Archive for the ‘World Politics’ Category

Exploring electoral ennui in America.

Saturday, August 25th, 2018

The one overriding perception of the 2016 American presidential election was that people were angry. Their disgust with Democrat and Republican party politics was visceral. A wise host and hostess tried to avoid discussions of politics among their guests. There was the common feeling that politics in America was not working. Washington was a quagmire. Politicians were failing to represent the people and there were many answers to the “Why?”

But what was at the root? Your senator or representative, Democrat or Republican, could always point at the other guy. There was no easy answer.

Take a look back at the campaign of Donald Trump. He broke all the rules. He hardly cared. The more the man proved himself shallow and unqualified for the presidency, the larger his claque grew. They supported him despite his limitations. They dug in their heels. They would shout down common sense.

And with the election of Donald Trump as president, the barbarian had breached the gate. As the incumbent, he was able to command centre stage as the court jester. What are you supposed to think?

Donald Trump has given succor to every tin pot dictator and aspiring tyrant in every country around the world. Let a mantra of lies carry you to your destiny, he tells them.

And yet this is a man who is becoming increasingly paranoid as he also realizes that the job of president is far beyond his capabilities. He is becoming the buffoon who entertains the troops. His rambling screeds at his ego-boosting rallies are becoming more and more incoherent.

Mr. Trump is not making America great again but destroying friendships with America. Under Trump, America stands alone, a pariah among nations.

But it is the lessons others are learning from the Trump experience that cause concern. Where can politics be headed when these egotistical supermen (and some ladies) decide they alone represent ‘Truth, Justice and their country’s Way’ in your local elections?

All the candidate needs to do is: Build on bitterness—conquer civility—defy definition—encourage evil—foment feuds—galvanize the gullible—hasten hostility—inculcate ignorance and the list goes on.

And candidates always have to remember that the news media are your enemy. Keep them guessing. You only have to pander to the needy. Promise them anything for their vote. Deliver at your whim.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

It should not all be about Trump.

Saturday, August 18th, 2018

The other day newspapers in North America and around the world joined in a paean for a free press. It needs to be said that where it failed was that so much of that valuable space was given so freely to U.S. president Donald Trump and that ilk. It was no palliative.

It failed when it gave much of the space to those who would destroy the free press that we do have.  It failed when it whined about detractors, their harsh words and scorn for their failures. It was not just the mote in their eye but their desperate search for new readers and subscribers. We could not read them all but we were concerned that, in those we did read, there did not seem to be much said about professionalism.

Press professionalism is something of a ghost. We talk about it but do not see it as often as we would want. Professionalism is a trust. It is the trust that the facts have been checked and double checked. It is the trust in a second opinion—call it editing—has seen the piece and declared it trustworthy.

And it takes experience. We are not all wonder kinder still fresh from journalism school. We have to learn to ask the right questions and not be afraid to ask them. We have to write the truth as we see it.

There must be some kind of a graduating ceremony in certain newsrooms. It is when a reporter stops writing news and switches to opinions. There really should be stiffer exams for that.

(I am obviously not talking about my efforts—here, you get what you pay for!)

Professionalism is something you get paid for. You go from trainee, to journey person, to professional. And a few get to master it.

You, as a reader, also have a responsibility. What is the point if you always agree with the media you are reading? How does that stimulate your thinking? What could be the point? If you never challenge the editors of your local newspapers, what does that say about you? When you are giving of your interest, you have a right to demand professionalism.

And us curmudgeons who complain from the sidelines are here in hopes we can also keep the newcomers honest. If we have an opinion you can appreciate; you will read us. If we do not; you will not. It is that simple. Readership is a barometer of whether any writing is of interest. The more you read, the larger, more interesting is your world.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Disciplining the diplomacy of diplomats.

Sunday, August 12th, 2018

She might be a bit smaller in stature but foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland is head-over-heels ahead of a conservative predecessor John Baird. Baird was something of an embarrassment throughout his tenure during the Harper era. And if Freeland knew enough to stay away from Twitter, we could give her even higher marks.

Who does she think she is; Donald Trump?

Freeland recently used Twitter to piss off the Saudis. How stupid could that be? What the hell does she think is the reason for countries having access to diplomatic channels?

Twitter is for children and show-offs. Twitter is for bad jokes. Twitter is for people who need to get a life. It is not a channel for diplomats.

If you really want to tell those Wahhabi Sunnis in Riyadh what you think of them, tell them to their face. A true Wahhabi knows that you are an infidel scorned by Allah and even worse, to them, you are just a woman. Why should those Bedouins give a damn what you think?

Your strength, as a diplomat, is in the country you represent. And you are representing a country that is recognized and respected around the world for its progressiveness in technology, in human rights, in respecting the ecology and its democracy.

And, it is why they will listen to you. If it is Canada speaking to them, they will listen. Their country might be barely out of the 19th century but they do understand our arguments in favour of human rights. Both countries gain by us training many of their medical specialists. And there are other areas of mutual interest.

This does not include our sell-through of American armoured vehicles. The fiction of those vehicles as Canadian is one that neither nation needs.

Admittedly, it is diplomacy that helps keep the world’s economics running smoothly.

And we should never forget that a very important venue for diplomacy is just down the road in New York. It is the United Nations. If you are worried about the Saudis threatening the peace in the middle east, take you concerns to the United Nations. Those diplomats enjoy a good squabble.

But never forget that it was the Brits who brought the Saudis out of the middle ages about 100 years ago. They are still a couple centuries behind. If we keep the proper diplomatic pressure on them, they just might listen.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Trump’s Divide and Conquest.

Tuesday, July 24th, 2018

It has been worrisome lately that Justin Trudeau was heading off on a track that would take him too far from the liberalism we shared with his father. It is therefore important to note that he has done something with which a liberal can easily concur.

The younger Trudeau has made it clear to all that he stands for a three-country North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Both Trump and his agriculture secretary have stated that they would prefer to close a deal with Mexico before trying to resolve the remaining problems they say they have with Canada.

It would seem that the Americans are seeing Mexico as more desperate to maintain any level of trade agreement and Canada as the problem. They think they can bully the Mexicans to bring them on side and then, with Mexico locked in, they can strong-arm Canada to roll back some of the terms of the initial auto-pact that predated the Canada-U.S. NAFTA.

But when Donald Trump admits that he dreamed up the supposed deficits in trade with his country’s North American neighbours, he is not helping make his case for changes. His demand for a sunset clause coming every five years in the agreement would cause permanent instability. Companies dealing in major trade deals need to make long-term commitments to trading partners.

As things stand at this time, Mexico has a regime change in process that will take until December 1 to be completed. The incoming president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has already said that he stands with Canada on it being a three-country agreement. What the Trump negotiators are going to offer to change his mind, we will likely learn the seriousness of his commitment on that this coming week.

The strategy was obvious when the Mexican negotiators were invited to Washington this week and Canada’s lead negotiator foreign minister Chrystia Freeland is staying in Ottawa.

It was originally the intent to put NAFTA on the back burner for the three countries during the period of the Mexican presidential election that took place July 1, and then through the American mid-term elections in November. Should the American House of Representatives and the Senate come under the control of the Democratic Party at that time there could be a concerted effort to take control of trade away from President Trump.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The Trumps do Europe this summer.

Sunday, July 15th, 2018

Donald Trump and his lovely wife Melania are doing Europe this summer. Distaining the very pedestrian bus tours, the Trumps are using Air Force One and helicopters to speed their European journey. God forbid that they should have to meet and communicate with any of the lower classes.

It was bad enough in Brussels when Donald got into it with the Germans. In his typical ignorance of anything economic, he accused the Germans of supporting Russian natural gas sales. He could not understand the Germans buying natural gas from Russia. Maybe he can get his friend Vladimir Putin to explain it when they meet in Helsinki. The gas sales to Germany are the main source of hard currency to Russia. It would be crazy for the Europeans to cut off this critical trade with Russia.

Back aboard Air Force One, the Trump’s rested during their 30-minute trip to London. Nobody else would come to the airport to meet them in London so they were met by the American Ambassador. The London streets were already crowded with protestors, so they helicoptered to the American Embassy. The Trumps missed the fun in the streets. You really must admit that the Brits do good protests.

The Trump baby balloon was a big hit with the news media in London but they were throwing a party for the Trumps at Blenheim Palace out in Oxfordshire. It was a chance for the Brits to show that they also do good ceremony. Donald was not allowed to hold hands with PM Theresa May.

He held her hand the next day when he tried to explain an American reporter had got it wrong about what he said. He had complained that there would be no deal with the U.S. because May was trying to negotiate a soft Brexit instead of a clear cut off.

Later in the day, he was met formally by the Queen and 400 red-coated Grenadier Guards—complete with brass bands and pomp and ceremony. And if he could not get it right that, as a commoner, he was to walk behind the queen, they were going to load those Grenadiers’ rifles.

But before he got into any more trouble, the Trumps left for a weekend in Scotland playing at Trump golf courses. Donald would feel at home there.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Catching the auto called Brexit.

Friday, July 13th, 2018

Have you ever wondered what dogs do if they catch the car? It seems that dogs have fun chasing cars but they really have little idea what they might do with one if they ever catch it. We have an excellent example of the problem for you: it is called Brexit.

Watching the horror of the Brexit build up over the campaign of two years ago was an exercise in disbelief and shock. Canadians have their own image of the stoic, stiff-upper-lip Brits and it is a mixture of both admiration and distain. We have seen it too often. Our history books are full of it. It is a combination of a cavalry charge against cannons; it is Florence Nightingale soothing the wretched wounded.

But Brexit was a tanged web of bigotry, frustration and opportunism and Brit pride and prejudice. The hordes were at the gates in Europe and the Brits wanted to slam the door many years too late. It scared the hell out of the Northern Irish and the Scots but there was little they could do about it. (Their time will come.)

Whatever kind of false pride caused PM Theresa May to think she could steer her ship of state through the shoals out of the safe harbour of the European Union, she was obviously suffering delusions. And thinking she had bought off Boris Johnson with the foreign secretary job was the worst delusion.

From day one as mayor of London, Johnson has had one objective. He is an egomaniac in the Donald Trump tradition. He wants May’s job. To him, Brexit is just a means to an end.

Like Trump, Johnson has no understanding of the economic consequences of his actions. He thinks a pyrrhic victory is just another of the Peloponnesian wars. He has made it clear from the beginning that he wants a ‘hard’ Brexit, with no side deals with the European Union. He has no understanding of the pain and suffering he will cause for the working men and women who voted for Brexit because of his rhetoric.

Johnson’s jealousies of the French and German dominated European Union will leave the United Kingdom a quaint tax haven for the rich, a money laundering facility for the unscrupulous and an island-wide sweat shop with low wages for the workers.

And like the yelping dogs who caught the automobile, they go around to each tire, lift their leg and then go home to lie in wait for the next.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The threats of Trump’s thugs.

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

You would think you had heard it all. It is as though President Trump and his followers in the United States are proud of their ignorance. The other day, it was reliably reported that Trump appointees were threatening other countries over mothers’ milk. It seems they went to the World Health Assembly in Geneva and voted against a resolution supporting the use of mothers’ milk over the use of manufactured substitutes.

It seems that over the past 40 years, the assembly has stood firmly in favour of the qualities of mothers’ milk for initial feeding of infants. It seems some American substitute powder manufacturers disagree with the rest of the world. They have products to sell.

We have known for a long time that powdered substitutes were a very bad idea in third world countries where clean water is hard for the mothers to acquire. Infants in third world countries really need the immunities that can be fed to them in their mother’s milk. For supplement manufacturers to promote their products in the third world is ludicrous.

But the stupidity did not end with a single vote in Geneva. The American delegation at first tried to amend the resolution. This was annoying. And then they started to threaten other delegations if they did not support the American position. This made more delegates angry.

But it also meant that some delegations caved into the U.S. demands. Their countries could not afford to lose support programs from America. The assembly in Geneva, makes the rules for the World Health Organization (WHO) and for the past 40 years, it has recommended the use of mothers’ milk as the safest and healthiest for babies. Why the American delegates had suddenly embraced the stand of American infant formula manufacturers was not clear.

But it certainly serves to show us how far President Trump and his troops will go in pursuit of lobbyist supporters. They are available at a reasonable price to any and all with the money to pay them.

All we can say further to this is that the Trump troops were not successful. It was actually Russia that carried the flag for mothers’ milk and presented the resolution. We have no doubt that the Canadian delegation was among those who were pleased to support it.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

 

From Teddy’s ‘Bully Pulpit.’

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

Trust President Donald Trump to get it wrong. He thinks of President Theodore Roosevelt’s White House ‘bully pulpit’ as a place to bully other world leaders. What Roosevelt saw as a great place from which to show strong leadership, Trump seems to think of it as a safe haven from which to insult others.

There was a wonderful picture from the G7 summit in La Malbaie going the rounds on the Internet that had been doctored to show Trump sitting in a high chair with a bowl of spaghetti overturned on his head. He is being confronted in the picture by Angela Merkel of Germany, Shinzō Abe of Japan and the head of the European Union. That picture certainly says volumes about the G7 meeting!

But what a waste Trump makes of the White House as a bully pulpit.

And for Trump and his acolytes in the White House to be ridiculing the prime minister of Canada is both rude and stupid. Trump is creating a rift with the six other most powerful and progressive countries in the world. The G7 has become the G6 plus one outlier. And Trump needed to understand that if he did not like Trudeau’s agenda for the meeting, there was lots of opportunity to add other subjects. In fact, world trade did get an airing.

Maybe Trump was frustrated by being with people he could not bully.

But, also, who would be so stupid as to deliberately insult your next-door neighbours? Canada and the United States of America have been good friends for over 150 years. Even the staunchest of Trump’s followers would have trouble understanding his tweets against Canada. And he would hear about it if half a million Canadian snow-birds stopped going to Florida each winter.

And yet in a meeting with Trudeau, Trump accused Canadians of burning down the White House in 1812. All Trudeau had time to say was “No we did not.” He wanted to correct Trump with the fact that it was the British who burnt Washington, only after the Americans set fire to Fort York—which later became the city of Toronto.

One of the apologists for Donald Trump in the U.S. went on TV on Sunday with the suggestion that Trump needed to look strong for the meeting with Kim Jong Un. If Trump needs to put down the entire G7 to make himself seem more important, the U.S. is in more trouble than we thought.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Donald Trump’s play date with Kim Jong Un.

Monday, June 11th, 2018

The American president plans to add to his infamy tomorrow as he meets with Kim Jong Un, leader of North Korea. It seems incongruous for Donald Trump to be traveling about the world causing consternation and havoc wherever he goes. Will it take the North Korean dictator to show Trump for what he really is?

Trump and his troops are still in a tizzy over his treatment in Charlevoix, Quebec during the G7 meeting. Nobody at the world leaders’ meeting seemed very happy with Mr. Trump. It is unlikely that his host Justin Trudeau was really ‘taking the mickey’ on Trump when he presented him with a framed picture of great grandpa Trump’s 1899 whore house in Bennett, British Columbia. Everyone’s family fortune starts somewhere.

It was just unfortunate that president Trump took the criticisms at the G7 meeting personally. There was no need for all the personal insults on Twitter by Trump afterwards. It looked as though The Donald entertained himself and his claque all the way to Singapore dreaming up more insults for his Canadian host. Does he realize wars have been started for less?

The most amazing suggestion that the Trump Terror came up with at Charlevoix meeting was the threat to stop all trade with countries that do not go along with his ideas. When you think of the daily trade in billions crossing the Canada-U.S. border, the suggestion takes on the dimensions of the preposterous. Just making the suggestion shows that he has absolutely no idea what is involved. We would respectfully suggest that the American Congress needs to impeach this guy before he destroys the North American and maybe the world economy.

But we also need to take a hard look at Trump and his play date with Kim Jong Un. What do you expect to get when put together two of the world’s loose cannons with the biggest egos?

There is a growing awareness that the North Koreans are really using a gullible Trump as a foil to ease the sanctions against them. They probably have absolutely no intention to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula but will promise Trump they will anyway.

Can you not see Donald Trump flying home to Washington, flourishing Kim’s signature and announcing “Peace for our time”? It was 80 years ago that Brit prime minister Neville Chamberlain said that on arrival at London. Mr. Trump is just not a student of history.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

It was not all about Trump.

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

The American president flew out of Canada’s Bagotville air base yesterday a disappointed egotist. He stopped by to impress the other world leaders and got the cold shoulder. Not even the stunning spring beauty of the Charlevois region of Quebec could rescue the frosty atmosphere of the G7 meeting.

But Donald Trump is a bad guest. He arrived late and left early. He had no interest in the meeting agenda. He threw a curve on arrival suggesting that his friend Vladimir Putin of Russia should be there. He contributed nothing but dissention and distrust. He was rude to his host, the world leaders and anyone else who took an interest.

There was no question that host Justin Trudeau’s agenda was important but not the primary concerns of the day. That was no excuse for Trump posting rude tweets about the meeting as soon as he got to the wi-fi on Air Force One.

Why Trump wanted to keep accusing other world leaders of having 300 per cent tariffs on dairy products was not the point of the meeting. If he really wanted to understand the difference between supply management and the American boom or bust free-for-all in the dairy industry, he should talk to Wisconsin dairy farmers first. Canadians have been accommodating under the North American trade agreement but they are not about to allow the destruction of a working system of controls over a volatile industry.

What is more problematic is this egotist is now in Singapore to meet Kim Jong Un. The North Korean leader is already there and the world has absolutely no idea of what this meeting will solve. It has always been the impression of this commentator that Kim Jong Un is a puppet for the military leaders in North Korea and he has absolutely no concern for his Korean people.

President Trump has been bragging that he will get the North Korean leader to completely denuclearize his country. There is no indication that Kim will trade his (possible) nuclear capability for the right to trade with the United States. He would probably like to keep his nuclear threat alive a little longer.

But whatever transpires in Singapore between the two leaders is probably subject to agreement by the cooler cadres in Washington and the militaristic minds in Pyongyang. Who would trust Kim and Donald?

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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