Northern Reflections

Subscribe to flux Northern Reflections
"There is no greatness where simplicity, goodness and truth are absent." Leo Tolstoy
Mis à jour : il y a 42 min 43 sec

Frightening To Behold

il y a 2 heures 28 min

Two days ago, as Donald Trump signed an executive order to roll back Barack Obama's environmental legacy, he was surrounded by coal miners. “Come on, fellas,” Trump said. “You know what this is? You know what it says, right? You’re going back to work.” It was all part of the con.  E. J. Dionne writes:

Trump already signaled his indifference to the lives of his working-class supporters by backing the failed House Republican health care bill. It would have deprived 24 million Americans of health insurance. And the administration’s next big priority is corporate tax cuts, not an issue high on voters’ wish lists in Erie, Pennsylvania, or Bay County, Michigan.
   
Then again, not many proletarians hang around at the Trump resorts and golf courses where our commander in chief has already spent nearly a third of his time in office.
It is a con being played on the country's most vulnerable citizens:

In a paper released last week by the Brookings Institution (with which I am associated), they show that the rising death rates among less well-off whites aged 45-54 contrast sharply with the falling death rates among comparably placed citizens in Europe.
   
“Mortality declines from the two biggest killers in middle age—cancer and heart disease—were offset by marked increases in drug overdoses, suicides and alcohol-related liver mortality,” they write.
   
We are living in a society where the long-standing injustices of racial discrimination against African-Americans and Latinos are compounded by the injuries of class. These afflict all lower income groups, but they are currently hitting white Americans particularly hard.
The painful truth is that the coal mining jobs Trump promised are not coming back. They have been replaced by automation, natural gas and renewable energy sources. Those who surrounded Trump were being conned -- arrogantly -- and in public.

Trump came to office by stoking their legitimate economic anxiety. But he sold them a lie. And, as they discover that lie, their anger will be frightening to behold.

Image: IndustriALL Global Union

Sending Him To The Showers

mer, 03/29/2017 - 05:06


The Liberals want to change the rules in the House of Commons. They want to limit Justin Trudeau's required appearances in the House to once a week. That's the way the Brits do it. But, Lawrence Martin writes, that won't wash here:

The optics on accountability are dreadful. That the Liberals were perceived to be intent on proceeding unilaterally on this and other changes to parliamentary procedure had critics in high dudgeon.

Trying to defend the initiative was Liberal House Leader Bardish Chagger. She was beaten up, as she often is. It’s hardly her fault. She’s a greenhorn, a 36-year-old rookie MP who inexplicably was handed a job that requires more seasoning than practically any other post in government.
The stench that arises with the abuse of power is growing stronger: 
The Liberal gambit comes off as just the latest in a long line of heavy-handed conduct. Broken promises, underhanded efforts to limit parliamentary debate, elbowgate, cash for access fundraisers, secrecy over the Aga Khan trip, so-called open nominations in ridings, and so on.
Given all the negative blowback, one would have thought that Mr. Trudeau would have been particularly sensitive to doing anything that smacked of anti-democratic arrogance again. Not so.
Martin recognizes Trudeau's unique talents: 
Give him his due. He is more accessible, candid and forthright than other prime ministers and no one should underestimate his impact. In short order, he completely resurrected the Liberal Party. In short order, 18 months in office, he has refashioned Canada’s global image. We’ve gone from being seen as uptight on the right under Mr. Harper to an open and forward-looking society that much of the world looks up to under Mr. Trudeau. Doubters need only read the laudatory assessments in the foreign media.
Nonetheless, if Canadians get the idea that it's all gone to Justin's head, they'll send him to the showers in the next election. 
Image: WND.com

Fools And Their Fantasies

mar, 03/28/2017 - 05:42

Today, Donald Trump signs an executive order to rollback Barack Obama's environmental protection policies. Last week he re-started the Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline, Ross Pelot writes, is another Trumpian pipedream:

Keystone’s ultimate rejection by the Obama White House never had anything to do with the environment, of course. A 2015 State Department assessment stated that “approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including (Keystone XL), is unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands”.

Obama didn’t actually cancel the line until the discount on Alberta crude disappeared once other pipelines were expanded to eliminate the bottlenecks. Once it was clear the line was not needed anymore, Obama announced the rejection — and polished up his environmental cred in the process.
The truth that no one wants to talk about is that the economic case for Alberta bitumen has collapsed:

When OPEC agreed to cut output, the Saudis and other cartel members cut production of the kind of crude that fetches the lowest price — heavy crude. Now Canadian heavy crude and others, like Mexican Maya, are enjoying narrower spreads versus light crude. But since Canadian heavies are increasing production because of investments that were launched before the price of crude collapsed, we are helping to undo the effect of the OPEC cuts.

Couple that with the fact that U.S. shale oil production has improved its cost efficiency — and has now risen back to production levels higher than they were this time last year — and you have the reason why crude prices have dropped back below $50 due to long supplies. The principles of supply and demand are working — and we can no longer expect substantial future growth in the oilsands.

Trump has gone bankrupt four times. Justin Trudeau praised Trump's decision to restart Keystone XL. Fools and their fantasies.


Unpopulism

lun, 03/27/2017 - 05:32

Around the world, populism is shaking the foundations of what were once liberal democracies. Larry Elliott writes:

The rise of populism has rattled the global political establishment. Brexit came as a shock, as did the victory of Donald Trump. Much head-scratching has resulted as leaders seek to work out why large chunks of their electorates are so cross.

The answer seems pretty simple. Populism is the result of economic failure. The 10 years since the financial crisis have shown that the system of economic governance which has held sway for the past four decades is broken. Some call this approach neoliberalism. Perhaps a better description would be unpopulism.
That's an interesting word. Elliott defines it as "tilting the balance of power in the workplace in favour of management and treating people like wage slaves." It is a system which has been "rigged to ensure that the fruits of growth went to the few not to the many. Unpopulism decreed that those responsible for the global financial crisis got away with it while those who were innocent bore the brunt of austerity."

And rather than reversing things, the last ten years have only made the situation worse. Consider how things worked before 1975:

During the business cycle upswing between 1961 and 1969, the bottom 90% of Americans took 67% of the income gains. During the Reagan expansion two decades later they took 20%. During the Greenspan housing bubble of 2001 to 2007, they got just two cents in every extra dollar of national income generated while the richest 10% took the rest.

The US economist Thomas Palley* says that up until the late 1970s countries operated a virtuous circle growth model in which wages were the engine of demand growth.

“Productivity growth drove wage growth which fueled demand growth. That promoted full employment, which provided the incentive to invest, which drove further productivity growth,” he says.
Thatcher, Reagan and Mulroney reversed that virtuous cycle:

James Montier and Philip Pilkington, of the global investment firm GMO, say that the system which arose in the 1970s was characterised by four significant economic policies: the abandonment of full employment and its replacement with inflation targeting; an increase in the globalisation of the flows of people, capital and trade; a focus on shareholder maximisation rather than reinvestment and growth; and the pursuit of flexible labour markets and the disruption of trade unions and workers’ organisations.

To take just the last of these four pillars, the idea was that trade unions and minimum wages were impediments to an efficient labour market. Collective bargaining and statutory pay floors would result in workers being paid more than the market rate, with the result that unemployment would inevitably rise.

Unpopulism decreed that the real value of the US minimum wage should be eroded. But unemployment is higher than it was when the minimum wage was worth more. Nor is there any correlation between trade union membership and unemployment. If anything, international comparisons suggest that those countries with higher trade union density have lower jobless rates. The countries that have higher minimum wages do not have higher unemployment rates.
And Mr. Trump and those who favoured Brexit have no intention of reversing what has happened.

Image: The Guardian

That's Not His Style

dim, 03/26/2017 - 03:10


Americans were in danger of loosing their health care last week. They dodged a bullet. But there is a bigger danger looming. Tony Burman writes:

During a visit to South Korea earlier this month, Rex Tillerson, [Donald] Trump’s secretary of state, announced what appeared to be a dramatic change in American policy toward the nuclear threat of North Korea.
Since the diplomacy of the past 20 years has “failed,” he warned, pre-emptive military action against North Korea is now “on the table.” Tillerson’s warning reflected the U.S. government’s worry that Kim’s renegade regime is accelerating its nuclear program.
Having lost big time in Congress, Trump will not take Korean threats -- which are not new -- lying down:
This nuclear challenge has confronted several American presidents since the 1990s. It has also frustrated China, North Korea’s neighbour and chief economic benefactor, which potentially stands to lose the most if the Korean Peninsula descends into chaos.
This sudden reference by the Trump administration to the possibility of pre-emptive military action against North Korea has rattled the region. There are few informed analysts who see this option, if pursued, as anything but a certain catastrophe.
North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is thought to be widely dispersed throughout the country. No single military strike could destroy it. North Korea also has an even larger stockpile of chemical and biological weapons. Analysts believe that an attack would give Kim’s regime ample time to hit back immediately at neighbouring South Korea and at U.S. military bases in the region.
The potential death toll from such a conflict would be breathtaking. South Korea’s capital city of Seoul has a population of more than 10 million and is only about 50 kilometres from the border. 
Mr.Trump was willing to throw 14 million people off medicare. Would the lives of 10 million Koreans lay heavily on his conscience?
Burman writes that "rather than a pre-emptive strike, what is needed is increasing economic and diplomatic pressure — in tandem with China — to rein in the North Korean regime."
We saw how Trump operates last week. That's not his style. Nor is it Kim Jong Un's.
Image: Daily Express 

No Man To Do Business With

sam, 03/25/2017 - 05:43


Yesterday was quite a day. The Republican repudiation of Barack Obama's health care bill went down to defeat. Ezra Klein doesn't mince words:

Let’s be clear about what happened here. The American Health Care Act failed because it was a terrible piece of legislation. It would have thrown 24 million people off insurance and raised deductibles for millions more — and the savings would’ve gone to pay for tax cuts for millionaires. It broke virtually all of Donald Trump’s campaign promises, and was opposed not just by Democrats but also by Republicans.

This is a failure for Speaker Paul Ryan on many levels. He wrote this bill, and when the speaker takes over the process like that, the upside is it’s supposed to create legislation that can pass. On this most basic task, Ryan failed, and failed spectacularly.

But beyond the legislative and tactical deficiencies, the AHCA reflected a deeper failure of moral and policy imagination. Ryan spent the latter half of Barack Obama’s presidency promising to repair the Republican Party’s relationship with the poor (remember Ryan’s “poverty tour”?). He’s spent every day since the passage of Obamacare saying the Republicans could do better. This is what he came up with? The GOP put their greatest policy mind in charge of the House of Representatives and they got ... this?
Donald Trump staged a hostile takeover of an intellectually and morally bankrupt party. He is the prefect CEO for such an organization. He now claims that he will move on to tax reform and building a wall which the American people -- not the Mexicans -- will pay for.

But it won't be easy accomplishing those objectives. He also plans to build the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines. However, the same kind of public opposition to Trumpcare will greet those projects.

Yesterday, Mr. Trudeau applauded the rebirth of Keystone XL. Not a wise move, Justin. Just ask all those Americans who almost lost their health care what it's like to do business with the Great Orange Id.

Image: Sputnik News

Incompetence At State

ven, 03/24/2017 - 05:49


Rex Tillerson recently told the Journal Review, "“I didn’t want this job, I didn’t seek this job,” but he took it because "“my wife told me I’m supposed to do this.” He may be having second thoughts. Certainly others are. Jonathan Freedland writes that Tillerson's remarks could be read as:

a coded admission that he knows he is not qualified to be secretary of state, that he’s in way over his head – but we shouldn’t blame him, because it wasn’t his idea. On this reading, the secretary of state is, if anything, pointing an accusing finger at his boss: I know I’m rubbish at this, but it’s Trump’s fault for picking me.
Jonathan Malthorpe is more blunt. Tillerson, he writes, is "clueless:"

His priorities so far are to toady to the world’s autocrats (perhaps reflecting the instincts of his boss in the Oval Office), while maintaining Washington’s role as the leader of a 60-year alliance of democracies is well down his list of concerns.

Tillerson’s tour of Asia last week appears to have given China a diplomatic coup and unsettled Washington’s Asian allies. They already had good reason to be twitchy after Trump jettisoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a 12-nation trade and security agreement aimed at containing China’s regional power ambitions — and opined that Japan and South Korea should perhaps get their own nuclear weapons instead of relying on the U.S. for their defence.

And now it has been announced that Tillerson is going to skip a summit of the foreign ministers of the 28 members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) next month. He wants to be in the U.S. for a planned visit by Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
That Trump would appoint someone who is so clearly unqualified for the job is not surprising. After all, Trump is clearly unqualified to be president. But, when the blind appoint the blind to important positions, disaster waits in the wings:

Trump has just sent a budget proposal to Congress that envisages cutting the State Department’s funding by 30 per cent and slashing other soft-power agencies in a similar way while throwing money at Defense and other armed agencies. This proposed budget won’t survive the process of going through Congress in recognizable form. They never do. But the virgin document speaks volumes about Trump’s view of the world.
It's Trump's vision of the world that's the problem. And, clearly, Tillerson's State Department is not going to champion an alternative universe.

Image: slate.com

A Small, Cautious Budget

jeu, 03/23/2017 - 05:43


Kevin Page writes that yesterday's budget was not a history making event:

From a fiscal vantage point, Budget 2017 was a very small event. There’s about $6 billion in new federal resources cumulatively planned for the next six years. By comparison, Budget 2016 allocated about $11.5 billion in new resources in year one, rising to $14.5 billion in year two.
The Liberals are still going to run deficits, but they're investing in nothing new and nothing big. And there's not much of a plan:

What will we get for the $140 billion addition to our stock of debt over the next 6 years?
We are doubling infrastructure spending over the next ten years. Budget 2017 lays out where this money will go. Still, there is no national needs assessment — no national or sectoral plan. If there is no plan, how can we hold the government to account?

Budget 2017 lays out a strategy to strengthen skills and innovation. It may be a good strategy but it’s not a plan. There are commitments to review existing programs and to work with the provinces to strengthen labour market agreements. This is all good — but why did we not do the spending review before Budget 2017, so that we would have resources to fund new priorities and programs?

Why the caution? The reason, we're told, is that Donald Trump -- ever the disruptor -- hasn't laid out his plan. And, until he does, we are going to tread water.

Like the rest of the world, we're waiting for Donald. But perhaps. like Godot, he'll never show up.

Image: Pinterest

A Pivotal Moment

mer, 03/22/2017 - 06:08


Last week's meeting between Donald Trump and Angela Merkel was -- to put it mildly -- awkward. Joseph Ingram writes:

Take a close look at the body language on display at that press conference. What we saw was not the courteous warmth typical of a first encounter between two world leaders with common interests and similar world views. Rather, we saw what looked like an encounter between a wiser, more confident, more mature leader and a petulant, scornful child. And no handshake. No doubt, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his erstwhile populist allies in France, Germany and Italy were heartened.
As Trump pursues his American First agenda, he diminishes his -- and his country's authority throughout the world:

Already we see the baton of global leadership being pulled from America’s grip. President Trump’s criticism of trade alliances, and his subsequent withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership, led Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to suggest that the partnership be resurrected — with China replacing the U.S. as the pact’s lynchpin. The Latin Americans are not far behind him.There is a growing recognition out there that the Trump/Bannon world vision is one of tightly-controlled European nation states, which — along with Russia — could serve as a white Christian bulwark against Islam and the ‘invasion’ of those job-stealing non-white hordes arriving from Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. In the minds of those now running the White House, the West should be dominated by strong Christian nations — the U.S. and Russia, through their respective spheres of influence — with South Asia dominated by an emerging Hindu-run India, and East Asia by China, tempered in its ambitions by an emboldened Japan.
Which means that Canada has to rethink its role in the world. And, as unnerving as that world is, Canada may have a new place in it:

Because of these developments, Canada — as the United States’ racially and religiously diverse neighbour to the north — finds itself today in a critical geo-strategic position, linked as it is (economically, culturally and militarily) with the U.S., while simultaneously reflecting many of the core liberal democratic values of today’s EU. And if Europe continues to reject alt-right populism, as it has in Austria and the Netherlands (and may well do in France and Italy), President Trump and the U.S. will find themselves even more isolated.

Canada needs to walk a very fine line here. It must balance its economic and security relationship with the United States (one which, in any case, needs to be diversified) with the interests of its partners in Europe, the Commonwealth and the Francophonie. To ensure the long-term survival of our liberal democracy and economic security, Canada must establish a more symmetrical balance — one guided not just by American economic imperatives but equally by the core progressive values it holds. Values like openness and transparency in the electoral process, ensuring the tools for economic success are widely available to all citizens, defending cultural tolerance and diversity and fighting climate change.
This is a pivotal moment. We will have to decide how to handle the pivot.

Image: puresurethoughts.blogspot.com

With A Capital L

mar, 03/21/2017 - 06:33


Yesterday was a bad day for Donald Trump. If there was one thing that yesterday's hearing made clear, it is that Trump is a Liar --with a capital L. David Leonhardt writes in the New York Times:

I’ve previously argued that not every untruth deserves to be branded with the L-word, because it implies intent and somebody can state an untruth without doing so knowingly. George W. Bush didn’t lie when he said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and Obama didn’t lie when he said people who liked their current health insurance could keep it. They made careless statements that proved false (and they deserved much of the criticism they got).
But the current president of the United States lies. He lies in ways that no American politician ever has before. He has lied about — among many other things — Obama’s birthplace, John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Sept. 11, the Iraq War, ISIS, NATO, military veterans, Mexican immigrants, Muslim immigrants, anti-Semitic attacks, the unemployment rate, the murder rate, the Electoral College, voter fraud and his groping of women.
The question is, how long will he be able to get away with it? Apparently, he'll be able to avoid accountability for quite awhile. The Republicans on the committee focused on the leaks, no the lies. And Sean Spicer

went before the cameras and lied about the closeness between Trump and various aides who have documented Russian ties. Do you remember Paul Manafort, the chairman of Trump’s campaign, who ran the crucial delegate-counting operation? Spicer said Manafort had a “very limited role” in said campaign.
Lies. With a capital L.

Image: Pinterest

The Koch Party

lun, 03/20/2017 - 06:23

When David Koch was the Libertarian Party's vice presidential candidate in 1980, he and his running mate, Ed Clark, advocated the abolition of public schools, social security and taxation. They garnered one percent of the vote. Koch took the appropriate lesson from the experience. Third parties in the United States are non starters. If you seek political power, you have to capture one of the two major parties. And so, Linda McQuaig writes, Koch and his brother Charles set out to take over the Republican Party:

Operating mostly behind the scenes, and driven by an abiding hatred of government and anything that smacked of distributing wealth more broadly, the Kochs invested massively over the next few decades in creating a vast network of think-tanks, academic programs, front groups, political action groups and campaigns, lobbyists and politicians, as New Yorker writer Jane Mayer documents in her powerful book Dark Money.
With the election of Donald Trump, they have achieved their objective:

Trump's independence may be overstated; his vice president, Mike Pence, has been a major recipient of Koch money and was Charles Koch's first choice for president in 2012. Pence has brought Koch operatives into the White House and shows signs of becoming a Dick Cheney-style puppet master. For that matter, the Kochs are only an impeachment away from having their guy running the free world.

The role of Koch money in shaping Republican politics gets surprisingly little media attention. But it helps explain the otherwise baffling behaviour of Republican politicians scrambling to justify stripping health coverage from their constituents and using the savings to pay for $600 billion worth of tax cuts for the rich. Awkward.

Meanwhile, many Republicans in the "freedom caucus," who've been heavily funded by the Kochs, consider the proposed reform too generous to the disadvantaged.

Who says you can't buy a government?

Image: rabble.ca

The Disappearing President

dim, 03/19/2017 - 03:29


Maureen Dowd's analyses of presidential character are always interesting. She uses Freudian and Shakespearean analogies and, for students of literature like herself, she makes interesting reading. She cottoned on early to Oedipal issues in George W. Bush, as the son vainly tried to live up to his father's expectations. In yesterday's New York Times she turned her attention to Donald Trump. She wrote:

Consumed by his paranoia about the deep state, Donald Trump has disappeared into the fog of his own conspiracy theories. As he rages in the storm, Lear-like, howling about poisonous fake news, he is spewing poisonous fake news.

He trusts his beliefs more than facts. So many secrets, so many plots, so many shards of gossip swirl in his head, there seems to be no room for reality.
His grandiosity, insularity and scamming have persuaded Trump to believe he can mold his own world. His distrust of the deep state, elites and eggheads — an insecurity inflamed by Steve Bannon — makes it hard for him to trust his own government, or his own government’s facts.
Trump's disdain for facts is particularly disturbing: 
According to CNN’s Jeff Zeleny, Trump got furious reading a Breitbart report that regurgitated a theory by conservative radio host Mark Levin that Barack Obama and his allies had staged a “silent coup.”
It is surpassingly strange that the president would not simply pick up the phone and call his intelligence chiefs before spitting out an inflammatory accusation with no proof, just as it was bizarre that Trump shrugged off the regular intelligence briefings after he was elected. He preferred living in his own warped world.
And Trump's minions -- who were hired for their loyalty, not their brains -- make fools of themselves trying to explain Trump to the world:
Sean Spicer offered a shaky Jenga tower of media citations to back up the president, including the contention of Fox’s Judge Andrew Napolitano that Obama had used GCHQ, a British intelligence agency, to spy on Trump.
But the world isn' t buying what they're selling:
In a rare public statement, the GCHQ called the claim “utterly ridiculous.” Fox News also demurred, with Shepard Smith saying it “knows of no evidence of any kind that the now president of the United States was surveilled at any time, in any way. Full stop.”
Even Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, gave up the Sisyphean effort of defending Trump’s tripe. He said that if you took Trump’s remarks “literally” — as we expect to do with our commander in chief’s words — “clearly the president was wrong.”
Only those who live in Trumpworld believe him. And, as the believers fall away, Trump diminishes himself with each passing day. He is the disappearing president. 
Image: Pinterest

When We Lose Our Memories

sam, 03/18/2017 - 05:49


Henry Giroux writes that, if we are looking for a way to explain the rise of Donald Trump, we should look to our memories -- which Giroux believes we have lost:

Trump is the fascist shadow that has been lurking in the dark since Nixon’s Southern Strategy. Authoritarianism has now become viral in America, pursuing new avenues to spread its toxic ideology of bigotry, cruelty, and greed into every facet of society. Its legions of “alt-right” racists, misogynists, and xenophobic hate-mongers now expose themselves publicly, without apology, knowing full well that they no longer have to use code for their hatred of all those who do not fit into their white-supremacist and ultra-nationalist script.

Trump’s victory makes clear that the economic crisis and the misery it has spurred has not been matched by an ideological crisis– a crisis of ideas, education, and values. Critical analysis and historical memory have given way to a culture of spectacles, sensationalism, and immediacy. Dangerous memories are now buried in a mass bombardment of advertisements, state sanctioned lies, and a political theater of endless spectacles. The mainstream media is now largely an adjunct of the entertainment industries and big corporations. Within the last 40 years training has taken the place of critical education, and the call for job skills has largely replaced critical thinking. Without an informed public, there is no resistance in the name of democracy and justice; nor is there a model of individual and collective agency rising to such an occasion.
There was a time when the memory of Fascism in Europe was still fresh. But it's been seventy years since the end of the Second World War. We are three generations away from that event. And those who lived through it are dying off. Giroux writes that a memory is a terrible thing to waste, because once it is gone, what is left in its wake is ignorance. And those who assume power compound the problem by manufacturing ignorance:

Manufactured ignorance erases histories of repression, exploitation, and revolts. What is left is a space of fabricated absences that makes it easy, if not convenient, to forget that Trump is not some eccentric clown offered up to the American polity through the deadening influence of celebrity and consumer culture. State and corporate sponsored ignorance produced primarily through the disimagination machines of the mainstream media and public relations industries in diverse forms now function chiefly to erase selected elements of history, disdain critical thought, reduce dissent to a species of fake news, and undermine the social imagination. How else to explain the recent Arkansas legislator who is pushing legislation to ban the works of the late historian Howard Zinn? How else to explain a culture awash in game shows and Realty TV programs? How else to explain the aggressive attack by extremists in both political parties on public and higher education? Whitewashing history is an urgent matter, especially for the Trump administration, which has brought a number of white supremacists to the center of power in the United States. 
It is abundantly apparent that Donald Trump is a profoundly ignorant man. And those who elected him are equally ignorant of the world in which they live.

Not Exactly As They Appear

ven, 03/17/2017 - 05:18


There was a collective sigh of relief when Geert Wilders did not come out on top in the Netherlands election. But Tom Walkom warns that all is not sweetness and light:

But Wilder’s Freedom Party still did well. It came a strong second, winning five additional seats in the 150-person legislature, for a total of 20.
More important, other parties felt compelled to ape Wilders, at least in part.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy ran on a platform of economic liberalism and cultural nationalism, warning immigrants to adopt Dutch values or leave.
If there was any saving grace, it was the pledges of the other parties that they would not work with Wilders. But the way seats are spread among the other parties is a bit troubling: 
Rutte’s party lost eight seats but still managed to come first with 33.
The Christian Democratic Appeal, another conservative party, campaigned on a nationalist platform that included banning dual citizenship and requiring schoolchildren to sing the national anthem.
That, too, worked. The Christian Democrats saw their seat total rise from 13 to 19, virtually guaranteeing them a central role in whatever coalition government emerges.
Much has been made of Jesse Klaver’s Green Left party, which saw its seat share rise from four to 14.The 30-year-old Klaver is of Moroccan and Indonesian heritage. He supports immigration, the EU and efforts to combat climate change. With his movie-star looks and dark, wavy hair he has been called Holland’s Justin Trudeau.
His success, as well as that of the pro-Europe D66 party, which went from 12 to 19 seats, underlines just how complicated the new populism is.
And, as is the case with any coalition government, everything depends on how well Rutte can get a team of rivals to work together. If he fails, the number two man may step in.
Things are not exactly as they might first appear.
Image: Metopolis