Tag Archives: donald trump

The curious case of a major capital city whose people are disenfranchised (but there could be a bright side)

One of the privileges of bucket-list-retirement has been to spend a little time in Washington DC.

There is much to admire in the US constitution and some elements of its democracy. The democratic status of its capital city is not admirable. It’s a “special federal district” – the District of Columbia – not a state. So, it does not have voting representation in Congress. That’s an estimated 536,768 people (Stacker.com) eligible to vote, without someone to vote on their behalf in Congress.

Compare that to the state of Wyoming’s voting-eligible population of 434,852, who elect a voting US House representative and two – count them – two US Senators (out of a total of only 100).

It is an egregious case of disenfranchisement. It is an downright ungrateful way to treat hard working staff (bearing in mind that much of the DC population is employed by, connected to employees of, the federal US government.)

It should also be noted that “DC” is heavily Democrat, as any casual walk along its residential streets will tell you – just going by the posters up in house windows.

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Exclusive: Contents of Donald Trump’s safe revealed by Macavity

Newsmoggie is excited to report news from feline colleagues in the United States of America relayed by Larry the Cat. Larry needs no introduction to British audiences, but for readers overseas Larry is the Top Cat in Downing Street and has survived longer than all but two or three prime ministers, and probably longer than the next, and the next, and…

The former President, known to himself as the current president, also known as Donald Trump, is alleged to be a fan of the musical Cats, perhaps Andrew Lloyd Webber’s biggest fan. Newsmoggie understands it was Macavity, a somewhat mysterious cat that stars in the Webber extravaganza, that gained entry to Donald Trump’s safe while the FBI were raiding Mar-a-Lago. It is written of Macavity’s more famous ancestor:

“Macavity’s a Mystery Cat: he’s called the Hidden Paw—For he’s the master criminal who can defy the Law.”

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Tom Arms’ World Review

A diplomatic truism is that some conflicts are insoluble. They are, however, manageable. Although the consequences of doing nothing or mismanagement can spell disaster. The Arab-Israeli conflict falls neatly into the above category.

President Joe Biden obviously came to this conclusion before stepping on the plane for his tour of the Middle East this week. A succession of American administrations – except Trump’s – has paid homage to the two-state solution. Biden reiterated the pre-Trump position, but not as forcefully as his predecessors. Part of the reason is that there was little point as his Israeli counterpart, Yasir Lapid, is merely a caretaker prime minister while the Jewish state struggles through another political crisis. As for the Palestinians, they are hopelessly divided between Hamas in Gaza who are a designated terrorist organisation and the PLO’s Mahmoud Abbas who, at 86, makes Biden look like the proverbial spring chicken. The result is that the two-state solution has been moved from the backburner to refrigerator.

Instead the US administration is focusing on maintaining relations with Israel and trying to draw other allies – mainly Saudi Arabia but also the United Arab Emirates and Qatar – into closer relations with Israel. To help with the first point, Biden has toughened his stand on Iran and the threat of nuclear weapons. One thing that all Israeli parties agree on is that Iran represents an existential threat. Biden has agreed that he will do whatever is necessary to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The second issue is more, problematic, especially as regards Saudi Arabia. There is no love lost between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and Biden and the wider Democratic Party. Clearly a problem that needs managing.


Ukrainian military commanders are cock-a-hoop. The military equipment and training provided by the West are starting to work, especially the shoot and scoot American High Mobility Rocket Systems (HIMARS). The GPS-guided precision artillery have to date knocked out 19 forward-based Russian ammunition dumps.

The Ukrainians are now talking about a major counter-offensive involving hundreds of thousands of ground troops to retake territories lost in the Donbas Region. There are, however, problems. HIMARS rockets are accurate and effective, but they are also expensive and have to be used sparingly. So far the US has supplied eight launchers. Another four are on the way. The other problem is that their range is limited to 50 miles. As the Ukrainians advance, the Russians could simply stage a tactical retreat and still control a significant slice of Eastern Ukraine. Washington could supply Ukraine with precision weaponry with a range of 500 miles. These would be a war-winner but would mean that Ukraine could strike targets inside Russia which means escalation with disastrous consequences.


Meanwhile there appears to be the possibility of some movement on the movement of grain out of Ukraine. Between them, Russia and Ukraine account for 21-28 percent of the world’s grain supplies and 40 percent of this vital food for the inherently unstable North Africa and Middle East. A big chunk of that grain is – more than 20 million tonnes – trapped in Ukrainian siloes, unable to reach hungry world markets because of a Russian naval blockade. This week saw talks in Istanbul involving Ukrainian, UN, Russian and Turkish negotiators. They ended with Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar promising a signed deal next week. Moscow and Kyiv have said nothing.

There are several sticking points. For a start the Ukrainians have mined the approaches to their ports to prevent a Russian amphibious landing and the Russians have imposed a naval blockade to stop the import of weapons. Going into this week’s talks Moscow demanded the right to inspect incoming ships for weapons. The Ukrainians said no. The Ukrainians, for their part insisted on grain carriers being escorted by convoys of friendly ships. That is a possibility and Turkey may play a role here.

A further complication, however, is that the exports would include Russian grain which Ukrainians assert has been stolen from land occupied by the Russians since their 24 February invasion.  Not surprisingly, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said: “There is still a way to go.”

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Tom Arms’ World Review

So we know that abortion is now, or is about to be, illegal in about half of the American states. But what about the rest of the world? And what affect is the Supreme Court decision having elsewhere?

In Brazil at the moment abortions are allowed in cases of rape and incest. Populist right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro has used the overturning of Roe v Wade to call for a total ban. At the same time, other countries have condemned the ruling. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called it a “major step backwards.” Almost simultaneous with the Supreme Court decision, Germany scrapped a Nazi-era law that bans doctors from offering information about abortion procedures. Spain took steps to remove parental consent for 16-17 year olds. French legislators proposed a bill to make abortion a constitutional right and the Dutch voted to abolish a mandatory five-day wait for women seeking an abortion. Within the EU only Malta has a total ban on abortion. Poland is the next strictest country on abortion laws. It allows pregnancy terminations in cases of rape, incest and when the mother’s life is threatened. Generally, abortion has become accepted as a woman’s right in all but 37 out of 195 countries in the world.

The Ukraine War is sucking ammo dumps dry. The Russians are the worst hit. A tough Ukrainian defense has forced them to resort to blanket artillery barrages. They started with high precision missiles and by mid-May had fired off an estimated 2,200 of them. They are not cheap. Each cruise missile costs $1.9 million. They also take time to build and involve semi-conductors and transistors which are unavailable in Russia. Moscow’s now depleted precision munitions means that it is using more low precision artillery shells – about 20,000 a day – which increases the collateral damage. Tanks are another problem. The Ukrainians have been particularly adept at knocking out Russia’s tanks. So far the kill rate has topped a thousand. Each tank costs about $4 million and takes a minimum of three months to build.

But the other side – Ukraine and its Western backers – is also having problems. Kyiv didn’t have much to start with and most of it was out of date Soviet-era Russian-produced weaponry. It now has to rely on NATO defense equipment which they do not know how to use. So they have to be trained which takes time. Britain has taken a key role in training Ukrainian troops. But NATO is also running short of weapons to send Ukraine, especially the Europeans who have been particularly generous. Poland for instance, has given a quarter of its tanks to the Ukrainian army. Britain has donated about a third of its highly-effective Starstreak anti-tank missile systems and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is pleading the special case argument to increase defence spending to 2.5 percent of GDP.

Germany, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia have seriously depleted their weapons stocks. One of the reasons that the NATO summit agreed to a near ten-fold increase in troop and weapons levels in the Baltic region is because the defense cupboards in that region are heading towards bare. US ammo dumps are also taking a hit. Ukrainians have made good use of American-made Javelin missiles. Seven thousand of them – roughly a third of the total US stock of Javelins – has been sent to Ukraine. The American armaments industry produces an estimated 1,500 Javelin missiles a year. But the US has other similar systems and the industrial capacity to expand production. In a war of attrition, the West is much better placed then Russia. The next question is: Does it have the political will?

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Observations of an expat: US Elections and 6 January

American Democrats have set up giant screens across key locations. Free ice cream is on offer and major political revelations are promised.

Bennie Thompson, committee chairperson, has already accused ex-President Donald Trump of an “attempted coup.”

The Congressional committee investigating the 6 January Capitol Hill Riots is going public – in a big way. Trump and his army of supporters have dismissed the committee’s hearings as a “political hoax.”

The first carefully choreographed hearings started on Thursday night. More are planned next week and later in the month. CBS, NBC and ABC are broadcasting the hearings live. Fox News will not. Republican spin …

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World Review: Troubles in Poland, Nigeria, Brazil & the US, and Colin Powell

In this weekend’s commentary on world affairs, LDV’s foreign correspondent Tom Arms reviews the conflict between Poland and the Commission over the primacy of EU law. Nigeria is in a bigger mess than usual as corruption is exacerbated by Jihadism, the pandemic, a rapid rise in gang violence and a resurgence of Biafran secessionism. Brazilian senators are investigating Bolsonaro’s responsibility for 600,000 Brazilian covid-19 deaths. In the States, Trump aide Steve Bannon will go to prison for a year for contempt of Congress. Colin Powell who died this week, was universally recognised as a decent and honest man.

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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.

Posted in Op-eds | 6 Comments

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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