Archive for the ‘World Politics’ Category

French fuss over makeup for Macron?

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

In France, they are fussing over the cost of makeup and makeup artists to keep their new president Emmanuel Macron looking good for his public appearances. If they had any idea what it cost Canadians for the Harper hair and makeup during his regime as Canada’s prime minister, they would consider Macron’s costs reasonable.

The difference is that Emmanuel Macron is good looking to begin with. The French president is only 39 and his hairline requires no serious augmentation. In contrast, Stephen Harper was 46 when he became prime minister of Canada and there was a period when freelance makeup artists had to be tested and as the French are seeing, that is when costs are particularly high.

Harper’s solution to the problem was Michelle Muntean from CTV who served as his personal hair, makeup and clothes advisor during most of the time he was prime minister. The standard joke was that she was the reason he was always late for group pictures at world meetings.

But Canadians never did get the total cost picture as the French are getting. The Prime Minister’s Office and the parliamentary budget office stonewalled requests for information all the way. Yet, there is every reason to expect that the French figures are low in comparison. The bill for the first three months for President Macron was claimed to be 26,000 euros (about C$37,000). The rates always go up on deliveries to the Elysée.

This will be much lower when they decide on a permanent staff member to handle the task. In Canada, the story was that the Conservative Party paid Ms. Muntean’s salary. Taxpayers were definitely on the hook for her expenses when travelling around the world with the PM.

It was Ms. Muntean’s efforts that earned Stephen Harper the nickname ‘The Hair.’ His hairpiece and his real hair were lacquered to his head like a helmet. He never went on television without his eyes defined with eyeliner and a delicate blush on his cheeks to prevent a lighting glint.

And I cannot even imagine the cost of hair dos and makeup for U.S. President Donald Trump.

It was later in my lifetime that I found that young men in search of female companionship are also wearing makeup. And this is at a time when the improved quality of television cameras is saving those of us with healthy skin from having to wear makeup during casual TV appearances.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Trump marches up the Khyber Pass.

Friday, August 25th, 2017

You sure cannot tell President Donald Trump anything. He must have missed the opportunity to read Rudyard Kipling as a child or he would have known the futility of sending troops up the Khyber Pass. The Pashtun tribes of Afghanistan and Pakistan have feasted on the rations of foreign troops heading for Afghanistan for hundreds of years.

Opium poppy growers to the world, Afghanistan is fertilized with the blood of troops who thought a tour there would be easy. In a land where you cannot tell friend from foe, everyone is your enemy, and the dusty roads all lead to your death.

Americans have been in Afghanistan for 16 years and still cannot find the exit. Mr. Trump must be listening to the wrong generals. His first instinct in regards to the country was to get American troops out of Dodge. Now he has a strategy that is so secret that he has not even told it to the generals whom he expects will implement his plan for him.

His plan is to only kill terrorists. He is then going to force the Taliban to the bargaining table and expects them to be good citizens and cooperate in running the country. What is really ‘new’ about this is a good question.

Trump also expects his NATO allies to join him in sending more troops to Afghanistan. He wisely did not specify a number. Canada and France are the only two major NATO members that are not currently doing any training or other support work there. If Trump’s people ever send a formal request for more troops to Ottawa and Paris, they can expect a great deal of double talk but little in the way of cooperation.

Trump’s biggest concern is America’s titular ally Pakistan. There is a seamless border for Taliban and various terrorists to pass back and forth from the combat zone to Pakistan to where they can rest and replenish their supplies with impunity. Trump’s suggestion that he might try to get India involved was waving a red flag to India, China and Iran. And what the Pakistanis would think of that suggestion would not be printable.

Give Trump some credit though; he did not suggest that he was staying in Afghanistan to promote democracy and the American way.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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In Beautiful Barcelona.

Monday, August 21st, 2017

Barcelona is one of the finest cities for tourism in Europe. Its excellent hotels, broad boulevards and beautiful buildings also provide an excellent venue for international meetings and conferences. In the time I spent in Spain, the Spanish earned my deep respect for their civility, industriousness and kindness. It is to be regretted though that I have still failed to bring myself to eat Valencian Paella.

It was when at a conference in Barcelona back in the 1970s that I met an American diplomat, Shirley Temple Black. She had recently been named ambassador to Ghana.

It was at the conference, the wife and I were heading out to lunch one day at a nice little café we had found. We were to meet there with some of the Australian and British delegates to the conference. We were going through the lobby when we stopped to talk to Shirley. She seemed to be at loose ends so we invited her to join us. She ended up having a wonderful time at the lunch as it turned out that the café owner was a huge fan of the movies Shirley was in during her childhood.

I mention this by way of noting that Shirley’s career in foreign service was based on her being a Republican. Her foreign service career seemed to skip along from Richard Nixon to Gerald Ford to Ronald Regan and finally to George H. Bush. These and many others are the types of appointments that the Trump administration has been unable to get to. And while there were the expected jokes about Shirley’s appointments, no Secretary of State was ever embarrassed by her efforts on behalf of the U.S.A. We were sorry to learn of her passing several years ago.

What I do not admire in one of the few appointments made by the Trump White House is that of Ambassador to Canada. That is the appointment of Kelly Knight Craft. Her husband Joe Kraft III donated one million to his fellow billionaire’s presidential campaign. In return, he got his coal mines re-opened to speed global warming and his 55-year old wife sent to Ottawa.

Should Canadians feel insulted?


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Can a prince quit being a prince?

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

Wearing a bowler hat and a trench coat, the Windsor’s Prince Philip walked off into the sunset recently.  You would suppose that scene should be followed by the words “Cut” and “Print” but is that how it happens? He might be 96 and well past his prime but is that how you do it?

Maybe Philip wants to open a seniors’ royal old-age home. If he is not willing to do his duties cutting ribbons at supermarket openings, does he have to move out of the royal’s palaces? Or does his 91-year old wife continue to support him? After all, she has been sitting on the Throne of Westminster for 65 years now and you would think the royal bum would be a bit sore.

And that means that Charles, Prince of Wales, at 68, is already a senior citizen. Is Philip setting an example for him? If Philip can step away from his royal duties, cannot Charles join him? It solves the problem of all those monarchists who want Bill and Kate and their cute kids to take over Buckingham Palace.

If they had a Commonwealth wide vote on it, Bill and Kate would win hands down. It is a pity that the monarchy does not work that way.

But then if a monarchy worked the way their subjects wanted it to, then it would not be a real monarchy, would it?

And frankly, I believe that modern democracy and monarchy are incompatible concepts. In Canada, the monarchy is a silly anachronism, left to fester by politicians afraid for themselves if the citizens ever demanded a proper constitution.

Canada is one of the few countries in the world wherein the citizens have had so little say in how their country is governed. From the time when the United Empire Loyalists fled north from the American Revolution, we have been pandering to the British monarchy.

It is interesting to append that with the thought that the one time we had a say on our constitution was on Conservative Prime Minister Mulroney’s foolish Charlottetown Accord that was supported by the Liberal Opposition. Canadians said “No.”


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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The Trump Technique.

Saturday, August 5th, 2017

The media were all atwitter the other day when they got some leaked transcripts from the White House of conversations President Trump had with other countries’ leaders. They got them and did not understand them. They did not seem to understand the technical term for the technique he was using; it is called B.B.S. (Better B.S.)

The American news media have never had to deal with anyone such as Trump in the White House. They do not understand a street fighter at his level of operations. He is a con man who has made a few billion. (Which means he knows his way with B.B.S.)

To accomplish what he has over his 70 years, you have to start by admitting that Mr. Trump is pretty damn good at this B.B.S. business. Does it really matter that he is vain, vulgar, erratic and has the attention span of a gerbil? He is using B.B.S. on the media, on his followers, on Twitter and now with people such as the President of Mexico.

What Mr. Trump does not want is his followers to know is that there is no way, short of war, he can get Mexico to pay for his stupid wall. The first thing he wants President. Peña Nieto to do is to shut up about who is paying for the damn wall. The second thing he wants is for Mexico and the U.S.A. to ally themselves against those jerks up in Canada. It is the old divide and conquer technique. As a developer, Mr. Trump has been using it for years.

So, he tells the Mexican that the Canadian Prime Minister is a nobody, a wus and not important. He implies that the Americans and the Mexicans can make short work of the Canadians and then solve all the problems with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between them.

Can you not just see the President of Mexico sitting in his office in Mexico City and listening to this developer’s B.B.S. He probably put in a call right after to Ottawa and said “Justin, you’re not going to believe the horse shit I just heard from that old fart in Washington.”

There is no question that President Peña Nieto and Prime Minister Trudeau are going to take that silly old fart to the cleaners!


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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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.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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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.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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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!


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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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.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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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.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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