Tag Archives: United states of America

Tom Arms’ World Review

USA

Who are the MAGA Republicans that Biden claims are threatening American democracy?

For a start they support the cult of Donald Trump and cults are antithetical to democratic values. Next they propagate the lie that Trump won the 2020 presidential elections. And unless an estimated 40 million voters drank a hallucinogenic Kool-aid they know that Trump is lying. Or alternatively, America is facing a major mental health problem. Finally, they feel so threatened by the values and policies of the Democratic Party that they are prepared to jettison truth, the rule of law and a much-revered constitution in the pursuit of power.

The current battle ground for what Biden has dubbed the “soul of America” is the mid-term elections to the Senate in House in two months’ time. His threat to democracy speech this week at Independence Hall in Philadelphia was Biden’s opening salvo in the campaign. Only a few months ago the received political wisdom was that the Democrats faced a drubbing at the polls and the likely loss of both houses of Congress. But that was then.

In the intervening period Biden has proved himself a legislative mastermind by pushing through his economy and climate change package. Missing top secret papers have been found at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago hideaway. Support for the Ukraine war has grown. Abortion has become an election campaign with polls indicating most voters favouring controlled termination. Inflation has stalled and gasoline prices tumbled.

Sleepy Joe has woken up, come out fighting and rapidly climbed five percentage points in the opinion polls. Trump backers are, however, standing firm. In fact, every attack on the ex-president and every legal investigation is greeted with cries of “witch hunt” and “conspiracy.” The MAGA squad have invested too much in the cult of Trump. They cannot afford to fail and are likely to resort to increasingly desperate claims and acts. This should be one of the most interesting US mid-term elections ever.

Pakistan

Two thousand-plus dead so far. More rain. More death. More destruction to come. Baked mud homes returned to mud and washed away. A bill which so far is expected to easily surpass $10 billion. Pakistan’s monsoon floods are a humanitarian disaster and another climate change warning.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 5 Comments

Observations of an expat: unholy alliance

The unholy alliance of the Christian Right and the Republican Party has conquered its Everest with the end of abortion in most of America.

It still has other political mountains to climb: Same-sex marriage, gay rights, equal rights, Christian nationalism, creationism, contraception, sex education, political correctness, gambling, pornography, Sunday trading…

But Roe v Wade was top target. It was the emotively totemic issue that united hardline conservative Republicans and Evangelicals and differentiated them from the rest of the country.

The alliance, however, may now be facing the downward slope. A poll taken just after the Supreme Court decision showed that 59 percent of Americans support abortion and 58 percent now want a federal law making abortion available nationwide.

The unholy alliance’s victory shows what religious fervour linked with political organisation can achieve. But the majority has learned the hard lesson of complacency associated with defending the status quo. They have been galvanised, are removing the gloves and have electoral numbers on their side.

America has a long history of mixing politics and religion. New England was founded by religious dissidents who sought to breakaway from establishment Church of England and for a long time set up their own theocracy in America. The US constitution was seen as a triumph of rationalism, the summit of the Age of Reason and a victory over the religious superstition of the medieval world.

For about 100 years enlightened reasoning – with exceptions – reigned largely supreme within the American corridors of power. Then along came Darwin and the church split between the fundamentalists who dismissed evolution as heresy and those who reluctantly accepted it as the logical fruit of science.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 14 Comments

Tom Arms’ World Review

Nine weeks. This is how much time – according to the International Grain Council – that the world has before the Ukraine War sets the world on an unalterable course towards world famine. This is because in nine weeks Ukrainian farmers will start harvesting the winter grain crop and start moving it to portside harbours to be shipped out via the Black Sea. The problem is that those silos are already filled with 200 million tons of grain from the previous harvest because of the Russian naval blockade and destruction of Mariupol. If that grain is not moved – and moved quickly – the winter harvest will simply rot in the fields and the same fate awaits the Ukrainian autumn harvest and every subsequent harvest until the silos are emptied and the blockade lifted.

On top of that, Western sanctions are blocking the export of Russian grain. Between them, Ukraine and Russia, account for 20 percent of the world’s grain production. They also contribute mightily to the global stores of rapeseed oil, sunflower seeds and oil, barley and (with Belarus) potash for fertiliser. Africa and the Middle East obtain 40 percent of their grain from Ukraine and Russia – 95 percent of it shipped via the Black Sea.  The UN is desperately trying to negotiate a naval corridor to rescue the grain. Turkey is also trying to mediate and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov was in Ankara this week to discuss the problem. But a diplomatic solution seems unlikely. Russia refuses to cooperate until Western sanctions are lifted. Ukraine accuses Moscow of stealing its grain and Moscow says the responsibility for clearing the mines it laid blocking the harbours is Ukraine’s responsibility. Until those issues are resolved the grain stays in the silos and the harvest in the fields.

During Cold War One the US and Soviet Union flexed their economic muscle to compete for economic influence in the developing world. America – with its deeper pockets – won. Now the battle is between Washington and Beijing and the economically powerful Chinese are pulling ahead. They are now the number one trading partner for most countries in Africa and Asia. But most worrying for the US is the growth of Chinese investment and trade in what it regards as its backyard – Latin America. Between 2002 and 2019, China’s trade with Latin America and the Caribbean grew from $18 billion to $316 billion. China is now the number one trading partner with every major Latin American country except Mexico. With this trade comes political power and influence.

Chinese success was the driving force behind President Joe Biden’s decision to call this week’s Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles but the gathering was not the success he had hoped for. Various initiatives were discussed: a new development bank, training for 500,000 health workers; a food security programme and a “climate partnership.” But the US only invited what it regarded as democratic governments to the summit which excluded Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. This angered many of the other attendees (including neighbouring Mexico) who registered their displeasure by sending their foreign ministers instead of the head of government as requested. As the US Congress pores over the details of any Latin American programme there will doubtless be strings attached to any trade or aid deals. This is in stark contrast with the Chinese. They are interested in only in the money, markets and access to strategic raw materials. The governments with which they deal are free to champion or suppress human rights without comment or interference from Beijing – for now.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , and | 4 Comments

Observations of an expat: US Elections and 6 January

American Democrats have set up giant screens across key locations. Free ice cream is on offer and major political revelations are promised.

Bennie Thompson, committee chairperson, has already accused ex-President Donald Trump of an “attempted coup.”

The Congressional committee investigating the 6 January Capitol Hill Riots is going public – in a big way. Trump and his army of supporters have dismissed the committee’s hearings as a “political hoax.”

The first carefully choreographed hearings started on Thursday night. More are planned next week and later in the month. CBS, NBC and ABC are broadcasting the hearings live. Fox News will not. Republican spin …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 3 Comments

Observations of an expat: gun control v. tyranny

Chiselled on the wall of the entrance lobby of the National Rifle Association are the words: “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

This, claims the gun lobby is the Second Amendment of the US constitution. It is not. The oft-quoted right to bear arms clause is preceded by the words “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right….”

Should the amendment be read in its entirety with the second half contingent on the first? Or has the need for a citizens’ militia become redundant in the modern age and therefore only the second half remains relevant?

The NRA is in no doubt. It only every quotes the second half. All references to militias are conspicuous by their absence.

But why do Americans need guns? Conservatives say it is to protect themselves and their families from bad people with guns. Liberals reply: then take the guns away from the baddies as well as the goodies so no one can shoot. It is a policy that has worked in Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and other developed countries.

American conservatives retort with what may be the real reason for hanging onto their firearms: Individual gun ownership is the ultimate defence against tyranny – the tyranny of anarchy and the tyranny of overbearing government.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz – one of the most prominent supporters of the NRA and a major beneficiary of the gun lobby’s largesse – was crystal clear on the tyranny issue when he ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. He wrote in his campaign literature:

“The Second Amendment isn’t just for protecting hunting rights, and it’s not only to safeguard your right to target practice. It’s a constitutional right to protect your children, your family, your home, our lives, and to serve as the ultimate check against governmental tyranny – for the protection of liberty.”

But from whence does this need for weapons as protection against tyranny come? The answer is Britain.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 14 Comments

Tom Arms’ World Review

Sweden and Finland want to join NATO. Vladimir Putin has reversed himself and reluctantly said that membership of the Alliance by the two Nordic countries posed “no threat”.  A seamless Swedish-Finnish application seemed certain.

Wait, the diplomats forgot about the perennial thorn in NATO’s Southern flank- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. An application to join NATO requires the approval of all 30 members and President Erdogan has threatened a Turkish block. His reason? He is angry because Sweden and Norway give asylum to members of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) which he is trying to wipe out. Sweden and Finland also imposed sanctions against Turkey when Erdogan ordered his troops into Northern Syria in 2016 (they are still there).

At the top of the list of criteria for NATO membership, is, according to the US State Department, a commitment “to uphold democracy, including tolerance for diversity.” On that basis, Erdogan’s Turkey would fail membership requirements. Since the attempted 2016 coup, Erdogan has jailed nearly 80,000 judges, military officers, civil servants, police, teachers and journalists. 130 media organisations have been closed. Homosexuality is banned and Erdogan has announced plans to reinstate the death penalty. There is, of course, no question of booting Turkey out of the Alliance. It is the strategic bridge between Europe and Asia and at the moment prevents Russian ships from sailing through the Dardanelles to join the war in Ukraine. Realpolitik trumps human rights.

But should Erdogan be allowed to prevent solidly democratic countries from joining NATO? The British government have indicated a possible workaround if Erdogan refuses to change his mind. It has signed a separate “mutual assistance” treaty with Norway and Sweden. If other NATO countries followed suit then the Turkish veto would be irrelevant.

The shooting in a Buffalo supermarket which left ten African-Americans dead is not an isolated incident. According to a report by the respected Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) 67 percent of the domestic terror incidents recorded in 2020 were organised by far-right and white supremacist groups. Many of those who stormed Capitol Hill were White supremacists. FBI Director Christopher Wray described White Supremacy as a “significant and pervasive threat” to the US. President Biden called it a “poison running through the body politic.”

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 6 Comments

Tom Arms’ World Review

Elon Musk is a brilliant entrepreneur and the world’s richest man. He also has a gargantuan ego, mercurial personality and thinks big. Tesla was developed to create a carbon-free planet. Space X is designed to give humanity a Martian bolthole in case we fail on Earth. His takeover of Twitter is, in his words, the result of a “strong intuitive sense that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important for the future of civilisation.”

Musk is a free speech absolutist. He is opposed to Twitter’s banning of Donald Trump but would be likely to countenance suspension. This brings the mercurial Musk into conflict with most of the EU governments, Britain and India. They have either introduced or are planning legislation to force social media to police their sites to prevent hate speech, conspiracy theories and outright lies such as Trump’s claim that he won the 2020 presidential election.  How this will resolve itself will be watched very carefully by all the other social media players because, based on past performance, Musk is not the sort of person to quietly accept government interference.

With the French presidential elections and the war of Ukraine grabbing the headlines you might have missed an important election result in the Balkan state of Slovenia. It was billed as a “referendum on democracy” and democracy won. On one side of the political ring was incumbent Prime Minister Janez Jansa. He is a Trump-loving ally of Hungary’s right-wing populist leader Viktor Orban. According to Freedom House his latest two-year tenure (he had been elected PM twice before), has been marked by Slovenia suffering the sharpest decline in Democratic institutions and values of any country in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Jansa repeatedly attacked the judiciary and the media whom he called “liars” and “presstitutes”.

Facing Jansa was 55-year-old former Fulbright scholar Robert Golob.  He is businessman who created the state-owned energy company GEN-1 and has limited political experience as a city councillor and former State Secretary at the Ministry of Economics. In January he created the Freedom Party to contest the April elections. The result was a resounding victory. The Freedom Party won 34.5 percent of the vote compared to 23.6 percent for Jansa’s Slovenian Democratic Party. The turnout was also encouraging. 71 percent of Slovenia’s 1.7m voters cast their ballots compared to 51 percent in elections two years ago. The increase in voter turnout has been attributed to Golob persuading young people to vote – a possible lesson for other politicians seeking to remove far right populists from elected office.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 13 Comments

Book review: “The Avoidable War” by Kevin Rudd

As the title of the book suggests, the author believes meeting jaw to jaw would be far better than catastrophic conflict and war between the US and China.  He also lays out in painstaking detail no less than 10 different scenarios, as a “cautionary guide” to policy makers navigating the dangerous waters in the decade ahead.

Would America have their Waterloo moment with China taking over Taiwan militarily or will it relive a new Korean stalemate with protracted military conflict and large- scale casualties on both sides?  Of course, ideally China and the US could also find themselves within a new world order without the need for military confrontation (Xi’s Optimal Plan).

At an interview last month following the launch of the book in Washington, Rudd said that writing the book was like giving birth to an elephant.  Indeed, the book is no light reading from a heavy weight Sinologist, former PM of Australia and current President and CEO of the Asia Society think tank.  Yet I raced through the chapters without too much effort, finding the tone and style flowing and engaging. Rudd also managed to dissect complex issues into bite sized chapters, shedding light on China’s concentric circles of concern and influence.

The kernel that lies within the first concentric circle is of course the Chinese Communist Party and the politics of staying in power.  Rightly or wrongly, Xi and the leadership believe that China needs strong central leadership lest it dissolves into bickering camps or breaks up like the Soviet Union had in 1991. With Xi Jinping thought now embedded in the Chinese Constitution and the removal of 2 fixed terms of the Presidency, the next 20th Party Congress in the second half of 2022 is likely to deliver the result he wants.

Posted in Books | Also tagged and | Leave a comment

World Review: French elections, Barbados, Russian security pact, MI6 and abortion rights in America

The French Presidential elections are hotting up. Far-right candidate Eric Zemmour announced his candidacy this week. He is Euro-sceptic, virulently anti-immigrant and possibly the most anti-Semitic Jew in European politics. The 63-year-old journalist claims that he will save France from decadence and minorities that “oppress the majority.” Zemmour is neck and neck with seasoned extreme right campaigner Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Rally Party. Which means that the extreme-right vote is split. The left-wing parties are in disarray and have been effectively written off by the French media in the April presidential elections.

On Sunday, primary elections for the Gaullist-oriented Les Republicains ends. There are five candidates: Michel Barnier, Xavier Bertrand, Eric Ciotti, Philippe Juvin and Valerie Pecresse. In the past Les Republicains were described as centre right. But no longer. Emmanuel Macron has stolen those clothes, especially the economic threads. In response, all five Les Republicains candidates have moved to the right with anti-immigration and Eurosceptic policies. All of the above is good news for Macron, who is staunchly pro-European and staying aloof from the immigration debate. Not that he is popular. His approval ratings have slipped from a high of 48 percent in 2017 to under 20 percent. But he stands alone in the winning circle of the centre/centre right. At this moment the betting is on Macron to win as the last man standing.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , and | 7 Comments

World Review: Oil, vigilantism in America, refugees, Swedish politics and Omicron

Prepare for an oil price war in 2022. The combatants are OPEC and a consortium of top energy consuming countries including the US, China, UK, Japan, India and South Korea. All of these countries have built up huge strategic oil reserves in case of emergency such as war or another 1973-style OPEC oil embargo. The US has the largest reserves with 638 million barrels tucked away in storage facilities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. The last two times America’s oil reserves were used was after Hurricane Katrina and during the Gulf War. Biden is depleting them to combat the energy shortage which has pushed up prices to $81 a barrel and is threatening the US and world economic recovery from the pandemic.

The OPEC countries (and Russia), however, like the high prices and they are used to controlling the market to suit their needs by raising and lowering production. They fear that Biden’s move on economic rather than security grounds threatens their historic stranglehold on the market. An OPEC summit is planned for 2 December. The oil ministers were planning to announce a 100 million barrel increase in production from January; not enough to substantially reduce prices, but possibly enough to stabilise them. That is expected to be off next week’s agenda. President Biden also has internal problems in the form of the Republicans who advocate increasing domestic oil production and reinstating projects such as the Keystone XL oil pipeline to reduce reliance foreign sources. But that, of course, runs afoul of climate change promises.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , and | 24 Comments

World Review: America and China, Austrian vaccination and India’s farmers

It has been an interesting week for Sino-American relations and China in its own right. It started with the two countries agreeing to cooperate on climate change policies. There were no details in this proposed pact, but a start had been made. This was followed by a three-hour virtual summit between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping. Both sides basically re-stated long-held positions on trade, Taiwan, the South China Sea and human rights. But it was done in a friendly manner which meant another reasonable start. Then things started going downhill. The Americans are very upset about the new Chinese hypersonic missile and are being loud in their condemnation. Then Biden said he was considering refusing to send a diplomatic delegation to the Beijing Winter Olympics. The athletes can go, but the normal contingent of accompanying politicians are now expected to stay at home to protest Chinese human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 20 Comments

Observations of an Expat: Too Big to Fail

The US Treasury is too big to fail. Failure, however, is a real possibility. In fact, Federal Reserve Bank Chairperson Janet Yellen warned earlier this week that the government would be forced to default on its loans on 18 October unless the self-imposed cap of $28 trillion was raised.

Reluctantly, the Senate voted 48-51 to push up the ceiling by $458 million and postponed decision day to 3 December when battle will be recommenced.

There is a string of dire warnings if the cap is not raised by trillions in the run-up to Christmas. Forty percent of financial aid would be affected which would possibly mean no housing benefits, child benefits, social security, Medicare or Medicaid payments. Federal employees pay would be jeopardised. America’s credit rating would be downgraded. Interest rates would rise affecting mortgages, business loans and credit card payments. Inflation would go up with the obvious impact on prices and pensioners on fixed incomes.

Posted in Op-eds | 20 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 | Also tagged and | 22 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 | Also 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 | Also tagged , and | 11 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 | Also tagged | 5 Comments

Capital punishment: A Liberal opposition

Embed from Getty Images

Between 14 July 2020 and 16 January 2021, the United States government executed its first thirteen criminals since 2003 – in fact, this was the most people ever executed in such a short space of time by the federal government.

However, fourteen states continue to execute people on a regular basis. President Joe Biden, a devout Catholic, seeks to end the death penalty at a federal level, but this does nothing to stop states or the several other countries around the world that still employ the method.

Indeed, several high-profile cabinet members in this country, such as Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove and Home Secretary Priti Patel, have expressed the view that we should reinstate the death penalty in the United Kingdom. With all this in mind, let us remind ourselves why, as liberals, we firmly reject this development.

First of all, consider how it must feel on that day, both for the prisoner and the family. On the prisoner’s side, your last day is meticulously planned out, as revealed in this protocol from Montana. You will receive your last visitors at around 8am, and make your last phone call around 10:30. You may choose to spend all day with a chaplain, but all day the increasing knowledge of what is coming at the end will loom over you.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 12 Comments

Observations of an expat: America on trial

Embed from Getty Images

Donald Trump is on trial in the US Senate. The Republican Party is on trial. America is on trial. The likely verdicts are: Not Guilty, Guilty and Guilty.

This will undermine democratic values and the rule of law which underpins it. This is bad for America and bad for the world. The United States is more than a nation. It is also an idealised aspiration.

Trump is accused of inciting an insurrection. He is alleged to have provoked a mob to attack Capitol Hill in order to reverse an election in direct contravention his oath to “preserve and protect  the constitution.”

Prosecutors (aka House Managers) from the House of Representatives have laid before America’s senators what Republicans admit is a “compelling” case against the ex-president. But the smart betting is that they will still vote to acquit the president.

Trump did more than give an incendiary speech on 6 January. His crime was committed over several months. Before the election he prepared the ground for insurrection by claiming – without any evidence – that the mail-in voting system would result in massive fraud.

Then, as the vote went against him, Trump attempted to stop the count in key states. When the result was clear he refused to concede defeat and challenged the vote in 86 different court cases. He lost all but one. Trump still refused to concede and repeatedly tweeted the fraudulent lie that he was the victim of fraud.

He tried to bully Georgia’s top election official into fabricating 11,780 votes in that key state. He failed. Increasingly desperate, Trump demanded that Vice President Mike Pence reject the Electoral College vote when Congress convened on 6 January to certify the results. Pence refused. His oath to defend the constitution was more important than winning an election.

Trump now summoned his supporters – which included violent right-wing militia groups – to a Washington rally on 6 January while Congress met in its certification session.  The president exhorted them to “fight like Hell” to “Stop the Steal” and to “march up Pennsylvania Avenue” to Capitol Hill. His personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said it was time for “trial by combat.”

The mob acted as instructed.  They broke into the icon of American democracy and demanded the death of Vice President Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Five people died and 140 Capitol Hill policemen were injured.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 44 Comments

How on earth does this man still have access to a nuclear weapons trigger?

It is worth listening to this tape at length.

It ought to send a shiver down the spine of anyone who believes in democracy.

What staggers me is that this sort of call is happening well into January, rather than on November 4th last year.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 9 Comments

Observations of an expat: Liking people

Embed from Getty Images

People like to do business with people they like. Think about it. How many times have you returned to the same bar, restaurant, shop or café because you like the owner or the convivial waitress. You will even pay over the odds because that big smile and friendly chat with a croissant is worth the extra money. Life is just too short for decisions to be based on the saving of a few pennies.

Another much sought-after characteristic is competence. In fact, charm and competence are generally considered a winning combination. And one without the other is, well, pretty much the exact opposite.

That is why a report published this week by the Pew Research Centre is such bad news for everyone in America. It is also an object lesson for the rest of the world.

The Pew Research Centre is a Washington-based think tank that for the past two decades has conducted annual in-depth international surveys on different countries’ perceptions of the United States. Actually, the Pew people prefer the term “fact tank” which, of course, brings their reports into direct conflict with the Trump Administration who might be best described as an “alternative fact farm.”

Certainly the White House takes little comfort from this week’s Pew survey which reports that perceptions of America and its president plummeted to record lows. The President of the United States is viewed as incompetent and the country as a whole is disliked.

Twenty years ago the British people, for instance, gave the “land of opportunity” an 87 percent approval rating. Germany’s approval levels of America were at 78 percent. France, which has always had a more ambivalent attitude to the US, was a bit lower at 62 percent. At the end  of summer 2020 the approval rating of three of America’s most important allies is roughly half of what it was at the turn of the millennium– 41 percent in UK, 26 percent In Germany and 32 percent in France.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 6 Comments

Observations of an expat: Marxist BLM

I was recently sent an article by the American columnist Charles Davenport in which he warned of anti-American Marxist infiltration of Black Lives Matter.

To be fair to Mr Davenport, he prefaced his criticism of BLM with a stiff condemnation of the death of George Floyd and racial discrimination in general.

But then he goes on to quote their leaders out of context and describe Black Lives Matter as

… an anti-American, often violent, collection of Marxists. Their contempt for capitalism is brazen, as is their disdain for law and order.

He is right and wrong. But more importantly, Mr Davenport fails to ask the all-important question: Why?

It is absolutely true that there are Marxists who support BLM. Some of them are in leadership positions. They are in a tiny minority. A recent opinion poll by the Pew Research Centre showed that 67 percent of the American population support Black Lives Matter. There is no way that 67 percent of Americans are Marxists.

Furthermore, there is an ongoing debate within the ivy-clad towers as to whether Marxism is more or less democratic. In fact, when Marx and Engels wrote their “Communist Manifesto” In1848 they implored the workers to revolt in order to establish a more democratic system that represented the rights of the wider working class rather than the narrow establishment of the day. The “dictatorship of the proletariat” was added later and probably owes more to Lenin than Marx.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 8 Comments

Watching an old country shoot itself in the foot from south Georgia, good ol’US of A

With things calming down approaching what in 1980s UK terms used to be called Chrimbo in North Bury (Labour seat turned Tory), I thought I’d share some US-UK cheer in the spirit of Trump, the Brexit salvationist. Your author teaches in a Title 1 school in Hinesville, Georgia, USA. Title 1 offers extra Federal Funding for school’s students disproportionately in poverty. Our school, because Hinesville is an Army base, gets generous federal funding.

Statewide 2015-16, Georgia paid 46% of education spending. The Georgia Department of Education (GaDoe) ranks us on a 100-point scale. We are a 75.3 CCRPI (College and Career Readiness Performance Indexes) school. The average is 77. This, as sometime Lib Dem supporter, Alistair Campbell (campaigning for Luciana Berger) had it, is a ‘bog standard (American) Comprehensive School’.

GaDoe for our school – non-ironically one administrator calls it Godot – reports 55.1% African-American, 66.2% economically disadvantaged, 19.7% white and 14.4% Hispanic students. Last month, waiting for Godot ended: we managed a 2-point CCRPI improvement. CCRPI rank us by complex metrics against unattainable goals.  After a decade here, an achievement given staff churn, your author, teaching 12th English has some observations.

I notice a vogue for predicting US politics based on the UK’s general election and visa versa. The BBC’s Anthony Zurcher recently asked Does UK hold clues to Trumps fortunes?. The answer is no. The US has a constitution; the UK does not: well, not a modern, European style written constitution anyway. But that, as so many Brexiters appear to believe, makes the UK better, since “We didn’t lose World War Two” – a bit of an obsession of theirs, no?   “We” didn’t win it either – not without the USA. There won’t be trans-Atlantic salvation this time, whatever Johnson flunkies think. Contrast what I hope will still be in the UK with what has existed here for decades.

Posted in Op-eds | 7 Comments

I don’t think we’ve heard the last from this guy….

Beto O’Rourke gave Ted Cruz a run for his money in the recent race for the Texan US Senate seat. He comes from the border town of El Paso.



Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 3 Comments

Protesting by ‘taking the knee’ during the “Star-spangled banner” – who are the patriots?

Embed from Getty Images

This is the sixteenth and final of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month I have been posting about my experiences. In this last article, I reflect on my journey and its relevance to what is going on these days in the good ol’ US of A.

Imagine the scene. Being an absolute sucker for plaques, I was dutifully reading the plaques in Court Square, Montgomery AL. I was queuing up, or should I say “in the line”, to read the Rosa Parks’ plaque there. There was a couple in front of me.

Why should we celebrate that ****?

– said the fellow in front of me, using a very strong expletive not normally wittingly unleashed on LDV readers. Neeedless to say, the man was white also. This outburst surprised me a bit. Here I was, paying great reverence to Ms Parks, having travelled 4,303 miles (as the crow flies) to do so. And here was this guy asking why we “should celebrate this ****”.

Posted in LDVUSA | Also tagged and | 5 Comments

A journey through American history – a compendium


Over the last few weeks, I have posted up recollections from my recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I have been relating some of the things I saw. Here is a compendium which lists the sixteen posts in this series with links to all of them:

Posted in LDVUSA | Also tagged and | 3 Comments

This single photograph shows an amazing crucible of American history


This is the fifteenth of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

Without any doubt, the highlight of my USA tour was my visit to Mongomery, Alabama. To coin a phrase of Stephen Fry’s, for someone interested in history, it was like swimming through liquid chocolate. Within half a mile of the State Capitol, there are a clutch of historic sites which bore witness to some of the most seminal events in the history of the USA.

Posted in LDVUSA | Also tagged , , , and | 4 Comments

The woman who refused to budge on the bus – and made history


The statue of Rosa Parks in the Rosa Parks museum, Troy University, Montgomery, Alabama.

This is the fourteenth of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

I’ve wanted to visit the Rosa Parks museum for years. It has been very high on my bucket list. It was a strange desire. The Rosa Parks museum is in Montgomery, Alabama, which is not one of the easiest places to places to get to in the States. (I had to go on a Greyhound bus from Atlanta, Georgia – which turned out to be a very peaceful and calm experience!) And I would not say that I am an expert on the history of Rosa Parks. I had barely read her Wikipedia write-up before I planned a trip to Montgomery. It was just that I respected her as someone who did something quite awesome – she simply, and with quiet dignity, refused to give up her bus seat to a white person and, as a result, sparked a movement that led eventually to the end of racial segregation in the USA and a step-function advancement in civil rights for Black people there.

Posted in LDVUSA | Also tagged , and | 2 Comments

The home where Martin Luther King’s family were bombed



This is the thirteenth of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

In Montgomery, Alabama I visited the Dexter Parsonage Museum (photo above) – which was the home of Dr Martin Luther King Jr during the Montgomery Bus Boycott (of which more in a latter post). Dr King lived here with his family from 1954 to 1960. It is preserved with the furnishings and household things as per that period.

Posted in LDVUSA | Also tagged , and | Leave a comment

In the heart of the American rebellion


The main drawing room – what was effectively the “Oval Office” – of the First Confederacy White House in Montgomery, Alabama.

This is the twelfth of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

You’re in the heart of the Jefferson Davis rebellion empire!

I had just walked up to the door of “the first Confederacy White House”, across the road from the Alabaman State Capitol in Montgomery. I wasn’t sure that the museum was open – the door was closed and there was no sign of it being open. So it was a bit of a surprise to open the door and be immediately confronted by a very excited docent, who was like a character actor from a John Wayne film. After the declaration above, I half-expected him to shout “Yee-haa!” and plonk a globule of his oral juices into a nearby spittoon!

Posted in LDVUSA | Also tagged , and | 4 Comments

Just as US President Jimmy Carter was the antidote to “Tricky Dicky”, could Oprah Winfrey save the world from Trump?



This is the eleventh of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

I had the great pleasure of visiting the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta, Georgia. It is set just outside the city centre, in very leafy and peaceful surroundings. The exhibition gave me a sense of a great man, shaped by his upbringing in Georgia, his experience as a farmer and businessman, and his service in the US Navy in nuclear submarines.

Posted in LDVUSA | Also tagged , , and | 6 Comments
Advert



Recent Comments

  • William Francis
    @Steve Trevethan "Might our party offer a real alternative by espousing the practical realities of Modern Monetary Theory?" What realties are those? MMT h...
  • Andy Boddington
    @James Pugh. Your argument would have been correct if it had been written fifty years ago. The Welsh Marches and Brecon and Radnorshire have changed. The Welsh ...
  • Nonconformistradical
    @Jeff Wytch Farm is a conventional oilfield where liquid oil and gas have been trapped underground below impermeable rocks. The oil and gas are accessed by dri...
  • expats
    This morning I watched Laura Kuenssberg's 'grilling' of Kwasi Kwarteng... Unsurprisingly she didn;t ask him about his 'Britannia Unchained' claims.. 1) "...
  • expats
    Jeff 25th Sep '22 - 2:03pm....That came much later, in 1976, after two years of Labour government… Labour came to power in 1974 when the UK was in the midd...