Archive for the ‘World Politics’ Category

The Pathetic Pretenders.

Saturday, February 16th, 2019

Gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protestors are a particularly French phenomenon, as French law requires all automobiles be equipped one of those fluorescent vests in case of emergency. It made for a rather colourful, beehive-like mob scenes across France, when the emergency was determined to be the increase in taxes on gasoline and other real or imagined errors of the Macron government. The French do tend to take to the barricades when annoyed with their government.

But that does not suggest that they would want to franchise their form of protest to North Americans. Attempts to emulate the French passion for protest in Canada, have, so far, proved pathetic and immaterial.

The main difference is that the French right and left on the political spectrum can find themselves fending off ‘les flics’ (cops) together. In Canada, the fight would be between the right and left, and the cops would be trying to keep them apart.

Canadians might be better at picking up American themes when looking for a cause. The least successful in this regard were the wannabes in Toronto who picked up the American “Black Lives Matter” name but not the cause and tried to use it on this side of the border. They managed to dishonour what the name means in the U.S.

All they really managed to do here was annoy the local black community and then, ultimately, piss off the police and the Pride parade organizers. They were annoying, self-serving, trouble-makers who needed to find something useful to do.

And while you would expect that the Trump name would not travel well north of the U.S. border, he does have support here. There are the occasional covens that worship him, but so far, they have wisely kept their admiration to themselves.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Trump and Trudeau fail Venezuela.

Tuesday, February 12th, 2019

Venezuela’s oil-based economy continues to collapse. The Americans are helping it collapse. And what the Canadian interest is, defies imagination. The corrupt and destructive Nicolás Maduro regime in the country, after the incompetence of the Hugo Chavez era, has created economic chaos. The world watches as China and the Russians pay lip service to supporting the Maduro regime.

One in ten of Venezuelans has already fled from their once stable country to neighbouring countries. The Americans keep imposing more sanctions that are causing increased suffering for the people. Millions are starving. Medicines are scarce or non-existent. The streets are full of hungry and angry people. The country is a powder keg ready to explode. And what the hell is Canada doing to really help?

Frankly the American interest in Venezuela is easier to understand. Venezuela has the world’s largest reserve of bitumen-based heavy crude oil that is far less polluting to refine into synthetic crude oil than Canada’s dirty tar sands bitumen. And the Venezuelan product is readily available to the Americans, being conveniently located on the south side of the Gulf of Mexico. The Americans would be crazy not to ensure their easy access to that cheap oil. Many of their Texas gulf coast refineries are set up to handle the Venezuelan bitumen. So, what do they use as sanctions? They refuse to buy or pay for the Venezuelan heavy crude!

While Maduro might have been busy stealing billions from the country, he has obviously been generous with his generals. Their continued loyalty to his regime is making new elections or a reasonable transition to the self-proclaimed president Juan Guaidó more difficult as the turmoil continues. You can hardly solve problems caused by undemocratic actions by encouraging undemocratic actions on your behalf. The people appear to be more and more desperate and it would likely take some very small events in Venezuela to light the tinder of civil war.

If it comes to an armed conflict, neither Canada nor the United States have a role to play beyond providing humanitarian aid. The two northern countries would not be welcomed by either side.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Forget the Queen, save the Magna Carta.

Friday, February 8th, 2019

If the Brexit-related events in the next few months get ugly, the Brits have a plan in place to keep the Queen and her immediate family from harms way. We can only hope that these plans are somewhat better than prime minister Theresa May’s ongoing revisions to Brexit. And frankly the Queen is in better hands than the people who think she needs saving from a possible melee over the consequences of Brexit.

After all, the Brits have been singing God Save the Queen for so long now, she should have some safe-passage credits built up with God as well as the populace of the United Kingdom. And if her mother and father could stay in London during the Blitz, Elizabeth II can stay in London for the trials of Brexit.

But what Theresa May and her friends in the Mother of Parliaments are missing is the changing complexion of the Brexit problem. Maybe the Magna Carta could help resolve the problems. It is not the words of the document that the nobles had the English King John sign in 1215 that are important. It is the wealth of documentation produced from it over the centuries since.

The Magna Carta contributed to the basic freedoms of the people and their rights. In many ways it has taken too long to come to an understanding of where those freedoms have brought—not only the Brits, but the entire world.

I really doubt that PM May and her friends in parliament understand all the assumptions, bigotry, complexes, doubts, etc. etc. of the Brexit vote. I think that vote took the wind from the sails of people who thought they were doing something noble. It is doubtful that they would vote for Brexit today—knowing what they do now.

They cannot take the United Kingdom back to the past. That public house has already called “time.”  The future of the world is the continuing coming together of peoples and countries. A true world government could be many years in the future. In the meantime, the UK has to help build a better European Union.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Potholes on the Yellow Brick Road.

Monday, January 28th, 2019

While the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion are still planning their trip with Dorothy to the Emerald City and the October election in Canada, it is best to check for potholes. Peering into one of these potholes the other day, I saw Canada’s former ambassador to China sitting in it and wondering how he got there.

This is a serious hazard for the Cowardly Lion. It took Justin Trudeau almost a week to fire our politico-cum-ambassador. The arguments must have raged at the Prime Minister’s Office but it took a second attempt to put foot in mouth that got McCallum bounced. And nobody ever said McCallum was wrong—wrong to tell the truth, maybe.

It is against this news background that author Jonathan Manthorpe is making hay selling his new book on China, Claws of the Panda. I have not read it yet but I am still waiting for Jon to autograph my copy of his first book, The Power and the Tories about the Bill Davis government in Ontario.

Interestingly, while Jon was in China trying to fathom the depth of the country’s communist government, I was watching Beijing extend its influence into Canadian-Chinese news media. I had the impression that those people understood more about the future of newspaper publishing than Conrad Black, Paul Godfrey and Torstar’s John Honderich, combined.

My best source of information at the time were the many delegations from Beijing that I took on tours and entertained for a computer company. They usually assumed I was a fellow technologist and they always enjoyed their visit. It earned me many invitations from other high level visits from Beijing.

But it is Hauwei’s inscrutable technologies and the extradition of Hauwei executive Meng Wanzhou affair that has the Canadian public wondering. First of all, explaining 5G networks is a tough job and how this technology can give Hauwei access to state secrets is not an easy subject for politicians to digest.

But then you also need to understand Canada’s relationship in the Five Eyes which allows us to listen in on everybody else. Which begs the question, how the hell is any of this explained to a dolt such as Donald Trump? And that clown has someone with all the nuclear codes sitting outside his door?

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

John McCallum is no diplomat.

Friday, January 25th, 2019

Canada’s ambassador to China never was a diplomat. He is a politician. Maybe he has always been too much of a neoliberal to my taste but he finally did what Justin Trudeau could not. He told the truth about the situation of chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou of Huawei. And he made it public.

As much as it might have been an error to appoint the Markham, Ontario, politician to the ambassadorial post, it certainly paid off when Justin Trudeau and his staff did not seem to understand the political implications of the Huawei executive’s detention and possible extradition to the U.S.

Trudeau was wrong to simply use the argument that Canada is a country of law, conflicting with the Chinese oligarchical system of governance. U.S. president Donald Trump opened a door by saying that the U.S. could use the charge against Weng as leverage in the current China-U.S. trade dispute. For the U.S. to use the case as leverage in a trade dispute could be grounds for a Canadian judge to deny the extradition.

Also, ambassador McCallum mentioned the extraterritorial factors, without elaborating. It is assumed that he was referring to the U.S. lawmakers’ penchant for creating laws that pertain to actions in countries other than the U.S. These are rarely recognized in Canada.

And that is the third factor the ambassador mentioned. He noted that the Iran sanctions on which the case against Huawei is based are not recognized in Canada. John McCallum is not a lawyer but it sounds like he had some good advice from some lawyers before he made his comments.

McCallum can even say he was out of line, later. He is unlikely to want to put that genie back in the bottle.

And when the prime minister goes out of his way to not criticize his former cabinet colleague for going off the approved (?) talking points, one wonders if the entire scenario was not planned carefully? It is certainly possible but I do not think the denizens of the Prime Minister’s Office are that smart.

Bravo John McCallum.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Brits’ Brexit Bonkers.

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

Oh, the Brits did it up right proper yesterday. That parliament of woolly thinking, stepped out the palace window looking for the executioner with his axe. “Come, chop off our heads,” they said, “We’re not using them anyway.”

Since the United Kingdom narrowly voted for Brexit in June of 2016, the UK parliament has been in a directionless turmoil. Prime Minister Theresa May has taken it nowhere. She reminds us of King Canute defying the tides. Her legacy is the same as that of once prime minister Neville Chamberlain who returned to London from Munich in 1938 with a piece of paper, saying “Peace for our time.”

The truth is that Theresa May got the best deal you could expect from the Europeans. Remember that Brexit was based on bigotry. Like that despicable Donald Trump and his wall, the UK vote was to keep the hordes of migrants from swimming the Channel or erupting through the Chunnel. What the Germans could do with their discipline and the French are still trying to handle, the UK rejected. They should not be proud of it.

The hardest part of this was trying to understand what Theresa May was trying to do. Did her vanity include the belief that only she was able to untie the Gordian Knot of the United Kingdom’s role in the European Union? The truth is that the United Kingdom needs the European Union just as much as the EU needs the UK. They are pieces of the same puzzle.

But the question now is how the UK can reconnect without losing too much face? A UK general election—with new leadership—might help.

And it looks like the EU will hold out the olive branch. There is no need for any recriminations.

We can only hope that Brexit is not like one of William Shakespeare’s longer tragedies.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Don’t send a boy…

Thursday, January 10th, 2019

Maybe if they draw pictures for us, we might understand why prime minister Justin Trudeau would ask U.S. president Donald Trump to help with Canada’s current problems in China. Talk about the old adage of never sending a boy to do a man’s job! Why would you ask someone who has proven himself incompetent to help solve a problem that the incompetent’s country has caused?

This is an embarrassment to all Canadians. It is probably just as embarrassing to millions of Americans. The supposition is that the two Canadians (and maybe more) are being used as a tit-for-tat for Canada arresting a Chinese business executive. It seems the legal warrant is from the Americans and as Canada and the United States have an extradition agreement, the warrant was served on her when she landed at Vancouver on her company plane.

Canada was doing what it is obligated to do under the extradition agreement. Canada also protected her human rights under the treaty and is allowing her to challenge the American order. Her hearing is set, expeditiously, for early February. Her lawyers can then set forth her objections to the extradition.

In the meantime, the lady is enjoying a restful time at her modest Vancouver home and not languishing in prison.

But the tit-for-tat Canadians might not be enjoying their visit in the Chinese prison system. It seems the Canadian ambassador was allowed the courtesy of a visit but no charges have been discussed and no lawyers are allowed. The Chinese do not seem to understand the concept of a legal system that recognizes human rights or democracy. The Chinese ruling party propagandists will tell you that everything runs quite comfortably, thank you.

And that brings us back to another person who does not understand. Why would the prime minister embarrass himself by talking to the U.S. president about the matter? That could make it worse. Do we have to prove that we are lap dogs for that incompetent in the White House?

What the Chinese do understand is the concept of ‘face.’ And you do not want to play the game with the Chinese where you take one of them, they take two of yours. They have the advantage of numbers in that game.

Best of all, you should leave the problem to diplomats who understand the Chinese. Let them figure out a way to let the Chinese save face.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

The world’s worst walls.

Sunday, January 6th, 2019

There are walls to keep people in. There are walls to keep people out. They all ultimately fail. Walls to keep people in are just a challenge to human ingenuity. Walls to keep people out can be subject to siege. The truth is walls do not show strength, they show weakness. Walls are built by frightened people.

The Berlin Wall was probably the best example. It was built in 1961 to keep Western ‘Fascists’ from entering East Germany and undermining the German Democratic Republic—at least that was the story. The truth was that since the end of the Second World War, Berlin had been an open door for more that 2.5 million Germans to go from East Germany to the west. Though there were those who died trying to cross it, the wall did not stop everyone who considered it a challenge.

When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, it was followed by the reunification of Germany in 1990.

The second ‘wall of shame’ was built by Israel in 2003. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is quite proud of this wall. He even twitted that “It works.” He is encouraging the Twitter King in the White House to build his wall across the southern United States.

Nobody expected Netanyahu to say otherwise. His wall stands as a monument to Israel’s inability to resolve the conflicts with its neighbours. This wall of hate was condemned by the United Nations General Assembly by a vote of 144 to 4 and 12 abstentions. The votes in favour of the wall were reported to be Israel, U.S.A., the Marshall Islands and Micronesia.

The Mexican government is understood to be extremely annoyed at Israel for encouraging president Trump to build his wall. You will please note that the American president has stopped talking about the Mexicans paying for the wall. That will happen after the Gulf of California freezes over and the NHL admits a Mexican hockey team to play on the frozen gulf as their home ice.

Mr. Trump does not seem to care how many government employees his actions have furloughed. He does not care how many government employees he is forcing to work with their salary withheld. He is a mean selfish little man and is disgracing the United States of America.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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

Would a gold piano sound tinny?

Monday, December 31st, 2018

Most commentators write a recap about the preceding year on New Year’s Eve but I only thought back a week to an ‘oops.’ I realized that this Canadian missed the Monarch’s message to the Commonwealth. It is with fond memories I note that mother used to always insist that her brood gather round the radio for it on Christmas morning.

My first recollections of this go back to King George VI struggling with his stammer. You could hear his consort, Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother), in the background helping him.

Googling Queen Elizabeth II and her speech this year was a bit of a disappointment. It seems that many of the ungrateful in the United Kingdom complained about the opulence of the gold piano behind her. They thought it was incongruent with a speech about the struggles of the poor and despondent around the world.

But I am sure there were some positive parts to the speech. Queen Elizabeth has had a good deal of time to perfect the genre over the years. She records the speech weeks ahead though as she has other duties on Christmas and Boxing Day. On Christmas there was the traditional sighting of royals as the young ones traipsed down the road to the local church while the 92-year old Queen came in one of the royal limousines.

It seems as though the young ones have already taken over the public interest in the Brit royals. Kate and William, along with Meghan and Harry have become the Brit version of the American Kardashians. Would you believe there is an entire industry built around the royal gossip produced for people who really need to get a life.

But all this silly gossip passes and becomes of less interest in Canada and other Commonwealth countries. It is of dying interest in Canada particularly as more and more we have to pay attention to what is happening to the south.

When Pierre Trudeau compared Canada’s position as sleeping with an elephant, he had obviously never met someone such as Donald Trump. We are beset today in trying to sleep with an insomniac who is the Twitter King and who plays at his own fantasy Game of Thrones.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Rules of entitlement.

Saturday, December 15th, 2018

The recent troubles in Paris have brought to mind a week I spent in Paris on business back in the 1970s. My business ‘host’ and tour guide for the week was part Vietnamese and he provided an unusual but perceptive insight into the Parisian sense of entitlement.

Working for an American company, he had just returned from his five-week summer holiday during which, he had been sailing between the Greek Islands in the Aegean. As the son of a French Army officer, he was well educated but obviously harboured a deep resentment for the bigotry of Parisians.

Yet, he never took me to a restaurant that was not listed in the Guide Michelin—to the point that I came home desperate for a Harvey’s hamburger. Luckily the wife and I had done the tourist things in Paris–from Napoleon’s tomb to the Eiffel tower–a few years before, so my host and I had a lot of work product to show for the trip.

But it was the growing awareness of how different Paris was from the rest of France and language schism between the French and French Canadians that caught my interest. Parisians can be about the rudest people you will ever have to deal with in life, but I think the experience is worth it. You certainly learn what it is like to have someone to look down on you for using your Ontario high school French. They will likely deny it, but I also know that Parisians can be among the warmest, generous, caring and decent people in the world.

But they seem to have absolutely no tolerance for queuing. They like to ape the Brits at being snobs but lack the centuries of inbreeding that can make that Brit snobbery so cutting.

It was all William the Conqueror’s fault. I think he confused the gene pool and the French and Brits have far more in common than they like to admit.

But I wish that the French could just export some of that ‘Yellow Jacket’ rebellion across the Channel. The Brits have to come to grips with the BREXIT mess and get their shill-shallying politicians back in line. Nobody in Westminster seems to care about the average Brit and that is who will suffer whatever way the politicians take it.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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