Author Archives: Tom Arms

World Review: Israeli spyware, Cummins, Tokyo Olympics and Haiti

In this weekend’s review, Tom Arms asks, who you believe, Cummins or Johnson?

Spyware produced by an Israeli company and sold to right-wing governments for spying on domestic and foreign opponents. The Israeli government’s denials of not being involved is fooling no one. The arrest and imprisonment of Jacob Zuma whom many Zulus see as their leader despite his flaws, has led to riots but his arrest was only the spark. Some are claiming that the Florida-based Haitian Pastor Christian Emmanuel Sanon was the man behind the murder of Haitian President Jovenel Moisie.

On more cheerful news, it is a minor miracle that the Tokyo Olympic Games are happening.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , , and | 2 Comments

Observations of an Expat: The Filipino Monster and Justice

Rodrigo Duterte steps down as President of the Philippines in June 2022. He will be 77 and is planning for a quiet, non-eventful retirement—unlikely.

Nipping at his heels are the prosecutors at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. They want Duterte to stand trial for the thousands of extra-judicial killings that took place first in the city of Davao while he was Mayor, and then across the Philippines during his presidential tenure. However, the ICC faces formidable hurdles in placing Duterte in the dock. But first why do they want him there?

Apart from being a foul-mouthed, rude, socially unacceptable, misogynistic, populist politician, Rodrigo Duterte is the man behind thousands of extra-judicial murders. First during his 22 years as Mayor of Davao and then as President. He does not deny the accusation. He revels in it.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 1 Comment

World Review: Cuba, climate change, the Taliban and foreign aid

Cuba may be reaching the end of its search for Utopian Socialism – shop shelves are empty and people are hungry. Ten years from now 2021 will be known as the year that the world was dragged kicking and screaming to the reality of climate change. The Taliban continues its march to victory with the capture of a key border crossing in the southeast corner on the Afghan-Pakistan border. Boris Johnson’s win on foreign aid this week was the world’s loss.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 13 Comments

Observations of an Expat: America’s Original Sin

America has developed its own version of Original Sin. It is called the Critical Race Theory and is proving to be yet another toxic debate topic dividing Black and White and the growing chasm separating America’s right and left.

Original Sin was propagated by St Augustine in the 4th century. It maintained that every human was born sinful and spent a lifetime fighting against it. The Augustinian philosophy was a major tenet of the medieval church and proved especially with the breakaway Protestant sects. Gradually, however, first the Catholics, and then most of the Protestants revised their thinking. Sin was washed away with sacrament of baptism and replaced with personal responsibility.

Critical Race Theory maintains that all Americans—or at least all White Americans—are born racist.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 21 Comments

World Review: A president assassinated, a president suing, a president withdrawing and Covid soaring

In this weekend’s review, LDV’s foreign correspondent Tom Arms talks of events in Haiti, a basket case of a country whose presidents tend to come to an untimely end, including this week President Moise.

Joe Biden is continuing to withdraw from Afghanistan. Donald Trump is suing Facebook. Both difficult strategies.

The delta variant of Covid-19 is causing cases to rise rapidly around the world, especially in countries with low levels of vaccination. Vaccinating Africa must become a priority to save lives in the Southern and Northern Hemispheres.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 2 Comments

Observations of an Expat: Free and Fair Elections in America

America believes in exporting its Democracy. And it has sought to do so right from the start. Congress regularly ties aid and trade packages to political change in developing countries, too often ignoring local conditions.

For many years America was seen by other countries as that “Shining City on the Hill” first mentioned in Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount and later repeated by Puritan leader John Winthrop and, more recently, by President Ronald Reagan.

Its War of Independence inspired the French Revolution, liberation movements in South America and elsewhere in the world. The stirring words of the Declaration of Independence are mirrored in similar documents across the globe.

But changes in American electoral politics means that the rest of the world is now questioning America’s claim to the moral high ground, and those questions undermine the success and stability of democracy elsewhere in the world.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 10 Comments

World Review: Biden bombing, lawyers circle Trump, trade deals, vaccination and Suma

In this weekend’s review, Tom Arms looks at the dilemmas that faced Joe Biden as he ordered an attack on pro-Iranian militia in Iraq. In another dilemma, Biden could hold up any talk of a UK-US trade deal if he thinks that the Good Friday Agreement is threatened or damaged by Boris Johnson’s tactics on Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, prosecutors are getting closer to Donald Trump. The charging of a Trump Organisation employee could provide more information about Trump’s financial dealing. The organisations’ assets will also be frozen and banks are likely to call in their loans. former South African President Jacob Zuma has been jailed for contempt of court. And Israel is providing an object lesson in Covid complacency.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 8 Comments

Observations of an Expat: Happy Birthday CCP

There were massed choirs, bands, marching soldiers, clapping children, thousands and thousands of red and yellow balloons and a military flypast. Some 72,000 hand-picked and thoroughly vetted party members packed into Beijing’s Tianmen Square to perform a carefully choreographed warm-up act for a speech by President Xi Jinping to celebrate the 100th birthday of the Chinese Communist Party.

The main thrust of Xi’s address was that the Communist Party was now China and China was the Communist Party. The two entities have been declared indivisible. The Mandate of Heaven has fallen on the shoulders of the party’s leadership and that the only way that China can continue to develop and take its natural leading place in the world is through dogged loyalty to the diktats of the Chinese Communist Party.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 13 Comments

World Review: Voter suppression, wobbling Macron and the Great Barrier Reef

Our foreign affairs correspondent, Tom Arms, this week defends the use of the filibuster in Congress but criticises the Republicans for making it more difficult to vote. Joe Biden, desperate to avoid the addition of America to the sad list of states buried in Afghanistan’s imperial graveyard, is to throw money at the country problem’s rather than soldiers.

The first round of French local elections show President Macron to be in deep trouble and right-winger Marine Le Pen is not far behind him. The Australian government’s reaction to UNESCO’s warnings on the Great Barrier Reef show that the country is a big problem for the climate change community.

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 4 Comments

Observations of an Expat: A Black Russian Sea

The landlocked 420,000 square mile Black Sea straddling the Europe Asia divide is fast becoming a maritime hotspot to rival the manmade islands of the South China Sea.

That is why this week the Russians buzzed the British warship HMS Defender, shot missiles into its path and then summoned the British Ambassador to the foreign ministry.

The British Type 45 frigate, said the Russians, had invaded Russian territorial waters. Wrong, said the British. Their ship could not possibly have been in Russian waters because it was off the coast of Crimea which was unilaterally annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014. This annexation was not recognised by Britain or the rest of the world. Therefore, HMS Defender was in Ukrainian waters not Russian and was establishing its legitimate rights under international freedom of navigation law.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 20 Comments

World Review: Israel, cyber-attacks, Ethiopian elections and Trump trumping his book

In today’s briefing from our foreign affairs correspondent, Tom Arms look at congestion, vaccination and schooling in Israel. The NATO summit allowed Joe Biden to stress that the Trump Era was over and “America is back”. And Biden is prepared to retaliate for any cyber attacks from Russia. Elections are due in Ethiopia on Monday – they are “worthless”. Finally, Tom talks of Donald Trump’s new book. Move over the Bible and the Koran, this will be “the greatest book ever.” Should this “great” book be called “Trump Through the Looking Glass”? Suggestions on a title are welcome.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | Leave a comment

Observations of an Expat: Feed me, says Kim

North Korea’s Kim Jong-un doesn’t often admit problems. How could the hermit kingdom/nuclear-armed rogue state admit failures or even difficulties? Such a thing is an oxymoron as North Koreans, by definition, live in a socialist paradise.

So, when the Great Leader goes before the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party, swallows his pride, puts his reputation on the line and basically says “the food situation is tense,” it is a political earthquake in North Korea. It also means that North Korea is in a famine situation or, at the very least, heading rapidly in that direction.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | Leave a comment

Tom Arms’ World Review: China and the US, democracy and Brexit fallout

There has been an acute outbreak of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill. It has been brought about by an even more acute outbreak of Sinophobia. It appears that the one—and possibly only—thing that upon which Democrats and Republicans can agree is their common fear of the rise of China. But most of all, they worry about they worry about defeat in the technology race which provides the essential tools for all the above. That is why the Senate this week voted by an overwhelming majority of 68 to 32 to pump $250 billion over five years into and development in America’s high-tech industries. It needs it. They worry about losing the values debate, the economic competition and the military debate. At the core of the technology business is semi-conductors and America’s global share of production of semi-conductors has dropped from 37 percent in 1990 to 12 percent in 2021. Meanwhile, China, this year surpassed America’s spending (private and public) on R and D spending in high-tech. Xi Jinping has said that he aims to have China self-sufficient in the production of semi-conductors and other high-tech products and services by 2025. It is a short jump from self-sufficiency to global dominance. US and Chinese competition in this field should be great news for the rest of the world because the likely result is more and better technology services for the rest of us. It should also spur other countries to follow suit for fear of falling behind. Israel and South Korea already invest more of their GDP’s on research and development than anyone else—4.6 percent according to the latest available figures. Britain has recently announced that its R and D investment will rise to more than $250 million a year to turn the country into a “science super power.”

Posted in News | Tagged | 16 Comments

Observations of an ex pat: The Biden/Putin Circus

G7 in Cornwall, NATO heads of government in Brussels and finally a Putin-Biden face-to-face on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. It is President Joe Biden’s first foreign trip and designed to show, in his words, that “America is back.”

Not with the unilateralist, like it or lump it foreign policy of the Trump years, but with a return to across the board multilateralist-driven leadership. One of the keys to this new policy will be US-Russian relations. And a big part of the meetings in Cornwall and Brussels is finalising tactics for the summit in Geneva.

The US president has a long list of grievances to present to Vladimir Putin: Belarus, Crimea, Ukraine, Syria, election meddling, cyber-attacks, intermediate nuclear weapons, human rights, corruption, sanctuary for ransomware criminals….

He will deliver the list and then move on. Biden did not ask for the summit to list grievances. He asked for it to forge a new and more pragmatic relationship with Moscow as a counter to the real threat—China. During the Cold War years, the US successfully played Beijing off against the Russians. Now it is time to play the reverse side of the diplomatic coin: Russia against China.

But to judge the success of such a strategy you have to first understand the Russian leader’s position. And to do that you have to start from the premise that Russia is a failing state. However, it is also an ambitious failing state with the world’s largest nuclear arsenal—6,257 warheads. Putin inherited an economy that was tanking. He stopped the precipitous decline by selling out to oligarchs and has ended up a prisoner of the corrupt system he created.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 14 Comments

Observations of an Expat: The Real Iranian Elections

Forget about the Iranian presidential elections on 18 June. Actually don’t completely dismiss them. They do have some importance. The key one being how many actually turn out to vote. If the figure is low—as expected—then the regime knows that it is in trouble.

Voters who believe voting is a pointless exercise are more likely to take to the streets. And it really is pointless. To be a candidate in the Iranian presidential elections you have to be vetted and approved by the Assembly of Experts and Guardian Council who are dominated by conservative religious figures.

Out of the estimated 30 “moderates” who put their name forward, only two have been approved, and they are so lacklustre that they are unlikely to be much more than also-rans.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 3 Comments

World Review: Netanyahu, G7, corporation tax and going green

In this week’s look at world news, LDV’s foreign affairs editor Tom Arms reviews the situation in Israel where Netanyahu looks set to be ousted by a coalition held together, for now at least, by their opposition to the country’s leader of 12 years.

Cornwall will host the G7 summit later this week. Boris Johnson could join his peers having been defeated in the Commons over cuts to overseas aid. Coronavirus, climate change and promotion of green industries are on the agenda.

Finance ministers are expected to agree a base rate for corporation tax today but it is not necessarily a done deal. The proposal must be approved at the G20 summit meeting in Venice in July and countries that benefit from a low corporation tax regime, such as Ireland, are bound to challenge the proposal.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 4 Comments

World Review by Tom Arms: The Middle East, Capitol Hill, Boris and Dominic

In today’s World Review, our foreign affairs correspondent, Tom Arms, looks at the outcome of the bloody battle between Israel and Palestinians. Should there be an inquiry into the attack on capitol Hill? Or should the matter be left to the law authorities. The police are also investigating the latest mass shooting in America just as Texas loosens gun control laws. Here in Britain, our conflicts have been political – Cummings, Boris and Hancock. And Hungary’s populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban is coming to Number 10. Will Boris challenge him on human rights?

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 11 Comments

Observations of an Expat: The Alex Problem

Often referred to as Europe’s last dictator, Belarussia’s Alexander Lukashenko can blatantly break international law with an act of air piracy and kidnapping because he thinks he can get away with it. He feels politically secure.

He feels secure because he has total backing from Russia’s Vladimir Putin who regards the maintenance of a pro-Russian Belarus as vital to Russia’s national interests. And because he knows that the rest of the world—especially the European Union—is frightened of stepping on the toes of the Russian bear.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 3 Comments

Tom Arms’ World Review: Palestine, Trump, Morocco v Spain and China

At last a ceasefire. But not until acting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had reduced Hamas’s rocket manufacturing capability to a pile of smouldering twisted metal and brick dust. Hamas had tried smuggling ground to air missiles into Gaza through tunnels from Egypt. But they were too easily discovered and closed by the opposition. So they turned to Iranian expertise to develop a home-grown defence manufacturing industry. It worked. At the start of this latest spat, there were thousands of missiles launched from sites dotted around Gaza with ranges of between six and 120 miles. Netanyahu had to react quickly because of the ever-present threat that the conflict could rapidly escalate. Iran could join in from bases in Lebanon and Syria. The US would then be obliged to come to the aid of Israel. What would Russia do? How about Turkey? The Arab countries….? In fact, four rockets were fired from southern Lebanon, and they appear to have been a factor in Israel’s decision to cave into the growing international chorus for a ceasefire. But a military truce is only a tiny step towards resolving the underlying problems. That can only come with the implementation of the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords and the implicit two-state solution. These were shelved in favour of Israeli hegemony by increasingly right-wing Likud governments which was emboldened most recently by the unquestioning support of Donald Trump. During this most recent clash Joe Biden has taken the traditional pro-Israeli line (“Israel has the right to defend itself”), but changing American demographics and a growing pro-Palestinian faction in the Democratic Party is shifting political parameters. It is also further polarising the parties with the Republicans embracing Trump’s sycophantic pro-Israeli position and the Democrats starting to question it.

The news that New York has moved their investigation of the Trump Organisation from a civil to a criminal case is no shock horror story. Falsely manipulating property values to obtain loans and tax breaks—as the Trump Organisation is alleged to have done—is fraud, which is a criminal offense. The bigger question is what effect will this have on the ex-president’s political future. It could go either way. True to form, Donald Trump was quick to brand the switch from the civil to criminal legal system as part of a Democrat-organised “witch hunt” which puts it alongside the Mueller Inquiry, double impeachment and election “Big Lie”. At last count 70% of Republicans believe him and the handful of Republican Congressmen and Senators prepared to oppose the ex-president are losing their jobs and being booed on the floor of the house by their party colleagues. But New York’s actions have moved the future of Donald Trump out of the political arena and into the courtroom. The fight now is not between Republicans and Democrats in Congress but between Trumpists and the independent judiciary, or Trump v. the constitution.

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged | 14 Comments

Observations of an ex pat: Lies, damned lies and the Russian Government

What a hoot. I mean, I nearly landed in hospital with laughter split sides. Did Russia actually believe that US and British intelligence would launch a major cyber-attack on the American government in order to cast blame on Moscow?

To be fair to Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), he didn’t actually categorically blame the CIA, National Security Agency, MI6 and GCHQ for the December Solar Winds hack into US government departments and about 100 private companies. Naryshkin simply denied Russian culpability and claimed that the tactics were similar to those used by American and British intelligence. The careful intelligence-speak gives him wriggle room to deny the denial should that ever become necessary.

What we are talking about is what the intelligence world calls a “false flag” operation. The term dates back to at least the early days of European empire when marauding pirates would hoist the flag of a friendly nation in order to close quarters with their prey before raising the skull and bones and opening a broadside. The same tactic was used by the British and French navies with great effect during the Napoleonic Wars.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 7 Comments

Tom Arms’ World Review: Cheney and Trump – Round One to the Cult of Trump v. the traditional Republican Party

The ousting of Congresswoman Liz Cheney from the number three spot in the Republican ranks appears to be a victory for Trumpists and supporters of the stolen election “Big Lie.” Or is it? It is true that 70 percent of Republicans believe Trump won the election despite the fact that every court and election official (including Trump’s own appointees) rejected the former president’s claim. It is also true that Republican Party grandees such as Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz are four square behind the Big Lie. But, by alienating Liz Cheney, the forever Trumpers have created a formidable opponent who has dedicated herself to the maintenance of the rule of law, the US constitution and ensuring that Donald J. Trump or his ilk never occupies the White House again. And she is one tough lady with impeccable traditional party credentials.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 5 Comments

Observations of an Expat: Israel – The Problem is Internal

The current fighting in Israel is different. It was not sparked by a suicide bomber from Gaza, Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority or an Arab state. Hamas did not decide to test its rocket capability with a random attack.

No, this time the cause is the long smouldering fuse of discontent by the Palestinian’s living inside Israel. And because the roots are internal, the problem is even more intractable and dangerous.

Not all the Palestinians fled Israel during the 1947-1948 war of independence. Some of them simply refused to go. Some actually savoured the thought of living in a democratic country. The descendants of these stay-at-homes now comprise 20 percent of Israel’s population.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 20 Comments

Tom Arms’ World Review – 9th May

The success of Brexit depends on a willingness to succeed and the desire to place the shared requirement for European stability before narrow political interests. This week’s Anglo-French dispute over English Channel fishing rights indicates that it ain’t gonna happen. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has again demonstrated his disdain for international law by slipping in additional restrictions related to the licensing of French fishing boats and the French over-reacted by threatening to block electricity to the British Channel Island dependency of Jersey. President Emmanuel Macron then added fuel by giving his blessing to a French fishermen’s blockade of Jersey and Boris went over the top by dispatching Royal Navy ships to the scene. The reason for this diplomatic comedy of errors (although no one is laughing) is the fishing clauses in the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement. Both the British and French fishing industries demanded that their negotiators secure a win-lose agreement in their favour. Or, at the very least, the semblance of a win-win deal. Instead, both constituencies have suffered what they regard as a lose-lose deal. British fishing communities were a rich source of pro-Brexit and conservative votes. Now they feel cheated and are turning on their former hero Boris Johnson. His dispatch of the Royal Navy is meant to demonstrate his willingness to fight the fishermen’s corner. President Macron faces elections in 12 months. Jean-Marine Le Pen, leader of the right-wing National Rally, is edging ahead in the latest polls. She has a strong base of support in the French fishing community. Macron needs to erode that if he is stay in the Elysee Palace.  Both Boris and Macron backed down almost immediately as wiser heads in Brussels and Whitehall prevailed, but if their shoot-from-the hip reaction is a harbinger of things to come than expect a rocky road in post-Brexit Anglo-French and Anglo-EU relations.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 6 Comments

Observations of an ex pat – Water Fights

One of this week’s lesser-reported clashes was over water rights between the two impoverished Central Asian republics of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It deserved more attention. Central Asia lies at the heart of the Eurasian land mass. The headwaters of its rivers provide water to half of the world’s population. But climate change and the consequences of the break-up of the Soviet Union are destabilising this strategic, and too often ignored part of the world.

or centuries the five stans (as they are often called) were a prosperous key trading link in the Silk Road connecting China and Europe. The ancient city of Merv in Turkmenistan was the world’s largest in the 12th century. It is now an abandoned ruin. Between 1861 and 1885 the five stans were absorbed by the Russian Empire. They tried to break away after the collapse of the Tsar, but were reconquered by the Bolsheviks in 1925 and fell behind the Iron Curtain and out of international politics for the next 66 years.

There were good and bad elements to Soviet rule. One of the good ones was that the Soviets stablished a trans-stan barter system that prevented the five states from squabbling over water. Eighty percent of the region’s waters originate in in the mountainous regions of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The other countries are mostly desert and rely on water from the Syr Darya and Amu Darya Rivers to maintain their agricultural industries.

The desert countries, however, are rich in gas and oil. So, Moscow devised a system whereby the water-rich mountainous stans provided the desert stans with water during the spring and summer and the desert stans provided cheap fossil fuel energy to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to prevent them from freezing in the winter.

The barter system lasted for a few years after 1991 and then fell apart as the energy rich stans discovered that they could earn more money selling their gas and oil to foreign buyers. The water-rich stans were forced to resort to hydro-electricity to replace energy supplies from their neighbours. This reduced the flow of water to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan with the inevitable impact on their farming communities.

Posted in News | Tagged | 8 Comments

Tom Arms’ World Review – 2 May 2021

America now has its mid-term election issue: President Biden’s report to Congress. Not since FDR has the US been presented with such a left-wing agenda. Overnight, Joe Biden has been transformed from the one of the most boring to one of the most radical of presidents. He is no longer “sleepy Joe.” But there are some practical political differences between JB and FDR’s administrations which complicate Biden’s plans. The main one is that President Biden has a slim majority in the House of Representatives, and only a one-seat majority in the Senate (when you count the casting vote of Vice …

Posted in Europe / International | Tagged | 4 Comments

Observations of an Expat – India Imagined

India is now the epicentre of pandemic. It is a humanitarian disaster with political roots. By the end of this week 200,000 deaths have been officially recorded and there is strong evidence that there are many, many more unrecorded tragedies.

The country is desperately short of essential medical supplies. And although it is the world’s largest producer of vaccines, its immunisation programme has stalled with less than 10 percent of the population vaccinated.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a populist in the mould of Brazil’s Bolsonaro and America’s Trump. Saving lives is secondary to the political goal of retaining power by pandering to their large but ill-informed electoral base. In the case of Modi he is exploiting the long-simmering Hindu-Muslim divide in an attempt to transform India from a secular to a Hindu nation, and is prepared to subvert democratic institutions to achieve that goal.

The confusion and polarisation means more political rallies, more Hindu festivals, less transparency, more lies, more corruption, more division and more fertile political ground for coronavirus.

Posted in Europe / International | Tagged | 22 Comments

Tom Arms’ World Review – 25 April

Liverpool’s famous football manager Bill Shankly once said: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death… I can assure you, it is much, much more important than that.” The quote is for many a truism which sums up why world headlines have been dominated by the attempt to form a European football Super League. 100,000 Russian troops massed on the Ukrainian border; global pandemic deaths soared past the three million mark; America may have reached a turning point in race relations and the starting gun has effectively been fired in German federal elections. Football has become the world’s number one sporting institution. It has become an international cultural treasure, spreading in less than a 100 years from a league game played between a handful of British public schools to every corner of the globe. To escape civilisation I once paddled 12 miles up the Gambian River and trekked through three miles of jungle to stumble across a mud hut where a lone bookie armed with a mobile phone was taking bets on that day’s English Premier League matches. The row also underscores another issue: stewardship. To whom do the clubs belong? The fans? The players? The directors? Bill Shankly had something to say about that as well: “At a football club, there’s a holy trinity–the players, the manager and the supporters. Directors…are only there to sign the cheques.” They are at best stewards of national and international cultural phenomenon. They are only allowed the financial rewards and a degree of self-satisfaction awe and respect. Those rewards are for ensuring the success of a sporting institution for the widest possible audience.

Sixteen years of Merkel rule is drawing to a close in Germany. “Mutti” (mother in German as she is called by her legion of fans, will not be standing for re-election as Chancellor. Almost an entire generation of Germans have known no other leader. The East German pastor’s daughter has played a vital role in continuing the reunification of Germany and inching Europe towards a federal state with a good dose of common sense and quiet diplomacy. That is on the good side of the political ledger. On the bad side is her partial responsibility for the Brexit debacle; an immigration policy which fuelled racism in Germany and beyond and her government’s management of the pandemic. But perhaps Angela Merkel’s greatest deficiency has been her failure to groom a successor for leadership of the centre-right Christian Democratic Union. One finally emerged this week: 60-year-old Armin Lascher. He is a solid if somewhat pedestrian figure. Lascher is by profession a mining engineer whose strong links to North Rhine Westphalia’s coal mining industry undermine his green credentials. But he is resolutely pro-EU, has strong links with the Turkish community and backed Angela Merkel’s 2015 decision to admit a million refugees. If the latest opinion polls are an accurate pointer, The CDU and their Bavarian partners the CSU (Christian Social Union) are expected to win the most seats in the September elections. Currently they stand at 28 percent. The Greens are five points ahead and are likely to be in a coalition government. The SPD (Social Democratic Party) has slipped to 15 percent. The FDP (centrist Liberal Democrats) are more or less tied with the anti-immigrant and anti-EU AfD (Alternative fur Deutschland). The latter have damaged their prospects with internal divisions and an anti-lockdown position. Whomever succeeds “Mutti” will need to move quickly and decisively to fill her shoes and stamp their authority on German, European and international politics.

Posted in Europe / International | Tagged | 7 Comments

Observations of an Expat: American Turning Point?

The guilty verdict in the trial of Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin for the murder of African-American George Floyd has the potential to be a watershed in American race relations. But it has a host of hurdles to overcome.

The key to surmounting well-entrenched centuries old problems is the George Floyd Policing Act, also known more succinctly as the George Floyd Bill. It passed the House of Representatives in March and is now before the Senate where it needs 60 votes (nine more than there are Democrats) to circumvent the dreaded filibuster.

The Bill proposes slew of changes which has raised concern among the law and order lobby, police union, gun enthusiasts and states’ rights advocates. It would be more than just concern if it weren’t for the fact that Chauvin is obviously guilty beyond any reasonable shadow of a doubt.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 5 Comments

Tom Arms’ World Review – 18th April

America lost. It has joined other imperial powers—mainly Britain and the Soviet Union—in filling thousands of graves in the mountains, hills and plains of Afghanistan. More than 4,400 NATO troops of which 2,488 were American have died in the past 20 years. In addition, an estimated 43,000 civilians and 70,000 Taliban fighters have lost their lives. America’s longest war is estimated to have cost the US Treasury $2 trillion, and its NATO allies $525 billion. Afghanistan has been a melting pot, trade route and gateway to the riches of India for centuries. The Mughals conquered northern India through Afghanistan and the British fought three Afghan Wars to keep the Russians out of India. After the third Anglo-Afghan War, King Amanullah Khan moved to modernise Afghanistan. Inspired by Ataturk he secularised the strongly Islamic laws to allow co-education and other rights for women and introduced limited political rights. This never right down with the Mullahs who continued to hold sway in the remote mountainous villages of the Hindu Kush which covers three quarters of Afghanistan. The final straw for the fundamentalists came in April 1978 when the Marxist People’s Democratic Party grabbed power and started a major crackdown on fundamentalists. Civil war broke out and in December 1979 Moscow invaded in support of their communist clients. Their defeat after ten years was a major factor in the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of the fundamentalist-inspired Taliban who were nurtured in Pakistan’s Madrassas. With the help of Pakistan, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia they fought their way to power in 1998 and introduced a medieval form of Sharia Law. They also provided a base for Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeeda whom they refused to relinquish after the 2001 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre. The result was an Anglo-American invasion which toppled the Taliban from Kabul in just two months. But the Taliban did not disappear. It regrouped in bases in Pakistan and fought back. It now controls roughly 90 percent of Afghanistan and will no doubt soon topple US-supported President Ashraf Ghani. But will they again become a base for international Islamic terrorism? Will their brutal suppression of women’s rights be too much for the West to bear? Will the 14 ethnic groups with three main languages collapse into civil war in the absence of a common foreign enemy? It is clear, as both Trump and Biden, has said that there is no military solution to the problem of Afghanistan. But is there even an acceptable political solution, or is Afghanistan like a chronic cancer—manageable, treatable but incurable and gets you in the end.

Minneapolis used to be best known for Lake Itasca, source of the mighty Mississippi. Then there is juicy Lucy, a delicious cheeseburger with the cheese inside the meat. And, of course, the famous Mall of America is only a stone’s throw away. Now, it is infamous for the police killing of George Floyd, the subsequent Black Lives Matter riots and the trial of his alleged killer Derek Chauvin And this week for the “accidental “shooting of 20-year-old African-American Daunte Wright in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Centre. On the face of it, Minneapolis is not your typical racial hotspot. African-Americans comprise only 20 percent of the population (Detroit is 79 percent Black). Mayor Joseph Frey has well-established liberal credentials and Police Chief Medana Arradondo is African-American. But that is not the whole story. Blacks may be 20 percent of the population but 60 percent of all police shootings are of African-Americans, and in his days as a young police lieutenant, Chief Arradondo sued his own force for racism. The problem appears to lie with the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis and, in particular, its Trump-supporting leader Bob Kroll who has fought hard to keep the 800-stong force predominantly White. Kroll himself has been involved in three police shootings and 20 internal affairs investigations. He called George Floyd a “violent criminal” and branded protesters “terrorists.” The good news is that he has finally been forced out of office.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 22 Comments

Observations of an expat: Is Ukraine another Cuba?

Embed from Getty Images

The conventional wisdom is that nuclear Armageddon was avoided in October 1962 by a plucky iron-willed young American President. Not quite. A new book by award-wining Russian author Serhii Plokhy reveals that the Cuban Missile Crisis was created by poor communication at every level in both countries and that it was more a matter of luck rather than pluck that saved the world.

Miscommunication and misunderstanding remains a Russian-American problem and is now coming to the fore again over Ukraine.

But back to October 27, 1962. The US naval blockade of Cuba had been in force for five days. To persuade the Soviet submarines to return home President Kennedy ordered US ships to launch a continuous barrage of depth charges on any members of the Soviet underwater fleet that they found. The purpose was to harass rather than destroy.

But Valentin Savitsky, captain of nuclear-armed B-59 was not privy to American thinking. By the 27th of October his crew had endured two days of tension, diminishing air supplies and increasing heat. Savitsky gave the order to surface. He was immediately subjected to a barrage of tracer bullets fired by trigger happy US fighter pilots circling the area.

Convinced that war had started and he was under full-scale attack, the Soviet captain gave the order to dive and fire a nuclear torpedo.

Fortunately lady luck intervened. The captain of the US destroyer Cony realised the danger and flashed an apology from his signal light. It was spotted by the sub’s signals officer just as the B-59 slipped beneath the waves, and was only seen because his searchlight became stuck. The apology was immediately relayed to Savitsky who, at the last minute, countermanded his attack order.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 17 Comments
Advert



Recent Comments

  • expats
    Perhaps, in view of The Johnson 'initiative' on “fluorescent-jacketed chain gangs”, a satirist might make play on the use of Boris Johnson's second hand st...
  • John Marriott
    I see the righteous brigade is at it again! Vince Cable was a former Labour councillor and came to the Lib Dems via the SDP. He was never a ‘true liberal’. ...
  • John Littler
    I have huge respect for Vince, but he should not be appearing on that badly failing far right mouthpiece. Nor was he correct on the extent of Chinese horrors an...
  • expats
    Brad Barrows 27th Jul '21 - 2:51pm....Why does anyone need to believe that 'genocide isn't genocide' unless it equals the 'murder of millions of Jews by the naz...
  • Paul Barker
    Labour suspended a former Leader for being soft on Antisemitism, a courageous action for which they didnt get enough praise. Cable should be suspended from an...