Archive for the ‘World Politics’ Category

A Commonwealth at bargain price.

Friday, April 20th, 2018

Our prime minister Justin Trudeau has been in London this past week, pressing the flesh with the long-running Commonwealth of Nations. The Commonwealth, as we usually call it is the fallout of the old British Commonwealth and is made up of former colonies and protectorates of times past when Great Britain ruled the seas.

This bit of tourism lore is only noted because an usually astute Toronto Star columnist was complaining yesterday about the $12 million per year that he thinks Canada wastes on this pretentiousness.

To the contrary mon frère, the Commonwealth is ours at a bargain price and if our country ever comes of age, the Commonwealth will welcome our leadership. And that is a very substantial block to have backing you up in the halls of the United Nations.

Regrettably, our prime minister is going to waste our friends’ time at this year’s meeting. He is going to give the same old-same old lecture on human rights, LGBT rights and gender equality. It is not that these subjects are not worthy of attention but the prime minister fails to give the recalcitrant little nations who ignore these basic human rights concrete reason as to why they should listen.

Better research and attention to these backward countries’ needs might solve the problems they are having in understanding the subject. Because leadership is what this group needs. The crown can provide the platitudes at these meetings. Canada can supply the meat and potatoes facts that make the need clearer.

What the organisation could be is a listening post in world affairs helping all of the countries in their foreign affairs, trade and tourism interests. These are the dollars and pence issues that can make the organisation more worthwhile. What nation would fail to pay its dues when the organisation is adding to its gross domestic product.

Since four of the five members the ‘Five Eyes’ Intelligence community are Commonwealth countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and United Kingdom) there is also a briefing taking place for that group of four, without the presence of Donald Trump of the United States. This will include an intense look at the Russian interference in elections on the Internet. I am sure this will be the most important and productive session at the Commonwealth meeting.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Waiting for Mr. Trump.

Friday, April 13th, 2018

Is this the day Mr. Trump sends the world to war? We wait. We wonder. It might not be a good day to plan next year’s vacation. The man has his finger on the button.

He makes jokes about it. Who else knows when he is just kidding? He exchanges insults with a mindless puppet of a dictator. He threatens the world’s second largest nuclear power. He is a narcissist and a womanizer, a xenophobe and a crude and ignorant Islamophobe.

What does Mr. Trump really know about other countries, world affairs, the ups and downs of world trade, the economics and the concerns? And, come to think of it, what does he know about the United States of America?

There are no Trump Towers to build in Nebraska. There is no Trump Casino in Utah. And what was the last book about America Mr. Trump enjoyed reading? The Trump view of America comes from his travels between his building projects and his golf courses that are mostly on the East coast of the United States. For leisure, he travels to his golf courses up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

This is a shallow person with insomnia who has embraced the use of social media to make himself feel important. He brings in serious people who want to help him but they soon tire of the impossibility of the chore. Yes, ignorance can be cured but only when the ignorant person wants to learn.

Mr. Trump is not interested in learning. His ego does not allow it. He is a septuagenarian who lives in the bubble of extreme wealth. People come to him. People are there to serve him. What he wants, he can buy. The losers, the bikers, the unwashed, the born again, the desperate and the angry, see him as their saviour, as he speaks to them and, they think, for them.

Mr. Trumps current press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is an excellent example of that Trump following as she reflects the same distrust of the traditional news media. The media might consider her boorish and ignorant but she is the best they are going to get from the Trump White House.

And if you are among those who think Mr. Trump will be impeached at some time, you better help get it started. Impeachment is not something that happens overnight.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Ceding civility.

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

It is the same in every country. It is obvious that simple civility is missing in our politics. Whether elected or self-appointed, our politicos are turning nasty. We are even electing cretins who think the thing to do is revile rivals, turn on their own, reject diplomacy, dispatch pacts, and make sure the needs and wants of the politicians come before promises to the populace.

What the hell are we achieving in this world? The highly successful European Union is being turned on by the losers it was designed to help. The Brits are putting Brexit to bed before teatime. We are seeing continued growth of the extremists of the right throughout Europe. President Emmanuel Macron in France has been under attack since before the honeymoon got started. And the Greeks seem mad at everybody.

How about the Russians—you remember those people who lost the cold war do you not(?)—they keep acting like they are still a world power. They think they can walk all over the Ukrainians and terrorize the Baltic states. Vladimir Putin in Russian thinks he is as important as Xi Jinping of China who is already president for life in that country.

And if you think that democracy is a better answer, look what it got you in the United States of America. That incompetent, Donald Trump, in the White House is giving democracy a bad name. And do not expect the U.S. Congress to save the day. That organization forgets who sent the individual members there on the day they are elected.

And what is really frightening about Donald Trump is that he trades insults with a lunatic in a small country who thinks he can lob a few intercontinental nuclear missiles at the U.S. A small error in calculation in Pyongyang and one of those things could land in our laps here in Canada. It would be a lousy way to end our commentaries favouring liberal democracy.

The good news/bad news is that Donald Trump has a play date coming up with North Korea’s Dear Leader Kim Jong-un. Since Kim only travels by train. Trump is flying to visit him. And considering neither of them has a clue about international diplomacy or relations between sovereign states, we will be keeping our fingers crossed that they play nice.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Keep the Russians, Kick out the Yankees.

Saturday, March 31st, 2018

Public safety minister Ralph Goodale got some television coverage the other day. He was enjoying himself. He was being asked about the Russian spies being told to leave the country. In his usual enigmatic style Goodale was explaining that he could not say anything about what these spies were doing in Canada. He was implying that he knew everything and all the while you were thinking neither he nor the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) had any idea what the Russians were doing.

Igor Gouzenko, a Russian cypher clerk who defected after the Second World War, made every effort to make spying exciting. He was never as imaginative though as his contemporary Ian Fleming, who wrote the Bond 007 books after working for the United Kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Service. Spying never has been much of the cloak and dagger machinations in the shadows. The reality is that it is dull, dreary work and most spies end their days with liver failure from too much vodka rather than bullets.

I remember one time at a break in a business conference in Quebec City chatting with the station head of the Central Intelligence Agency (the American CIA). Yes, he was real and we had an amusing conversation. It started out with him asking what a spook should look like. We answered that the spy should look like any business person in the room. And that was where he did his work. He admitted that most of his reports to Langley, Virginia were gleaned from our daily newspapers.

Frankly, I do not think we have any secrets from the Americans anyway. Our manufacturing is so integrated with the U.S., there are no trade secrets left. We manufacture aircraft parts and assemblies for each other, firing controllers for tanks, armoured scout cars and a myriad of other defence items under our cooperative defence production sharing.

What we really need in these current North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations is some secrets. And the only way we can keep those secrets is to keep the Americans from reading our newspapers.

We need something other than water and other natural resources to sweeten the NAFTA deal. We need to have some trade secrets—something more than how you get the caramel into the candy bar.

We really should let more Russians come here at the expense of their government. They can read our newspapers and learn about the good life in Canada. If they are doing anything serious, someone will tell us.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The failing Facebook fiasco.

Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

After 14 years, Facebook is still just a teenager. It was early in its existence that, out of curiosity, I test drove the program, created a page with minimal information and studied the developing interaction. What annoyed me about the program was that, when tiring of the experiment, I was unable to get rid of the test page. It goes on forever like something lost in space.

But it was obvious from its rough beginnings that Facebook was an invasive tool to be easily manipulated. It is like a vast pool of koi for predators. It is there to massage your ego, display your life in pictures and challenges you to win friends and “likes.” It profiles you and produces a commodity that Facebook can sell to those with the price. It has become a bottomless pit of commercial treasure.

You should think seriously sometimes about how much you want others to look in on your life. It is not just friends who are interested in your planned trip or your children or their friends.

I have always laughed at the rewards programs used by large retail organizations so that they can better tailor their directed marketing efforts. I was puzzled once that the drug store chain that we frequently use was sending me advertising and enticements to buy their cosmetics. The simple answer was that I had been taking the wife’s cosmetic purchases to the cashier for her.

But it made me think about how credit cards can tell the tale of your travels, your interests, your weaknesses. In our consumer societies, there are those who want us to become an open book.

It might not have been the original idea for Facebook. That appeared to have started because Mark Zuckerberg and his geek friends at Harvard University had problems getting dates. Today Zuckerberg is worth billions and he is still just a geek.

Rather than worry too much about those who exploit social media for commercial gain, the real concern today is the international hacking into government and other programs to influence political choices. Elections and referenda are constantly trying to reduce costs by using more and more computer services. These services need to be protected or they can be hacked to serve the needs of others.

Orwell described the situation in the book 1984. The actual year has come and gone but, if we are not careful, Big Brother will become reality.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

 

Trump should not bully China.

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump is a bully. That is how he negotiates his way through life. He bullies women for sex. As a developer, he bullied politicians for building rights. He bullies lawyers and courtiers, underlings and peers, wives and children, and lately, countries and their leaders. It is his nature.

But he probably should not try to bully the People’s Republic of China. Xi Jinping has just been made president for life in that country and he might just want to show off by stomping on that upstart Trump.

And as much as many of us would enjoy watching the stomping, it would not turn out well. Everyone loses in a trade war. A trade war is the application of onerous duties on each other’s products by two or more countries. It adds to the cost of specific products from each country. When each country reciprocates with duties of its own, it tends to stifle trade between the two countries.

In addition, companies who also make the tariffed products in the country charging the tariffs, can now charge more for their products because the tariff items become much more expensive. Check softwood lumber prices in the western U.S. and you will see the new reality.

Basic economics tells us that free trade is good for the economy and heavy tariffs are bad for the economy. And the object lesson is that trade wars are bad for all the participants. Nobody can really win. And if it is a case of outlasting your opponent, there is some reality to face here.

The Chinese tend to be more disciplined than Americans. They have suffered hardships and famines over the years. They can be more stoical.

Americans, by way of contrast, are liable to be annoyed by hardships brought on by bad management of the economy. They can be resentful. Heck, it was the way the people in London were managing their economy that set off the American Revolution. And they have not been all that amenable to the politicians who screw things up ever since.

What we can be confident of is that the Americans will have a regime change long before the Chinese. And that is why it would be really stupid for the Americans to have a trade war with the Chinese.

But, then, nobody ever accused Mr. Trump of being practical.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

To be murdered in Mali.

Saturday, March 24th, 2018

Our government wants us to send some Canadians in harms way in Mali in West Africa. As the country with the highest mortality rate for peace keepers, we are not going to enjoy Mali. “Don’t worry” our defence minister tells us, “We are only going to send a few helicopters, pilots, ground crews and people to do training.” We have time to get some fresh flags for the Highway of Heroes before the casualties start arriving.

You do know that being one of the larger countries in Africa does not make Mali any more hospitable? The French deserted the country after the Second World War and it has been in turmoil since. Between the isolation of the Tuaregs, the radicalism of the Islamists and the total incompetence of the southern tribes to run things, the country goes back and forth from totalitarianism to chaos quite quickly.

The poorly trained and ill-equipped West African troops trying to keep the peace in Mali have already had some 162 of their people killed by heavily armed brigands, Islamist terrorists and an alphabet soup of causes.

And do not be surprised when the Islamic extremists suddenly have ground-to-air missiles to welcome the Canadian helicopters. Thankfully, it is hard to find good cover in the Sahara north of Timbuktu.

The basic problem with Mali is that there is no peace keeping involved. First you have to have some peace to keep. And even in a country where our troops who speak French will have an immediate advantage, it is very difficult to tell a friend from an enemy. The land is the enemy.

And we are not making the task any easier when Canada and the U.S.A. are throwing billions of dollars every year into the Mali economy. Everyone wants their turn at being a politician so that they can rip off some of this money for themselves.  Meanwhile, the cotton economy of the south is dwindling, the fundamentalist Islamists of the north are funded by the middle-east supporters if ISIL and Al-Quaeda and the Tuaregs just keep working their salt mines.

Why Canada’s government feels it has to make a statement of support to the United Nations this way is beyond us. A seat on the Security Council for our dead is not worth it.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

There are some real royals.

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

It is too bad that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was too busy to meet with the King and Queen of Belgium when they were in Ottawa the other day. These are a somewhat different type of royal. They are useful. They are not just figureheads and dilettantes. The Belgian royals brought 150 business leaders and others with them to help build stronger ties with Canada.

While trade between Belgium and Canada was $6.5 billion last year, Canada does that much bilateral trade with the United States in three days. The Belgians are hoping to see a substantial increase in their trade with Canada as the new Canada-European Union trade deal comes into effect.

The Belgians were greeted according to protocol by the Governor General and with all the correct ceremonies. It was obvious that they had hoped for a few words with Canada’s Prime Minister.

Belgium, as a sovereign country, is only about six years older than Canada. It is also a constitutional monarchy and has two major language groups. Part of the role of the royalty is to help hold the country together despite ongoing tensions between the Flemish (about 60 per cent of the population) and Walloons (close to 40 per cent).

In the United Kingdom, the Queen has a periodic briefing from her prime minister as to the affairs of the nation. In Belgium, the monarch is much more involved and he maintains direct contact with his cabinet ministers as to the progress of their bills and programs. He supplies the ministers with highly knowledgeable and apolitical advice.

Having visited Belgium and seen first hand the animosity between the Flemish and Walloons, I can only feel admiration for how the Belgian monarch helps to smooth relations between the two groups. Compared to the concern Prince Harry has with the guest list for his upcoming wedding to an American, it does seem to make our royals quite redundant.

But Canada will never be able to ameliorate its borrowed monarchy from England that does this country no favours. It might be a convenience for our politicians who think they know best about our needs but the refusal of our government to address concerns about the un-elected and undemocratic senate, supreme court appointments and the myriad of concerns about our need to update our democracy are not being solved.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

“What the world needs now…”

Monday, March 12th, 2018

Got an interesting e-mail the other day from a fellow commentator on Canada’s left coast. He had an excellent suggestion on what Canada should do about the currently growing estrangement from a badly run United States of America. He sees it as an opportunity for an independent Canada to become an honest broker for our world.

He wants us to create peace rather than be failed peace keepers. He sees our newfound freedom from the Americans as an opportunity for Canada to not only offer to broker but to enforce the peace. He sees us as taking Canada to a new level in world affairs.

He sees Canada as having been used as something of a foreign Legion by the Americans. The best example of this is when the Americans dumped their failed Afghanistan campaign on us.

I thought of it as Art Eggleton’s war. He and Prime Minister Paul Martin were duped by the Americans and their own military experts. It was the only war Canada ever lost. We were just another bunch of foreigners feeding our rations to the Pashtuns. They have been killing foreign soldiers for centuries and are getting very practiced at it.

He and I both agree that it was shameful that Canada never had enough troops in Afghanistan to make a difference. Thankfully we got out and those left came home to mourn our dead.

The problem I see to this plan for enforced peace is that we need a larger and better equipped military capability to undertake the role. We need ground support aircraft and aircraft that can give us control of the sky in troubled areas. We need rapid mobility and better intelligence in likely areas of need. We never want to go in blind. And it has to be clear up-front that decisions on the ground take precedence over the armchair experts at the United Nations.

We could be the world’s problem solvers. It would take commitment. The biggest problem is that these small police type actions often create more problems than were there in the first place. The Middle East for example is like a wack-a-mole game that nobody is allowed to win. We got rid of that dictator in Libya and have done worse in the long run.

Our advantage in this are the people from those troubled countries, who came to us for refuge and a better life. We need to interview and study what these people have to say about their former home and its needs. It can help come up with solutions.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

‘Chuckles’ Scheer, meet Donald Trump.

Saturday, March 10th, 2018

Did you hear that Andrew ‘Chuckles’ Scheer, Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in Ottawa, wants to move the Canadian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem? He must have heard that is what U.S. President Trump intends to do. That is a very bad move by Chuckles.

The problem is that the Canadian conservative leader wants to pander to the Jewish vote in Canada. He assumes it is the same reason as Donald Trump is supposedly pandering to the American Jewish vote. That is wrong.

Chuckles does not seem to be aware that Donald Trump is not political. He never has been and he panders to nobody but his lumpenproletariat followers. He has been doing business with New York Jews all his adult life. They have likely influenced his attitude about Arabs and Muslims. It boils down to: Jews good; Arabs bad. It would take a good psychiatrist to break that down into the whys but it means Trump sees Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu as an ally.

Netanyahu was visiting Washington the other day and in their joint news conference, the news media tried to get some clear answers from the American president about his proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum. Netanyahu was visibly amused by the byplay. It seemed to this political apparatchik that Netanyahu should be asked by the Canadian Jewish community, why he thought the proposed tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum were that funny?

The preponderance of Jewish voters in three electoral districts in Toronto and two in Montreal can be important in federal elections. Those five MPs are usually Liberals. Stephen Harper used ever trick in his book to try to win Irwin Cottler’s Mount Royal seat in parliament when Cottler stepped down at the 2015 election. Despite the concerted effort, a Liberal still won.

What Scheer also does not seem to understand is that Canada has maintained a very clear policy. As a friend of Israel, we maintain Israel’s right to exist and believe the time for moving embassies around is when there is a clear and lasting peace established by Israel and its Arab neighbours.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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