Archive for August, 2017

In Beautiful Barcelona.

Monday, August 21st, 2017

Barcelona is one of the finest cities for tourism in Europe. Its excellent hotels, broad boulevards and beautiful buildings also provide an excellent venue for international meetings and conferences. In the time I spent in Spain, the Spanish earned my deep respect for their civility, industriousness and kindness. It is to be regretted though that I have still failed to bring myself to eat Valencian Paella.

It was when at a conference in Barcelona back in the 1970s that I met an American diplomat, Shirley Temple Black. She had recently been named ambassador to Ghana.

It was at the conference, the wife and I were heading out to lunch one day at a nice little café we had found. We were to meet there with some of the Australian and British delegates to the conference. We were going through the lobby when we stopped to talk to Shirley. She seemed to be at loose ends so we invited her to join us. She ended up having a wonderful time at the lunch as it turned out that the café owner was a huge fan of the movies Shirley was in during her childhood.

I mention this by way of noting that Shirley’s career in foreign service was based on her being a Republican. Her foreign service career seemed to skip along from Richard Nixon to Gerald Ford to Ronald Regan and finally to George H. Bush. These and many others are the types of appointments that the Trump administration has been unable to get to. And while there were the expected jokes about Shirley’s appointments, no Secretary of State was ever embarrassed by her efforts on behalf of the U.S.A. We were sorry to learn of her passing several years ago.

What I do not admire in one of the few appointments made by the Trump White House is that of Ambassador to Canada. That is the appointment of Kelly Knight Craft. Her husband Joe Kraft III donated one million to his fellow billionaire’s presidential campaign. In return, he got his coal mines re-opened to speed global warming and his 55-year old wife sent to Ottawa.

Should Canadians feel insulted?


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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“My Trump, right or wrong!”

Sunday, August 20th, 2017

(We are playing a bit of catch-up here.)

Not being a regular viewer of Late Night with Stephen Colbert, I had to watch the segment with Donald Trump’s friend Anthony Scaramucci on the Internet. I was still trying to figure out what this guy was doing passing himself off as a communications expert. I can now report with some confidence, he never was and never will be a ‘communications’ anything more important than a Florida bingo caller.

This guy is a fraud when it comes to communications expertise. Can you imagine going on to one of the major TV talk shows anywhere and starting out by trying to take over the program and threatening the lives of some of the show’s employees? Colbert quickly earned my respect by cutting the guy off at the pass. He was not going to take over Colbert’s show and he, even comedically, does not threaten any of his staff.

It was obvious that someone had assured ‘The Mooch’ that there would be no got-cha questions on the show, so Colbert asked him one. It was about the failure of Donald Trump to unequivocally denounce the white supremacists who incited the death and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia the previous weekend. And Colbert was not settling for some namby-pamby excuse.

Since the show is designed to be entertaining, we would have to admit that the funniest lines in the show came from Mr. Scaramucci. He lamented that Mr. Trump should be recognized as a “compassionate person” and appreciated for foregoing his previous “luxurious lifestyle” to take on his current job. Now that is loyalty for you. This guy was fired ten days after Mr. Trump gave him the job of communications director. The obvious reason was that he had absolutely no idea what that job entailed.

But whether Mr. Trump is a compassionate person is a question we should leave to his wife. That woman must have made a deal with the devil to marry him and sometimes acts as though she hates him. He might be keeping her in the style she wanted, yet you are sure aware that she has regrets.

And what is less than a luxurious life style than in the White House or at Trump’s two golfing properties in Florida and New Jersey has us stumped. Hell, Trump is on a perpetual holiday—divorced from reality.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Pollyanna goes to Washington.

Saturday, August 19th, 2017

They gathered in Washington this week to start renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland took along her plans for a new NAFTA. Just to throw another opinion into the mix, I think we might have sent our Pollyanna foreign minister to an autopsy.

While we all listened to Freeland’s grandiose plans for a kinder, gentler NAFTA, the reality is that the Americans want nothing to do with it. From President Trump and down the chain of command, the Americans want nothing other than Advantage America. Fairness has nothing to do with it.

And the first losses for the Canadians will be her schemes to improve environmental standards, gender equality and labour laws. Those will certainly strike the Americans as coming out of left field.

And you can give these people all the irrefutable, scientific and empirical proof you want, you cannot convince them to open up bidding on infrastructure projects at the municipal level for trade partners. Nor should we expect any softening of the restrictions on cross-border movement of professionals while the U.S. remains paranoid about Muslims.

And by no stretch of the imagination should the foreign minister equate the NAFTA negotiations to the remodeling of a kitchen. That is a time when you either become a major source of income for your local Chinese food and pizza delivery people or starve.

And we already know that the Americans want to eliminate the dispute resolution clause in the agreement. What would we trade that for? And just try to face any of your Quebec colleagues when you get back if you give a centimeter on our supply management systems.

We have to remember that “Free” trade is a misnomer. This is negotiated trade and there is nothing but quid pro quos to consider.

And you have to remember that the President of the United States is no economist. He does not understand why the Americans as well as the other two partners have to keep this deal in force. Anyone who walks away from this negotiation will be throwing out the first ball in what could become a world-wide recession.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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The Mad King of America.

Friday, August 18th, 2017

You have to admit that it has been a summer of bounty for those who comment on politics. We have started to think of it as the Summer of Trump. The man never fails to suspend belief, never ceases to horrify and has proved conclusively that he has the political instincts of a gerbil.

But—we keep telling ourselves—the guy is not a politician and what the hell do you expect? We have studied the clips of the news conference in Trump Tower the other day to practically memorize what he said. It is not a pleasant memory. That was a rant from a dangerously sick narcissist who needs an intercession by trained psychiatric personnel.

But what worries me more where those people with him who just stood there so woodenly while he emptied the ugliness in his sick mind. The woman on stage right of the shot puzzled me. Was she just a guest in the hotel who simply caught the same elevator? She stood there like a deer in the headlights so obviously wishing she was anywhere else.

The men on the other side of Mad King Donald, were all various of his aides and desperately wishing that Scotty would beam them up. They were looking everywhere but at their fearless leader. Each was contemplating their future career as a greeter at Walmart. Each had pulled on a mental picture of himself in one of those vests. Each of them had foolishly convinced himself that Trump would follow their advice and talk about infrastructure.

It makes you wonder why do these people delude themselves? Having stood with many politicians over the years, your biggest concern should be whether he or she was going to mispronounce any of your so well written words. Donald Trump has proved to them time and time again that he is incapable of following simple directions. Unlike a puppy, he is incapable of sitting or rolling over on command.

Mind you, it is understandable.  Trump is not a politician. He is not even a nice man. He is an egoist, a fascist, a narcissist, a womanizer and totally unqualified to be president of the most powerful country in the world.

The Americans deserve our sympathy.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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The trial of Kathleen Wynne.

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

The trial is set to begin in Sudbury, Ontario on September 7. We would ignore the trial and its political implications if it did not involve the present Premier of Ontario. Mind you Kathleen Wynne will spend most of the trial on the sidelines. She is not charged with a crime. She has lackeys for that.

Standing in for the Premier is a long-time staff member, Patricia Sorbara. Pat has been in and around the Ontario Liberal Party at Queen’s Park since the mid 1980s. She has risen slowly from minor roles with junior ministers to the premier’s office. Choosing her to tell a former candidate to back off from a byelection was not exactly the vote of confidence that any political apparatchik wants to hear. It means you can be disavowed if things go wrong.

Sorbara and her local contact, a prominent Sudbury undertaker and Liberal fundraiser, Gerry Lougheed were just that. If anything were to go wrong with the Premier’s plan, those two (as they say in politics) were there to be thrown under the bus. And Sorbara and Lougheed were.

There does not seem to be any denial of the facts of the conversations with former candidate, Andrew Olivier—who, as a quadriplegic, records important chats rather than taking notes. There seems to be no way though to lay a charge against the Premier for what she might have told them to say.

Another unindicted defendant in this trial will be Ontario’s minister of energy, Glen Thibault, the winning Liberal candidate in that Sudbury by-election. While there were some carefully worded criticisms of his role from his former friends in the New Democratic caucus at Queen’s Park, he records nothing and remembers nothing improper being offered to him to encourage him to run for the Liberals in the by-election.

But it will be the news media and the public who will make that connection after the trial is over. And if there is even the hint of a criticism of the Premier in the judge’s ruling, it will be embellished and shouted louder by the opposition in next June’s provincial election.

And then the election itself will be the severest test of all. Because no matter who wins next year’s provincial election, the losers will be the Ontario voters.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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When Anger Transends.

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

The anger is in the air in the United States of America. It is frightening. It pits neighbour against neighbour and family against family. It seems to have something to do with a statue and yet has nothing to do with the statue.

It reminds me in some ways of a silly argument we had in Toronto years ago about a statue of King Edward VII. It was purchased at a very reasonable price in India—which was getting rid of symbols of the British era—and shipped to Toronto as a gift to the city by local businessman Harry Jackman.

Oddly enough, Mr. Jackman was not really much of a monarchist. He is believed to have thought the statue was of a damn fine horse. And if you can ever find the statue in the park behind the Ontario Legislature, you will agree: that is one damn fine horse. The guy astride the horse has been dead for more than 100 years and is a quite minor historical figure.

But I am not too sure that the American South needs to get rid of all the statues and monuments to the dead of the American Civil War. I can appreciate those who revile the symbols and flags of that war but it is the racism and bitterness that needs to be expunged first.

There is no question that the ascendency of Mr. Trump to the White House has encouraged American Nazis, skin heads and the new Alt-right movement. These white supremacists are emboldened and reflect the anger that Trump played on to win the election. If he keeps on scratching at that itch, it could easily rise up to destroy him.

But there is no “Alt-Left.” There are just people who are angered and revolted by Mr. Trump’s equivocation and the brazen ignorance of his followers. The most serious problem is that these people are prepared to believe anything. They are but a blunt instrument for the destruction of the Republic. Turned loose and encouraged, they resort to base instincts.

When Donald Trump was asked to help ease the problem, he did the opposite. He spread the blame to the people reacting to the white supremacists. This leaves the country in the middle of a maelstrom of political and racial origins.

What makes the situation more serious is that there is no leadership among the moderates who could bring some reason. The United States can hardly allow this situation to continue to escalate.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Barrie’s Bad Boy Brown.

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

There is no reason to worry. The next provincial election is not scheduled until June 7 next year. By then, we should expect that far more Ontario voters are going to realize what a screw-up Brown would be as premier. It is not that he is dishonest, devious and dumb, we have had all those traits in previous premiers. Hell, just look at President Trump in the United States. He beats Brown six ways to Sunday.

But at least everyone knows what Donald Trump wants. You cannot say that for Patrick Brown. Sure, Trump lied all the way to the White House. We know that Brown simply stole the leadership of the Ontario Tories by swamping their membership. He signed up close to 40,000 new immigrants from the Indian Sub-Continent and nobody checked to see if they paid their own memberships.

Recently an interviewer noted that Brown was there in the front row at the Barrie Country Club when former Tory leader Tim Hudak announced his ill-fated pledge to fire 100,000 Ontario civil servants if he won the last provincial election. It was very funny when Brown said how concerned he was about this policy—despite the television people having the shot of him being the first to jump up to congratulate Tim Hudak on his brilliant speech.

But you can hardly deny that Tim Hudak had some ideas—as bad as they were. Brown is not giving us anything other than platitudes.

All we have to go on with Brown is how he voted in the House of Commons on free votes on subjects such as women’s rights—he is against them. Since then he has kept flip-flopping on subjects such as sex education. His remarkable conversion to recognizing gay rights seemed to be based on how many times he could get the news media to get another picture of him in Toronto’s Gay Pride Parade.

Politically, Brown is a user. He uses people. He uses charities. Instead of putting forward proposals to help people live better, he uses their problems to promote himself. Later this month, he will once again be taking the credit for a hockey event in Barrie for charity that we suspect his political staff organizes. He promotes it but seems to have stopped taking the direct responsibility for it. This might be because some people have been wondering what an audit over the years of the of the event might reveal.

But if you think we are being unfair to Mr. Brown, we would certainly like to know about it. My e-mail address is below.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Better Living with Bitumen.

Monday, August 14th, 2017

Reading an apologist for Alberta’s tar sands exploiters the other day, we learned that the little town of Hardisty, Alberta is the hub of a North American maze of pipelines. This town of 550 people can store up to 25 million barrels of diluted bitumen before sending it east, south or west by pipeline or rail car. The only question you are not allowed to ask is why it is not refined into synthetic crude oil before being shipped.

And that is the crux of Alberta’s problem. They can confuse people as much as they like by calling them ‘oilsands’ but The Athabasca and Cold Lake fields are among the largest deposits in the world of what we know as tar sands. That tarry substance that has been called ‘pitch’ in earlier times is actually bitumen. If you refined all that bitumen into synthetic crude oil before you shipped it, the entire province would be several metres deep in carbon deposits known as bitumen slag. The worst of it is that bitumen slag is very light and the first strong breeze coming across the Rockies could blow that carbon into Northern Ontario.

And you can be sure that Saskatchewan and Manitoba farmers would be less than thrilled having to plow their fields wearing breathing masks and protective goggles. How they would protect the livestock is a different matter.

And that is why they want to call that stuff in these new pipelines ‘crude oil.’ It is really diluted bitumen. There are various types of diluent material used but they are usually oil based as that can help move the heated mixture through a pipeline at higher pressure. It is this higher pressure that worries us the most about these pipelines.

Normal, relatively safe, oil and gas pipelines have been in service for many years. There have been some spills but they get cleaned up and life goes on.

Not so with diluted bitumen. On water, this stuff floats along a bit because of the diluent and then gradually sinks to the bottom where it can stay for ever. Ask the people on the North Saskatchewan River near Prince Albert, Saskatchewan how that works for them. And that was a small bitumen spill. The people along the Kalamazoo River in Michigan had billions spent trying to clean up their river. It will take that ecosystem many years to recover.

The simple facts are that Canadians would better off paying those nice people in Hardisty, Alberta a CEO’s pension for the rest of their lives. That damn bitumen is best left in the ground.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Can a prince quit being a prince?

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

Wearing a bowler hat and a trench coat, the Windsor’s Prince Philip walked off into the sunset recently.  You would suppose that scene should be followed by the words “Cut” and “Print” but is that how it happens? He might be 96 and well past his prime but is that how you do it?

Maybe Philip wants to open a seniors’ royal old-age home. If he is not willing to do his duties cutting ribbons at supermarket openings, does he have to move out of the royal’s palaces? Or does his 91-year old wife continue to support him? After all, she has been sitting on the Throne of Westminster for 65 years now and you would think the royal bum would be a bit sore.

And that means that Charles, Prince of Wales, at 68, is already a senior citizen. Is Philip setting an example for him? If Philip can step away from his royal duties, cannot Charles join him? It solves the problem of all those monarchists who want Bill and Kate and their cute kids to take over Buckingham Palace.

If they had a Commonwealth wide vote on it, Bill and Kate would win hands down. It is a pity that the monarchy does not work that way.

But then if a monarchy worked the way their subjects wanted it to, then it would not be a real monarchy, would it?

And frankly, I believe that modern democracy and monarchy are incompatible concepts. In Canada, the monarchy is a silly anachronism, left to fester by politicians afraid for themselves if the citizens ever demanded a proper constitution.

Canada is one of the few countries in the world wherein the citizens have had so little say in how their country is governed. From the time when the United Empire Loyalists fled north from the American Revolution, we have been pandering to the British monarchy.

It is interesting to append that with the thought that the one time we had a say on our constitution was on Conservative Prime Minister Mulroney’s foolish Charlottetown Accord that was supported by the Liberal Opposition. Canadians said “No.”


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Trump’s Presidential Pique.

Saturday, August 12th, 2017

It is not amusing. How long does the world have to put up with the childish back-and-forth of President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. Neither of these men is competent enough to be allowed to play with firecrackers let alone weapons of mass destruction. It could be frightening many people around the world.

Thankfully, Congress is not about to let Donald Trump declare war on a postage stamp country tucked into the armpit of China’s Manchuria. The last time, the Americans sent General Douglas MacArthur there to straighten out the mess. Ultimately it brought the Chinese into the fighting. It created a worse standoff than before.

And why would the Americans be so foolish as to listen to the rantings of Kim Jong Un? Anywhere else in the world that nutcase would be certified, neutered and tucked away where he could do no harm. In North Korea, the generals who really run the country use him as a harmless puppet. Only nobody has explained that to Donald Trump.

This is not to suggest that the Americans should not take a few precautions. They have to be wary of high flying gifts from across the Pacific. They had best have some capability in place to shoot those things down if needed.

But once their defenses are in place, Donald Trump needs to shut up. He has been playing right into the hands of those North Koreans and used by the South Koreans. Neither country is worth the attention and aid they get.

And Mr. Trump hardly needs to give himself an ulcer playing into the Kim Jong Un playbook. It really is unseemly for a large and powerful country to play to the North Korean’s very silly game.

And, most pathetic, here is the omnipotent United States of America running to the United Nations Security Council about the big bad North Koreans playing (maybe) with nukes—and with ICBMs that could (potentially) reach North America. Here you have the Peoples Republic of China and Russia, who know a thing or two about skating around sanctions, agreeing to a U.N. resolution imposing about a billion dollars in sanctions against the North Koreans—that they might or might not honour.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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