Archive for the ‘World Politics’ Category

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

Airing the rants of the Right.

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

Canadians are too politically correct to accept a politician such as right-wing Geert Wilders who has been running in the Netherlands for that country’s parliamentary elections yesterday. At one point the pollsters were suggesting that the right-wing anti-Islam, anti-EU politician’s Freedom Party could get as much as 20 per cent of the popular vote. And in Holland, with proportional representation, that means 20 per cent of the seats.

But the question needs to be raised in Canada as to whether it is better to air those opinions or suppress them?

First, we know that Wilders and his party will not be able to be part of the government. The Dutch Liberals under Mark Rutte with more than 25 seats will be putting together the coalition that will rule for the next four years. There is no way that they would invite Wilders to be part of that coalition.

From the sidelines, Wilder will be shrill in his ongoing message of hate.

But does that not give us more time to refute the garbage he spouts?

And you should bear in mind that, compared to Wilders, President Trump is a diplomat.

Our home-grown right, such as M.P. Kellie Leitch have to use code words for bigotry or they would face the wrath of their own party.

The problem in Canada is that with our first-past-the-post electoral system is that the major political parties have to take the “big tent” approach to gather the voting support for a majority. You get the Liberals running with a broad left-wing appeal and then ruling with right wing gusto. The Conservatives never seem to mention their denials of women’s and gay rights during an election but you know the pressure is always there. And the New Democrat’s attempts at right-wing promises create their own nemesis.

Our failure in North America to face these issues directly could be part of the reason that so many of us were wrong in calling last year’s American election. From Hillary Clinton on down the chain, we failed to see the real strength of Trump. He was feeding the chauvinism, he was building a wall of ignorance, he believed in the bigotry. And he told the biggest lies.

We have to accept the blame. We have to block bastards like Trump. Their lies must be exposed. Their causes challenged.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Does President Trump have an agenda?

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

It is hard to get your mind around this one. There was an opinion piece in a major Canadian newspaper by a political science professor who posited that President Donald Trump and his henchman Steve Bannon have a plan to split the world with Vladimir Putin. You would have a hard time imagining this plot. It is fanciful and requires far more co-ordination than a building project. And it deals with people who like to go their own way.

Frankly, “Making America Great Again” is stretching Trump’s showmanship to the limit. He has no idea how to do that either. For him to play in world politics with someone like Putin would be like sending him out to pinch hit in a World Series game without a bat.

And to give Steve Bannon some of the credit for this supposed plot is even sillier. Bannon is a self-centred egotist who rivals Trump in that category. He is the only Tea Party advocate we have ever heard of who has nastier things said about him by Republicans than Democrats. He is despised on both sides.

But Bannon would be the last person to plot with Putin. Hell, Bannon would have had a hard time negotiating with Adolph Hitler. They both might be anti-Semites but as a Harvard MBA, Bannon would consider fascism passé.

What is really surprising is how long the Trump-Bannon relationship has survived. Neither one of them expected Trump to win the presidency and that might be the bond. Bannon brings Trump good luck?

But the professor’s theory is that Trump’s America will help dismantle the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and encourage the break-up of the European Union. This would give Putin free reign in Eastern Europe and he could finish re-assembling the USSR to its former glory.

What is wrong with this silly scenario is that there is no logic to helping Putin rebuild if there is no balancing assembly going on in the West. Yet here is Trump insisting on a stupid wall to beggar Mexico instead of helping industrialize the country as an ally.

And the really dumb part of the entire scheme is the part about damaging the NATO alliance. Those countries are the best customers for the U.S. military-industrial complex and provide hundreds of thousands of high-wage jobs for Americans. Trump is telling America’s allies to spend more not less.

But one of the fun parts of teaching political science is that reality is something else.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

One man’s tweak.

Friday, February 17th, 2017

Maybe we can just tweak this situation while discussing the twits who Twitter. And why does Donald Trump’s White House menagerie remind us of that awful daytime TV serial, The Young and the Restless?

Quickly though, before the next episode in this ongoing saga, did you cotton on to Donald Trump’s strategy with Prime Minister Trudeau? Trump was actually suggesting that since he and Trudeau were the good guys, the two white men could gang up on the smaller Mexican. Trump is an old hand at ‘divide and conquer.’ It is one of the oldest ploys in the developers’ book.

And if Trudeau was foolish enough to go along with Trump, the one thing he can count on: Canada would be next! Trudeau has to ensure that any so-called ‘tweaking’ of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is done with three parties at the table. It will not really be two against one. You have to remember that the U.S. has about three times the population of Mexico and Mexico has about three times the population of Canada. It is only in gross domestic product that Canada becomes the second step.

And while Canada does considerable trade with Mexico, the substantial deficit in payments in pesos for Canada would be better balanced if Canadians stopped taking winter vacations in Mexico—or a lot more Mexicans visited Canada.

The real problem with the trade between Mexico and the U.S. is not the lack of a wall between the two countries but the barriers that do exist. The extremes of the income disparities in Mexico and the mean-spirited deals of American manufacturers are seriously suppressing Mexican labour rates. Today, they are forcing Mexican labour to accept a much lower wage rate than that to which they are really entitled. If the drug cartels in Mexico, for example, could turn their attention to labour organization in their own country, they could potentially become rich, legitimate, perform a worthwhile service and raise the average income to living wages.

Alternatively, if Donald Trump was the least bit sincere about his pledge to make America great again, all he would have to do is refuse to import any product into the U.S.A. that used any labour that is paid less than 60 per cent of that paid to the average American manufacturing employee.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

May comes; May goes.

Monday, January 30th, 2017

Did you see that lovely picture of British Prime Minister Theresa May and President Donald Trump holding hands outside the West Wing? It was all the lady came to Washington to get. And it was all she wanted.

You really do not think anything substantive was agreed to, did you? It was entirely a public relations gesture for both parties. Trump had just been told to get stuffed by the president of Mexico. He needed some other country to reassure him that he really was the boss man in Washington. This guy is going to need constant reassurance.

May’s objective was to build some standing back home in Westminster. She is in nothing but trouble with the Brexit file in the Commons. If she cannot win a vote for her handling of the file, her entire house of cards collapses. Without getting the Brexit vote through the Commons, she can lose everything—not the least, her job.

But this lady is determined to hold on to her position. She is also much smarter than the late Baroness Thatcher. May’s handling of Trump was masterful. She played that misogynistic bastard like a Steinway. She eased him through the diplomatic rough spots until he was eating out of her hand. No doubt she hurried to her digs afterwards for a good bath.

But it is still a gamble for her to use the Trump in the way she did. The United Kingdom can hardly replace the billions of Euros in trade with Europe with some few U.S. dollars of growth some new trade with America might provide. And England would need a new Marshall Plan to pull it out of penury if the United Kingdom loses Scotland and Northern Ireland to the European Union. Imagine England and a dyspeptic Wales trying to survive as a quaint tourist attraction across the Channel from a thriving E. U.

May’s major problem is that her opposition will ask ‘so what’ if President Trump liked her? Will he remember her tomorrow when someone else catches his eye? The visit was nothing more than an exercise in optics. It worked, but for how long?

What Theresa May did not realize is that while she made Trump’s Best Friend Forever list, he has the attention span and loyalty of a sexually active 16-year old.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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