Archive for the ‘American Politics’ Category

The Hordes are in the House.

Thursday, November 8th, 2018

Donald Trump can stop worrying about the hordes heading north in Mexico. They served their purpose during the run-up to the mid-terms. They gave him a target for his bigotry. And it worked for him. It brought out a streak of meanness and uncaring in Americans.

But the mid-term elections also left President Trump with a divided Congress. With no ability to finesse, he is now reliant on others to get his agenda—such as it is—through Congress.

But do not assume this will leave Trump a lame duck president for the next two years. The person who controls the White House can cause a lot of trouble. Pity the soldiers camped on the Mexican border. Pity the news media condemned to reading those maniacal tweets from Trump.

What everyone will be waiting for in the next two years is the sorting out of the leadership of the Democratic Party. This is a party that needs to restore the honour in being liberal. It is a party that has to recast a reform agenda that people can understand. And the party has to lead, not follow.

And a refreshed, renewed and reformed Democratic Party has to defeat Trump’s lies with truth. It is critical that America restore its credibility with the rest of the world. Americans have to be sold on the need to look outward at a complex and concerned world.

And, given the opportunity, they might want to help save that world from global warming. By all of us doing the bit that we can, we can save our world.

It is really too bad that Donald Trump became president of the United States at a time when traditional news media are in decline. Trump is a liar and perpetual prevaricator and this is a problem that needs continual analysis and denial. To give him any freedom because of a weakened news media is license to prevaricate and confuse the deplorables and create serious problems for America and the world.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

It started with Kennedy and Nixon.

Sunday, November 4th, 2018

As a Canadian, I had no dog chasing a rabbit in the race but it has impacted my attitude about politics for the rest of my life. Being there in 1960 to watch the first ever television debate between presidential candidates John Kennedy and Richard Nixon was not just a casual event. We were watching a permanent change in how North American elections were conducted.

What is very important about these debates is to consider that, while they rarely solve anything, they do help set the stage. They often highlight opportunities gained and lost. For example: Two years ago, Hillary Clinton might have gained some ground if she had stopped Trump from upstaging her by telling him to get back in his cage.

The next such debate we will be seeing will be the single leadership debate that is to be arranged for the Canadian 2019 federal election. In his usual elitist style, Trudeau has appointed former Governor General David Johnston to make all the arrangements. With his only experience in this field as an emcee of a couple such debates, the vice-regal Johnson might have bitten off more than he can chew.

It will be particularly interesting to see how he gets along with the television networks to ensure that there is as wide an audience as possible for a debate in each official language.

The first problem Johnston faces is that everyone goes into these events with entirely different objectives. He will want the television people to give up the revenue from the most lucrative time of their day. If he would just settle for 3 am on a Sunday morning, he would have as much time as he wanted.

But his most serious problem is that political parties are, as the words imply, political. They are always looking for ways to have a political advantage. That is not Johnston’s strong suit. If it looks like he is getting his advice from the guy who appointed him to this job, he is going to find what it is like to be vilified.

Frankly, Trudeau would have been far smarter to meet with ‘Chuckles’ Scheer, Elizabeth May and a representative from the NDP and appoint someone whom they also trust.

But then, we have never heard anyone complain that Mr. Trudeau is too smart.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The Fall of the House of Trump.

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

It might have been the beginning of the end we saw the other day. Donald Trump’s words on the tragedy in Pittsburgh were the final bullets in a fool’s arsenal that ricocheted around the world. He complained that there would not have been the deaths involved if the synagogue had an armed guard at the door.

If any place of worship, anywhere, feels it needs an armed guard, there is something seriously wrong in that society. And if children cannot go to school safely, that society is failing its most precious assets. There is no excuse.

Too many people are describing the current situation in the United States of America as the demise of America as a world leader. It has traded its democracy for a tin-pot dictator. It is following him in a downhill path to isolation, to xenophobia, tariff barriers and consorting with fellow dictators.

You have to wonder who motivated the current march north by refugees from Honduras and other Central American countries? The timing is suspect because Donald Trump can now tell his claque that the hoards are at the gates. He is sending more soldiers to defend the borders than there are marchers—who are many weeks from the American border.

(Though somebody should compliment the Mexicans on their hospitality and caring about these people.)

But the American mid-term elections are next week and that should tell the tale. There is little information available as to which side might prevail in the elections. Nobody seems to have much hope for the Senate elections but there is a strong possibility of the House of Representatives ending up with a democratic majority.

What occurs to me is that if the democrats just had some leadership, they could win both houses of Congress. It is hard to imagine that the majority of Americans would want to give Donald another two years of free rein in Washington. Has he not done enough damage to America, to other countries that Americans could count on as friends and to democracy around the world?

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Exxonneration?

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

Help is on the way. It was wonderful to read that ExxonMobil is being sued by the New York Attorney General’s office in the United States for the lies to investors about the pollution caused by producing oil from Alberta tar sands. After three years of investigating, it is claimed that ExxonMobil (through its Canadian subsidiary Imperial Oil) has been understating its carbon emissions taxation exposure to the tune of US$30 billion.

With carbon taxes expected to reach $50 per ton in at least 10 U.S. states as well as across Canada by 2023, this $30 billion oversight is going to cost ExxonMobil much more than $30 billion in catching up and in possible court penalties.

The charge is that Imperial Oil and its parent company ExxonMobil have been lying to investors and the public for many years. Those of us who knew about some of their lies were not surprised. To a company created by American John D. Rockefeller, the lies were just as to be expected and the US$30 billion and fines will be paid out of petty cash.

The lies about the tar sands go back to the beginnings of Alberta as a province of Canada. It was the lie told to every Canadian school child that the Athabasca and Cold Lake tar sands were the largest reserve of ‘oil’ in the world. The bitumen-like heavy oil of Venezuela is probably the larger reserve but political problems there are currently preventing that country from increasing production.

But it was more insidious to rename the tar sands as ‘oil sands’ and to pretend that Canadian bitumen was just another form of heavy oil. The problem is that bitumen has to first be converted to synthetic crude oil before it can be further refined into oil products. That initial refinery step produces three times the carbon pollution of normal crude oil refining. It produces huge quantities of what is called bitumen slag.

While none of the ExxonMobil lies to investors has yet been discussed in court, it will be very interesting to see what ExxonMobil’s lawyers say in the company’s defence.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

This honour might not be justified.

Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

There was an e-mail the other day informing me that Babel-on-the-Bay is being honoured for its support of U.S. Supreme Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Good God! Did I? When? Why? And why do I not remember committing such a heinous crime?

The e-mail is detailed and serious. It is from some right-wing crazies, based in Washington, D.C., called Judicial Watch. All I know about them is they spend an inordinate amount of time and money trying to get Hillary Clinton locked up.

To tell the truth, I do not recall writing anything about the U.S. judge. He is just another example of a highly politicized judicial system that is going downhill fast. I was appalled at his undisciplined display of anger in his appearance before the U.S. Senate committee. I knew nothing else about him and I had nothing insightful to say about him.

But here is Judicial Watch congratulating me on “the role you have played in getting out the truth.” I wish.

They claim “The leftwing (sic) members of the Senate violated every rule of proper procedures and basic decency…” I guess those senators will be next after they lock up Hillary Clinton.

It seems these Judicial Watch people have been putting together an obviously extensive list of blogs that they think will be a force for conservatism and Donald Trump. And this is “right when America needs us most!”

But here I am being feted by these people for “the role you have played in getting out the truth… And changing the course of history.”

Judicial Watch is going to expand its Blog Watch website to accommodate every blog I and my fellow conservative(?) bloggers do on any issue involving government corruption, election integrity, illegal immigration and terrorism. They promise to put them front and centre on their website. They will even e-mail the blogs to their entire list of some 40,000 names on their press(?) list. They want to share my commentaries with their 5 million Facebook followers, one million Twitter followers and 60,000 Instagram followers.

I know this will come as no surprise to regular readers of Babel-on-the-Bay, but the question is: should I tell these brain-dead, right-wing dingbats that I am a Canadian? And, to make it worse, I really am a left-wing liberal?

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Legault’s likely legacy?

Thursday, October 4th, 2018

Back in August, Babel-on-the-Bay ran a column discussing the anger of the electors that can result in poor choices in politicians. At the time, only Donald Trump was discussed but it was assumed readers could see how the disease is spreading. A few readers questioned me at the time as to whether we could keep these poor choices under better control with proportional voting.

Under proportional voting, Donald Trump would not be president of the United States. He would have come up short by around three million votes.  Nor would Douglas Ford be premier of Ontario, or would François Legault of the CAQ likely be sworn in as the new premier of Quebec. Both won by about 40 per cent of the total vote and, under proportional voting, would only be entitled to about 40 per cent of the seats in their respective legislatures.

The usual procedure in these minority positions is for the party with the most seats to make a deal with one or more of the smaller parties to give them a majority position and a chance to rule. What you are also doing is giving these small parties an inordinate amount of power to influence legislation.

And that influence is just one of the problems with proportional representation. The facts are that proportional representation encourages fringe parties. Why, for example, do you think Israel, a state that is otherwise secular, is shut down every Sabbath? It is the religious fringe parties that make a repressive Sabbath a standing condition of support.

Another major problem with proportional voting is how hard it is to get anything done in a country where no party can ever win a majority. If you thought Ottawa was slow with all its safe-guards and elitist senate, check out some of the Scandinavian countries with their many political parties.

Mind you promising the voters a proportional form of voting is just one of the mistakes Legault has made. What he needs to realize is that under proportional voting, he would have a hard time forming a government.

And like many autocratic, right-wing politicians, he also thinks he can casually override the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He wants to kick immigrants out of the province if their French skills do not come up to snuff. He needs to understand that abusing human rights is something you do at your peril—even in Quebec!

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Trump’s deniers call for the ‘End of Times.’

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018

And here we thought the Christian Bible was there to forecast the End of Times. The Donald Trump administration in Washington has taken over in the forecasting business. They appear to believe that the End of Times is set for the year 2100. They are so convinced of this date that they are foregoing any further efforts at protecting our environment or efforts at reducing carbon emissions. The advice they give to Americans is ‘live it up and pollute as you wish and forget about the future of our earth.’

Hey, I am serious here! Our only hope is that this announcement was not by anyone at the Environmental Protection Agency. Would you believe it was reported as buried deep in a 500-page environmental impact report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration? The report was likely written to justify President Trump’s order to freeze fuel efficiency requirements for autos and trucks built after 2020.

While it is hard to imagine anyone writing this report in a serious manner, it goes to prove that people will go to some lengths to keep their job.

The report claimed that since the average temperature of the earth will rise by four degrees Celsius by the end of this century anyway, why bother with further savings in carbon emissions? The writer of the report seemed to conclude that any uptick in carbon dioxide by U.S. cars and trucks after 2020 would make no significant difference.

President Trump had decided to take the U.S.A. out of the Paris Agreement on the environment when he first took office. Since then he has opened up unrestricted coal mining and approved highly polluting pipelines such as the Keystone XL from Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast. Mind you, America already had the distinction of being the most polluting country per capita in the world.

But we will solve all of that with the catastrophic coming of the End of Times. Our world will die with many a whimper as the icecaps melt, the seas encroach on our coastal cities and the unleashed storms and other extremes of intemperate weather challenge our ability to grow the food to feed ourselves. It will be too bad that Mr. Trump will not be there to answer for his ignorance.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Donald Trump’s Win?

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018

We might as well let Donald Trump think he won. You hate to give a bully the victory but he would just go away and pout if we did not. What he really got was the right to rename the deal. That way, he can tell his claque that he got rid of NAFTA. It is now called the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement (USMCA). It sounds like a branch of the United States Marine Corp, but what the heck—as long as it works for everybody involved.

It might be that Canada let the U.S. in on a bit of its milk market but the farmers can easily be compensated for that small encroachment. It leaves the fresh milk market to Canada’s farmers and that is the important part for consumers.

I would say it is a win for Justin Trudeau and his foreign affairs minister. They held the course throughout the negotiations. They did not let Trump’s irresponsible twits rattle them and they held the course to the end when the Americans had to agree to the deal or look terribly stupid.

The best part of the win was Canada sticking to its guns on bringing Mexican auto-worker wages into line. The $16 minimum wage for the Mexicans making autos and trucks is a huge jump and the impact it will have in Mexico will change that country a great deal. It will help drive up the costs of a holiday in Mexico for Americans and Canadians but that is fair too!

The other part of the deal that was vital to Canada was the continuation of the dispute settlement clause as it was in the original deal. The idea of submitting disputes to America’s highly politicized judicial system was a guarantee of constant harassment.

It also looks like Canada came out ahead on the automobile part of the deal. It looks like we have strengthened our position on auto parts and there are fewer concerns about the bleeding off of final assembly.

All in all, we can have the pleasure of looking south and giving Mr. Trump what Americans often refer to as the Canadian salute. Middle finger at the ready…go!

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Dragging down the dialogue.

Friday, September 28th, 2018

That Donald Trump is at it again. The diplomats laughed at him in the United Nations in New York the other day. Prime minister Justin Trudeau of Canada was walking by in the U.N. building the next day and did not want add to the American president’s discomfort and stopped to commiserate. Trump brushed him off.

It could have been left at that. It is just that Donald Trump never knows when it is best to shut up. In a no-holds-barred bear baiting with the news media the next day, where the media was the bear, Trump insulted the chief Canadian negotiator on the NAFTA file, lied about and maligned Canada’s prime minister and made it almost impossible for America’s chief negotiator to bring anything positive to the NAFTA table in future negotiations.

It begs the question as to whether there is any point to further discussion of the North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the United States?

The point of this is that Mr. Trump knows that the Canadians are not going to tell him to ‘Get Stuffed.’ They, of course, know they have a right to tell him to but they are also being diplomatic and it is inappropriate for prime ministers and foreign ministers to tell the head of another nation to ‘Get Stuffed.’ No nation has gone to war over the head of the nation being told to ‘Get Stuffed,’ though there could always be a first time.

In all my years in politics and communications, this is the first time I have seriously felt that it is time to break with the diplomatic protocols and call a spade a spade.

There is no question but that Donald Trump is enjoying spewing all this garbage because he knows he can get away with it.

It is to Canada’s credit that our negotiators and prime minister have put up with this crap from Trump without responding in kind. Never let it be said that Canada walked away from NAFTA because of that disgusting Donald Trump.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The con of the carnival barker.

Saturday, September 22nd, 2018

I remember as a child listening with awe to carnival barkers. I had learned young that the bearded lady and world’s tallest man were just hot air to impress the gullible. What impressed me even then was the glibness and ease with which the con man lied to the public. It is the likely reason I have for continuing to come back to writing about that bastard Donald Trump.

Listening to him and his sycophant the other day trying to bully Canada’s negotiators into signing on to their NAFTA terms, left me cold and angry. And I would hardly be the only Canadian to feel that way. We never know from day to day or week to week as Canada’s negotiators refuse to negotiate in public and Mr. Trump does not know when to stop tweeting.

While P.T. Barnum might or might not have said there is a sucker born every minute, Mr. Trump seems to have no problem finding lots of them to listen to his rants, his lies, and his crudity. This man-child and his tantrums might confound the diplomat confronted by the irrational but anyone who has any experience with a wayward child knows some ways to handle it.

First of all, somebody has to be the adult in the room. You can hardly send Trump for a time-out if you cannot take his smart phone away from him. He is certainly too big to spank—and he might like it. He needs to be told in plain language what will happen if he carries through with his foolish threats. He has to realize what will happen if he kills NAFTA.

Trump could leave a legacy as the guy who bankrupted General Motors. Ford would just be a footnote as another casualty in that scenario.

But the best guess is that Trump needs a win of some sort to show his supporters before the mid-term elections. He is obviously concerned that without something going his way, he could lose the House to the democrats—and maybe even the Senate. Without the republican support, Trump can do little and he would face the next two years in the White Hose as a lame duck.

The thing for our negotiators is to remember that it is Trump’s deadline that is closing in on him. Our people can take their time, be thorough, be fair and be firm. We cannot let the carnival barker con us.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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