Archive for the ‘World Politics’ Category

Harry says nobody wants the crown!

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

That was the good news the other day. In an interview with American Newsweek Magazine, Prince Harry of the House of Windsor said that nobody in the royal family really aspires to being King or Queen. What Harry probably meant was that it would be unseemly for any royal to want the crown while it is still firmly on the head of his grandmother Elizabeth II.

There is no question but that the role of monarch is a rather onerous duty but nobody thought to ask Harry (fifth in line for the throne) if he would refuse it. It is not likely. With the crown goes enormous responsibility for the royal estates, properties, race horses and the wealth to support it all. The British monarch is the chair of the board that oversees it all.

And bear in mind that the very fact of that monarchy returns handsomely to the United Kingdom in terms of tourism, prestige and connections with the world-wide Commonwealth. Nurturing those connections is a part of the job.

Countries such as Canada have no need for the connections with the monarchy today but the vestige of the monarchy is still used by the country’s governments and politicians as a link to the past. While a contentious connection in Quebec, it also has its political uses there.

The reason why the remarks by the prince were noteworthy was the use he made of them to sell the need for the continuance of the monarchy. He noted that it was what happened to his mother with her untimely death that changed the monarchy for all time. Buckingham Palace was put into a fast response mode when it was awakened to learn of the her death in Paris.

It mattered so little the anger of the princess’ brother. A twelve-year-old boy and his older brother had to walk behind the casket of their mother for the entire world to see. Even Buckingham Palace turned out. The palace had realized that you either humanized the monarchy or lost place in history. The cold, brittle, cloistered monarchy of Queen Victoria could no longer survive. The stiff upper lip of the proper Brit needed to be aired.

While the Commonwealth only looks on at this new monarchy, little understanding the changes, it is desperately needed at this time to try to keep the United Kingdom united. The Brexit argument continues for the U.K. and with it any hope for the future.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

 

Exorcising the errata of ego.

Friday, June 16th, 2017

There can be no excuse for slovenly writing. There is that rude awakening when your e-mails include comments on your careless errors. Some days you get more than others.

One reader was particularly incensed the other day over my rude and inaccurate remarks in discussing the United Kingdom and Brexit. While I admit the mea culpa for not noting that the UK never did accept the Euro, I always thought they should.

And there is a story to that. Back when my bride and I first arrived in London as tourists, the UK was still undergoing the change from shillings and crowns to a decimal pound. I would end up each day with a pocketful of strange mixed coins, fewer five pound notes and the feeling that I was being taken for a patsy. They probably thought we were Americans but we were surprised by the occasional rudeness we encountered. (Mind you, at the time, we had not tested our Ontario French on Parisians.)

As a professional writer, it is obviously ego that gets me to comment on subjects where others fear to tread. It is also the confidence that as a writer, I take pride in being able to research many subjects. I know too much about the Internet and the egregious errors that it can promote to trust any one source there.

But qualifying comments suffers sometimes with the continuing effort to find an interesting daily topic and to reduce the Babel-on-the-Bay word count. We found that our number of regular readers doubled every time we cut another 100 words from our comments. We will never compete with Donald Trump’s dominance of the 140 character Twitterverse, but we are very comfortable today at averaging less than 400 words on any posting. It just does not leave much room for qualifying every comment.

So, yes, we do know the difference between the free movement of labour and immigration in the EU. We erred. There are other (albeit smaller) EU countries not accepting refugees but that is no excuse for bigoted Brits to vote Brexit to avoid doing the humanitarian thing. They deserve shaming.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

 

En Marche Macron!

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

Did you know that French President Emmanuel Macron’s political party has only existed for a little more than a year? More than 66 per cent of French voters gave 39-year old Macron their support in the run-off election against right-wing candidate Marine La Pen. The party is reported to be fielding a full slate of candidates in the legislative elections under the banner of La République En Marche from its En Marche members, the Social Democrats and dissidents from the Socialist, Republican and minor parties. The Macron story has a cautionary tale in it for the Liberal Party of Canada.

En Marche is described as both socially and economically liberal. In France, that is thought of as being of the radical centre. It has much of the promise of the UK’s Tony Blair and American Bill Clinton’s previously proposed Third Way and it is the kind of social democratic party promised by Bernie Sanders in the United States last year. It is also the kind of party Justin Trudeau promised Canadians but so far has failed to deliver.

While one gets the impression that his predecessor President François Hollande considers him something of an ‘Enfant Terrible,’ Macron described himself as a centrist even when a member of the socialists. Based on his published economic promises and speeches, academics also consider him a centrist. Mind you, French politicians have a reputation of being Bolsheviks at breakfast, liberals over lunch and dogmatic conservatives by dinner time.

President Macron and Prime Minister Trudeau should get on well. With Trump replacing Obama on the international scene, Macron and Trudeau should be natural allies. And along with Germany’s Angela Merkle, they can dominate the G-20 countries and speak as one to Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

There is also no question that Macron and Trudeau will be the strong force in the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.

Now if some of Macron’s thirst for action just rubs off on Trudeau!

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Concern for the United(?) Kingdom.

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

The mood in the United Kingdom today is concerning. It is the sort of sad mood caused by a relative that might need mental health assistance. You are despairing of just how you can help.

We can hardly lay blame. Is it Prime Minister Elizabeth May’s fault? We knew she was in trouble when she called that ill-conceived election. We could not even publish a morning line on the possible results because the situation was too fluid and too chaotic. May seems to lack proper political instincts. And despite the centuries of those lovely isles usually finding the leadership needed, they are at a loss today.

Brexit is the final straw. It spells the end of the UK as a world power. The Scots will have to rebuild that old Roman wall. Ireland will need to re-unite. England and Wales will be left with their quaint royals, hopefully attracting tourists.

Could May admit to the inadvisability of holding hands with Trump? And would it be at all wise for her to accept the political support of the party of Ulster’s late Ian Paisley?

Wiser heads than ours will determine if May is getting a bum rap. She does pale though, in comparison to the gutsiness of the late Baroness Thatcher.

The real question for May is that the Brexit negotiations are up next and we have no idea what the hell she is negotiating. Is a good deal possible when leaving the European Union? Can she keep the UK half in or half out? Could she return from negotiating in Brussels and wave a piece of paper from the top of the steps from the plane and shout; “Peace in our time’? Or is she simply asking to return the UK to the confused conditions as they were before the EU?

Is Ms. May really so confused that she does not realize that these are negotiations that nobody wins? What is there for the EU to win from the UK’s departure? Why would anyone be so stupid as to think that the UK would be better off without the EU?

There is no way that the EU countries would let some bigoted Brits win the right to stay in the EU and still fail to assist in the refugee problems? That seems the main bloody reason for Brexit and it has shamed the UK.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Trump’s travels as ‘The Ugly American.’

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump has been out of the country this week. Life in Washington has been more peaceful. While Congress is despairing, trying to make sense of his budget, they have sent Trump to the Middle East and Europe on a pilgrimage to find his true religion and meaning.

What Trump is really doing is a reprise of Eugene Burdick and William Lederer’s 1958 novel The Ugly American. His first visit to the House of Saud was the classic example of the American tourist; flattered to be fed American foods, spoken to in American English and sleeping on an American style bed.

Trump was either unwilling to understand or unaware of the Saudi’s duplicity in funding Islamic extremists and where those American arms are ending up in Mid-East wars. Like Trump, the Saud family have too much money for anyone’s good.

Having learned nothing of the religion of the Prophet Muhammad, he was off to Jerusalem. Here at least, he was taken to the ancient Western Wall of the Second Temple. He appeared to have no prayer to leave in the wall.

Air Force One barely had time for an oil change before heading on to its next stop in Rome for the President to visit Pope Francis. It would have been interesting to know what the President and his wife were having a difference about. When leaving their multi-million dollar plane on the tarmac in Rome you saw Trump reaching to hold her hand and she batted it away. Being Catholic, maybe she wanted to appear more virginal for the audience with His Holiness.

The First Lady and her (Jewish) step-daughter Ivanka wore mantillas as head coverings out of respect for the Pope. As in Trump’s visits with the two other hosts, there was no insight into what was said during their meetings.

It was a pushy Trump who headed on to Brussels to meet with his peers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He lectured them instead of listening. He complained they were reluctant to pay their way. Is this the organization that told its members to keep their remarks of Twitter size? They seem aware that Trump has the attention span of a nine-year old.

But it was in a palatial Sicilian hotel overlooking the Mediterranean, that Trump really left the largest pile. As just one of the four new leaders of the G-7, Trump was the untrained elephant in the room. He criticized the Germans, reiterated his denial of climate change, insulted his hosts and probably told a horrified chef to burn his steak.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Why progressive elites are losing.

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

The disappointment progressives have felt with the New Democratic Party over the last couple decades has been something we have argued about but maybe not understood as well as we should. Maybe Robin V. Sears of the NDP put his finger on it the other day when complaining in print about the ease with which Donald Trump took much of the angry underclass away from the Democrats in the American’s 2016 presidential campaign. Donald Trump caught all of us progressive pundits with our pants down.

In Canada, we were still wondering why it was that NDP leader Thomas Mulcair blew away a sizeable lead towards winning the 2015 federal election. He could not even hold on to the seats in his own province brought to his party by former NDP leader Jack Layton.

But when the biggest policy argument of the NDP convention that fired Mulcair was the shallowness of the LEAP Manifesto, we should have twigged to what was wrong. This is a party that is out of touch with the people about whom it is supposed to care. It is a party dominated by unions that hardly know how to serve their own members.

What academics explain as the anger of the white working class is supposedly caused by the job losses to automation and the corporate ability to move production to lowest-wage jurisdictions. Add to that the realization that all politicians lie to them and that nobody can solve global warming and you can see how the frustration is building.

When stressed, voters turn to extremes. In America, we saw the accident of Trump. In Europe, we saw Brexit and the close call with Marine Le Pen. Canada picked the untried and unproven Justin Trudeau.

What the public is looking for are politicians that put principals ahead of promises. That is the lesson that at least Mulcair learned in the last federal election. Who was going to believe a socialist who promised a balanced budget? And where was the decency in arguing about Niqabs?

In the American tragedy of their last election, voters saw what anger, lies and distrust can produce. The only politician who came out of that horrendous selection process with honour was an aging democratic socialist by the name of Bernie Sanders. We should all take a page from his book.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

When the Pope meets the Antichrist.

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

The arrival of U.S. President Donald Trump in Rome needs a Cecil B. DeMille style Hollywood epic production. It would have trumpets and bass drums, rolling black clouds in the sky, flashes of lightening. We would see a Donald Trump dressed in black, towering over the gargoyles of Hell in his retinue. He would be met by a cowering claque of priests led by their Pope holding tightly to his cross.

That would be a bit melodramatic but Trump would like the showmanship involved. He certainly has no idea of how to act with a pope. There would be a considerable hypocrisy to him referring to the pope as “Your Holiness.”

There will be no epiphany. Trump would no more think that he is representing his country’s Catholics to the Vatican as he would be representing America’s Jews in Jerusalem. The Saudi’s had no thought of inviting him to drop in at Mecca as representing America’s Muslims.

The trouble with Trump is that he has no idea what he is doing or who he represents. He never seriously believed he would win the presidency. All he did was feed on the anger of the people coming to him. Tea Party darling Sarah Palin introduced Trump to the Republican convention as beloved of the rock ‘n’ rollers and holly rollers but she left out the bikers and white supremacists, the losers and the angry, the people mired in poverty without hope and anyone else that ‘civilized’ Americans had written off.

This American proletariat knew that Trump was a bigot, a chauvinist, ignorant and ill-equipped to be president but they all helped set up the accident that was the Electoral College. They chose him in anger and bitterness in a country of denied promises. They knew the weaknesses of America’s claim to greatness. They wanted their share and, if they could not have it, they simply wanted to get even.

And now they think Trump is serving them. He serves no one other than his own ego. They delude themselves and they delude Trump with their continued devotion. For Trump is the Antichrist.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

In the politics of vitriol.

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017

The emerging right-wing politics of Europe is spreading like a disease. First we had the self destructive BREXIT from the United Kingdom and now the threatening right in key countries such as France and Germany and even a smaller and usually cooperative Netherlands. Europe still has a way to go though to match the craziness of the current American experience.

And it is crazy. The strongest country in the world has self-destructively put an incompetent in command. And you would think that President Trump’s staunchest enemies would be from the left. They are not. The major block facing off with Trump are a few dozen Tea-Party Republicans in the House of Representatives. They call themselves the House Freedom Caucus.

These men are straight from the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. They actually stopped the cancellation of Obamacare because they did not think the bill was destructive enough. They are challenging Donald Trump’s ownership of America’s right wing crazies.

The real concern though is that as Commander in Chief, Trump has found that he can play with live soldiers and real weapons. If Congress will not let him build his wall on the Rio Grande, he can still trade insults with a lunatic despot on the other side of the Pacific who wants a war. They each brag about the size of their rockets.

You would think that Trump would be smart to play nice with his neighbours when he is new to his job. Instead he insults the Mexicans and patronizes the Canadians. If he thinks he can divide and conquer, he is definitely going about it the wrong way.

In the meantime, Russia’s Vladimir Putin has watched Trump play directly into his game. Putin must be giggling in his sleep and planning his next walk-in take-over.

The travails of the complex Middle East are obviously far above the level of understanding of Trump. A key ally there, Turkey, is falling under the rule of a dictator, the Israelis remain hard-nosed and intransigent, Russia keeps the pot boiling in Syria, the hard-line politicians of Iran are trying to challenge the theocratic rule of the Ayatollahs, Pakistan, when not arguing with India, gives safe haven to Afghan insurgents and the Saudi’s are stirring the pot in Yemen. It is no tourist paradise.

And judging by the Conservatives contesting the current Conservative Party of Canada leadership, some of that hard-right thinking is starting to drift into Canada. It will be interesting when we get a chance to analyse the voting by the new and old members of that party.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Mother of all Bombs: No oversight required?

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

During his presidential campaign, President Trump promised to bomb the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (ISIL) brigands in the Middle East back to the Middle Ages. He now seems to have given America’s generals carte blanche to do that. The only problem is that the ISIL fanatics involved in Afghanistan are already living in what is very much a Middle Ages world.

The American generals recently used a MOAB, popularly called the ‘Mother of All Bombs,’ and which also means Massive Ordnance Air Blast on a target in Afghanistan. It is a conventional high explosive, guided bomb device and was used for the first time by the Americans on an area of Achin in the Nangahar Province of Afghanistan. The huge bomb contains 10,000 kilograms of high explosive and its three-kilometre diameter blast area would have obliterated a large number of poppy growers along with their crops and families. The generals were hoping that the force of the bomb would crush the tunnels and caves in the area which are believed to be used by the ISIL forces.

And that is a great deal of ordnance to expend without civilian oversight when American forces are heavily involved in an undeclared war in the area.

The Achin area is east of Kabul on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The proximity of the border provides ISIL with convenient resupply and troop movement from Pakistan. Most of these fighters are Pakistani who speak the local Pashto language.

But it is the lack of civilian oversight in the use of a MOAB that is of the most concern. When the generals start carpet bombing with these things they will endanger the lives of Afghans and ISIL fighters alike. Mind you, bombs of this size and capability do not come cheap. Nor can they be delivered by a conventional bomber. They have to be dropped from the largest air transport planes that the Americans have.

President Trump cannot just give up his oversight responsibility as Commander-in-Chief of the American forces. He can only abrogate his oversight at serious risk. Collateral damage might just be a statistic to the generals but the statistics are the civilians being placed in harm’s way. It is the Commander-in-Chief who has the ultimate responsibility.

It makes you wonder though: If the American generals used a few of those ‘Mothers’ on targets in Pakistan, would it help slow down the endless war in Afghanistan?

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

You think Trump got it right in Syria?

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

There were pictures in North American papers the other day of Trump and his key advisers in a small room at his Florida resort. The captions explained that they were being briefed on options in Syria. The question that has to be asked: Is a strike against one airfield any kind of solution?

Does the world really need tit-for-tat gamesmanship?

Is this a Trump era solution? Trump can bawl about babies being killed all he likes but babies have been routinely murdered in Syria for the past six years, to the despair of the world, and there is no permanent solution in sight.

Trump is an ass. He is being congratulated for 58 out of 59 Tomahawk missiles being able to find their general target area. And it only cost a little over a million (US dollars) for each missile. Based on the after pictures, Syrian Leader Bashar al-Assad could have the base operational again in about two weeks if he wants. Just one surgical nuclear weapon would have made the air base unusable for about 2000 years.

The difference is that between an admonition and a conviction.

Looking at all those rich white men (and one young and rich Trump relation) around that table makes you wonder who really made the decision? It was a bad decision in any event. It was made in retaliation and in anger and because they could.

Better people than Donald Trump and his Merry Men have addressed the Syrian situation and have been found wanting. When a dictator such as al-Assad spends his idle afternoons in Damascus thinking up new ways to kill his county’s people, there are no simple solutions. And having Vladimir Putin of Russia stick his oar into the desert sands of the Middle east is not exactly helping the problems.

But what is America doing on this Holy Crusade? If we heard Mr. Trump correctly last year, we thought he wanted nothing to do with the Middle East. And yet, he thinks he can bomb the ISIL brigands back to the Middle Ages. He just has no idea how to do that.

You would think that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with his background with ExxonMobil could explain the politics of oil and the Middle East to him. Maybe Mr. Trump is more of a coal guy.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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