Showing posts with label international affairs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label international affairs. Show all posts

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Political Videos of the Month


"Вот эти тебя обижали?": Путин и Трамп обсудили на встрече журналистов pic.twitter.com/cWZQA8HjSC
— Дмитрий Смирнов (@dimsmirnov175) July 7, 2017

Russian President and autocrat credited with ordering the murder of journalists Vladimir Putin joking with US President Donald Trump about the journalists Trump hates.

PUTINDid these people hurt [offend] you?
TRUMPYes [indecipherable]
[Dimitri Smirnov, Special Corps of Komsomolskaya Pravda. Journalist in Kremlin pool]

What did we learn about @realDonaldTrump at this #G20@CUhlmann explains. #Insiders pic.twitter.com/TGOXdiFWhB
— Insiders ABC (@InsidersABC) July 8, 2017
[ABC political editor Chris Uhlmann]

* Click pic.twitter.com links to view videos.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Pictures that tell 1,000 words - Part Three


US President Donald Trump at the Group of Twenty (G20) Hamburg Summit in Germany, 7-8 July 2017

Alone again, naturally.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Trump's America reaches dangerous toxicity levels


The United States of America is becoming a nation to fear.

If the checks and balances within its political structure continue to fracture and the propaganda narrative that those who oppose the Trump Regime are 'evil' grows in volume and intensity, then a destabilised, disintegrating America gone rogue lurching across the international stage is likely to injure us all.

US President Donald J. Trump at a Washington faith rally on Saturday, 1 July 2017

National Rifle Association of America call to arms against citizens who oppose Trump

Somehow this scenario doesn’t seem so farfetched anymore:


Business Insider, 3 May 2017:

TIMOTHY SNYDER: So, it’s really important, I think, to accept the logic of our constitutional structure. The logic of our constitutional structure is not that Americans are great. The logic of our constitutional structure is that Americans are people and people have weaknesses.

When the framers of the Constitution were setting up our system, they weren’t thinking about how wonderful we were gonna turn out to be, which is a good thing because we’re not always so wonderful. They were thinking about the structures that would be needed to preserve a Democratic Republic overtime. So the right mood is always scepticism. The framers of the Constitution were worried that someone might come along at some point who could be elected president. This was precisely their worry, who didn’t have concern about the rule of law or about democracy. We are now in that situation.

Up until now, there is nothing in Mr. Trump’s words or in his actions which would convince us or which would even suggest that he cares even a little bit about democracy or about the rule of law. On the contrary, there are plenty of things he said like referring to judges as “so-called” judges, referring to journalists as enemies of the people, talking about “America First” and indulging other kinds of nostalgia for the 1930’s, which suggests he doesn’t like democracy at all. His admiration tends to be limited to foreign tyrants.

So we need to be sceptical about ourselves and we need more than sceptical about him. What I would say is that our institutions were set up for a moment just like this one but they will only protect us if we enliven them and if we support them.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Deducing cause and effect on a thin-skinned American president


CAUSE?


EFFECT?

The Guardian, 11 June 2017:

Donald Trump has told Theresa May in a phone call he does not want to go ahead with a state visit to Britain until the British public supports him coming.
The US president said he did not want to come if there were large-scale protests and his remarks in effect put the visit on hold for some time.
The call was made in recent weeks, according to a Downing Street adviser who was in the room. The statement surprised May, according to those present.
The conversation in part explains why there has been little public discussion about a visit.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

The Liberal Party's rednecks predictably make hay with Trump's anti-science rampage


This was what was displayed on the Prime Minister of Canada’s official website immediately after US President Donald Trump had announced his government’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

Ottawa, Ontario
June 1, 2017
The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today issued the following statement in response to the United States’ decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement:
“We are deeply disappointed that the United States federal government has decided to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Canada is unwavering in our commitment to fight climate change and support clean economic growth. Canadians know we need to take decisive and collective action to tackle the many harsh realities of our changing climate.
“While the U.S. decision is disheartening, we remain inspired by the growing momentum around the world to combat climate change and transition to clean growth economies. We are proud that Canada stands united with all the other parties that support the Agreement. We will continue to work with our domestic and international partners to drive progress on one of the greatest challenges we face as a world.
“This is not only about the huge economic opportunities of clean growth and the need to address the pressing threats of climate change. This is about an ambitious and unshakeable desire to leave a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable planet for our kids and for generations to come.
“We are all custodians of this world, and that is why Canada will continue to work with the U.S. at the state level, and with other U.S. stakeholders, to address climate change and promote clean growth. We will also continue to reach out to the U.S. federal government to discuss this matter of critical importance for all humankind, and to identify areas of shared interest for collaboration, including on emissions reductions.”

This is what the Prime Minister of Australia’s official website looked like on the morning of 2 June 2017:
Not one word from Malcolm Bligh Turnbull as he cowered behind closed doors wary of offending both the climate change deniers in his own party and the US president – he left any initial  remarks to the Minister for Environment and Energy.

It wasn’t until later on 2 June that a lukewarm statement was delivered during a doorstop interview in Singapore aimed not at Trump but at his own political opponents at home :

Well the President's announcement is not a surprise. It was a very core campaign commitment of his - It is disappointing. We would prefer the United States to remain part of the agreement. We are committed to the Paris agreement. We are on track to meet our 2030 targets of a reduction in emissions by 26 to 28 per cent from 2005 levels. And, I should say we are doing well. Our emissions, whether measures against by head of population or by, against GDP are the lowest they've been for 27 years.
The important thing is to ensure that we maintain energy supplies that are affordable, that are reliable, secure and that we meet our emissions targets and we are on track to do just that. That's our commitment, our energy policy is grounded in economics and engineering. Not in ideology like the Labor Party’s.

That pause between Trump’s announcement and Turnbull’s response allowed the Liberal Party’s merry band of luddites enough airtime to show support for Trump’s position.

This group contained Senator for Tasmania Eric Abetz, Senator for Queensland Ian Macdonald, MP for Dawson (Qld) George Christensen and MP for Hughes (NSW) Craig Kelly

Which was probably what the hypocritical, pro-coal Member for Wentworth intended to happen all along

Something people in the electorates of these parliamentarians should perhaps keep in mind when they go to vote at the next federal election.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

President Stupid makes a video about the Paris Agreement and the French reply


The cognitively impaired, monosyllabic President of the United States of America.....

https://youtu.be/CmiEUVVaFzs

The French........

Friday, 2 June 2017

In May 2017 Trump lumbered across the international stage dragging his knuckles in the dust


This is Donald Trump front and centre at every NATO photo opportunity……



This is how he gets there…….
Trump putting his right hand on the right arm of Montenegro Prime Minister Dusko Markovic and pushing himself ahead.

Not content with a single display of adolescent dominance Trump went for the gorilla grab with French President Macron......
These bully moves perhaps reflecting his reaction to the cool reception his policy stance received……

Politico, 26 May 2017:

In Europe, where he’s attended group meetings with other world leaders — first in Brussels at the European Union and NATO and now at the G-7 summit in Sicily — Trump has appeared less at ease.

While he avoided any major gaffes or serious diplomatic breaches, Trump’s lack of rapport with European leaders raises serious questions about his ability to effectively team up with critical U.S. allies.


“Like when there's a new strange kid in the class nobody likes,” said a senior EU official who was briefed on the closed NATO meetings in Brussels. “You behave civilly when teachers [media] watch but don't spend time with him in private because he's so different.”

Raw Story, 25 May 2017:

President Donald Trump on Thursday delivered a speech at NATO headquarters in which he did not explicitly endorse Article 5, which outlines a policy of collective defense among all members of the alliance.

While this might seem like a small oversight to casual observers, Brookings Institute fellow and top foreign policy scholar Tom Wright said Trump’s refusal to endorse Article 5 has rendered his entire foreign policy trip a “failure.”

“The White House told the NYT yesterday Trump would finally endorse Article 5,” he wrote on Twitter. “The fact that he did not is astonishing and shows that someone in the White House or [Trump] himself took it out. This will come as a huge shock to NATO members.”

Wright went on to say that Trump’s trip can now be considered “close to a disaster” unless he explicitly fixes things by endorsing Article 5 later on Thursday. He also said that Russian President Vladimir Putin “will be thrilled at Trump’s refusal to endorse Article 5,” which he described as “unimaginable under any other president.”

The New York Times, 25 May 2017:

Instead of stressing an Article 5 commitment, Mr. Trump used his remarks at the NATO headquarters to criticize the other leaders assembled behind him for not contributing 2 percent of their countries’ gross domestic product to their defense. The allied nations have agreed to do so, but have often fallen short.

“Two percent is the bare minimum for confronting today’s very real and very vicious threats,” Mr. Trump said. “If NATO countries made their full and complete contributions, then NATO would be even stronger than it is today.”

The president said he had been “very direct” with the leadership of NATO about what he said was a failure on the part of many nations to pay their fair share. “Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying,” he said.

Earlier, Mr. Trump, a blunt critic of the European Union during his campaign for the White House, received a chilly reception from his European counterparts as they began meetings in Brussels, clashing over tradeclimate and the best way to confront Russia.

The Washington Post, 26 May 2017:

During a meeting Thursday with European Union officials in Brussels, Trump allegedly said, “The Germans are bad, very bad,” according to Germany’s Spiegel Online, which cited unnamed sources in the room. He continued, the outlet said, by saying: “See the millions of cars they are selling in the U.S.? Terrible. We will stop this.”……

Asked about Trump’s alleged comments, Germany’s deputy government spokesman, Georg Streiter, said in Berlin on Friday that “a trade surplus is neither bad nor evil; it’s the result of the interplay between supply and demand on world markets.”

Yahoo! 7 News, 27 May 2017:

Taormina (Italy) (AFP) - A summit of G7 leaders on Friday failed to make progress on narrowing differences between the United States and its partners on climate change, hosts Italy said.

With President Donald Trump still reviewing the US position, Washington is resisting intense pressure to commit to remaining within the framework of the 2015 global accord on curbing carbon emissions.

"The question of the Paris climate accord is still hanging," Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni told a news conference after the leaders held talks on the issue.

Gary Cohn, Trump's economic advisor, said the president had told his colleagues that he regarded the environment as important.

"His views are evolving, he came here to learn," Cohn said. "His basis for decision ultimately will be what's best for the United States."

The optics in Israel were not good…….
An obviously puzzled Israeli Prime Minister as Trump exits.

Even his ceremonial visit with the Roman Catholic pontiff did not appear to go well……..


Monday, 29 May 2017

Pictures that tell a 1,000 words - Part Two


Left to Right: 
Ivanka Marie Trump, Melania Trump (née Melanija Knavs), 45th U.S. President Donald John Trump with 266th Catholic Pope His Holiness Francis (born Jorge Mario Bergoglio), Apostolic Palace, Vatican City, 24 May 2017

The Pope's enthusiasm for this official visit is apparently underwhelming.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Pictures that tell 1,000 words


 Left to right: Ivanka Trump, Managing Director International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde, German Chancellor Angela Merkel caught by a photographer as Ms. Trump states that her father U.S. President Donald Trump has a long history of advocating on women's issues

Friday, 28 April 2017

A Russian government think tank controlled by Vladimir Putin developed a plan to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump


Reuters, 19 April 2017:

(Reuters) - A Russian government think tank controlled by Vladimir Putin developed a plan to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system, three current and four former U.S. officials told Reuters.

They described two confidential documents from the think tank as providing the framework and rationale for what U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded was an intensive effort by Russia to interfere with the Nov. 8 election. U.S. intelligence officials acquired the documents, which were prepared by the Moscow-based Russian Institute for Strategic Studies [en.riss.ru/], after the election.

The institute is run by retired senior Russian foreign intelligence officials appointed by Putin’s office.

The first Russian institute document was a strategy paper written last June that circulated at the highest levels of the Russian government but was not addressed to any specific individuals.

It recommended the Kremlin launch a propaganda campaign on social media and Russian state-backed global news outlets to encourage U.S. voters to elect a president who would take a softer line toward Russia than the administration of then-President Barack Obama, the seven officials said.

A second institute document, drafted in October and distributed in the same way, warned that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was likely to win the election. For that reason, it argued, it was better for Russia to end its pro-Trump propaganda and instead intensify its messaging about voter fraud to undermine the U.S. electoral system’s legitimacy and damage Clinton’s reputation in an effort to undermine her presidency, the seven officials said.

The current and former U.S. officials spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the Russian documents’ classified status. They declined to discuss how the United States obtained them. U.S. intelligence agencies also declined to comment on them.

Putin has denied interfering in the U.S. election. Putin’s spokesman and the Russian institute did not respond to requests for comment.

The documents were central to the Obama administration's conclusion that Russia mounted a “fake news” campaign and launched cyber attacks against Democratic Party groups and Clinton's campaign, the current and former officials said.

“Putin had the objective in mind all along, and he asked the institute to draw him a road map,” said one of the sources, a former senior U.S. intelligence official.

Trump has said Russia’s activities had no impact on the outcome of the race. Ongoing congressional and FBI investigations into Russian interference have so far produced no public evidence that Trump associates colluded with the Russian effort to change the outcome of the election.

Four of the officials said the approach outlined in the June strategy paper was a broadening of an effort the Putin administration launched in March 2016. That month the Kremlin instructed state-backed media outlets, including international platforms Russia Today and Sputnik news agency, to start producing positive reports on Trump’s quest for the U.S. presidency, the officials said.

Russia Today did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for Sputnik dismissed the assertions by the U.S. officials that it participated in a Kremlin campaign as an “absolute pack of lies.” “And by the way, it's not the first pack of lies we're hearing from 'sources in U.S. official circles'," the spokesperson said in an email.

Pro-Kremlin Bloggers…..

The report said Russia Today and Sputnik “consistently cast president elect-Trump as the target of unfair coverage from traditional media outlets."…..

Cyber Attacks

Neither of the Russian institute documents mentioned the release of hacked Democratic Party emails to interfere with the U.S. election, according to four of the officials. The officials said the hacking was a covert intelligence operation run separately out of the Kremlin.

The overt propaganda and covert hacking efforts reinforced each other, according to the officials. Both Russia Today and Sputnik heavily promoted the release of the hacked Democratic Party emails, which often contained embarrassing details.

Five of the U.S. officials described the institute as the Kremlin’s in-house foreign policy think tank……..

Read the full article here.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Trump postures and Fox News attempts to deny it assisted


Carl Vinson Strike Group departs Singapore for the Western Pacific on 8 April 2017 according to the US Government.

So how 'presidential' did that make Donlad J. Trump appear?

Well.......................

Fox News on 10 April 2017


Fox News on 11 April 2017

Fox News in denial on 18 April 2017 of its part in disseminating Trump's 'fake news' 


America, Fox News and Trump are both having a lend of you.

And a worried world has noticed…….

Daily Kos, 19 April 2017:

In South Korea, Hong Joon-pyo ... said: “What Mr. Trump said was very important for the national security of South Korea. If that was a lie, then during Trump’s term, South Korea will not trust whatever Trump says.”​

Monday, 13 February 2017

Make no mistake - Trump is placing all national economies in jeopardy once more


In the midst of The Great Depression (a decade long severe global economic downturn triggered by the 1929 Wall Street stock market crash) the U.S. Government enacted the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act which tightened banking and financial sector regulations.

At the urging of the same financial and banking sector in 1999 a bipartisan agreement saw the introduction of the Financial Services Modernization Act which repealed large parts of the Glass-Stegall Act and the Bank Holding Company Act.

In the wake of another crisis generated by the American sub-prime mortgage melt-down, aptly titled The Global Financial Crisis, the U.S. Government in July 2010 enacted the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to reimpose stricter regulations.

Now we hear that Donald Trump is moving to roll back the Dodd-Frank reforms. In particular the Volker Rule against banks using depositor funds for speculative bets on their own account and from acquiring or retaining ownership interests in, sponsoring, or having certain relationships with a hedge fund or private equity fund - practices thought to have exacerbated The Global Financial Crisis.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 February 2017:

US President Donald Trump moved to chisel away at the Obama administration's legacy on financial reform, announcing a series of steps to revisit the rules enacted after the 2008 financial crisis and setting the stage for a showdown with Democrats over the future of Wall Street regulation.
After a White House meeting with the executives, Mr Trump signed a directive calling for his administration to identify potential changes to provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act, crafted by the Obama administration and passed by Congress in response to the 2008 meltdown….


Most Australian families have memories of The Great Depression which hit this country hard and all will be able to recall the ripple effects from The Global Financial Crisis, so it is not unreasonable to fear that what this erratic and ignorant American president does in relation to U.S. banking and financial sector legislation has the potential to send the world spinning into yet another American-generated global economic crisis.

Forewarned is forearmed and this time around everyone would be wise to closely follow reputable newspapers and economic commentators to see which way the wind blows as the United States once more enters dangerous waters.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Fitch Ratings Inc: The Trump Administration Poses Risks to Global Sovereigns


According to the Australian Dept. Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) the United States ranks as Number 1 in the Top 20 countries with direct investment in Australia [ABS catalogue 5352.0, May 2016 & UNCTADstat database, October 2016].

In 2015 Australia direct investment in the U.S. was led by manufacturing, and the finance/insurance sectors and U.S. direct investment in Australia is led by the nonbank holding, mining, finance/ insurance companies, and manufacturing sectors. [Office of the United States Trade Representative: Executive Office of the President, 2017]

So international credit rating agency, Fitch Ratings Inc’s media release of 10 February 2017 may raise some concerns:

Fitch Ratings-London-10 February 2017: The Trump Administration represents a risk to international economic conditions and global sovereign credit fundamentals, Fitch Ratings says. US policy predictability has diminished, with established international communication channels and relationship norms being set aside and raising the prospect of sudden, unanticipated changes in US policies with potential global implications.

The primary risks to sovereign credits include the possibility of disruptive changes to trade relations, diminished international capital flows, limits on migration that affect remittances and confrontational exchanges between policymakers that contribute to heightened or prolonged currency and other financial market volatility. The materialisation of these risks would provide an unfavourable backdrop for economic growth, putting pressure on public finances that may have rating implications for some sovereigns. Increases in the cost or reductions in the availability of external financing, particularly if accompanied by currency depreciation, could also affect ratings.

In assessing the global sovereign credit implications of policies enacted by the new US Administration, Fitch will focus on changes in growth trajectories, public finance positions and balance of payments performances, with particular emphasis on medium-term export prospects and possible pressures on external liquidity and sustainable funding. US positions on some countries may change quickly, at least initially, but any potential rating adjustments will depend on consequent changes to sovereign credit fundamentals, which will almost certainly be slower to materialise.

Elements of President Trump's economic agenda would be positive for growth, including the long-overdue boost to US infrastructure investment, the focus on reducing the regulatory burden and the possibility of tax cuts and reforms, assuming cuts don't lead to proportionate increases in the government deficit and debt. One interpretation of current events is that, after an early flurry of disruptive change to establish a fundamental reorientation of policy direction and intent, the Administration will settle in, embracing a consistent business- and trade-friendly framework that leverages these aspects of its economic programme, with favourable international spill-overs.

In Fitch's view, the present balance of risks points toward a less benign global outcome. The Administration has abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership, confirmed a pending renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, rebuked US companies that invest abroad, while threatening financial penalties for companies that do so, and accused a number of countries of manipulating exchange rates to the US's disadvantage. The full impact of these initiatives will not be known for some time, and will depend on iterative exchanges among multiple parties and unforeseen additional developments. In short, a lot can change, but the aggressive tone of some Administration rhetoric does not portend an easy period of negotiation ahead, nor does it suggest there is much scope for compromise.

Sovereigns most at risk from adverse changes to their credit fundamentals are those with close economic and financial ties with the US that come under scrutiny due to either existing financial imbalances or perceptions of unfair frameworks or practices that govern their bilateral relations. Canada, China, Germany, Japan and Mexico have been identified explicitly by the Administration as having trade arrangements or exchange rate policies that warrant attention, but the list is unlikely to end there. Our revision of the Outlook on Mexico's 'BBB+' sovereign rating to Negative in December partly reflected increased economic uncertainty and asset price volatility following the US election.

The integrative aspects of global supply chains, particularly in manufactured goods, means actions taken by the US that limit trade flows with one country will have cascading effects on others. Regional value chains are especially well developed in East Asia, focused on China, and Central Europe, focused on Germany.

Tighter immigration controls and possible deportations could have meaningful effects on remittance flows, as the US has the world's largest immigrant population. World Bank data confirm that the US and Mexico share the world's top migration corridor and have the largest bilateral remittance flows. Relative to GDP, remittances are even larger for Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua, all of which receive most inflows from the US.

Countries hosting US direct investment, at least part of which has financed export industries focused back on the US, are at risk of being singled out for punitive trade measures. The list of these countries is potentially long, since US-based entities account for nearly one-quarter of the stock of global foreign direct investment. Countries with the highest stock of US investment in manufacturing are Canada, the UK, Netherlands, Mexico, Germany, China and Brazil.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

February 2017: can you hear the warning sirens?

Image via @SeanKing

De Spiegel
, 5 February 2017:

There are times in life that really do count. Times when a person's character is revealed, when the important is separated from the unimportant. Soon decisions are taken that will determine the further path a person takes. With some, this can be tragic, and the moment comes too soon in their youth at a time when they aren't mature enough yet to foresee all the potential consequences. They make the decisions cheerfully and they lead to either luck or bad luck. But countries and governments are seldom as innocent when it comes to their decisions.
That's the kind of situation now approaching. The people who will soon have to decide are already grown up. They now have to start preparing, even if it will be painful.
Germany must stand up in opposition to the 45th president of the United States and his government. That's difficult enough already for two reasons: Because it is from the Americans that we obtained our liberal democracy in the first place; and because it is unclear how the brute and choleric man on the other side will react to diplomatic pressure. The fact that opposition to the American government can only succeed when mounted together with Asian and African partners -- and no doubt with our partners in Europe, with the EU -- doesn't make the situation any easier.
So far, Germany has viewed its leadership role -- at least the leadership understanding of Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble -- as one that is by all means in opposition to the interests of other European countries. Whether Schäuble's austerity policies or Merkel's migration policies, it all happened without much co-coordination and with considerable force. It is thus somewhat ironical that it is Germany, the country that is politically and economically dominant in Europe, that will now have to fill in many of the gaps created by America's withdrawal from the old world order, the one referred to by former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer as "Pax Americana." At the same time, Germany must build an alliance against Donald Trump, because it otherwise won't take shape. It is, however, absolutely necessary.
It is literally painful to write this sentence, but the president of the United States is a pathological liar. The president of the U.S. is a racist (it also hurts to write this). He is attempting a coup from the top; he wants to establish an illiberal democracy, or worse; he wants to undermine the balance of power. He fired an acting attorney general who held a differing opinion from his own and accused her of "betrayal." This is the vocabulary used by Nero, the emperor and destroyer of Rome. It is the way tyrants think.
A Serious Threat
Donald Trump and his fire-starter Stephen Bannon discriminate against certain people by decree, but not against those from countries in which Trump does business. The contempt the president of the United States and his most important adviser have for science and education is so blatant that it's almost difficult to write. But their disdain for climate and environmental policies has to be stated, because four or eight years of it could become a serious threat.
Among the things that counted as true progress during the 20th century were multilateralism and free trade. The world has become so complex that no single country can solve the major problems on its own -- that was our recognition. Organizations like the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, NATO and the EU were all created for this reason. None of these organizations is perfect, but they are what we launched -- and we do need them. Bannon now wants to wipe them away, and either Trump is executing Bannon's intentions or he shares them......
Klaus Brinkbäumer is the editor-in-chief of DER SPIEGEL.
Read the full article here.
The Australian, 8 February 2017:
In the weeks since Donald Trump’s inauguration as US President, it has become clear that he intends to roll back to the starting block the progressive egalitarian agenda that is commonly associated with political correctness — not just in the US, but globally.
Stephen Bannon, Trump’s White House Svengali and former CEO of the extreme-right Breitbart News, has long pursued this ideological project, and we now know that what he or Trump says must be taken both seriously and literally.
Trump’s transition was initially reassuring, because he nominated many undeniably serious (if also seriously well-heeled) people to his cabinet. But after the inauguration all hell broke loose as Trump and Bannon began to implement their project in earnest.
First, Trump appointed Bannon to the National Security Council’s highest body, the principals committee. Then he nominated Ted Malloch, an obscure business studies professor at the University of Reading, in England, as US ambassador to the EU. Malloch recently expressed a desire to “short the euro”, and predicted that the currency would not survive another 18 months. Trump has also increased the likelihood of a trade war with Mexico, and he has been willing to confront major US corporations over his executive order banning travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries.
The ideological project that Trump and Bannon will seek to carry out could have far-reaching geopolitical and economic implications that should worry not only progressives, but also dyed-in-the-wool conservatives like me. To understand how far they are willing to go, one must understand their ultimate aims.
Most disturbingly, Trump and Bannon’s agenda seems likely to entail policies to weaken, destabilise, or even ultimately dismantle the EU. No motive other than ideology can explain Trump’s open hostility to the bloc, his bizarre ambassadorial appointment, or his question to EU president Donald Tusk: “What country is next to leave?”
In conventional geostrategic terms, the EU is almost a costless extension of US political and military power. Owing to NATO’s significant military superiority, and the EU’s role as a barrier to Russian expansion, the US can avoid becoming entangled in a “hot war” with Russia. Meanwhile, the EU — together with Japan — is a dependable economic and military ally, whose friendship allows the US to speak for the “international community”.
There are no circumstances in which dismantling the Western international order is in America’s national interest — even when perceived through a nationalist lens. A truly “America first” administration would rightly expect its allies to pull their weight in NATO, and to defer to US foreign policies on non-European issues. But it would never gratuitously dismantle an essentially free multiplier of US power, as Trump’s foreign policy threatens to do.
If I am right about Trump and Bannon’s ideological agenda, we can expect them to find a way to support far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen in the French presidential election this year, and to encourage a “hard Brexit” for Britain (only to leave it in the lurch afterwards). Trump is likely to lift the sanctions the US imposed on Russia after its 2014 annexation of Crimea. After all, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Bannon are ideological twins.
We should not put much stock in any security assurances Secretary of Defence James Mattis may have offered to South Korea and Japan last week. Such promises are worth as little as Trump’s pledge to Polish President Andrzej Duda that “Poland can count on America”.
Americans should be prepared to watch the administration dismiss officials who do not defend its agenda, and disregard court orders that inhibit its actions. We have already seen signs of this when complaints emerged that immigration agents in New York were ignoring a federal judge’s emergency stay on Trump’s travel ban.
The prospects for business are just as sobering. Sooner or later, Trump’s destabilising foreign policy will lead to global economic turbulence, uncertainty, and reduced investment — even barring trade wars. And domestically, his weakening of the rule of law will negate any economic benefits from tax cuts and deregulation.
Implementing this project is undoubtedly a dangerous strategy for Trump. By polarising the US public to such an extent, he and the Republicans could suffer defeat in the 2018 midterm elections or in the 2020 presidential election; and he could even expose himself to the risk of impeachment.
There are two possible explanations for why Trump would take these risks. The first is that divisiveness has worked for him. Politicians tend to stick with what works — until it fails.
The second explanation is that Bannon is calling the political shots, and is more interested in building a permanent populist “movement” than he is in getting Trump re-elected. If Bannon wants to transform the US political landscape, an impeached or defeated Trump could become an ideal martyr for his movement.
That may not bode well for Trump himself, but, in this scenario, Trump’s fate will not weigh heavily on Bannon, who has set his sights on achieving goals that will leave the US and the world very different from how he and his putative boss found them.
Jack Rostowski was Poland’s finance minister and deputy prime minister from 2007 to 2013.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

In 1947 the Atomic Clock was set at 7 minutes to midnight & by 2016 the clock stood at 3 minutes to midnight - Donald Trump's presidency has moved its hands to 2 minutes 30 seconds


Six days after Donald John Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America the Atomic Doomsday Clock moved closer to Armageddon.


It is two and a half minutes to midnight
2017 Doomsday Clock Statement
Science and Security Board
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Editor, John Mecklin

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Doomsday Clock, a graphic that appeared on the first cover of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists as it transitioned from a six-page, black-and-white newsletter to a full-fledged magazine. For its first cover, the editors sought an image that represented a seriousness of purpose and an urgent call for action. The Clock, and the countdown to midnight that it implied, fit the bill perfectly. The Doomsday Clock, as it came to be called, has served as a globally recognized arbiter of the planet’s health and safety ever since.

Each year, the setting of the Doomsday Clock galvanizes a global debate about whether the planet is safer or more dangerous today than it was last year, and at key moments in recent history. Our founders would not be surprised to learn that the threats to the planet that the Science and Security Board now considers have expanded since 1947. In fact, the Bulletin’s first editor, Eugene Rabinowitch, noted that one of the purposes of the Bulletin was to respond and offer solutions to the “Pandora’s box of modern science,” recognizing the speed at which technological advancement was occurring, and the demanding questions it would present.

In 1947 there was one technology with the potential to destroy the planet, and that was nuclear power. Today, rising temperatures, resulting from the industrial-scale burning of fossil fuels, will change life on Earth as we know it, potentially destroying or displacing it from significant portions of the world, unless action is taken today, and in the immediate future. Future technological innovation in biology, artificial intelligence, and the cyber realm may pose similar global challenges. The knotty problems that innovations in these fields may present are not yet fully realized, but the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board tends to them with a watchful eye.

This year’s Clock deliberations felt more urgent than usual. On the big topics that concern the board, world leaders made too little progress in the face of continuing turbulence. In addition to the existential threats posed by nuclear weapons and climate change, new global realities emerged, as trusted sources of information came under attack, fake news was on the rise, and words were used in cavalier and often reckless ways. As if to prove that words matter and fake news is dangerous, Pakistan’s foreign minister issued a blustery statement, a tweet actually, flexing Pakistan’s nuclear muscle—in response to a fabricated “news” story about Israel. Today’s complex global environment is in need of deliberate and considered policy responses. It is ever more important that senior leaders across the globe calm rather than stoke tensions that could lead to war, either by accident or miscalculation.

I once again commend the board for approaching its task with the seriousness it deserves. Bulletin Editor-in-Chief John Mecklin did a remarkable job pulling together this document and reflecting the in-depth views and opinions of the board. Considerable thanks goes to our supporters including the Carnegie Corporation of New York, MacArthur Foundation, Ploughshares Fund, David Weinberg and Jerry Newton, as well as valued supporters across the year.

I hope the debate engendered by the 2017 setting of the Clock raises the level of conversation, promotes calls to action, and helps citizens around the world hold their leaders responsible for delivering a safer and healthier planet.

Rachel Bronson, PhD
Executive Director and Publisher
26 January, 2017
Chicago, IL

It is two and a half minutes to midnight

Editor’s note: Founded in 1945 by University of Chicago scientists who had helped develop the first atomic weapons in the Manhattan Project, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists created the Doomsday Clock two years later, using the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and the contemporary idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero) to convey threats to humanity and the planet. The decision to move (or to leave in place) the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock is made every year by the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 15 Nobel laureates. The Clock has become a universally recognized indicator of the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and new technologies emerging in other domains. A printable PDF of this statement, complete with the executive director’s statement and Science and Security Board biographies, is available here.

To: Leaders and citizens of the world
Re: It is 30 seconds closer to midnight
Date: January 26, 2017
Over the course of 2016, the global security landscape darkened as the international community failed to come effectively to grips with humanity’s most pressing existential threats, nuclear weapons and climate change.
The United States and Russia—which together possess more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons—remained at odds in a variety of theaters, from Syria to Ukraine to the borders of NATO; both countries continued wide-ranging modernizations of their nuclear forces, and serious arms control negotiations were nowhere to be seen. North Korea conducted its fourth and fifth underground nuclear tests and gave every indication it would continue to develop nuclear weapons delivery capabilities. Threats of nuclear warfare hung in the background as Pakistan and India faced each other warily across the Line of Control in Kashmir after militants attacked two Indian army bases.
The climate change outlook was somewhat less dismal—but only somewhat. In the wake of the landmark Paris climate accord, the nations of the world have taken some actions to combat climate change, and global carbon dioxide emissions were essentially flat in 2016, compared to the previous year. Still, they have not yet started to decrease; the world continues to warm. Keeping future temperatures at less-than-catastrophic levels requires reductions in greenhouse gas emissions far beyond those agreed to in Paris—yet little appetite for additional cuts was in evidence at the November climate conference in Marrakech.
This already-threatening world situation was the backdrop for a rise in strident nationalism worldwide in 2016, including in a US presidential campaign during which the eventual victor, Donald Trump, made disturbing comments about the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons and expressed disbelief in the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board takes a broad and international view of existential threats to humanity, focusing on long-term trends. Because of that perspective, the statements of a single person—particularly one not yet in office—have not historically influenced the board’s decision on the setting of the Doomsday Clock.
But wavering public confidence in the democratic institutions required to deal with major world threats do affect the board’s decisions. And this year, events surrounding the US presidential campaign—including cyber offensives and deception campaigns apparently directed by the Russian government and aimed at disrupting the US election—have brought American democracy and Russian intentions into question and thereby made the world more dangerous than was the case a year ago.
For these reasons, the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has decided to move the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock 30 seconds closer to catastrophe. It is now two minutes and 30 seconds to midnight.
The board’s decision to move the clock less than a full minute—something it has never before done—reflects a simple reality: As this statement is issued, Donald Trump has been the US president only a matter of days. Many of his cabinet nominations are not yet confirmed by the Senate or installed in government, and he has had little time to take official action.
Just the same, words matter, and President Trump has had plenty to say over the last year. Both his statements and his actions as president-elect have broken with historical precedent in unsettling ways. He has made ill-considered comments about expanding the US nuclear arsenal. He has shown a troubling propensity to discount or outright reject expert advice related to international security, including the conclusions of intelligence experts. And his nominees to head the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency dispute the basics of climate science.
In short, even though he has just now taken office, the president’s intemperate statements, lack of openness to expert advice, and questionable cabinet nominations have already made a bad international security situation worse.
Last year, and the year before, we warned that world leaders were failing to act with the speed and on the scale required to protect citizens from the extreme danger posed by climate change and nuclear war. During the past year, the need for leadership only intensified—yet inaction and brinksmanship have continued, endangering every person, everywhere on Earth.
Who will lead humanity away from global disaster?