Archive for August, 2017

Trump’s nepotism confounds Palestinians.

Thursday, August 31st, 2017

American President Donald Trump seems to revel in trying to do things the hard way. He has added his own version of a Children’s Crusade to the peace process in the Middle East. To nobody’s surprise, what did not work in 13th Century does not seem to be working in the 21st Century.

You can easily imagine Donald Trump’s mental process as he worked his way through this one. He needed someone to fix the mess in the Middle East. He needed someone he could trust and who knew what was going on in the Middle East. Who better than his son-in-law, who just happens to be Jewish. (Yes, that really is the way the guy thinks.)

Jared Kushner is one of those people in real estate who plays Monopoly with real buildings. His family company bought 666 Fifth Avenue in New York City for a highly leveraged US$1.8 billion in 2008, just before the crash. The bail-out almost took him out of the game but he managed to marry Ivanka Trump—daddy’s darling daughter—the following year.

He must have impressed his father-in-law with either his three off-spring or his ability to type with his thumbs because he took over the Internet operations for the Trump campaign in 2016. Trump seems to be unwilling to recognize Jared’s involvement in meetings with the Russians during the campaign but still appointed him as ‘Senior’ Advisor to the President, once Trump was in office.

It is the Palestinians who seem the most disappointed with this stage of the peace negotiations. They even seem unclear as to exactly what young Mr. Kushner is trying to sell. As one Palestinian academic put it, there seems a holding game going on. It is not exactly clear what Mr. Kushner wants. He neither understands the situation in the Middle East nor does he seem to have any fix in mind.

The good news is that the Israeli’s do not give a damn. They are quite willing to welcome Mr. Kushner to the Middle East. In as much as Donald trump took a strong pro-Israeli stand during his campaign, the Jewish state is not inclined to object. Maybe they can sell the young man some Israeli bonds or his own tree—or what the hay—he could sponsor a forest.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Leadership Lost.

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

One of many theories in politics is that the aspiring politico needs to pick a cause. Years ago, I heard a newspaper reporter advise a young Liberal to latch on to environmental issues. It was an emerging issue at the time and he took the advice and went on to a number of years in city politics. If he had timed his run better, he might have made it to the mayoralty, where he could have capped a successful career.

There are many issues in politics that need advocates and if your timing is right there might just be an issue out there to take you to the top. Lord knows, we need leaders. There are many who think they are the little engine that could but the reality is that there are really only few who have the timing, the news sense, the determination, the issues and the energy needed.

And we should also mention sponsorship. Few of us have the deep pockets needed to sustain us during the development days needed for new issues. You should always remember that the good issues are the ones that are easy to fund-raise for. And it is always best to have a little money from each of many than lots of money from one.

I was thinking of all of this as I was reading of novice advocate hopeful Desmond Cole in Toronto. Cole has been looking for a cause for some time but whether he can build any momentum is questionable. He seems to enjoy his harangues for their vitriol instead of their winning.

Cole seemed at one time to have joined with the group in Toronto who call themselves Black Lives Matter. Maybe he realized before they did that their obvious hate for Toronto police and foolish abuse of the Pride Parade were alienating their own black community.

Cole’s haranguing and obstructionism at Toronto Police Services Board meetings is hardly winning him any support. It is a tough issue to capitalize on when the black Chief of Police just sits there looking puzzled throughout his complaints.

Toronto’s Police Services Board is desperately in need of new ideas and cogent arguments. At the last meeting Cole and some other trouble makers wanted to rant about school resource officers. They need to realize that this system of police participation in the community is working and the community hardly needs people who just want to throw rocks.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

French fuss over makeup for Macron?

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

In France, they are fussing over the cost of makeup and makeup artists to keep their new president Emmanuel Macron looking good for his public appearances. If they had any idea what it cost Canadians for the Harper hair and makeup during his regime as Canada’s prime minister, they would consider Macron’s costs reasonable.

The difference is that Emmanuel Macron is good looking to begin with. The French president is only 39 and his hairline requires no serious augmentation. In contrast, Stephen Harper was 46 when he became prime minister of Canada and there was a period when freelance makeup artists had to be tested and as the French are seeing, that is when costs are particularly high.

Harper’s solution to the problem was Michelle Muntean from CTV who served as his personal hair, makeup and clothes advisor during most of the time he was prime minister. The standard joke was that she was the reason he was always late for group pictures at world meetings.

But Canadians never did get the total cost picture as the French are getting. The Prime Minister’s Office and the parliamentary budget office stonewalled requests for information all the way. Yet, there is every reason to expect that the French figures are low in comparison. The bill for the first three months for President Macron was claimed to be 26,000 euros (about C$37,000). The rates always go up on deliveries to the Elysée.

This will be much lower when they decide on a permanent staff member to handle the task. In Canada, the story was that the Conservative Party paid Ms. Muntean’s salary. Taxpayers were definitely on the hook for her expenses when travelling around the world with the PM.

It was Ms. Muntean’s efforts that earned Stephen Harper the nickname ‘The Hair.’ His hairpiece and his real hair were lacquered to his head like a helmet. He never went on television without his eyes defined with eyeliner and a delicate blush on his cheeks to prevent a lighting glint.

And I cannot even imagine the cost of hair dos and makeup for U.S. President Donald Trump.

It was later in my lifetime that I found that young men in search of female companionship are also wearing makeup. And this is at a time when the improved quality of television cameras is saving those of us with healthy skin from having to wear makeup during casual TV appearances.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

What’s wrong at NDP HQ?

Monday, August 28th, 2017

There was a promise that Babel-on-the-Bay would publish its Morning Line on the New Democratic Party leadership today. That is hardly possible when we have been stalled by the party not yet releasing its new membership figures. Without these figures to analyze and compute along with our knowledge of the people involved, we have no hope of providing readers a reasonable handicapping of the race.

There is little point of either research company polls or our more in-depth analysis without the new membership figures. With a membership of less than 200,000 nationally before this contest got started, anyone who can sign up more than 50,000 new members has to be taken very seriously.

There is no point in denying that the only leadership candidate who could have signed up in excess of 50,000 new members would be Ontario MPP Jagmeet Singh. He has easy access to South Asian immigrants across Canada and is very popular in those communities.  In the Greater Toronto Area and in Vancouver and Lower mainland alone, there are enough potential supporters to practically guarantee him the leadership.

But whether he was organizing the effort early enough is just one question. The more important question is whether he would be wasting his time if he did not have broad support throughout the established party membership?

We are seeing now what is happening to the Ontario Conservatives when a leadership candidate imports temporary members to swamp the established membership. Patrick Brown is being challenged by break-away groups, improper tactics in local nominations and friction from all sides because he disrespected the traditions of his party.

Jagmeet Singh also has the problem of Quebec. As he admitted in yesterday’s debate in Montreal, a turbaned Sikh would have a struggle for support among openly tribal and racist elements in Quebec. While MP Guy Caron tried to make secularism a solely provincial matter in yesterday’s debate, there is no denying that a two-country solution will not fly across the rest of Canada.

When we see the new membership figures, we will let you know the Morning Line. There is little question that the decision is between Ontario MP Charlie Angus and Ontario MPP Jagmeet Singh. Of course, Manitoba MP Niki Ashton already knows she is having twins! We also wish her well.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Lottsa’ Luck Senator Duffy!

Sunday, August 27th, 2017

Senator Mike Duffy already has his payoff. He is still being paid as a member of Canada’s parliament. The report that he wants to sue the Senate and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is an insult to both bodies.

And the suggestion that Duffy’s case is anything like that of Omar Khadr is erroneous, disgusting and misleading. The Duffy trial was over his sense of entitlement and privilege. Whether we agree with the judge or not, he was found not guilty. And that should have been the end of it.

Duffy was reinstated in the senate and life goes on. He was never shot, tortured or incarcerated as was Khadr. Duffy was never denied his rights as a Canadian citizen.

Unlike fellow journalist on the political scene, Allan Fotheringham, Duffy’s campaign to become a senator was subtle. The ‘Foth’ publicly enlisted reader support to tell the prime minister what an excellent senator he would be, while ‘The Duff’ went right to the one vote that mattered, that of Prime Minister Harper.

As Senator Duffy, he traveled Canada with Prime Minister Harper as his opening act. He was much in demand by other cabinet members to do their intros. And nobody seemed to care that Duffy was supposed to be a senator from Prince Edward Island, who lived in Ottawa. That deception was reported to be Stephen Harper’s idea, not Duffy’s.  And is it a big deal if the senator’s expense reports were somewhat confusing and overly generous?

They are all supposed to be honourable men and women in the Senate of Canada. Who gives a damn about how the citizens feel about it? It is a place of sinecure and privilege for the friends of our leaders.

It is very difficult to come to grips with Duffy’s claim that he was let down by the Canadian legal system. What could possibly be the problem when superior court judges, who are appointed by this political party or that political party, are the people to deal with questions of propriety of political apparatchiks in the Canadian Parliament. Is this not a fair system? Why does he not sue the guy who got him into the mess: Stephen Harper?

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

They are rewriting history, again.

Saturday, August 26th, 2017

Now the revisionists are going after Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister. And what is their problem? They think Sir John was racist and disrespected Canada’s aboriginals. You might also believe he was a drunk and a scoundrel and if you lived in those times, you probably would have been the same. And if people would stop trying to rewrite history, they might learn something from it.

What we are seeing in Canada in this regard is a reflection of what is being argued in the southern United States today. Confederate General Robert E. Lee is recognized as one of the great military strategists of his time. He was asked to take a Union command before Virginia voted to join the Confederacy. He was no secessionist but he was loyal to his state. That is something those tearing down his statues need to remember.

The betrayal of North America’s aboriginals has been going on since Europeans first set foot on these shores. It gives us lots of people we can dishonour—if we want to lay blame. It just makes more sense to admit the errors of the past and to correct them as we can.

There is a specious argument being waged about a monument to Canadians who fought in the American Civil War. The fact that 40,000 Canadians enlisted in that war needs to be recognized. The fact that one in ten of them fought for the South is not the point. We are not re-arguing the war.

Will we, a hundred years from now, dishonour the accomplishments of today’s industry leaders who saw themselves as being in the forefront because of their innovation and foresight? Will we simply revile them as being part of the oppressive one per cent? Will we tear down the walls of their gated communities and open their mansions to the homeless?

As humans, we need heroes. We need them to lead and for us to emulate, to honour and to respect. And yet we seem to be on a downhill slope these days as we recognize more of the anti-heroes. They elected Donald Trump in the United States “To Make America Great Again” and yet there was no question that he was the anti-hero.

Hollywood actors and television personalities have been allowed to replace home-town heroes. Sports stars have become the comic book heroes of an afternoon’s game. Win or lose, did you enjoy the game?

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Trump marches up the Khyber Pass.

Friday, August 25th, 2017

You sure cannot tell President Donald Trump anything. He must have missed the opportunity to read Rudyard Kipling as a child or he would have known the futility of sending troops up the Khyber Pass. The Pashtun tribes of Afghanistan and Pakistan have feasted on the rations of foreign troops heading for Afghanistan for hundreds of years.

Opium poppy growers to the world, Afghanistan is fertilized with the blood of troops who thought a tour there would be easy. In a land where you cannot tell friend from foe, everyone is your enemy, and the dusty roads all lead to your death.

Americans have been in Afghanistan for 16 years and still cannot find the exit. Mr. Trump must be listening to the wrong generals. His first instinct in regards to the country was to get American troops out of Dodge. Now he has a strategy that is so secret that he has not even told it to the generals whom he expects will implement his plan for him.

His plan is to only kill terrorists. He is then going to force the Taliban to the bargaining table and expects them to be good citizens and cooperate in running the country. What is really ‘new’ about this is a good question.

Trump also expects his NATO allies to join him in sending more troops to Afghanistan. He wisely did not specify a number. Canada and France are the only two major NATO members that are not currently doing any training or other support work there. If Trump’s people ever send a formal request for more troops to Ottawa and Paris, they can expect a great deal of double talk but little in the way of cooperation.

Trump’s biggest concern is America’s titular ally Pakistan. There is a seamless border for Taliban and various terrorists to pass back and forth from the combat zone to Pakistan to where they can rest and replenish their supplies with impunity. Trump’s suggestion that he might try to get India involved was waving a red flag to India, China and Iran. And what the Pakistanis would think of that suggestion would not be printable.

Give Trump some credit though; he did not suggest that he was staying in Afghanistan to promote democracy and the American way.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Justin Trudeau doesn’t have the chops.

Thursday, August 24th, 2017

It is often amusing when Canadian writers try to compare Prime Minister Trudeau with American President Trump. They seem to think that Justin Trudeau has been understudying for his current role all his life, while Donald Trump is an accidental politician and is only now learning that the job requires some serious time and attention.

What most observers do not see is that Trudeau is the dilettante. He is not as adept as Trump would be if the American ever exercised some discipline.

Trudeau is the bugle boy without the chops. Trump is the bully boy, angered at his own clumsiness. And it hardly helps that Trump is almost twice Trudeau’s age.

They are both products of their families. Trump honoured his father by taking over the family development business and carrying on in his sire’s tradition. Only at his father’s funeral did we realize that Justin had political ambitions. And only when we first saw him working political gatherings did we see the future of those ambitions.

There is no suggestion that Justin is like his father. He is not. He is definitely his mother’s son. Trump’s father must have been a mean son-of-a-bitch because his son so easily earns that sobriquet.

The Trudeau-Trump relationship is another matter. It is unlikely that either of them likes the other. Trudeau is probably very wary of Trump and inclined to stay away from him. Trump would see the Canadian as a pretty boy and an easy mark. If he had a building to sell, he would offer Trudeau an option.

But Trump’s assumptions about Trudeau and his government are wrong when it comes to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). His bullying tactics hardly fit negotiations such as are required in international trade agreements. This is not a contest to see who can negotiate the best deal for their country. It is to see if they can negotiate a deal that can be sold to the citizens of the countries involved. Trade negotiations have to be win-win. Trump does not understand that.

And what Trump hardly understands is that he cannot threaten to dump NAFTA, like he did again the other evening in Phoenix, and then expect his negotiating team to do their job properly.

Trump shows his lack of self-confidence with his repeated campaign-type rallies. He just keeps on making Trudeau look good by comparison.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

The Tories’ Brown can’t get traction.

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

You would think that Ontario Conservative Leader Patrick Brown would be sitting pretty these days. We have Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne clinging to power and the New Democrat’s Andrea Horwath disappearing from the radar. It spells nothing but opportunity for an eager leader nobody knows.

But one of our readers said it best last time we talked about Brown. The reader wrote: “My nightmare is that the next Ontario election will be about punishing the Liberals, resulting in a backlash majority Conservative government.” And that seems to be the consensus across Ontario among progressive voters.

With more than two years in as leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives now, Brown is still largely unknown. Luckily, the thinking voter is growing increasingly sceptical of Brown’s delays in answering some of the simplest questions. His problems within his party have caused him to be cautious and slow to appoint loyalists. Meanwhile his party has succumbed to chicanery and complaints about cheating in the selection of candidates. He has few name candidates to-date and this is not inspiring confidence out in the electoral districts. His Tories are splintering.

Meanwhile, this has hardly solved Premier Wynne’s problems. She recently gathered together her caucus at Queen’s Park and invited the news media to watch while she gave the caucus a pep talk. It was one of those “Once more for the Gipper” speeches and the news media just yawned.

But Wynne did make a few important points. She talked about change and how the voters are hungry for change. She believes that the voters are starting to see her government as the instrument of change. And, in a way, she is right. While progressives might ridicule her speed of change, the voters are starting to recognize it as change. She can talk about a $15 minimum wage, a start towards Pharmacare, more free university, easing of distribution of alcoholic beverages and despite the molasses-like progress, she has been an agent of change.

Brown has no change to offer except back to the days of former Premier Mike Harris. The only change he understands is to the conservative right and back to the past. He can only offer a bleak future to Ontario.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

In the Fascist Fashion.

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017

We should be worried about what happened in Quebec City the other day. It was not just unseemly. It certainly was not funny. They came for a fight, to create and to foster mayhem. For an insular society, these Quebecers brought dishonour to their country and their province.

The fascists, who call themselves La Muete (which translates to: The Pack) should have been ignored. The media had a light day. They gave both sides opportunities for publicity. Bored teenagers came for the thrill. Thugs came for the brawl. They all brought their weapons of choice.

The first problem was that it was hard to tell the Pack from the counter-protestors. They both wanted to rough up the news media. The police, in their European style riot gear, tried to keep the peace by taking the Pack out of sight. Pleased with themselves, the Pack went along.

The anti-fascist protestors were bored and they took out their frustrations on police and media. These protestors came for a fight and they felt they were being denied. The police finally got tired of the troublemakers in the counter protest and declared that protest to be an illegal assembly. They chased the trouble makers away after making a single symbolic arrest.

The main problem with these protestors was that many of them had their faces covered. They did not seem to understand that you do not cover your face nor should you bring weapons to protest fascism. Fascism uses bullying tactics. All you have to do is stand up to them and say ‘No.’ You have no need to hide your identity. When you fail to show your face, you are showing fear. You are letting the fascists win.

And the fascists won in Quebec City. They made the anti-fascists look foolish. They gave the finger to the news media. They had their march. It ended in front of the empty National Assembly buildings. It proved nothing other than that they could. The news media had little else to cover on a summer weekend. It got reported.

There are really many better things to do on a pleasant summer weekend in Quebec City.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me