republic of the sort it regularly criticises than the “shining city on the hill” that it claims to be.

As awful as the Capitol Hill riots were, even more disturbing are the results of Hill HarrisX opinion poll conducted on 6-7 January.  According to this survey 59 percent of the voters polled disapproved of Trump’s handling of the riots. Great, you might say, that is a clear majority. But the flip side is that 41 percent of the electorate approved of Trump’s actions.

Despite the fact that the riot was a clear attempt to undermine the constitution, the rule of law and the democratic processes of government, a whopping 41 percent of the electorate thought Trump did the right thing.

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Tragic end to Trump’s deceit

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The National Statuary Hall.

It’s not a name that trips readily off the tongue. It’s a big hall with about a hundred statues in it, in the US Capitol building in Washington DC. Each state is allowed to choose two statues, which they can replace if wanted.

When I was shown round it in 2019, I noticed Rosa Parks. Her statue was not chosen by her home state, Alabama. In an exception to the rule, she was placed there by unanimous vote of both chambers of the Congress. That speaks volumes.

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How on earth does this man still have access to a nuclear weapons trigger?

It is worth listening to this tape at length.

It ought to send a shiver down the spine of anyone who believes in democracy.

What staggers me is that this sort of call is happening well into January, rather than on November 4th last year.

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Observations of an expat: A bad year

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2020 has been a bad year. It is certainly the worst I can remember and I have been around for 71 of them.

The main cause is, of course, coronavirus or covid-19. It started in Wuhan, China almost exactly 12 months ago, and as the year draws to a close about two million people worldwide have lost their lives to this deadly virus.

Coronavirus has destroyed lives and livelihoods and although vaccines are now being distributed, it will be some time before the world returns to normal—if ever.

The Chinese were initially slow to respond to the threat. Whether their tardiness was in response to a lack of medical knowledge or political considerations is unclear. It was most likely a combination of the two.

The Chinese appeared to have relatively quickly stopped the spread of the virus; helped partly by long years of experience of pandemics and epidemics and partly as a result of a tightly-controlled society. As a general rule, Asians have fared better than their counterparts in other parts of the world. Most scientists have ascribed their relative success to experience of dealing with similar viruses such as SARS (an earlier form of coronavirus) and Avian bird flu.

Those that have fared better than most were countries who could quickly and efficiently shut their borders to the rest of the world. Iceland, New Zealand, Taiwan and Australia are four examples, although almost everyone is suffering as winter and covid-fatigue set in.

The worst hit were the countries of the West – Europe and North and South America. There the combined emphasis on individual liberties, lack of experience and knowledge, political ineptitude and an emphasis on wealth over health led to the greatest number of deaths.

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Observations of an expat: Looking foolish

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Everyone hates to look foolish. To avoid this hugely embarrassing peril they will often go to great lengths ranging from self-deception to conspiracy theories to lies.

And the greater the personal investment in an untenable position the more difficult it is for the investor to change direction and face the chorus of “I told you so’s.”

Two of the most prominent examples of this foolishness are Brexit and Donald Trump. Millions of intelligent Americans have invested their political heart and soul in the Cult of Trump. They cannot comprehend the possibility of his losing the November presidential election. Therefore, their leader must be the victim of a massive fraud.

The numerous election officials – Republican and Democrat – who consistently maintain that the vote was the fairest in American history are evil participants in a Deep State conspiracy. They are in an unholy league with the courts that have repeatedly dismissed the Trump campaign claims of election chicanery.

The fact-filled brick wall that Trump supporters have bumped up against has led some of them to call for dangerously extreme measures. Pardoned former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has, for instance, called on President Trump to suspend the constitution, cancel the election result, declare martial law and then use the military to oversee fresh elections.

Britain’s Brexiteers are faring equally badly, although in a different way.

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Observations of an expat: Pakistan – next to recognise Israel?

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Wafting through the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and across the parade ground of military headquarters in Rawalpindi is an interesting political rumour: Will Pakistan be the next Islamic country to recognise Israel?

If it does it will not be so much a feather in the Israeli-American cap as a full-sized Native American war bonnet. Only Saudi recognition would beat it as a diplomatic coup.

But is the rumour likely to become a reality? Diplomats say that such a move is possible. But set against the brick wall of political realities it is highly improbable.

For a start, the political, social, economic and cultural conditions in Pakistan are completely different from those in the countries that have recently recognised Israel—Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan. The UAE is an extremely wealthy states ruled by absolute monarchs. Their largely pliant population is happy to stay out of politics as long as the oil money keeps rolling in. Bahrain is not enormously wealthy, and its population is divided between Sunnis and Shias. But the ruler is an absolute monarch and in lock step with the UAE.

Sudan is not so wealthy. But its diplomatic position has been bought by Washington. As one of the centres of Islamic terrorism, it languished for years on America’s economic blacklist. US aid and investment is now pouring in.

Pakistan, in comparison is poor and its politics are Byzantine. The per capita income of the 212.7 million Pakistanis is below that of Sudan at $1,357 a year. They are 154th in the world wealth stakes.

Prime Minister Imran Khan is a perfectly competent and charming man, but he is politically circumscribed. The real power in Pakistan is the military—the sixth largest in the world. The prime minister is allowed to operate freely, but only within parameters established by the military, especially the army. If he steps outside the parameters than he runs the risk of removal—even a military coup.

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Is it safe to come out now?

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With the certification of Michigan’s 16 electoral votes yesterday, Donald Trump finally bowed to the inevitable and signalled his administration to co-operate with the incoming transitional team of Joe Biden.

No concession though, you’ll note.

John T Bennett, Washington Bureau chief of the Independent writes today:

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Observations of an expat: 2024

There are few certainties in American politics at the moment, but I think we can say (with fingers and toes crossed) that Donald Trump has lost the presidential election; Joe Biden will be inaugurated on 20 January 2021 and Trump will leave the White House (one way or another) on or about the same day.

But what will the obese, orange-faced narcissist with the bouffant hair style do once he has exited 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

Well, he will be 74 years old. He could simply retire to Mar-a-Lago and work on his golf handicap. He doesn’t have to worry about money. In addition to the billions of which he constantly boasts, Trump will receive an ex-president’s pension of $207,800; free healthcare; a staff and Secret Service protection.

That scenario, however, seems unlikely, Donald Trump is the ultimate illustration of power as an aphrodisiac. He thrives in the limelight and wilts in the shade. Donald Trump will want to continue as disrupter-in-chief outside elected office.

To do so, requires money.  This may attract him back to his property roots and a global real estate empire. It badly needs attention as most of his investments are in leisure and travel-related property which has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

But the problem with a return to real estate is that the Trump brand has been tarnished. While he was a rising star and then president everyone wanted to do business with him or his family. Doing business with a defeated and petulant president who is a right-wing ideologue would be too much of a political statement for most businessmen.

Another possibility is the media mogul route, either with his own television network, or, in tandem with an existing conservative platform. It he goes the latter route the most likely partner is the ultra-right wing One America News Network. Fox has been ruled out after they unceremoniously ditched him on election night.

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We must stand ready to act if Trump tantrums risk tipping Afghanistan into chaos

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President Trump’s ‘termination’ of Defense Secretary Mark Esper should come as no surprise (given the terminator’s temperament – and that’s before his convincing defeat at the hands of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris). Because Secretary Esper was ready to resign in the event of his Commander-in-Chief’s electoral victory. He’d already written the letter.

His reasons why seem clear enough. Having ordered his troops back to base, he made public his refusal to condone even the possibility of their deployment on the streets of D.C., least of all to gas peaceful protestors for a photo opportunity outside of a church whose Bishop denounced the abhorrent abuse of power that had enabled it. President-elect Biden has drawn upon his faith – whatever your own beliefs – several times since his election, citing phrases of the powerful book that President Trump wielded as a prop so disgracefully.

But President Trump’s reason for sacking Esper now seems less clear. Most assume petty vengeance, a President affecting what little power he has left to ‘take out’ those who dared oppose him. A sign he is still President, in his own mind, by yielding his authority, perhaps. Or worst, an indication he plans to fulfil a campaign promise and is in full preparation for a 2024 campaign. To ‘End the Endless Wars’. Bring the troops home. An impossible prospect, at present, that would leave the future President Biden in a bind. To reverse, or abandon the region?

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Does unity require amnesty?

What will America do with Mr Trump when he ceases to be President? There will be those who believe that the relatively narrow margin of Biden’s victory means that America is still a bitterly divided country and that the healing process means that any question of prosecution would be a non-starter because it would ‘re-open the wounds”. Trumpism will not go away even in the unlikely event of the man himself disappearing into the sunset sometime in January. But national divisions are nothing like as simple as the binary choices of a two-horse race or a yes/no referendum.
Going against a majority view can be difficult for politicians but if it matters so much the voters have the option of sending them packing in due course. MPs who voted for the abolition of the death penalty were not, for the most part, punished by their constituents. We didn’t have council elections in the Mets in the May following the UK referendum but in 2018 many of us in the North were happy to be elected or re-elected in wards which voted heavily Leave, myself included. Because voters are human beings their political views can be more complex (sometimes contradictory) than we might like them to be.
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Observations of an expat: THE Election

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Hope is a terrible emotion. It too often leads to despair. But an almost overwhelming hope is the dominant emotion for all those supporting a Biden victory in the US presidential elections.

As I write this the election remains in the balance. No bookkeeper will give a Trump victory any odds. Biden is almost certain to win, but the emphasis is still on the words “almost” and “hope”.

Just when Biden can give his uncontested victory speech is unknown. Trump will not concede. The president has made it clear that he will contest the election result in the courts—right up to the Supreme Court; even though almost no respectable legal eagle believes Trump has grounds for his claims of a fraudulent election.

But the president’s business success was largely based on highly suspect legal triumphs and he will use his unrivalled experience in the courts to keep Biden out of the house and job which he claims as his exclusive preserve.

Then there is the cloud of violence hanging over America. So far there have only been a handful of incidents. But the fact is that Trump supporters are dramatically extreme – and often armed – in support for their man.

Biden has asserted that he will be a unifying president for all Americans. The problem is that rural and small town America have felt ignored for years. They believe that their way of life has been marginalised, under-valued, and under-represented by a coalition of patronising degree-wielding urbanites and non-whites who threaten their values.

If Biden wins, the man from Delaware may also face problems with Congress. America’s checks and balances system means that for an administration to be effective it needs a majority of support in the House of Representatives and Senate. The Democrats have held onto their plurality in the lower house but, for the time being, The Republicans have control of the Senate. This may change in January when there will be two Senate run-offs because of Georgia’s convoluted election laws.

A defeated Trump is unlikely to take the accepted route of retiring to his Florida mansion to work on his memoirs and presidential library. During the campaign, son-in-law Jared Kushner, was busy organising a future platform which is likely to become Trump Television. This will enable Trump to broadcast vitriol, personal insults and dangerously false conspiracy theories to undermine a Biden Administration, and prepare a 2024 bid for the White House either for himself or one of his children.

If Biden does succeed then there is hope. Joe is recognised as one of the most honourable politicians in Washington who strongly believes in the rule of law as laid down in the US constitution. In contrast, Trump twists the law to work only through friends prepared to swear feudal fealty to him personally.

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LibLink: Vince Cable on Biden and Trump post election

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Vince Cable has just published an article on The Independent: “Biden faces a war on many fronts – Trump has the tools to make the presidency a poisoned chalice“.  He considers the worrying consequences of Trump losing but still able to call upon substantial support.

Trump’s career in the New York property market owed much to the deployment of batteries of lawyers to intimidate and out-manoeuvre his competitors. Every legal argument in the book will be deployed to block or invalidate the postal ballots which have tipped the balance in key states. If he can get a case in front of the Supreme Court, he calculates that the justices will forget their oath of impartiality and remember their political debt to the president who appointed them.

It is rumoured he then plans to challenge the make-up of the electoral college. There is also the possible scenario I described in this column three weeks ago, where uncertainty generated by the legal challenges leads to people taking the law into their own hands, leading to a state of emergency and – in effect – a coup d’etat.

However, Republicans like Mitch McConnell …

… will have no truck with legal chicanery designed to frustrate the election result.

Even if Trump’s attempts to reverse the result fail, and he reluctantly agrees to leave the White House, he has plenty of options to make life for the new president somewhere between very difficult and impossible.

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Election USA: Brace yourself for delay, frustration and confusion

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Those of a nervous disposition look away now.

TRUMP DECLARES VICTORY AS EARLY VOTE COUNTS FAVOUR HIM

-That could well be the headline you wake up to on Wednesday morning.

Donald Trump is preparing a podium to walk up to and say that he has won the US Presidential election, after a few votes are counted in swing states.

And he may well have some evidence to support him, to a small extent.

The way the votes are being cast in the USA, and the ways in which they will be counted, verified and challenged, is like no other American election.

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Observations of an expat: The end is not in sight

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It would be nice to think that with the US presidential elections only a few days away, and Trump trailing badly in the opinion polls, that the end of nearly four years of right-wing populism a la Donald Trump is in sight.

This is a false hope on so many levels.

For a start, he may still win. And, a massive question mark hangs over the issue of whether or not Donald Trump will accept defeat at the polls. “If I lose, the election is fraudulent,” Trump asserts with unbelievable arrogance and disregard for basic democratic values.

If the president loses and refuses to concede than America runs the risk that Trumptonian arrogance obstinacy combines with divisions in American society to bring gun owners out on the streets. And the longer Trump fights a pro-Biden result the greater danger.

The convention since World War Two has been for ex-American presidents to slip quietly out of the political limelight to expand on their footnote in history by writing their memoirs, building a presidential library, creating a charity or two, joining the lecture circuit and taking on a behind-the-scenes elder statesman role. To do otherwise threatens the establishment of an alternative court which would undermine the sitting president.

Trump is not the type to embrace a quiet retirement. He will attack, lambast, slam and condemn with lies and conspiracy theories any occupant of the Oval Office other than himself because he cannot conceive of any other person being able to fill the position.

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Observations of an expat: Trump, Covid and me

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Donald Trump and I have something in common. We are both on steroids. And I can tell you from personal experience, that heavy doses of steroids can affect you mentally – and physically.

It can make you angry and a shade irrational. Just ask my wife. In fact she says I should delete the word “shade”. In my case it affects my feet and hands as well; swelling the feet and making the hands shake.

The reason for these changes is that steroids dramatically and rapidly push up your sugar levels. It is a bit like suddenly swallowing a kilo of the white stuff in one 10 second sitting. You become hyper. I have also become a steroid diabetic. As President Trump weighs about 20 kilos more than me, it is possible that he has suffered the same or similar fate.

In my case, I have to take steroids for a chronic cancer called Multiple Myeloma. The bad news is that the nature of the cancer, the steroids and a bewildering cocktail of other drugs, means that I will be boring you with this column for many years to come. Steroids affect your behaviour and your quality of life. But they save lives. They don’t end them.

Your body also adjusts to the initial onslaught of steroids and the chemicals that accompany them. In my case it took about four months and a reduction in steroid intake. I have no idea how long it will take Trump to physically and mentally acclimatise. But, I can assure you that a weekend at Walter Reed Hospital – no matter how good the doctors are – is insufficient.

Of course, Donald Trump’s behaviour was erratic in the extreme long before he swallowed his first dose of dexamethasone. He stands apart as a person who refuses to accept that the laws of nature and man apply to him. Facts, historical records and evidence of our own senses are an irrelevancy as far as Donald J. Trump is concerned.

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Observations of an expat: Liking people

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People like to do business with people they like. Think about it. How many times have you returned to the same bar, restaurant, shop or café because you like the owner or the convivial waitress. You will even pay over the odds because that big smile and friendly chat with a croissant is worth the extra money. Life is just too short for decisions to be based on the saving of a few pennies.

Another much sought-after characteristic is competence. In fact, charm and competence are generally considered a winning combination. And one without the other is, well, pretty much the exact opposite.

That is why a report published this week by the Pew Research Centre is such bad news for everyone in America. It is also an object lesson for the rest of the world.

The Pew Research Centre is a Washington-based think tank that for the past two decades has conducted annual in-depth international surveys on different countries’ perceptions of the United States. Actually, the Pew people prefer the term “fact tank” which, of course, brings their reports into direct conflict with the Trump Administration who might be best described as an “alternative fact farm.”

Certainly the White House takes little comfort from this week’s Pew survey which reports that perceptions of America and its president plummeted to record lows. The President of the United States is viewed as incompetent and the country as a whole is disliked.

Twenty years ago the British people, for instance, gave the “land of opportunity” an 87 percent approval rating. Germany’s approval levels of America were at 78 percent. France, which has always had a more ambivalent attitude to the US, was a bit lower at 62 percent. At the end  of summer 2020 the approval rating of three of America’s most important allies is roughly half of what it was at the turn of the millennium– 41 percent in UK, 26 percent In Germany and 32 percent in France.

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Observations of an expat: Politics of fear and loathing

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Fear is the major political currency of America’s Republican Party. The traditionalists are frightened of socialism. They are scared of big government. They dread the thought of a diminished suburban life style.  They are panic-stricken at the thought of losing their guns that protect from the forces of both the law and lawlessness. But most of all, in an increasingly racially divided society, the long dominant White population is terrified of becoming a minority.

Republicans will deny that they are racists. But the fact is that race issues have been a dominant theme in American politics from the arrival of the first African slaves in 1619, to the genocidal elimination of Native Americans, the Civil War, segregation, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Act and, finally, Trump’s wall.

They are not overly concerned with constitutional rights (except perhaps their interpretation of the Second Amendment). Enforcement of the rule of law is not at the top of agenda (except as it pertains to the protection of property). Whether or not their president is a tax-evading, misogynistic, narcissistic, racist, incompetent foul-mouthed liar is of little interest. They accept that he is a bastard. But he is their bastard. Even a global pandemic which has left more Americans dead than in any other country takes a back seat to the battle to preserve the fabled American dream.

America is a largely conservative society. Donald Trump is in the White House because he has successfully managed to persuade Americans that he is their best bet for fighting off the foreign hordes and ideas that run counter to perceived American values. In this election, the American right has gone to war; and, as in any war, the first casualty is truth.

That was obvious from the Republican Convention where speaker after speaker uttered outrageous lies in pursuit of four more years of a Trump presidency. Former Army Colonel turned anti-abortionist nun, Sister Deidre Byrne, accused Joe Biden and Kamala Harris of supporting not only late-term abortion, but infanticide as well.

Tennessee Senator Marshal Blackburn warned: “If the Democrats have their way, they would keep you locked in your homes until you become dependent on the government for everything. “

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Donald Trump is the most dangerous threat to western democracy this century…but not for the reasons you may think

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Donald Trump is a dangerous President.

That’s not an especially controversial statement to make outside of his own social media support bubble. In fact, Donald Trump is so obviously ineffective, anti-intellectual and corrupt that the fact he managed to get elected to the highest office in the democratic world is something of an impressive achievement.

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Observations of an expat: The end of Trump?

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It has been a bad June for President Donald Trump – and the month has just begun.

The death of African-American George Floyd at the hands (or, if you prefer, knee) of a Minneapolis policeman has sparked demonstrations and riots across America and the wider world.

The president’s plan to wrap his proposed military clampdown in a religious cloak badly backfired when he was condemned by mainstream American religious leaders for using the Bible as a political prop.

It looks as if the president is about to lose another Secretary of Defence, Mark Esper. And his first and most popular Defence Secretary, Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis has finally ended his long self-imposed silence and denounced Trump as “divisive”, “immature” and “incompetent”.

But it gets better, or worse if you are Trump or one of his supporters. The president’s decision to withdraw from the World Health Organisation has met with universal condemnation from world leaders. They largely accept the American premise that China delayed passing on vital information about coronavirus, but reject Trump’s sinophobic and UNphobic assertion that the WHO colluded with Beijing.

Then there is the forthcoming G7 summit which Trump wants to expand to re-admit Russia and include India, South Korea and Brazil. Basically he is trying to stack the deck in his favour after being snubbed at the two previous G7 meetings. This has gone down like the proverbial lead balloon in the foreign ministries of the existing G7 countries, and could easily spell the end of the G7.

Posted in Op-eds | 17 Comments

30-31 May 2020 – the weekend’s press releases

  • Govt must follow the science when it comes to easing lockdown
  • Govt must rethink plans to shut down virtual Parliament
  • Govt must issue “crystal clear” guidance for those returning to sport
  • Ministers must explain evidence behind decision to ease lockdown
  • Foreign Secretary’s silence on Trump tweets is shameful
  • Govt decision to press on with reopening schools “deeply worrying”
  • Govt must urgently scrap Vagrancy Act as part of plan to end rough sleeping

Govt must follow the science when it comes to easing lockdown

Responding to reports that several members of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group have warned of the risk of easing the lockdown in England on Monday 1 June, Liberal Democrat Health, Wellbeing and Social Care spokesperson Munira Wilson said:

The decision by key members of SAGE to go public with their concerns shows that Ministers are no longer following the science.

The test, trace, isolate system that we need to keep people safe is not yet fully functional. The NHSX app is delayed for an unknown period. For seven days straight the Government has been unable to provide even basic data about the number of people tested. On top of these failings, public health messaging has been badly undermined as people see it’s one rule for the Tory elite and another for everyone else.

Given this chaos, measures to lift lockdown appear premature. At every stage the Liberal Democrats have been clear that the Government must listen to the experts and follow the science. Protecting public health and tackling the spread of the virus must always be the Government’s number one priority – many are questioning whether this remains the case.

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Observations of an expat: Sino-American Covid diplomacy

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It is difficult to tell who is winning the Sino-American Coronavirus diplomatic battle. Two weeks ago I would have put the US in the lead. They had successfully poured ice water on Chinese claims to have successfully suppressed the spread of the virus in China. It is now generally accepted that the Chinese statistics are extremely dubious.

This week the pendulum has swung the other way. The reason is the annual meeting of the World Health Assembly which – unsurprisingly – was dominated by the pandemic.

The pendulum received a gentle push from the European Union which successfully proposed a full and independent investigation into the causes, spread, handling and consequences of coronavirus as well as a report into how best to deal with a repeat crisis.

On the surface, this would appear to be a victory for the Trump Administration who have been loud on their accusations – despite all evidence to the contrary – that Covid-19 originated in a Wuhan virology lab from whence it reached the community by accident or intent. The Chinese have been even more outrageous with their leading conspiracy theory: America developed the virus and despatched US military personnel to Wuhan to spread a Covid-19 paste on hundreds of Chinese door knobs.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 6 Comments
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