Posts © 2011-2012 by Gerald G. Day







Sunday, October 22, 2017

October 21, 2017

The New York Times editorial section seems determined to convince us of — let’s be fair; acquaint us with — the arguments in favor of centrism as the proper strategy for the Democratic Party. On August 27, I commented on one opinion piece to that effect, which had appeared on July 6. The October 18 issue of The Times presented another, entitled "Why Democrats Need Wall Street."
According to the author, Douglas Schoen, "a pollster and senior political adviser to President Bill Clinton from 1994 to 2000," President Clinton "acknowledged the limits of government and protected the essential programs that make up the social safety net." However, Clinton did not so much acknowledge, as declare, those limits: "the era of big government is over."
Mr. Schoen praises Clinton for "moving the party away from a reflexive anti-Wall Street posture," but dismantling big government and cozying up to Wall Street resulted in the repeal of the Glass-Stiegel Act, allowing Wall Street to become larger, more dangerous, vulnerable, damaging to homeowners, and expensive to the taxpayer. This, however, is his fantasy of that episode: "the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 removed regulations placed on financial institutions by bureaucrats and expanded opportunities for Wall Street to engage in mergers and acquisitions, adding wealth to the retirement accounts and other investment portfolios of millions of middle-class Americans."
As to the safety net, Clinton fulfilled his 1992 election-campaign pledge to "end welfare as we know it" by cutting back on benefits. All this Mr. Schoen describes as "the program of the party’s traditional center-left coalition." If so, we need less of that supposed coalition.
Schoen thinks that "Hillary Clinton’s lurch to the left probably cost her key Midwestern states that Barack Obama had won twice . . . ." No such lurch was detectable, and her loss of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and therefore of the election, had more to do with her campaign’s failure to address voters’ economic concerns: a failure to articulate a liberal position which would help people of ordinary means. It is significant that about 12% of those who voted for Senator Sanders — certainly a liberal — in the primaries, voted for Trump in the final. They wanted a candidate who would recognize their needs, not one identified with the elite, with money. Schoen acknowledges that "the American people are certainly hostile to and suspicious of Wall Street," but does not draw the obvious conclusion. Perhaps it is ironic that many voters saw Mrs. Clinton, not Trump, as allied with monied interests, but that appears to be the fact, and it refutes the author’s argument.
He wants laissez-faire on both ends of the equation: "the Democrats have simply had an ineffective, negative and coercive economic message. Advocacy of a $15 minimum wage and further banking regulation does not constitute a positive, proactive agenda."
"Democrats,: Mr. Schoen asserts, "should keep ties with Wall Street for several reasons." Of his reasons one, sadly, one makes sense: "The first is an ugly fact of politics: money. Maintaining ties to Wall Street makes economic sense for Democrats and keeps their coffers full." There stands an excellent reason to overturn Citizens United.
Otherwise, his argument is simply that Democrats should become Republicans, and we have enough of those.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

October 4, 2017

Several news reports described Trump’s comments on the Las Vegas mass shooting as "presidential." When it’s newsworthy that a President has managed to sound like one, the bar has been lowered quite a bit. His long prepared speech sounded as little like Donald Trump as an address in French, so it probably was an aide who came up with "presidential" comments.
The speech called for an end to evil, but said nothing about guns, without which the murders could not have happened, and which are responsible for a great deal of evil. Press Secretary Sanders was dismissive of the notion that there should be prompt attention to the gun issue: this isn’t the time for that, she said; it’s a day of mourning, a time to come together, not a time to discuss policy. When reminded that, immediately after the shooting in Orlando in June 2016, Trump called for a travel ban — a policy issue — Mrs. Sanders dismissed that too: "There is a difference between being a candidate and being the President." In Trump’s case, that isn’t even accurate. Though discussing policy isn’t appropriate, she managed, a little later, to do so: "The president has been clear. He’s a strong supporter of the Second Amendment."
The unlikelihood of any rational response regarding guns is illustrated by a bill pending in Congress to make it easier to purchase a silencer .
Trump’s sincerity in the face of tragedy is more accurately displayed in his response to hurricane damage in Puerto Rico. He led off with an excuse for slow aid in his inimitably inane manner: "This is an island surrounded by water. Big water. Ocean water." He blamed Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, then it was "poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan."
Asking for help is a sign of weakness: "They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort." Any criticism must be political: "We have done a great job with the almost impossible situation in Puerto Rico. Outside of the Fake News or politically motivated ingrates . . . people are now starting to recognize the amazing work that has been done by FEMA and our great Military. All buildings now inspected." No one seemed to know what the last comment referred to, if anything.
During his brief visit to the island surrounded by water, he implied that the impact there was not a "real catastrophe," and complained that the cost of relief would upset the budget. Such compassion.
Under this government, a natural disaster will be met with indifference, and a disaster of human origin will be greeted with efforts to make it worse.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

 
October 1, 2017
Post-war Germany always has seemed to be admirable in its ability to acknowledge and reject its Hitler-era past. Apart from the odd neo-Nazi there has been little sign of turning back. That image and history prompted Dirk Kurbjuweit, a writer at Der Spiegel, to declare that, to quote Sinclair Lewis, it can’t happen here, that Germany will never be led by someone like Trump: "Seven decades after World War II, a leader like President Donald Trump would have almost no chance of political success in Berlin.[41]
We, sadly, are different. "Why," he asked," does the U.S. — the political, moral and military leader of the Western world since the end of World War II — now have a dangerous laughing stock, a man who has isolated his country, as its president? Why does Germany, a former pariah, now enjoy a more positive political standing than ever before?" One of his answers is that Germans have a better grip on reality, that, unlike Americans, they do not confuse it with fantasy.
"Ronald Reagan was an actor before he became a politician. Jesse Ventura was a professional wrestler, which is to say a showbiz star, before he became the governor of Minnesota. Arnold Schwarzenegger was an actor before he became the governor of California . . . . Donald Trump was the lead character in a reality show before he became president. . . . The American wall [between dreams and politics] is low, if it exists at all -- the worlds of reality and dreams flow into one another."
Electing actors doesn’t necessarily support that thesis, but add the proliferation of movies and video games about superheroes and aliens, crammed with cartoonish violence, and it’s easy to see his point. 
Americans, he thinks, believe in salvation, originally in the religious sense, now the political; "Even today, some people still believe that the One will come and make everything great again." Germans don’t (now) indulge in apocalyptic visions; they "once believed they had found a savior, but then he tried to destroy the world, and now their belief in salvation has vanished." The myth of American exceptionalism feeds that need for a charismatic leader, and the decline of political parties opens the way for demagogues.
Kurbjuweit notes that "there is no truly powerful right-wing [news] medium in Germany," nothing like Fox, to support right-wing incompetents like Trump. He acknowledges that the internet can partially fill that role, and concludes that it "is here where the possibility arises, faint though it may still be, of a German Trump."
He offers a few other observations, some of which are a stretch, and concludes, too confidently, that " ’Germany first’ is not a slogan that could work well in Germany."
The recent parliamentary election has shown otherwise. Alternative for Germany (AfD), which became the third-largest party in the Bundestag by winning 13% of the vote and 94 seats in the recent election, contains some of the same conflicting elements as the GOP: an elite core making common cause with nativist, nationalist forces which are resentful of immigrants and disillusioned with the establishment. "Its ranks, even its leadership, include people who openly court far-right positions, who want to take a positive view of the German military's actions in World War II, who play down the Holocaust and want to abolish the remembrance of it."[42]  Its lead candidate in the recent election announced that "we will take our country back," a Trumpian echo. A local AfD leader declared: "When Donald Trump says, ‘America first,’ we say, too, ‘Germany first’," in effect following Trump’s advice at the United Nations: "I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first." Another party leader donned a baseball cap reading "Make Germany Safe Again," presumably an anti-immigrant reference. We would like to think of our country as a leader, but not toward the far right.
What the AfD, the radical wing of the GOP and other right-wing parties have in common is a sense of cultural decline, but many of them define decline, and their nationalist response, in ethnic or religious terms. Nationalism also leads to rejecting globalism and alliances, such as the Paris Accords or the EU. We’re still distinctive, though, in the inanity, childishness and incompetence of our leader. Kurbjuweit may be right that Trump couldn’t happen in Germany, or possibly anywhere else, except perhaps North Korea.

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41.http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/why-germany-will-never-have-a-trump-a- 1161054.html

42.http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/opinion-a-new-germany-a- 1169634.html#ref= nl-international.
See also http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/germany-right-wing-afd-celebrates-entry- into-parliament-a-1169631.html#ref=nl-international.