The Chinese Model is Failing Africa

https://www.ft.com/content/ca4072f6-a79f-11e8-a1b6-f368d365bf0e?hubRefSrc=email&utm_source=lfemail&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=lfnotification#lf-content=237021208:806282656

Robert S. Stewart rss1@interopag.com     27th/28th August 2018

The present swath of African leaders are too weak to stand up to China’s power. “Bribe me” is about all they can say. This fits China’s model for swamping the continent in their goods and services, wiping out centuries of Western influence which was not strong enough to take hold on the populations, given the fickle nature of their leaders. The takeover since the late 1980’s has been overwhelming: partly sparkling superficiality, partly stealth, but primarily overpowering. It is a continuation of how Africa has allowed the invaders onto their territories since the 1600’s.

The Chinese influence will not only destroy their domestic markets and future economies, it will wipe out African culture unless millions in their populations rise up and lead a Revolution of self-sustaining measures. Their infrastructure is extremely weak. Who can ignore a map of existing energy structures, roads and railways which do not crisscross the continent? Building their shoddy, yet glittery connections will destroy that effort unless millions rise up to stop it. Their leaders will accept that work for a few pieces of silver. There is nothing wrong with major infrastructure projects that will connect the one billion indigenous people. But it has to be built to last for centuries to come.
DeleteShare

Godfree Roberts

@Robert S. Stewart rss1@interopag.com If you want to enjoy the international game more fully, I suggest you abandon the established wisdom that China’s government acts in as much bad faith as our own.

If you abandon that preconception and take the Chinese government at its word–then check its performance against its promises–you will be surprised and delighted.

The Chinese, inveterate hard-asses who have suffered through every form of government and misgovernment in the past 100 years, give the present government thumbs up: 95% trust and policy support. Not surprising when you consider that it’s ket every promise in its Five Year Plans for 60 years.

Most countries that deal with China have been pleasantly surprised and, setting aside the usual squabbles, have admitted that they benefit from the relationship and suffer very few if any disadvantages. China’s trade with the world is in balance, it hasn’t attacked anyone for 40 years (even then, with US support) and its made a lot of foreigners rich.

What’s not to like?

Robert S. Stewart rss1@interopag.com

Virtually every statement you make misses the mark about me and what I stated.

I am an African, a Ugandan to be clear. I have lived in Africa since 1968 and criss-crossed the continent overland hundreds of times, by Land Rover and in the air. I have also toured, traded with, invested in, helped to build and understand not just my home continent, but much of the entire rest of the world.

I don’t know if that makes me an expert as an ‘internationalist’, by I am confident that after hundreds of billions of Dollars/Pounds/Francs/Euros of completed investment in extraction and infrastructure projects, I know what I am doing derived from personal, first-hand experience, not swallowing too much won ton soup.

I have witnessed first-hand, Chinese exploitation in Uganda (Owen Falls II Dam failure costing our country hundreds of millions of dollars to repair and replace; the shoddy construction of the Tazara Railway from Dar to Lusaka, and when that was finished, the disappearance of the entire elephant herd from the Masai Mara into Chinese cargo ships for the transfer of ivory tusks to Asian markets; the arming of terrorist rebels in a dozen sub-saharan countries that overthrew elected democracies left behind in the 1960’s; the arming of the Sudanese Army to slaughter villagers in Darfur throughout South Sudan; the fraudulent rape of the DR Congo’s resources in return for more shoddy infrastructure; the construction of frills such as football stadiums in most capitals indebting the continent for decades or a lifetime; bribes to officials on a par with the People’s Republican Army and Chinese Communist Party; and hundreds of other excruciating horrors inflicted on unsuspecting African villagers. The list of rampaging violations stretches into books of evidence over decades that could never be overlooked by history. Don’t tempt me.

These aren’t preconceptions, they are facts of modern African history and China’s role in it.

For you to call the past century of Chinese leadership ‘hard asses’ is a flagrant understatement of the murderous era’s of obliteration of anyone confronting the longstanding Communist Party. Check the facts and consult history again from the Long March to Tiananmen Square.

Unlike your false statement that most countries are thrilled with their relationship with China, why are so many like the US and several African countries questioning what happened? Only those that have benefited from the corruption of African leaders would stoop to acknowledge this claim.

“China’s trade with the world is in balance”? Where did you dig up this insanity. There are thousands of historical trade graphs producing the facts which you seem to bulldoze over with platitudes. But you are right on one thing. “It has made a lot of foreigners rich”. The problem is that it was restricted to buying off the African leaders and was not trickled down or redistributed throughout the billion empty mouths that still wonder what hit them.

I suggest you do as I did. Take a Land Rover from Casablanca to Cape Town and back to Cairo. Then report to all of us on your findings about China’s sordid history in Africa. You’ll be cured of any more flagrant misgivings about what is going on around the continent with a vengeance. Don’t let the scorpions with their Gucci bags in the five star hotels on their high heels bite you! Go out to the countryside.

Kai Xue

@Robert S. Stewart rss1@interopag.com China’s present era of engagement with Africa begins in the 2000s. Ties had gone into a standstill in the 1980s and 1990s after misguided competition against the Soviet Union for third world allies had dampened and then disappeared.

If you want to discuss Maoism and engagement with Africa, then you have a starting point with your comment, but it doesn’t have much relevance to the present era.

Instead of a disorganized, litany of one-sided events presented as analysis, I try to approach the question of whether China benefits Africa with data and a framework for thinking.

1. What do you think is the number one measurable priority for Uganda to develop? (I’m not talking about creating progress, not simply measuring the effect of a cause.)

2. You are on the road a lot and I agree the focus of development should be on the countryside. Do you agree with the former Prime Minister of Ethiopia that an all-critical measure is the share of the countryside population with access within 2km to an all-weather road?

3. If the Chinese system of lending and construction contractors wasn’t present in Uganda, how successful would the country be in increasing the share with access to roads?

4. If there were only a limited number of new roads, what strategy do you propose would increase agricultural productivity?

5. Without increasing agricultural productivity in the mostly agricultural country of Uganda and without counting on a game changing discovery of natural resources (especially considering per capita how much the revenue from resources would be diluted), how will your country develop?

@Kai Xue @Robert S. Stewart rss1@interopag.com

Sorry, like Godfree Roberts above, your facts are wrong and statements/questions are very misleading. The Chinese were already implementing a continent-wide, not-so-stealth foreign policy across Africa in the early 1970’s. That is why I brought up the ill-fated disaster of the Owen Falls II Dam on the Nile which was started then but had to be completely replaced at great cost to tax-paying Ugandans after the World Bank accepted the disgraceful materials that went into it. It was built and paid for twice by Ugandans.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s, the Chinese were arming Robert Mugabe with their AK47’s to destroy Zimbabwe’s plentiful, century-old fields of produce filled with self-sufficiency and export produce, using them to kill fifth generation White farmers. They built a wasteful football stadium in the middle of Harare and saddled the country with more massive debts. They did the same in Nigeria, building a stadium in Lagos and supplying hardcore military hardware to the Nigerian military: more debt. Who were the Nigerians fighting at the time? No one.

In the 1990’s, the DR Congo was invaded by the Chinese donors promising to replace the $50 billion Bechtel Master Plan (which I wrote in 1997) to rebuild the entire road/rail/port/airport infrastructure, extractive and agricultural sectors of the ruined country. Instead they sprayed tar onto a few mud roads, delivered 1940’s era telephone equipment and stole the country’s copper/cobalt.

Check out Dar es Salaam harbour in the 1970’s and 1980’s that was filled with Chinese ships dropping off cheap cargo in return for precious ivory culled off the Masai Mara and Serengeti Plains. The Chinese had bribed every Tanzanian Cabinet Minister with cars and trips to Beijing with copies of the Little Red Book, when few could read it. Canadians had to rip up the Tazara Railway to Lusaka and replace it with the proper gauge.

Your questions ignore the facts of what was going on in Africa – a full scale economic routing of the countries desperate for long-term development assistance. As I mentioned above, the cases of Sudan and Darfur whilst grabbing the oil near Port Sudan, the continuing slaughter of South Sudanese, the support of Nelson Mandela with arms, terrorist equipment to destroy South Africa’s giant economy decades ago through jungle routes from Tanzania and Mozambique.

There are volumes that will be written some day extolling the massacres that took place in a dozen countries when rebel groups were supplied with Chinese arms under Qadhafi’s influence to overthrow democratic governments that were still holding onto a semblance of infrastructure left behind by the Europeans/North Americans/Japanese/Taiwanese.

The arms trade started the deluge, followed by the delivery of fraudulent Master Plans, then poor quality goods and services. How many Chinese enclaves surrounded by barbed wire and gated compounds now dot the landscape in every capital city of Africa and all the work projects across the continent? Was this a friendly gesture of co-mingling with allies and solidarity with the people?

Only if you are under 30 years of age, wearing blinkers about the facts or dodging the truth of history, could you miss the many deeds unleashed on this poor continent by thousands of Chinese workers, many of whom were left behind in Africa to fend for themselves after their projects were finished. Some came from prisons and mental institutions in China.

As you can see by the numbers of assenting recommendations for many of my comments, it appears that most readers back the facts rather than spurious attempts at the fiction.

No, sadly, the continent has been knocked back another Century by this invasion of ill-conceived ‘development assistance’ which will leave a very damaging pall over the land and people. Africans must now take on a more insidious challenge in ridding their continent of leaders soaked in Chinese corruption who failed to deliver the promised Aid. Coined in the rhetoric of Chairman Mao, it has left an indelible mark that will be difficult to erase and repair.

European economies and corporations, especially the British, could restore some of what is lost and at the same time renew relations with Africa that would help to end these wounds and provide a mutual era of higher quality education, agriculture, infrastructure and extractive products to fuel the global economy. Anything would be better than what has gone on. Watch what comes out of the China/Africa Meetings in Beijing this week. Mrs. May, your country could do much better for both your sakes.

@Robert S. Stewart rss1@interopag.com I’m disappointed. You claimed to have done a lot of deals and lived in Africa for 50 years. I was hoping for a discussion with someone reasonable, well informed, commercial and practical. But by your responses it looks like you’re are a fanatic and very tedious to have a conversation with.

Robert S. Stewart rss1@interopag.com

@Kai Xue @Robert S. Stewart rss1@interopag.com

Terribly sorry to disappoint you but I believe in the truth, facts, reality, and not forgotten history and a revision of anything close to what really happened. I am not very good on fantasy that covers up the massive blight forced on Africa for the past 50 years by Chinese invaders who will leave a disgraceful legacy behind when they finally go.

Posted in Op-Ed's in Major Publications | Comments Off on The Chinese Model is Failing Africa

The ship tycoon, the con men and a €100m scam

When fraudsters embarked on an elaborate sting, they made one big miscalculation: their victim.

Finally, the FT has done some brilliant journalism, chasing down a scam, its perpetrators and the victim who fought back. Read the main story here in the FT:

https://www.ft.com/content/d4bc5a02-7995-11e8-bc55-50daf11b720d?emailId=5b3650e88712e50004d96077&segmentId=2e4343f6-b08f-9184-785d-0a53b99d57bf

 

The world’s biggest ship (by volume) Pioneering Spirit was subjected to a monster scam, but the victim Edward Heerema, a Dutch shipbuilder, fought back:

Anyone listening to those purporting to have US Government officials sanction a “secret trading system”, backed by Vatican connections, with UN officials looking on, cloaked in the Portuguese clothing of a mafia don, bouncing between shady Malta and Lichtenstein banks, is only asking for trouble.

Heerma is no fool but he forgot to put on his “due diligence” cap, invoke the legendary Dutch reserve, and undertake the requisite research to uncover such a giant fraud as this “too good to be true” offer. However, his energy and enthusiasm to seek recourse and not only recover his funds but bury the perpetrators, is an act of heroism and a distinct contribution to destroy the fraudsters and hope they and other dreamers never see the light of day again.

This story needs to be writ in bold letters and disseminated in movies, books and documentary films to get the message out, that crime occasionally pays, but like the Canadian Mounties, serious investigators will “always get these men”. Bravo to Heerma. He now deserves a ship in his own name as a lesson to avoid fraudsters everywhere!

Posted in Op-Ed's in Major Publications | Comments Off on The ship tycoon, the con men and a €100m scam

“CRIM-ITALIE” – Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini Wants to Make Italy Great Again

“CRIM-ITALIE” – Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini Wants to Make Italy Great Again

Guest post by:
Dr.Theodore Roosevelt Malloch
CEO
Roosevelt Global Fiduciary Governance Limited

Italy and crime too often go together – sort of like spaghetti and meatballs. L’hai capito.

With relatively low murder rates and rape cases, Italy yet marks exceptionally high when it comes to another kind of crime, namely: corruption and fraud. It permeates the highest levels of government and most institutions.

Political corruption is not only rife in infamously unruly places like Sicily and Corsica but as a result of the decision to block a democratically elected coalition government forming its ministries — dwells at the very Presidential level itself.

Sergio Mattarella, Italy’s figurehead President, faced calls for his own impeachment because of his complete contempt for the democratic process. Owned by the EU elites, the bond ratings agencies and the Left, he essentially singlehandedly tried to overturn a democratic election result.

Aside from the outrageous Mattarella himself, many worldwide crime families originated and still operate out of Italy and their influence is truly widespread, so too are the NGOs trying to import economic refugees to tip the balance of power and demographics in Italy.

According to recent polls, the crime network touches nearly a quarter of the Italian population and about 15 per cent of the country’s GDP. Twelve million people are involved in this notorious crime web with tentacles around the world, and most prominently stretching to North America. It is said that nearly half of the Italian economy is in fact a ‘black market’. Tax evasion has soared and kickback and pay-off schemes abound. Unemployment is officially at 15 percent but closer to 35 per cent among the youth in an economy that is in stagnation, if not demise.

No one trusts the government any longer.

Civic trust is at an all time low as evidenced in the growing populist revolt, which will grow even stronger after this latest debacle. Change cannot halt: the will of the people. Italy’s new fused Five Star and Lege government will insure that.

Everyone has seen the movies; The Godfather and Goodfellas but have you read or seen Gomorra, the latest depiction of crime in the form of a television miniseries based on deadly underworld reality in Naples? Watch it and wept for the pervasive gang culture and the lives and communities it utterly destroys.

We must ask: why is such criminality so endemic in Italy?

As the birthplace of western civilization and the Latin language, not to mention the Roman Church and a fabled cuisine, Italy surely has more to offer than crime.
But the stain just won’t go away.

Let me relate a story to make the point, more personal. I just returned from a long weekend getaway to the beautiful Golf do Paridiso—from the Liguria coastline south of Genoa and the wonderful area around Portofino, which boasts a national park and protected coast line, as well as several UNESCO world heritage sites. Tourism is very critical to this economy, and rightly so.

In the commune of Santa Margherita Ligure I received a parking ticket. The police came even though the signs (in Italian, not English said you could park until 3 pm). They called a tow truck and demanded I pay 150 euros on the spot for a service that was not used and then on top issued a ticket of 28 euros, for a violation that did not occur. The ticket number was 25818 and I have a photo of the officer and his police car,

Poliza plate — YA 122AP. They demanded cash there and then and they put the money directly in their pocket. My wife will attest to this.

Many police in Italy also appear to be criminal. They prey on tourists and jack them off demanding exorbitant fees, which they keep for themselves, laughing to boot. It says a lot about what I now call, “Crim-Italie”.

All of this must stop, corruption from the top-down.

So too must the litany of nonstop illegals funded by the Soros cabal, mostly African and Arab economic immigrants, flowing into the country by land, and especially by sea (an estimated 1.5 million of them to date and still rising). Thousands come each week. They accost the locals and the tourists both, trying to sell their unwanted wares, begging, and living off the sheer generosity of the welfare state. We see this week that has now been halted thanks to the new government.

What Italy needs is a trusted government with an Interior Minister and a Prime

Minister that will clean the entire house. And now they have just that.

All the illegals should be deported. Borders should be upheld and defended. All the criminality should be policed. The crime families shut down and the rule of law returned. Taxes should be collected. But in Italy you will also need someone to police the crooked police! No easy task.

Without such a change, no one should visit Italy. No one should do business there. The Italian people themselves, the hard working, kind, and good people need to step up and back a government that follows through and keeps its promises, that delivers.

The disaster that exists presently is simply unacceptable. The centre-right, Lege and its partners deserve a chance to Make Italy Great Again! They have actually borrowed that very phrase.

Matteo Salvini, their leader, is now the new Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior. He wants to make Italy safe, to make Italy prosperous, to make Italy crime free and unencumbered by the straightjacket of the European Union and its unelected bureaucracy that rules by fiat, with the help of their crooked cronies. He rightly asks, why should Germany or Brussels run a free and sovereign Italy?

Italy can be defined by its’ notably glorious past. Now it must change course, decriminalize, and cast a shadow on what can be an even brighter future. Friends of Italy should support its turn in the right direction.

Ted Malloch

Posted in Op-Ed's in Major Publications | Comments Off on “CRIM-ITALIE” – Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini Wants to Make Italy Great Again

Donald Trump’s Vision of a New World Order

Those in the Media are getting Donald Trump all Wrong. They think he ran for President because he wanted to be popular, make billions of dollars, be respected in the political environment, and simply continue with his high profile business deal-making. They are dead Wrong! He’s done all that. He’s onto a totally different agenda.

Here are two articles in the British press that fail to understand the fact he has wanted this job since he was young, growing up in New York, and thinking that the way the political process worked in Washington was phoney, fraudulent, superficial, wasteful, inconsequential, changes nothing, feed the bureaucrats and politicians with the perks and pensions for an empty contribution to what they were supposed to be doing: running a country for the betterment of its people. He wanted to change that more than any President of the past 70 years.

In order to bring more efficient operations to Washington and create a better world, he had to first turn it upside down, then reorder it in a way more meaningful to the people he wishes to serve. In no way does this President serve business as usual. He will leave a stamp on the political process that will be hard to change back to its meaningless old ways. He is making it more responsive to the needs and demands of the populace. He has redefined populism, not democracy, which he grew up with and found less attractive for getting things done.

The rising cost of America First

Donald Trump wants a Trumpian foreign policy but will not want to pay for it.

That is apparent in his North Korea policy more broadly. To use a real-estate analogy: when he was first briefed on the state of North Korea diplomacy by his predecessor, Mr Trump perhaps saw it less as an existential threat than a fixer upper—an opportunity for an easy win. Negotiations had long been frozen over America’s demand that Kim Jong Un’s regime should give up its nuclear arms and the regime’s refusal to do so. Yet there were two ways an America president could shake things up: by promising Kim Jong Un more normal relations, or threatening him with war. Most North Korea-watchers considered the first unconscionable and the second unrealistic. Mr Trump, unburdened by such niceties, tried them both, sometimes in the same breath.

 Whatever the merits of the ensuing detente, the tactic has paid off handsomely for the president. It has enabled him to create a semblance of historic progress, which has driven his supporters wild with glee and bookmakers to slash their odds against him bagging the Nobel peace prize. And in case the deal comes to nothing, he says he has a contingency plan. He will simply “find some kind of an excuse” to absolve himself of blame.

This was so predictable it is amazing Mr Trump retains such power to shock. Almost all his disruptive foreign-policy moves, the rows with allies, withdrawals from international agreements, tariffs and threats of worse on every front, can be viewed primarily as tactical ploys intended to push his self-image as a decisive leader, honour ill-considered campaign pledges or stoke the partisan, nationalist and xenophobic sentiment from which he draws strength. Yet this strategy is liable to produce diminishing returns.

For additional context, consider that Mr Trump’s haymakers at the world order and diplomatic convention have so far been easy to throw. Obliterating Barack Obama’s legacy, by withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Paris climate accord and Iran deal, was a cinch. Each step was applauded by partisan Republicans, and the costs America will incur as a result are mostly remote and hard to quantify. Haranguing America’s allies for better trade and security terms, the main vehicle for Mr Trump’s claim to be pushing America First, has been no harder.

Western leaders are reluctant to argue back, because of America’s heft and occasionally—as in his scorn for their paltry defence spending—because Mr Trump has a point. The stifling etiquette of diplomatic relations has magnified the dramatic effect of his grandstanding. Mr Trump was horribly rude to Justin Trudeau after the G7 gathering last week. Yet the common diplomatic view that the sky fell in because he refused to sign the shindig’s communiqué seems faintly ludicrous. By such means Mr Trump has been able to smash the maximum amount of crockery, for maximum political effect, at a modest or intangible cost. But he will now have fewer opportunities for low-cost bullying or audacious dealmaking available to him.

He has no more big Obama foreign achievements to unwind. The next wave of international entities in his sights—NAFTA, NATO and the United Nations—would be far more damaging to leave, politically and otherwise. Mr Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and levy metals tariffs on Canada and the Europeans has already raised the cost of mistreating allies. It has forced them to take retaliatory action and probably made them less willing to provide support for future Trump dealmaking, especially with Iran, which his advisers would like to turn to next.

That is in part because they know the president’s disregard for the Palestinians has made the “ultimate deal”—a settlement of their argument with Israel—extremely unlikely. On trade, Mr Trump faces even more steeply rising costs. He has so far convinced his supporters that protectionism can be profitable as well as emotionally satisfying. Yet the negative consequences of the tariffs on foreign cars and trade war with China he has threatened might make them think again. Mr Trump’s opportunities for easy America First wins, in short, appear to have been exhausted.

Crude yet calculating

There are three ways this could go. First, he could restrain himself—a prediction often made, and never borne out. Indeed there are fresh reasons to think Mr Trump is not about to become more conventional. All presidents become more active abroad as their troubles mount at home; and he, beset by legal peril, could use a foreign distraction more than most. Alternatively, he could double down and attack the international system more fiercely. That would be consistent with his record—except in one respect.

Mr Trump has proved the prognosticators wrong because he understands his interests better than they do. His divisive behaviour is more popular than they imagined. By extension, it is not uncalculated: Mr Trump wants to promote himself, not mayhem. So if the rising costs of his confrontational foreign policy erode his support, he would probably moderate the policy.

That raises a third possibility. The president may maintain his antagonistic style, but follow through on fewer threats and promises. He may still threaten war, in trade and militarily, but he will not start one, because wars are expensive and end up unpopular. He will still float audacious deals, but he will settle for smaller-bore pacts—recognition of an Israeli land-claim, perhaps, or a stillborn deal with the Taliban—that he can spin as something bigger. On balance, this seems likeliest. It is how he conducted his business. It also best describes the stunt he pulled in Singapore.

The Economist is wrong on all three alternatives. He is there for the full 8 years and will leave a very different world, one in which more people are richer, healthier, less warring or threatening of their neighbours, and more focused on the business of living a better life. He isn’t doing it for all the reasons stated in the first paragraph. He’s already rich, healthy, powerful, successful in many walks of life. He wants anyone who wants to do it peacefully to have the same opportunity.

And once again, the FT gets it completely wrong thinking Trump is just a flash-in-the-pan politician.

The FT article by Philip Stevens (listed here below) suggests that:

“Donald Trump’s retreat is the greatest threat to global security.”

https://www.ft.com/content/c607dbe4-6f09-11e8-852d-d8b934ff5ffa?emailId=5b21883bf505be0004c26722&segmentId=488e9a50-190e-700c-cc1c-6a339da99cab

He couldn’t be more wrong!!

While most of the comments printed in the FT help to flesh out the arguments about Trump’s vision of a new world order, few people, including his own electorate, comprehend the depth of his focus knocking off his campaign pledges.

Most people think he has a two minute focus: WRONG! He’s focused on a legacy that is cleaning up all the unfinished business that former President’s promised, and never delivered over the past 70 years that will have a strong bearing on the next decade.

His biggest challenge will be to transform America from Global Cop into maintaining any lead in global trade and enterprise, without sinking the ship.

His biggest nemesis will remain China and Russia, and how they are now the sharks in the tank circling around the Whale. He started at the low end of the scale to end one of the last Communist dictatorships and the world’s longest incomplete war with the DPRK, but he will work his way back up the scale to the other two.

He is not acting alone, just very differently from all previous CEO’s in Washington. That is because he is a CEO with financial responsibility for checking the Nation’s bottom line which includes the trade and investment balances. No previous President has cared a fig for the economics of the country.

They were simply soaking up the ego and perks of office and looking forward to translating that notoriety into personal wealth. The Donald may be enjoying that too, but he is certainly updating the global batting order and trying to correct the serious imbalances in Trade, Investments and Balance of Payments as they affect the USA.

There are three focuses in Washington, not the hundred issues which all levels of government pretend they manage, but only confuse voters. The States look after most issues, closer to the ground floor of the electorate (education, transport, communication, etc.).

His focus must be as defined in the US Constitution: Defense, Foreign Policy and the Economy. He could care less about the rest as they are not really his prime responsibilities. He is not acting alone.

The true statesmen and permanent civil servants who are not simply politicians and bureaucrats padding their present perks and future pensions, want to be remembered for seriously realigning the world in more practical, up-to-date terms.

The old world order since 1945 has dramatically changed. Russia and China are no longer Third World Cold Warriors. They produce enough energy and manufactured goods to rival Europe and America. And they must be brought into a newly restructured world order.

You didn’t see either Putin or Ji running around the world with a broader vision, and the power to back up their efforts. A new G8 will have a couple of new entries as the once great Roman Empire and other Europeans retreat into global insignificance, to be replaced by China and Russia. When was the last time any European took the high road of global diplomacy?

That’s the Donald’s Plan:. A new world trading system in which the balance of power is shared (not competed for) between the new leaders:

1.) Canada: As the world’s second largest country with massive natural resources of minerals, energy, water, forest products, and fish to feed the world as well as space for accepting emigrants from several over-populated countries. They have a multi-cultural ethic which seems to work, never started any foreign wars or colonisations, run to the rescue of those invaded by unwanted foreign adversaries, and seem genuinely to be respected by most countries for standing up to the bullies of the world with stable diplomacy wrapped in some military strength;

2.) The US: For obvious reasons – the world’ dominant super power since WWII;

3.) A newly reconstituted United States of all Europe (without the Brussels bureaucracies of the EU or NATO) but one that combines the EEC members (Scandinavia, Switzerland) with the existing mishmash of EU and Eurozone members;

4.) Russia: Supplies Europe with significant energy. Most Russians want to be considered European and friends of the West. Leaving them in the cold is wrong. Many are already showing displeasure with their uneven government leadership by moving abroad.

5.) China: The world’s new super power. For obvious reasons, it is better to have them in a Group for discussions and observation than meandering about Africa or Asia on their own.

6.) India: A large population and software giant with a highly educated society.

7.) Japan (a very stable society now with significant global market for raw material imports and finished product exports (cars, electronics).

A golfing President who counts his strokes

The biggest lesson anyone can learn about the true character of Donald Trump is to analyze his relationship with golf. He is, like me, both a golfer and golf course developer/owner. This game is not about bluff or bluster. It is a game of precision, focus and sinking the putts, staying out of the rough, and hitting it straight and true. Honesty, discipline, practice until you make perfect, hit a million golf balls before you can say “I know how to play this game”.

All the noise and media comments about Trump the charlatan are completely off the mark. The man counts his strokes, doesn’t kick the ball out of the rough, and takes his penalties. Like golf, it is a personal game of discipline and honesty. If more media writers and commentators followed the same code, they’d find out what he is all about. Most of them haven’t accomplished one tenth as much as he has in his life.

If any of them can shoot par in any field, golf, politics, real estate, let them contribute something of value to the political process rather than just “fake news” to sell media advertising, stir controversy, and reduce the respect and value for building a stronger world. Give it five years, then come back and say he was a failure if his goals don’t work out. But this man isn’t in it for the fame, power or money. He’s past that.

 

Posted in Op-Ed's in Major Publications | Comments Off on Donald Trump’s Vision of a New World Order

Reaching Canada’s G7 summit

Editorial by the Nation Newspaper of Canada June 6th, 2018

As leaders come together in Charlevoix, Quebec, Open Canada takes a look at the world’s most intimate summit, with views from those who’ve had a seat at the table.

Later this week, leaders from the world’s most powerful democracies will meet in the scenic region of Charlevoix, Quebec, set between the St. Lawrence River and the Laurentian Mountains, for the forty-fourth annual Group of Seven (G7) summit.
Charlevoix is spectacularly beautiful — its most celebrated summer resident, former US President William Taft, famously said its air “intoxicates like champagne.” A New York Times travel column described it as the author’s “childhood imaginings of heaven.”

In that idyllic setting, on June 8 and 9, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will host his counterparts from the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Japan, along with the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission, at the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu. Located on a cliff overlooking the river, a 140 km drive from where the world’s media and civil society representatives will be gathered in Quebec City, the hotel has been chosen to provide leaders with as much of a “retreat” atmosphere as possible, where they will be free to move around and discuss the most pressing economic and political issues of the day.

Robert Stewart, a former foreign policy advisor and Canadian diplomat has attended every G7 or G8 summit since 1979 (the group was known as the G8 — Group of Eight — from the time Russia was admitted in 1998 to when it was suspended in 2014). Stewart says it is a “Canadian tradition” to host summits in a remote location – most of the country is remote wilderness; at the 2002 summit in Kananaskis, Alberta, he recalls, then Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s direction to his summit management team was to never have a security person in a leader’s line of vision. For protestors, journalists or any other non-official delegates trying to get access, a secluded site is obviously not ideal. But for the leaders themselves, this set-up is invaluable.

“The G7 leaders sit around a small table, look each other in the eye, make wisecracks, interrupt each other,” Stewart says. “It’s a small enough group that they can do that — they can see each other when they’re speaking, they can gauge each other’s reactions…they can have pretty frank discussions.

“The conversation isn’t going to be like a family dinner table conversation — you’ve got very different kinds of cultural styles and traditions present — but they’re still basically like-minded, it’s still a more open discussion, they don’t speak from notes.”
“The G7 leaders sit around a small table, look each other in the eye, make wisecracks, interrupt each other…they can have pretty frank discussions.”

For the majority of the two-day summit, the leaders won’t actually be alone. In the room with them, for the most part, will be their personal representatives or “sherpas,” who, like the Himalayan mountain guides they are named for, are responsible for blazing a trail to the summit and doing the heavy lifting in terms of preparation and organization.

Canada’s deputy minister and sherpa for this G7 summit is Peter Boehm, a long-time diplomat and former ambassador to Germany. Like Stewart before him, he is the man responsible for the summit’s planning, agenda, budget, logistics and security, and reports directly to Trudeau.

Boehm — who has a small army of sous-sherpas and political directors supporting him — is the prime minister’s voice in discussions with the other G7 sherpas, the various government departments and agencies involved in Canada’s G7 presidency and the authorities on the ground in Quebec. It’s a relationship that requires a great deal of trust, a mind-meld of sorts — on Twitter, Boehm joked recently that the two are beginning to adopt the same mannerisms.

“Peter has been involved in G7 summits since the 1990s in one capacity or another, learning from Stewart, so he has a really good understanding of what’s involved. He’s unusual because he’s become the second-longest-serving sherpa — Stewart being the other. Angela Merkel is always teasing Boehm when she sees him…‘What are you still doing here?’”

Boehm learned everything from the ultimate Sherpa, Robert Stewart, Pierre Trudeau’s Sherpa from 1970-1990 and a advisor to every Canadian Prime Minister since then. No longer a diplomat, he became the corporate CEO/Chairman of many of the world’s largest multinational mining, petroleum, construction/engineering and telecom companies. He has also briefed every US President since Nixon on world affairs. Apparently, nobody knows the world (and 167 country Presidents) as much as the man who first circumnavigated it overland since 1968. Stewart now lives in Netherlands but agreed to mentor several Canadian and European sherpas to bring about the best results of each summit since his time running them.

Toward the summit.

In December 2017, Canada set out its five themes for this summit: investing in growth that works for everyone; preparing for jobs of the future; advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment; working together on climate change, oceans and clean energy; and building a more peaceful and secure world. By the end of 2017, before Canada had even assumed its presidency, Boehm had visited his sherpa counterparts in every G7 capital city, just like Stewart had done decades before.

Since then, Canada has hosted four sherpa meetings, in Waterloo, Victoria, Ottawa and Baie-Saint-Paul, and met with civil society and Indigenous groups, travelling the country to get input from Canadians young and old, in keeping with the government’s stated emphasis on transparency and consultation.

One morning last month, with 21 days to go until the summit, I spoke with Boehm over the phone from his Ottawa office. Stewart was also on the line, offering support as he has done for decades. He had returned the previous night from a press conference in Quebec City and was preparing to chair a meeting of deputy ministers involved in summit preparations. I tell him the question I really want to ask is, ‘When do you sleep?’

“Of course I sleep,” he laughs. “I sleep well, because I’m exhausted at the end of the day!”

Boehm is in touch with his sherpa counterparts almost every day, he says, individually or collectively. For months, they have been negotiating the agenda of the summit, which Trudeau will moderate, as well as a draft of what they are loosely calling the “Charlevoix commitments,” related to the themes Trudeau has set out.

“So those are negotiated, and we will have some sort of a consensus document, we hope, at the end that will serve as a chapeau for all of that,” Boehm says. “Sometimes it’s called a communiqué, sometimes it’s called a chair statement or a consensus statement — we’ll see how that goes.”

While Boehm acknowledges there are issues around which the sherpas will not necessarily reach consensus, he says it is in everyone’s interest to have a good summit, “because this thing rotates — so we will pass the torch on to France next year, and of course we’ve taken it from Italy this year.

“We all know each other very well, and we also have each other’s backs, because we’re all in this together.”

Stewart, who has an impressively packed summit diary himself, spoke with me over his lunch hour in Toronto in between attending the Think 7 summit, a gathering of think tank representatives, in Quebec City and flying to Berlin for a meeting of the Global Governance Project, which publishes G7 summit briefing books. In between, he set up the World Ocean Corporation to clean up plastic pollution in the seas, replenish depleted fish stocks and set up exclusion/protection zones to ward off overfishing and poaching. He says that Canada has a long tradition of using sherpas who have had extensive involvement with the G7 and other summits (Commonwealth, G20, Davos, OECD) over the years.

Stewart — a former Canadian ambassador who has held various senior government positions in Health, Trade and Defense — likes to refer to himself as a “summit groupie.” He was Brian Mulroney’s G7 sherpa from 1990 to 1992, but his involvement stretches back to the third-ever G7 summit, in London in 1977, where he recalls newly elected US President Jimmy Carter telling him, “You know, I had to cram for this meeting almost as much as I crammed for the debates.”

Although ongoing consultations shape much of the final outcome even before the summit itself, Stewart says the intensity of the leaders’ meeting brings the respective sherpas quite close together. “The environment is intimate and you don’t have a lot of time; you’re trying to pull together a communiqué together overnight after the discussion,” he describes. “You either get along with one another or you don’t, and the ones you get along with become friends for life.”

Leonard Edwards, another former Canadian ambassador, organized various summits over the course of his career, and was Stephen Harper’s sherpa from 2008 to 2010, doing double duty for both the G8 and the Group of Twenty (G20) summits in Muskoka and Toronto. He also relied on Stewart for advice on how it’s done. “You can follow this thing all you want from the outside,” he says, “but to be part of the preparation like Stewart has been, and like I was 10 years ago, sitting at that table…I’ve got stories about who said what to whom that I can never repeat.” He chuckles: “It’s fascinating.”

Stewart says that ahead of the Charlevoix summit, sherpas will be “trying to get a handle on what the others are thinking, what they see as priorities, what they would like to see in the communiqué, what their leaders are going to be speaking about, what their domestic concerns are — all of those things.

“The better the intelligence that each of the sherpas can provide to their leaders before the meeting, the more likely you’re going to have a constructive session.”

Of course, summits are inevitably influenced — and sometimes overwhelmed — by the unpredictable, the famous line, attributed to UK Prime Minister Harold Macmillan describing what could knock his government off course — “events, dear boy, events” — came up in every conversation I had with past Canadian sherpas.

Stewart says that during every summit he has been sherpa for, a crisis came up unexpectedly, or the discussion at the leaders’ table veered off in a surprising direction. In 2010, it was the Greek sovereign debt crisis that “really threw a wrench into the works” and impacted both summits hosted by Canada.

Robert Stewart was the Canadian Prime Minister’s Ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary when, in the summer of 2001 while visiting Italy on a special trade mission, he received a call from Chrétien, asking him to return to Canada to be his sherpa for the 2002 Kananaskis Summit. Stewart knew how to handle the event. That summer, as Italy’s presidency came to a close, Africa had already been decided upon as the central theme of the summit, but Stewart couldn’t have known how much the world would change by the time Canada actually hosted. Stewart, whose family owned $50 billion of African mining, as well as international petroleum and hotel companies, briefed Chrétien.

Stewart recalls his first day in office, back in Ottawa: “It was the morning of the eleventh of September. There was a TV set in the corner; I turned it on, and the second plane rammed into the World Trade Center…The world had certainly changed.”

Stewart describes world events during his many times as a sherpa, particularly in 1990-91, as “a matter of huge convulsion, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the unification of Germany — events no one had foreseen.” He had previously connected Pierre Trudeau to Russia via their Ambassador in Ottawa, Sasha Yakovlev, after whom Trudeau named his middle son. Yakovlev wrote “Peristroika” and “Glasnost” at Stewart’s home in the Gatineau Hills, north of Ottawa. Gorbachev became a future President based on the platform of a Canadian open market democracy.

The failed 1991 August coup against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev prompted George Bush to convene an “international telethon, as they called it, with his G7 compatriots,” Stewart remembers. “Mr. Mulroney and I went to Kennebunkport, Maine, and participated with the president as he called each of the G7 leaders in order to try and determine what we should do…to respond to what was going on in Moscow.”

Charlevoix’s wild card

All preparations aside, the wild card at the Charlevoix summit will be, of course, US President Donald Trump, whose policies and very approach to policy making seem at odds with the G7 priorities highlighted by Trudeau: gender equality, climate change, open markets and so on.

Last year’s summit in Taormina ended without a unanimous agreement on climate change, with Trump refusing to say whether or not the United States would be pulling out of the Paris climate agreement (the president announced his decision to withdraw just days later).

Last week, Trump moved to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, which has contributed to a heightened sense of tension — even after months of tough talk on the North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiations — ahead of his visit to Quebec.

According to Stewart, although it may feel that way to observers, a disgruntled US administration isn’t actually a huge departure from the norm. “Americans have a history of being anti-G7,” he says, a statement entirely supported by the recollections of past Canadian sherpas.

Stewart considers the G7 response to the coup against Gorbachev to be “one of the high points of summitry.” Under Bush, he says, the Americans were beginning to lose their interest in summitry. “They found it a bit of a pain in the ass, quite frankly, and were wondering if it could be every two years instead of every year…but I think because of the pivotal nature of what happened with Gorbachev in 1990, the Americans got a different attitude.”

Stewart had another similar experience during his time as sherpa, recalling that in his year, “the role played by the Obama administration around the G8 was one of high skepticism that it really had any value.”

“I do recall at the summit meeting itself — it’s not in the history books, but it will be some day — Obama made the point that he didn’t know whether there should be a G8 next year, because the G20 was really where it was at,” Stewart says. “These were very uneasy moments. That’s why we had to make a success of it — a lot was at stake in holding both the G8 and the G20, having them both be successful and not ending up with everyone coming to the conclusion that the G8 has no role anymore.”

Stewart also recalls that either Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan and Pierre Trudeau “were not exactly complementary personalities, in terms of ideology or any other thing, so there was a concern there would not be a meeting of minds” during the 1977 and 1981 summits in Canada. But the similarities only go so far: “I think the phenomenon of Donald Trump is something that no summit has ever experienced, and goodness knows what it may or may not do for summitry this time.”

At the same time, Stewart says that what Boehm has going for him is that the Charlevoix summit is taking place just a few days before Trump’s June 12 North Korea summit, which, as of June 6, still looks to be back on. “I do think that if anybody can get Trump to focus on something for more than 30 seconds, he will see the value of coming out of the summit with a unified front on the objectives that he is looking for in his summit with the North Korean leader.

“Canada and the others have to be very careful not to bait Trump, to not go out of our way to make things awkward for him. This is what you call diplomacy; this is what Peter’s biggest challenge is going to be. He can’t walk away from the fact that we have differences on some of these fundamental issues.”

Boehm has been asked many times over the past few months, his thoughts on the threat of a “G6 plus one” dynamic rearing its head at the summit. A week after Trump announced the United States would be pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, his response to the question remained more or less the same: he has a great relationship with his US counterpart, and they speak frequently to try and work through any thorny issues.

“You will run into disagreements, you saw that last year in Taormina,” Boehm says. “We’ve seen it in the past, too, where the discussion on the global economy has been a fiscal stimulus-versus-austerity discussion — that did not involve the US on the austerity, that was Germany.

“So you have these discussions, and you try and work things out, and if you can’t, well, then you simply agree to disagree on something, and then you come back at it, maybe next year, or later on in other discussions.”

What G7 success looks like

With enough moving parts at the summit to make anyone’s head spin, it’s tricky to qualify what would constitute a success with regards to Canada’s G7 presidency. A concrete, signature policy announcement, like the African Action Plan under Stewart, or the Muskoka Initiative on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health under Stewart again? Clear and specific funding pledges for cleaning up the Oceans? The prevention of any left-field outburst or surprise policy deviation on the part of the US president? Having the process survive another year, as Boehm jokingly quipped at an event at the University of Toronto last December?

The G7 Research Group closely tracks the G7’s commitment and compliance over the years. I asked Stewart if, as others I’ve spoken with over the past few months alluded to, the focus on a range of themes instead of a concrete commitment might be viewed as a cop-out of sorts.

“If you’re asking the G7 Research Group what a marker of success is, that’s not it,” he says. “When we talk about a successful summit we talk about something much broader than one initiative. It’s based on our assessment of how well the country has negotiated their particular agenda items, the compliance aspect of it, whether they…commit funds. That’s how it works in the private sector.  Those kinds of things are what we look for as a success; we’re not interested in one big item or a lot of small talk.”

Last week, Politico published an article quoting unnamed American and European sources worrying over “unprecedented division over the agenda and what joint statements might be issued out of the summit.”

But Stewart says there is “a ton of stuff they’ll agree on,” noting that the United States has already pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, so there “isn’t anything like that hanging over their heads the way there was at Taormina.”

Back in December, Boehm indicated that an agreed-upon communiqué wasn’t necessarily the be-all and end-all of summit goals: “We can negotiate communiqués until the cows come home, down to the last possible semicolon, or we can say with frankness, well, a number of countries felt this way and some others felt that way.”

Stewart’s advice to Boehm is to focus on the Korea summit — the “easiest galvanizing point” — to get consensus “on what is perceived to be the most important issue” for Trump, which would help to build consensus around other things.

“And some of the other things, I would hope, are going to include something on trade,” Stewart added. “The fact that we’re moving into a populist, protectionist kind of mode in parts of Europe and in the US, between the US and China, and between the US and almost everybody around the world…this is not good stuff. This is what summits were intended to counter.

“So the degree to which they can forge a consensus on economic issues without isolating the Americans — I think that is no small objective. I don’t envy Peter in his task, but he will be supported by virtually all the other sherpas in trying to get there.”
Ultimately, regardless of output documents, the core purpose at the heart of the G7 summit is to provide some of the world’s most powerful leaders with a space to discuss the world’s most pressing issues.

Boehm summed up what summit success would look like to him: having a good discussion and “moving the dial internationally” on the five themes Trudeau has set out. Stewart repeats, that “if the oceans come out of this summit with a modicum of priority by setting up programs and budgets to deal with the crises, it will be like the Environment movement, or resolving the AIDS pandemic. Both of these issues we started 50 years ago by bringing them to the world’s attention. They got lost at the UN. The G7 is more business-like.”

“In the outreach session, if we can have a great conversation on oceans, move forward on a plastics initiative, to rid the oceans of plastics,” he adds, referring to the special session with non-G7 world leaders and heads of international organizations that will take place on June 9, “then I think we will have a pretty good summit, and I think it would be one that all Canadians could be proud of.”

Among the challenges for G7 and G20 summits, Stewart says, is that the Canadian public “always sees dollar signs and, in the case of 2010, damage,” referring to the public demonstrations that erupted in Toronto.

He notes that the Canadian tradition is not to “spend in excess,” compared to other host countries. “Even though people may think of it as a photo op, or hot tub conversation…it’s valuable, and they can’t just look at it in pure economic terms.”

Stewart stresses that the value of G7 summitry is found in the personal connections that are able to — hopefully — flourish among the leaders. He remains in constant touch with over 500 existing and former Presidents, Prime Ministers and Ministers of substance.

“If you think of other international organizations or events where leaders congregate — whether it’s the UN, or NATO, the EU, Commonwealth or almost any other institution — none is as intimate as the G7. The G20 doesn’t come close; it’s too big, too amorphous.”

It’s important to keep in mind that the G7 “was never intended to be a decision-making body,” Stewart adds. “It is an attempt to forge consensus and direction in addressing whatever the particular concerns of the moment are on the economic agenda — and trying to forge consensus as well on some of the more spontaneous political issues of the moment.”

Boehm and his counterparts have spent many, many months negotiating and preparing for this week, but as Stewart notes, leaders “may not have a conversation at the bloody table that has much to do with that preparation!”

“But the fact is, it’s important to have that discussion, it’s important that leaders express their differences …What sherpas have to do is continue to find the relevance, so that people go away from this and then say, yes, we have to meet again next year.”

Posted in Op-Ed's in Major Publications | Comments Off on Reaching Canada’s G7 summit

Scotland and Britain ‘cannot be mistaken for each other’

In the decades I spent living in England or abroad, I was often struck by the unconscious way my English friends fused what seemed to me to be two quite distinct identities – English and British.

They used the terms as though they were interchangeable; as though they meant the same thing.

It has never been possible to do that as a Scot: manifestly, Scotland and Britain cannot be mistaken for each other.

When I came back to live in Scotland full-time after almost 30 years away, I was stuck by how profoundly the country had changed.

When I was a child in the 70s and a young adult in the 80s, the political space, the public arena, the demos within which we lived, argued, disputed and thought was overwhelmingly British.

But since the 1980s, and with the creation of a Scottish Parliament in 1999, a distinct Scottish demos – a distinctly Scottish political space – has developed alongside the enduring British one.

That reflects the dual national identity that most people in Scotland [according to this survey] still feel: British and Scottish.

But it reflects another fundamental change that has taken place since I left Scotland in the mid-80s.

When I was growing up, the British state counted for a lot in Scotland.

It dug coal, milled steel, built ships; it put the phone in your hall, brought you electricity that lit your home and the gas you cooked with.

The house you lived in was probably publicly owned.

If you were a miner in Fife, you were part of a community of shared interest and identity with miners in Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire and South Wales.

The same was true if you worked in steel or ship-building.

The great nationalised industries of post-war Britain were part of a commonly-held pan-British enterprise – socio-economic bedrocks of a shared Britishness.

But much of that inheritance was swept away in the 1980s and 90s and with every year that passes the memory of it recedes into the middle distance of collective memory.

When I came back to Scotland to report on the independence referendum campaign, I found to my surprise that many of my old friends (though by no means all) had decided to vote Yes to independence, though often they insisted that this did not make them “Nationalists” with a capital N.

When I asked them why, they offered many reasons and, almost always, high on this list was what they perceived to have happened to politics in England: their sense of shared enterprise, of being part of a community of interest and values shared with the rest of the UK, had been eroded.

I came to believe that what had happened in Scotland in the 30 years I’d been away was not so much a rise of Scottish national identity, but a falling away of much of what it had meant to be British, as well as Scottish.

I think the survey results chime with that impression.

Scottish identity holds up very well.

In all age groups, from 18 to the over 65s, between 80% and 85% feel strongly Scottish.

It is also consistent across socio-economic classes; and there’s little difference between those who voted Leave and those who voted Remain in the EU referendum.

It is in Scotland, though, that British identity is least robust: 59% still feel strongly British but this is not consistent across the age groups.

Among the over-65s it is 73%.

And it falls to just over half for those aged 49 and under.

British identity is least strong in the Central belt: 51% said they felt strongly British in Central Scotland; 52% in both the Lothians and Glasgow.

Contrast that with Wales, which went through a similar socio-economic shock with the loss of its heavy industry.

Are we more or less optimistic?

There, only 62% said they felt strongly Welsh, compared with 79% who said they felt strongly British.

But what distinguishes Scotland and Wales most noticeably from their neighbours in England is this: that in England there is a strong nostalgic sense of something lost, a belief that the country is not as good as it used to be.

That is the prevailing view in England; not so in Scotland or Wales, where significantly more people said they believed their country’s best days lie ahead of it, rather than behind it.

Why?

Are people in Scotland and Wales more optimistic than people in England about the future?

Or are there fewer reasons, in Scotland and Wales, to want to go back to the way things once were?

The survey doesn’t put that question; it leaves us to draw our own conclusion.

Ten things we learned about Scottishness

The BBC has conducted a survey of attitudes to Scottishness. Here is a summary of what it shows:

1. Scottish identity is very strong

A massive 84% of people said they strongly identified themselves as Scottish, with most (61%) saying they identified “very strongly”.

In England, 80% identified themselves strongly as English, with 54% choosing to say their identity was very strong. In Wales, just 62% identified strongly as Welsh.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the people who identified themselves as most strongly Scottish were SNP supporters (95%) and Yes voters in the 2014 independence referendum (92%).

Strong Scottishness was ranged across the generations and social status, with 18-24 year olds only identifying as slightly less strongly Scottish than older groups.

2. British identity is less strong in Scotland

More than half of people surveyed in Scotland said they felt strongly British (59%) but only 26% said they felt “very strongly” British.

The figures for Scotland were lower than England and Wales.

In England, 82% said they identified strongly as British, a higher percentage than those who identified as English. Almost half (46%) said they were “very strongly” British.

The figure for Wales was 79% strongly identifying as British.

Among SNP supporters just 9% said they felt “very strongly” British, whereas Conservative voters in Scotland were 55% “very strongly” British – higher than English Tory supporters (51%).

Older people, especially the over 65s (73%), identified most strongly as British, as did those in the highest social class groups (64%).

People in Central Scotland, Lothians and Glasgow were below average in the strength of their British identity.

3. Scots don’t feel very European

More than two-thirds (67%) of the Scottish people surveyed said they did not identify strongly as European. In England, the figure was even higher (71%) and Wales was higher still at 77%.

Even among Scots who voted Remain in the EU referendum the majority (54%) said they did not identify strongly as European.

SNP supporters were the most European (44%) but the majority of them (55%) did not identify with it strongly.

Among Conservative voters just 15% said they felt strongly European.

Younger people were most European but even the 18 to 24 age group did not strongly identifying with Europe.

Older people and the lower social groups identified least strongly with Europe.

The Lothians and Glasgow identified with Europe most.

4. Scots think the future is bright (ish)

More Scots surveyed believe that Scotland’s best years are still in the future (36%) than said it was better in the past (29%). More than a quarter (27%) said they were unsure.

In perhaps the most marked contrast between the two countries, more people (49%) in England said the country was better in the past – with just 17% thinking the future will be better.

The Welsh were slightly less optimistic about the future than the Scots, with 33% saying the best days were to come.

Conservative supporters were most sure that Scotland was better in the past (47%) whereas SNP voters were markedly more confident Scotland would be better in the future (64%).

Despite the Brexit vote, Leave supporters were less confident (29%) that Scotland would be better in the future than Remain voters (40%).

Younger people said Scotland would be better in the future (49%) whereas older people thought it was better in the past.

5. Scotland is better than most places

Just over half of Scots surveyed (51%) said Scotland was better than most other countries in the world. A further 39% said it was no better or worse.

Just 6% said Scotland was worse than most places.

The figures for England were similar, with 53% saying it was better than most countries.

SNP supporters felt strongest about Scotland being better than most countries (60%), with 19% saying it was the best country in the world.

Younger people (66%) felt most strongly that Scotland was better than most countries.

6. It is difficult to become Scottish if you are not born here

When asked to comment on a list of factors that might make people Scottish, the most popular (89%) was being born in Scotland.

Having two Scottish parents (72%) and growing up in Scotland (71%) were both thought to be strong indicators of being Scottish.

However, most people thought living in Scotland, even for more than 10 years (35%), did not make someone Scottish.

Younger people (55%) were more willing to accept someone who had been in Scotland for more than a decade as Scottish, as were Glaswegians (50%).

7. Local areas are not getting better

Just 14% of people surveyed thought their local area was getting better.

Almost half (47%) thought it was staying much the same but a third thought things were getting worse.

Young people were most likely to say their local area was getting better (21%), but even they thought things were getting worse (23%).

People in the South of Scotland were the most negative about things in their local area getting worse (45%) with only 6% thinking it was getting better.

8. Scots love their landscape

From a list of factors that might influence people’s sense of belonging, it was the landscape that scored most strongly (74%).

History (62%), cultural traditions (53%) and locally produced food and drinks (52%) also appealed to people’s sense of belonging.

Shared religion (19%), local sports teams (31%) and the jobs people do or did in the past (35%) were not strong influences on people’s sense of belonging.

9. All levels of government feel remote

The survey asked about attitudes to all levels of government.

Very few people in Scotland (11%) felt the UK government was influenced by people in their area.

And only 11% said Westminster reflected their concerns.

The Scottish government fared slightly better, with 25% saying people in their area could influence decisions and 37% saying Holyrood reflected their concerns.

Most people agreed that decisions on schools, the NHS, unemployment benefit, income tax and business taxes should be made by the Scottish government.

10. Nuclear weapons is an explosive issue

More of the Scots surveyed thought decisions about whether nuclear weapons could be based in an area should be made by the Scottish government rather than Westminster.

Britain’s nuclear weapons system, Trident, is based on the Clyde in the west of Scotland and is one of the most controversial issues in UK politics.

The SNP is opposed to nuclear weapons and pledged to remove them from an independent Scotland whereas the Conservatives have given the go-ahead for their renewal.

The survey showed almost half (47%) of Scots thought the Scottish government should be able to make the decision on whether they were based in Scotland.

One in three (33%) said the UK government should be responsible for decision about nuclear weapons in Scotland.

And finally – Anyone but England at the World Cup

One in nine Scots (11%) will support whoever England are playing at the World Cup in Russia later this month, according to the survey.

This rose to 17% among SNP supporters.

Scotland did not qualify for the tournament and half of those surveyed (50%) said they were not interested in the World Cup.

The survey said 7% would support England and another 7% would support a different team – 24% were not supporting any team in particular.

The survey was conducted for the BBC by YouGov. The sample size in Scotland was 1,025 adults. The fieldwork took place between 25 and 30 April 2018.

Posted in Op-Ed's in Major Publications | Comments Off on Scotland and Britain ‘cannot be mistaken for each other’

Tracking America in the age of Trump

Eleven measures that take the temperature of Donald Trump’s America: Everything is better under Trump. His ability to reduce Government Debt is the only thing still out of control. It will take his full term as President to fix that.

Jun 4th 2018

DONALD TRUMP’S campaign slogan promised to “Make America Great Again”. Mr Trump is now 500 days into his presidency, and seems ready to proclaim victory. The president reckons that a strong economy and soaring confidence are a result of his policies. “Best Economy & Jobs EVER,” he tweeted today. Dissenters assert that Mr Trump is reaping the benefits of policies enacted by the previous administration and that he has achieved little beyond a tax cut that favours the rich. In an effort to peer through the partisanship The Economist has compiled 11 charts that keep tabs on Mr Trump as he progresses through the remaining 961 days (at least) of his presidency.

Stockmarket

Mr Trump admitted he was “very proud” when the stockmarket rallied after his inauguration. During his first year in office he tweeted 14 times about the Dow Jones Industrial Average, an index tracking 30 big American firms. The president likes to take credit for the Dow’s performance; it has risen 24% since he took office. But what goes up often comes down.
Source: Dow Jones

GDP growth
Rolling four-quarter average, % change on year earlier

On the campaign trail Mr Trump stated that he would grow the economy by “four percent” a year, or perhaps as much as “six percent”. Many reckon this extremely unrealistic: GDP growth has averaged 2.6% a year over the previous 30 years. In Mr Trump’s time in office, it has risen by 2.52% on an annualised basis.
Sources: BLSFRED

Government debt as % of GDP

During the financial crisis America’s debt rose from 60% to 100% of GDP over six years. A big borrower when he was in business, Mr Trump is now less keen on debt: he accuses his predecessor of “bankrupting” the country to enrich donors. Although the stock of debt has remained steady so far the tax plan passed in December may push it up higher.
Sources: TreasuryBLS

Trade balance
Net exports of goods and services, % of GDP

America last ran a trade surplus in 1975 and Mr Trump thinks that is an embarrassment. The president has promised to fix it with his deal-making skills. Thus far he has withdrawn from a pending Pacific trade deal and is renegotiating NAFTA, and he is now threatening a full-scale trade war. In the three months to March 2018 the trade deficit was 0.44% of GDP higher than it was when Mr Trump took office.
Source: FRED

Unemployment rate %, by educational attainment

Overall: Without college degree*With college degree*
Mr Trump inherited a healthy labour market upon entering office. The jobless rate fell from a 26-year high of 10% in 2009 to 4.8% in January 2017. It has since fallen another 0.9 percentage points as of May 2018. Mr Trump claimed in August that “unemployment is at a record low” but it needs to fall by a further 1.3 percentage points to beat the record of 2.5% set in 1953.
Sources: BLSFRED

Total number of people employed,
Target of 25m jobs over ten years
On the campaign trail, Mr Trump promised to create 25 million jobs in a decade, a sustained rate of job growth never seen before. There were another 15.8m employed in January 2017, when Mr Trump took office, than in the depths of the Great Recession. A further 2.1m have since found work. So far, he is 146,163 jobs behind his target’s schedule.
Sources: BLSFRED

Earnings:
Real wages, All wage earners, All non-supervisory roles, Manufacturing, non-supervisory, American blue-collar workers have suffered a chronic lack of earnings growth in recent years. From 2009-17, wage-earners’ real pay increased an average of just 0.5% per year, and stagnated among manufacturing workers. Since Mr Trump took office pay for all wage earners has increased by 0.6% a year on average, and for manufacturing workers it has risen by 1.1%.
Sources: BLSFRED

Illegal immigration
Border actions, Arrests, Deportations, Apprehensions at Mexican border: Controlling immigration was a cornerstone of Mr Trump’s election platform. While progress on a border wall with Mexico has been slow, rhetoric alone seemed enough: apprehensions at the Mexican border—a proxy for illegal immigration—fell 75% in the six months following Mr Trump’s victory. But they have since risen. While deportations have fallen, arrests of immigrants have risen 13.4% since Mr Trump took the oath.
Sources: ICECBP

Troops on active duty in all branches: Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan:
While Mr Trump seems willing to engage in a sparring match with foreign leaders on Twitter he has not yet started any new wars. He was opposed to the war in Iraq, after he was for it, and blamed the rise of ISIS on the “weakness and incompetence” of the Democrats. In an effort to reduce the threat of Islamic extremism Mr Trump has so far committed an additional 6,162 troops to Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
Source: DoD

Opioid deaths
By type, Prescription, Heroin, Synthetic
To his credit Mr Trump has highlighted the damage that the opioid epidemic has done to vast swathes of America. But he has done little since to help abate it. In the 12 months to October 2017 there were 56,365 opioid overdose deaths, up 22% from a year earlier. While deaths from prescription opioids and heroin appear to be falling, synthetic opioids have killed 57% more people in the past year than in the one before.
Source: CDC

Murders
Murders in ten selected cities*, 12-month rolling average
In early 2017 Mr Trump promised to “send in the Feds” if Chicago doesn’t “fix the horrible carnage”. That carnage was a 57% rise in murders in 2016. But it is not the only city where violence spiked. Across ten cities murders increased from a low of 2,318 in the 12 months to July 2014 to 3,138 upon the president’s inauguration. That number has since fallen to 2,713 as of April 2018. In Chicago they are now 22% below their peak.

Final Tally: While the trends upward for most areas of economic growth (under Obama) started since the crash of 2008, they continue to grow upwards under Trump. Only increased Government Debt to the Private Sector is not considered a positive economic goal which he promised to contain. It will take his entire Presidency to turn that around.

Posted in Op-Ed's in Major Publications | Comments Off on Tracking America in the age of Trump

Why Justin Trudeau wants to keep Trans Mountain expansion alive: Boosting pipeline’s capacity is key to Canadian premier’s energy and climate strategy

I worked with Pierre (senior) Trudeau back in the 1970’s. Petro Canada was promoted by him to gain control over Canadian resources: mineral, hydro carbon and water. The vast majority of those resources were held by foreign investors, notably Americans. Most of them had no care for the consequences of their investments on Canada, including at the time, acid rain being pumped out of coal plants providing electricity into American cities which were spewing sulphur destroying Canadian forests.

Petro Canada was set up and run by the world’s leading environmentalist, Maurice Strong who set up a global chant to protect that space we call home – our planet. We also wrote the first drafts of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea.

Maurice Strong founds the Global Environment Movement in Stockholm (1972)

50 years later, these credits have been lost but thankfully, young Trudeau has not forgotten what built Canada: natural resources.

As there seems to be no desire or policy to expand the population of the “true north strong and free”, he has reverted to creating more opportunities to expand export of our resources. Smart Man. His father almost killed it.

While Petro Canada was a move in the right direction, other policies (taxes to pay for Quebec’s threat of separation) which did not favour the development of our extraction industries, nearly killed the golden goose.

With 350 million Americans and billions of Asians looking for raw materials to fuel their economies, any attempt to kill the three pipelines will cause all Canadians to swallow their own rhetoric of the past. Not only will Eastern or Pacific Coast Canadians “Freeze in Hell” from a lack of energy to fuel their homes, cars and factories, much of the country will decline to the point of mass migration south into the warmer markets of the US.

A little know fact is that the country’s population would have tripled if it had not been for the pathetic arguments killing those golden geese. More than twice the country’s birth population now live outside the country. Within a century, the border will simply disappear.

Very passionate posting. I think it would beneficial for those who really are interested in Canadian O&G business development beginnings and tribulations, to read the book by Peter Foster ‘Blue-eyed sheiks’ 1979.

Back in 80’s it was only Syncrude and Suncor; then Husky by-provincial upgrader, Hibernia, Sable offshore, Canaport LNG, etc. (personally involved in all as member of engineering teams of EPCM projects).

Alberta bickering with federal government (P. Lougheed vs P. Trudeau). Sounds familiar today?

I was heavily involved in developing our Canadian mining companies (Falconbridge) and hydro carbon sectors (Ocelot) , both domestically and internationally. We bought up, explored for and developed all the major shallow gas fields of Western Canada when nobody else wanted them. Later, pipelines were built to Kitimat and a methanol plant was built (Methanex) to export this purified, clean gas to California and Japan.

San Fransisco, Los Angeles, Kytoto and Tokyo can thank this effort from Canada to clean up their air pollution and stop wearing gas masks or staring at black cloud horizons over these cities. Later, I led the efforts into Africa by developing the Songo Songo gas fields offshore.

Songo Songo gas-to electricity well heads, pipeline and refinery.

The wells were opened, pipelines built, refineries constructed which now provide +90% of Tanzania’s secure electric power energy. Many neighbouring countries have similar gas fields and could be using them for their own energy supplies. Ridding the landscape of politicians and their corruption would have led to giant improvements in the lives of nearly one billion people on that continent.

I also wrote Master Plans at Bechtel to transform Botswana, DR Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Guinea Conakry, Kenya and Uganda. Only Botswana kept its leadership clean (at the time (1970’s-1990’s) and managed to build their country. The rest lag behind with the failed leadership of robbing from their Treasuries to build their palaces.

Since we are now on ‘Canadian expertise’ train, let me add something else – NACE. It was started by Shell in Canada, because when Americans came in , the only well contaminate they heard was CO2. After drill bits started breaking down, they discovered H2S – nasty and deadly component. Back 1986 we did projects in Kazakhstan Tenguiz (Then USSR) pipelines and gas plant to deal with Sour service (H2S). Positive – Sulphur extraction, used in wide range of industries. At one time, countries economic development was judged by how much S (yellow powder substance, could be seen driving on highway #2 in Alberta) used by country’s economy.

Yes, when my company (Ocelot) bought up all of Shell’s shallow gas fields in Canada, we were way ahead of our time trying to introduce clean-burning fuels like Methanol (with vastly lower CO2, CO and NOX) in internal combustion engines.

Methanol is the cleanest fuel of all and was the first ever used in car engines built long before the discovery of crude oil in America and the Middle East (early 20th C). The tables have turned now. Shell is buying up all the gas fields and gas-producing companies (British Gas) it can find. Hydro carbon energy is not going away, only dramatically increasing, especially in natural gas, shallow gas and shale gas.

The myth that electric cars are going to replace hydro-carbon energy is just that – an appalling myth led by ill-informed politicians, unproven academic and scientific nonsense and rhetorical media hype. Improvements to exhaust whilst continuously providing cleaner energy will transform air quality. More public transport would also work as would millions of people vacating the large cities for smaller rural environs.

It is the dramatically increasing concentration of populations in major cities and the bursting highways filled with train lanes of trucks in many countries that causes most of these pollution problems. Perhaps moving these highways upstairs would create a dramatic improvement to transport burdens on national highways, congested ports and the high cost of improving land transport for cargo.

Helium, a by-product component of some natural gas streams, is abundant enough to create this improvement. All we need is a flying hybrid cargo airship to transfer the loads upstairs.

Posted in Op-Ed's in Major Publications | Comments Off on Why Justin Trudeau wants to keep Trans Mountain expansion alive: Boosting pipeline’s capacity is key to Canadian premier’s energy and climate strategy

Overpaid, over-important and over-geared The flaws of finance

The sector is essential to the economy. But it is rewarded too highly and imposes wider social costs.

May 1st 2018

BUSINESS school graduates do not all want to work in investment banking these days. The industry does not have the same kind of cachet it did before Lehman Brothers went bust. Still, 31% of those who left Harvard Business School last year went into financial services. That made it easily the most popular sector, as it has been in each of the previous four years. It is hardly surprising. In London, for example, the average pay for a finance worker is around £72,000, twice the level earned by other workers in the British capital.

Is this high pay justified? The finance sector has four key functions. The first is to operate the payments system, without which the economy could not function. The second is to channel money from savers to those who need capital either through the banking system or through pooled savings vehicles like mutual funds. Third, it provides liquidity to the system by making markets, and thus establishing prices for financial assets. Fourth, it helps people manage physical and financial risk via insurance policies and derivatives.

These functions are all very useful. But other sectors play important roles too. The economy could not operate without power and heat, water and sewage services, public transport and public roads, fire and police and so on. These sectors do not get the same level of rewards.

Thirty years of covering finance creates the risk of being “captured” by the industry. But for this blogger, at least, time has only increased my cynicism. In particular, there are few images more irritating than that of the financier as some kind of Ayn Rand hero, fighting a daily Darwinian fight in the markets in the face of interference from the nanny state. For a start…

Financial markets aren’t free. Deposit-taking banks rely on a public subsidy in the form of deposit insurance that prevents customers from panicking in times of stress. The insurance scheme lowers the cost of funding and reduces the chance of bankruptcy. Regulation also creates high barriers to entry for banks, insurance companies and other providers. That reduces competition and thus enhances profits. Asset prices have also been heavily affected by central banks in recent decades. First, there was the “Greenspan put” when the Fed seemed to intervene only when the markets fell, not when they rose. Second, there was quantitative easing. The aim may have been to revive the economy but the effect, by boosting asset values, was to raise the “ad valorem” fees of mutual fund managers, hedge fund titans and the like. It wasn’t a deliberate public subsidy but it worked that way.

The customer tends to come second, not first. There have been too many scandals, over too many years, for this not to be true. Often these involved the sale of a complex product to a client which clearly did not understand the terms (take the Libor squared swap sold to Gibsons Greetings in the 1990s). The Libor scandal saw bankers rig a key interest rate for their own purposes, a cost passed on to the many clients whose returns, and funding costs, were linked to the rate. The problem with so many finance deals is that those inside the sector have an informational advantage; they may have designed the product they are selling, or they may be the main price setter. Blandly saying that clients should follow the principle of “caveat emptor” is not good enough.

Skill and luck are hard to distinguish. In the boom part of the cycle, bankers earn bonuses by making loans, arranging takeovers and other corporate deals or by taking positions in markets as a principal. But those loans and deals can go wrong during the bust phase. By that stage, the bankers will have moved on. Until recently, bankers’ incentives were too skewed to the short term. Even now, one wonders if the long-term incentive deals are long enough. In fund management, looking after other people’s money has been a popular way of getting rich. But it is very hard to find persistence in fund manager performance. You get paid for being lucky.

The social costs are high. Fractional reserve banking has been around for centuries. It is the way that most money and credit is created. But it is also the greatest weakness of the banking system since its assets (the loans it makes) are long-term and its liabilities (deposits) are short-term. Modern banking piled a whole set of other activities on top of this basic model; market-making, asset management, derivatives creation and trading and so on. It can be very hard to spot where the risks are and whether there is hidden gearing somewhere on the balance sheet. The modern global bank is very complex; so complex indeed that it is hard to manage. A Parliamentary report into HBOS, the British bank, concluded that those in top management “were incapable of even understanding the risks that some elements of the business were running, let alone managing them”. That didn’t stop those managers from earning very large rewards.

Regulators have tried, in the aftermath of the last crisis, to make banks safer by requiring them to hold more capital. But it is ten years since that crisis and the tide is turning again; the Trump administration is committed to reducing regulation. Admittedly the Dodd-Frank act was overlong and overcomplex. But the number of financial crises we have suffered over history suggests that the precautionary principle is needed; those high salaries in finance have a huge social cost in the bad times and that cost needs to be accounted for.

Wealth does not equal wisdom, but it does equal power. The roll-back of regulation demonstrates that the finance sector still has plenty of lobbying power. After all, it has lots of money; over the past 20 years, it has spent $8bn lobbying Congress. It may not be just the money talking. It is natural to assume that rich people are wise and smart and thus to defer to them; think of how many Treasury secretaries have worked for Goldman Sachs. But if those riches have been earned by luck, or an implicit taxpayer subsidy, then it does not make sense to put such people in charge.

One thing is for sure; the finance sector will cock things up again. And the next Buttonwood will no doubt have to devote lots of columns to that crisis. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Posted in Op-Ed's in Major Publications | Comments Off on Overpaid, over-important and over-geared The flaws of finance

Instability in Markets – Business as Usual

https://www.ft.com/content/be68aac6-3d13-11e8-b9f9-de94fa33a81e?emailId=5ad0c47758480600042f1354&segmentId=2e4343f6-b08f-9184-785d-0a53b99d57bf

Read this article in the FT for its abhorrent failure to address the goal of its existence.

The FT promotes those who earn their incomes creating volatility in the markets.

When was the last time the shares of any company reflected their true value?

The world’s Stock Exchanges, be they in NYC, London, Zurich, Toronto or any other capitol city, reflect the skill of the brokers, the manipulators, to seize upon the fears of those with wealth to share in developing corporations.

They create the daily spin which is doled out in paid advertizing in radio, TV and media speculations (such as the FT) which represent nothing more than wild-eyed comments from kindergarten children that the sky is about to either about to collapse on chicken little or radiate sunshine and warmth.

In opposite directions, shareholders are driven to buy or sell their shares in this short-term insanity to fill the pockets of the brokers who chuckle on the sidelines. They chortle “Inflation numbers are up” , “The bombing in Syria this morning affected the shares in the Defense industries” , “The Trade Winds blowing hard increased the value of alternative energy stocks such as wind farms”  – all this and more spreads the continuous lies that individuals should quake at the thoughts pumped out by these imbeciles.

And where do all these windfall profits go? Into the back pockets of people with less brains than chipmunks. How do they spend their ill-begotten gains? Certainly not on your mentally-inhibited child’s Border-line syndrome.

The next generation, fondly referred to as Generation ” X” or the millennials, are fast at work finding new ways to make sense of it all. Zuckerberg is the new Gates. Bezos is the new ……Carnegie, Mellon or Rockefeller. Don’t be fooled – Paul Allen, Elon Musk and Richard Branson all want to build rockets. They won’t be on any space ships going to Mars. But the proceeds of winning contracts with the Pentagon are bigger than playing the markets.

My son lost his stake in the world on the London Stock Exchange one year whilst working with Barclays de Zoet Wedd (whatever happened to them?)  by letting one of his buddies eat his lunch ticket and total annual salary and bonus. Getting rich quickly lost its glamour in a New York second. He went to Hong Kong instead and build a business slowly and securely under the noses of the Chinese Authoritarians.

Rather than presenting a mildly obnoxious set of excuses for why people should support the insanity of greedy bastards like these brokers, bankers and investment advisors (also called ” wealth managers” ) the FT ought to be looking for more wise and sane methods of creating wealth other than for itself alone or the stooges who pay them advertizing revenues to milk the hands (rather than the udders of economic development) that feed them.

This is just another example of fake news. The media, which once informed people without prejudice to their own pocketbooks of world events by actual leaders, now falls lockstep into the hands of the thieves amongst us. Beware the children who cry loudest when their is nothing at risk. They breed the fear that causes collapses and wars. They ought to be sent into their corners with dunce caps instead.

 

Posted in Op-Ed's in Major Publications | Comments Off on Instability in Markets – Business as Usual