Archive for the ‘American Politics’ Category

The last adult has left the White House.

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

President Donald Trump has fired secretary of state Rex Tillerson. He fired him on that children’s program Twitter. And, in case Tillerson might not have checked Twitter, Trump phoned him from Airforce One and made sure he knew he was fired.

Tillerson will, regrettably, go down in history as the least effective American secretary of state in the history of the office. He could not win his arguments with Donald Trump and was resented by the experts at Foggy Bottom—as the area of Washington is called where the Department of State Headquarters is located.

He came into office with the high hopes that he could bring some good management to an administration that was shaping up as a total screw-up. His efforts were wasted.

The one area where it was expected he could help was with the Russia file. He faced too much interference by the alphabet soup of U.S. government agencies starting with the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. as well as a special counsel appointed to dig into the external interference in the election that resulted in Trump winning.

In the neighbouring countries of North America, Canada and Mexico, Trump was making enemies while Tillerson was trying to make friends.

But the major obstacle between Tillerson and Trump was the North Korea file. Tillerson wanted to use diplomacy and the support of allies. Trump wanted to call the North Korean leader names and ridicule him. Trump wanted to use threats.

It was North Korea that broke with all diplomatic protocols and invited President Trump to visit that country. It was a schoolyard dare and Trump grabbed at it. He must have realized at that point that secretary of state Tillerson would never agree to such a meeting without all the diplomatic niceties of preparation and protocols. For Trump to be the ‘Big Man on Campus’ in this situation, he needed to get rid of his secretary of state.

And he had the perfect fall guy and spook to take on the job. Trump has nominated Mike Pompeo, currently director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), to replace Tillerson. Pompeo is best known as a pit-bull representative of the fourth district of Kansas, where he was considered a Tea Party adherent. His one endearing quality to Trump is that he does not like the news media and does not talk to them.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

“We stand on guard for thee.”

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

The last time our parliamentarians screwed around with Canada’s national anthem, they were trying to make it gender neutral. What they accomplished was to have some of us singing different words, others of us confused and all of us stuck with awkward phrasing. And it is tough to fake that you are singing along under those conditions.

But we can all be robust in song when we come to standing on guard. We know those words and we all concur in their meaning.

And, these days, we all want to stand on guard against that incompetent ass Donald Trump in the American White House.

But be warned. That bastard is trying to get us angry, He wants us to retaliate. It will launch a trade war that he will win only when he puts North America into the grip of a depression. He is more than willing to damage his own country to prove himself right. He will blame Canada. We all know of his disrespect for Mexico.

Foreign minister Chrystia Freeland can threaten retaliation but no wise person would carry it out.

Trump will do that for us. He is raising the price of softwood lumber on the west coast of the United States. Canada has already passed the 50 per cent mark in shifting our B.C. softwood lumber sales to China, Japan and Korea.

The steel markets he is threatening are more complex. It would take several years for America to replace the rolling mills in Hamilton and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario that supply much of the rolled steel to America. Americans will hardly appreciate the cost increases inflicted by Trump in the meantime. Nobody is worried about aluminum tariffs as Canada and Norway share the ability to supply world markets of aluminum at the lowest costs. Trump’s lumpen proletariat will just have to bite the bullet of a higher cost for their beer cans,

In the meantime, we should let our friends and relations know that a loony spent in the United States might be less than 78 cents but it helps pay for Trump’s pomposity. We are already paying too much for products from the United States and it would pay us to cut back when we can.

And after the winter we are presently experiencing, is the southern U.S. that much better a place for a holiday? Why not enjoy a Caribbean holiday or a trip to Mexico instead?

Frankly, we should all be doing what we can to give Mr. Trump the one-finger salute.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The Bully Pulpit of Donald Trump.

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

President Theodore Roosevelt said, more than 100 years ago, that the White House is a bully pulpit. It means something very different to the bully in today’s White House. Roosevelt saw the bully pulpit as a position for good. Trump sees it as a position to abuse the less powerful. He is a bully in the full sense of the word.

Even Trump’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiators, meeting in Mexico City in the past week were caught off guard by the tariffs Trump proposed on aluminum and steel. He was so proud of this that he twitted his plan to bully his country’s neighbours. He is going to bring them back to the table cowering to accept his conditions for an American version of NAFTA. (Otherwise known as ‘beggar your neighbours.’)

Trump’s negotiators have repeated told him that there is little reason for Canada and Mexico to want to “Make America Great Again” the Trump way. A trade agreement such as NAFTA can be of great benefit to the economies of the participating countries but it requires goodwill and fair dealing.

The bully in Trump tells him that it should be the most powerful nation that makes the rules. While neither Canada nor Mexico are the largest producers of steel, there has been a brisk three-way business in steel between the three countries. It has meant lower prices, more variety, adequate supplies and a fair market between the three countries. Trump is sure as hell, he is going to fix that. His tariffs will greatly increase the costs for American construction and products made with steel. He is trying to put thousands of Canadian steelworkers out of work in Hamilton and Sault Ste. Marie but will jeopardize the jobs of even more in Pittsburgh and Gary, Indiana.

Trump’ followers will likely pay the higher cost for their aluminum beer cans. Canada’ aluminum smelters are located in the middle of an area of the cheapest hydro power production in North America and will carry on regardless.

Trump is waiting for Canadians to retaliate to the repeated tariff challenges for soft-wood lumber, dairy products and now aluminum and steel. He wants a trade war. He needs Canadian retaliation to get approval in his country for his trade war. It would be the end of NAFTA. That is why Canada is carefully counting to ten each time the bully makes a move.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Small men. Big rockets. Bad news.

Monday, March 5th, 2018

What are the similarities between Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un? They all think they have the biggest, fastest, most invincible nuclear weapons. They all think of themselves as wielding immense power. They all fear for their position in a true democracy.

How would Mr. Putin survive in a country with a free news media? Would he get away with arresting his political opponents? Is North Korea allowed to have political opponents? Mr. Trump might like to get rid of his. In the mean time he is busy convincing his claque that they have to ignore the fake news of the news media. How many followers does he have for his twits this week?

How can a country such as Russia be the first to circle earth with its Sputnik and brag of the super speed of its rockets when it cannot even make a decent refrigerator? How can North Korea brag of rockets that can reach North America, when its people cannot get enough food? Maybe all three of these leaders are putting the emphasis on the wrong objectives.

Mr. Trump has been particularly bad at selecting priorities. His immigration stand has been hateful and hurtful to people less able to defend themselves. In a nation built by those “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” as described by Emma Lazarus, Mr. Trump is a boor and bigot, channeling his tunnel vision of the world to America’s millions of jingoists, religious right and other losers.

It is the abject failure of politics to evolve and develop in America as a system “by and for the people” that has brought the country to a state so like the other two oligarchies of the military.

Trump saw the frustration and used it. He saw the failure of Americans to vote in a corrupted system and took advantage of it. He saw the anger and fed it. If anything, Trump out-did his counterparts in North Korea and Russia. He achieved power in a land that thought it was free. He was turned loose as a child in a candy store. He yanks at the levers of power and delights at the consternation. He abuses his country’s allies and friends.

As Orwell showed in his book 1984, it is the tensions of war that keeps the proletariat focussed on the enemy instead of the inadequacies of their leadership. Obviously, more Americans need to love Big Brother.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The bravado of President Trump.

Saturday, March 3rd, 2018

Every time we have needed a warming thought in these blah days of winter, we have pictured President Trump running into a school to rescue children from a mentally ill person with a gun. It is similar to the bravado of a 12-year old suggesting that teachers be armed: ludicrous. There are times when that man would do himself good to shut up.

But Canada’s main concern should be the current North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations in Mexico City. All reports are that this session will go nowhere and the recommendation is likely to be that the discussions recess until 2019. This will enable the Mexicans to get their presidential elections out of the way and the Americans their mid-term elections for congress.

The wild card in this game is President Trump. If he reacts to the delays, as any 12-year old would, he will give six months notice of the cancellation of NAFTA. He will think that will scare hell out of the Mexicans and bring those uppity Canadians back to the table.

But the problem is that his advisers tell him that he would lose American jobs as well as Canadian and Mexican jobs. So instead, he has been attacking specific industries. Trump has actually been complaining lately that those Canadians are a bunch of con artists who have been taking gullible Americans to the cleaners for years. This is why he continues attacking Canada on an industry by industry basis: first softwood lumber and dairy and now steel and aluminum. His attacks are not only driving up costs for Americans but are jeopardizing relations between the two countries.

What Trump does not seem to understand is that Canada has been America’s best customer for many years. His problem is that Canadians will have to rely on Americans to keep the NAFTA discussions going in that country. Canadian business has to launch major sales efforts in Europe, Asia and South America to see how much American trade we can replace. We will still have trade with the United States but new tariff barriers on both sides can be expected.

The Canadian government will also be forced to impose tariffs to try to balance increased deficits in trade with the U.S. That is a no-win game but necessary. It was what we tried to get rid of with NAFTA.

The good news is that in the long run, a new American president would bring the U.S. to its senses and a better NAFTA can be written. The only difference will be that Canada will never again want its trade so tightly linked and dominated by the United States.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

They are killing their children in America.

Monday, February 26th, 2018

It seems that Bashar al-Assad needs the Russians to help him kill children in Syria. Many world organizations have already charged al-Assad with crimes against humanity.

But what about Donald Trump’s crimes against humanity? Is he not culpable when he caters to his friends in the National Rifle Association (NRA)? Does he really think the NRA can teach teachers to shoot back? There will be no more basketball hoops on school property. They will need the space for the teachers’ shooting range.

But what good would gun-toting teachers be? There was an armed and trained guard outside that Florida school recently and we hear he was afraid to go where he could hear someone was shooting. I gather he was fired before President Trump could pin a medal on him.

I do not want to be critical of our American friends and neighbours but as long as you allow guns to be distributed as generously as Cracker Jack prizes, children will continue to die.

You can hardly put a bounty on NRA members. There are many Americans already working hard to solve this problem peacefully. It needs lots of reason, encouragement and a big stick. There are obviously some Americans in need of re-education. You can start with the members of Congress.

You can tell them that carrying a gun does not make anybody safe. There is always somebody with a bigger gun with a longer range.

And people really have to get over the idea that automatic weapons replace the need for accuracy.

In any country, there are people who are mentally and emotionally unsuited to be walking around with guns. When you insist on everybody having a right to their weapon of choice, you know that you are going to have some mistakes made. It is inevitable. People will die. And regrettably young people will also be in the line of fire. If you think your Second Amendment rights are more important than the lives of children, you have a serious problem.

And thinking of that problem—and if you are angry about it—you should put some purpose to your anger. Target the elections this November. Plan ahead, work ahead and organize ahead. You want to support candidates for congress who will support firm gun control. Not this namby-pamby stuff they spout—real gun control.

All you might save is the life of another child—carelessly cut down by people who should not have guns.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Trashing Trump.

Monday, February 5th, 2018

It is the new cottage industry in North America—and probably the entire world. We just need our daily fix on what is wrong with American President Donald Trump. The best laughs are at the artificial attempts to temper the tragedy by mentioning something nice about him. We were reminded of this the other day when a writer who is a student of language history told us that we might be wrong to laugh at Trump’s use and abuse of English.

The writer stunned this writer by saying that Trump is not a bad orator and that he knows how to use language to good effect. That came as a surprise.

One of the important aspects of the English language is that it is a living language and it continues to change at a remarkable pace.

But when you describe Trump as an orator, is that with or without a teleprompter? Is if from a prepared text or is it off the cuff? And what mood was he in when he delivered it?

Trump’s State of the Nation address was articulate, boring, self-aggrandizing and too long. It was not Mr. Trump’s usual form. While I am sure he interfered with the writing process, it did show a professional touch.

Trump talking to his lumpen proletariat followers is another matter entirely. He loves his Lump (as I like to think of them). He uses what he thinks is their bad grammar. He repeats himself constantly. The language is gross and over the top. If he is not ignorant, then he must think his audience is.

Before writing about Trump, you really need to see how he handles his rallies. He reminds me of the line in the old Brit sea shanty: We’ll rant and we’ll roar like true British sailors.

Trump’s Lump are a broad spectrum of America. They are older in Florida than they are in Ohio. They chant “Lock her up” about Hillary Clinton with equal enthusiasm. You could be at a Sunday morning prayer meeting if the guy up front was not a well-known non-believer, misogynist and philanderer.

My favourites in Trump’s Lump are the bikers, American Nazis, gun enthusiasts from the NRA and holly rollers who share his xenophobic view of the world. Those religious right love Trump and their fellow church goers—as long as they are white.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Trump follows the formula.

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

That did not need to be the real Donald Trump addressing Americans the other evening. The State of the Nation address is now down to a formula that a trained monkey could handle if you just dubbed in the usual clichés and platitudes. I spent the obligatory hour and 20 minutes wondering if Hillary Clinton would have read, at least the first half, differently?

Clinton would have made the same entrance: the crowd scene around the entranceway; people leaning down to shake hands; pointing to someone in the crowd and waving; the obligatory time to finally get to the podium. And what was all the applause about? Did they think the presidential cavalcade could not find the Congress?

Luckily, the teleprompters were in place. There was no need for the speaker to also think. The words were simple. The media were ready with their tally sheets to check off the standing ovations.

Trump launched almost immediately into his American heroes who were strategically placed in the hall. Why somebody thought it a good idea to embarrass these people further by introducing them is beyond us. It at least provides a break and a stretch—and is listed as another standing ovation.

While there were the usual trite offers of bipartisanship offered, this was Mr. Trump’s night and he was not about to let anyone forget it.

I liked the line about the old tax system being broken. Are not all of them broken? That feeling soon passed as we suffered through the tax-cut heroes. That was worse than expected.

The hypocrisy of Trump’s exultation of “In God we trust” was bad enough but when one of his heroes that he introduced was a 12-year old who put flags on graves, it was bordering on stomach churning schmaltz.

His report on the ecology was a list of the increased carbon his administration is letting lose on the environment. It was nothing more than help for his friends in the coal business and a free rein for General Motors to pollute.

Trump stayed away from mentioning the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) but he gave no succor to concerns. I expect he and his so-called negotiators have a timeframe in mind to cancel the pact. When, we do not know. When it happens, do not be too surprised.

From there, Mr. Trump’s rant concentrated on his hate for immigrants and his love for the military. The real State of the Nation is for his citizens to handle—as best they can.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Report from the front lines of America.

Monday, January 29th, 2018

While Vassy Kapelos of Global Television was interviewing David Frum last Sunday, the wife kept asking me questions. When she asked why a Canadian would write a book about Donald Trump, I explained that he is now an American citizen, a registered Republican and worked in the White House for George W. Bush. She stopped when she heard that, as she rightly guessed that I might not be a fan.

And no, I have not read his book. I figure that in the next several years I will be able to fill a couple bookshelves with Trump tomes—all from the remainders piles at my favourite bookstore .

What intrigues me about a book by a Republican such as Frum are the positive statements as opposed to the complaints. For example; he does not think Donald Trump is stupid. He admits that there are subjects with which Trump might not concern himself and is ignorant about, but he considers him wily. And he says that Trump is more knowledgeable about his powers as President than he reveals.

Frum is very concerned though about the damage that Trump is doing to American institutions. He is worried about the damage already done to the Department of Justice and the immature direction of the military. Americans who think that things could be worse have yet to face their comeuppance.

The essence of Frum’s book is that Donald Trump is doing damage to the American Democracy. Trump, the autocrat, is not what Americans wanted in the White House. Frum blames the ‘appeasers’ and the ‘enablers’ from his own Republican Party who ‘keep Trump afloat.’

It is surprising to see that instead of criticizing Trump’s xenophobia, Frum appears to agree with his fear of people from other countries and his anti-immigration stance. It is hard to believe Frum has said openly that he considers people to be racist by nature.

Trump’s xenophobic view of the world includes close neighbours such as Canada and Mexico. Combine that attitude with a complete lack of understanding of how trade with other countries contributes to the economy and Frum sees Trump pulling the plug on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) at any time.

Frum was positive in the interview that there are forces for balance emerging to offset Trump.  I guess they just need to move more rapidly.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The Walls of NAFTA.

Sunday, January 21st, 2018

There is more than one wall to consider when the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiators meet in Montreal this week. The wall that the negotiations is creating between Canada and the United States of America is just as serious as the wall of ignorance President Trump wants to build against Mexico. The difference is that Trump thinks he is manipulating Canada and all he is doing is creating a lasting ill will between countries long known for their friendship.

In a situation as serious as NAFTA, we started with denial. We launched into the negotiations with a Pollyanna perspective. We thought that the wannabe President in Washington would talk tough but negotiate. He seems to have no intention of that. He is threatening to take his ball and his bat home and the game is over.

The clauses we felt could be improved in the agreement where brought up. We thought it would show our willingness to negotiate. We were pointedly ignored. Instead, clauses were proposed by the Trump minions that gave America the clear edge and all the power. They included a ridiculous leverage on a high percentage of automobile assembly and an automatic five-year cancellation—unless stayed. This is not negotiation, this is demanding.

The feeling is that the U.S. negotiators might not make it through a winter week in Montreal. For that matter, the Mexicans would not really want the experience either. We could have a situation where the Americans might beat the Mexicans out the door. In as much as it is Canada’s meeting, it would be awkward for us to walk out first.

But the anger Canadians have been feeling is as cold as that Arctic Vortex we have felt this winter. When that bastard Trump is not belittling Canadians and our participation in NAFTA, he is patronizing us.

Trump has been told by now to stop pushing the Canadians. He might think he can jerk the Mexicans around but they obviously need NAFTA more than the Canadians. When Trudeau did not show up in that meeting in the Philippines recently to sign off on an Asia-Pacific pact, it was obvious that he wanted it held until the NAFTA meetings either folded or were clearer.

Trudeau’s problem is that he will have lost the respect of his own people if he caves in to Trump. He is working on Plan B.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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