Archive for December, 2017

By jingo, Trump’s a xenophobe.

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

In an era of social media on the Internet, people are having a hard time deciding what is suitable for private conversations and what is suitable for public discussions. Nobody illustrates the problem more effectively than the American President. Donald Trump seems to have it all backward.

Certainly, the most frightening aspect of Trump is his penchant for war. And, for a war-loving jingoist, he seems to have little understanding of what war involves. His childlike braggadocio and threats thrown at the dictator of North Korea are both unseemly and stupid.

But his xenophobic dislike and distrust for other countries is costing America its allies. How should the American Ambassador to the United Nations feel when she has to veto the United States being censored by every other Security Council member country over Mr. Trump’s wanting to move the U.S. Israeli embassy to Jerusalem?

He already has the entire Middle East rioting. He has infuriated the Mexicans, pissed off the Brits and Canadians, annoyed the Japanese, insulted the Chinese and brushed off the Russians. And the French President seems to think he could catch a communicable disease if he goes near him.

And the piece de resistance came the other day when the fool announced his security strategy to the generals who have to figure out how to implement it. Since he has such a limited vocabulary, Mr. Trump used the same language he used on the campaign trail over a year ago.

First of all, Trump tells them America is “in the game” and “America is going to win.” It is supposed that he meant some game other than ‘Tiddlywinks.’

Trump’s strategy is to first protect the homeland. Second, he wants to make lots of money—mostly for the rich. Somehow, he wants to demonstrate that peace is good. And fourth, he wants to advance America’s influence.

How the American generals are going to achieve any of this, is a matter on which we can all conjecture.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Fake News, Fake President and the FBI.

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

From 1924 to 1972, J. Edgar Hoover organized and controlled the federal law enforcement of the United States of America. He built a flawed and highly politicized organization into the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The mistakes Hoover made came built in with the headquarters Hoover Building in Washington today. It is still flawed and highly politicized.

The best example of the FBI’s failings is the direct and malicious interference by FBI Director James Comey into the 2016 presidential election. It was, to a measure, responsible for the election of Donald Trump. It was the final straw. For all of J. Edgar Hoover’s failings as a man and as a non-partisan servant of the people, he never issued anything like the letter Comey released to the media to impact Hillary Clinton’s run for the presidency. That was a political roorback of epic proportions.

(A “roorback” is a classic political move against an opponent timed carefully to give the opponent no time before the vote to refute the, usually, scurrilous charges.)

Of course, what President would ever want someone willing to do what Comey did to work for him? Comey had to be fired.

Going back to the beginnings of the federal bureau, the “G-man” has been a staple of American fiction. Books, comics, movies, radio and television have sold the nation’s youth on the supposed invulnerability of the FBI agent. While Naval Intelligence has won the recent TV ratings wars (with NCIS), the Behavioural Analysis Unit of the FBI (Criminal Minds) has had the staying power on television. Mind you, the version imputing the extraterritorial activities (Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders) left viewers incredulous. It would never happen.

But looked at as either fact or fiction, the American FBI has done a disservice to Americans. It needs a judiciary oversight that can clean out some, if not all, the politicized nature of the agency as part of the Department of Justice.

What J. Edgar Hoover built needs to be rebuilt.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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The bollocks of Brexit.

Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

“It is not as simple as we were told.” We assume that comment has been made many times as the United Kingdom heads towards its divorce from Europe. For Prime Minister Theresa May her position is that of a naked lion tamer—no chair, no gun, no whip—facing unfed and fractious lions on behalf of a jungle of angry and fractious beasts behind her.

And now she has been told that the easy part of Brexit is completed with less than a year left to negotiate the United Kingdom’s future relations with the continent and the European nations. The fixed date for the Brexit divorce remains March 2019.

How is May supposed to look on these negotiations after watching Canada struggle with the EU for the past four years trying to finalize a supposedly done deal? And how does she deal with the EU negotiators who know they hold all the cards?

And please tell us gullible ones just how the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic can remain transparent? Ask any Mexican what a Maquiladora means and you might have figured out a future for Northern Ireland. The alternative would be to join with the Republic or a separated Scotland and stick with the EU.

The economists are starting to examine the early impacts of Brexit and while there are still a few who think a positive future from Brexit is possible, they are much quieter these days. They will have more fodder for their computers once the serious Brexit negotiations get under way in 2018.

But the Brexit bullies who pushed the separation through with so much ‘fake news’ are the ones who will be told to “Go whistle” in the long run. They thought they could eat their cake and will be the ones disappointed when the cake is gone.

And pity Theresa May as she looks back to reassure herself that her so-called loyal denizens of the jungle are behind her. The problem is that they have slunk off into the rainforest and are plotting her replacement.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Now our daily National snore.

Monday, December 18th, 2017

As a news junkie, it has been important over the years to end the day with a regular dose of CBC National News. It also might now have become an excellent cure for insomnia. Lately I have been finding that even my favourite At Issue panel can put me to sleep. Because the topics were of interest this past week, I had to stream the video from the Internet the next morning to figure out what I might have missed. What I was missing was the liveliness of debate that Peter Mansbridge used to bring to the telecast.

Rosemary Barton is a nice lady but she does not cut it. She is not fit to hold the coats for that panel. The purpose of a panel is to find differing, well-presented opinions. If everyone keeps agreeing, what is the point?

Maybe Andrew Coyne from PostMedia has been mellowing. Where are those large, ripe Conservative cantaloupes that he used to throw at us viewers? Even Chantal Hébert seems to be taking on more of a dowager role. We viewers count on Chantal to be feisty and knowledgeable.

And is the third position on the panel just being used for a series of try-outs? While Kelly Cryderman from the Calgary office of the Globe and Mail has great credentials, I would have thought she would have had more on-air experience. She needs some broadcast training.

But what I did not understand was the lack of discussion of the appointment of the new chief justice and Beverly Mclachlin’s replacement from Alberta?

Even the subject of Bill Morneau and the Liberal tax reforms(?) got less than a glancing blow as the panel was ended. It is as though the CBC has stopped talking about anything that could impact its government handouts.

To cut off Coyne and Hébert just when they started on the subject of the entitled Liberals was cruel. Coyne was questioning the attitude of the voters to the Liberal’s presumption of entitlement and Hébert pointed out that there was no reflection of this in the recent bye-elections. Mind you, even this writer ignored those bye-elections because they were neither likely to be interesting, nor were they.

What that panel should have been discussing was the lack of political impact of the new leaders of the Conservatives and the NDP. This also posits a bleak future for Canadian politics.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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This Lone Ranger wears a skirt.

Sunday, December 17th, 2017

You have to admit the lady has guts. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has the nerve and verve that denies her gender. She is tough and even when she is wrong she is unwavering. She does Alberta proud but rides the range alone.

The daughter of a former New Democratic Party leader, Ms. Notley defies the odds and takes her fight for her province from coast to coast. In British Columbia she is facing the determination of that province’s NDP government to block expansion of the Kinder-Morgan TransMountain pipeline.

What the American pipeline company is considering is actually the conversion of the present pipeline and adding a second pipe so that both lines can take almost three times the diluted bitumen to the west coast port of Burnaby. The only problem is whether investors think that there is future for the project. No one is anticipating any substantive increase in the price of oil in the near future and few are betting on ersatz oil that is only gained at excessive cost in terms of pollution.

While Toronto financial people will listen to her, Toronto is the home of the NDP members who produced the LEAP Manifesto. They are not so polite. They think bitumen has to be left in the ground. For her to take on an NDP audience in Toronto would not be a friendly chat.

And to add to the party problems, the Greater Toronto Area is the home area of the new national NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh. While he is trying desperately to stay clear of Notley’s quest, it is an awkward dance. He cannot get people to believe that there is no need for him to take a stand.

Singh is well aware of the criticism Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already taken among Liberals for being in favour of the Kinder-Morgan proposal. While Trudeau can try to hide behind a supposedly emancipated National Energy Board, he deserves the anger of those who believed him as a poster boy for the environment.

When neither her own national leader nor the prime minister wants to be seen with Rachel Notley, she looks like a lonely lone ranger.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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The Political Instincts of a Tomcat.

Saturday, December 16th, 2017

Political pundits have pondered on American President Trump for quite some time now and they still cannot get him right. The reason they fail to read him and his moves and moods is that he is not a political animal. If we accept that, we can see him for what he is. It is easiest to think of him as the terror of the neighbourhood felines.

Trump is that big fat tom that you come home to find lying on your pillow, licking his fur. He ignores you unless it is getting near dinner time. He does not slink around the house but stalks as though he owns it. He will be up on the dining room table checking out your food if there is nobody there with the speed and strength to ward him off.

And never say that Trump does not have the nerve. As President, Trump sees himself as omnipotent. He promised his clack the rewards of a world they will never see—a world free of others, a trickle-down world in which all will be trickled on, easy money in the casino of life, and easy jobs for all.

Wait until Americans see the new budget that Trump and his Congress have coming for them. No more kindness and understanding from cut-down government. The tax cuts are for the filthy rich; the rest get the table scraps. Medicare will be gutted. Americans will love a smaller and smaller-minded government. And you do not have to read the bill; read the riders.

But there are possibilities for national redemption. The fat cat had no understanding of his impact on Alabama. He turned a deep red state against him. He told them that a vote for Roy Moore for senator was a vote for Donald Trump. That was a mistake. The special election of a senator in Alabama became a cause celeb around the world. It says that a course correction is possible.

For a party without leadership, the Democrats have a cause for next year’s mid-term elections. The senate will be the target. They only need replace a few Republican senators to win control of that body. It will be a beginning.

There is much to be done to prepare for ridding America of the fat cat in the White House. The country needs leadership. It needs youth and courage. It needs people who believe in the future. That fat tomcat is part of the past.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Trudeau plays to the home crowd.

Friday, December 15th, 2017

Surprise, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau played it safe the other day. He appointed Quebec’s Richard Wagner as chief justice of the Supreme Court. We Canadians have had little chance to hear from Wagner prior to this appointment. We have had no real chance to assess what his leadership might mean. We were left out while Trudeau did what elitists do.

At least when Wagner was under consideration for appointment to the supreme court five years ago, the Harper government had him vetted by a committee of the House of Commons. That was as close as we have ever come to having a more democratic selection of our supreme court.

We have to admit it is a smooth transition from long-serving Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, who served 28 years on the bench, the last 15 years as Chief Justice. There would have been loud and xenophobic complaints from Quebec if a justice from another province had been selected. As he is the most senior justice from Quebec, Trudeau was expected to select Wagner.

We should remember that Richard Wagner is the son of the late Claude Wagner, Quebecer, jurist and Conservative Cabinet Minister. The son’s conservative roots were obvious when he was the justice (luckily in the minority) that supported Harper’s “tough on crime’ approach and fixed minimum sentences.

Other than those two acknowledgements to the man who appointed him, Wagner has been a justice who appears to go along with the consensus of the court. While somewhat conservative in his opinions, he has never shown any leadership on any subject while on the bench. Mind you, the chief justice only has one vote.

Canadians have become used to having a supreme court that has stood up and been counted in supporting our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The country has been a better place with a court that cares about our democracy. Barring ill health, 60-year old Wagner can look forward to the 15 years in the chief justice position. We can only hope that Canadians do not have cause to regret his tenure.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Brown plays bad with the big kids.

Thursday, December 14th, 2017

The first time I met Barrie, Ontario politician Patrick Brown, I wondered what this miserable person was doing in politics? He has no personality. He has little grasp of election issues. What I soon learned was that he is a gamer. And his game is politics. He plays the game of politics as a video gamer would use a PlayStation 2. It is his strength and it is his weakness. The true test of his skills will be on June 7, 2018—the coming provincial general election.

In watching Brown through five election situations over the years, I can report that he tends to push the envelope on what is legal. He obeys the rules—when he has to. I do not think some of his financial reports to the Returning Officer would bear up well under the scrutiny of a forensic accountant. He is a more effective campaign manager than candidate.

Most of Brown’s opponents admit that he is a good retail politician: he knows how to work the riding. His only problem is that he is not good with people. He is a poor public speaker. He does not have a good grasp of many issues. He has little humour and no empathy.

Since taking a seat in the Legislature of Ontario, he has been a weak Leader of the Opposition. He is no hero to his caucus. Neither the centrists nor the social Conservatives in the caucus trust him. He is telling everyone that he is a pragmatic centrist but nobody knows where he would be if in power.

His most serious problem has been a careless comment to the media that he thought was going to get him coverage. He failed to think through what he was saying. It was a play on words that was the same as saying the Premier was “on trial” in the Sudbury trial of two Liberal apparatchiks. That trial was dismissed by the judge and Brown has failed to apologize for the insult to the premier. He is being sued.

The point is that Patrick Brown is out of his league. I am sure that his family was in despair of him ever passing the Bar Admission for Ontario. He looks like a hick and he is definitely small town. The reason he works so hard at this game of politics is because he is always behind. He has neither the smarts nor the skills.

He broke the rules to become leader of his political party and the party people should have called him on it. It is easy enough to prove. For him to find his way to the Premier’s office would be a disgrace.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Beating off the NAFTA bogeymen.

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) might not make it to New Year’s. Who knows? Mr. Trump might just like to go out of this year with a clean slate. He has promised his ignorant and uncaring sycophants a pyrrhic victory and he might as well deliver the killing blow.

It looks like the only partner in the deal that understands the ramifications of killing NAFTA are the Canadians. The Mexicans are too angry at the racism represented by the wall. The people hurt the worst by the move will be the Americans. And the one thing we know for sure is that it will take more than six months to pull the deal apart. Like the Brits with Brexit, there are likely too many aspects of the North American trading situation that Mr. Trump does not understand.

You would like to think that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau knew what he was doing the other week in China. That might be opportunity lost for now but it can come back. Trudeau seemed to forget one of the cardinal rules in doing business with China. If you want to do business with China, you sell the relationship first, the product sales have to follow.

But on the positive side, Canada has deals on the offing now with Europe, the Trans-Pacific Partnership with the main player Japan and with China. That adds up to far more than just a replacement for the cross-border trade with the United States.

What it will mean in the long run will be that Canada can cherry-pick what it wants to trade with all four of the major world trading blocks. If the Americans stay with the Trump approach, that country will be heading downhill to recession and turmoil. They just will not be pulling Canada down Trump’s rabbit hole with them.

What many of us observers sitting here in the bleachers of Canada will be looking forward to will be the ramifications for the North American auto industry. There seems to be a growing body of confidence in Canada that we can live better without NAFTA. While we were originally willing to talk modifying the trade situation, there is no way we will make the concessions that Trump’s unskilled negotiators are demanding. These are Trump’s NAFTA bogeymen.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Dealing with diversity.

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

We often note that Canada’s greatest strength today is its diversity. It is even emphasized as we compare it to the weaknesses in other countries as they succumb to the anger of bigotry. Travelling in England, France and the United States, it is easy to see where an inability to live together in harmony can drive the frustrations and conflict. Maybe Canadians have made better use of the opportunities diversity offers.

I remember when mother first took my younger brother and I to a Hindu household for dinner. We children were included because our hostess (who worked with mother) had children close to the same age. The East Indian kids were wide-eyed so my brother and I tried to act nonchalant. Luckily the Hindu food was less spicy for the children’s benefit and while we needed the explanations for the various dishes, we found them interesting. What disappointed my brother and I toward the end of the dinner was her ’piece de resistance’ in honour of their Canadian guests, an apple pie. It was a disappointment.

But it was the first of many such experiences as we moved about and grew in Toronto’s increasingly multi-cultural environment. Years later when I took over the Liberal Party’s Toronto and Ontario communications roles, ethnic news media were not all that unfamiliar or challenging. As the Conservatives and the New Democrats were later to learn, these media were key to many of the ethnic groups who were joining the Canadian mosaic.

Not all ethnic groups are print oriented though and with more than 150 language groups in Toronto, at that time, the growth of broadcast media in a variety of languages became accepted and created new opportunities. The producers had to recognize that they were transitional as their listeners became more proficient in the local language(s) of their new homeland.

But it is the subsequent generations who identify with their homeland as Canadians that build this country and influence its future. Those of us with English or French roots have to work hard to keep pace.

What we all need to guard against are the self-promoted spokespeople for some of the ethnic groups. There seems to be more than a few of these presumptive people around and we need to be wary of their objectives.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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