Tag Archives: observation of an ex pat

Observations of an ex-pat – Law vs Politics

The United States is facing a major question: Does political support trump the rule of law?

There is no doubt that Donald Trump has political support from a large proportion of the American population. He is virtually a shoe-in for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

Whether or not he is guilty of one of any number of crimes is immaterial to his base of supporters. Trump represents small government libertarian-minded conservative America. The values that he has come to embody are seen as more important than any number of words in any number of law books.

He has the support “of his people” and that lifts Trump to the far edge of the reach of the long arm of the law. Any attempt to argue otherwise, or to enforce the law, is jackboot Nazism and an establishment conspiracy to thwart the will of the people.

Given that many of Trump’s people are gun-toting Second Amendmenters, using the law against the former president risks the serious danger of violence.

Attorney General Merrick Garland is all too aware of the need to balance political reality with the rule of law. Donald Trump is a special case. No person is above the law, but realpolitik means that some people are on its edges. If the Department of Justice—or anyone else—is going to take any kind of legal action against the former president then it must be totally convinced of his guilt well beyond a reasonable doubt– and then some.

Posted in Op-eds | 3 Comments

Observations of an expat: Bread

Worried about energy prices? Well, you should start worrying more about the empty bread bin.

Twenty-nine percent of the world’s grain comes from Ukraine and Russia.

Russia, Belarus and Ukraine have banned the export of all grains as a direct consequence of Putin’s War. And, because of our interconnected world, when there is a shortage of one type of grain it has a ripple effect on every other.

Commodity brokers are now predicting shortages and high prices not just for wheat but also for rice, millet, rye, maize, barley, oats and sorghum. This is on top of a 50 percent increase in prices in just six months caused by a 20 percent lower than usual harvest because of climate change issues.

Then there is the impact that less grain will have on livestock production as just about every farm animal needs commercially produced grain. Everything from chicken nuggets to fillet steak is going up.

Vegans and vegetarians will be no better off. Add to the above scenario that all grain and vegetable crops are likely to be hit by a lack of fertiliser as 18 percent of the world’s potash comes from Belarus. That means lower yields and higher prices for everything that grows in the ground.

Posted in Op-eds | 16 Comments

Observations of an Expat: The High Seas

About the only time the world’s land-based public thinks about seaborne traffic and the globalised trade it underpins is when they look above the parapets of their sand castles and spy a ship on the distant horizon.

Or, when something happens, such as a war or a vital sea artery is blocked and prices creep up and super market shelves start to empty.

The latter is happening.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 5 Comments

Viral conspiracy – Observations of an ex pat

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Every week I do a programme for American radio. It is an hour-long midweek discussion of world affairs. The other half of the discussion is dyed-in-the-wool Trump supporter Lockwood Phillips. I am the loony London liberal, and I am assured that a large number of radios are splattered with rotten tomatoes every time my dulcet tones waft over the air waves.

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Observations of a ex pat: Goodbye democracy?

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It has become a political fact of life that democracy on both sides of the Atlantic is under severe threat.

The latest proof of this danger is the Senate acquittal of Donald Trump in a judicial exercise that makes Stalin’s Moscow show trials look like paragons of legal transparency and justice. The Conservative British government is going in the same direction, albeit by a different route.

The root of the problem is respect —or lack of respect— for the rule of law. For democracy to work it needs clear legal parameters and elected political leaders who accept that their responsibility is to represent their constituents within a legally binding constitutional framework.

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Observations of an ex pat: The heartland

The Heartland Theory and its corollary discipline of geopolitics was all the rage in the twentieth century.

It emerged from the morass of nationalism to dominate diplomatic thinking right through the Cold War. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union it sunk slowly over the political horizon as nationalism was gradually replaced by globalism governed by an internationally agreed set of laws enforced by a largely – but not completely– altruistic United States.

A Victorian geographer called Halford Mackinder was responsible for the Heartland Theory. He unveiled it in 1904 at a packed meeting of the Royal Geographical Society. He argued that advances in railways in other land transport meant that British-dominated sea power would be replaced by land power.  And that whomever controlled the territory from Eastern Europe to China would control the “heartland” of Eurasia. Furthermore that whomever controlled the heartland controlled what Mackinder called “the world island”which encompassed all of Europe, Asia and Africa; and whomever controlled the world island controlled the world.

In the 1920s’s Mackinder’s ideas were picked up by the German geopolitical academic Karl Haushofer who became an adviser to Adolf Hitler. Hitler and Haushofer fell out over Hitler’s racial policies, but the heartland theory became the blueprint for German expansion. During the Cold War the Americans adopted it to justify the policy of containing the Soviet Union which it thought was pursuing the Heartland dream in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and China.

The collapse of the Soviet Union rendered the Heartland Theory redundant—for a time. It has been revived again by developments in the two Eurasian giants China and Russia.   China’s Belt/Road initiative could have been taken straight out of Mackinder’s book. Its railway links from Shanghai to London and its heavy investment in Africa can easily be viewed as a pre-emptive bid to gain control of the “world island” of Europe, Asia and Africa.

Posted in Op-eds | 4 Comments

Observations of an ex pat: The Elite

In the Middle Ages the Catholic Church called them heretics. They were excommunicated or burned at the stake.

Hitler branded them Jews or Jew lovers and sent them to labour camps or to the gas chambers. During the Cold War era they were derided  as the intelligentsia. In the Soviet Union they were pulled out of their positions as teachers, journalists  and scientists and despatched to Siberian Gulags. In China they were given a little Red Book and sent to “re-education camps”. In Cambodia they were murdered.

Why? Because these people sought answers by asking questions.  They challenged the accepted wisdom peddled by ideologues and entrenched interests.  They fought against false facts and simplistic prejudice-based solutions which used the time-honoured scapegoat method as a solution to social problems.

Nowadays such people are dismissed as “the elite”. They tend to live in cities because urban areas are the perfect incubators for the exchange of ideas and information. So, they are called the “urban elite” or “metropolitan elite”. Their opinions are dismissed even though they have devoted years of their life to study and travel and learned the value of working with different nations, races and cultures. They base their decisions on facts backed up by science, logic and mathematical proofs.

The problem is that this intellectual –“elitist”—approach to life’s problems is increasingly banging up against the brick wall of the “gut instinct” coupled with a deep-seated faith, strong prejudice and a growing fear of identity loss.  The result is a tendency of a growing number of people to dismiss the opinions of the expert elite because they clash with their “feelings”. As leading Brexiteer and Britain’s current Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, said during the Brexit campaign: “Experts? The public are sick of experts.”

Posted in Op-eds | 27 Comments
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