Tag Archives: observations of an ex pat

Observations of an Ex Pat: Brexit goes nuclear

The EU is worried about losing their American nuclear umbrella.

The UK is worried about losing their European market and their seat at the European top table.

Britain has nuclear weapons. The EU has markets. Is there a fit?

If so, the result could be a tectonic strategic shift with far-reaching political repercussions.

My sources say there is enough of a fit for Prime Minister Theresa May to be thinking of offering to extend the British deterrent to EU countries in return for Brexit concessions.  This is most likely to be in cooperation with the French.

The reaction of the strategic eggheads ranges from “not incredible” to “logical,” to “totally unrealistic” and then “utterly crass” with a lot of “no comments” thrown in for good measure.

No comment was what the British Ministry of Defence said. No reply was all I could elicit from The Foreign Office and Downing Street. But The Department  for  Exiting the European Union, was more forthcoming. It referred me to Mrs May’s 18 January  Brexit strategy speech in which she said: 

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Observations of an ex pat: Trump lost on Wednesday

I am not talking about the court ruling on version two of his travel ban. Neither am I talking about the mounting incredulity over his wiretapping claims and tax returns.

I am talking about an event that took place 3,843 miles away from the White House on the other side of the Atlantic– the Dutch general election.

Trump’s man was  Geert Wilders. The anti-EU, anti-immigration, racist leader of the Netherlands’ Freedom Party  who has bounced in and out of the Dutch courts on hate crime charges.

There was never any question of Wilders winning a majority in parliament and forming the next Dutch government. Their proportional representation  system makes that a virtual impossibility for any political party.

However, Wilders’ Freedom Party was tipped to win more seats than any other Dutch party. He failed, miserably. And he failed with 80 percent voter turnout—up 5.5 percent from the 2012 elections.

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Observations of an ex pat: Guns, butter and bridges

Donald Trump’s economic policy can best be described as guns, butter and bridges.

At the moment the United States ratio between its public debt and what it earns as a country every year is 104.7 percent.  That means the government owes 4.7 percent more than the country earns.

If America was a business– or a private household—the bank manager would be strongly advising Uncle Sam to earn more money and/or cut expenses or file for bankruptcy.

Now, Donald Trump wants to increase defence spending by ten percent, maintain welfare spending, spend trillions on improving American infrastructure and cut taxes.

Cash to pay for this will come from increased revenues from a stimulated economy, revised trade and defence deals with other countries, cuts in environmental programmes, the diplomatic corps and foreign aid.

Can he do it? Well let’s take a quick look.

Improve Infrastructure– America has plenty of roads, bridges, railways, ports and airports. It just needs to maintain what it has—but that will cost plenty. The American Society of Civil Engineers reckons that $3.6 trillion needs to be spent by 2020 just to maintain existing infrastructure.

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Observations of an ex pat: Alliance 101

The Western Alliance is in disarray.

Americans are sick of picking up the tab for protecting a rich Europe from a communist threat which no longer exists. Europe is terrified at being abruptly left in the lurch facing a corrupt, authoritarian Russian threat which has replaced the communist one.

In the meantime, Britain, the traditional number two in the Western Alliance, voted Brexit and pulled the rug out from under the EU–the political and economic arm of the alliance’s European end.

It is time for a refresher course in the Western, or Transatlantic, Alliance. It is time for a re-examination of the purpose of the alliance. So here goes, Alliance 101.

Franklin Roosevelt had a vision of a post-war world run through a United Nations headed by World War Two allies—America, Britain, China and Russia. France was a reluctant afterthought.

Each of the “great powers” was given a permanent seat in the newly-formed UN Security Council. With the seat came implied responsibility for a slice of the world—America was the Western Hemisphere; Britain (with French help) Western Europe, Africa and the Middle East; Russia Eastern Europe and Central Asia and China the Far East.
Unfortunately the dream was nothing more than that. A Britain prostate from two world wars still had to organise a peaceful retreat from empire. The French were in a mess. The Chinese were in a bigger mess and faced a civil war. Only the Russians and Americans emerged better off.

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Observations of an Ex-Pat: Mind the gap

Mind the Gap. Three very familiar monosyllabic words for anyone who has travelled on the London Underground.

The taped announcement is a warning to beware of the potentially dangerous space between the railway carriages and the platform.

But it has a political meaning too. Any political novice will also tell you to mind the gap. Look for the space that isn’t being filled by the other parties and plug it—fast.

Well, at the moment there is a yawning chasm as the traditional parties race to head off  threats from the right and left, leaving a vacuum in the centre—the traditional winning ground.

But have the divisions that currently afflict Western societies become so acute that the centre ground is now politically unviable? We will find out—or at least be presented with a good indication— at the end of April and then again in May.

That is when the French elect their president. And it is looking increasingly as if the battle will be between the far right Marine Le Pen and her National Front Party and Emmanuel Macron’s  newly-formed En Marche  (English translation:Forward).

A few weeks ago the political landscape looked completely different. The two top contenders were Marine Le Pen and Francois Fillon. Macron and the Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon were also-rans.

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Observations of an Ex-Pat: Trump’s Aim

What is Trump’s  Aim?

Alright he has answered the question. So has his press secretary Sean Spicer. It is the slogan on the baseball cap: To “make America great again.”

But for the life of me I can’t understand how he is going to achieve that aim, especially as America already is the world’s only superpower, produces the lion’s share of the world’s wealth and has one the world’s highest standards of living. How great can a country be?

Setting all that aside, how does  the slogan translate into policy? What is required in the Trump playbook to re-achieve American greatness?

After a roller-coaster three weeks we are getting an idea. Trump’s great America is a non-renewable energy-powered industrial monolith churning out yesteryear’s manufactured products behind a metaphorical and physical wall of bricks, steel and tariffs.

Trump’s great America is paranoid and xenophobic. It bans highly skilled, entrepreneurial and hard-working Muslim immigrants for fear that the Judaeo-Christian culture cannot compete against Islamic fifth columnists who worm their way into the “dishonest” media and government. Or worse still sneak into the country and attempt to violently overthrow the system.

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Observations of an expat: I am a liberal

The Brexiteering Trump supporter narrowed his eyes, curled his upper lip, glared at me and sneeringly stuttered: “You..you..LIBERAL.

I removed the handkerchief from my pocket, wiped away what I believe was unintentional spit from just below my left eye, and gave him an infuriatingly rueful smile.

To many conservative-minded folk a liberal is a threat to their way of life. Liberal tolerance of other religions, genders and cultures forces conservatives into politically correct language which sticks in their throats. The liberal emphasis on equality threatens their supremacy and culture. And liberal generosity is seen as undermining livelihoods and threatening security.

The word liberal is derived from the Latin root liberalis which means noble, gracious and munificient; character traits which I would love to have. Liberalis is also the root for the word liberty which runs golden thread-like through modern western civilisation. “Give me liberty or give me death,” shouted Patrick Henry. The single word “liberty” was emblazoned on an early American revolutionary flag and it plays a key role in the Preamble to the US constitution.

Liberte is the first word in the catchy slogan of the French revolution, and in 19th century European liberalism was equated with parliamentary government and political reform based on equality.

Adam Smith regarded natural liberty as the highest form of human existence and liberal—or free—trade between nations was his ultimate aim. For the ancient Greeks a liberal arts education was the summit of learning and culture.

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