Archive for the ‘American Politics’ Category

How’s the kitchen coming Chrystia?

Friday, September 8th, 2017

Though not sure if the analogy of NAFTA negotiations being like renovating a kitchen comes from Canada’s foreign minister, by now she would disown the quote anyway. After meetings in Washington and in Mexico City, it is obvious that the discussions of North America’s trade agreements are going nowhere. By the time the three amigo countries get together in Ottawa there is likely to be a fist fight.

It seems that nobody is in a position to save this screw-up. History is going to have to remember Donald Trump as a master of disaster. He has sent American negotiators on an impossible task. They really cannot win agreement from people by constantly abusing them. The Mexicans are certainly mad as hell and are not going to take it anymore.

Canada is hardly going to allow our dairy farmers to be screwed the same way American dairy farmers are routinely bankrupted. And that fixed smirk on the face of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when people mention Trump is starting to look like a death mask. The Mexicans are already pissed by Trump’s racist insults and his stupid wall.

But the Mexicans are also becoming annoyed with Canada. While the U.S. delegates simply scoff at Freeland’s environmental protection and balanced labour suggestions, the Mexican’s saw it as an attack on their labour-cost advantage. This is a three-way, two against one negotiation, when both Canada and Mexico could use an ally. Instead, they are all talking and nobody is listening.

There is no rule that says we have to resolve these questions this year or even three years from now. It would certainly be nice to find a faster solution to the softwood lumber dispute and Canada might have to apply some tit-for-tat tariffs if Trump thinks he can just ignore the existing treaties.

But an angry American Congress might have something to say if Trump tries to end NAFTA. Congress is confident that only it has the authority to accept or reject country to country treaties when the U.S. is one of the parties.

The one thing the three countries might agree on is that NAFTA needs some adjustments after a quarter century. It just cannot be as one-sided as Mr. Trump thinks it should be.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

By Jingo, by Trump.

Thursday, September 7th, 2017

That little putz with the freaky haircut who fronts for the North Korean generals is likely to lose his idiot smirk. American President Donald Trump seems to have run out of patience, out of diplomatic options, out of allies and out of restraint. He might just do what American General Douglas MacArthur wanted to do—turn that poor, benighted country into a bombed out putting green.

But General MacArthur had the same problem as faces Accidental President Trump. North Korea is tucked into the armpit of Manchuria and the Chinese keep a few armies on alert there. How you keep the dust of war from blowing across the border is a worrisome point with all concerned.

To be fair, Trump did exhort the Chinese President to bring his yappy little dog in North Korea to heel. To make the Chinese President lose face because he cannot get the yappy little dog to heel is not the smart thing to do.

It is even dumber to get the United Nations to sanction any country that continues to trade with North Korea. Since 90 per cent of North Korea’s trade is with the Peoples’ Republic of China, he has again pissed off the Chinese.

And in annoying the Chinese, he has opened a door for the Russians. Vladimir Putin is quite amused by the antics of the North Koreans. President Trump seems to be very adept at keeping his friend Vladimir amused.

But Trump is keeping uncharacteristically quiet about North Korea at the moment. All he is telling the media is that they should wait and see. That is something like waiting for the end of the world and not being sure if it will be Thursday or Friday.

Trump is probably getting all kinds of advice from the Pentagon and Foggy Bottom. Hopefully all of these generals and admirals and senior diplomats have warned him about the consequences of launching world-wide nuclear war. It is easy to start but very hard to stop.

Trump’s problem is that there is only one scenario for him to get that sailor who follows him around with a briefcase to give him the nuclear codes. If the North Koreans send a nuclear-armed missile at Guam, Japan, South Korea or the American west coast, Trump would be justified to remove the threat. Otherwise he should give his little thumbs a rest from Twitter and ignore North Korea. It is not yet his problem.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

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

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

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?

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

“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.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

 

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.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

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.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

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.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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