This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Deep-Sixing Deconfliction Channels

In this August 27, 2013, photo, a Russian air defense system missile system Antey 2500, or S-300 VM, is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, file)
In this photo, a Russian air defense system missile system Antey 2500, or S-300 VM, is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, file)
"The presented objective data testifies that the actions of the Israeli fighter pilots, which led to the loss of life of 15 Russian servicemen, either lacked professionalism or were an act of criminal negligence to say the least. Therefore, we believe that the blame for the tragedy with the Russian Ilyushin Il-20 aircraft lies entirely with the Israeli air forces and those who made the decision to carry out such actions."
"[Those actions represented] an extremely ungrateful response to all that has been done by the Russian federation for Israel and for the Israeli people, recently."
Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov
"[For Israel, training against the Crete S-300 would be] precisely what you need [to study the system’s radar frequency, pattern and reach]."
"If you know all these details then you are perfectly fitted to replicate this same signal, which means you have a chance to imitate, to sort of bluff-echo [the S-300]."
"You can brutally jam it. You can take the signal and return it, and then you send another ping which imitates the same signal. So instead of one target, the radar operator sees three, five or 10 and he does not know where to fire."
Igor Sutyagin, Russian military expert, Royal United Services Institute, London

"[S-300s in areas where Israel operates or might want to operate would challenge its advanced, U.S.-backed military - but not insuperably so]."
"In general, any system can be defeated this way or that. Some are harder and some are easier. The rule of thumb is that if your friends [the Greek military] have a system that you are interested in, you can learn all kinds of things about it."
Tal Inbar, senior scholar, Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, Tel Aviv
File: Russian S-300 air defense missile systems drive during a Victory Day military parade marking the victory in WWII in Red Square in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Russian S-300 air defense missile systems drive during a Victory Day military parade marking the victory in WWII in Red Square in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
"The information provided by the Israeli military… runs counter to conclusions of the Russian defense ministry [that the actions of the Israeli pilots had led to the plane being targeted by Syrian air defense systems]."
"The Russian side proceeds from the fact that the actions by the Israeli air force were the main reason for the tragedy."
"According to information of our military experts, the reason [behind the downing] were premeditated actions by Israeli pilots which certainly cannot but harm our relations."
Kremlin statement
Israel had been left with the impression, just several days earlier, that its delegation to Moscow led by IAF chief Amikam Norkin, explaining that it had provided considerable advance warning — 12 minutes according to Israeli reports — and precise information on the target area to the Russians before the strike; that its jets hadn't hid stealthily behind the Russian plane, and that its planes had vacated the airspace before the Syrians ineptly and "indiscriminately" fired one of 40 anti-aircraft missiles downing the Russian plane, had sufficed to persuade the Russian military that Israel had no part in the tragedy that led to the deaths of 15 Russian airmen.

The so-called 'friendly fire' incident whereby the Russian military’s reconnaissance Ilyushin Il-20 was shot down by Syrian missile defense systems responding to an Israeli airstrike now, it appears, in the Russian version, is completely Israel's fault. Data collected by Russian air defense systems in Syria ostensibly indicated that one of the Israeli F-16 fighter jets was flying close to the much larger Russian plane. When the F-16 was targeted by a Syrian missile it suddenly veered off, resulting in the missile homing in on the larger target, a version exonerating Syria. That version disputes the Israeli version that its fighters were gone long before the Syrian missiles were launched.

The Kremlin and its Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu are delivering a punishing resolution that Russia now plans to jam radars of military planes striking off the coast of the Mediterranean — measures obviously geared to complicate Israel’s defensive plans, inclusive of preventive airstrikes, to ensure that Iran's deepening of its military presence in Syria is foiled, and to effectively thwart the transfer of weapons in Syria to Hezbollah. "In regions near Syria over the Mediterranean Sea, there will be radio-electronic suppression of satellite navigation, on-board radar systems and communication systems of military aviation attacking objects on Syrian territory", assured Shoigu.

“This is absurd. The Syrians down a Russian plane and get the prize of an advanced weapons system, said Israeli Middle East analyst Ehud Ya’ari. Quite so. As absurd as a Turkish fighter jet downing a Russian warplane that had strayed into Turkish airspace, and after sanctions imposed to injure Turkish economic interests, Ankara and Moscow find themselves steadfast pals despite their clear differences. As absurd as the Kremlin failing to learn its lesson when it provided Ukrainian-Russian rebels with a sophisticated anti-aircraft missile which it used to destroy a Malaysian passenger airliner out of the skies over Ukraine, causing hundreds of deaths.

The unfortunate episode whereby 15 Russian airmen lost their lives stems from a confusion of actors in the region all of whom focus on their own special perspectives, advantages, priorities and influences. This is a regional tinder-box, apart from the fact that wholesale slaughter has been perpetrated by the leader of the country on his own civilian population in a sectarian rebellion. In the Syrian regime's determination to foil the efforts of the Syrian opposition and destroy its leaders, it has not hesitated to destroy its civilians as well. A half-million Syrian lives lost, and millions made homeless, more millions, refugees.

Without the intervention of the region's most infamous supporter of terrorism, the Islamic Republic of Iran, its elite al Quds division of the Republican Guard Corps involved in blueprinting strategy along with Iran calling in its Shiite militias, including Lebanon's deadly Hezbollah group, Bashar al-Assad would never have been able to surmount the legions of Syrian Sunni rebels, much less the presence of foreign fighters and terrorist groups. The tide turned completely with Vladimir Putin's decision to make a place for Russia in the Middle East, abandoned by the Obama administration.

The Kremlin-backed Syrian regime is guaranteed its survival. Turkey, which serviced the needs of a number of Sunni terrorist groups, could have intervened at an early stage of the rebellion to remove the Syrian ruler it detested, but Turkey, despite having the second largest armed forces in NATO, awaited action by NATO and the U.S. to intervene. Now Turkey, a member of NATO, has aligned itself however reluctantly with Russia and Iran, swallowing their insistence that Assad prevail. Russia has succeeded in ingratiating itself with Syria, Iran and Turkey, a grim balancing act, but one the Kremlin is well suited to.

And Vladimir Putin appeared, while negotiating all of these ties and juggling the various interests with his own, to have had a soft spot for Israel and its existential dilemma, threatened by all the actors, governmental and non-governmental that he dances with. The agreement between Putin and Netanyahu that Russia would countenance Israeli strikes against Iranian and Hezbollah transfers of weaponry being stockpiled for the purpose of destroying Israel was built on slender trust. It appears now to have been shredded.

Sunday's announcement that Russia is now prepared to deliver the advanced anti-aircraft systems it had held off in response to Israel's appeals, testifies to that. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Monday call to Vladimir Putin for a last appeal was rebuffed. Israel, having ensured its military was schooled in methods [war games with Greece] whereby it could strategically bypass detection by the more technically advanced system to be released in two weeks' time to Syria will likely manage the additional challenge to its Syrian overflights to destroy the weapons threatening its survival.

But its very survival is at stake here, which is vastly different from the reason that Russia is in Syria; to advantage Russian political ambitions and military expansion.

A computer simulation released by the Russian Defense Ministry, Sunday, September 23, 2018, purports to show Israeli jets near a Russian reconnaissance plane, in red, off Syria’s coast before it was accidentally shot down by Syria forces responding to the Israeli air strike. The Russian Defense Ministry on Sunday again blamed Israel for the downing of its plane, as Syrian government forces are thought to have mistook the Russian Il-20 reconnaissance plane for an Israeli jet and shot it down Monday, killing all 15 people aboard. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

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Sunday, September 23, 2018

Afghanistan, Still Gaming The West

"We spent too much money, too fast, on too small a country with too little oversight. And we totally, totally overwhelmed the Afghan economy."
"To a great extent it was wasted. Like spaghetti on a wall, some of it will stick. But a lot of it fell off and became money that was turned into bank accounts in Dubai and houses in Dubai, houses in Vancouver and houses in northern Virginia."
These [that Afghan security forces are inept and there is] endemic [corruption] and rampant [narcotics production] are problems we still have to face. Some of them we contributed to. On corruption, we threw gasoline on the fire."
"The problems that we [United States investigations] find are the problems that the Canadians should [also] find."
John Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, U.S.

"This [Canadian monitoring and reportage] is enhanced by contracted third-party monitoring of projects at the ground level. On a case-by-case basis, Canada elects to commission project evaluations to better understand the results and to gain lessons learned."
Amy Mills, spokesperson, Global Affairs Canada
Canada’s new defence policy, with its extensive foreign policy undertones, paints a gloomy picture of rising global economic disparity, violent extremism and unstoppable mass migration.  Canada is, it continues, an island of stability in comparison and therefore “called to leadership” as “we have the capacity to help those who live under the threat of violence.” Kilford

From the Greek-Macedonian military incursion of Alexander the Great intent on civilizing Afghanistan, to the 18th Century Russian-British campaigns to outsmart one another in establishing a presence in that country whose own warlords have always exploited its people and its resources, a people of fierce tribal loyalties and fiercer determination to counter foreign invasions with their own brand of medieval-style atrocities, to the more recent invasion by the Soviet Union, leaving it to limp home in the failure of reduced investment in time, manpower and treasury, and on to the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, Afghanistan has been bloodied but resilient.

Human rights and civilizational social development and prosperity linked in that order is a Western concept, not one recognized by tribal societies, much less those ruled by Islamic precepts of order maintained through Sharia law. The original purpose of the 2001 invasion was to convince the Taliban to surrender Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda to justice over the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. When, thanks to its ally Pakistan, the U.S. failed to succeed in that mission, it chose to paint its presence there as one of mercy, intending to guide the stone-age nation to democracy and equality leading to prosperity and self-defence.

Reality has a way of invariably getting into the picture, distorting such intents, when the West involves itself in Islamic-majority countries. In Islam, the faithful (umma) are the bulwark of the pillars that hold up the canopy under which the religion thrives even while it feeds upon itself as it inexorably expands its influence through conquest. One achieved by persuasion if possible, force as required, in all conceivable manifestations of the power to coerce, terrorize and convert the willing and the unwilling alike. That powerful force of persuasion has been churning through the globe since the 7th Century.
Police forces clash with protesters during a demonstration in Kabul earlier this month. Hundreds of demonstrators demanded better security in the Afghan capital in the wake of a powerful truck bomb attack that killed scores of people. (Massoud Hossaini/Associated Press)

Persuasion is too time-consuming, violence has its costs but the spread of fear leaving few options but to comply grew Islam exponentially to capture Africa, India, Spain, Italy, Portugal in its throes. Islam has never forgiven the West for thwarting it from its rampant growth. Yet the West still believes it can pacify Islam by respecting it and being tolerant of its excesses and forgiving it for slaughtering non-believers and its own alike. After the invasion of Afghanistan, the moral obligation of 'helping' the country to learn how to deflect the attacks of the resurgent Taliban, of building schools and wells and health clinics seized the minds of the invaders whose intention was merely to extract the evil they saw without realizing that the evil was everywhere, so deeply engrained it could not be extirpated.

The sacrifice in personnel, both military and civilian, with NGOs nobly ensconcing themselves with the mission to save the country from itself has failed. The Taliban has simply kept growing itself. Al-Qaeda and Islamic State are well entrenched with activities in 70 percent of the country and entire districts completely controlled by the terrorists. The West terms them terrorists, Islam considers them honourable and heroic jihadis, responding as they should, as they must, to Islamic precepts of honouring the Koran's dictate to jihad.

So Canada, like the United States and other NATO members, swelling with pride that they have remained faithful to their collective pledge not to abandon Afghanistan, but to continue to pour funding into the country, insist on believing that their efforts and their sacrifices will make all the difference, restoring something that never existed; a coherent peace and security in a country that was never anything but a collection of tribes and brutal warlords continually at war with one another alternating with warring against intruders.

We are doomed, it seems to repeat history ad infinitum, too stupid to recognize the inevitability of failure when and where reason has never prevailed. Canada will continue to help train the Afghan military and its police, both of which agencies remain corrupt and ineffectually unreliable. And the funding will continue to flow, as it must, because of a misplaced sense of honour urging the West to give aid to those less fortunate, whose leaders bleed them dry in a sectarian, tribal society that will never surrender to Western values much less stop its slaughter.

Afghan policemen stand guard after explosions at a Shiite cultural center in Kabul on December 28, 2017 | Shah Marai/AFP 
via Getty Images

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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Saint Justin Slaying the Anti-Equality Dragon

"[Crown Prince] Mohammad bin Salman was trying to send a message that he is not to be disrespected by anyone. Unfortunately, many Saudi students who were in Canada are paying a heavy price."
"Investors are looking more askance at Saudi Arabia, and none of this helps Saudi relations with the rest of the world."
Paul Sullivan, Saudi specialist, Georgetown University, Washington
"Canada is back," Trudeau mugged for the world's cameras at the signing of the Paris Accord in 2015. "We're Canadian," Trudeau told the U.N. General Assembly the following year, "and we're here to help." (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

When the smiley-face ebullience of Justin Trudeau, Margaret's "Golden Boy", was loosed on the world stage as Canada's spanking new prime minister he presented as an antidote to the taciturn, capable, resolute and intelligent Stephen Harper with whom the voting public had tired. How the public spirit soared at the prospect of this handsome young man with the temerity to offer himself as a public service to Canada with his great experience in drama and snowboarding excited expectations!

"Sunny ways" did it, Justin winked, as he boasted on the world stage introducing himself to other world leaders, that "Canada is back". Since then, we have learned that the Canada that never went away has shifted backward. Canada has become the world's silly clown, alternating between espousing progressive values and changing the social contract and its language, alerting 90 percent of the population that due diligence must be paid forward in soothing the emotional baggage of the dissatisfied ten percent as their due.

As for Canada's reputation abroad, it has become somewhat of a laughing stock, an administration that busies itself morally strong-arming its counterparts to give obeisance where it is due; Canada's version of social, cultural, international, economic imperatives to hoist the status of women and the traditionally socially-impoverished in a mission of achieving total equality.

Stephen Harper's cabinet gained close to parity between the genders, but Justin Trudeau appointed women to cabinet posts based on gender alone, it seemed not necessarily suitable qualifications which he deemed to be expendable; he had none, why would they require any?

Now it is attempting to placate the rage it inspired in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia when Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland demanded that the Saudis release a rights activist instanter. Liberal Party supporters like SNC-Lavalin, the Canadian unit of General Dynamics Corp., McCain Foods Ltd., and others stand to suffer as a result of a breach in relations whereby Canada's ambassador to the Kingdom was expelled, investments curbed, Saudi medical students recalled; a giant rebuff to Canada for interfering in Saudi Arabia's internal affairs.

Globally, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is increasingly being regarded as a pain in the arse, his virtue-signalling fails to impress internationally just as it is beginning finally to pall at home. When Trudeau jabbed China and India in trade discussions with his expectations on women's and minority rights he failed to endear himself and Canada to potential free trade partners. This, in addition to the sad state of Canada's third-class status in NAFTA negotiations, where once again Chrystia Freeland has assaulted the sensibilities of the U.S. top trade negotiator; a trading partnership made in hell.

So, sigh, what went wrong? Well, just about everything. The shining new prime minister who promised that his administration would tend to bolstering Canada's reputation abroad, take back its revolving seat in the United Nations, bolster the military and respond to peacekeeping requests has just been slapped down by the Organization for Economic Cooperation for its failure to restore foreign aid commitments to the level it enjoyed under the Harper government.

Trudeau seemed to think his considerable charm and celebrity could mollify Trump in the early days of his presidency. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

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Friday, September 21, 2018

The Issue of Malignant Vituperation and Reasonable Debate

"Before 2014, it was unimaginable to me that I would become a poster boy for men who are assholes. I had not been a network boss or an executive with institutional power; there had been no formal complaints at work that I was aware of over the years; there were no hush-money deals or nondisclosure agreements. As things came crashing down, I became obsessed with the inaccurate stories and the pattern of salacious details taken as truth in the echo chambers of social media outrage. That foreclosed any focus on my own accountability."
"Since then, I have spent almost four years reflecting on my relations with women I dated. For some, nothing I say here will be enough or be put the right way. Even as I feel deep remorse about how I treated some people in my life, I cannot confess to the accusations that are inaccurate. What I do confess is that I was emotionally thoughtless in the way I treated those I dated and tried to date. As well, I leveraged my influence and status to try to entice women and lead them on when they were interested. There are all sorts of old-fashioned words to describe men like this: player, creep, cad, Lothario."
"But it went deeper than that. I was demanding on dates and in personal affairs. I would keep lobbying for what I wanted. I was critical and dismissive. Some women I cared about went along with things I wanted to avoid my disappointment or moods. I ought to have been more respectful and responsive with the women in my life. To them I say, you deserved much better from me."
Jian Ghomeshi, essay: Reflections From A Hashtag, New York Review of Books 
The New York Review of Books editor, Ian Buruma, has left his post after an outcry over publishing an essay by disgraced former radio host, Jian Ghomeshi, seen here outside a Toronto court in May 2016. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

Jian Ghomeshi, the radio host of CBC's extremely popular "Q" social-cultural-pop-interview program was easily identifiable as an ego-driven, self-promoting star. He was, in fact, the CBC's very special star. His program so wildly popular it was syndicated and could be heard on American radio. He fell steeply and swiftly from grace when a number of women, a few at first but at last count twenty in all, went public in revealing him to be a nasty little creep of a sexually abusive predator. A revelation that brought deep satisfaction to those who detested him, and profound sadness to those who revered him.

Evidently there were rumours of his relentless pursuit of women, his autocratic and insulting behaviour with women, from female interns on the program to more seasoned women with a certain celebrity of their own. No one at the CBC evidently took them seriously; he was, after all, their star. He was, however, a shooting star and he was shot down from the heavens above to his own very personal hell. The relentless flood of news about his character along with instant condemnation from all who knew him and knew of him now identifying him as a low-life, vicious predator.

Like a beaten cur, he couldn't believe what had happened to him. But he did have enough cerebral function left to realize that he had to hire a lawyer who would be not merely competent but outstanding in her defense capabilities and that lawyer was Marie Henein. When it came to his trial, the women who had agreed to be public about their accusations, questioned professionally by the expert Ms. Henein were revealed to have enabled their own humiliation. They were so anxious to be noticed by Ghomeshi that even after he had violently manhandled them they gushed over him.

They collaborated stories and evidence in a pact to humiliate him as he had humiliated them; while they had been complicit in their own humiliation, Ghomeshi hadn't the choice. But the deft defence mounted by Marie Henein led to a discharge; not guilty as charged. Despite which he was pilloried and continues to be. This is a man who may still be a creep, but from what he has written, he understands full well what brought his downfall, identifying his own character faults and deploring them and his previous relationships with women.

Those who cling to the #MeToo movement are, however, implacably unforgiving. Ghomeshi's case is certainly one that verges on the unforgivable, but he has learned a lesson from it, and it's time for him to be able to move on, a chastened and a better man than he was. There are countless men whose behaviour is far more egregious than his, more harmful, more enduringly and relentlessly destructive. These are the men who should be outed, and many are. The thing of it is, the #MeToo movement is insatiable in its voracious appetite for revenge, and that appetite sweeps into its vortex men undeserving of such condemnation.

In the public arena of the social contract between men and women it is undeniable that women all too often get the short end of the stick. That has changed and it is continuing to change. The men that have allowed themselves to fossilize into the old order can be dealt with in ways other than their complete character assassination and professional destruction by bitter, vindictive Valkyries. Clumsy advances, male entitlement choices, these are all social errors in communication, gestures and verbal insults. There are some, like Justin Trudeau, who will never be held to account.

But these are relatively trivial, albeit insulting in comparison to the social/sexual/violent crimes that destroy women's lives. Women themselves are known to be abusive to their sex partners on occasion if and when the mood takes them. Men, however, don't die at the hands of abusive partners at anywhere near the rate that women do. Still, women have made significant gains in forwarding themselves and their aspirations as never before. The beast in some men needs more taming, but the men don't need to be destroyed in the process.
"I am not going to defend his behaviour, and I don't know if what all these women [Ghomeshi's accusers] are saying is true. Perhaps it is. Perhaps it isn't. My interest in running this piece, as I said, is the point of view of somebody who has been pilloried in public opinion and what somebody like that feels about it. It was not run as a piece to exonerate him or to somehow mitigate the nature of his behaviour."
"The exact nature of his behaviour -- how much consent was involved -- I have no idea, nor is it really my concern. [I have] ambivalent feelings [about the #MeToo movement; partly positive as a] necessary corrective on male behaviour ... but like all well-intentioned and good things, there can be undesirable consequences. I think, in a general climate of denunciation, sometimes things happen and people express views that can be disturbing."
Ian Buruma, editor, The New York Review of Books
Ian Buruma, editor, The New York Review of Books   Vincent Tullo / The New York Times

And for this intrepid, honourable editor who simply wanted to place before the reading public whom he assumes is reasonable and intelligent, an argument for discussion, the wrath of Hell has descended. The outraged 'progressive' outcry that has accompanied the publication online of the Ghomeshi piece has not elicited a reasonable debate, but rather calls for this man's head -- on a pike, preferably. So, because the paying sponsors and advertisers of the venerable Review of Books see the writing on the wall from furious #MeToo-ers, he did the honourable thing, and resigned.

Another head rolled out from under the guillotine of vicious retribution visited upon any who dare question the public evisceration of any man deemed to have stepped beyond the boundaries of approved social conduct which places men in the position where women were traditionally expected to be; modest and silent and invisible.
Image result for ghomeshi's lawyer, marie
Jian Ghomeshi and Marie Henein, National Post

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Thursday, September 20, 2018

NAFTA Down to the Wire? Not so Fast!

"This is not a strong economy. [Beyond the country's borders] our position remains vastly diminished, [foreign policy disconnected from trade relationships]."
"It is my duty to stand and be counted. Our country is at risk. My attempts to raise my concerns with the government were met with silence."
Leona Alleslev, MP Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill

"Mexico, they can sign whatever they want [on November 30]. They can sign a napkin. They don't need the complete text."
"Canada will play along with this Kabuki game and will come to some agreement at the end of September."
Gary Hufbauer, trade expert, Peterson Institute for International Economics, Washington

"Mexico] did what was possible and not what was desirable."
"Seems to me that it is better to have a NAFTA O.S. ... than not to have a NAFTA."
Luz Ma de la Mors, Mexican incoming undersecretary of state for trade

"It is a real deadline."
"Once we move past the end-of-September deadlines, the procedural and political issues become much more challenging and unpredictable ... Stringing this out does come with economic consequences."
Dan Ujezo, Ohio-based trade lawyer

"A lot of this is about ... psychological warfare. [But] Verheul is doing what he always does; stay focused on the substance, stay cool, let the abuse and the accusations roll off him like water off a duck's back."
"Unlike Mexico, Canada has been steadfastly focused on the content of the agreement, and trying not to get boxed in by artificial deadlines."
"The deal will take as long as the deal takes, whether it takes till the end of the month or the end of the year."
Eric Miller, Consultant, free-trade negotiation veteran, Washington
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland on Thursday announced dollar-for-dollar tariff 'countermeasures' on up to $16.6 billion worth of U.S. imports. (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press)

There it is: In the three-way negotiations, Canada got inconveniently sidelined. Canada was under the impression after meetings between its negotiators and key ministers with their Mexican counterparts that an attitude of 'we're in this together' prevailed; that both Mexico and Canada would present a united front for fair trade negotiations under pressure from American negotiators put on notice by their president that the U.S. was too giving and polite for too long, to the detriment of U.S. advantage in trade.

Canada and Mexico had ripped off the U.S. for too long and the free ride was coming to an end, thundered President Trump.

Without much of a doubt, matters might conceivably have progressed far differently had Canada determined that it would be best for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland to bow out allowing the Minister of Trade to take the helm, rather than risk irritating the U.S. chief negotiator Lighthizer, whose opinion of her is none too flattering. Canada's top career negotiator Steve Verheul is well versed in the premiums that the country places on various issues from dispute resolution sections to cultural industries protection, to supply management.

It's somewhat hard to credit that the U.S. is anxious to have the three-way NAFTA agreement in the can and approved by Congress in time to allow Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto to decamp with a successful legacy project, which his incoming replacement can, on the other hand, blame on his predecessor, should things go south, as they well might, since Mexico's agreement with the U.S. is nothing to write home about, caving in to too many American demands, not the least of which is the minimum wage for workers in vehicle production in Mexico.

U.S. vehicle manufacturing unions are just as concerned as the Canadian bargaining team about the Trump threat to impose a 25 to 30% tariff matching those on steel and aluminum to bully Canada into signing onto the agreement already agreed to by Mexico.

"Everyone in the automobile industry -- doesn't matter if you're a retailer, a supplier or a manufacturer -- is freaking out around tariffs on automotives. The price point is so big, we all know it would be extremely disruptive, extremely expensive to the industry and most likely knock the economy into some sort of recession because it's so inflationary", warned Mike Jackson, chairman, chief executive of AutoNation Inc. and chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

Wait -- it's not only dairy and automobiles. How about American wine? US. wine exports to Canada realized $443.9 million in 2017. "If NAFTA no longer exists we could see a half a billion dollars thrown out the window" declared Michael Kaiser, vice-president of WineAmerica. "So obviously we want to make sure the Canadian market remains open to U.S. wine". "There's a lot of unfair trading practices that happen in the United States that they don't like to talk about", commented Paul Speck, president of a Niagara winery, in Ohio trying to sell his wine.

"I'm in Cleveland selling and I have a 35% disadvantage compared to my competitors. In these trade deals everybody likes to nitpick but at the end of the day the California wine industry has done phenomenally well in Canada since NAFTA." As for the Canadian Vintners Association, it is "hopeful that the modernization of NAFTA will assist the growth of Canadian wine exports to the United States and Mexico."

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Diplomacy and Influence: the Best and the Brightest

"The reports regarding the ambassador's conduct include allegations of harassment and unwelcome actions of a sexual nature."
"The ambassador's continued presence in Canada was deemed to be a significant disruption to the conduct of normal diplomatic relations."
""The Office of Protocol has since been advised by the director of the West and Central Africa Division that, during a private conversation following his presentation of credentials, the newly-arrived ambassador of [deleted] to Canada proactively expressed his dismay and embarrassment regarding the conduct of his predecessor."
Global Affairs quarterly reports

"They are not all like that. These are very few and far between. It's unusual for career diplomats to get caught up in these things."
"In my time I don't remember an ambassador getting into trouble."
"[Some countries have fewer professional diplomats]; friends of friends of the president, or friends of a senior person like a minister."
"In my time, and I was here [as chief of protocol] for four and a half years, we had several cases."
"We would 'PNG' them. We would make them persona non grata."
Larry Lederman, former head of protocol, Foreign Affairs
Diplomatic plates on an example of erratic driving
Ottawa has quite a headache with its various foreign missions' staffs running up traffic infractions. And though foreign diplomats have immunity from prosecution, they are not immune from the responsibility to behave responsibly and with due respect to the country they have been assigned to in the representation of their own nation's best interests abroad. Simply put, diplomatic staff are universally expected to represent to a foreign nation the best and the brightest of their nation; how else gain trust, respect and clout? Yet tens of thousands of traffic tickets languish without honour.

There's worse than that, of course. Issues of drunk and disorderly conduct, including driving under the influence. Back in 2001 a Russian diplomat, driving drunk, ran down and killed an Ottawa woman. That's not the type of action that would 'protect' a diplomat through diplomatic immunity. He fled the scene, he fled Canada, returning to Russia. Under pressure from Ottawa, a trial was  held charging him with 'involuntary manslaughter' when he hit two women, one fatally the other seriously.

Foreign diplomats in Ottawa can be a real pain. Speeding tickets, yes, but also shoplifting, street fights with knives, high-speed chases when diplomat-plated vehicles plow into police cars; rent skipping, because they're diplomats, after all. Children of diplomats have on occasion been the cause of a different kind of concern when child welfare has been called in to check on their well-being from neglect. There have even been instances of diplomats bringing over their personal slave labour.

Sexual harassment? That too. Assault charges? You bet. Armed robbery, yep. This year alone seven staff members from two foreign embassies declared themselves as refugees, seeking status in Canada. In 2017 the RCMP urged the protocol office "to prepare an appropriate request for a waiver of immunity to accompany court documents"; in other words an ambassador's country would be asked to set aside immunity protecting him from criminal charges in Canada.

The son of one diplomat has been charged with taking a vehicle  without permission, two counts of fleeing while chased by police, failing to remain at the scene of an accident, and property mischief over $5,000 to go with his breach of bail conditions. The embassies themselves must pay tax on properties they own outside official tax-free residences and embassies; scofflaws there too, to the tune of hundreds of thousands owing.

A private company has approached Global Affairs to help it recover $3-million in payment for construction commissioned by a foreign embassy. A staffer at an embassy was charged with robbery with a weapon, assault causing bodily harm, intimidation and conspiracy to commit a crime. When prosecutors asked the embassy to waive immunity there was no response, forcing Global Affairs to cancel the accreditation for the diplomat.

Too bad they're not all like our superior Canadian diplomats. Oh, they are? Foreign diplomats do in fact, in their sense of entitlement resemble the attitudes and expectations of many Canadian diplomats sent abroad to showcase Canadian values and initiatives. And many of them are as crass and entitled and lax with other countries' laws as their counterparts from abroad. And they're not immune from getting into trouble and calling on diplomatic immunity. Which didn't help the Canadian consul-general in Miami when her two sons turned out to be little thugs.
Marc Wabafiyebazu, 15, of Ottawa, is seen in court during his bail hearing in Miami on Friday, May 29, 2015

Canadian Consul-General Roxanne Dube took up her post in Miami bringing with her two sons, Jean Wabafiyebazu, 18, and his 14-year-old brother Marc, in January 2015. Two months later, on March 30, the brothers drove their mother’s BMW with its diplomatic plates to an apartment to carry out a plan to rob a drug dealer. While the younger of the brothers sat in the car, the older one engaged in a shoot-out with a Miami teen when they killed each other in a gunfight during the botched ripoff of 800 grams of marijuana from a drug dealer.

Now, that's fairly extreme. On the more pedestrian side there are issues of arrogant disrespect for the culture and the people of foreign countries where Canadian diplomats are assigned. Tag that in with an attitude of entitlement that sees them conspiring to use all means at their disposal to claim expenses courtesy of the Canadian taxpayer while living in a manner to which they have accustomed themselves but could never themselves afford in Canada. Forgetting in the process how privileged they are to travel abroad, gaining experiences of great personal value allowing them to appreciate other cultures.

But as the former head of protocol said, it's not all diplomats, nor yet Canadian diplomats who fail to appreciate their opportunities and their obligations, just some. Enough, on the other hand, to make anyone shake his head in disbelief, witnessing the behaviour that betrays the trust invested in them to make a favourable impression on the foreign countries they visit because they represent a country's 'best and brightest'.

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Monday, September 10, 2018

To Adolph, With Love and Respect

"We will not allow the rest of the world to dictate what we do with our bell."
"It's a monument of history. We shouldn't forget that history or pretend it didn't happen."
"That is why the bell should stay."
Herxheim Mayor Georg Welker, 72, former village pastor
A view of a bell inside the Protestant Church of St. James in Herxheim am Berg, Germany, on June 12. (Ronald Wittek/EPA)

"We're talking about a bell that was hung during National Socialism and is dedicated to a mass murderer."
"Our whole postwar identity in Germany is built on a break from that history."
Markus Krauss, village metal worker, Herxheim, Germany

"We did spring cleaning. Not only the village cleaned, but also the bell. Of pigeon dung, of the filth of the National Socialists, who still threatened after 80 years to divide the village population, and hopefully also of the dirt that might have been thrown off about Schweringen."
"Schweringen is a village of clear, decent, intellectual, cosmopolitan citizens, and they will not simply stand by as the villagers are planning a split."
"In this hope, and as Christians for freedom, we have freed this bell from the signs of a time of guilt and abuse."
Unknown Schweringen activists' note

Now former mayor Roland Becker stands next to the church bell embossed with a swastika and the text: 'Everything for the Fatherland Adolf Hitler' in the Jakobskirche village church on June 13, 2017 in Herxheim, Germany.
Parishioners in Herxheim were alarmed to find they had been married or had baptised children under the "Hitler bell" Getty Images
A tale of two German villagers, though many more than just these two appear latterly to have re-discovered that their village church hosted a bell dedicated to Nazi Germany and its fascist Fuhrer, Adolph Hitler who led their country into instigating a world war by invading neighbouring countries in Europe with the intention of birthing a new world order overseen by the superior intellect and proud physiognomy of Aryan warriors who undertook, while they were at it, the systematic and determined annihilation of European Jewry.

After having admitted that the heated discussions in the village community revolving around Schweringen's Nazi bell that posed an "unprecedented challenge to the people in the church", Community Pastor Jann-Axel Hellwege also stated that the church was now in the process of assessing whether the damage that ensued when a vigilante group of citizens broke into the church tower to use an angle grinder to remove the swastika on the bell, had affected the bell's sound qualities -- and whether to take legal action.

An estimated two dozen towns in Germany -- when news of the "Hitler bell" discovered to still exist in Herxheim became national news -- checked their own bells to discover swastikas on them. Those towns wasted little time in expeditiously ridding themselves of the bells. But not in Schweringen in northern Germany, where town council prevaricated, and finally a group of townspeople took covert action to grind away the Nazi insignia. And not in Herxheim am Berg in the southwestern wine country of Germany.

Where, in 1934 the town's National Socialist mayor in his hilltop village of 780 people hung a bell with the inscription "Everything for the Fatherland -- Adolf Hitler", beside the swastika. One of the parishioners, retired music teacher Sigrid Peters who played the organ in the church, discovered the church bell's existence and protested that the bell hung inside the yellow church tower, with a rickety wooden staircase leading to it, be removed and destroyed.

"People have been getting married under the swastika and they didn't even know it", she said furiously. "It can’t happen that a baby is baptized and a bell with the words ‘Everything for the Fatherland’ is chiming." When she made her discovery, and refused to play the organ until the bell was removed, it quickly became public knowledge all over Germany where Jewish organizations demanded the bell be removed. The response of the local church council was to temporarily ban it from ringing, while the regional church body offered to provide a replacement.

The response in Herxheim to its new state of notoriety with its "Hitler bell", was divisive. Ms. Peters has been called a "traitor", and in defiance the local pizzeria has been receiving orders from some of the town's good citizens for "Nazi pizza". Many village residents want to retain the bell, despite the fact that for the past year their village has been mockingly dubbed the "Nazi village". Mayor Welker, elected a year ago on the promise to keep the bell, plans to place a plaque on the church wall to explain the bell's history. 
"For me, it is incomprehensible that such a bell was ever stuck in a church."
"I have even less understanding that there are obviously still people who hold a positive attitude toward this bell."
Josef Schuster, president, Central Council of Jews in Germany

“When we talk about the name Adolf Hitler, it will forever be associated first and foremost with the persecution of the Jews and the time of the war."
"But when you talk about these things, you have to see the whole picture, and say, yes, there were atrocities, but there were also things [Hitler] introduced which we still use today."
Herxheim am Berg’s former mayor, Roland Becker   Heil Hitler!

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