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Friday, June 23, 2017

A Thought for the Fourth of July: Can the U.S. Constitution Accommodate a Rogue President?

By Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay

(Author of the books “The Code for Global Ethics”, and

 The New American Empire)

 

"I have described him [Donald Trump] as an impostor and a con man and a would-be dictator. But he's only a would-be dictator because I'm confident that the [U.S.] Constitution and the institutions of the United States are strong enough. ... He would be a dictator if he could get away with it, but he won't be able to." George Soros (1930- ), Hungarian-American billionaire, (in an interview, Thurs. Jan. 19, 2017)

 

He [FBI Director James Comey] was fired because he was investigating the White House… This is the kind of thing that goes on in non-democracies. Jeffrey Toobin (1960- ), legal analyst and former U.S. federal prosecutor, on CNN, Tues., May 9, 2017

 

 “I’m trying to avoid the conclusion that we’ve become Nicaragua.” General Michael Hayden (1945- ), former head of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, Wed., May 10, 2017

 

War is too serious a thing to be entrusted to military men.” Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929), French Prime minister, 1906-1909 and 1917-1920, in 1932

 

On Monday, June 12 2017, in his first public cabinet meeting, Trump is seen accepting a North-Korean-style pledge from his sycophant Cabinet members, on live television, after he had praised himself profusely. This was eerie: Watching all these secretaries humiliating themselves in lavishly praising the self-appointed ‘Great One’. They all echoed Trump’s Chief of Staff Reince Priebus who said: "We thank you for the opportunity and blessing to serve your agenda." This was quite a totalitarian show, rarely seen in a democracy, but common in a dictatorship.

 

These secretaries (billionaires, CEOs, generals, etc.) were not saying that they were serving the people of the United States and its Constitution, to the best of their capabilities. No, instead, in a junta-like style, they said that they were serving the person of Donald Trump, above all, not unlike the Cabinet appointees in North Korea are serving dictator Kim Jong-un. And, what is even worse, maybe, none of them thought of resigning, after being asked to shred any sense of self-respect in public, in the most servile manner.

 

This marked the day when the most skeptical among political observers had to realize that president Donald Trump is officially a would-be dictator in the making. As the popular saying goes, “if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. Very soon after his inauguration, Donald Trump began governing in authoritative way, issuing decree after decree, while attacking the press and the courts that stood in his way. Now, he seems to want the entire U.S. government to be at his personal service.

 

On February 17, I wrote a piece entitled “The Imperial Presidency of Donald Trump: a Threat to American Democracy and an Agent of Chaos in the World?” — Indeed, scandal after scandal, outrageous statements upon outrageous statements, insults after insults, falsehoods after falsehoods, and self-serving idiosyncrasies after self-serving idiosyncrasies, Trump has confirmed the apprehensions of many, and he has clearly become “a threat to American democracy and an agent of chaos in the world”. One has to be blind or fanatically partisan not to see that.

 

A Possible Challenge to the U.S. Constitution

 

The U.S. Constitution was adopted officially on September 17, 1787, 230 years ago, and came into force in 1789. That makes American democracy one of the oldest in the world. Its constitution’s main idea is the separation of powers and the rule of law, with checks and balances, a political doctrine originating in the writings of 18th century French social and political philosopher Montesquieu (1689-1755). More precisely, the U.S. Constitution states that the president, for example, can be removed for treason, bribery, or “other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” under the authority of the U.S. Congress.

 

However, the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates (c. 469/470 BCE–399 BCE) was reported to have said to Plato (428-348 B.C.): “Tyranny naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme form of liberty”.

 

What Socrates meant by these words, of course, is that democracy, notwithstanding its merits, is not a permanent form of government, but it is always threatened in its existence by the advent of tyranny, by autocratic or authoritative rule by a single person, a would-be dictator, by an oligarchy, which is the tyranny of a minority, or by the tyranny of a majority against minorities, when there are no legal protections for the individual or for groups, and it thus requires a constant vigilance on the part of citizens.

American Father of the Constitution George Mason (1725-1792) was also worried about democracy “when the same man, or set of men, holds the sword and the purse.” He feared that this could mean “an end to Liberty”.

 

Nevertheless, the writer of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), was more optimistic. He was confident that the U.S. Constitution was strong enough to prevent a would-be dictator or an oligarchy to usurp absolute power when he wrote, in 1798: in questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution”.

 

Was Thomas Jefferson too optimistic regarding the constraints a constitution imposes on people in power when the latter control money and the means of propaganda? Did he underestimate the possibility that political partisan interests, when a president is of the same political party that controls Congress, could, in fact, grant a sitting president, in advance, a statutory authority to violate the constitution at will, to govern by decree, or to wage wars of aggression abroad, at his discretion, without congressional due process?

 

Indeed, a constitution is a living document, which, as political history indicates, can be amended, circumvented or changed to fit the needs of power hungry men, when the circumstances are favorable to them. The U.S. Supreme Court, which is the final arbiter of constitutional changes, can also be subverted, or filled with persons hostile to the very principles they are sworn to uphold.

 

In other words, a constitution is as good as the people in power who believe in its principles. If people in power no longer believe in its principles, they will find a way to change it or circumvent it. This is major lesson of the history of democracy: Democracies do die and they can be replaced by tyrannies.

 

During troubled political times or dire economic times, indeed, it can be feared that charlatans, demagogues, impostors, and would-be dictators could have a field day promising the people in distress easy and quick fixes for the lingering social and economic problems, in exchange for relinquishing their freedom.

 

Two historical cases of “elected” dictators: In Italy in the 1920’s and in Germany in the 1930’s

 

Italian newspaper editor Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) ruled Italy as Prime Minister and de facto dictator for more than twenty years (1922-1943). He was elected to the Italian Parliament on May 15, 1921, and his party, thanks to an alliance with rightist parties, gained thirty-five seats. From then on, Mussolini used violent and intimidating tactics to gain power. His Fascist blackshirt-followers launched a campaign to unseat the Italian government and they organized a “march to Rome”. On October 28, 1922, the then King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel III, turned down the existing government’s request to declare martial law to prevent a fascist revolution. This led to the resignation of the elected government.

 

Then, in a most controversial decision, the King asked Mussolini to form a new right-wing coalition government, with the support of the military, and of the wealthy industrial and agrarian Italian establishments. Mussolini's political objective was to eventually establish a totalitarian state, with himself as “Supreme leader”. Mussolini legally became dictator through a law passed on December 24, 1925, which declared him “head of the government, Prime minister and State Secretary”, with no responsibility to Parliament, but only to the King. Armed with absolute powers, Mussolini then proceeded to progressively dismantle all constitutional and conventional restraints on his power. The rest is history.

 

Let us also consider the case of Germany, some 85 years ago, a European democracy and the most advanced economy at the time. On January 30, 1933, in a Germany still mired in an economic depression, Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) was named German Chancellor and head of a coalition government, even though his political party, the National Socialist German Workers Party (the Nazi Party) had not won a majority during the 1932 elections. Nevertheless, he had profited politically from the general dissatisfaction of voters with the way things were in Germany, politically and economically, and had promised an ‘effective’ government, besides promising to stimulate the economy by rearming Germany and by establishing new alliances.

 

Hitler became a de facto legal dictator on March 23, 1933, when the German Parliament (the Reichstag) adopted a law (the Enabling Act), giving Hitler's cabinet the power to enact ‘executive orders’ without the consent of the Reichstag for four years. —In effect, Hitler could govern by decree. —He became a true dictator on August 19, 1934, when a German plebiscite approved the merger of the presidency with the chancellorship, thus making Hitler Head of State and Supreme Commander of the armed forces in that country. Hitler could then freely prepare the German economy for war.

 

A 1934 article published in the Green Bay Press-Gazette in the U.S. explained the political rise of Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) in these terms: “Adolf Hitler… tооk advantage of the groans. Hе told people that he would make Germany ‘great’ again. Hе blamed Jews, Socialists, Communists, and others for the troubles of the land. Hіѕ blazing speeches gained followers for his ‘cause’.”

 

Can Donald Trump Override the U.S. Constitution?

 

Since the inauguration on January 20, 2017, incumbent President Donald Trump has shown a clear bent toward autocratic rule and has indicated his goal of boosting the U.S. military-industrial complex. For example, he declared on Thursday Feb 23, 2017, that he wants to build up the U.S. nuclear arsenal to ensure it is at the “top of the pack,” claiming that the United States has fallen behind in its atomic weapons capacity.

 

In my book, The New American Empire, I wrote, “The same simplistic populism, the same anti-intellectualism, the same aggressive isolationism, the same xenophobia, the same militarism, and the same scorn of international laws and institutions are found in some U.S. Republican leaders today. The United States is perhaps in greater danger than many think.” (p. 224).

 

I believe that these words could appropriately apply to the current Trump administration. In the coming months, the United States may face its most important democratic test ever.

 

An ominous danger: Leaving important war and peace decisions to the military

 

A most reckless decision by Donald Trump was to grant American military chiefs overall control of U.S. military policy in Syria, thus leaving the U.S. military to operate in a political vacuum. Such a decision has greatly increased the risk of a military confrontation between the two main nuclear powers, the United States and Russia. A good example is the shooting down of a Syrian Air Force jet in Syria’s airspace, on Sunday June 18, 2017. This was presumably done to prevent the Syrian Army from getting directly involved in the liberation of Isis’s improvised capital Raqqa. The Syrian government is winning against the terrorist organization Isis, and that does not please the Trump administration at all.

 

Whatever the objective, besides the obvious hypocrisy, such an act of military aggression was clearly a violation of Syria’s sovereignty and a flagrant violation of not only international law, but also of U.S. law. It was, in fact, a premeditated act of war against a sovereign nation, with no involvement by the U.N. Security Council or by the U.S. Congress, as both international law and U.S. law require. And this was after Trump bombed, also illegally, a Syrian government air base, on Friday, April 7, 2017, on a false flag pretext. If this does not remind you of Hitler bombing Poland’s air fields on September 1st 1939, what does? Indeed, would-be dictators do not like the rule of law, domestic or international. They always look for pretexts to launch wars of aggression to fit their agenda.

 

The truth is that Syria does not represent a threat to the USA—just as Poland did not represent a threat to Germany in 1939—and it has not attacked the United States, just as Poland had not attacked Germany. If this conflict were to degenerate into something even more serious, Donald Trump would have to take full personal responsibility for the chaos and the human disasters to follow.

 

Is it necessary to point out that Russia is legally in Syria, a member of the United Nations, having been officially invited by the legitimate Syrian government to defend itself against external aggression, while the U.S. has no legal basis whatsoever to be in Syria, has no legal right to conduct military operations in that country, and, therefore, is in clear violation of Syria's sovereignty. Why is Donald Trump anxious to escalate the civil war conflict in Syria, with the help of al Qaeda terrorists, a conflict that could evolve into WWIII? Do ordinary Americans really approve of such incoherence, knowing that al Qaeda was behind 9/11 and 3,000 American deaths?

 

This is another example of Donald Trump’s brinkmanship and irresponsibility in international relations. This is also a far cry from the U.S. Constitution, which vests war decisions in Congress. It is true that, since WWII, the power of the U.S. President to wage war on his own has grown appreciably. —This is no progress. But Donald Trump, who has brought numerous generals into his administration (Marine general James Mattis, Marine general Joseph F. Dunford, Marine general, John F. Kelly), is now transferring basic war decisions to military commanders. Notwithstanding the fact that the latter are clearly in a conflict of interests on this score, because the more wars they start, the more promotions they receive.

 

That coterie of generals now forms a sort of parallel government in the Trump administration. Donald Trump may want to hide behind them to shift the political conversation from his domestic predicaments in Washington D.C. And, a war abroad is often a convenient rallying point for an American politician who is low in the polls. In other words, an escalating war in Syria could be in Trump’s short-term personal political interest.

 

The main losers from Trump’s policies: the poorest among Americans

 

Moreover, after a presidential campaign during which he promised to help disadvantaged voters and improve social programs for the poorest Americans, once in power, Donald Trump did pretty much the reverse of what he promised. Indeed, his nominations and his policies have mostly been designed to enrich large corporations, the Military-Industrial complex and, through planned tax cuts, the super rich among Americans, while depriving average and poorer Americans of health care, education and other essential social services.

 

In fact, states and counties where candidate Trump received the largest backing from voters are precisely the ones set up to loose the most from the Trump administration’s proposed cuts in welfare programs. On this regard, it can be said that politician Trump could be considered an impostor, defined as “a person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others.”

 

The newly elected president has also shown a serious lack of transparency and openness. He has tolerated that his immediate family’s wealth-seeking activities received favorable treatment from foreign governments, anxious to draw favors from the new administration. Similarly, he has not severed himself from obvious personal conflicts of interests, and he has not even released his tax returns as previous American presidents have done.

 

As a consequence of all of this, if the Democrats were to gain control of the House of Representatives in 2018, it is a virtual certainty that President Trump would be subjected to an impeachment procedure. Whether it will succeed is another matter. What is certain is that this will be most destabilizing for the economy.

 

Conclusion

 

Therefore, yes, a would-be dictator can be elected, most often, as history shows, with a minority of the votes. And no democratic constitution in the history of the world is totally protected against violations of its principles, if an oligarchy in power tolerates or welcomes them and when a substantial part of the population approves of them. That is why it would presumptuous for Americans to believe otherwise.

 

COMMENTS (9)

_____________________________________________

Economist Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay is the author of the book The Code for Global Ethics, Ten Humanist Principles”, and of “The New American Empire.

 

Please visit Dr. Tremblay’s site:

http://www.thenewamericanempire.com.

 

Please visit his multi-language international blog at:

http://www.thenewamericanempire.com/blog.htm.

 

Posted, Friday, June 23, 2017, at 8:30 am

 

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http://www.thenewamericanempire.com/tremblay=1184.htm

 

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Friday, April 7, 2017

From the Trump Administration, Expect an Erratic Flip-Flop Foreign Policy, a Return to Gunboat Diplomacy and more Illegal Wars of Aggression

By Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay

(Author of the books “The Code for Global Ethics”, and

 The New American Empire)

 

“Fool me once, shame on you; but fool me twice, shame on me.” Ancient proverb, (sometimes attributed to an Italian, Russian or Chinese proverb)

 

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius, and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” Ernst F. Schumacher (1911-1977) (in ‘Small is Beautiful’, an essay, in The Radical Humanist, Aug. 1973, p. 22)

 

“The powers-that-be understand that to create the appropriate atmosphere for war, it’s necessary to create within the general populace a hatred, fear or mistrust of others regardless of whether those others belong to a certain group of people or to a religion or a nation.” James Morcan (1978- ) (in ‘The Orphan Conspiracies: 29 Conspiracy Theories from The Orphan Trilogy’, 2014).

 

“Almost all wars begin with false flag operations.” Larry Chin, (in ‘False Flagging the World towards War. The CIA Weaponizes Hollywood’, Global Research, Dec. 27, 2014)

 

Another terrible war crime against Syrian civilians has taken place in Syria, on top of multiple war crimes committed in that country torn apart by six years of a civil war marked by foreign interventions. On Tuesday, April 4, 2017, a chemical attack killed more than 70 people, including women and children. No neutral official investigation has yet taken place, but two versions of events have surfaced.

 

- The first version, advanced by the American Trump administration and other Western governments, and seemingly the only version retained by most Western media, points to a bombing by the Syrian government at Khan Cheikhoun, in the Idlib province, as the culprit. The fact that a Syrian plane was seemingly involved would support this version. However, what benefit would the Assad regime gain from such a crime is less than obvious.

- The second version, advanced by the Russian Putin government and by other analysts is that a bomb launched by a Syrian plane would have accidently hit a depot of chemical weapons in the rebel-held territory and caused the carnage. Islamist rebels would have exploited the accident to stage a very effective mediated coup against the Assad regime. In the absence of conclusive physical evidence, the ‘Cui Bono’ argument (‘who benefits’) could be used to support that version.

 

It is good to recall that a similar war crime, among many others, took place at Ghouta, in the Damascus suburb, on August 31, 2013. In that case, it was strongly suspected that the horrific chemical attacks, which killed hundreds of people, including many children, was likely a criminal ‘false flag operation’, staged by Al Qaeda rebels anxious to provoke U.S. President Barack Obama to intervene militarily on their side in the Syrian conflict. A false flag operation’ is defined as “a horrific, staged event, — blamed on a political enemy — and used as pretext to start a war or to enact draconian laws in the name of national security.”

 

International law is being more and more discarded in favor of international anarchy

 

It is a sad fact that in totalitarian states, but also in our so-called democracies, it seems that wars of aggression are now based and sold with official lies and fraudulent fabrications in order to fool the people. Warmongers in government know that people do not like wars, especially illegal wars of aggression, against countries that have not attacked them. That is why their first choice is to attempt to drag the people along with lies and false pretexts for war, and by dehumanizing any potential enemy through crude propaganda.

 

Historically, there have been numerous instances when a ‘false flag operation’ was used to justify a “humanitarian” military intervention against a country or a regime. (Let us also remember that under the United Nations Charter, which is the foundation of international law, no country has a right to attack another one, no matter the pretext used, except in self-defense.)

Suffice here to recall two famous cases.

 

Case No. 1

Indeed, there are many historical precedents. Of course, the most recent one is George W. Bush administration’s use of a pretext to launch a so-called “pre-emptive” war of aggression against Iraq, pretending that there were chemical “weapons of mass destruction” in that country. It asserted that such WMDs posed a threat to neighboring countries and to the U.S. — It turned out that not only this act of international military aggression was illegal, but also that it was a lie, a pure fabrication, since no such weapons were discovered after the U.S.-led military invasion of Iraq.

 

Case No. 2

On February 15, 1898, the battleship USS Maine, on a friendly visit to Cuba, caught fire and sank in the Havana Harbor, seemingly because of an internal explosion of one of its torpedoes aboard. A purely American-run investigation concluded, however, that the explosion was not a terrible internal accident, but was caused externally by a naval mine in the harbor.

 

Republican President William McKinley (1843-1901), pushed by influent New York newspapers, (the Hearst and Pulitzer newspapers), accused the colonial government of Spain, in Cuba, of being responsible for the explosion and used that pretext to issue an ultimatum to Spain. The U.S Congress declared war against Spain on April 20, 1898. — That was the beginning of the Spanish-American War, which ended up with the U.S. occupying Cuba, Porto Rico, the Island of Guam and the Philippines.

 

Donald Trump’s new conversion to war

 

Politicians in disfavor can also find in foreign wars a way to improve their domestic political status. Indeed, if circumstances permit, what does an ambitious politician do, when facing a falling popularity at home? Chances are that he may be tempted to find a pretext to start a war, any war, and without any regard to international law.

 

It might seem bizarre that President Donald Trump has completely reversed his position regarding U.S. involvement in the Syrian conflict. But he is languishing in the polls, and even the Republican-controlled Congress is distancing itself from the White House. What better way, especially in the United States where wars abroad are a rallying point, to move the attention from domestic affairs to foreign affairs?

 

Whatever the motive behind the move, President Trump’s hasty decision to resort to an act of war in bombing the country of Syria, on Friday morning, April 7, has been met with hurrahs by many members of Congress. The American people may be more divided on the issue, but it can reasonably be expected that in the coming weeks Trump’s popularity, presently around 35 percent, will rise under the general approval that he will surely receive from the concentrated American media. He also is likely to receive a more positive collaboration from Congress for his more controversial domestic agenda.

 

It may be sad to say, but in the United States, the quickest road to popularity for a politician in difficulty, at least initially, is to launch a war abroad. For example, President George W. Bush’s popularity went from around 50 percent to more than 90 percent when he initiated his war against Iraq in 2002-2003. At the end of his second term, however, his approval rating had fallen below 30 percent. [For a description of the period, see my book The New American Empire, 2004.]

 

Conclusion

 

The unfolding of events in the Middle East would seem to reinforce my personal assessment of last February that an unpredictable President Donald Trump risks becoming “a threat to American Democracy and an agent of chaos in the world”, and even more so now that Congressional Democrats seem ready to jump on his war bandwagon (as they did with President George W. Bush).

 

COMMENTS (8)

 

_______________________________________________

Rodrigue TREMBLAY-100dpl

Economist Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay is the author of the book The Code for Global Ethics, Ten Humanist Principles”, and of The New American Empire.

 

Please visit Dr. Tremblay’s site:

http://www.thenewamericanempire.com.

 

Please visit his multi-language international blog at:

http://www.thenewamericanempire.com/blog.htm.

 

Posted, Friday, April 7, 2017, at 9:30 am

 

Email to a friend:

http://www.thenewamericanempire.com/tremblay=1183.htm

 

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_____________________________________________________________

© 2017 by Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay: The New American Empire Blog.

 

 

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Imperial Presidency of Donald Trump: a Threat to American Democracy and an Agent of Chaos in the World?

By Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay

(Author of the books “The Code for Global Ethics

and The New American Empire)

 

 

 In order to obtain and hold power a man must love it. Thus the effort to get it is not likely to be coupled with goodness, but with the opposite qualities of pride, craft and cruelty. Without exalting self and abasing others, without hypocrisy, lying, prisons, fortresses, penalties, killing, no power can arise or hold its own.” Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), (in 'The Kingdom of God is Within You’ 1894.)

 

“The megalomaniac differs from the narcissist by the fact that he wishes to be powerful rather than charming, and seeks to be feared rather than loved. To this type belong many lunatics and most of the great men of history.” Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), (in The Conquest of Happiness, ch. 1, 1930.)

 

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), 16th President of the United States, 1861-65; (N. B.: Originally found and attributed to Lincoln in a biography entitled Abraham Lincoln, the Backwoods Boy” by Horatio Alger Jr., pub. in 1883.)

 

“Perhaps it is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged against provisions against danger, real or pretended from abroad.” James Madison (1751-1836), Father of the US Constitution, 4th American President, (in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, May 13, 1798.)

 

When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951), (It Can't Happen Here, 1935, a novel about the election of a fascist to the American presidency.)

 

When 46.1% of Americans who voted, in November 2016, to elect a real estate magnate in the person of Donald Trump as U.S. President, they did not know precisely what they were buying, because, as the quote above says, we really know how a politician will behave only once he or she assumes power. Americans surely did not expect that the promised “change” the Republican presidential candidate envisioned and promised was going to be, in fact, “chaos” and “turmoil” in the U.S. government.

 

President Donald Trump (1946- ) has surrounded himself with three politically inexperienced Rasputin-like advisers, i.e. his young pro-Israel Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner (1981- ), advising on foreign policy and acting as a speech writer, and his far right media executive and chief political strategist Steve Bannon (1953- ) with an apocalyptic worldview, who is, moreover, a voting permanent member of the National Security Council (NSC). Stephen Miller (1985- ), 31, also a young inexperienced senior White House adviser, completes the trio. He is working with Jared Kushner for domestic affairs and is also a Trump speechwriter.

 

Stephen Miller (1985- )   Jared Kushner (1981- )

 

JARED KUSHNER + STEPHEN MILLER

 

Stephen bannon

Stephen Bannon (1953- )

 

Three weeks after his inauguration, President Trump has turned out to be a much more erratic politician than could have been expected, even after all the inanities he uttered during the U.S. Presidential campaign. I, for one, thought that once elected president and installed in the White House, he would abandon his tweeting eccentricities. —I was wrong.

 

In fact, for a few weeks after inauguration day, on January 20, 2017, before the nominated secretaries of various government departments were confirmed by the Senate, and anxious to "get the show going", the Trump White House behaved like an imperial junta, issuing a string of executive orders and memos. The objective, seemingly, was to force the hands of the responsible departments and of the elected Congress, and to bend the entire U.S. bureaucracy to its agenda. It may have gone too far.

 

Indeed, when the heads of important departments like the Department of Defense (James Mattis) and the State Department (Rex Tillerson) were confirmed and assumed their functions, President Trump changed his mind on many policies about Israel, China, the Iran Deal …etc.

 

U.S. courts have also thrown a monkey wrench in the blanket executive order closing the U.S. borders without recourse to the citizens of seven Muslim countries (Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen), for spurious “security reasons”.

 

Let us recall how the inexperienced Trump White House has created chaos during the first weeks following inauguration day.

 

• President Donald Trump has shown a propensity to govern by decree with a minimum input from government departments and from the elected Congress

 

A dangerous and potentially disastrous approach to government, in a democracy, occurs when a leader adopts the practice of governing by decree, without constitutional constraints, thus forcing the hands of responsible departments, of the elected Congress and submitting the entire U.S. bureaucracy to his will by governing as an autocrat. If it were to continue on that road, the Trump administration could turn out to be more like a would-be imperial presidency than a responsible democratic government.

 

This term was first coined by historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. in his 1973 book The Imperial Presidency, in response to President Richard Nixon’s attempt to extend the power of the U.S. president, declaring “when the president does it, that means it is not illegal”. In my own 2003 book The New American Empire, I dealt with the issue of American presidents having usurped over time the power to adopt a policy of global intervention, and the power to launch wars of aggression at will, with a minimum input from Congress.

 

President Trump seems to want to outdo President Nixon in considering the White House as the primary center of political power within the American government, contrary to what the U.S. Constitution says about the separation of powers.

 

To be sure, other American presidents have issued executive orders and presidential memos early in their administration, but this was mainly to re-establish procedures that a previous administration had abandoned. They usually did not deal with fundamental and complex policies without debate, although many did.

 

In the case of President Trump, his executive orders and presidential memos have not only been multiple, they also have dealt with fundamental policies, without consulting and requesting the professional input of the Secretary and of the department responsible, be it on healthcare, abortion, international trade, immigration, oil exploration, justice, etc., and without producing policy papers to explain the rationale behind the policy changes and without outlining the objectives being pursued.

 

When such a development of governing by decree has occurred in other countries, democracy was the loser, and the consequences for the leader and his country turned out to be disastrous.

 

• President Donald Trump seems to be anxious to find pretexts to pick fights with other countries: For him, it seems to be the U.S. against the world

 

In a March 2007 interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, the future presidential candidate Donald Trump said that President George W. Bush had been a disaster in foreign relations and that he was “the worst American president in the history of the United States”, adding that he “should have been impeached” because he lied his way into a war of aggression against Iraq and sent thousands of people to their death. This is an assessment that he has repeated on numerous occasions.

 

However, ironically, President Donald Trump seems to be on the same track as George W. Bush regarding the country of Iran, using lies and false claims to pick a fight with that country, and in so doing, echoing the hysterical rhetoric of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He has also recklessly insulted the heads of a half dozen countries, even going so far as to threaten the President of Mexico to invade his country. As to his criticism of President George W. Bush, it seems that really, “it takes one to know one”!

 

President Trump should be reminded of what he promised as a presidential candidate. In a foreign policy speech delivered on Wednesday April 27, 2016, he declared “Unlike other candidates for the presidency, war and aggression will not be my first instinct. You cannot have a foreign policy without diplomacy. A superpower understands that caution and restraint are really truly signs of strength. Although not in government service, I was totally against the war in Iraq, very proudly, saying for many years that it would destabilize the Middle East.”

 

• President Donald Trump has been less than candid regarding the influence of the Wall Street lobby on politicians, including himself

 

During the 2016 Presidential political campaign, candidate Donald Trump was very critical of politicians who do the heavy lifting for Wall Street firms in Washington D.C. On many occasions, Mr. Trump said that Wall Street is a symbol of a corrupt establishment that has been robbing America's working class and enriching the elite. He also tweeted point blank, on July 28, 2016, that Secretary Hillary Clinton was “owned by Wall Street and that Wall Street banks had “total, total control” over his rivals Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz, implying that they were unfit for the Office of the President. On October 19, 2016, Mr. Trump tweeted that “crooked Hillary is nothing more than a Wall Street Puppet”, thus presenting himself as the populist defender of the working class against the financial elite.

 

But guess what? One of Mr. Trump’s first moves as President was to order the undoing of the banking regulations known as the Dodd-Frank legislation, which was adopted in 2010, after the 2008 subprime financial crisis. President Trump thus quickly answered the main request made by the very Wall Street mega banks that he had accused previously of corrupting Washington politicians. He went even further when he named a former Goldman Sachs banker, Steven Mnuchin, as his Treasury Secretary.

 

Also, Mr. Trump has reached to the mega-bank Goldman Sachs for help and support. He name Mr. Gary Cohn (1960- ), president of Goldman Sachs, head of the President’s National Economic Council, thus making sure that Wall Street bankers will have a big say in his administration’s economic and financial policies.

 

Was his lambasting of his opponents as Wall Street banks’ puppets simply campaign rhetoric without substance? That is certainly a question worth asking.

 

• President Donald Trump’s continuous attacks against the free press and against independent judges who rule against his policies is an authoritarian approach to government and is a violation of the separation of powers

 

On Monday February 6, President Trump launched a barrage of off-the-cuff intimidating insults at the American news media, accusing them of “refusing to report on terrorist attacks”, without providing any evidence to back up such serious accusations. He has also attempted to intimidate judges who have to rule on the constitutionality of some of his decrees and threatened their judiciary independence.

 

Such behavior is a violation of, and contempt for the separation of powers clause in the U.S. Constitution and is a frontal attack against the free press.

 

This is not a trivial matter, because when an authoritarian regime wants to establish itself and avoid accountability, it usually attacks the legislative and the judiciary branches of government to pressure them to toe the line of the executive branch, and it tries to silence the very institutions that can put the false statements of politicians to the test.

 

• President Donald Trump has a mercantilist view of international trade, which is rejected by nearly all economists

 

President Donald Trump seems to think that his country should have trade surpluses on goods and services vis-ą-vis other countries, the latter being saddled with trade deficits, whatever the overall balance of payments of the United States, especially its capital account, and whatever the domestic and foreign economic circumstances. This is economically false. That is not the way adjustments in the balance of payments of a country work, in a multilateral world.

 

When Donald Trump places all the emphasis on only one part of the balance of payments, the trade balance, he misses the point. For example, if a country lives beyond its means and borrows money from abroad, such foreign borrowing appears as an inflow of foreign capital in the country. Such an inflow of foreign capital causes an excess of domestic spending over its production, and that helps finance an excess of imports over exports of goods and services with the rest of the world. The capital account of the country shows a surplus, while the trade balance (more precisely the current account) indicates a deficit, thus balancing more or less each other.

 

The main reason why the United States is registering trade deficits is because it borrows too much from abroad.

 

This is partly due to the fact that the U.S. government runs huge fiscal deficits, spending more than its tax revenues, and borrowing money both from the private sector and from foreigners, thus increasing the public debt. Such deficits often are the result of tax reductions and of increased military expenditures. The fact that the world economy uses the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency represents an interest-free loan that the rest of the world makes to the United States, which allows the USA to have a chronic trade deficit. Mr. Trump and his advisers would be wise to understand these truths of international finance.

 

If his administration wants to reduce the annual U.S. trade deficit with the rest of the world, the U.S. government should balance its books and reduce its foreign borrowings. Trade wars will not improve the U.S. trade balance if the country keeps over-spending and keeps borrowing from abroad. They would only make matters worse.

 

For many decades now, the U.S. government has piled up debt upon debt while running continuous fiscal deficits, mainly due to the fact that it has been waging costly wars abroad, while financing such interventions with foreign money. This is a problem that American politicians must understand if they don’t want their country to go bankrupt. This has happened in the past to other overextended empires, and there is no reason why it should not happen today when a country continuously spends more than it produces. And wars do not produce anything, except death and destruction.

 

• Hopes of putting an end to the Middle East chaos have greatly diminished

 

One of the positive results of the Trump election was the promise to end the deadly chaos in the Middle East. During the presidential campaign and once in power, Mr. Trump threw some cold water on that promise.

 

Firstly, in his March 21, 2016 speech to AIPAC, he flattered his rich Zionist donors by announcing his intention to break with the half-century policy of most western nations that considers the city of Jerusalem a United Nations protected zone and an international city occupied by Arabs, Christians and Jews. He declared “we will move the American embassy [from Tel Aviv] to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.”

 

Secondly, on Thursday December 15, 2016, to make sure that everybody understands that he is one-sided in the more than half a century old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, President-elect Trump announced his choice of a hardliner pro-Israeli settlements on privately-owned Palestinian lands for U.S. ambassador to Israel (in fact, David Friedman, his former bankruptcy lawyer). The new ambassador didn’t waste any time in professing that he was looking forward to doing his job “from the U.S. embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.”

 

And, thirdly, seemingly forgetting that he had criticized Secretary Clinton for proposing a similar dangerously reckless policy, President Trump announced, on January 25, that he will absolutely do safe zones in Syria, seemingly without considering if it was legal to do so without the consent of the Syrian government, and without consulting with the three principal countries (Russia, Turkey and Iran), which had just concluded a peace plan for Syria. He opted instead to talk to leaders of Saudi Arabia and of the United Arab Emirates— two countries known to be sponsoring terrorism in Syria.

 

• The world is afraid of President Donald Trump: Doomsday Clock scientists have concluded that humanity is just two-and-a-half minutes from the apocalypse

 

Late in January, the scientists in charge of the Doomsday Clock set the clock at just two-and-a-half minutes from the apocalypse, allegedly because of Donald Trump. They said that the businessman turned politician, with his disturbing and ill-considered pronouncements and policies, has the potential to drive the Planet to oblivion. This means that they consider that the Earth is now closer to oblivion than it has ever been since 1953, at the height of the nuclear confrontation between the USA and the Soviet Union. The existential threats facing the Earth now come from the loose talk about using nuclear weapons and the proliferation of such weapons, as well as the observed acceleration of climate change.

 

Conclusion

 

All considered, the turn of events since the election of Donald Trump has raised a number of fears that a lot of things could go wrong in the coming years. Many of the policies advanced by the Trump administration are the wrong remedies for the problems facing the United States and the world. In fact, many of these ill-conceived policies are more likely to make matters worse, possibly much worse, than to improve them.

 

Things seem to have begun to change somewhat with the arrival of newly confirmed secretaries in the decision-making process and new advisers. Let us hope that cooler heads will bring experience, knowledge and competence to a Trump administration that cruelly needs it.

 

 

COMMENTS (15)

 

_______________________________________________

Rodrigue TREMBLAY-100dpl

Economist Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay is the author of the book The Code for Global Ethics, Ten Humanist Principles”, and of The New American Empire.

 

Please visit Dr. Tremblay’s site:

http://www.thenewamericanempire.com

 

Please visit his multi-language international blog at:

http://www.thenewamericanempire.com/blog.htm

 

Posted, Friday, February 17, 2017, at 8:30 am

 

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Friday, January 20, 2017

What to Expect from the Trump Administration: A Protectionist and Pro-Corporate America Government

By Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay

(Author of the books “The Code for Global Ethics”, and

 The New American Empire)

 

Trump

 

 

 Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”

Benito Mussolini (1883-1945), Italian politician, journalist, and leader of the National Fascist Party. (As quoted in Mats Erik Olshammar’s book Dragon Flame, 2008, p. 253)

 

The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what [Adolf] Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. — With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.”

Henry A. Wallace (1888-1965), American politician, 33rd Vice President of the United States, 1941-1945, (in ‘The Danger of American Fascism’, The New York Times, April 9, 1944, and in ‘Democracy Reborn’, 1944, p. 259)

 

"Demagogue: one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots."

H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) American journalist and essayist, (in ‘Minority Report’, 1956, p. 207)

 

With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance! »

Donald Trump (1946- ), on January 3, 2017, after House Republicans voted 119-74 to place the independent Office of Congressional Ethics under the control of the House of Representatives. (N.B.: They reversed their position after Mr. Trump’s criticism)

 

Presidential candidate Donald Trump raised the hopes of many Americans when he criticized his political opponents for their close ties to Wall Street and, above all, when he promised to 'drain the swamp' in Washington D.C. He may still fulfill that last promise, but as the quote above indicates, he may have to fight House Republicans on that central issue. Candidate Trump also raised the hopes of many when he promised to end costly wars abroad and to concentrate rather on preventing jobs from moving offshore, on creating more middle-class jobs at home and on preventing the American middle class from shrinking any further.

 

No doubt the cabinet he has assembled is filled with well-intentioned and capable persons. And, it is only normal that a new president surrounds himself with loyal supporters and people with whom he feels comfortable ideologically and personally. And, let us be fair. Not many progressives or academics supported Donald Trump during the November 2016 election. However, on paper at least, it can be said that Trump’s cabinet looks to be more to the right than himself.

 

Nevertheless, the Trump administration will probably be the most pro-business administration and the wealthiest in American history. This is somewhat ironical because, during the November 2016 presidential election, Mr. Trump prevailed in poor, economically challenged cities, while Ms. Clinton drew her support in more affluent cities and counties.

 

The overall image that emerges, indeed, is a U.S. government fit for an inward-looking industrial-financial-military complex, made up, to a large extent, of billionaires and of Wall Street financiers (Ross, Mnuchin, Cohn, Clayton, etc.), of known warmongers (Mattis, Flynn, etc.), and of known Zionists (Bolton, Friedman, Greenblatt, etc.). However, this is a corporate government that is hostile to large American international corporations (GM, Coca-Cola, etc.), hostile to economic regulations and to economic globalization in general.

 

There is a clear possibility, considering its composition, that the pro-domestic-business Trump administration could herald a new Robber Baron era of laissez faire capitalism within the United States, somewhat similar to the one that led, in reaction, to the passage of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in 1890. If so, history could repeat itself. Only time will tell.

 

A genuine desire for radical change

 

There is no doubt that the 2016 U.S presidential election revealed a desire for radical change on the part of a large segment of the U.S. electorate, discontent and dissatisfied with the way things are these days with the political gridlock in Washington D.C. and with the relatively stalled U.S. economy.

 

The economic policies espoused by the U.S. establishment over the last quarter century have resulted in the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, with the result also that economic and social mobility for average American families has declined and is now much lower than in other advanced economies. This has been an important cause for disillusion and anger among many Americans who feel that the economic system is rigged against them and in favor of the very rich.

 

Can President Trump succeed in bringing about fundamental, even revolutionary change, especially in reducing political corruption and in bringing more economic and social justice for American workers, or will he be engulfed in the morass of politics as usual in Washington D.C.? Here again, only time will tell.

 

On the other hand, President Trump can hardly pretend to have received an overwhelming political mandate for change from the electorate, considering that he got 2,865,000 fewer votes than Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The last time that this happened was in 2000 when Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush received about 540,000 fewer votes than his adversary Al Gore, but he was nevertheless elected president by the U.S. Electoral College.

 

Moreover, by professing to want to cumulate his responsibilities as U.S. President and those as a de facto head of his own international real-estate company, and by refusing to park his private business interests in a blind trust, thus creating a permanent conflict of interests, President Donald Trump is sending the wrong signal. And transferring the daily executive responsibilities to his sons does not pass the smell test.

 

During the 2016 campaign, candidate Trump clearly said that “[I]f I become president, I couldn’t care less about my company. It’s peanuts… I wouldn’t ever be involved because I wouldn’t care about anything but our country, anything.” Public interest, indeed, is not the same as private personal interests, and it is difficult to believe that Mr. Trump has had a change of mind on such an important issue. People should expect their politicians not to use their positions, directly or indirectly, to enrich themselves. Period.

 

Let us consider how a strong pro-business Trump administration could have some beneficial results in the short run, but could also be very disruptive in the long run, both for the United States and for the world.

 

1. Donald Trump’s authoritarian approach may endanger American democracy

 

American democracy may be seriously tested in the coming months and years, as a President Donald Trump administration begins implementing a fundamental shift in American domestic and foreign policies. This could be either for better or for worse.

 

That is because the new U.S. president, Donald J. Trump (1946- ), is a businessman, in fact, an international real-estate mogul who owns hotels, golf courses and casinos in many countries, who has no government experience of his own and who has run his family business with total control. Moreover, businessman Donald Trump has tended to trust his business instincts more than his head in making important decisions, and he is also inclined to act in a self-serving manner. He is a person who, temperamentally and on occasion, does not hesitate to denigrate, humiliate and bully people around to get his way. Indeed, his modus operandi in his dealings with people seems to rely on intimidation and on bluffing in order to exact concessions on their part and to obtain some benefits for himself.

 

Some fifteen years ago, another businessman was elected to the American presidency, i.e. Texan oilman George W. Bush (1946- ), who also boasted that he made decisions with his guts. That did not turned out too well for the United States, as Bush II ended up being one of the worse presidents the U.S. ever had. Presidential candidate Trump even said publicly that George W. Bush was “the worst President in history”, and said he should have been impeached because he lied about the presence of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq with the clear intention of tricking the American public into supporting a war against that country.

 

It’s true that George W. Bush did not hide his intentions of governing in an authoritarian way when he declared, "I'm the commander in chief, see, I don't need to explain, I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting part about being president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation", as this was documented in Bob Woodward's book 'Bush at War', 2002. Will President Trump take such a statement as a precedent, or will he be more open to outside ideas to improve things?

 

2. Fears of trade wars and disruptive protectionism looming ahead

 

President Donald Trump has made no qualms about being a trade protectionist. His spokespersons have repeatedly said that the new administration is a protectionist one. It is one thing to adopt ad hoc protectionist measures; it is another matter to adopt an overall protectionist policy that could lead to widespread economic disintegration, and trigger costly economic dislocations, uncertainty and, possibly, risk a worldwide economic depression.

 

This could also mean bringing forward destructive laws, similar to the protectionist 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff, which imposed high tariffs and other barriers to the importation of foreign-produced goods.

 

There are, however, international trade laws that prevent one country from singling out another country for punitive tariffs or trade impediments without cause. If the Trump administration were to violate those laws, other national governments could be expected to retaliate, and this could wreak havoc with international trade and world prosperity. In the 1930s, protectionist “beggar-thy-neighbor policies" raised unemployment and intensified the Great Depression. Nobody can be absolutely sure that this would not be repeated if similar policies were pursued today.

 

In fact, it is far from certain that increasing duties on imports would be beneficial to the U.S. economy. Such impediments to trade would push up the prices of goods in the United States, thus making it harder for workers on low salaries to buy them. American exports could also suffer when other countries retaliate and raise tariffs on goods produced in the U.S. and shipped from the U.S., creating unemployment in many American exporting industries, notably in the agricultural sector.

 

With American protectionist policies raising prices, the Fed could then be expected to raise interest rates faster, thus slowing down interest-rate sensitive industries such as the construction industry, while higher U.S. interest rates could appreciate the U.S. dollar vis-ą-vis other currencies, resulting in a further decline of U.S. exports abroad and negating the expected objective of protectionism.

 

Indeed, President Trump and his advisers could learn some lessons in economics in 2017-2018, when they see an extraordinary strong U.S. dollar, boosted by their expected protectionist policies, destroying American exports and possibly also tanking the stock market. Large American international companies could be expected to suffer the most, and those who work for them or own stocks in them would also suffer, both from the artificially strong dollar and from retaliations from other countries.

 

Therefore, it is far from a sure thing that the jobs created in American import-substituting industries would not be counterbalanced by the loss of jobs in American export industries. The result could be net negative for the U.S. economy as a whole. Protectionist policies could also lower American overall productivity, in the long run, because of a reduction in economies of scale caused by a contraction of U.S. export industries and in their investments.

 

3. The North American economy could be disturbed and political relations could possibly turn sour

 

The United States needs allies and friends in the world, and there is no better friend of the United States than neighboring Canada. In 1988, the Reagan administration reached a free trade agreement (FTA) with Canada, a country with a similar free market economy and standard of living, which has benefited both countries. In 1994, the Clinton administration enlarged the Canada-US free trade Agreement to include Mexico, the latter country having a standard of living that is less than one third the American standard of living. That was NAFTA.

 

The Trump administration intends not only to cancel the already signed trade agreement (TPP) with Asiatic countries and to end negotiations for establishing a transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP), but President Trump would also like to reopen and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Such isolationist moves are bound to create unnecessary economic and political frictions besides creating a lot of uncertainty. For neighboring Canada and Mexico, this has the potential of disrupting their economies. Let us hope that cooler heads will prevail and that the baby of economic cooperation won’t be thrown out with the bathwater of trade irritants.

 

Mr. Trump and his advisers should know that trade is a two-way street and that a country pays for its imports with its exports. They must know, therefore, that Canada is the U.S.’s number one trading partner and that there are 35 U.S. states (New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Alaska, etc.) for whom the number one export country for their goods and services is Canada.

 

 

In 2015, for the record, the United States exported goods and services to Canada for a total value of $337.3 billion, and imported from Canada goods and services valued at $325.4 billion, for a net U.S. surplus equal to $11.9 billion. In 2015, Canada was the United States' number-one goods export market. Moreover, American companies had direct investments worth $386.1 billion in Canada, in 2014, while Canadian companies had direct investments in the United States worth $261.2 billion in the same year.

 

The Trump administration should know that, in 2015, nearly 9 million American jobs depended on U.S. trade and investment with Canada. Therefore, Canada is not a country posing a trade problem to the United States and Mr. Trump and other U.S. politicians should know it. The Canadian and American economies are well integrated and are complementary to each other.

The motto should be: If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

 

4. Drastic U.S domestic policy changes may hurt the poor and enrich the already super rich, thus exasperating inequality, if they are not replaced by better policies

 

Presidential candidate Trump promised to lower U.S. corporate tax on corporate profits from 35% to 15%. Even though the real corporate tax rate paid by most American corporations is much lower than the posted rate, being closer to 12%, such a drastic drop in the official corporate taxation rate is bound to make the rich richer. In fact, the post-November-8 stock market rally is largely a reflection of that promise to lower the corporate tax rate.

 

Similarly, candidate Donald Trump has promised to deregulate U.S. mega banks, which were at the center of the 2008 subprime loan financial crisis, and especially end the Dodd-Frank rules, which require banks to hold more capital as an insurance against catastrophic failures. Here we go again: politicians pandering to those who can give them money, while risking the stability of the entire financial system and the jobs of millions of Americans. If this comes to pass, the next financial crisis may be called the ‘Trump financial crisis’.

 

On the social side, Trump’s promise to dismantle the Obamacare program, without advancing a credible replacement, may end up hurting the poorest Americans. Indeed, what would happen to the some 20 million Americans who previously had been left out of secured access to health services through employer-sponsored insurance? In politics, it is usually easier to dismantle something than to build something of value.

 

5. U.S. economic and political clashes with China may be very disruptive to world peace

 

The Chinese government is a communist and authoritarian government, even though it has moved, since 1978, under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping (1904-1997), to a more decentralized market-oriented socialist economy. The biggest economic step for China came on December 11, 2001, when it officially abandoned protectionism as a policy and joined the World Trade Organization (WTO), thus integrating the world economy.

 

It is true that the U.S. has a trade deficit with China. In 2015, for example, American exports to China amounted to $116.1 billion while the U.S. imported goods from China valued at $483.2 billion, leaving a trade deficit equal to $367.1 billion. That is party due to the fact that many U.S. companies have invested in China, and they imported goods from China. This is partly due to the fact that the U.S. government has a large fiscal deficit, and some of it translates into an external trade deficit. Of course, it is true that China is also a large low-wage country, and its products are very price-competitive.

 

An important point of contention between the U.S. and China has been the value of the latter country’s currency, the Yuan. Critics have argued that the Chinese currency has been kept artificially undervalued, thus reducing the price of Chinese goods on international markets and stimulating its exports. The Chinese government has argued that the Yuan exchange rate reflects its own economic conditions, i.e. low labor costs, and that the value of the Yuan, in fact, has been appreciating over the last twenty years and that the country runs trade deficits with other countries.

 

Such an issue should be settled by a panel of international monetary experts, and should not be a pretext for a trade war.

 

6. The Trump administration, by siding even more openly with Israel than previous American administrations, may make matters worse in the Middle East

 

During the electoral campaign, candidate Trump said, on many occasions, that he wanted to reduce congressional term limits, fight political corruption and stop the influence of the tens of thousands of lobbies in Washington D.C.

 

Ironically, on Monday evening, March 21, 2016, Mr. Trump appeared in front of the most powerful foreign policy lobby in the U.S., the pro-Israel American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), an umbrella lobbying organization that boasts of having access to a vast pool of political donors. He then delivered the most demagogic and the most pandering speech that a politician can make to get votes and money from a lobbying organization. So much so that, the next day, AIPAC president Lillian Pinkus had to apologize for some of Mr. Trump’s remarks.

 

During his speech, Mr. Trump went on to please his listeners by declaring that he was prepared to turn a blind eye to the issue of illegal Israeli settlements that the Israeli government has allowed on the occupied lands Palestinians want for their future state. He went even further and said that he would veto “100 percent”, as U.S. President, any attempt by the United Nations to impose a Palestinian state on Israel, provoking cheers and applause. Mr. Trump went on promising to “move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem”, a shift of policy that would be denounced by most other countries, even if this was met with cheers and applause by the AIPAC delegates.

 

Soon after his AIPAC speech, not surprisingly, prominent American billionaires, such as casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, casino owner Phil Ruffin, activist investor Carl Icahn, etc. became prominent donors to the Trump campaign. So much for draining the swamp!

 

7. President Trump has made incendiary and false statements about Iran

 

Candidate Trump, in his pandering speech to AIPAC, promised to “dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran”. He even repeated the lie that the U.S. government “gave” $150 billion to Iran. In fact, that sum was Iran’s own funds that had been frozen in American financial institutions because of unilateral sanctions. This was not a “gift”. It was restitution.

 

It was said of the George W. Bush administration that it made “its own reality”. Would the Donald Trump administration be on the same track in creating “its own facts”?

 

Let us remind ourselves what the Iran Deal was.

It was an agreement reached by six countries (France, Germany, the U.K., Russia, China, and the United States), which removed the possibility that Iran develop nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future. Would President Trump insult all these countries and opt to go to war with Iran to please his rich donors? I hope not. That would be crazy. I doubt very much that this is the type of “change” that American voters want, i.e. more neocon-inspired wars of aggression abroad.

 

8. The Trump administration is expected to show little respect for the environment

 

Scott Pruitt, the new Head of the Environmental Protection Agency (APA) is openly a denier of climate science and of clean air legislation. As Attorney General of the state of Oklahoma, he opposed the Environmental Protection Agency (APA) over its Clean Power Plan. He can be expected to encourage highly polluting coal burning.

 

Indeed, it is one thing to be a climate change skeptic, and another to be pro- air pollution. There are economic activities that generate pollution costs to the entire population and cause diseases. Such social external costs are not included in the market prices of private goods. They should be.

 

People have only to look at some Chinese cities, like Beijing, to see how destructive air pollution can be, when people have to wear masks when going outside their homes. In particular, burning coal on a large scale creates smog and is a recipe to generate deadly air pollution. That is what China is learning the hard way, as this results in thousands of premature deaths.

 

Numerous members of the Trump administration are climate change deniers and are opposed to climate scientists’ recommendations. For one, Rick Perry, the former Republican Governor of Texas and President Trump’s choice for Energy Secretary, denies that climate change is happening or that it is caused by greenhouse gas emissions. It is undeniable, for example, that the year 2016 was the warmest ever and that the trend toward a warming climate will continue as CO2 emissions keep increasing.

 

On the environment, therefore, the Trump administration can be expected to be anti-intellectualism and anti-science.

 

9. After statements made to that effect, the Trump administration is expected to pack the U.S. Supreme Court with far-right judges

 

Presidential candidate Donald Trump is on record as willing to pack the U.S. Supreme Court with far right pro-life judges. Mr. Trump is known to have been, for most of his life, pro-choice, although he has expressed a personal dislike for abortion, except for three exceptions, i.e. when the health of a woman is in danger, in case of rape, and in case of incest. In 1999, for example, he told NBC ‘Meet The Press, “I'm very pro-choice.”

 

However, during the last presidential campaign, on August 1, 2016, Mr. Trump went further and said that I will pick great Supreme Court Justices”, …similar in philosophy to the late Justice Antonin Scalia (1936-2016), one of the most far right judges ever to have sat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

The most contentious proposals of the Trump administration will undoubtedly be the type of judges it nominates for confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

 

10. On the positive side, the Trump administration is bound to end the Washington Neocons’ New Cold War with Russia

 

In international affairs, the main positive contribution that the Trump administration could bring to the world would be to put an end to the artificially created New Cold War with Russia that Washington Neocons have initiated from scratch in recent years, within the Obama administration. Indeed, President Donald Trump has been most clear in expressing his desire to adopt a more peaceful approach to Russia and President Vladimir Putin. In many areas, he even considers Russia to be an ally of the U.S., not the dangerous adversary that the Neocon establishment in Washington D.C. has tried to portray it to be in recent years. If this New Détente with Russia can be achieved, it would be a major accomplishment for world peace and for American prosperity.

 

Conclusion

 

One of the weak characteristics of democracy is that, in practice, it pushes politicians to pander to special interests for votes and money, at the expense of public interest and the common good.

 

From what we know so far, the Trump administration is geared to be the most pro-domestic-business, the most economically isolationist and protectionist, and the most pro-special interests American administration, ever. This could spell trouble for the United States and for the world if it truly acts in that direction.

 

As an economist, indeed, I fear that an inexperienced Trump administration would go too far, too fast in dislocating American international corporations and in raising domestic tariffs on imports. The end-result could be some disastrous trade wars that would create stagflation and that would hurt both the American and foreign national economies.

 

This is an administration that should heed a few words of caution, and it should refrain from being an extremist administration.

Stay tuned.

 

COMMENTS (7)

 

_________________________________________

Rodrigue TREMBLAY-100dpl

 

Economist Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay is the author of the book The Code for Global Ethics, Ten Humanist Principles”, and of The New American Empire.

 

Please visit the book site at:

http://www.thecodeforglobalethics.com/

and his international blog at:

http://www.thenewamericanempire.com/blog.htm

 

Posted, Friday, January 20, 2017, at 8:30 am

 

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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

 

The Trump Revolution in The United States: What Will Be the New President’s Herculean Works?

 

By Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay

(Author of the books “The Code for Global Ethics”, and

 The New American Empire)

 

 

“When you give [money to politicians], they do whatever the hell you want them to do… As a businessman, I need that.

Donald J. Trump (1946- ), in an interview to the Wall Street Journal, July 29, 2015.

 

We [the United States] spent $2 trillion, thousands of lives. ... Obviously, it was a mistake… George W. Bush made a mistake. We can make mistakes. But that one was a beauty. We should have never been in Iraq. We have destabilized the Middle East…

—They [President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney] lied… They said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none. And they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction.”

Donald J. Trump (1946- ), during a CBS News GOP presidential debate, on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016.

 

In my opinion, we've spent $4 trillion trying to topple various people that frankly, if they were there and if we could’ve spent that $4 trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges, and all of the other problems; our airports and all of the other problems we’ve had, we would’ve been a lot better off. I can tell you that right now.

—We have done a tremendous disservice, not only to the Middle East; we’ve done a tremendous disservice to humanity.

—The people that have been killed, the people that have been wiped away, and for what? It’s not like we had victory.

It’s a mess. The Middle East is totally destabilized. —A total and complete mess.

—I wish we had the $4 trillion or $5 trillion. I wish it were spent right here in the United States, on our schools, hospitals, roads, airports, and everything else that are all falling apart.”

Donald J. Trump (1946- ) in a GOP presidential debate, on Tues. Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas, NV.

 

Throughout history, any profound political and social change was preceded by a philosophical revolution, at least among a significant section of the population.”

M. N. Roy (1887-1954), in ‘The Future of Democracy’, 1950.

 

 

There has just been a generational political earthquake in the United States and the after shocks are potentially going to be huge. Indeed, on November 8, 2016, against all odds, the Republican candidate Donald Trump (1946- ) was elected to serve as the 45th American President, repeating ad nauseam his main slogan “Make America Great Again”. He will be the first American president since Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) to occupy the White House without having personal political experience.

 

Trump’s rhetoric and proposals have been squarely anti-establishment and anti-status quo, both domestically and internationally. As such, Trump’s victory is a political revolution in the making because it announces a break from American policies pursued by both Republican and Democrat U.S. administrations since the 1990’s.

 

For this reason, Trump’s election inspires both fear and hope. Fear among the established elites, especially among the dominating Washington/media/financial establishments, because the Trump victory will undoubtedly be seen as a repudiation of their values and policies. And after last June’s Brexit, the writing may also be on the wall for the current crop of European elites, who have also actively pushed for a globalized world, with open frontiers, illegal immigration, technological changes, and the deindustrialization of the more advanced economies.

 

There is hope, however, among those who have been left behind economically, politically and socially, especially among those in the American middle class whose real incomes have been stagnant or declining, and who have suffered badly from the agenda and policies pursued during the last three decades. Over the last 30 years, indeed, the upper 10 % and the super-rich 1 % segments of the U.S. population have greatly benefited from a shift from a manufacturing to a service economy, while the bottom 90 % was left behind.

 

Many disenfranchised American workers, especially those with less than a high school diploma, saw in Republican candidate Donald Trump and in defeated Democratic primary candidate Bernie Sanders the hope to see things change for the better. It is symptomatic that Americans in large urban areas voted massively democratic, while industrial and rural areas voted massively republican. Contrary to polls, the forecasting models that included the historical context and the desire for change in their prediction had it right. This is the case of American University professor Allan J. Lichtman’s model.

 

Trump’s Herculean task ahead

 

President-elect Donald Trump and his team have a Herculean task ahead of them if they are to deliver on the promises they made.

 

1- Let us begin with the main foreign policy changes to be expected.

 

The biggest losers of the November 8 election will be the foreign policy hawks and the Neocons in the previous U.S. administrations, from the Bill Clinton administration to the current Obama administration. They are the ones who have pushed to rekindle the Cold War with Russia and who have designed the interventionist policies, which are destroying the Middle East.

 

It is expected that a Trump administration will reverse the U.S.-led NATO policy to provoke Russia by multiplying hostile military moves at its borders. Also, it can be expected that a Trump administration will strike a deal with the Russian government of Vladimir Putin to bring the disastrous Syrian conflict to an end. This is bad news for the murderous Middle-Ages style ISIS organization.

 

Of course, a Trump administration can be expected to turn U.S. trade policy on its head. Trade policy would likely be paired with an industrial policy. In practice, this could mean that the two large multilateral free trade and free investment treaties, the Transatlantic Free Trade agreement (TAFTA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) will be stopped in their tracks.

In this sense, the Trump revolution could mean that economic and financial globalization is dead.

 

2- The main domestic policy shifts expected from a Trump administration.

 

A Trump administration will attempt to prime-pump the U.S. economy through a series of economic policies. After all, candidate Trump has promised to boost the U.S. growth rate to an average of 3.5 percent and to create 25 million jobs over the next decade. He has also promised the “overhaul of our tax, regulatory, energy and trade policies.”

 

How can a Trump administration stimulate growth? First, by proposing a massive $ 4.4 trillion tax cut to spur growth, not dissimilar from the 2001-2003 Bush-Cheney administration $1.3 trillion tax cut program, which met with dubious results, besides increasing the U.S. government fiscal deficit.

 

Second, a Trump administration will attempt to boost U.S. manufacturing jobs. For that, it would have to do better than the record achieved during the two Bush-Cheney terms, when the United States lost over six million manufacturing jobs. To reverse that trend, Trump may attempt to force the repatriation of the $2.1 trillion profits that U.S. companies are holding overseas and induce those corporations to invest more within the United States. He may also raise some import taxes to persuade American-owned corporations to create jobs in the U.S. — To what extent a Republican-controlled Congress will acquiesce to such a protectionist trade policy remains to be seen.

 

Finally, candidate Trump has promised to launch a massive infrastructure investment program, stating that he wanted to “build the next generation of roads, bridges, railways, tunnels, seaports, and airports.”

 

3- The Trump government’s social challenges

 

By far, the biggest challenge that a Trump administration will face will be to make good on candidate Trump’s promise to abolish the national health program known as the Obamacare. He has proposed to replace the American health care law with a transfer of Medicaid to the states, accompanied by a state block grant program, and to provide tax exemption for employer-based health insurance plans, to be extended to individuals who purchase coverage on their own. Candidate Trump has even flirted with the idea of having the U.S. adopt a single-payer health care system. It remains to be seen how such a complex issue can be resolved.

 

Conclusion

 

It will take weeks and months before the Trump administration’s real agenda becomes clear. Under a Donald Trump presidency, the United States can be expected to change direction on many policies. As this revolution unfolds, the eyes of the world will be on the Trump administration and on the new policies it will attempt to implement. Let us hope that this will be done with care and intelligent thinking, and not in precipitation and chaos.

 

COMMENTS (11)

 

________________________________

Economist Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay is the author of the book The Code for Global Ethics, Ten Humanist Principles”, and of The New American Empire.

 

Please visit the book site at:

http://www.thecodeforglobalethics.com/

and his blog at:

http://www.thenewamericanempire.com/blog.htm

 

Posted, Wednesday, November 9, 2016, at 8:30 am

 

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Trump’s Herculean Works

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Monday, July 11, 2016

The New Immoral Age: How Technology Offers New Ways of Killing People and of Destroying the World

By Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay

(Author of the books “The Code for Global Ethics”, and

 The New American Empire)

 

“It turns out … that I’m really good at killing people.”

President Barack Obama (1961- ), (as reported in Reed Peeples, ‘A President and his Drones’, June 29, 2016, —a review of the book ‘Objective Troy: A Terrorist, a President, and the Rise of the Drone’, S. Shane, 2015)

 

“We hold that what one man cannot morally do, a million men cannot morally do, and government, representing many millions of men, cannot do.

—Governments are only machines, created by the individuals of a nation for their own convenience; they are only delegated bodies, delegated by the individuals, and therefore they cannot possibly have larger moral rights of using force, or, indeed, larger moral rights of any kind, than the individuals who delegated them.

—We may reasonably believe that an individual, as a self-owner, is morally justified in defending the rights he possesses in himself and in his own property—by force, if necessary, against force (and fraud), but he cannot be justified in using force for any other purpose whatsoever.”

Auberon Herbert (1838-1906), British writer

 

“Nothing that is morally wrong can be politically right.”

Hannah More (1745-1833) English writer and philanthropist

 

“A belligerent state permits itself every such misdeed, every such act of violence, as would disgrace the individual.”

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), Austrian psychiatrist and philosopher

 

We not only live in the computer and digital age, we also live in a profoundly immoral age, in which the use of violence against people has become easily justifiable, nearly routinely, either for religious, military or security reasons.

 

Let us recall that the Twentieth Century was the most politically murderous period ever in history. It is estimated that political decisions, mostly made by psychopaths in various governments, resulted in the death of some 262 million people—a democide or political mass murder, according to scholarly works by political scientist Rudolph J. Rummel. It remains to be seen if the Twenty-first Century will regress from this barbarism or exceed it. So far, things do not look too good. Human morality and empathy is not increasing; it is declining fast. And with nuclear weapons in the hands of potential psychopaths, the next big step toward oblivion will not be a cakewalk.

 

Indeed, a new brand of immorality has permeated into some political minds, according to which what one individual cannot morally do on his own, i.e. cold-blooded murder of another human being, a head of state, a government or a group of public officials can do, in his place. Under what moral code can individuals delegate to governments or public officials authority to do crimes that they themselves cannot do without being immoral? Wouldn’t that be extremely hypocritical and a parody of morality?

 

According to basic humanitarian or humanist morality, as the Auberon Herbert’s quote above illustrates, what is immoral for one individual does not become moral because one million individuals do it, under the cloak of a government or any other umbrella organization. In other words, a head of state or a government cannot enjoy a wider choice of moral rules than the ones that apply to every individual. The agent (the public person) cannot have looser moral rules than the principal (the people). There cannot be one morality for an individual in private life, and another one for an individual acting within a government.

 

For example, it is widely accepted under basic moral rules that an individual may only use deadly force in self-defense, when his own life or the lives of his family are threatened. Therefore, the delegated morality to a state by its citizens to use deadly force cannot extend beyond the requirements of self-defense against actual or imminent attack, of the maintenance of order, and of the implementation of justice. Any unprovoked act of deadly aggression, resulting in the untimely and extrajudicial death of people, by a head of state, a government or its officials against other people becomes automatically immoral, if not illegal, notwithstanding in what legal mumbo jumbo such an aggression is couched.

 

It is true that the current chasm between individual and official morality has been long in developing. When the Roman Emperor Theodosius (347-395), in 380, adopted Christianity as its official state religion, it was difficult to apply Jesus Christ’s pacifist and non-violence admonition that “all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword”. Christian theologians such as Augustine of Hippo (354-430) were thus obliged to develop the argument that moral rules designed for individuals did not necessarily apply to an individual becoming an emperor, a king or a head of state who must administer justice or wage wars. In particular, the Commandment “Thou shall not kill” was redefined to exclude heads of state involved in so-called “just wars”, waged by a ‘legitimate authority’. It was spelled out, however, that such wars could not be pre-emptive, but strictly defensive to restore peace. Otherwise, such a war would become immoral.

 

Nowadays, there is a basic public morality inscribed in the United Nations Charter and in the Nuremberg Charter. The latter clearly prohibits crimes against peace, defined as referring to the “planning, preparation, initiation, or waging of wars of aggression”… A war of aggression is defined as is a military conflict waged without the justification of self-defense, usually for territorial gain and subjugation. The U.N. General Assembly adopted these definitions, on December 11, 1946, as part of customary international law. Such was the core of public morality after World War II.

 

However, over the years, public morality has steadily declined, most recently illustrated in 2003 when U.S. President George W. Bush launched a U.S.-led war of unprovoked aggression against the country of Iraq, assisted by British Prime minister Tony Blair. The latter unnecessary and disastrous war, launched on a mountain of lies, has been thoroughly investigated in the United Kingdom, but hardly at all in the United States, the center of it all.

 

Therefore, notwithstanding that no serious post-administration inquiry has been carried out in the United States regarding the mischief caused by the George W. Bush-Dick Cheney tandem, at the very least, future historians will have the 12-volume Chilcot Report to assess how some British and American politicians fooled the people, in 2002-2003, and launched a war of aggression against an independent country, with no direct consequences for themselves.

 

More generally indeed, in the Twenty-first Century, it can be said that killing technology has advanced at the same time as public morality and personal accountability have declined.

 

In the U.S., for instance, it has long been suspected that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), (a sort of secret government within the government created by President Harry Truman in 1946), was involved in covert illegal activities, especially when it came to sponsoring terrorist death squads in various countries. In 1975, for example, the U.S. Senate established a Select Committee to study governmental operations with respect to illegal intelligence activities, chaired by Senator Frank Church (D-ID). That important committee investigated illegalities by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

 

Among the matters investigated were the covert activities of the CIA involving attempts to assassinate foreign leaders and attempts to subvert foreign national governments. Following the reports and under the recommendations and pressure by the Church committee, President Gerald Ford issued Executive Order 11905 (ultimately replaced in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan's Executive Order 12333) with the express intent to ban U.S. sanctioned assassinations of foreign leaders.

 

Now, let us move fast forward. The most recent instance of a public official known to have assigned to himself the task of targeting some people, even American citizens, to be assassinated with unmanned drones or other means, without charge and outside of judicial procedures, and without geographic limits, is under President Barack Obama. Indeed, Mr. Obama seems to be the first American president to have institutionalized what is called the “Terror Tuesday” meetings, during which the American president, with the help of the head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), decides about the assassination or the capture of individuals deemed to be enemies of the United States around the world.

 

Last July 1st, the Obama administration released its own assessment of the number of civilians assassinated by drone strikes in nations where the U.S. is not officially at war. It claimed it has killed between 64 and 116 “non-combatant” individuals in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya, between January 2009 and the end of 2015. However, the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism has estimated that as many as 380 to 801 unarmed civilians have been recorded to have been killed with the new technology of unmanned drones.

 

Drone killing may be the most controversial legacy that President Barack Obama is leaving behind. To my knowledge, this is without precedent in U.S. history, at least at the presidential level, that assassinations of people, including some Americans, are carried outside of the legal framework, under direct supervision of a U.S. lethal president. In a democracy based on checks and balances, this would seem to be an example of executive overreach.

 

With such an example originating in the White House, it may not be a surprise that an American military officer has recently requested the “authority” to assassinate people without presidential approval, in his geographical area of responsibility, in Africa.

 

It is very disturbing to empower a government, any government, with the power to execute people without trial or due process. This may be a sign of our times, but this is not what we could call a progress of civilization or of human morality. It seems rather that as killing technology has advanced, and as power has become less constrained, humanitarian morality has badly declined.

 

It is a sad truth that advances in military technology over time have always been used to kill people. Even the dreadful atom bomb has been used to kill hundreds of thousands people. It is only a matter of time before it could be used again. It would only take one psychopathic madman in power to destroy humanity.

__________________________

Addendum:

All this immorality permeates into the management of the economy, under the motto “greed is good”. As I assessed at the beginning of this year, the world economy is ripe for a huge awakening. A mixture of wars of aggression and of financial market crashes could shake the world in the coming months.

That is because the people who fan the flames of war are the same ones who are pushing financial markets to their limits and created a huge asset bubble.

Barack Obama’s little known neocon-inspired goal has been to expand NATO to Russia’s borders and to isolate Russia. This mischievous brinkmanship policy is being played out to the fullest. Indeed, there is presently a suspicious and dangerous buildup of NATO troops at the Russian border, with the obvious intent of provoking Russia into some sort of conflict. These professional warmongers may get their wish and they may soon plunge the world into chaos.

____________________________________________

Prof. Rodrigue Tremblay is the author of the book

 The Code for Global Ethics, Ten Humanist Principles”,

and of The New American Empire.

 

Please visit the book site at:

http://www.thecodeforglobalethics.com/

and his blog at:

http://www.thenewamericanempire.com/blog.htm

 

Posted, Monday, July 11, 2016, at 8:30 am

 

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http://www.thenewamericanempire.com/tremblay=1179.htm

 

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______________________________________________

© 2016 by Big Picture World Syndicate, Inc.

 

 

 

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